Archive for May, 2010

May 29, 2010

On Why Painting Your Own Toenails when Six Months Pregnant Should Qualify as an Olympic Sport

Being pregnant during the summer may not seem like the most enjoyable experience a girl could ask for.  But with a couple of swingy summer dresses I’ve found and air conditioning in the two largest rooms in our apartment, so far even these sweltering days of May haven’t been so bad.  I have high hopes for the days ahead, and even more so on account of my latest discovery: being pregnant during the summer is a fantastic excuse for getting a pedicure.

In the past few weeks, as my trimester count slowly and somewhat painfully shifts into third gear, my feet and back have started to ache.  I feels silly every time I think about it, because really, a twenty-three-year-old with an aching back?  Seriously?  Then again, I imagine constantly lugging around an extra twenty pounds or so would make anyone’s back hurt.  Except maybe a competitor for the World’s Strongest Man who pulls eighteen-wheelers with only his body and a couple of heavy-duty chains.  Perhaps I should have more thoughtfully considered that as a hobby in college.

A couple of common sense remedies have made me more comfortable and more mobile.  First, I think I’m doing a pretty good job of not straining to lift, push, or reach anything beyond my capability.  A co-worker told me her rule is that a pregnant lady should never lift more than half of what she thinks she can handle, and I’m doing my best to remember that rule when I need it.  I’ve also started to wear shoes with built-in arches more often than my more simplistic flats.  Having John rub my feet every now and then has done its part, too.

But I think there’s still another solution, more obvious and more enjoyable: a pedicure!  One of the first things we noticed when we saw our apartment for the first time is that it is surrounded by nail salons. I rave every other day about how wonderful pedicures are and how John and I should both go and enjoy the magic together.  While he encourages me to go myself, he remains adamantly opposed to joining me.  His loss, I say!

Yesterday, I had finally planned to go for it.  But as so often will be the case in parenthood, my mothering duties demanded a change in plans.  After walking around a huge bookstore and a farmer’s market in Union Square all morning, I was beyond exhausted by three o’clock.  I considered my carefully laid plan, then put it aside and resigned myself to an afternoon nap instead.

I woke up about an hour before a dinner we were attending.  I planned on wearing sandals that evening, and it had been a while since my nails has been painted.  Thus my now foiled pedicure plan.

Whatever, I thought.  I can pretty much still reach my feet.  I’ll paint my toenails myself.

Once I was settled with nail polish, remover, and a nail file in the bathroom, I realized the task I’d set myself was going to be much more difficult than I expected.  First I’d have to find a new way to sit.  Rather than pull my feet in close to me, knees fully bent, as I usually would, now I had to rest each foot on something a bit farther away.  Okay, not ideal, but not impossible.

As I reached out to touch my feet, I discovered this also was more of an ordeal than it used to be, seeing as there is now another person between me and my feet.  Said person does not appreciate being smushed.  I considered asking John to help, but we didn’t have a lot of time, so I had to try my best.  Thankfully, I was able to make it all the way through two coats and now I sit with toes in a happy shade of “Berry Boucle.”

I wish I could say there was some kind of secret I learned, but really the most important lesson, as lame as it is, is to keep breathing.  I needed a break after every other toe, just to catch my breath.  In my book, painting my toenails is now equivalent to trying a new pose in a yoga class just beyond my capability or lifting a small elephant that may or may not equal me in weight.

So from this point forward, I am capitalizing on the opportunity to have someone else paint my nails—and massage my feet at the same time—without feeling like it’s a totally unnecessary expense.  I just hope I can restrain myself from going every single day. . . .

May 26, 2010

Won’t You Please Give Your Seat to the Needy or Disabled.

I had a major breakthrough in my New-Yorky-City-Mom-ness this week.  I accepted someone’s offer for a seat on the subway/bus.  This, my friends, is huge.

Over the course of my pregnancy, I’ve had a troubled relationship with my fellow commuters. I’d always thought that one of the perks of being pregnant and riding public transportation was the guaranteed seat.  In the earlier months of my pregnancy, I anxiously looked forward to what I expected would be a daily reprieve from reaching for a bar that’s almost too high for me while crammed into a sweaty, hot subway car with a whole mess of strangers.

Once I was finally showing, I was excited to embrace this built-in bonus to being a new NYC mom.  I was thrilled when the first woman glanced at me and offered me her seat.

But then something strange happened.  As ready as I thought I was for this moment, I froze.  I found myself unable to accept the seat.  “Oh, I’m fine, thank you,” I said, as I refused the paradisal seat for which I’d pined for so long.  I was shocked; I was confused.  But for some reason, I kept doing it.

Time and again, I was offered a seat, but the three- or four-stop rides that I’d so looked forward to sitting through suddenly didn’t seem as arduous anymore.  There were a few times when accepting the seat would have meant asking a half-dozen other people to move out of the way just as the train started to move, so the utilitarian part of me could justify that.  But more often than not, there wasn’t any excuse at all.  People were being kind and generous, and all I could say was, “No, thanks.”

