Desuppression

Seven hours of sleep, and the alarm sounds.

Seven hours of sound sleep. I could keep sleeping.

I press snooze.

Anticipating the snooze alarm.

I do not keep sleeping.

Waiting.

I could sleep like this every night.

Coughing gets in my way. It feels like a month of coughing, my abs punching my lungs to expel air at random times, at inconsistent forces. Attempting to tame a lingering tickle in my throat.

Coughing annoys, distracts. Steals sleep. I feel the tickle right now.

Breathing has been shallow lately in this past month. This morning I exhale deeply, and my ribs tighten. Sometimes the spaces between the ribs cramp. Like I have been running and I get a stitch in my side, but I cannot run through the pain until it subsides.

I am not running. I just lie here. Not sleeping.

But the cramps. Am I out of oxygen? Has it been so long since inflating my lungs through deep, meditative breaths? Have my ribs forgotten how to expand, to compensate for my body’s deficit in breathable air?

What is breathable?

Winter sits on the air, spits in it. Sometimes she brings snow and wind and chilled rains and replaces the air.

Winter is heavy and often merciless and stingy, not only with the air but also the sunlight.

I realize more than one cause facilitates my suffocation.

This early in the morning headlights slide across closed blinds: One thousand one, one thousand two. I try breathing again, and it still hurts.

Darkness penetrates the room. Darkness is space, but it does not expand. It constricts. I cannot breathe the space, but it breathes into me, occupying too much of my lungs. The pressure also surrounds me from the outside, hugging my ribs tight.

Darkness leaves just enough air in my lungs to cough. Cold medicine suppresses the cough, helps me sleep.

Now, if only I could breathe more than a teaspoon at a time without pain.

Yet when my child and my husband cough, all I want to do is absorb their coughs. They need to be cough-free more than I.

Ten minutes later. The snooze alarm sounds. I turn it off and sit up. I could keep sleeping. I could keep overthinking this cough. I slip out of bed and begin getting ready for the day, grateful at least to be breathing, albeit heavy, dirty winter air.

Grateful for the full night’s sleep.

————-

Disclaimer: Obviously I’m rusty with writing, but bear with me. I should be doing this more often and finding my voice. Beneath the coughs. Fingers crossed.

What’s That Smell?

Nowadays, that’s the first question I ask myself whenever I go anywhere.  It’s like a little guessing game, where most of the odors that make my nose perk are pretty recognizable, only they’re about 47 trabillion times stronger than usual.

It came pretty early, within the first month. We’d drive around town, and the restaurants, the traffic, and Pleasant Grove would attack my nose. Most of the odors before pregnancy were relatively mild. I mean, driving past Pleasant Grove never disappoints if I crave the smell of sewage or rotten vegetables, but whenever we pass the unPleasant Gross exit now, it’s almost unbearable. No offense to anyone who lives there; you probably live away from the smell, which seems to lurk along the freeway.

There’s also some farmspace near the corner of 400 South and Geneva Road that smells like the land of fire and brimstone for about 5 seconds. Whenever we’re driving this corner, Reilly and I always accuse each other of farting.

When we drive closer to downtown Salt Lake City, around 500 South, along the freeway, it smells like nachos. Like nacho cheese. Not like sharp cheese, but definitely more mild and with jalapeno peppers. It’s not a smell I mind very much at all but look forward to whenever we get to that part of town.

I walk into church, and I can smell everyone. I can smell that woman’s lotion and that man’s aftershave and that baby’s spit-up. I can smell cooking oil on your skin and your greasy fast food breakfast from the other day.  I can smell somebody’s minty gum and that kid’s fruity shampoo and don’t even ask me what the speakers are even talking about because all the smells are speaking way more loudly and with more appeal (or repulsion) than the speakers. I mean, I do have to focus, because it’s church. And church is more important than my hypersensitive nose. We’ll just have to keep that in mind.

Not every smell bothers me. Lots of aromas are wonderful, and I’d love to spin around in fragrant air all day, but the fact is that there are also bad odors. And when they’re bad, they’re really bad.

There’s a women’s restroom in the Wilkinson Center on the second floor, close to the memorial room and ballroom. I’m sure you know which one I mean. The other day I went to campus to wait for Reilly to get out of class. I needed to go to the bathroom because that’s a pretty consistent condition these days, and when I opened the door, I felt my face scrunch and my eyes roll to the back of my head. I braced myself inside the door frame. Then I considered holding my pee to go to the bathroom downstairs by the bowling alley or to the other bathroom just down the hall. But I have more or less trained myself to go whenever I need to go, so I forged ahead into the fecal fog.

