Friday, April 26, 2013

defining moments & closure

I was a college athlete.

I had most of my education paid for because of this.

I also had an academic scholarship, which was probably equivalent to one or two books each semester.

I’d graduated in the top 10% of my class, but because I was able to expertly place a 26” ball in a 9m x 9m space, I was awarded a prize few could imagine.

My parents covered the difference that the scholarships didn’t provide, including my final year, or as I lovingly call, “My Victory Lap.”

I loved playing. I loved the rituals surrounding game day preparation. I was unaware of what was afforded to the athletes until I was no longer one.

****

No longer one? Yes. I played for four full seasons minus the final two weeks of the season my Senior year. I’d had quite a tumultuous Spring/Summer leading up to that week in November.

Here’s a rundown of what I experienced. My body became a tool for the school. My job was to perform and for payment, I received an education. My Junior and Senior years, I’d transferred to a division II school. There we had 4-a-day workouts to prepare. 4 times a day, we’d workout. We’d awake before dawn for a running workout, followed by time in the weight room. Then three sessions in the gym, with breaks for lunch and dinner. I never wanted to eat much lunch or dinner b/c I felt the effects of whatever I’d eaten. The coach who had recruited me had an endurance summer training schedule that I followed religiously. I didn’t expect to play a whole lot when I showed up. They had an experienced Setter and I was just happy to have school paid for. When I arrived, I realized there was a new coach with a far different philosophy. She ran a tight ship, whose motto was: Mental Toughness, Extra Effort. I’d never physically worked so hard during those two weeks preparing for our first tournament in California. My father flew out there to cheer me on that weekend. I’d dropped 20 pounds, since my parents had dropped me off, and I knew he had a look of worry on his face, but he seemed happy for me. I was ecstatic to see him.

Early in the tournament, my excitement was so evident, I was substituted in for the regular and I put on a show. I was happy! Happy to be playing, happy to play in front of my father, and happily settling in with my new friends. You see, there were several of these friends who had been mentally broken over the course of those couple of week. I’ve never been in bootcamp, but I liken it to what I’ve seen on TV. We didn’t have cellphones and internet wasn’t as immediate back then. So I had letters and a phone call to my parents every evening at 10. Often I hung up crying. The pain to face the next day would hurt. And my coach…well, she used a strong arm (and voice) to coach. That mental breakdown wasn’t anything I was prepared for.

and mentally broken down I became. further and further and further.

By my final year, I wasn’t as confident and had lost that “voice” that I’d come to know. I was quite untrusting, but did my best to hold it together and listen and comfort my friends, my sisters, who were going through all of this with me.

We had some great times together. That type of environment, you get closer together. You form bonds that outlast distance and years. The girls picked up the broken pieces when they weren’t really aware of how shattered I was on the inside.

It is the week of midterms and at the time, I was a Biology Major and English Minor. I’d changed from Chemistry Major to Biology Minor because my coach in no uncertain terms told me I was there to play and I needed to find a Major that didn’t have labs scheduled during her time. I’d relented and only had one science class that semester. My lab practical ran late that afternoon because we were to start by last name (V). I had exactly 45 minutes to take an exam that should’ve taken me the better part of 2 hours. I rushed through as best as I could in an hour and ran across campus to make it in time for practice. We were preparing for the play-offs that week. The girls were already in the gym warming up and I couldn’t find my ankle braces. They were still in the wash, so I had to get taped up. Our trainer taped quickly, but I was still late. 20 minutes late, in fact.

And then it happened. My emotions grabbed hold of me and I felt everything spiraling out of control beyond anything I could imagine. I felt like I was reaching out to grab hold of something, but I couldn’t get a grip. All I could do in that moment was walk away. All of the emotional crap that I’d hoarded was consuming my entirety and I couldn’t keep it hidden. I didn’t have the emotional capacity to take another afternoon of being berated for something I knew I was good at. Everyone was entitled to a bad day and I was having the worst of bad days. Before I left, my best friend matter-of-factly told me,  “If you don’t want to be there, then leave. If you can’t be there, then leave.” Clouded with tears, I picked up my things, and did just that. I left. She was right and I did the only thing I could think of. I put myself in a much-needed emotional time out.

