Sunday, June 19, 2011

Time Well Spent

Writing a blog about my Dad is much easier than buying him a Father’s Day gift because just like all other dads, he already has everything he wants.  Secondly, it’s guaranteed to be appreciated by him, because unlike my Mom, I know he’ll read it.  He’s a fan of mine, and he even reminds me to update my blog when more than a week has passed.  “Ashley, your blog is a little stale”, he says.

5th Grade Graduation
As a young girl, at times, I was jealous of my friends’ Dads who put on a suit and tie in the morning, hopped in their newly leased sedan and drove to some corporate office 30 minutes away.   My Dad, on the other hand, put on a t-shirt and jeans, tinkered around the yard or garage, made lunches for us and then headed off to his contracting job in his work van, a disorganized toolshed, on wheels. 

When we forgot those lunches at home, he was usually there to drop them off at school. He’s a self-employed contractor, loves his work and for the most part, always has.  He loves the freedom it gives him, the ability to craft something with his hands, and the time it allows him to spend doing other things he loves equally.  My Dad created a work-life balance that many dream about.   I appreciated this more and more as I got older and understand this completely as a young professional embarking on starting a family.

He carved out the perfect life for himself and his family.  A life that allowed him to spend time with my Mom, his two daughters, his family and friends and of course his many toys (boat, motorcycle, golf clubs, mountain bike, skis, tools).
Swimming in R.I. 1990

Here are 10 great memories of time spent with my Dad:

10. Vacations. Camping at Burlingame, fall weekends in Vermont, summers in Rhode Island, the Tropicana in Las Vegas, touring Ireland, mountain biking in Montana. He was always there and fully committed to them.

9. Boating and waterskiing. He held me in shallow water when I was 6 years old, while my Uncle Steve slowly drove the boat away. I popped right out of the water and have been waterskiing ever since. I learned how to slalom ski, about 10 years later, while he was driving the boat yelling at me, to get in back in because he doubted my ability to get it on the 5th try.  After he said that and pissed me off, I hung on tighter than ever before and got up. My Mom, the spotter, loved every second of it.  We all did.

Martha's Vinyard
8. Motorcycle ride to Martha's Vinyard when I was 14.

      7. Christmas photo time.  Every year, without fail, he cracks me up.  He has no shame dressing like an elf in tights, walking around town in a figure skating costume, and wearing fake-teeth while he pays for the photo session at Sears. 

                                                           6. Snowboarding and skiing. My parents taught me how to ski at a young age and my Dad and I started snowboarding when I was 14 years old. We’ve skied all over New England together. 

5. Swimming.  He came to almost every swim meet, be it at Beachland Park, Cornerstone pool, or somewhere across the state of CT.   He taught me how to dive while living on Ledgewood Rd.  He has always been the first one to run into the cold Atlantic Ocean, to body surf waves and he would stay in for as long as we wanted him to.

4. Watching him foster parent Robert and Cody.  I had the unique experience of watching my Dad parent our two young foster brothers while I was high school and for many years following. He loved them like they were his own and they had no problem acting as if they were.

3. Playing softball.   He coached my town league and played catch with me in the yard. He came to all of those games too.

2. My wedding day.  He walked me down the aisle with my Mom, and gave an awesome and emotional (as expected) toast, then we danced our choreographed Waltz, and then my favorite of course, non-choreographed dancing followed.

1. All the ordinary, non-monumental times the we’ve shared and continue to share that blend over time but are not forgotten; the rides in his van, him making the "I love you" sign out his window as he drove away, hanging off of his bicep as a little girl, the bear hugs, being carried, while asleep, up the stairs, grilling in the back-yard, waiting for him to clean the pool so I could jump in, having a glass a wine with him at the kitchen counter, sitting near him at a bonfire.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Thank you for spending so much time with me. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

1st Place Goes to the Whale Shark

Last week, I officially decided to put running on hold for the remainder of my pregnancy.  My runs the week before last, were slow and annoying.  I felt like I had to pee, although I didn’t really need to, the entire time.  On a typical morning run I would chat with my running partner, enjoy the scenery and clear my mind, but lately, there’s been no enjoyment, just the constant fear of peeing all over myself. I’m embarrassed to say that my fear is warranted, because I did pee in my pants, a few years ago while riding my bike with a urinary tract infection.  For the record, and probably to Jeff’s and my good friend Kacey’s, disappointment, I’d like to reserve all future bathroom emergencies for the baby.  

I spent this past weekend in West Hartford, CT hanging with my parents, while Jeff was away at Bonneroo.  I went to the reservoir with my Mom on Saturday morning, as I do on every visit home, but this time with the expectation that she would run and I would walk.  Perhaps, it was the cool rainy weather or that I didn’t want to be left behind, that I decided to give running one last go. I’m so happy I did.  Even though I couldn’t keep pace with my Mom the entire time, I felt great, completed the two-mile loop with a smile and not in search of a bathroom.  So perhaps, I really will achieve my goal of running through my 2nd trimester.  And when the time comes to hang up my sneakers, I’m prepared. Actually, I love my pre-natal workout routine, and I’d be okay with a running hiatus.

