The Breastfeeding Blues

When my baby was born 6 weeks ago, I thought I was fully prepared. I had read books, taken classes, meditated, washed all the baby stuff, organized, decorated, etc. Boy, oh boy, was I wrong. After my birth went completely differently than I expected, I thought nothing could surprise me, but then I tried to breastfeed. Ohhh, breastfeeding. It’s one of the greatest challenges I’ve ever been through as a woman and it feels like no one really talks about it. I know I can’t be the only one who’s ever struggled with it. I know that for a fact now that I’ve started asking other moms about it…but, for the most part, it seems as if most women are struggling in silence. Why is that? Is our society so weirded out over boobs that we can’t talk about the experiences we have when we try to use them for nature’s intended purpose? The general attitude seems to be this: We have these boobs on our bodies and, no matter what size they are, they feel like the wrong size. For our entire lives we are told that these boobs have a very important purpose and that is to make a nutritious elixir for our offspring. We are also told that if we do things right and we lay our babies on our chest right after they are born, they will latch onto these boobs and these boobs will feed them. Well, what if that’s not what happens? What if one or more of those stars don’t align and things don’t work like they are supposed to?

I’ll tell you what happens, because it happened to me. I can’t make enough milk to feed my baby properly. And that was and continues to be so-o hard for me. For the first few weeks, I flat-out couldn’t accept it, so I just tried harder to make it work. I went to multiple lactation consultants. I fed my baby formula every two hours through a device called a supplemental nursing system, because I wasn’t ready to give into bottle feeding. I rented more than one hospital-grade pump and pumped after every feeding, took supplements and drank lactation tea. I even broke down in my doctor’s office, begging him to check and see if I had any retained placenta that was preventing me from making milk. I read books, did online research, talked to numerous women who had experience breastfeeding, ate oatmeal every morning, suffered through drinking a Guinness. But, nothing worked. I was still making droplets of milk and nothing more.

I felt like a failure of a mother. My lack of lactation (see what I did there?) left me filled with guilt and shame and embarrassment. As I nursed, I would look down at my baby and her perfect latch and think about how she deserved better. I would think about how my body had already failed her once by almost killing her as she tried to exit it, and now it was failing her again by not producing enough food to keep her alive. I thought about how Matt would’ve been better off having a baby with some other woman who could produce more milk.

I knew that this mindset wasn’t good for me or the baby, so in an attempt to make myself feel better I started a list in my phone titled, “Things I CAN offer my baby even though I can’t make her enough milk.” I added things to the list as I thought of them. As the list grew, my confidence as a mother grew a little bit, too.

I still haven’t fully accepted that my boobs don’t work like they’re supposed to. I still have days that I feel like Matt and Lennon deserve better. I still have days where my tears fall onto Lennon’s tiny body as she nurses. But, I continue to nurse her anyway. Then afterwards, I feed her with a bottle so she can grow big and strong. And then she looks up at me and gives me a look that seems to say, “I don’t care how much milk I’m getting, I’m happy to be here with you,” and I grow stronger as well.

If you are a nursing mother or a mother who’s trying to be a nursing mother or a mother who can’t nurse but wishes she could, I see you and I think you’re doing a great job. In fact, if you’ve ever done anything that made you feel like a failure of a mother, I see you and think you’re amazing because you care enough to feel like a failure, even though you aren’t. I encourage you to make a list like I did so you can see all of the wonderful things you are giving to your child. Below is my list (it’s a work in progress), and I’d love to see yours, too.

Things I CAN offer my baby even though I can’t make her enough milk:

  • Unconditional love
  • A tiny bit of breast milk, which is better than none
  • Trust
  • Round-the-clock care
  • Snuggles
  • Songs with personalized lyrics
  • Kisses
  • Lots of smiles
  • Compliments
  • Honesty
  • A rocking motion when she’s fussy
  • A warm chest to cry against
  • A warm shoulder to spit up on
  • A warm bath followed by a foot massage
  • A safe place to sleep
  • Adventures
  • Book-reading sessions with many different voices
  • Clean clothes
  • Written accounts of how much she means to me that she can read when she’s older
  • A mom who hears her cries, studies them to try to figure out what they’re about and genuinely wants to make it all better
  • My attention (all of it)
  • My time (all of it)
  • Presence
  • Affection
  • The best bottles money can buy
  • Attention to detail so she never misses a feeding or has to sit too long in a dirty diaper
  • My hand to shade her eyes from the sun

Lennon’s Birth Story

It’s been two weeks since I received the greatest gift of my life, my beautiful daughter, Lennon, and I think I’m finally ready to talk about how it all went down.

As many of you know, our baby was due on May 9th, 2017, but that day came and went. So did the day after that and the day after that. With each day that passed, I got a little more anxious and worried. My doctors were talking about inducing me, but I was very reluctant. From what I had read, induced labors are much more intense and painful than natural labor. More importantly, I wanted to trust my body and I wanted to have a natural childbirth, though I always planned on doing it at the hospital, just in case something went wrong, I wanted to be in the safety net, but I was hoping it would all just happen the way it was supposed to, without interventions.
So, I waited and waited for her to come on her own. My doctors told me that I could wait until Monday, May 22nd, as long as I got non-stress tests twice a week. After that, they strongly recommended I stop waiting and get induced.

The waiting was very hard for me. I wondered if I was doing the right thing, aware as I was that the risk of having a still-born baby goes up after week 41, and that an induction would bring risks as well. I just wanted a healthy baby. That’s all I cared about. I simply didn’t know the best way to get her.
On Tuesday, May 16th, I started having some mild cramping in the evening, and by Wednesday, May 17th, the cramping started to feel more like contractions. I started timing the contractions around lunchtime on the 17th and by late that night they were so intense that I was doubling over to get through each one. I had been told to go to the hospital when the contractions were 2-to-4 minutes apart, but when they were around 5 minutes apart, I felt a strong urge to head to the hospital. I talked Matt into going a little bit early and we headed to Sutter Amador.

