Travel Tuesdays: The Chapel at Brasenose College, Oxford

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

I can count on one hand the number of times I have made Joe laugh out loud, even after 5 years of being together.

The very hardest I've ever made him laugh was when he showed me a picture of a young woman who his friend had just started dating.  As I completed a cursory scroll through her Instagram account, I noticed a common theme: a lot of swimsuits, swanky boat rides, rays sunshine, trips to the lake with large groups, long blonde hair, wild nights out -- all the photos seemed to reflect some combination of the foregoing elements, to the extent that if I hadn't known she was dating Joe's friend, I would have automatically assumed she was a contestant on an upcoming season of The Bachelor.  Joe sat patiently, watching me scroll, eagerly awaiting my response.  I handed his cell phone back to him before summarily announcing, "She looks like someone who would go missing."

Another was when we received a Christmas card from an affluent Carlton Landing family, their young son featured front and center, dressed in a the preppiest, Wasp-iest attire with an accompanying frat swoop to match.  After reviewing the Christmas card in silence, I tossed the card aside, sighed, and said under my breath, "Let's just hope he doesn't grow up to have his swimming career ruined."  
The kid looked like a real Brock Turner in the making.

(Side note: can you tell I'm a 6 on the Enneagram with these knee-jerk worst case scenarios??)

Yet another took place beneath the gorgeous stained glass panes of the Brasenose Chapel at Oxford.  As Joe toured the premises boring me to tears with his dad-like inquiries ("I wonder what voltage those lamps are"...."I wonder how often they bring out scaffolding to wash the windows"....."What kind of sod do you think they use out there on the lawn?"), I grew increasingly impatient.  At last, after checking my watch for the 15th time in 15 minutes, I demanded with authority, "We have to go.  I have something at 1:00 and it's already 1:15."  With his interest piqued, Joe turned to me. "What plans do you have at 1:00?"  After a long pause, I answered, "I have to play Chancella Rex."

What followed from Joe was a tilted head, squinty-eyed expression.  "Chancella Rex?"

Chancella Rex, I explained to him in total seriousness, was a computerized opponent in my Yahtzee Dice Master Showdown, and I needed to get back to our place so I could have wifi to access the app.  You have to wait 24 hours before advancing to the next opponent, and my 24 hours was up.  I had been trying to beat Chancella all month, and today I was really going to do it.

I likely needn't go into why this made Joe laugh so hard.

Nor will I fully explore the irony of my choice: foregoing the reverence of the divinely magnificent, centuries-old architecture in all its glory so that I could retreat to the four walls of my bedroom, iPhone in hand, ready to play a bot named Chancella Rex.

I will disclose, though, that I lost to Chancella.  That game is 100% rigged.

Motherhood Mondays: Birth Story (Part 2)

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Click here for Part 1.

The contraction log that Joe kept during my labor.  

It was 11:43 AM, and the text on my phone read, "Yayayayayayayayayayay!  Congrats!!!!!!!"

I read it and - for a brief moment - forgot I was in labor. 

I showed it to Joe.  He asked who it was from.  "Katie O'Brien," I replied.

"How does she know you're in labor?"

"She doesn't."

Joe didn't know why Katie was texting me, but I did.  She was texting me to let me know I had passed the Oklahoma bar exam.  As soon as I saw her text, I knew the results had just been released, and that I had passed.

The irony here was that when I was very, very early on in my first trimester, I took the Oklahoma bar for the first time.  The first day of the exam went well.  Later that night, I got sick, and continued to be sick until the following morning -- day 2 of the exam.  I told myself it was nerves (I had convinced myself that I wasn't going to have the perfect pregnancy without any nausea) despite the fact that I had to leave the exam room several times that day and didn't even finish my essays.  Even after the exam, I had refused to believe the sickness was pregnancy-related (until a couple weeks later when I was forced to succumb to the fact that I was going to spend the majority of my pregnancy lying on a cold bathroom floor whether I explicitly acknowledged it or not).  When results came out that first time, the list confirmed what I already knew -- I had not passed -- but many people (including my law school's dean who confidently told my mom's cousin that I had passed with flying colors) thought I had, when in fact, a girl who shared my first, middle, and a similar last name had passed in my place.  When Katie saw said girl's almost-identical name, she had texted me a congratulatory message, thus requiring me to let her know, "Actually, I did not pass."  She was understandably mortified.  It was fine, although the worst part was not being able to qualify my not-passing with a pregnancy-related explanation; we hadn't announced to anyone yet!

I then retook the exam a second time (at nearly 8 months pregnant!) and passed without any sickness at all.  It was only right for Katie O'Brien to be the one to let me know (and accurately so, this time around). 

