Really?

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Floyd Landis admitting to doping his way through his professoinal cycling career, including his 2006 Tour de France “victory.” I had given up hope on Landis years ago and honestly had put him pretty much out of my mind. Until today.

So, yesterday Floyd admitted to doping. He couldn’t take the overwhelming feeling of guilt of having lied to so many people. Heck, he even took people’s money — soliciting nearly $1 million towards his legal defense fund. He wrote a book, “Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France.” He has clearly been living in a fantasy world where he perpetuated his own lies ad naseum.

A reviewer on Amazon.com noted that Floyd’s book should now be moved to the fiction section. Uh…yeah.

Of course, Lance Armstrong is one of the pros that Floyd is accusing of doping. That’s original. No one has ever accused Lance of such a thing before. You know what? The officials should start testing Armstrong.

You know what? Whatever, Floyd. I’m glad that your conscience finally got the best of you and you decided to clean. Thanks for the honesty — better late than never. But, I still think you’re jerk. Actually, now I think you’re an even bigger jerk.

Cankle: the absence of a defined ankle on a person

Swollen foot

This is the glamorous side of pregnancy. I mean really…everyone focuses on the swelling belly and the maternal glow and decorating the nursery while the cankle goes totally unappreciated.

I must admit, on December 28 when I realized I was pregnant, the cankle wasn’t on my mind either. Instead, I was distracted by an odd cocktail of feelings that included fear, joy, apprehension, concern, anticipation, and so forth.

It was late May when I first lamented to my co-worker Kim that my left ankle had disappeared. And, since that time, it has only returned for quick, guest appearances in the early morning hours or at the end of an unusually restful weekend.

Being the realist that I am, I couldn’t not document this signficant aspect of my pregnancy. For months now, my left foot has been swelling to various degrees, and last night was a doozie. Hence the picture, which will certainly find it’s way into the pregnancy scrapbook. Interestingly enough, my right foot swells as well, but never to the same degree as the left.

I suppose you shouldn’t blog about things that you don’t want to draw attention to (and really, I’m not inviting your comments about my feet, my stomach, or my “waddle”), but I couldn’t help myself from photographing the cankle at its finest last night. Jeff and I were playing Yahtzee and eating ice cream, and I could feel my foot swelling while I sat at the table. Nearly every evening, my left foot tightens to the point where it almost feels like it’s falling asleep. One of the first times this happened, Jeff and I both freaked a bit. It had swollen so quickly and significantly that we put ice on it! Jeff is an athlete after all, and that’s what you do for injuries that bring swelling.

Well, the ice is useless, according to my doctor, so now I just watch in amazement every night as my ankle disappears and the top of my foot balloons up and up and up. (The doctor assures me this is purely an unfortunate cosmetic side effect of pregnancy and in no way treatable or of concern.) I always bring this phenomenon to Jeff’s attention, inviting him to feel the squishiness of my foot. He politely declines and always throws a sympathy nod my way for having to be in a condition that robs me of my ankles.

For the most part, ankles go unappreciated in our society. I, for one, certainly never paid much attention to mine prior to that fateful May day when the first one started to disappear. Now, second only to meeting Baby Lorow in person, I am most excited to get acquainted with my post-pregnancy body. I know it will look different and I might not feel like a million bucks, but I do look forward to having ankles (and a waist and non-sausage-like-fingers and a defined collarbone…) again. It’s such a little thing, I know, but don’t rob of me this anticipated joy.

Things I’m thinking about today…

We are exactly two weeks from our due date! I suspect, as do some wise others, that we might meet Baby Lorow before August 12, but it’s crazy to think about the nearness of this grand event after nine months of preparation.

I’ve been following the Henry Louis Gates story pretty closely. I’ve been weighing each side, trying to sort my bias, and each day re-evaluating what I think. I’m really appreciating blogger Jenell Paris’ insight.

I was pretty naive in high school. A classmate recently posted some videos on Facebook of the high school antics of many of my classmates. I don’t think I ever fully comprehended the amount of drinking that went on at my high school. It’s has been fascinating to read people’s comments about the videos; turns out that we were all pretty stinkin’ insecure about ourselves.

For the past few months, Jeff and I have played countless games of Yahtzee while enjoying bowls of ice cream. I like this tradition. I wonder if the baby will forever be soothed by the sound of five dice in a blue plastic cup?