When we arrived, I told the nurse that I might be a little early. I also told her that I knew they might send us home, but this was my first time and I felt safer at the hospital. Both of the nurses on duty that night were very nice and agreed to let me stay there to progress through my labor. They checked my cervix, looked over my birth plan, and agreed to do everything in the most natural way possible. At this point, it was about 1 a.m. We were just going to wait through the night and see how much I had progressed by about 6 a.m.

Around 3 a.m., during a fairly strong contraction, the heart monitors they had on the baby and me started going crazy and I felt the baby moving around a lot — I’m talking more movement than I had ever felt before — frantic movement. The nurse came running in the room and asked me to move into a few different positions as she moved the baby’s heart monitor around on my belly. She seemed scared, so I started to get scared. She pushed a button that was attached to her shirt and said “Code C.” An alarm started sounding. She told me to get on all fours, put on an oxygen mask and try to stay calm — that the baby’s heart rate had dropped significantly and she was trying to find it again. At this point, a bunch of other people, doctors and nurses, started coming into the room asking what they could do. I heard my nurse say that we needed to get my doctor there asap and prep for surgery. I heard her telling the team that if my doctor didn’t get there fast enough, we needed to have the ER doctor perform an emergency C-section, because something was wrong and we needed to get the baby out.

As I propped myself up on the hospital bed on all fours, ass in the open air for whoever to see, face in an oxygen mask, I thought about what would happen to me if I lost this baby. It was one of the darkest moments I’ve ever been in. I thought about how far we’d come together, me and my baby Lentil, and how badly I wanted her to be OK. I thought about how if she didn’t make it, I didn’t want to make it, either. I thought to myself over and over, “Please let her be OK. Please let her be OK. I want nothing more than for her to be OK, I’ve never wanted anything more than for her to be OK.”

The nurse came over to me and said, “Ginger, something is wrong. We won’t know what it is until we get you into surgery, but if you continue with this labor, we think it will end in the demise of your baby.”
Can we talk about the word “demise” for a moment? That word carries so much doom and gloom for me. When I heard that word is when I knew I would do anything the doctors told me to do, because baby demise was the last thing I wanted. Baby demise was my worst nightmare. Baby demise would ruin me.

When my doctor arrived, he looked as if we had awoken him from a deep sleep. He performed an ultrasound on me while I was on all fours. He said he’d never done an ultrasound upside-down before, but he found the baby’s heart beating on the screen and saw that she had switched positions in the womb, another sign of distress, seeing as she had been engaged and head-down for months before this.

Within minutes, they were wheeling me down to surgery. Matt was there by my side the whole time, telling me that everything would be OK. I don’t know how he stayed so calm, but I needed his kind, patient energy so badly and he gave it to me lovingly. As the surgery began, I just kept thinking, again, “Please let her be OK.” Then I heard her cry. It was the most beautiful sound, like nothing I’d ever heard before, a cry that was unique to her and let me know she was alive, even though I couldn’t yet see her.

As I lay on the operating table completely numb and in a very odd headspace, I heard the doctors talking about how things looked on the other side of the sheet. They were talking about my body, my insides. They were saying things looked “different” than usual.

Matt got to see the baby first. He came over to me with the biggest smile on his face, with a look I’ll never forget, a look of relief mixed with love mixed with hope. Luckily, baby Lentil passed all of her tests and they were able to let me hold her pretty quickly. She was perfect.

After surgery, the doctors and nurses explained to us that the umbilical cord was abnormally short. When the baby attempted to descend through my birthing canal, her oxygen supply was reduced and her heart rate dropped. The average umbilical cord is 50 to 60 cm long, but the cord connecting me and Lennon was only 17 cm. The doctors and nurses said she wouldn’t have survived labor. They also said she wouldn’t have survived an induction. One of the nurses even told me when I saw her a week later that it was one of the scariest days she’d ever worked.

The fact that my baby is here with me today makes me feel so fortunate. It also breaks my heart to know that if one tiny part of this story were different, like let’s say I didn’t go to the hospital when I did, or let’s say a different nurse was working and didn’t hear the heart monitor, then my baby wouldn’t be here with me today. It’s so scary to know that I could’ve easily lost my baby. And my heart goes out to all the women whose birthing stories ended differently. I wish I could hug them and tell them how brave and strong they are.

These past two weeks have been tough, because recovering from a C-section is no joke and being a new mom is no joke, but doing both simultaneously while also trying (and kind of failing) to breastfeed is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. And when my baby is sleeping on my chest or looking into my eyes or making a bunch of silly faces, I know that I’m exactly where I need to be. I didn’t get here the way I had hoped, but at least I’m here. More importantly, at least Lennon is here. Someone or something was looking out for us that day and we are all so lucky.

 

Lessons I’ve Learned from Pregnancy – Part Three

3. I can survive without self-medicating.

Let’s talk about a very touchy subject for a moment, shall we? Self-medication! It’s one of my favorite pastimes! I can’t really recall exactly when I started using alcohol as a crutch/self-soothing tool/anti-anxiety medication, but I can tell you that it was a very long time ago. For years and years, I used alcohol to help me cope with all of the hardships of life. Or so I thought. In reality, it never really helped with anything. If I had a stressful day, I’d have a glass of wine. If I liked a boy and he wasn’t giving me the attention I craved, I’d have a cocktail. If I got into an argument with a friend or family member, I’d have a drink. If I did something I wasn’t proud of and didn’t know how to deal with it, I’d just have a drink and forget about it. If I got depressed about being a waitress in my thirties, I’d have a drink. If something terrible happened to me and I didn’t know how to process, I’d go to happy hour.