Undoubtedly, it’s a busy bathroom. The Wilkinson Center is a major campus hub, and I should have known that the bathroom would be stinky, but this complete ambush on my nosehairs convinced me that no one knows how to courtesy-flush or disinfect/deodorize. And this bathroom is a place where a lot of mothers change piles of poopy diapers. Because there are a lot of young mothers who go to BYU, y’all. There seems to be no ventilation, and when I entered that bathroom at 8:30 that one evening, all the quadrillions of microscopic, feculent particles had amassed during the day not only to form a humid, boggy marsh around the stalls, but something, somewhere that felt like another dimension. It felt like I had crossed over into an ethereal, methanous space of utter grossness, where I wasn’t stepping in it but walking through it. Think about it. (Or not.) And to think I’m growing another human that will soon contribute to the world’s sewage (who, technically, already is). I mean, there are sacrifices, and there are sacrifices. I mean, I have to do the noble thing.

Next time, I’ll just find a different bathroom.

And whatever that smell is, I probably know, but for the most part, I’d rather not.

Beach Day

Am I ever going to catch up writing about vacation? Do you ever have the intention of writing deep, soul-searching rambles, letting your mind wander and return refreshed? Would you ever let your mind bend, commit a perambulatory dimension shift, jump up an energy level or two to uncharted parts of the brain?

You would? Good for you. I’m just going to talk about the beach.

We decided to go back where it all began, at Jacksonville Beach, where Reilly proposed to me.

When we got to the parking lot near the pier where we lost Jenny’s keys, it had started to rain. We waited for a little while then headed to a nearby gas station to get something to drink. When we returned to the parking lot, it was raining even harder. Because we are supreme nerds, both of us brought books to read and talk about. We cracked a window and read while it rained.

About 45 minutes later, the rain stopped, and we carried our books, drinks, and towels and found a nice place on the sand. The sky was still overcast, so it wasn’t very hot.

THE pier.

We stayed at the beach for the next two hours. Here is a list of things we did while we were there:

  • Applied sunscreen
  • Read and talked about books
  • Remembered seagulls from our engagement day
  • Drank our drinks
  • Got sandy feet
  • Took photographs
  • Watched people
  • Made fun of people
  • Peed in the ocean

Squinty photo

More clouds

Still more clouds

We only peed in the ocean because we’d been drinking those drinks from the gas station so we had to go, and the parking lot bathrooms were locked, and we thought it would be sort of fun to pee in the ocean. I mean, let’s be honest. We walked casually enough to the water and allowed enough space between us so that we wouldn’t by grossed out by the each other’s warm current. We walked to where the water was about to our hips. We didn’t talk to each other for a few seconds, then I asked Reilly if he was done. Then we let the ocean gently roll in and rinse us.

But here’s the thing: Do you know what acid rain is? So, because people pee in the ocean, and water from the ocean evaporates and forms clouds, and some of these clouds make rain, I wonder if we often think about how often we pee on ourselves. Despite this, I still and will always love the beach.

After a couple of hours it was lunchtime, and we decided to eat at the Metro Diner. It’s a small Jacksonville chain with some distinct charm. It’s just a few blocks from the beach. If it weren’t for my friend Jenny’s recommendation, we wouldn’t have thought to go there.

Yummy food here

Reilly had a Philly cheesesteak sandwich, and I had an enormous fish sandwich. The staff was really nice, and I took half my sandwich to go.

It was a sunny December afternoon when we got engaged a year and a half ago. As is typical for Florida summer afternoons, it rained on our way back to my parents’ home. But not very much. And maybe we had driven far enough away from the ocean and the wind hadn’t blown the clouds to where the familiar smell in the rain wasn’t my own urine.

This Seems Interesting

A few weeks ago I was doing some research for my freelance blogging gig and I came upon a non-profit organization called 10×10 whose mission intrigued me. Here’s a draft of what I wrote about the NPO:

The Influence of 10×10: Educate Girls, Change the World

In August 2012, Forbes magazine published an article about the five most powerful women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. The author of the article is Holly Gordon, the executive director and executive producer of the social campaign, 10X10: Educate Girls, Change the World. Her organization and website set an example for others who want to increase social awareness for educating women throughout the world.

About 10X10

According to the website, 10X10 is a social movement that uses many social media channels. It is also a feature film called “Girl Rising” that encourages using “the power of storytelling and the leverage of strategic partnerships to deliver a single message: educating girls in developing nations will change the world.”

10X10’s mission statement is ambitious, but not impossible. It instills hope and inspires action. Holly Gordon firmly believes that “educated girls dramatically improve the well-being of their families, their communities, and their countries.” These girls develop into women who can powerfully impact their societies by helping to change conditions that lead to terrorism and by reducing:

  • poverty
  • child mortality
  • population growth
  • HIV infection rates
  • corruption

Film Influence

Award winning directors and other creative have collaborated to produce “Girl Rising.” 10X10 works with progressive non-profit organizations, celebrities, political leaders, corporations and concerned citizens “to build a global movement to demand equal opportunity for girls.”

