Prenatal Letters, 11 weeks, 1 day

October 27th, 2012

Dear Pumpkin,

We saw you for the first time last week. You are a tiny little peanut flipping and turning inside my belly. At our first appointment with the midwives, they did an ultrasound to get a better idea of how far along you are. Turns out your almost a week older than we thought! They moved your due date up to May 17th, two day after my 32nd birthday.

We weren’t expecting to have an ultrasound, I was hoping they could Doppler your tiny quick heartbeat at the most. So, when you popped up on that screen, I couldn’t help but cry with joy. Your Dad just smiled and smiled. Neither of us could tear our eyes from the screen. You were so active, the midwives could barley measure you! Just over 3 cm, and growing quickly. You looked so perfect, I could hardly imagine something so perfect.

I’ve been feeling pretty good these day, just extra tired with a few waves of nausea. Sounds like things will really start to even out in the next few weeks. It’s hard to believe we’re almost through the first trimester. I told your Great Grandmother Gove and Great Grandmother Olberg about you. They are both thrilled! I can’t wait for you to meet your Great Grandmothers, they are amazing, inspiring women.

By the next letter, I bet pretty much everyone will know you are coming. It will feel good to have it totally out in the open. It’s been hard keeping you a secret!

Love Mom


October 31st, 2012
Your Dad and I went on a hike on Pike Island and came across these deer. Things always seemed a little extra magical when I was pregnant.

It’s amazing to read these letters now, and realize how little we knew about that little baby when I wrote them. We knew so little about all of this. The entire time I was pregnant I couldn’t really picture the actual baby. It was like she was always just something I imagined up, even when she was kicking me in the bladder all night-shift long. I wonder if that changes the second time around. Since you know what having a baby is like, are you better able to visualize the reality of the baby?

You and your Dad at the State Fair last week. You really liked it, but who wouldn't.

You and your Dad at the State Fair last week. You really liked it, but who wouldn’t.

Is it time for the Fair?

So, it’s about that time of year when we start talking about the Fair, right? I mean the Minnesota State Fair. It’s still snowing, and there is no end in sight. I thought I’d try to lift my, and others’ spirits with memories of the Fair. It’s traditionally the sign that we are nearing the end of the glorious Minnesota Summer. White wines on patios, relaxing weekend camping trips, sleeping with the windows open, and hikes through the State Parks are winding down. We need to mentally prepare ourselves for the long bitter Winter. We accomplish this by stuffing our faces with fried food on sticks, listening to washed up 80’s bands, and admiring livestock as if we actually hold some interest in the variations of Minnesota Swine.

So for the sake of my sanity, which this Winter is slowly eroding, I give you a photo homage to the Fair….

The Giant Slide. I was terrified of it as a kid, but it’s quite enjoyable as an adult.
A tribute to our wonderful president, constructed entirely with seeds.
We went on the busiest day this year.  It was a record, 234,384 people attended the fair that day.
Cow love triangle. 
Our state’s vegetable bounty. None of which we would eat that day. 
View of the Midway from the Space Tower. 
Joe’s favorite part. 
A new addition to the fair, and yes, adults can do it too. I’m totally in next year. 
Spinning swing ride. What’s it called?

No, We Haven’t Been Dating Since High School

I’ve been working on our wedding website today. For the “Our Story” section of the template I had to write, well, our story. So, I thought I’d post it here as well.