One drink always turned into many drinks and it got to the point where I was using alcohol to actively try to shut off my feelings, desires and thoughts. The only problem with doing that is that alcohol can only shut things off for a short time. I would still wake up the next morning with the same thoughts, the same feelings, the same desires…and all of them were tired of being ignored and pushed under the rug. If I had had too much to drink the night (or day!) before, which I often did, I would also wake up with very heavy guilt and shame about drinking — guilt and shame about not being present; guilt and shame about not being myself; guilt and shame for dimming my own light. I was intoxicated probably 50% of the time, which means I wasn’t myself about 50% of the time, which is a lot! That’s half a person, half a personality, gone!

A few years ago, I somehow found the strength to admit to myself and a couple of other people that I was doing this. I was self-medicating. I wasn’t just a “social drinker,” like I had always wanted everyone to believe. I was drinking with purpose. I was drinking to try to hide how unhappy I was, from not only those around me, but also from myself. Unfortunately, admitting I had a problem with drinking was only the first step. Actually stopping the habit was a whole different can of worms. And even though I knew I wanted to stop self-medicating, I didn’t want to stop all the way. I associated fun with drinking, and I wasn’t ready to give it up.

So, I started trying to cut back. I would set goals for myself, like, “Tonight, I’m only going to have two glasses of wine (unless one of my customers buys me a drink). Or, “Tonight, I’m not going to black out.” Or, “This week, I’m only going to drink on my days off.” Most of the time, I wouldn’t share these goals with anyone, but I wouldn’t meet them, either. I thought it wasn’t that bad, because the only person I was letting down was myself, right? I was so wrong! Letting myself down over and over and over again is the single worst thing I’ve ever done to myself and my self-esteem. I know that now, but I didn’t then.

Anyway, the whole point of me telling you about this nasty, nasty habit I had is that I finally feel like I’ve been able to break away from it! I attribute that in part to my unborn baby. Before I got pregnant I was already starting on my journey away from self-medication. I had recognized the problem; I had learned to accept my feelings better. I had decided my feelings were there for a reason…they were usually trying to show me something or teach me an important lesson and I couldn’t learn the lesson if I was drowning the feelings in alcohol. I had successfully cut back on drinking and convinced myself that life without it wasn’t that bad. But, I would still slip up. I would still go back to my old ways and every time I did I would wake up with the same guilt and shame.

Then I got pregnant, and I stopped drinking immediately. Now I had this very important reason not to drink, the most important reason ever, growing inside of me. In the last nine months, I’ve gotten to know myself, and my anxiety, so well. I’ve had to feel all my feelings; I’ve had to worry all my worries; I’ve had to fear all my fears and cry all my tears. When I feel happy, I feel truly happy. When I laugh, I’m truly laughing from somewhere deep inside my belly. And I’ve done this all without medication, without alcohol and refreshingly, without much shame. And, guess what? I’ve survived! I’m even a little proud of myself. I’ve found that all the bad things aren’t really as bad as I imagined them to be, as long as I don’t run away from them.

My baby forced me to get to know my true self, an unadulterated version of myself, and for that I will forever be grateful. I can’t wait to enjoy a glass of rosé with friends, but now I know I don’t need it to survive. Now I know that I’m strong enough to feel any feeling and fight any fight and I’m strong enough all on my own. I don’t need any substance to help me. Thank you, baby Lentil. Thank you so much. I hope you never lose yourself as much as I did. But, if you do, I’m here to help you find yourself again. I can’t wait to be your present, vulnerable, flawed, ready-to-face-anything mom.

Lashing Out

A couple months ago, I got some eyelash extensions. At the time, my boyfriend didn’t want to be with me and it was pretty obvious. I was feeling ugly and shitty and confused and I thought that my face wasn’t pretty enough. I thought that if my face could just get a little boost, maybe things would be better. If I could just be a little prettier, maybe I would have a boyfriend who did want to be with me. Maybe I wouldn’t feel like I was clinging for dear life onto something that was broken and failing. Maybe I wouldn’t look so exhausted all the time. Maybe I wouldn’t look so sad, and in turn, maybe I wouldn’t be so sad. So, I got some beautiful, long, black lashes applied to my eyes. And oooooohhhhh-eeeeeeee, they looked GREAT! I felt SO much prettier. I even sort-of liked my face when it didn’t have makeup on it.

I was batting my eyes at strangers. I was taking selfies right out of the shower. I was getting compliments from servers in restaurants, and compliments from friends who would ask, “What mascara are you using!?” It was great!

But, you know what, it didn’t save my relationship, so my eyelash extensions and I had to go through a breakup.

On top of that, I’m a crier. Sometimes, I cry while watching commercials. So, when I’m going through a breakup, the tears are a-flowin’. So many tears. A river of tears. And eyelash extensions aren’t really supposed to get wet! You’re also not supposed to wash them. And they feel kind of like a caterpillar is taking a rest on your eyelid. Between the tears and the not being able to wash my face and the breakup feelings, I started to hate the eyelash extensions. They were itchy and felt foreign and fake and they started to look a little wonky, with some of them going in all different directions. I decided I wanted them off of my face, I needed them off.

So, I did what any savvy gal would do — I looked online for advice about how to remove eyelash extensions. Now, mind you, the woman who had put them on had told me, “DO NOT TRY TO REMOVE THEM YOURSELF.”

