Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"A New Renaissance"

I was sick most of the weekend, but sort of amazed that by NOT taking any cold medication, I healed quite quickly. I was feeling better by Sunday afternoon, and though J told me I should "call out" (I can't "call out." It involves canceling flights, hotel rooms, and rental cars; rescheduling appointments and meetings, etc.), I demured. "I'm fine," I told him. "I'll be fine."

I left the house around 5:50 AM yesterday morning, and then headed to the airport in gusty winds and horizontal torrents of rain. The weather only got worse, and my adrenaline only pumped harder. Half of the flights in the terminal were canceled, EXCEPT for mine. I overheard pilots marveling about the high winds (50 mph gusts!) and gate agents chattering incredulously: "I can't believe they're flying in this!" One bag attendant boomed something about "Hurricane Katrina out there!" Outside, the winds continued to whip around the tiny regional jets on the tarmac;pools of water had formed and small waves crested around baggage carts with every blustery blow.

Never, in all of my years of travel - my nearly 300 or so odd flights in the last five years - have I SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS.

Yep, and then we were boarding.

I slowly and somberly walked towards the mini-plane with winds gusting INSIDE THE MOTHERFUCKING JETWAY.

And I promptly and calmly turned around, and walked back to the gate agent.

"I'm not feeling well. Yeah, I'm not taking this flight."

Never in my life have I done anything like it, but fuck you, US Air. No one had any business flying in that monsoon. And no, I wasn't going into preterm labor to get to Columbus. I still had a cold. I was going the fuck home. The end.

(J: Can you calm down already?)

(HV: Nah.)

And... that was Monday.

But what I really need to talk to you about? What is really important here?

Kwame. Fosu.

So picture if you will a sunny and brisk New York afternoon. Your blogmistress (in all of her glorious pregnant glory, toting two large roller bags and a GIANT Michael Kors bag that is so pretty and yet so heavy) attempts to hail a cab in downtown Manhattan. She is unceremoniously turned down by one driver. (Like, the hell, dude? I am going to Penn Station, not Pelham.)

A second cab stops and quickly agrees to take me to my destination.

The small African driver greets me warmly, and then says, "I have a question for you - oh, you are eating. I'll wait."

(In truth I had just popped a cough drop. But I had been in meetings all day, and I was tired of chatting. I settled in to the backseat and took in the FDR.)

A few minutes later the driver begins again: "So let me ask you this: will there ever be peace on earth?"

I ponder this seriously for a moment.

"No," I decide.

"Good! And why not?"

"Religion. Money. Power."


Ladies and gents, I give you the gift of Kwame Fosu. I lurve him.

Kwame is West African. He tells me this, and then asks me to guess which country. And then I learn that I suck at West African geography. I pound my head for a moment until he finally says: "It begins with a GH."

"Ghana!" Nice one, genius.

Kwame is no ordinary driver. He's also a teacher, and a philosopher. He was once in a documentary on PBS (which - dudes. I just rocked the wiki on him this evening, and I was pleased as PUNCH that he checked out. Legit!)

As we weave through the 20s and make our way across town, Kwame explains that we're doing ourselves a disservice in this world. We're thinking only on the physical, material plane. Technology and possessions are corrupting our minds. We need to elevate our consciousness, and start thinking on the mental and spiritual levels. He gushes about a "new renaissance!" and exclaims emphatically that we are in dire need of a humanistic education.

Kwame believes we are all connected. We have to exist in all planes (physical, mental, and spiritual), because, "if you go too far to the spiritual, then you can't pay your bills."

Word, Kwame. Word.

Then he asks, "What is your purpose in life?"

I think about this for a few seconds, but I got nothing.

"Honestly, Kwame? I don't know that yet. I'm still searching."

(Guys, we are totally in the cab, driving towards Penn Station. God, I effing LOVE New York.)

But Kwame is sure of his own purpose.

"Self-knowledge. Self-education. Service to others. You must fill yourself up with knowledge - anything you can find - then you must serve others. You must spread your joy around!"

"I love that," I say honestly.

"We all have a right to exist," he continues. "Knowledge. Whose natural resources are these? They are not yours; they are not mine. They belong to ALL of us."

And then this gem: "You can win the rat race; but you are still a rat!"