Joe and Anna met as 7th graders at Wayzata West Junior High. Though their memories of each other at that time are vague, Joe thought Anna was a troublemaker, and Anna thought Joe was tall. Through high school they had what Joe calls a Venn diagram of friends, or slightly overlapping cliques. Many of these friendships we maintain today, and some of these folks, like Clint, played integral parts in our reconnection.
Joe went off to college at University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, and Anna headed to the University of Kansas. After college, Joe headed to North Platte, Nebraska for his first Job, and Anna headed home to Minneapolis. Jump ahead a few years, Joe’s living in Lincoln and Anna’s in Northeast Minneapolis. In 2006, with his Nebraskan and also Jayhawk friends Brian and Jenn, Joe travels north for a weekend in his old stomping ground. Anna talks to Clint, meets them all out a bar in Uptown, and as they say, the rest is history.
Well, almost.
Joe still lives in Lincoln, and Anna in Minneapolis. For the next two years, they maintain a happy and hopeful long distance relationship. Joe visits Anna in Minneapolis, and Anna visits Joe in Lincoln. Well, Joe mostly visits Minneapolis. He’s much better at the long drives. Twice they meet for weekends in the romance capital (and midway point) of Des Moines, Iowa. 
Finally in 2008, after a year of searching, Joe gets a job with Shire Pharmaceuticals and relocates to Rochester, MN. He’s much closer, but still 1 1/2 hours from Anna. They drive on weekends, grateful to get to spend more time together. They travel to Africa for Jenny & Goaf’s wedding, further appreciating their Wayzata/Kansas connections. In August 2009, Anna moves to Mankato to attend nursing school. Everyone thinks, “Finally, they’ll be closer to each other!” We explain, “Not yet, Mankato is 1 1/2 hours from Rochester.”
Anna makes it 3 months in Mankato. She gets up the guts and pops the big question…. “How about I move in with you in Rochester?” Anna and the cats move to Rochester in December, just in time for their first Christmas at home together.
Finally, they are together. Happy as clams. On July, 5th 2010 Joe takes Anna to Quarry Hill Nature Center for a spur of the moment geocaching outing. Anna is unsuspecting, there are lots of bugs, and she really just wants to get out of the woods. Joe says, “No, I see the cache right here.” Anna says, 
“OK, open it.”
“No, you open it.”
“No, you just open it.”
“Anna, open it!”
No, he didn’t leave the ring in a box in the woods. He left a note, and a question. The answer was yes, and they celebrated with a day at the pool, a nice dinner out, and calls to family and friends. Who all already knew, by the way.
After 5 more months in the Roch, Anna graduates nursing school, and Joe’s company calls with a plan. He’s relocated to the Western ‘burbs, and they move back to Minneapolis to a chic apartment on the park.
Now here we are, still happy as clams, planning away and getting excited to spend our long awaited big day with our dear family and friends.

Ugh February. Yea Minneapolis. Gratitude.

This is the time in Minnesota when I am so over it. I’ve spent most of my life in this state, but every year I find myself surprised that the winter can actually be this long. Luckily, J and I are now proud residents of Minneapolis. Having a view of the city, underground parking, and many friends close by seems to be helping. I honestly don’t think I could have braved another Rochester winter. True, I did only have to brave one, but still, I didn’t want another.

It is good to be back. We have a sweet new apartment right on Loring Park. The location is unbeatable. We are about a 5 minute walk to Nicollet Mall, and a 10 minute run to Lake of the Isles. We are one block from “Eat Street,” and also have a fantastic restaurant in our building. We’ve had to resist the urge to eat every meal out at one of the many great restaurants nearby.

I just moved away from Minneapolis in August of 2009, but moving back now, it feels like a whole new city. I’m seeing excitement and potential in Minneapolis that I wasn’t seeing a few years ago. I guess it took a little time away to make me realize what a special city this is. Or, it took a year or so of small town livin’ to make me really miss the city. Granted, many would argue that Rochester is not really a small town, but it wasn’t big enough for me.

So here we are, in our new chic apartment. J has a awesome new territory, and I’m about to start my first job as a real nurse. I got a job on the oncology unit at my absolute first choice hospital. Things could not have worked out better. In the midst of this gloomy, depressing, hated time of year, I’m feeling enormous gratitude for our circumstance. I hope next February is like this.

Shrimp and Avocado Dip

On our recent trip to Austin and San Antonio, J and I encountered this tasty dish a number of times. I had never heard of it, but it’s apparently popular in good ‘ol Tejas. We ordered it as an appetizer during one of our numerous happy hours downtown Austin. The preparation at this particular restaurant had its flaws, but I definitely saw its potential. I threw together a version that was so tasty, we’ve had it twice since Saturday.

I’m going to pass on this recipe without tons of detail. It’s really a general concept, and ingredients can be swapped out as your tastes desire. Also, the amounts of the ingredients are not very specific, as I believe you should add more or less of what you like or don’t.