However, the Internet made it sound simple enough — just steam your face for 15 minutes and wipe your eyes with coconut oil. I had some coconut oil and some time to kill! Perfect!

The hour and a half I spent trying to get those things off was brutal. It could be considered abuse in most states. I think I steamed my face about four times, and used about 100 cotton balls, just rubbing gobs and gobs of coconut oil on my face and applying far more pressure than anyone should apply to an eyeball. If I pushed hard enough, one or two eyelashes would rip off, but most of them would take my real eyelashes off with them. It was terrible and very painful. After I was finished, my eyes were red and swollen and almost all of my eyelashes were gone.

There were a few really long extensions left that I couldn’t get to come off. Other than that, I was eye-bald. I stared at myself in the mirror and felt uglier than I’d ever felt before.

Now I was 32, single and had no eyelashes. I fell to the floor and had an actual breakdown. The thoughts going through my head were, “Why do I never feel good enough? Why did I get these stupid things in the first place? I got them because I didn’t think I was pretty enough, but now I’m less pretty than ever before, what a huge backfire! Why didn’t I pay someone to remove them? What am I going to do now? How can I go about my day, my week, my year without eyelashes? Why do I care so much about the way I look? Why do I feel like I have to be attractive to be worthy of love? Why do I live in this fucked-up world, where beauty feels more important than honesty, and integrity, and intelligence, and kindness? Why? Why?”

Reluctantly, I picked myself up and I told myself that there are people with far larger problems in the world. Then, I went to work — feeling hideous. But, you know what, no one noticed. I told all of my co-workers about it, because it felt so obvious to me that I felt I needed to explain the way I looked. Every single one of them said that they would never have noticed if I hadn’t said something. Since then, I’ve been walking around feeling self conscious and just hoping my real lashes will grow fast. The moral of this story is, eyelash extensions won’t save you from your problems. In fact, they might make all of your problems worse! And you’re beautiful just the way you are.

Sincerely,

Eye-bald and OK in Pasadena

 

The Truth Behind my Instagram Beach Pic

Remember the beach photo I posted last week of me in a bikini? You probably don’t because to you it was just a picture. But to me, it was a lot more than a picture! Here’s why: I’ve never, ever posted a picture of myself in a bathing suit. In fact, bathing suits have been my arch nemesis for most of my life. I’ve been uncomfortable in my own skin since before I knew what skin was. Honestly, I have vivid memories of self-hatred and regret about eating too much watermelon whilst wearing a bathing suit back when I was 5 years old. And many other memories from all different ages where I’m in my cover-up sitting in a shady corner of the pool or the beach, petrified that someone might notice how big my thighs are. But, recently, I’ve been attempting to ignore the insulting bitch in my head who tells me I can’t wear a bathing suit. Don’t get me wrong, she’s still there. And she still has quite a few offensive opinions about my body, but I’m choosing to tell her, “thanks for coming by, please leave now.” Because, who is SHE to tell me I can’t walk on the beach, bask in the sun, splash in the water and laugh with my friends on a sunny summer day? Cellulite isn’t a crime! Posting that photo last week was tough, I took about 100 shots of the same photo and got creative with the cropping and filtering just to be able to have the balls to post it (please see a screen shot of my camera roll below for proof). But, I’m so glad I posted it! Because it was a huge step for me. A step towards taking the power back and being nice to myself and saying, “girl, you look as good as you can right now and that is good enough for me.” And I’m telling you this, dear women of the Internet, because I encourage you to do the same thing. Take that beautiful body of yours out for a spin on the beach! Post photos! I think you look great, even if the voice in your head says you’re too tall/short/fat/skinny/old/young/pale/tan/bloated/chubby/flat-chested/freckled/scarred/etc. I think the voice in your head should take a longggggg nap (maybe in the sun, maybe without sunscreen on) and let you have some fun!

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Coachella Collaboration with Horseshoe!

A story about love(ing yourself)

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Jennifer, my boyfriend’s sweet friend (and now mine, too) asked me to do a collaboration with Horseshoe (the super-cute boutique she works at in Seattle). The idea was that they would send me some clothes that fit the Coachella vibe, with which I would put together some outfits. Then I would have photos shot of me in the clothes. I, of course, said, “Yes! That sounds fun!” but then quickly worked myself into a stressed out state of mind over it. You know, the old “I’m-too-old-too-plain-my-butt’s-too-big-my-boobs-are-too-small” negative self-talk that always seems to creep up in the back of my mind. But you know what? I’m getting real tired of that negative self-talk! So, I told it to shut up. I woke up early on my days off, I put on some makeup, I did my hair, I told the mean voice in my head that I didn’t want to hang out and I had my friends and my boyfriend take a bunch of pictures of me. Do I look perfect in the pictures? NO! Did I big-girl cry a little bit one day thinking they weren’t good enough? YES! But, in the long-run, it ended up being a really enjoyable, fulfilling project! And, the best part is — that I got to document myself at this stage in my life…31 years old, busy as hell, excited for Coachella 2015, full of love and life and complications and emotions. Forever now, I’ll have these beautifully imperfect pictures where I’m wearing Horseshoe’s cute Coachella clothes and attempting to love myself. Now that is something worth remembering! AND, I fell in love with a couple of the items and ended up buying them to actually take to Coachella…like the awesome Astronaut tank below!

To see the photos and interview questions that Horseshoe posted —> click here!