Kwame encourages me to become a child of the universe. Self-educate. Meditate. Religion ends up closing our minds ("my religion is better than yours"), but if we can open our minds, and fill ourselves up with knowledge, we can use our platform in life and enlighten others. Then, that enlightenment reaches critical mass, and what do you get then?

A new renaissance! A humanistic education.

I reluctantly get out of the cab at 31st and 8th, but not before Kwame hands me his contact information. I tip him 30% and thank him most sincerely for the education.

I'm not religious, but I am a child of the universe (by way of Delaware County). Always have been. And I place the utmost importance on education. Now I tell you, you could do a lot worse than Kwame Fosu as your spiritual sensei.

And to think? I could have hopped in that first cab.

It makes me believe that there is something greater out there, guiding my path.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

23 Weeks - And the Ninja Finally Kicks the Dad

Picture time!

So there was a time in my life (er, pregnancy) where I only wanted to be showing. I whined about it; I fretted about it. Man, look at this tiny hint of a bump:

I remember abs!

And then J and I didn't take any photos for nine weeks, apparently. Because all of a sudden, we have a large baby swimming around in there:

And still it grows and mutates!
So no, I suppose I no longer worry about showing. Now, I worry about gaining too much weight. The life of a pregnant woman is fraught with worry and anxiety. Ah, the wondrous miracle of life.
No stretch marks yet, but we're still early. I have 17 more weeks to grow this kid. Save yourselves from the giant super-fetus!
I spent most of yesterday on the couch, fairly incapacitated with a head cold. As I lay on my side (and now that I can only lay on my side, all I want to do is lay on my back. Glorious back-laying!), I felt Ninja's kicks and wiggles. I feel Ninja movements fairly regularly now, which is so comforting: my tiny constant companion. Each time I feel a swift punch, I yell for J.
"Can you feel that?!?" I typically ask happily.
"No," J always replies, morosely.
"You must just have a very calming influence on the baby," I assure him daily.
It goes on like this, day after day, until finally, last night, the Ninj went and punched his dad. Hard.
"I felt it!"
It was a moment.
J was also able to feel more kicks at 4 AM, as I woke for the thousandth time and practiced my 3-point turns (lord, I miss the days when I could simply roll over in bed).
And so J finally gets to connect with Ninj, and it makes it that much more exciting. It also makes the discomfort (the side-sleeping, the peeing, the PIMPLES) bearable.
17 weeks.

* Edited to add: There used to be line-spacing in this piece, but Blogger is angered when you attempt to incorporate photos. Boo.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Room With A View

Had an amazing flight to New York tonight, by way of Manchester, NH. Of course I was immediately disheartened to board a tiny prop plane, but the ride was smooth and we ended up flying clear across Manhattan (thanks, LGA, for the perpetual traffic). We soared directly above Central Park, where I recognized the Met, and Columbus Circle! And then I was all giddy, because did I ever mention I love New York?

I walked out into the terminal at LaGuardia, actually humming "Memories." I was struck that I had not frequented the airport since the end of 2006, but everything felt so familiar. In the ladies' room, I marveled that there may someday be another airport I call home. That the transit hubs I am intimately familiar with now (Manchester, Providence, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Syracuse) will someday become foreign. Change is inevitable, I suppose.

I arrive at my downtown hotel and begin the check-in process.

"Oh! I forgot to give you my rewards card." I pull it from my wallet and hand it to the desk attendant.

"That makes a huge difference," he smiles. "Let's see if I can't get you a better room."

"On the concierge lounge?" I ask. (I am a spoiled bleeding-heart liberal.)

"I can't get you on that floor, but I've got you just one floor below."


And up and up to the 37th floor. As I enter the perfectly neat space, I beam as I glimpse the Empire State Building uptown.

Then, I look down.

Still, a gaping hole in the Earth, over eight years later.

Still, it gets me.

And so I shut the blinds, in an attempt to pretend. And now Ninja and I sit, sipping herbal tea and eating chocolate chip cookies from the concierge lounge.

And I remember.

22 Weeks, and Coakley Wins! Oh, Wait.

Good morning, world! Melissa P. HomeValley Ft. Lauderdale here, coming to you live from Peabody, MA. Apparently there was some election here yesterday, and now all of the conservatives are gloating and sticking it to us liberals. Take that Obama! Though I haven't fact-checked this yet, last night a coworker told me that Massachusetts is 12% registered Republicans... So, yeah. Take that, "Obamacare." You would think that the idea of affordable healthcare for all would not be such a visceral, polarizing issue, but this is America. You'd be wrong.