I cried all the way to my dorm room. I drove for half an hour when I realized I didn’t have enough money to get home. I needed to survive until that weekend when my father would be arriving for my Senior game. I went to my Grandmother’s grave (the only family close to me, since home was 10 hours away) and sat there for a few hours, weeping, praying, and seeking guidance. Then a breeze blew over me and I felt comforted. I poured out my emotions and found the strength to go back.

I saw my coach the next day and that conversation was a defining moment. She looked down on me. All I saw was disdain and pity. The conversation was mostly brief. She said I walked out on my teammates, I walked out on her, so that meant that I’d quit. It was a sharp pain to take in my chest. I wasn’t a quitter. Not at all what I’d intended, but I could see how my actions were interpreted as such. But then she said she would allow the team to vote on whether or not I could stay. You can imagine my disappointment when the team voted against me, the difference was two votes. I don’t know who voted against keeping me. I didn’t care. I just nodded, did my best to salvage any pride I had and left the gym.

I went back to my room to gather my things. I called my parents and my father remained steadfast with his plans to come down for a visit. When I returned all of my equipment to my coach, she looked at me quite smugly. The only words I had for her, “You know what you’ve done in this moment was wrong. You had the chance to change. You are the leader. You are responsible for all of the others whose hearts you’ve broken. That’s on you. You should really think about that and try to do right, otherwise, it’ll all come back to you.”

My father and I went to the start of the Senior game. Many of our regular fans looking astonished to see me as a spectator instead of a player. We left after the anthem to go see a movie. We later had meetings with the Women’s Athletic Director and the Athletic Director. Lots of political and legal stuff to wrap up when something like this happens. It was emotionally exhausting. Before he left me, he told me, “Bianca, this wasn’t your plan. I’m sorry your heart hurts. But this was God’s plan. You won’t see it now. You won’t understand it, you may never understand it. But know that this is part of His Plan for you. Have faith.”

I wasn’t defeated, I let the moment define me. I worked hard to get back to where I should’ve been. It was a process.  Long, arduous process. I’m so thankful for my family and friends who stood by my side. Especially this gal…

One of my best friends, the one who’d asked me that question before I walked out of the gym. She’s also the reason why, after 15 years, I saw my old coach. 15 years of carrying that heavy burden. When my old coach and I said our cordial goodbyes, we had a moment together where she whispered in my ear about her regret, tears falling down her face. I looked back at her and told her that I’d already forgiven her and all of it made me stronger.

How many of us are afforded the opportunity to have the closure from defining moment? Looking back, God’s plan was greater for me. Had that not happened, I never would’ve moved back home for my Victory Lap. I wouldn’t have had my whirlwind adventure in Raiderland. I wouldn’t have had the degree that brought me to the job, that introduced me to new friends, which pushed me to meet my husband (my BFF forcing me along to go talk to him, as it was, because we were playing volleyball), essentially my life as I know it. Perfect and strong dominoes falling because of that singular event. While I carried much sadness and depression for years, I also proudly display my achievements. For without that pain, I would not appreciate all that I have to this level. Without that experience, I wouldn’t be able to serve as an example to others of what it means to be patient, to give things time, to forgive oneself (and through that you will find forgiveness for others).

For the record, being a “regular” student who worked four jobs (at one point in time, yes four) was a lot tougher (mentally) than being a student athlete. I had to do a lot more of self-scheduling and balancing. Props to the non-traditional students, especially the parents who have to work, take care of their kids, and go to school. Whoa…mind blown.

 

My new motto, adopted from my Brother: Every Day Get Better. It does take mental toughness and extra effort, but also the willingness to wake up and try to be a better version of myself each day.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

I keep trying to give this season’s Mad Men a shot, but frankly, it has been irritating me. Even though, each Sunday, I’ve tuned to AMC hoping it’ll maybe morph into The Walking Dead. And each Sunday, I think it will show at 8, but it really doesn’t air until 9, so I find myself with an hour to kill. Lucky for me, this week I stumbled upon the second installment of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown when flipping over to CNN for more Boston news coverage which has been forced down my throat. I know, I need to turn that off. That’s what happens when I have an early  evening nap and I can’t sleep just yet.