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Waiting Tables

Being a cocktail waitress is kind of like being the host of a bunch of little parties. The guests come sit at the table (the party). I greet them; I ask them how they are doing; I offer them something to drink; I bring them food when they are hungry; and I clean up their messes. And I do this because I want them to have a good time at my party — every last one of them. I want them all to have a great time! Sometimes, too many guests show up to the parties at once and I can’t get them all drinks and food as fast as I’d like and it makes me feel like a bad host. Sometimes, one of the guests acts up, or pees in the sink or makes another guest uncomfortable and I’m like, “You’ve gotta leave this party immediately!” Sometimes, an asshole shows up to one of the parties and it’s really hard to make sure they have a good time and it makes me feel like a bad host and a bad person. I often wake up the next morning thinking about the parties from the night before and hoping they had a great time — every last one of them. So, if you are someone who likes to go to the little parties that waiters and waitresses are throwing at restaurants and bars across the nation, please be kind to your host. They care about you and want you to have a good time!

The Blogcademy!

About a week ago I went to this wonderful weekend class called The Blogcademy! If anyone is thinking of attending, you should! The class taught me way more than I could’ve ever dreamed about blogging, loving myself, not comparing myself to others, taking great photos, branding myself, embracing my weirdness and just being a supportive, fabulous female! Here’s some photos from my experience…

Super, super nervous in my car saturday morning right before I went in and met everyone.

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The Blogcademy Head Mistresses. They are awesome!

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(Photo by This Rad Love)

The beautiful venue. (I actually won a prize for this photo in the Instagram contest. Whoop whoop!)

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Practicing with still-life photos.

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Sparkly headbands from our gift bags (you better believe I wore mine all weekend and even made some trades!)

Blogcademy Sparkle Ears

(Photo by This Rad Love)

A group shot of the whole class.

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(Photo by This Rad Love)

My “diploma”, report card and a thank you note from The Blogcademy! Yay! (Oh, and some dinosaurs that I found under my bed. Seriously.)

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All in all, it was a weekend well spent and I would recommend it to anyone. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have so much to do to make all of my blogging dreams come true!

P.S. Did you happen to notice the new look of my blog? What do you think?

Christmas Trip to Seattle and Berkeley as Told by the Photos on my iPhone (and some from Zack’s Galaxy S5)

Zack and I just got home from our Christmas adventures on Sunday and even though I have a terrible cough/cold situation, I had a really great time! I’m not sure how we fit so much into 6 days, but we did, which is probably why I’m sick. Since I can’t think of a good way to explain all the things we did on our trip I’m gonna let the photos on my iPhone tell the story…

Free gin and tonics on our flight from Burbank to Seattle! Thanks, Southwest.

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I ate so many oysters! This is a white wine/oyster sampler at The Brooklyn in downtown Seattle.

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A cold and rainy walk from our hotel to Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

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Lunch at Sitka and Spruce in Capitol Hlll. I can’t stop thinking about the cured salmon and sunchokes dish, sooooooo tasty.  In fact, everything there was amazing and the decor was beautiful. It’s tucked right next to a flower shop so you can see happy folks picking up parcels of fresh flowers as you eat. And the kitchen is simply a big island, in the dining room, with talented chefs standing around it and putting together wonderful, gorgeous dishes. It feels like you are at a friends house except your friends are very talented artists and you’re scared to talk to them.

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Pike Place at night.

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The line at Starbucks Reserve in Capitol Hill (we did not go in because lines are dumb and well, it’s still Starbucks, and they probably still don’t have almond milk).

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The great wall of gum in Seattle. One of the few times in my life when I’ve found something to be totally gross and beautiful at the same time.

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Everyone kept telling us that we MUST try a Tom Douglas restaurant, so we had lunch at Seatown Seabar & Rotisserie in downtown Seattle with Kim and Damaris (who, sadly, aren’t pictured here). If it’s good enough for Anthony Bourdain, it’s good enough for me!

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The Fluevog store window in Seattle. I took this photo to send to my friend Patty because she loves fluevogs and I forgot to send it. But it still seems fitting…

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Early Christmas morning trek from Seattle to Berkeley where I started calling Zack my “luggage robot”

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Uncle Pauls extensive bug collection! We got to look at a bunch of them through the magnifying glass and they are fascinating. Some have eyeballs that look like glittery mesh!

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Christmas cuddles with my aunt Arayah.

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Day after Christmas brunch in San Francisco at my cousin Jenan’s house. My brother and cousin cooked a wonderful dish called “Shakshuka” and I made bloody mary’s with the finest ingredients I’ve probably ever used in a cocktail. Then we all ate outside on Jenan’s (sometimes) sunny patio. It was lovely!

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After brunch hike to Bernal Hill, which just about killed some of the older folks.

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Riding the Bernal Hill slide, which also just about killed some of us.

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Saturday was dubbed “memory lane day” by my parents, but then their memories failed them when they couldn’t remember which house we used to live in and just kept driving back and forth on the same block looking for it. After that we had lunch at Chez Panisse, where my Dad spent a lot of his days and was once a partial owner, it was fabulous as always. Our friend Michele (a retired Chez Panisse pizza chef) and Rebecca (my former nanny and a retired Chez Panisse bus-girl) joined us for lunch, with that much history sitting at our table we got lots of attention and lots of food. There’s something quite magical about eating at a well-known restaurant with some of the people who made it all happen.  And Alice gave me a signed copy of her most recent book!

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The beautiful sunset as we drove around Berkeley looking for people and places we used to know.

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Things that are not pictured but were still thoroughly enjoyed

  1. Dinner with Carol and Tal in Seattle.
  2. Dinner and drinks with Kim, Damaris, Jennifer, Cody and Ryan in Seattle.
  3. Christmas Dinner! yummmmmmmm.
  4. Dinner at The Sullivans house in Berkeley.

Now it’s time to go back to work and back to eating food from the 99cents store so I can pay off this trip! 😉

What’s the Deal with??