Please tell your friends, family, and countrymen that it is never appropriate to 1) tell a woman that you noticed that she is putting on weight or 2) tell a woman that she is waddling. The next person to risk a waddling comment around me will have no choice but to waddle away from me once I inflict bodily harm. Listen, if you don’t know what to say to someone who is obviously pregnant, you could always resort to polite pleasantries like, “I hope you are feeling well today; we are so looking forward to meeting your little one.” Or, “You look adorable today; I hope you’re feeling well too!” Or, “I hope that baby is treating you well in these last few weeks of your pregnancy. We’re praying for a safe delivery and healthy baby.” Maybe instead of pointing out your weight gain to your husband, people could say things to him like, “I hope you’re being extra good to that sweet wife of yours.” Or, “We’re so happy for the two of you and can’t wait to meet the newest member of your family.” It’s really not that hard. Pregnant women are still people…even though our bellies are mis-shapen with the miracle of life, we are able to converse about more than our bodies, and we would appreciate if you made a similar effort. Rant over…for now. (Note: Snarky book or series of blog posts coming your way about pregnancy and the challenges of social interaction; stay tuned.)

Reflecting

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It’s Tour de France season, a three-week stretch in the middle of the year that I’ve been known to coin as “the most wonderful time of the year.” During Lance’s seven glorious years in yellow, I was a faithful, avid fan. I listened to the broadcast live while at work and then watched the television coverage in the evening.

These last few years without Lance were filled with unwanted drama, and I was embarassed for the sport. I lost interest for the most part after one doping mess after another.

It’s great to see Lance back in the saddle again this year; he’s still making it look totally effortless! While I would love to see him in yellow in Paris (and, quite honestly, I’m totally bitter that his teammate might be instead), I’m really thinking today about how my love for cycling got started.

When I was about five or six, my mom used to have a joint garage sale with a good friend who lived on the other side of town from us. I would tag along and play with the neighborhood kids there — specifically a boy named Mark and a girl named Christine. We were the same age but attended different schools, so our paths only crossed every once and awhile in our elementary years. Basically, all I remember from that particular time is that Mark had a pogo stick.

When we got to junior high, the three of us reconnected. Mark and I had classes together, and we became pretty good friends. He was into cycling and rode with a local club. I knew bits and pieces about that aspect of his life but never thought much of it. I mean, I loved riding my red ten speed around the neighborhood too…I don’t think I ever fully realized how much more serious and committed to cycling he was than that!

Mark was actually someone that I started to become even better friends with once we went off to College. His mom was battling cancer, and we had talked about that a bit. He was dating a friend of mine, so I saw more of him over the holidays during our freshman year. We exchanged a few emails. We were all looking forward to being home together for the summer.

I was fast asleep when the phone rang on my first morning of summer vacation after my freshman year of college. It was Christine calling with the news that Mark had collapsed while riding his bike with a fraternity brother and died the previous day. It was devastating news. And, to this day, I’m not sure that they know exactly what happened.

While we grieved for Mark…for his lost potential both as a cyclist and just as a kind, intelligent human being…a few of us found ourselves drawn more and more to the sport of cycling. It became a way to honor his memory. It’s funny…we never made a conscious decision to ride our bikes in Mark’s memory, but it just happened that way.

For me, I started a love affair with my green Trek mountain bike, a graduation gift from my parents. I rode it like a road bike and charted out easy and difficult rides of all different mileages around my house. I tried mountain biking and fell down a ravine, got lost in the woods when night fell, and had plenty of tumbles and scrapes along the way. I also trained for and rode in the first (second, third, and more) annual Mark E. Mengel bike race in my hometown. Mark’s dad always drove the pace car, and without fail, he or his wife would yell out the window and encourage me along the course.

I began following the professional sport, subscribed to Bicycling magazine, and found myself chatting up all things bikes with anyone who would listen.

It was fortunate for me that Jeff was interested in cycling too. We chatted about bikes on our first date! We’d only been dating for a few months when I bought a red Trek road bike so that we could spend our summer months exploring the backroads of central Pennsylvania. We took our bikes on our honeymoon and celebrated my 30th birthday by riding a century.