Anyway, hearing a good story is something I enjoy a great deal. If that story involves food and other personal anecdotes, then I’m completely captivated! If it is narrated by Tony Bourdain, then I’m a fan. If you are the same way, then you definitely need to check out Anthony Bourdain’s new project: Parts Unknown, on CNN Sundays at 8PM Central.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Review: The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep

I was given a copy of The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep by Harvey Karp, M.D. to review. You’ve no idea how great it was to read many of the things presented in this book. I wish I would’ve checked it out during my pregnancy just to prepare myself for different outcomes. I didn’t read the entire book. I skipped straight on to Part III: Sleep Solutions in the Toddler and Preschool Years: One to Five Years.

Here’s a little background information on us: If you were to ask someone who knew us well about our sleep schedules, they would tell you, “Oh them? Yeah, they don’t sleep much. They like sleep, but they just don’t seem to do it as much as everyone else.”

When I was a teenager, I would sleep with the best of them. Oh yessiree! I was known to sneak away 5 minutes here and there. Some time in my later college years, I became a full-fledged insomniac. I’d go weeks on end sleeping only 3 hours a night, if that. And then it would catch up to me and I’d sleep for what seemed like days.

Then, I became a mother. The Sugarbean was never like most kids in that regard. She has always been very independent at sleeping, demanding her own bed and space around 4 months. This was fine, because at the time, our Queen size bed was a tight fit with me, her, my Beloved, and Guapo. It was a long while (like more than a year) before she slept through the night. Our definition of sleeping through the night was anything longer than 6 hours. Now that she’s older, she will sleep between 9 and 10 hours a night. We ask that she have a nap at school, but I’m told she doesn’t always sleep. (probably should say, she doesn’t usually sleep…but she knows the value of quiet/rest time, which she will take the opportunity to read her books). Like me, she has a window of opportunity for sleep. If it is missed, then she becomes rambunctious and out of control. She will scream, yell, jerk around, and eventually, leads to a full-on breakdown fully of tears and drama. “Myth 6: Kids naturally fall asleep when they’re tired. …some toddlers actually get more awake! The become giddy and start running in circles…” That is our Sugarbean to a T! I was happy to read that, knowing it was “normal” for her to experience it. And knowing that we had naturally learned to cope how they suggested.

Before I was pregnant with the Sugarbaby, I can tell you that my biggest anxiety had to do with the lack of sleep. Not the labor and delivery, not the healing, not the weight gain, not having another mouth to feed, but the lack of sleep I would be getting. Similar to how she was when she was inside of me, as long as she could snuggle in with me, she would sleep. Unless hunger drove her awake. Unlike her sister, she was quite attached. She also awoke every 4 hours, like clockwork. You think, hey, 4 hours isn’t so bad. Well, here’s a typical scenario for the first year: She sleeps at 7. I’m tired at 10, but do I sleep for an hour or stay awake? I’ll stay awake. Nurse her, change her, get her back down close to midnight. Go to sleep close to 1 because I’d lost my window of opportunity for sleep. A few nights out of the week, wake up at 2 because Guapo had to go out or the Sugarbean needed us. Pass out at 2:30, then awake again at 3 to nurse and change the baby, asleep by 3:30 if I was lucky. Alarm goes off at 6. I was so happy once we broke through that threshold and she was sleeping 5 hours at a time. I felt so refreshed with 5 hours of continuous sleep!

Coffee had become necessary and a best friend. I had to have some bonafide time-outs because I had begun hearing voices from the lack of sleep I’d been getting. Not just me, though. My Beloved was suffering from sleep, too. Right before her first birthday, we were all thrown off at the death of our best friend, Guapo. You see, he was the best napping buddy. He sensed when I needed to sleep and would crawl in my lap and before I knew it, I’d be passed out. After his death, I wasn’t sleeping.