A week or so ago, I hit a new low.  A woman, who may or may not have been wearing scrubs, saw me and proceeded to physically shift over a seated man who looked like he might have been sleeping.  She confirmed that she did not know this man, or his equally restful companion, by getting off a few stops before they did.  Before she had a chance to do that, though, she turned to me, gestured, and said, “Here.  You can sit down.”

“No, thanks,” I said, “I’m fine.”  As kind as she was, and as awkward as I felt, it had become my automatic response.  I wasn’t even thinking anymore.

I quickly noticed the woman was less than pleased with me.  She tried again.

“Go ahead.  Sit.”  Ack!  I didn’t know how to accept once I’d declined, so I tried to make it better.

“Thank you very much, though, I really appreciate your offer.”  While on the inside, I’m thinking, this stranger-lady just verbally and physically moved a full-grown man, also a stranger, in order for me to sit.  Kind lady?  Or crazy lady? Or maybe I just need to get over myself?

The seemingly paradoxical part is that if there is a seat free, I will absolutely take it.  As long as there isn’t a child in the vicinity, I’m all about pushing my cardigan back, rubbing my belly, and taking a seat.  I like to do this before I board the train, too, so that my fellow passengers know I mean business.  I’m not sure it’s had much effect, but I can dream.

For weeks I struggled with why I could take the already free seat, but not one that someone offered to me.  I’ve been very blessed to have an easy pregnancy and I never feel that horrible.  Plus my subway rides are rarely longer than seven minutes.  So if someone asks me if I want a seat, I always figure I can just bear it, no big deal.  I keep telling myself that in coming months, I will take people up on their offers.  As time passes, I’ve started to wonder if that is ever going to happen.

Yesterday, it did.  I’d expected to get a seat on the bus, but because I was trying out a new route to work, I wasn’t sure of my chances.  Turns out, they were not as good as I’d imagined.  I stood for a few stops, surrounded by parents and their children. I didn’t make eye contact with anyone around me, for fear, of course, that I would be offered a seat.

Over the corner of my book I managed to see the father just in front of me trying to convince his six-year-old son to give up his seat for me.  They were speaking in another language, which I could barely identify over the noise of the bus, so I couldn’t be sure of what they were saying.  A couple of times the boy stood up, still hovering over his seat and swinging a bit on the bar separating him from his dad.  Eventually, he must have been persuaded and he went to sit on his dad’s lap.  A moment later, his father offered me the now vacant seat, and guess what?

I took it!

I was so proud of myself and grateful to the little boy and his father.  I realized that I can accept a seat if either it is fully vacated or the offerree does that hover thing over it, so I know it’s really okay to take it.  When people just ask and don’t move, I feel like I’m being an inconvenience, which, as mentioned above, is maybe something I just need to get over.  And I’m getting there.

Tonight on my way home, I hoped that someone would offer me a seat so that I could take it. But unfortunately, no luck.  Guess that’s something to look forward to for tomorrow!  Until then.

P.S. I know the punctuation of this title’s post is wrong.  This is what is printed on NYC buses (or something close to it).  Sad, right?  Super sad.  But for another day.

May 23, 2010


Today is one of my favorite days on the liturgical calendar:  Pentecost.  It’s the day the Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles, to stay with them as a presence of God, just as Jesus promised before he ascended into Heaven (Acts 2: 1-11). The Spirit comes to them in the form of flames above their heads, and once the Spirit is within them, they can speak all different languages.  Thus, the Gospel can be proclaimed throughout the world.

See the tongues of fire?

I have always loved this story, but it was only when I was studying in Germany that I started to understand why.

In high school, speaking another language seemed like an almost insurmountable task, and I wasn’t sure I had a real motivation to do it.  When I was finally speaking German with other kids in college, I realized that I loved what this new language was teaching me about how people express themselves and about how another culture thinks.

There were a couple of places I wanted to visit while I was in Germany, one of which was Köln.  I’d been there for World Youth Day in 2005, and couldn’t wait to get back and spend more time in the beautiful cathedral.  It happened that the weekend I visited was that of Pentecost, so I had the bonus opportunity to celebrate the feast in the Kölner Dom.

Wow, right?

Wow, right?

I was figuring out some other things about my upcoming senior year that weekend, and in that cathedral and at that Mass, a couple of things started to come together.  I realized how my interest in World War II and the Holocaust, my back-burner interest in writing, and my love of music had led me to study German.  I also started to realize how studying that language was informing the way I thought about so much else.  And at the same time, it was becoming clearer that I needed to work with words and literature, however the future held that for me.


I’ve explained before how that semester abroad taught me a lot about who I am and what I would do both now and in the future. It’s a blessing to have those moments when we see how the seemingly random things in our lives line up in a very neat way and point an arrow to where we need to go next.

In my faith, I recognize this sort of divine inspiration as an act of the Holy Spirit. It’s a feeling like, “Haven’t I known this all along, and how could I possibly do anything else?”  In the past few weeks, I’ve had a similar feeling of what’s next for me.  I’m not sure how I’ll get there, but I have a new faith in what I believe is ahead. Our little Peanut is certainly a part of that, and I’m finally feeling that writing is a part of it, too.

I’m not sure what form these things will take, but I know with a firm but gentle conviction that as St. Therese of Lisieux says, I am exactly where I am meant to be.

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