I shared the news with my mom and Joe; both absolutely freaked out.  My mom immediately called my dad, and I spoke to him briefly before texting my sisters ("Mom wants me to text you that I passed the bar and also am in labor").  I called my mother-in-law to share the bar/labor news with her as well.  The only problem?  I felt like I was going to be in labor forever.  Contractions were still 7 minutes apart and had been for hours.  They didn't seem to be picking up at all, and I could tell I wasn't making progress.  I laid on the bed listening to a podcast, frustrated by the timing of my contractions and half-heartedly willing them to speed up while simultaneously wishing I could get some sleep, not having truly slept the night before.

At 3:06 that afternoon, I had a contraction and then waited.  And waited.  And waited.  I didn't have another until 3:57.  Feeling defeated, I sent my mom home.  She departed, ever so reluctantly.  I told her we'd give her an update when we had one. 

And then, at 5:45, the contractions picked back up again.

I took a bath and read over the affirmations my mom and sisters had sent me (I had asked for them a few weeks prior and had turned them into a Power Point which I played on an iPad I had set up on the lid of the toilet seat).  I then stood in the shower as I felt the contractions intensify.  I could tell "it" was really happening now.  I texted my doula, Megan, around 7:00 and asked her to come over.  My birth plan was to labor at home until just before I transitioned, and I knew I wasn't in transition yet, but wanted her to monitor my progress nonetheless.

When Megan came over, she encouraged me to eat something of substance - I hadn't eaten anything but a Kind bar all day.  Joe made me avocado toast with a boiled egg on top.  I ate what I could, but was largely uninterested in food.

We dimmed the lights and I laid on our green velvet couch, snuggling with a fuzzy gray and white Barefoot Dreams baby blanket for comfort (it was a baby shower gift for the baby and not for me, but whatever -- those things are soft).  At various points, Megan had me "give" her a series of contractions sitting backwards on the toilet, not unlike a trainee responds to their personal trainer's call for 3 sets of 10 push-ups.  I will never forget after one particularly brutal toilet contraction, Megan sharing with me how crazy she felt mid-labor on her second baby, having chosen to go through childbirth again after doing it once already.  It gave me an odd sense of comfort that she knew the pain I was enduring firsthand.

During these toilet contractions, I was fighting the urge to vomit.  Megan handed me a paper towel with several drops of an essential oil on it to inhale as I was fighting the nausea; she really didn't want me to throw up, as I needed to stay as hydrated and energized as possible.  I pressed the damp paper towel against my nose and inhaled, not expecting it to help, and surprised when it did.

I hated the toilet contractions so much that I unilaterally decided we were done with those, and relocated myself to the couch again.  Megan warned me, "The more backwards-on-the-toilet-contractions you give me, the quicker this will go" but I refused to believe her.  They sucked.

Lying on the couch, I stopped talking altogether.  I was entering my own world (Labor Land, as Megan calls it), where Joe and Megan were only distant figures. 

Finally, around 1:00 AM, Megan softly told us, "We can go to the hospital whenever you're ready.  I can tell by watching and listening to you that you're nearing transition, if not there already."

I sat up, suddenly alert.  It was time to meet this baby.

Wedding Wednesdays: The Prologue

Thursday, April 11, 2019

A lot of things happened during our wedding weekend.

There was a tornado warning 15 minutes before the rehearsal (cut to me driving a car full of my out-of-state-bridesmaids through Oklahoma City as the siren blared, the group of them screaming, and me totally oblivious to their concern because #Oklahoma).

Nearly all of our rehearsal dinner guests shared the most sincere, heartfelt speeches.  One of Joe's groomsmen told a story about him that I had never heard before, and it wrecked me that night.  I wish so badly that we'd had a videographer for that dinner as opposed to just the following day so I could replay that story in particular for our kids.

The woman who baked 200 strawberry cupcakes for our wedding reception was nowhere to be found the morning of the wedding, and didn't answer a single one of our 78 calls until one of my bridesmaids drove to her residence and repeatedly banged on the door (she appeared with the cupcakes in hand, if I'm not mistaken, and was totally unfazed by our concern).

On the way to the wedding, my law school roommate and member of my House Party accidentally ruined the groomscake by stacking 16 heavy boxes on top of it.  She then showed up to the wedding wearing 2 different shoes.  (That same law school roommate would later Uber home from the wedding, not realizing until the following day that the ride cost her $ response when I learned this: "That's the price of a flight to Denver!!?").

I did my own makeup, because Kate Middleton did hers.