At 16 months, we made the decision to stop co-sleeping and transition her to her own bed. After a month, we gave up. Then at 18 months, we moved her crib into big sister’s room. Our thinking was that she might do better having big sister around, plus, big sister would be happier having sister and not have the extreme night terrors. That first week, we hadn’t considered that they would be keeping each other awake, one with the crying from the fear of the dark, the other from crying because she wasn’t sleeping with us. *sigh*

After two weeks, we figured out a night-time routine that seemed to suit us all. Any experienced parent will give you the advice: ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE…don’t break the routine. You know, they are right. You want your kids to be flexible, but honor their routine and you will be rewarded. What they don’t tell you is that routines are easily interrupted around the holidays. You know, when you travel out of town, when you have parties to attend…all of those social things that you could make the choice to not participate or spend the next several months trying to get back on a schedule, in spite of your best efforts of maintaining the night time routine. But still, the routine lives on and we try. It’s only about 15 minutes, but very much worth it. I really love that everyone close to us knows and recognizes the routine and in our absence (like if we have a date night), the girls will still sing their songs, say their prayers, get tucked in, and all the other little things we do will get done. The Sugarbaby will pass out immediately if you give her a warm bottle of milk and her pacifier*. The Sugarbean, on the other hand requires reassuring, time to soothe her brain, her powerful sleep friends who will protect her while she slumbers, and magic spells before her mind is quieted to sleep.

For us, the routine continued, but any time between 2AM and 4AM, the Sugarbaby will zombie walk down the hall to our room. Bang on the door like a zom-baby, increasing volume and commotion until we respond. We have tried rocking and putting her back in her bed, but it won’t work. As soon as she hits the pillow, the screaming returns, sometimes wakes her sister. Rather than having two cranky little ones in the morning (because we are certain we’ll get enough teenage drama in the years to come), we will bring her back to bed with us. You know what, according to the book: ”Parents are often surprised to learn that bed-sharing increases with age. At three years, 22 percent of kids are doing it; and at four years, 38 percent bed-share at least once a week. Even 10-15 percent of preschoolers still routinely bed-share.”

*Pacifier…yes, she’s two years old and still uses her mamon—mahhhm-own. She doesn’t have one at school, and will nap without one. But at night, part of her routine is for us to clip her paci onto her pajamas, and she will grip the paci with one hand, while drinking her milk night cap with the other. Once she finishes the milk, she will plug in her pacifier, twirl the top of her hair with her left hand, and fall asleep within moments. “The Blessed Binky: You Could Stop It Now, but Do You Really Want To?” Reading that section made me feel less guilty at the thought that my child would be potty trained before she gave up her pacifier.

Then at the end of the book, there were tips for me, on how to calm my own brain and prepare myself for a better nights sleep. Much of this seemed natural and intuitive, but I discovered that I wasn’t doing it each night. In fact, the nights I had my window of opportunity disrupted, I was able to get back on track by  preparing my room, body, and mind using the tips found in the “Insomnia-When You Can’t Sleep” section.

Helpful nuggets of information can be found throughout this book. Just listen to your child and realize that when you have more than one, each one is different. What works for one doesn’t always work for the other. Reading this opened my eyes to the myriad of situations that could present themselves, and I realized, we aren’t completely alone in our “not sleeping.”

All in all, I would recommend you give this book a whirl or any of the Happiest Baby books, for that matter. Don’t have time to read? They are also available on DVD and CD and there’s even an app! Find more about them at www.happiestbaby.com or www.happiesttoddler.com.

I participated in this book review for One2One Network. By posting, I am eligible for incentive. I received a free copy of this book to facilitate my post, but all opinions stated are my own.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Happy 2nd Birthday Tesla Jane

Another year has passed, another year filled with adventures! I can't believe time has flown by so quickly since that first year.

My dearest Sugarbaby,

Today was your second birthday. It is cold and rainy outside and a Wednesday. On Monday, afternoon, I received a call from your school that the dreaded pinkeye had caught up to you and I needed to come get you. At the doctor, the infection was confirmed, so I made plans to work from home on Tuesday. Little did I know just how grateful I'd be for that pinkeye bug.