And, even though much time has passed, I always think about Mark when I think about biking. Unknowingly, he introduced me (and others) to a new world — one where your body works hard but your mind can sometimes rest; one where your eyes can take in the wonder of the world while your legs scream and moan with each rotation; one where you can ride in perfect silence with someone you love and be at peace in the quiet.

So, while the Tour winds through France in this final week, I will be watching faithfully. And, I’ll be cheering for Lance without a doubt. But, I’ll also be remembering Mark.

It happened again.

Guess what I got in the mail on Saturday? Another check from Walmart for nearly $140.

This is the third such check in the past four months. You may recall that I vented about this in May after the second check arrived, and, at the advice of yet another customer service representative, I sent it back voided and with a note.

Then, on Saturday Jeff came running up the stairs with the envelope in his hand and we realized that we were right back to square one.

Some people wouldn’t be so frustrated by “free” money, but this is frustrating to me because I HATE Walmart. I don’t want their money. I don’t want to shop in their stores. I don’t want my name and address in their system.

(Case in point: Last Wednesday, Jeff and I stopped by the Walmart in Mt. Pleasant to return a baby gift that we had received in duplicate. The parking lot was a death trap. We finally got a spot and walked into the store with our return. We were headed towards customer service when a random shopper stopped us and told us that we must tell the greeter inside the door that we intend to return the item so she can properly mark it. So, we walk back to the greeter and wait while she marks a whole line of people’s returns, including one man’s suspicious collection of unopened packets of blank VHS tapes. Then, while waiting at customer service, we can’t help but notice the rather large, lit sign reading, “Restrooms need cleaned.” Good to know. We’ll steer clear. We make the exchange (and get cash not store credit thanks to a gift receipt!) and head out. We are just getting in our car when we hear yelling. Two people in a car pulling out of the death trap parking lot are screaming at each other for all the world to hear. We both just started laughing, cautiously pulled out, and left.)

So, my blog readers, I am now faced with a dilemna. What should I do with this latest check for $140? Is it time to cash it? Start a college fund for Baby Lorow? Spend it at a competing store like Target or Kmart? Donate it to some downtown improvement fund in a city where Walmart has desolated their downtown shopping district? Send it back? Shred it?

Please weigh in and leave me a comment with your best suggestion!

Thanks for the creative energy, Baby Lorow.

I can’t help but notice that I’m blogging a lot more about being pregnant these days. Perhaps because my growing stomach and the little life in it is first and foremost on my mind every morning. Really, with only six weeks (or less!) to go, it’s hard not to be thinking baby almost all the time.

A perk of being pregnant that developed about halfway into my second trimester is a major boost of creative energy. (Jeff thinks that this creativity reveals that Baby Lorow is a girl. I have to admit, I love the idea of having a little girl to scrapbook and craft with, but you won’t hear me complaining if Baby Lorow is a boy either!) Lately, I’ve been directing much of that creative energy towards making things for the baby’s room or that chronicle this unique moment in our lives.

A week or so ago, I posted pictures of the mobile I made. Originally, I didn’t intend to make anything else for the nursery, but, while browsing through Michael’s on Saturday morning, I couldn’t resist buying a set of nine, plain wooden blocks. Nine blocks was perfect for spelling out Baby Lorow, and my mind was spinning with ways to decorate the blocks. I am thrilled with how they turned out!

Baby blocks

For months, I have also been planning a pregnancy scrapbook in my head. Then I drew a rough outline on paper. And, seriously, for months I’ve stewed over how I wanted to remember this time in my life. Finally, last week, I started creating some pages. I decided that I would use the book to tell the whole story — the joys and the challenges. I want this book to be an honest look at the past nine months, not a pink and blue sparkle fest of artificial and sugary sweetness. Because, guess what? Pregnancy isn’t always fun. So, why pretend? I trust that our baby will know he/she is completely adored by his/her parents, so a grumble or two about pregnancy won’t ruin him/her for life!

So, here are the first three pages of the pregnancy scrapbook. What I find especially unusual about these first three pages is that they don’t include a single photograph! There will certainly be photos in the following pages, but, for this particular book, it felt totally right to me to focus more on the emotion of the experience.

Scrapbook page 1

Scrapbook page 2

Scrapbook page 3

Finally, for those of you wondering what I look these days, here’s a recent self portrait!