I wore the same dress my mom wore when she married my dad.

My sister wore a different dress than the other matrons of honor because her nursing boobs made her "look just like Lady Kluck from Robin Hood and would have otherwise taken all attention off the bride" (her words, not mine).

That same sister cried uncontrollably during the ceremony and I was so touched by her affection for me until she explained the root of her sentiment: she was watching Joe's mom watch Joe, which caused my sister to imagine watching her own son get married one day (I rolled my eyes at the time but this is totally something I would do, and have done, now that I have a son).

We weren't permitted to write our own vows during the ceremony due to church policy, so we had a quick private ceremony after the church cleared out, which was so sweet and surreal.  We read our own vows then.

I threw my bridal bouquet away at the earliest possible moment because I am allergic to any and all flowers and sniffled loudly and uncontrollably throughout the entire ceremony (people later told me they just thought I was realllllly emotional).

When we exited the church to head to the reception, we realized we didn't have a ride there (we had stayed behind for photos and had totally forgotten to plan for a vehicle, whoops).

When we arrived at the reception, Joe accidentally stepped on my dress and ripped the bustle out, causing a 30-minute freakout and delaying our grand entrance (I later found out some older guests were offended by how late we entered 😬).

We danced our first dance to Jared Leto's version of Stay, (for the ceremony, my processional song had been Lana del Rey's Young and Beautiful - the instrumental version; our recessional song was Beyonce's Crazy in Love - the Life is But a Dream remix).

Joe built me a flower wall fit for Kimye (it was absolutely perfect).

We had the most fun reception of all time -- just pure magic.

We danced our last dance to Forever Young (Beyonce and Jay-Z's live On The Run version) and it was straight out of a dream -- everyone spontaneously circled around us and sang along to the words.  Goosebumps just thinking about it.

We made our getaway into a limo and headed to the honeymoon suite while our friends stayed out until the wee hours of the morning.

But something else happened that night: 3 different people asked my husband some variation of "Hey, who planned your wedding? My daughter is getting married and we want to hire whoever planned this one."  When Joe told them that I had planned it on my own, they seemed surprised.  A couple of them joked, "Well, then she should be a wedding planner."

Have you ever heard the saying, "Just because you're good at baking pies doesn't mean you should open a pie shop?"  I hadn't heard it yet, and because I hadn't heard it yet, I decided to start a wedding planning business.

I was already planning on taking a year off in between law school and the bar exam, and had planned to do contract labor for a law firm, but decided: why not also start a business, lead a creative team of 12 people, and contract for an ungodly amount of weddings in an obscenely short amount of time?  What's the worst that could happen?

The good news is: the worst that could have happened never happened.  The even better (for you) news is: What did happen was so crazy, unbelievable, outlandish, inconceivable, and unthinkable that I could fill a freaking book.  So.  Many.  Stories.

Maybe someday I will write a book about my experiences owning a wedding planning business.  Maybe in said book, I'll share the stories about Steph Curry and Kevin Durant nearly ruining one of our weddings, or the bride who accused me of committing multiple crimes (one of which included -- wait for it -- stealing a safety pin from her Maid of Honor).  Maybe I'll share the story about the time we accidentally played the wrong playlist (and boy, was it the wrong playlist) for the pre-ceremony seating arrangements -- Lord knows I can't tell that story without crying from laughter, so maybe a book is where the story belongs.

But until I write said book, I will share those stories here.  On Wednesdays.  As part of a 'Wedding Wednesday' series.

You are very welcome in advance.  See you next Wednesday.

In Bruges

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Found this video yesterday morning and thought I would post for a belated Travel Tuesday feature.  Joe and I always talk about how Belgium is the most underrated European country.  Just watching these short snippets from our trip makes me want to book a return trip this summer...

(The song is Brandy Alexander by The Walkmen, conveniently from the In Bruges soundtrack.)

Motherhood Mondays: Birth Story (Part 1)

Monday, April 8, 2019

My very last bump selfie. I get butterflies just thinking of that anticipatory time right after my due date.

When you're 10 days past your due date, you get a lot of texts.

Around 3-ish days overdue, I had set my phone on 'Do Not Disturb', at last unable (or maybe just unwilling) to absorb the curiosities of people-I-haven't-spoken-to-in-years-who-somehow-feel-qualified-to-tell-me-to-go-ahead-and-get-induced-already.  Side note: my sister's texts, always posing the same benign 5-word inquiry ("How are you feeling today?") were understandably exempt from any and all eye rolls.