Shit, I've gone all political again. Please do follow, Republicans! I still love you. Wanna talk about Sicko?

Of course I am pressed for time, and I am the owner of a Dell laptop that cannot be disconnected from a power cable, lest the battery dies IMMEDIATELY. I am also likely coming down with a bit of a cold, but I shan't speak of it again as I refuse to let it in... healthy thoughts. What am I rambling about this AM? Don't you wanna hear about my awesome healthy baby?

I finally bit the damn bullet and got the genetic bloodwork done two weeks ago. Last Friday I got the call that everything was normal. NORMAL! I danced in the kitchen. Healthy! What more can we ask for? (please don't be 10 pounds please don't be 10 pounds please don't be 10 pounds)

I pray that I am able to write a proper update later, but I'll be heading up to Manchester, NH to hop a flight to LaGuardia (home sweet Queens, y'all).

You all look so pretty today, by the way.

Monday, January 11, 2010

20 Weeks, and the Ninja Won't be IGNORED, y'all

Squee! Ultrasound pictures!

I just created a photo album on Facebook entitled: "The Mighty Ninja." I included only the 4D image of the Ninj. I tagged J. Someone promptly "liked" my new album.

Then I quickly deleted the whole she-bang.

I don't know why. It just felt too personal. Like maybe 400 Facebook friends shouldn't see my uterus. And my baby's shoulder. And the giant HomeValley head.

I save that for you guys. My real friends. That space is Ninja's, and I suppose I decided that that space will remain his/her. Until birth.

So, the Ninja emerged with a vengeance this week. I hopped on the scale at Friday's prenatal still high on receiving the single greatest compliment any prego can hope to receive: "My, you are so cute! You look like you swallowed a basketball!"


So imagine all hints of smugness and hubris being sucked from the room when the numbers kept going up.

And up.

And TEN pounds in 3.5 weeks later, the Ninja let his/her presence be felt. The Ninja is starting to resemble a young Chuck Norris.

Since I had only gained an adorable six pounds since learning I was with blessed child, the doctor assured me that ten pounds in a month was okay. She did warn me, however, that if I packed on another ten in one month, that we'd have to chat.

Thus, my love affair with the gym begins again in earnest. Because it's not like I can deny Ninj his/her Snickers bars. What kind of mother would I be?

Also of note? I am in Syracuse, preparing to watch Julie and Julia. This frightens me, as I fear the film will make me ravenous.

Also? I just turned off Baby Boom, as I got so annoyed with the entire premise of it. Let me recap: J.C. is a career woman. She graduated first in her class at Yale, and has a Harvard MBA. But alas, she is married to her job. The narrator WARNS us at the film's onset NOT TO BE FOOLED BY APPEARANCES OF GIANT SHOULDER PADS AND CAREER SATISFACTION. (Even J.C.'s moniker hasn't a scant trace of femininity. She may even have a penis. All she cares about is WORK.)

You see, J.C. is terribly unfulfilled, and she doesn't even know it. Not until a baby is dropped in her lap and she has to quit her job because she can't hang with the big dogs anymore. Really, what she has always wanted to do is make baby food from a quiet house in the country anyway. The end.

And that is why the 80s was a hot fucking mess for women. Hey now, I've read Backlash.

What say you, women and men alike? I want to qualify my statements: there is nothing wrong with birthing babies (you know I'm into it). There is nothing wrong with staying home to raise your babies. But on the other hand, there is nothing wrong with NOT birthing babies. Moreover, there is nothing wrong with birthing babies AND continuing to work to provide for them. Happiness is personal. Do you hear that, 1980s filmmakers? Enough with the scare tactics and blatant agenda-pushing. (I'm lookin' at you, Fatal Attraction director Adrian Lyne.)

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to find some chocolate bars with almonds. For the baby.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010


So I am in Dallas, living the dream. I'm at a conference here, and I have to tell you, I am completely committed to my work in 2010. It's strange; Ninja will be here in less than 5 months, and my only instinct is to be better at EVERYTHING. To be a fantastic, calm mom, of course; but also to rock standardized tests. To get into a good Master's program. To be amazing at my job; so damn phenomenal that I kill it around bonus time. I figure, that way my company has every reason to accommodate me when I am just too madly in love with mah baby to board a plane come late August.