On Monday and Friday mornings I head down the street to my fabulous Pilates studio for the 1-hour class at 6:30AM.  The studio has one incredibly talented owner/instructor, named Susan, one reformer, four mats, and about a dozen stability balls. Apparently, the ‘hood doesn’t have many early risers because I’m often the only client.  Which means that I get a private lesson, on the reformer, for the price of a group mat class.  This is unheard of in NYC, perhaps, even the world!

Thursdays, after work, I hop on the train and head downtown to the indoor pool at Clarement Prep School just off of Wall Street for Aqua Mom. The 8-week program, which has a ridiculously long waitlist, consists of 8 to 10 pregnant ladies swimming laps and doing water aerobics with the help of noodles, flippers, kickboards, foam dumbbells, and music.  It’s a serious workout and I take it really seriously.  I’d like to suggest to Andrea, the instructor, that she consider having try-outs or cuts.

Notice the whale-shark pattern! 
As I slice through the water like a shark, er, whale shark, you know, large but with grace, I get annoyed with my classmates. When their not clinging to the wall with foot cramps, they’re acting as if we’re meandering down the Lazy River at Disney World. Meanwhile, the competitive swimmer in me has come out in full-force, and my internal monolog is brutal and something like this; ‘honey, if you didn’t know how to do the breaststroke before you got pregnant, now is not the time to learn, and sorry to say, but that spec of a kickboard isn’t gonna keep you, your ass, and your unborn baby above water any more than a deflated arm float, now move aside, ‘cause I’m about to do a flip-turn up in in your face.’ Then, I fake smile as I swim by.  

Just upon leaving class last week, Andrea, handed me a clear, waterproof Aqua Mom “purse”. I politely accepted the gift and thought, oh neat, a change purse for my gym bag, just as she said, “it’s for your wet suit.”  I fake smiled again and laughed to myself.  The only piece of my suit that would fit in that teeny thing is the bra-cup inserts, should I choose to remove them, which works for me, because I never know what to do with those things anyway.  Meanwhile, I’ll continue to use one of those giant blue Ikea shopping bags for my hauling my whale-sized suit to and from class. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Vermonster

My first visit to Burlington, Vermont was in the fall of 1999.  My Sister was visiting her good friend, Jay, who was going to college in the Green Mountain State, and I tagged along. As we drove up Route 89N, I questioned why anyone would want to live so far up north, in the middle of nowhere.  

I can’t recall the details of that weekend, but we must have had fun.   I left convinced that that was where I should spend the next four years of my life.

Immediately upon returning home from that weekend trip, I filled out the early-decision application for Saint Michael’s College, in Colchester, just a few minutes east of Burlington and less than four hours north of Hartford, CT.   

I loved Burlington right away. I loved the small size (pop 38,000), the nearby ski mountains, Lake Champlain, the restaurants and shops on Church Street. The city was mellow and manageable and the people were friendly and interesting.   

Much to my surprise, college didn’t turn out to be the best time of my life.  Collegiate swimming was anything but fun, and friends were hard to make. Mostly, I was broke, lonely and insecure.  But, even then, I still loved Burlington.

I’ve been meaning to go back and visit ever since I graduated in December 2003 and finally after 8 years, this weekend, that’s just what I did. 

The Jet Blue flight from JFK to Burlington International Airport is about 50 minutes, just enough time for them to offer their limited snack and beverage service (cookies or cashews only….uh, no Munchies) and barely enough time for me make a dent in my book.

I don't look it,
but I'm so excited to be drinking N/A wine!
When we arrived on Saturday we checked into our hotel, then hopped in our sweet Chevy Cruze rental car (um, yeah, bucket seats and pregnant ladies should never meet) and I gave Jeff a quick tour of Colchester, Winooski, and St. Mike’s before we made our way downtown for lunch at Leunig’s Bistro.

That night we took a stroll by the Winooksi River and had dinner at Our House, a spot new to me, in Winooski.  I ordered the open-faced turkey sandwich, the closest match to my favorite sandwich ever – the Vermonster!  We would have eaten at Waterworks Restaurant, my employer back in the day, so that I could have said sandwich, but unfortunately, they went out of business several years ago.

We decided to pass on the
home gym for Little Rigs
The next day we got up early and met up with Jay (he never left town), his lovely wife Maegan, and their friends to watch the Vermont City Marathon pass by thier house.   After that, Jeff and I checked out the Magic Hat Brewery and went on a unsuccessful hunt for some nursery furniture.

On Monday, while I got an awesome, 60-minute prenatal massage, Jeff sampled pretty much every beer at The Farm House.  I left my appointment relaxed and happy, but when I saddled up to the bar next to Jeff, I could tell right away, he had me beat.  He wasn’t ready to leave, so I ordered a Clausthaler and we split a killer cheese and pate platter (pasteurized, of course).   The trip concluded with some ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s.

The Farm House 

I still love Burlington, Vermont. And, I’m happy to say, I think that this is the best time in my life.

And for those of you interested in trying a Vermonster:

 2 slices toasted sourdough bread
½ thinly sliced Granny Smith apple
2 slices deli turkey
2 slices sharp cheddar cheese
2 tbsp of cranberry mayonnaise  (just mix canned cranberry sauce with a little mayo)