NYC pregnancy in the winter

On Monday I passed the 32 week mark. I’m doing well overall. I’m happy and looking forward to meeting our baby. With less than 2 months left, anxiety about the big life change is finally showing sometimes – but I’m still much more overwhelmingly excited than nervous or worried.

It is getting colder here in the city, and that is making me more comfortable. I think planning this pregnancy with the hope of my third trimester being in the winter really was a good call for me.

It had its amusements though… I keep seeing people with hat, scarf, and gloves and thinking they are way overdoing it. I’ve even been tempted to tease some of them. I have to stop myself and remember that my sense of temperature and my internal warming system is all hyped up. I am still turning on the fan at my desk (best purchase ever even though it arrived towards the end of summer right after the AC at the office was fixed). I generally don’t even close my coat. Sometimes I think I don’t need the coat at all.

I think I am definitely experiencing the world differently than most others right now.

Another observation I’ve may is that the winter layers make it harder to tell I’m pregnant. In September and October I was regularly getting seat offers on the subway, which at the end of a long day at work and with a 35 minute subway rider home, I greatly appreciated. But now, with my husband’s shapeless winter coat on, the actual offer from someone else is rare. And I’ve gotten some annoyed reactions when I aggressively went for an opening. I am over 7 months pregnant and my ride is a half hour or more, I think I deserve a seat thank you very much. But aside from unbuttoning and pulling aside my coat, removing it altogether, I’m not really sure how to make that happen.

The most bittersweet thing about being pregnant in the winter is that I can’t go skating. For the past several years I have loved returning to the ice in the winter when I could make use of the additional surfaces in the city, one of which is a block from my office and free. Now I walk past the skaters on the ice at lunch and cannot join them. It’s for an awesome reason and totally worth it, but I do miss the ice!

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Career Questions

It’s been nearly 3 months since I last wrote. I did write a post in December, an enthusiastic review of “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” but it was lost when my phone crashed, and I couldn’t bring myself to rewrite the whole thing.

And of course there were the holidays – work to do and visitors and visits to be had.

But there was also the greyness. A feeling of running in a hamster wheel. Days of happiness, excitement, and energy – followed by days of stress, worry, or exhaustion.

I’ve seen the psychiatrist monthly, and I really think my current combo is helping. In a sense, the world has gone from gray to colorful again. It’s merely that I can see intense blue as well as bright yellow.

Work is… Disappointing. I feel less of a sense of purpose and direction than, frankly, ever before. Even as my passion waned somewhat in my darker times, I’ve always known what I wanted, where I wanted to go. And usually I had the determination to work hard to find it, to earn it.

But now, I’m unsure of what I would like next. There are things that call to me, but with each there are aspects that take my excitement down a notch. I know this is common for young adults, but the feeling is foreign to me.

I know that I am lucky that I have so many skills on which I could base a career – and likely a successful one. But I feel equally pulled toward each, but unwilling to yet give up any. As of late I’ve been dreaming up ways to incorporate them all. I may have an idea, but I don’t know yet how realistic it is. But I don’t like to leap without looking. I wish to gather information.

And that’s why I’m writing now. I would like to interview people with knowledge or experience in a number of areas. It could be over e-mail or phone (or in person if you can meet in NYC). I could write a post about it, feature you and links, or I could keep it private or anonymous.

If you have knowledge about or experience in a career in any of the following areas, please contact me!

Figure skating coach – basics
Figure skating coach – freestyle/test track
Figure skating program director
Environmental eng/scientist – government regulator
Environmental eng/scientist – government researcher
Environmental eng/scientist – consultant for private companies
Environmental eng/scientist – consultant for government
Environmental scientist – public interest researcher
Science writer – magazines, news, or books
Science professor – adjunct (lab instructor and early undergrads)
Project manager – web company
Pro blogger
Etsy shop/home business owner
How-to writer

I’m extra interested in hearing from you if you are a mom!

Cat Wisdom Wednesday: Skating

One of my greatest pleasures is the feeling of gliding across the ice, legs and arms gracefully extended, able to feel the energy stretching out to my fingertips. Or spinning quickly on a blade, laying my body back and stretching my arms up above me while my hair blows about with the speed I’ve created.

These are pictures of me, about 7 years ago:

Jumping

Layback Spin

Spinning

This winter, I began teaching ice skating lessons at a rink in the area.  It’s an outdoor rink, and I teach basic skills. I’m really enjoying it.  It’s helped me to remember why I fell in love with skating in the first place – around 17 years ago.

Certainly, it was enchanting – the feel of the brisk air around you, as you jump and twirl on the edge of a blade.  And the daredevil, athletic side of me loved the idea of jumping around, as my brother would call it, “on frozen water with knives on my feet.”  But it was more than that.   Whether it was performing for a crowd or skating on a practice session with no spectators at all, skating was the most fun sport I had tried (and it still is).   I love the challenge, to strive to always be ever so perfectly balanced, but not to let on how difficult it is.