– Shrimp (any size, but always use raw shrimp. Buying cooked shrimp is pointless, tasteless and lazy, no offense. I used about 10-15 26/30s)
– 1 Avocado (diced)
– 1 plum or Romano tomato (seeded and diced)
– 1/4 cup red onion (diced)
– 1/4 cup green pepper (diced)
– 1/2 jalapeño
– some cilantro (chopped)
– 1/2 to 3/4 cup sour cream (I used fat free)
– 1 to 2 tablespoons mayo (I did not use fat free!)
– 1/2 a lime
– Flour tortillas
– Lawry’s Seasoned Salt

Preheat oven to 400F

Start with the shrimp. Peel and devein them (if this hasn’t been done for you), and chop into pieces. Fully cook the shrimp in a sauté pan, tossing/stirring frequently. This should take about 3-5 minutes. I used olive oil and also butter because the butter adds a richer taste, but use the cooking oil of your choice. After the shrimp is cooked, toss a little Lawry’s over it, and put it into a bowl and place directly in the freezer.

Combine the tomato, green and jalapeño peppers, onion, cilantro, sour cream and mayo, and stir until everything is coated. When the shrimp is cool, add it to the mixture. Squeeze in the juice of the lime. Lastly, add the avocado and mix gently until everything is coated. 

For the dippers, slice a few tortillas into triangles, and arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Dust them with the Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, and bake until golden brown. Remember Lawry’s is mostly salt, so be careful not to overdo it.

For serving, arrange the dippers around a mound of the dip, and garnish with avocado slices and a few shakes of Lawry’s.

On Being Present

I was sitting downtown Minneapolis today. I walked down from our awesome new apartment, and only had to be outside for 2 blocks! I stopped at one of the many skyway Caribous for a coffee, and spent some time sitting alone at a table. I read the Downtown Journal, I took a picture of the scenery, and I spent the next 40 minutes staring at my iphone. Then I thought, am I present?

No, I was so glad to be sitting downtown Minneapolis, but I was anywhere but there. I was in Colorado with Brooke, I was in KC with Joe, I was in Rochester with Cait. Constantly sending texts and looking at Facebook, I was anywhere but sitting alone in Gavidee Common. But why?

I have no idea. But, it really doesn’t matter. Joe and I are thrilled to finally be back in Minneapolis, and we have an amazing place to live. A few years ago, I couldn’t have imagined this life for myself. It’s better than I could have ever have conjured. So, why do I have such a hard time living in the moment. Why do I constantly look to the grass on the other side. I don’t know.

This might be my very late New Year’s resolution, or just a new goal. I will do better at living in the moment. This will require more gratitude, a thing I consistently underestimate. Instead of jumping from one goal to the next, I need to spend some time being thankful for what I have. I have gotten everything I’ve wanted in the last couple of years, and that is spectacular. Thats’s crazy, really.

So, for the future, gratitude. Presence.

Do you have any strategies for embodying these things?

Tanzanian Safari, for the Unrich

In January 2009, I was lucky to travel to Tanzania for a friend’s wedding. I’ve blogged about parts of the trip here, and here.  Today, I thought I’d add another post to the collection. Many people want to go on safari, I was not one of them. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do it, it just wasn’t a priority for me. Well, Jenny and Goaf can be very convincing, and they turned it into a far more thrilling experience that I ever could have imagined.

 As we are not rich, English big-game enthusiasts, we did our safari on a budget. Also, as we are the off-the-beaten-path sort of travelers, we did not go to Serengeti, which they tell me is unbearably touristy, and has paved roads. Two things I’m told can quickly kill the authenticity of one’s safari experience.

Jenny and Goaf planned the whole thing. They have been on a few safaris since their move to Africa. They take everyone who comes to visit! So, they know the ropes.  We traveled from their home in Mafinga, to the town of Iringa, where would meet our driver/guide Michael.  He picked us up in a 1970-something Land Rover, that had about 600,000 miles on the odometer.  We paid Michael about $600 to take the 7 of us to Ruaha National Park, and guide us to all the must-see animals in the park, as we rode on the top of the truck, for 24 hours. That’s less than $100 a person folks! Here’s Michael –

We began to see animals before we even entered the park. Once we paid our entry fee, which was nominal, and read the rules, we really had our minds blown.

First we saw hippos. Lots of them, just hanging out in the water with their hippo babies. Then it was swala, or gazelles, who oddly divide themselves into separate herds of males and females.  Then came the twiga, or giraffes. Have you ever seen a giraffe run? It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. It looks like they are running in slow motion. I apologize for the quality of the videos, I haven’t quite got the hang of my movie editor. No, it’s not in slow motion. 