Girls Buying Cars

I’ve been doing some car shopping lately, because the lease is up on my VW. I was in the market for something more economical…smaller, better gas mileage, lower monthly payment etc. After doing lots of research (lots=a few google searches), I decided I wanted a Prius C. On Sunday, I talked Zack (my boyfriend) into going to look at them with me. We went to the Toyota dealer in Downtown LA and I walked in and told them I was interested in buying a car. Immediately, the man in the showroom escorted me to a booth outside, where all the salesmen were waiting for their prey. They all stood up and shifted their energies when they saw us approaching, I could hear them saying, “Whose turn is it!?” in loud whispers and then a short, chubby man in a blue shirt stepped forward. The greeter man from the showroom told him that my name was Ginger and I was interested in a Prius C. The salesman totally ignored that fact and greeted Zack, who was standing behind me, by shaking his hand and saying, “How can I help you, sir?” Seriously!? You’re gonna greet my boyfriend instead of me simply because he is a man and I am a woman? Let’s just say, I hated this salesman from the get-go. He continued to talk down to me and talk up to Zack the entire time I was there, saying things like, “What does she want? Just tell me what she wants, sir, and I will make it happen.” When I would ask a question, he would address Zack with the answer instead of me. At one point, I asked how they calculate the monthly payments, and he told me, “It’s just simple math.” He was terrible and condescending and chauvinistic, and I left there without buying anything and in a fit of rage.

However, I didn’t let that guy get to me! I ended up going on Tuesday to two different Toyota dealers — by myself. The first dealership, Hamer Toyota, treated me very nicely, even though I was a woman, car shopping alone. Unfortunately, all they had to offer me was a great deal on a very-bright-yellow Prius C. I politely declined, because I despise yellow cars, and went to another dealer.

The third dealership, North Hollywood Toyota, kept me there for hours! It was all this back and forth about all sorts of things. But, the salesman had kind eyes, and they had the car I wanted, in the color I wanted, so I stuck around. At one point, the gentleman helping me said, “It’s very rare to see a girl like you, car shopping alone, so all the guys are asking me if you are here by yourself. I told them you are a strong woman”. Um, really?? I left that day without a car, mostly because I had to get to work. Since I knew the deal I wanted and they weren’t really giving it to me, I told them I would be back at 11am the next day to do more negotiating. When I went back at 11am on Wednesday, I had the paperwork from VW that spelled out exactly how much it would cost to turn in my Jetta and I told them that I wanted them to pay it. Guess what? They did! They actually decided to give me exactly what I asked for. And they told me that they were impressed that I showed back up, at the time I had promised, with the paperwork I had promised them. Why were they impressed? I guess because I’m a woman. This brings me to my point…do women not go car shopping? Are we stuck in 1950? Is it strange that I didn’t have a man holding my hand when I walked in? Why was I met with surprise and awe at every point of the car-buying process? If I’m the one who is signing the papers and I’m the one who will be driving the car and I’m the one who will be making the payments, then why would I need anyone else to come with me to the dealership? I know what I want. I know how to negotiate what I want. I know how to keep appointments. I know how to drive. I have a good credit score, and I know how to sign paperwork. Is any of that more or less impressive because I’m a woman? I don’t think so. But, apparently, in the world of car sales, it makes me a “strong woman”. The way I see it, all of that just makes me a responsible human being. So, what I have to say to all the car salesmen asking if I was car-shopping alone is, “Why would I not car-shop alone?” I am woman; hear me quietly start my new Prius C with the push of a button.

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Sixteen Tons

When I was around 17, I got my first credit card. It was to get me ready for college, to build my credit and to use in case of emergencies. My mom was a co-signer, so it felt really safe and I rarely used it­ — at first. But, as time went on, there were more things I considered “emergencies” and when I over-used it, I would get an earful from my mom, so I started opening cards on my own. When the checkout girl at Express would offer me a card to save 15%, I would say, “Yes, please!” Then, I started getting more credit card offers in the mail, and getting credit card offers from the bank teller. At the time, I thought, “This is great! All of these people are offering me all this FREE money!” So, I got all sorts of cards and I didn’t really pay attention to the interest rates because I didn’t even know what those were, really. And, I used those cards. I used them hard. If I wanted a new pair of shoes, I bought them. If I wanted to go out to eat, I did. If my friend was having a bachelorette party in Las Vegas, I went. I felt like this sort of behavior was OK, because I was working and going to school and living and paying rent in San Francisco and I DESERVED that hundred-dollar dress. In fact, I deserved a new dress for every. Single. Event. A young girl has to look good, eat well, and make lasting memories, right? I even printed out an Oscar Wilde quote to put on my wall that read, “Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.” The whole I’ll-just-swipe-this-card-and-have-whatever-I-want-right-now-and-figure-the-rest-out-later mentality lasted for years.

I was 24 and living in San Diego when I realized I had royally fucked myself. I was waiting tables because, well, that’s what I always do to make money. But, no matter how much I worked or how great my tips were, there just wasn’t enough money to cover my rent, my bills, my car payment, and whatever else I thought I needed. I remember sitting on the floor in my apartment one day, surrounded by the cash I had made that week and a list of all of my debts…I tallied them up and the grand total was around $30,000. I didn’t even have enough cash to make the minimum payments. I sat there on that shitty carpet sobbing for what felt like forever and thinking there was no way out. Then I called my mom and finally admitted to her how deeply I had dug myself into debt. I was filled with guilt and shame and self-hatred. And really, all I had to show for it was a bunch of dresses and shoes that I didn’t even like anymore. That day, my mom and I decided that I should move home and get a grip on my spending.