But much preparation went into it, and at practice sessions I had to try again and again, learning how to teach my body the exact movements needed to land a difficult jump.  So that’s why I’ve chosen this as the new quotation for my Cat Wisdom Wednesday series, from George Bernard Shaw:

I learned to speak as people learn to skate or cycle, by doggedly making a fool of myself until I got used to it.

So many emotions

I’ve been watching Olympic gymnastics online everyday, to see the new performances from the night before. I wrote about it a few days ago – how great it felt to watch the men’s team perform in the all-around finals. After the first few days, it was really making me itch to get back to the rink and to maybe even train and think about some recreational adult competitions. But now my feelings are changing a bit – after watching the women’s all around final, and the women’s team final. With the men’s competition, it was much easier for me to just enjoy their display of athletic excellence – to watch their ridiculously strong, muscled bodies performing feats of strength and acrobatics.

But with the women’s competition, all sorts of other emotions are stirred up. I can’t extricate my enjoyment of their graceful and athletic performances from my concern over the immense pressures and stresses they all clearly face, as well as the physical evidence of what they’re putting their bodies through to reach this level. Also, there are parts of olympic gymnastics that seem even more cruel than figure skating – the shortness of the time they are actually in the spotlight, particularly for those members of the team who only competed on one apparatus in the finals; the team dynamic aspects of the team events; the intensity of the olympic team selection process (in figure skating it’s nearly always the top finishers at Nationals who carry on to the Olympics in that year, although the sport’s governing body, the USFSA, reserves the right to change that and did the year that Nancy Kerrigan couldn’t compete at Nationals due to the knee injury). The commentators seemed particularly unhelpful in creating an atmosphere of friendly, healthy competition – I couldn’t believe the questions the interviewer asked Alicia Sacramone after her performance in the team final. Seriously, the interviewer just kept asking her questions that basically forced her to talk about the negative aspects of her performance – I had to turn it off eventually. That was NOT what I wanted to know about her after the performance!

For the most part, I am very impressed by the American team; the athletes seem to not only have come well-prepared and ready to medal, they also have been exhibiting excellent sportsmanship.  I like to think that maybe at least some of them have managed to reach this level of elite gymnastics without causing themselves too much mental and physical distress. It’s encouraging to me to think that.  But I definitely know a lot about the pitfalls that many less well supported and mentally strong athletes have encountered.  Watching these girls perform, I remembered my own experience with gymnastics, and of course my experience with figure skating, with eating disorders, and with the cutthroat competitive atmosphere that one can often find amongst the competitors and their parents.

I watch them and remember how I enjoyed swinging around on the uneven bars, tumbling and jumping on the springboard floor, and dancing on the high beam.  I think to myself “that would be fun to do again!” but then I remember that I’m a full-figured woman now, and that the physics of the situation will definitely make it hard to do some of the things that I found most fun.  It’s harder to enjoy the feeling of flying through the air when I know that I won’t be able to rebound as high or swing as fast as my more daredevil childhood self could, and that the likelihood that a fall or misstep would end in a more painful injury is much higher.

I’ll definitely be sticking with skating then, because at least I can fall back on my years of serious training to hope that I don’t injure myself.  Ever since I quit training competitively, I struggled to enjoy the sport without feeling loss and sadness at all the things that I used to do well in it but no longer can do.  I’m proud to say that I think I’m getting fairly good at that – enjoying each and every movement that I can do for the joy that I can feel in the practice itself.

The Competitive Spirit

I’m really enjoying watching the Olympics on nbcolympics.com. I just watched the entire NBC Encore: Men’s Gymnastics Team Finals and it was intense! One of my favorite things about it was the imagery and symbolism that I saw. It was so great to watch some of the performances in which someone really rallied through a high pressure situation and came through above expectation. It made me think of my old days as a competitor and miss the thrill of the competition. I used to love competitions – I think it was the feeling that here you were, going to put it all out there, and show everyone what you’re made of. It’s all eyes on you, a performance, and you have to come through under pressure, and try to enjoy the ride. I miss that.

I will soon start experiencing a different aspect of my favorite sport of figure skating – teaching private basic skills lessons. It will be a little bit new for me in that for the past few years I’d been planning to train to be a judge, but now I’ve decided that at least for now, coaching would be fun. And we could use the steady income – it’s certainly the most I can make so easily for an hour for a self-scheduled part-time gig. Hopefully being around the rink more I’ll have time to practice some on my own and to just enjoy the ice the way I used to. It can be a really comforting place for me, particularly in stressful times.