Pregnancy self portrait

Say it isn’t so, Eddie. Please, say it isn’t so.

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Eddie Bauer

It’s amazing how a perfectly fine day (well, “fine” if I choose not to get bummed by the rain or the fact that I had to give up my Honda Civic for a Kia Spectra this morning) can suddenly, unexpectedly, and dramatically take a turn for the worse.

I breeze past Yahoo several times a day to see whether I’ve received any email. I always scan the news headlines as well because I’m just that cool. Just minutes ago, I was startled to see this — “Eddie Bauer files for bankruptcy protection” — in the little news box. Devastation and despair ensued.

I love Eddie Bauer and have for many years. There was a time when you would be hard-pressed to find much more than a business suit in my closet that wasn’t from EB. I wear their perfume. I have an EB watch, purse, and sweater stone. I have EB shoes, jackets, pajamas, and socks.

When there was an EB in the nearby Capital City mall, some of the clerks knew me by name. They offered me a part-time job, encouraging me to put in a few hours a week just to support my habit. They understood my deep affection for their store and its product. Ask Jeff about how I gasped when I realized they were leaving the mall a few years ago. I was speechless.

All I can think about now is, “Will Eddie Bauer still be in existence after my pregnancy when I can fit into all their cute clothes again?!”

Stupid lousy economy.

This is not a good day, folks. Not a good day.

Sometimes I get really frustrated…

–when people don’t do what they say they will do.

–by my own inability to ask for help.

–by my own high expectations.

–when I’m inconvenienced–again–by a situation that wasn’t my own doing.

–when trying to transfer my cell phone from a corporate account to my personal liability.

–when the clock seems to stand still between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

–when people share too much personal information.

–when people don’t understand introverts.

–when I don’t understand extroverts.

–when your childbirth instructor makes you sit on the floor for an hour. What makes her think there’s any way for moms-to-be to be comfortable on the floor at this point in their pregnancy?

–when Keith gets too much camera time on “Deadliest Catch.”

–when sleep alludes me.

–when I dwell on the negative.

List finished. Going in search of a better attitude.

Things I would rather be doing today…

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–Scrapbooking
–Playing Yahtzee with Jeff on our screened-in porch
–Having a picnic with Allyson, Natalie, and Emma
–Enjoying wine and cheese with my parents on their deck
–Playing bocce…barefoot
–Fixing a delicious dinner with a gourmet dessert
–Napping in Clifford, my big red chair
–Browsing an antique store or flea market
–Eating cinnamon roll french toast at Schooner or Later in Seal Beach, CA
–Soaking in a whirlpool bubble bath
–Hiking a national park
–Taking pictures

Weighing in on torture

For the past month or two, I have heard many reports on NPR about torture policies and the Obama administration’s stance on some of the questionable practices prior to his presidency. I won’t lie and tell you that I have been an active and loud voice against torture. But, now that I’m more informed, I’m certainly more interested in the topic.

So, today when I was reading the Patriot-News and came across a commentary written by Cynthia Tucker on the issue, I was intrigued. She is talking specifically about how conservative Christians view torture, citing that a Pew survey says 62 percent of “white evangelical Protestants” believe torture can often or sometimes be justified.

She then writes, “It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Conservative Christians tend to be conspicuously pious, loudly proclaiming themselves moral, righteous, just. Yet, their support for torture–even against an avowed enemy, even in times of peril–seems out of step with the radical gospel of a carpenter who preached peace, forgiveness, and mercy.”

Ouch.

Now, I don’t necessarily consider myself conservative, but I am certainly a Christian, and Tucker’s comments sting. I know the world perceives Christians in a largely negative light, thanks in large part (if not entirely), I think, to the uncompassionate, mean-spirited way we both represent ourselves as well as the way we have allowed loud-mouthed right wingers to represent us. I do not feel victimized because of my faith, and I have no patience for American Christians who lament their “hard” lot in life because prayer isn’t allowed in schools but homosexuals are. Please.

It shouldn’t be a novelty when a Christian speaks out against torture.

I guess this is just an issue that has been on my mind (and heart) for weeks now. I’m amazed that as human beings we even need to talk about whether torture is acceptable or not. But, then again, empathy is one my strongest personality traits, so maybe I’m just wired differently. Or maybe I’m just wired correctly.