I lived at home for a year. I worked two jobs and tried to live the simplest life I could. But, after that year, I was still in massive amounts of debt and feeling like I wasn’t making any progress. I decided I needed to get out of that small town before I fell asleep one day and woke up with four kids and even more debt. So, I moved to Pasadena and I took my debt with me. Once I moved to Pasadena, I worked, and I made payments, and I worked, and I made payments. It felt never-ending. I was always embarrassed to tell people about my debt, so I’d try to keep it secret for as long as possible, only telling my close friends and lovers. And when I did tell those that I’m close to, it was usually through tears and with the hopes that they wouldn’t stop talking to me forever.

Earlier this year, my parents said enough was enough! They started me on the right track by making some payments on my huge pile of debt for me and, more importantly, they made me sign a contract saying that I wouldn’t continue to spend money I didn’t have and wouldn’t let credit card companies rape me with interest rates. And, it worked. After I signed that contract, I felt like I owed something to my family. And to myself. I have been aggressively paying off debt ever since. All of my spare money goes to the credit cards — the evil, terrible credit cards.

At this point, you may be wondering, why am I telling you all of this? And putting it on the Internet? Well, because today, on November 14, 2014, I am officially credit-card-debt free! I paid the very last balance this morning and then I sat here crying tears of happiness as I wrote this. I honestly never thought this day would come. I’ve given so much of my money and my time and my energy to those credit cards. I’ve taken my debt with me everywhere I’ve gone for the last 13 years. It followed me, a black cloud of my own creation; haunting me and weighing on me and holding me back from so many things — a constant reminder of how irresponsible and careless and materialistic I am. I never thought I would get myself out of that $30,000 hole I was in. But I did! And I’m just so happy to get rid of that black cloud.

Mondays and Tuesdays

Please note: You may click on highlighted slang terms to see the Urban Dictionary definition.

Do you ever wake up on a Monday and think, “What on earth have I done to myself?” Your eyes are swollen, yesterday’s makeup is on your face and your head is killing you. Then you realize your car is broken down in a parking garage miles away. And you barely have the energy to walk to the kitchen and get a glass of water, but water sounds so-o-o-o good, so-o-o-o refreshing, so-o-o-o cold. When you finally muster the energy to get water, and rinse your body with water, and splash water on your face, it doesn’t make you feel or look much better. And then you leave the house, take a cab to your broken-down car and wait 75 minutes for roadside assistance to come help you get it started. During those 75 minutes, you manage to spend $170, lose your parking pass and run into 2 people you know, which always seems to happen when you are looking swollen and tired. Those 75 minutes of down time also give you ample opportunity to reflect on the events that lead you to this moment; the copious quantity of cocktails consumed on both Saturday and Sunday; the excessive amount of money spent; the way that trying to be a good friend and play wingwoman can totally backfire; the 2 douchebags who came in and out of your life as a result of aforementioned wingwoman activities (and the way they reminded you that most people suck). You recall the way they reminded you that, to some men, women are nothing more than objects. What you say and what you think and what your friends say and think doesn’t matter to some men — you seem to keep forgetting that. Your faith in humanity feels demolished, again. You go to work that night and put on a fake smile, all the while feeling discouraged and confused about life and people and the interactions we have with one another and the power those interactions have over you.

Fortunately, you wake up on Tuesday and realize that you have a boyfriend who is the opposite of a douchebag and does care about what you say and think. And you know what? You have a Dad and a brother who care about what you say and think as well! And there are still lots of great men in the world and in your life! And not everyone sucks; you just have to weed through all the rotten eggs to find the good ones. And lucky for you, you’ll never have to see those douchebags from Saturday again. And you will recover from the way they skeezed you out. And your car is working again. And your cat is cute and cuddly. And it’s summertime and the birds are chirping and you may have had too much to drink over the weekend, and spent too much money and spent your time with people you didn’t have much respect for, but that’s over now. So, you make yourself a cup of coffee and you sauté some spinach and mushrooms and you top them with an almost-perfect fried egg and you think, “I’m so glad it’s Tuesday and I’m alive and I have feelings.”

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Caught up in Questions

Hello to all my faithful subscribers! I’d like to apologize for not blogging in so long. I’m not entirely sure if I’m apologizing to you or apologizing to myself, let’s say I’m doing both! The truth is, I’ve been feeling down. And confused. And doubting myself. SO, SO MUCH DOUBTING. Lots of my spare time is spent wondering…

Does anyone care what I think?

Am I interesting?

Can I even call myself a writer?

Do I even want to be a writer?

Maybe being a writer is too scary for me.

Can I handle the harsh opinions of others?

Am I too sensitive for this place?

Will I ever be a real adult?

Am I a good person?

Does my boyfriend really love me?

Do my PARENTS really love me?

Does my cat really love me?

Or does she pretend to because I feed her?

Do I even really love myself?

Or do I pretend to because I’m supposed to?

Am I smart? Am I stupid? Am I right in between like so many other people whom I never wanted to be like?

Are my ideas even my own?

Or did I find them in a dream one night?

Or see them on the Internet one day?

Do people get me?

Do I even get myself?

Do I have an audience?

Do I even WANT an audience?

Maybe audiences are too scary for me.

Am I a good friend?

Am I a good lover?

Am I good at ANYTHING?

Are the people I love going to be ok?

Am I going to be ok?

Is everyone going to be ok?

Is everyone sad?

Is life just moments of happiness mixed with I’m-standing-ankle-deep-in-sewage-water moments?

What do other people feel like?

What do they think about when they wake up in the morning?

Or on their lunch breaks?

Or when they can’t get cell phone service and are completely alone for a moment?

What parts of their bodies or their minds hurt?

What parts feel good?