Then came the tembo, or elephants. My favorite animal. We were told to watch out for the elephants, as they can knock over our Land Rover in one nudge. Well, “watching out” wasn’t really Micheal’s safari guide style.

After about 5 hours of safariing, we had yet to see any lions, and it was starting to get dark. Two things we learned upon starting our safari:
1. Lions are the goldmine of safari animal spotting.
2. If you are out past dark, the park rangers will probably shoot you.

This sent Michael on a mission. We zipped around that park at 40 MPH (while still unwisely riding on the roof of the car) desperately looking for lions before nightfall. It was at this point when we saw our first group of fellow safari goers. I think it’s a pretty impressive feat to spend the whole day never seeing another group of touristy humans. Michael exchanged words with the other driver and exclaimed, I know where to find lions! Off we went, very quickly. And then there they were, in all their wild, uncaged, dangerous, silent glory.

A few moments of lion enjoyment in the fading African daylight lasted a lifetime. And then we were off, zooming through the park in order to get to our camp before getting shot. The night was New Year’s Eve, and we partied with the villagers who live in the park at their local community center. A strange experience that is worthy of its own story. We spent the night in a quaint, very unfancy lodge. In morning, we stumbled sleepy-eyed out of our rooms to find this guy.

We spent another few hours driving around seeing the animals, and ooing and ahhing over the landscape and all its Lion King-esque glory. These guys put on a pretty dramatic show, just as we were leaving.

Here are some shots of the whole safari crew, and our trusty vehicle. You can see all my safari photos, as well as the rest of the Africa trip here.

So Maybe I’m a Runner

This Summer, for about the twentieth time, I decided to become a runner. Running has always felt like torture for me. Just stepping out the door reminds me of those days in Junior High gym class when we were forced to run a mile. Four times around that huge dusty track with the entire class. For me, this was worse than the swimming unit. Forcing twelve year old girls to swim laps with twelve year old boys in the middle of the school day is clearly unkind, but running was worse for me. I was always last, and it felt bad. I never understood why I was so slow and these other girls were running 6 minute miles. It was rough on the self esteem. 

Though I never felt confident at it, over the years, I’ve been able to do a little running on my own.  For a month, back in 2006, I did something I called “angry running.” It was related directly to a bad job. Well, a good job that had a lot of bad days. I would get home at 5:00, yeah it did have sweet hours, and my mind would be spinning. All I could do was run through the infuriating moments of the day over and over again, and act out the conversations that would go differently if I had the chance. I had two options, either drink wine until I fell asleep, or find some physical way to act out my rage. So, I took up angry running. I got home from work, changed into tennis shoes, and ran out the door. I then proceeded to run as fast as I could until I was no longer angry. It worked. For a while.

Well a few years later, and on a totally different career path, I took up running again. This Summer it started out slow, but eventually I got into a groove. A few things were different in my life that helped me stick with it. One, I had a bunch of classmates who were into running too. Some are marathoners, and some are novices just like me. Though I rarely ran with them, just knowing they were out there doing it too motivated me. Also Joe, he was getting it to running with me, and we motivated each other. We can’t really run together because of his excessive height. He takes one stride for my two, and watching him try to keep pace with me is like watching someone ride a bike too slow to stay upright. So, I let him run ahead. Oh yeah, and I have a wedding dress to fit into.

So I started with one of those “couch to 5K” programs I found online. Eventually I moved from the treadmill to the outdoors, and that’s where I really started to enjoy it. Like I actually enjoyed it. I decided to sign up for a 5K to keep me motivated. My friend Caitlin ran it with me, and it was awesome. I didn’t win, but it wasn’t too hard and I definitely wasn’t last.

I proceeded to run four more 5Ks in about 2 months. It’s easy, as one can find at least two races to choose from somewhere in Minnesota each weekend, year-round. I found them all at Running in the USA.  Needless to say, I think I am addicted. I don’t know if it’s the t-shirt, or the thrill of running with people who run a 5K in 16 minutes, and with those who run it in 45 minutes. It’s really encouraging to see that many people dedicated to something. For the most recent race, I convinced my family to run with me! We all did the Turkey Day 5K in Minneapolis on Thanksgiving morning. It was 4 degrees. Yes, crazy I know. It really wasn’t that bad once you got going. Now, I figure if I can run in 4 degrees, I can run anytime. Though, it is pretty tough to get me outside these days.