I confess: I sneak up to my room during breaks to take a peak at baby photos. I only brought two of the 7839 ulrasound pictures our tech was kind enough to provide us, but these shots are exquisite. Have you seen my baby's ears? His/her shoulder? It's all so real now. Ninj is no longer just a tiny little bean with a microscopic beating heart. Miraculously (and holy shit, this is the most spectacular miracle), Ninja has functioning kidneys. And a big old heart with four whole chambers. Eyes. Lungs. A perfect spine. I wanted to kiss the doctor when she came in to thoroughly examine the ultrasound screen.

"Looks great, guys!" She said, and was on her way.

"We're so lucky," I said to J as we hustled back to the parking garage. "How did we get so lucky?"

The second ultrasound pic I have tucked in my planner is a regular 2D (3D?) profile shot of the entire baby. I promise I'll scan it tomorrow night when I get home, because y'all have to see this. Ninj has the most precious chin; a tiny mouth that is upturned in the slightest smile; and a miniature button nose. It's surreal, but the baby looks like J, which makes me imagine I have a little boy dancing around my placenta. But either sex is fine by me. A cliche, yes, but all I want is a healthy child.

So, so lucky.

Now, I will stop staring at Ninj for three minutes to recap my resolutions for 2010. I have never felt more equipped to handle all that is on this list, which I almost hate to admit. I worry that if I gush to much about how wonderful life is, some horrible malady will inevitably befall me. So:

1. LESS WORRYING. In my book, 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself, the author contends that once you become an adult, the only time you engage your imagination is to concoct worst-case scenarios. Ha! That's, like, the most true statement ever in the history of the world. I suspect this only gets worse as you become a parent. So I have decided to tell my worst-case scenario imagination to fuck off this year. Every time a bad thought creeps in (Oh man, my ankle hurts. I am obviously dying of cancer.) I am going to think something positive and life-affirming instead. That's right: fuck off, imagination. I shall now only use you for good.

2. MORE EXERCISING. Oh, original. But also: I been lazy. Time to be a truly hot mama. Rawr.

3. LESS PHONE SCREENING. I keep trying, guys. We shall overcome.

4. MORE GREEN-ING OF ENVIRONMENT. I am starting small: organic cottons for Ninj. A reusable coffee mug for Dunkin' Donuts. A reusable water bottle for the gym. More water and energy conservation. Plants. Also, maybe vacuum and dust a tad more.

5. MORE SEX. Apologize if you are blushing, gentle readers, but the H and I are still young, and we're having a baby. I am preemptively putting this high on the priority list for 2010. (J: You're welcome.)



8. MORE STANDARDIZED TESTS. Setting a date for the GREs ASAP.

9. MORE WRITING. Ugh, I hate listing that one. But year after year, I need to make writing a higher priority. I mean, I love you guys. And I probably should write a novel one of these days.

10. MORE HEALTHY COOKING. Mmm, organics.

11. LESS PROCESSED FOODS. I won't go on a diatribe here. In summary: processed foods are evil and so delicious. Cutting back.

12. MORE QUALITY READING. I thoroughly enjoyed Belly Laughs by Jenny McCarthy, but I don't think it made me any smarter.

13. LESS TELEVISION. Shut up, talking picture box.

14. MORE AWESOME. Just that. Bringing the awesome.

15. MORE GRATITUDE. To everyone. For everything. It is ultimately a lovely world.

16. MORE WATER. I totally don't drink enough of it. J thinks Ninja's home will dry up or something.

17. LESS TECHNOLOGY. Says the girl with the new Kindle and iPod Touch. But still.

18. MORE COMMENTING. I read so many amazing blogs, and then get shy when it comes to joining the discussion. That ends now.

19. MORE CALLS. To friends and family. Maybe even some enemies. I just need to stop communicating solely on Facebook. Real interaction is neat.

20. MORE (okay, first) BlogHer convention.

And there you have it, kids: a nice, round number of things that will make a better HomeValley. Pray tell, what will you do differently in 2010?

Monday, January 04, 2010

Come. On.

Right now, despite my best efforts, I cannot write about my New Year's resolutions, though they are - as always - plentiful. No, today I can do but one thing: gape at amazing 4D image of child all day.

I am seriously in love.