I don’t expect you to answer any of these questions by the way. In a perfect world, I’d like to answer them all for myself. Or at least not let them be as debilitating as they have been. And that is what I’ve been doing instead of blogging. I’ve been caught up in questions. Trying to learn to love myself and the world around me. And the longer I go without posting, the harder it is to bring myself to do it. I often wonder if anyone even reads these things or what the point of it is. But, this morning I told myself; I’m going to blog today! And I’m going to blog more regularly! And even if no one ever reads them it will be good for me! Because writing feels good. And talking about feelings feels good. A sweet release. And ya, cheers to that.

Yes to Blueberries

I think I have body wash commitment issues. I’ve never found one in all my 30 years of life that I’m in love with. There was this coconut one once…he sent my senses flying every morning for weeks! He made me think we had a future, always begging me to consider romantic trips to Hawaii or sexy beach getaways to the Caribbean. But, in the end, he was just like the rest, leaving me unsatisfied and broken out (you know, breakups can be hard on the skin).

This body wash commitment phobia isn’t an easy thing to keep from my current boyfriend. After he had showered at my place multiple times, it was bound to come up. Especially after I bought 3 new body washes at the same time and put them in my shower! I tried to explain my actions by claiming there was a “sale” but I knew he’d find out soon enough.

The refreshing part of it all is that my boyfriend didn’t seem bothered by my promiscuous body washing ways. He would even finish off the remnants of the bottles I turned my nose up at. He would discuss with me the relative merits of certain body washes compared to others, “I’m a big fan of the exfoliating effect of this one, but I prefer the scent of this one”.

One day, quite recently, I was in Target and a large, purple body wash started flirting with me from the shelf. These guys never give up, do they!? I forgot all about all the suds that had hurt me in the past and I threw him in my cart, daydreaming of our future together as I walked toward the checkout. When I checked out, I was surprised to see that my new “Yes to Blueberries” body wash was on sale. This guy really knew how to wow a girl! But, it’s always the ones who start out opening doors for you that end up not delivering in the end, isn’t it?

When I finally got naked with my new body wash he turned out to be completely unavailable! As in, I couldn’t even squeeze the bottle. Was it me or was it him? Was I weak or was he just playing a little too hard to get? It was impossible to get him to open up. I ended up forcing my way in, but felt terrible about it later. I just wanted a body wash that had his shit figured out! I didn’t want to have to break down his walls every time I wanted to be close to him. I cast him aside and went back to my ex body wash without speaking a word of it to anyone.

So, imagine my surprise when my boyfriend asked, “Have you noticed how hard that new body wash is to use?” I admitted that I HAD noticed and it very much bothered me because I had had such high hopes. We laughed and talked about how it was a shame because we really enjoyed the smell. My boyfriend told me he had seen that same body wash in someone else’s shower and the lid had been completely broken off, which suggested that it wasn’t me, it was the body wash. This made me feel better.

The next morning my boyfriend took a shower and left for work before I was even awake. Little did I know, he had left a little gift for me. When I went to take a shower, the top was broken off the body wash and it worked perfectly! My boyfriend had taken care of body wash business! He had listened to me talk about my body wash woes, and then he made them disappear, without making me feel silly or dramatic. And now, every time I take a shower, I see that body wash with the top broken off and I think, “That boyfriend of mine, he just gets me”.

Mom

Today I’m feeling sentimental because it’s my mom’s birthday. She has always been a constant source of love and understanding for me over the years. As I was thinking about her and how great she is, my mind was flooded with tons of hilarious, heart touching moments we’ve shared together…

Like the time I started my period. I was in the hallway shouting her name because, even though I knew it was coming, I didn’t know it was gonna be SO INTENSE. She came running and told me to calm down. She talked me through the steps I needed to take and then waited outside the bathroom door to ask how it had gone. A few hours later, my Dad got home and said to me, “I heard you became a woman today,” and I could have KILLED her! But, I know now she was just happy to share the news that I was a real lady.

Or, like the time I lost my virginity. I had stayed the night at my boyfriend’s house, but he had to go to work, so I called my Mom for a ride home. On the way home, she asked me, “So, have you two gone all the way yet?” I looked at her like she was some kind of ghostly mind reader and said, “What do you mean?” She answered, “I mean, have you had sex?” I still don’t understand how on earth she knew to ask that question on the literal morning after, especially since my boyfriend and I had been working up to that moment for quite some time. But, she did, which is just a testament to her perfect maternal instincts. Her response was the best part though! She said the coolest thing a Mom could ever say at a time like that, “I’m so happy for you! This is a whole new world you’ll get to explore and, if you ever have any questions, I’m here to talk.”

Or, like the time she came to visit under not-so-great circumstances and we were all bummed out and sad, but somehow we ended up in my living room dancing to Fleetwood Mac with sheets over our heads and giggles on our lips.

Or, like the many times the power would go out in Amador and we would play board games all night by candlelight. Oh how we love board games and each other.

Or, like the time she tried to do the “James Brown” and fell on her face and had to live with the bruises for a month. I’m not saying I want her to have bruises on her face or be in pain, but that James Brown moment was pretty unforgettable.

Or, like the time we were having a birthday party for her and the neighbors called the cops on us. My mom said she would take care of it and next thing you know the cops are coming in to join the party, with smiles on their faces. She’s the cutest little flirt you ever did see.

Or, like the time my college boyfriend broke up with me right before Christmas, and I was heartbroken for the holidays. She just let me lie on the couch and brought me juice in a sippy cup and didn’t ask me to talk about it and gave me lots of hugs, which was exactly what I needed. That’s the amazing thing about her; she seems to always know exactly what I need, sometimes even before I do.

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