The thing is, I liked being pregnant.  I felt zero inclination to rush the birth of my firstborn.  I loved knowing (or at least hoping) that my baby's birthday would be determined via a mutual agreement between my body and baby - and no one else.  I wasn't particularly uncomfortable, and was LOVING the nesting phase.  I was already on maternity leave from work and was crossing to-dos off my list left and right with my mom's help (she was staying with me at the time and we were having so much fun finishing nursery set-up, binge-watching Big Little Lies, and endlessly speculating whether or not I'd have a girl or a boy).  It was sort of, like, a guilt-free version of skipping work everyday.  On top of that, I loved the feeling of the baby moving around inside me constantly throughout the day.  To this day, I get butterflies at the mere thought of it.  I also relished the comfort of the small yet powerful company that only I enjoyed, of never being alone, of always having a tiny, precious, foreign (yet so familiar) friend along with me for errands, for road trips, for mundane tasks like filling up the car with gas.  I was totally fine with letting the pregnancy run its course in due time and didn't appreciate others' incessant inquiries and expressions to the contrary (however understandably well-meaning).

On the 10th overdue day, my mom and I went to On The Border for a late lunch.  We ordered a ton of food, and brought it home to have with Joe for dinner.  After re-heating it, we spread it on the table for a certified feast of a meal.  Intermittently during post-dinner clean-up, I kept pausing to hold my side in discomfort.  "Contractions!", my mom immediately declared.  Unconvinced, I shook my head.  "No, sometimes this just happens after I eat big meals.  There's not enough room for the food and the baby.  It happens a lot after dinner."  Nevertheless, my mom insisted they were contractions.  What's funny is: I think on some level I truly believed I would never go into labor, so I genuinely didn't even entertain the idea that these might be legitimate contractions.

I'd be lying if I said I don't also get butterflies thinking about On The Border...

One hour after the "post-dinner side cramps", it dawned on me - hit me like a ton of bricks: oh my gosh, these are contractions.  I told my mom, who quickly confessed that she'd been timing each one and documenting the intervals in the Notes app on her phone.  She'd even texted my dad, "I think this is it."  I was shocked that she had known (although in hindsight, I'm like, duh).

I called my doula and told her that I thought I was in labor.  She told me to keep her updated as contractions progressed, but that I should try to get some sleep - that if I was really in labor, I'd need to conserve as much energy as possible.  I walked into our bedroom and had another one - the first truly painful contraction of the night.  I was overcome with emotion and began to cry, crouched alone at the side of our bed.  A feeling of lack of control washed over me.  It passed momentarily and I thought, "These are no big deal - I can totally handle contractions."

You would think I would have known better than to think that.... you would think.

My mom went to sleep in the guest room and told me to wake her up if and when we went to the hospital.  Joe went to sleep as well, but not before I excitedly told him, "Joe, we finally know when our baby's birthday will be!"  I said tomorrow's date aloud, assuming all would be over in the next 12 hours.

I tossed and turned in bed but with every contraction wondered, "What's the point in even trying to fall asleep?"  I probably got a few hours' sleep total, but as my adrenaline was racing, there was no deep sleep to be had.  Morning came, though, and contractions had slowed to 12-15 minutes apart.  I spoke with my doula again on the phone and she encouraged me to eat something of substance -- avocado toast with a boiled egg, yogurt with granola, etc.  I tried, but couldn't keep anything down (as was the case for most of my pregnancy).

Joe called into work and told them he wouldn't be coming in that day, and that I was in labor (they were like, "Uh, finally!").  He put on You've Got Mail and I tried to enjoy it, but was super frustrated with the fact that my contractions weren't getting any closer.  I had this bright idea that maybe the dogs could help (as if they had some supernatural connection with the baby and could lure him or her out - don't ask).  We let Rumble in and she was totally useless - she may as well have not even noticed I was in the room, let alone in labor.  We switched her out for Bruno, who was equally ineffective (I mean,  really -- what did I expect?).  We sat outside on the back porch with them and I didn't talk much -- just sat in silence with my mom and Joe, feeling defeated and wondering if I was imagining my contractions altogether.

All I see when I look at this photo is the ugliest green nail polish (there was a major mix-up with the dip color, guys...)

When we moved back inside, I laid around on the couch and even took a nap while Joe and my mom watched Casablanca. When I woke up, contractions had slowed to about 30 minutes apart, which devastated me.  The baby was moving a ton (which was very normal for my pregnancy) and I could tell s/he had moved down waaaaay lower.  Hoping to speed contractions back up, Joe and I took a walk around the block, only coming home so that I could sit on the birthing ball for awhile.

While sitting on the ball, I received a text that would change my life (no exaggeration) and lift my spirits in a matter of seconds....