I’m excited for the snow to start melting, as I have a new goal. This year I’ll run a half marathon. It sounds daunting, but I know I can do it. I won’t be first, but I will definitely not be last.

How to See Everything in Portland in 5 Days, Part 1

Well the easy answer is stay with my friend Laurel, who makes a fantastic and efficient tour guide. The hard answer is participate in the annual Portland Providence Bridge Pedal.

I visited this charming city late this Summer, and I could have picked up my bags and moved to Portland the day I got home to Rochester.  Overall, I would describe the city as smartly walkable, and dense with restaurants and shops.

One of the first stops on my whirlwind tour was the International Rose Test Garden. I felt like Alice in the Queen of Hearts’ garden. Row after row of exotic species were in the height of their bloom. This gem was a short walk from Laurel’s house in the Northwest section of the city. I never would have found it without her.

The next day we drove a quick couple of hours to Cannon Beach on the Oregon Coast. The drive was green and beautiful, and everything I imagined it would be. Though I’m not a huge fan of the franchise, I felt like I was driving through the set of Twilight, and that was pretty neat.

Cannon Beach was like something out of a movie. No, literally, it’s out of the movie Goonie’s. Recognize Haystack Rock?

Ah, on to the infamous Bridge Pedal. If you have the stamina, the best way to really see a city is to bike 40 miles looping around most of the neighborhoods, and over 10 of its enormous bridges.  Ok, to be fair, I only held up long enough to make it 5 hours and over 8 bridges before I left the pack an took a quick detour home. I like to think of myself as a bit of a biker, but those bridges were huge! Despite my exhaustion and discomfort in places I won’t mention, I saw parts of Portland that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. More than 18,000 Portlandians participated in this year’s Pedal, as I learned from the woman I sat next to on the plane home to MSP. She and her husband actually started the whole thing in 1996! It was a great community building event that other bike-friendly cities should replicate (hmm hmm Minneapolis).

Despite all of the amazing things I got to see and do in Portland, my favorite part was spending time with Laurel. One of my oldest, dearest friends, with whom I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world. She took time out of her busy schedule as a physician at Oregon Health Sciences University to show me this city inside and out. I’m jealous that she now calls it home. Thanks Laurel! More on Portland soon!

To 2010: Thanks

As I get ready to leave 2010 behind, I find myself with a new desire to blog again. I can’t really make any excuse for the blatant disregard of this blog for months.

You know you had a good year when people say “congratulations!” to you at Christmas, and you are not sure which awesome thing in your life to which they are referring. I experienced that this year, and once I realized it was happening, I was overcome with gratitude. 2010 was an amazing year.

In July, Joe and I were engaged. I intended on blogging this story many times, and I hopefully will soon. It was unexpected and exciting, and I’m so glad it happened. I was lucky enough to have two good friends, and fellow classmates, also get engaged this Summer. We spent hours in Gaylord, MN flipping through wedding magazines and feverishly planning while we should have been studying public health. So for 2011, we have our wedding, along with the weddings of many friends to look forward to.

2010 was also the year in which I completed the task that spurred the creation of this blog. I graduated from nursing school with my Bachelors of Science in Nursing, and honors.  Sometimes it was hard, a lot of times it was easy. I did things that scared the you-know-what out of me everyday while working at the Heart/Lung Transplant ICU at the Mayo Clinic, but I have never been more sure about being a nurse. It seems like just yesterday I got this crazy idea about nursing in my head, but here we are. So for 2011, I eagerly await a new job.

My third congratulations-worthy life event is some recent news we received about Joe’s job. He has been relocated to a new territory in the Western suburbs of Minneapolis, our home turf. Although we were totally caught off guard, and a little stunned, we are thrilled to be returning to the motherland. We just rented a fancy pants apartment in the city, and can’t wait to move. For the first time in years, I feel very settled.

So finally, the Year in the Southern Minnesota Triangle is officially ending. I now must find a new name for this blog, and a new motivation for continuing it. I think I just made a New Year’s resolution.

Congratulations to you, and see you in 2011.