Happy Mother’s Day

I’ve been thinking, for a few days now, that I want to do something really special for my mom this year, to show her how much I love and care about her. But we’re quite broke at the moment, since my sudden but exciting change in career trajectory means we no longer will be receiving a spring stipend payment in the next few weeks. We know we’ll be ok, though, because I have my babysitting job (15-20 hours a week) and the company’s next round of pitching will be in about 2 weeks, and we’re sure we’ll get some significant funding then. And for the summer, my advisor will be paying me to be a “part-time staff associate” so I can help finish up some of the projects we were working on together. But this next month or so will be challenging for us, so I couldn’t pursue some of the more classic ideas, like sending her something really special.

So I’ve been thinking about what I could do, and I think that, while I don’t have much monetarily to share, and we’re not close enough for me to stop by and give her a hug or take her to lunch, I do have my thoughts and my words. So I will share those.

In my childhood and teenage years, my mom and I spent lots and lots of time together. She would drive me to ballet, or soccer, or tap-dancing. I remember standing in the driveway, dressed up in a leotard or a skating outfit, and posing for pictures while she photographed me. I remember being in one of my first performances, dancing in a group number on an auditorium stage to some Irish music while my mother sat in the audience and watched. I remember going to the ice skating rink with my mom and my brother’s boy (cub?) scouts group, and falling in love with the ice. I remember those early days, waking up while it was still dark out to go and practice at the local rink. I remember the first time we went to the new skating complex and training center that was being built in Marlboro, MA, to get a lesson with the new skating director there, when I was still just a young skater and we were both still learning about the skating world.

I remember how my mom was always there, with me, by my side and watching as I learned new jumps and spins, tried new things and fell, time and time again. Yet she always brought me back the next day or encouraged me to skate the next session, so that I could get up and keep trying, keep pushing to be better, to land new jumps or to try new moves. And she kept supporting me as I advanced through my skating career, through the many years of practice and competitions, new skates and dresses, the endless driving and travel, and the really high monetary cost of pursuing the sport of figure skating (Seriously. It’s expensive!). Most of all, I’m glad she supported me through all of the bruising falls and that she was there to celebrate with me for the triumphs.

And she was still there for me when I decided, during the summer before my senior year of high school and after months of training to compete in the Senior Ladies division at regionals that fall, after all of that, that it was time for me to leave competitive skating behind, to move on to other things. I know it was hard for her too, as it was for me, but she supported me as I pursued academics more keenly, as I began joining things like the math league and putting more time into school clubs.

That fall she supported me and helped me to keep up the confidence I needed as I applied to 10 different undergraduate programs. And she was there with me to celebrate and to be proud when I was accepted into 9 of those programs, including two full tuition scholarships to schools in MA (where we lived) and including my first choice school, an elite university in NYC (which offered me need-based financial aid but not scholarships). And that fall, she encouraged me as I went off to my first-choice school, leaving MA for life in NYC. I know it must have been really hard for her, living at home alone with my father for the first time in years, both of her children off at college in the city (my brother was at school in Boston). But when I called to talk she always listened and cheered me on. Now, when we talk, we listen to each other’s problems and offer advice, love, and help to each other. I always feel better after talking to my mom, and I hope that she does too.

Mom, I am so thankful for the solid foundations you provided and for the endless support and encouragement as I pursue my dreams, no matter where they take me. Thank you for giving me the space to make my own mistakes while always being there to listen when I fell down and had to get back up again. I consider you one of my best friends, and I feel lucky to be your daughter. Most of all, I love you with all of my heart.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Skating traffic

I don’t write about skating all that much, but I’ve mentioned it occasionally. In middle school and high school I was a competitive figure skater. I was browsing some skating blogs on the internet today and came across this post about the traffic on a freestyle sessions. Reading it really brought back memories…largely of some of the most frustrating parts of the day-to-day training!

Every skater copes with traffic differently. Some barrel ahead as if wearing blinders: the hapless individuals in their paths must either move or get flattened. Some skaters can’t contain their aggravation, frequently displaying rink rage. Other skaters constantly stop for everyone else, in the process never fitting in any of their own elements and therefore accomplishing little. Others are well-meaning but clueless, seeming to lack depth perception, often misjudging how close they are to gliding directly into someone else’s camel spin. Some just haven’t yet gotten the hang of steering; they see the traffic but can’t physically maneuver around it. Still others manage to find that balance of being both productive and safe.

I fell into various of these categories at different stages in my training.  Often, I was the one constantly letting others go ahead of me or in front of me, or psyching myself out so much that after circling 5 times and being cut-off or not finding an opening, I would finally get one only to “pop” or miss the jump.  In later years, I got my focus more under control and learned not to be afraid of the others, but I probably also got more reckless, sometimes taking off for a jump awfully close to someone moving nearby.  I remember one of the first times I took off for a double axel really close to someone and I still focused enough to land it.  I was proud of my focus and my coaches were too, since I was often much more submissive in letting the other skaters get in what they wanted to do, but it’s definitely a shame that sessions had to be that crowded as I have definitely seen some close calls – or actually cases of injury.