I awoke on that normal Tuesday morning, walked to the living room and set up a makeshift office until you were up for the day. I was able to log a couple of hours before you were up. I was also able to log a couple of more while you watched "How to Train Your Dragon." My favorite part was when you climbed up into my lap, snuggling in. Typing out emails to my office hadn't been that fun in a while! We went to have lunch. The sky was overcast and you surprised me by remembering a bronze ox in the park. You pointed and stated, "Hot" while refusing to go near it. You didn't have any issue with climbing up on the bronze ducks!


We then went back home where you had a monster nap. Not before I was able to snuggle with you a little more before tucking you in. That evening, I watched as you busied yourself with your sister when she got home. And in that moment I was so, so, so very grateful to have shared your last day as being 1 with just you for most of the day.

You further surprised me with a bear hug while saying, "Te amo, Mama!" This after earlier in the day when you'd held up a yellow piece of chalk and proclaimed, "yellow!" I spent time showing you how to draw a T, and after the 5th try, you did it. Then you went back to drawing your favorite hash marks on everything. You enjoy helping me do chores, and watch me like a hawk in all that I do. You are absolutely inquisitive and extremely independent! Your father and I have our hands full between you and your sister. Oh and the bond that you two share!!! Melts my heart!

Today, you went back to school. You insisted on having your coat worn just so and you HAD to have on sunglasses, even though the sun was not out.

When we stepped out, you burrowed into my shoulder and said, "Chilly dog, Mama! FFFfrriooooo!" When I covered you with my scarf, you happily said, "Thank you, Mama." You were happy to be with your friends, and I told Bren and Baylee that it was your birthday. Bren told you, "happy birthday!" You two year olds crack me up!

I had warm chocolate chip cookies delivered from Tiff's Treats for your afternoon snack. I tried my hardest to make it to that impromtu party for you, but all of the meetings I'd postponed on Tuesday caught up with me today. It was ok, because when I got home from work, you were so excited, happily dancing and moving to your internal song.

You were able to talk with your Nana and Skype with Nina Dani, Nono, and Grandfather. As you were going to sleep, I played the voicemail from your Bisabuela, but not before your big sister sang you a birthday lullabye.


I love you so very much, baby! I am looking forward to these tremendous twos with you!!

Love you,
Mama


Monday, April 1, 2013

Recipe Monday: Baked Avocado with an Egg

I swear, you guys must think I’ve been having a love affair with avocado. I do love avocado! YUM! The other day, we were out with friends when the topic of eggs and avocados came up. Well, I went off and gleefully goaded my Beloved to describe his process for baking an egg inside of an avocado. I first saw the idea in my Everyday Foods magazine. (Still upset that I don’t get it monthly! stomping foot)

Our one friend grimaced at the thought. Blech, eggs (or was it avocados) gave her the heebie jeebies. Our other friend intrigued, asking, “How you get it all to fit in there?”  (insert inappropriate THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID)

Baked Avocado with Egg

  • 1 egg
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 oven
  • 1 pan
  • 1 slice of muenster cheese
  • 1 drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 pinch of sea salt

 

Before…Preheat oven to 425

Action…Slice avocado 2/3 from the top, remove the pit. Drizzle a bit of oil onto your pan. Place the 2/3rds avocado in your pan/cast iron skillet. (set the other 1/3 aside for now) Crack your egg and fill the space once occupied by the pit. If the pit is smaller, then you can scoop out a bit to make room for your egg. Sprinkle a bit of Sea Salt on top.

Process…Place in oven and cook until your egg is cooked to your choice. I like mine runny, extra runny, so they are cooked for about 7-10 minutes. After removing from the oven, I immediately add my slice of muenster cheese on top. Because, melted Muenster is the way to go. If you’ve never had it melted, then you’ve been doing it wrong. For added *zing* pop a couple of drops of Valentina or Sriracha. Delish!

Enjoy...Slice up the top third of your avocado and prepare like before. Enjoy it alongside your delicious treat! YUM!

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