Academy Award nominee Richard Robbins directs the film, whichtells the stories of 9 extraordinary girls from 9 countries, written by 9 celebrated writers.” Nine actresses narrate the film: Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett, Selena Gomez, Freida Pinto, Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington, Chloe Moretz, Priyanka Chopra and Alicia Keys.

You can watch the full trailer and check for local screenings at the 10X10 website. For additional information you can also visit the film’s website.

Web Influence

Through strong and wide-reaching website hosting, people around the world can access 10X10’s message. Large corporations realize the power of their contribution and are talking about their own influence to further 10X10’s cause. Rural and obscure villages can even use the website to increase their awareness of the potential of their girls.

The organization has a goal of one billion impressions and a million actions from people around the world. This kind of virality will encourage policy changes in various countries worldwide. 10×10 strives to work with policy leaders to impact global institutions and hopefully sway world governments to implement and enforce laws and policies “that ensure every girl has an equal opportunity to fulfill her full potential.”

10×10 works with organizations with a proven reputation for educating girls. In a professional symbiosis, 10X10 and the organizations promote each other. The institutions tell each other’s stories and help to encourage donations for programs “that help girls get into and stay in school.”

In addition to promoting the film, the website has educational videos, a link for making donations, and a blog with regular updates. Readers can also spread the news of 10X10 by email subscribing to updates and by linking to the website on their favorite social media channels.

With rapid and widespread dissemination of 10X10’s goals, Holly Gordon’s vision of educating girls worldwide will come true. If more people become involved and believe that educating girls can change the world, more people will take action. The girls will believe in themselves, take positive action in their communities, and the world will become a better place.

Then last week I received an invitation on facebook to reserve tickets for a possible screening in Provo. I knew it wasn’t a coincidence, as I have wanted to see the film for a few weeks now. In order make the screening happen, at least  100 people have to make reservations. As of this writing, only 14 have reserved tickets.

If you’re in the Provo/Orem area and want to see a film about important global issues, make reservations now. Seriously, you have about 8 hours. It’s for a good cause.

ETA: The Orem screening fell through. We now have 5 days to make the Salt Lake City Screening happen. Do it.

Open Letter to … Oh, Who Cares

To Whom It Does Not Apparently Concern,

I know that no public transportation system is perfect. Things happen. Trains break down or even get stuck on the tracks in the “narrows” between Draper and Lehi like the southbound train did this evening. I don’t even know how that kind of a thing happens, but I’d like to understand why it did. Because seriously, if trains were running every hour southbound all day without incident, I wonder what happened. Was there a snowdrift? Could the train’s momentum not push through a snowdrift? I guess I could just jump onto a news website and find out what happened, but it’s so much more fun right now to vent.

The conductor did say that “bus bridges” would pick us up from the Draper station and drop us off at the stops farther south. I was fine with waiting at the stop, because I texted the situation to my husband, and he offered to pick me up.

I was fine waiting in the warm train, away from the frigid air, until the conductor announced (and apologized) that the train would have to go back north. He said that everyone would have to get off the train and wait for the bus bridges. I even bundled up and felt prepared to wait in the cold. Somewhere between zero and ten degrees Fahrenheit. Reilly found the address to the station online, and he texted me that he would pick me up soon.

That text came at 5:44pm. We got kicked off the train at 5:58. Draper’s not that far away from Orem, and northbound rush hour traffic isn’t as busy as southbound, so I guessed Reilly would arrive in about 20-25 minutes, which meant 6:05-6:10.

The wait went beyond that range of expectation, which means that I got that much colder for every minute that I waited past 6:10. I was perfectly cozy in my many layers before then. And then somehow my toes froze inside my insulated boots, which means the insulation worked the wrong way.

So Reilly didn’t get to the Draper Frontrunner station until 6:27, which means it took him 43 minutes from Orem. The station looks to be quite in the middle of nowhere, and I wondered if people who’ve never been to the station could easily find it. The answer is easily no.

Thing is, dear Emersonian eyeball of public transportation: Just because you name a road “Frontrunner Boulevard” doesn’t mean the Frontrunner Station is automatically easy to find. Online, the station location is 12800 S 500 W, but the street names do not follow this grid address system near the station. That extra 17 minutes in the cold really isn’t anything to whine about, but if public transit in Utah is to be efficient and comprehensive:

  • Mark Frontrunner (and bus) stations with signs at the freeway exits
  • Use signs en route (from the freeway exit) to clearly direct public transport commuters to Frontrunner stations
  • Provide better online maps/links for Frontrunner station locations
  • Update the website immediately with alerts or route changes

It could have been worse, definitely, but no one should get lost looking for a Frontrunner station, especially if so many people rely on Frontrunner to get to and from work, and especially if another situation like today happens and people don’t want to keep their friends and lovers cryogenicizing out in Siberia because uncoordinated or lacking streets signs have caused the station to David Copperfield. Poof.

Things could be worse. I could be in Florida, stuck on Blanding Boulevard or the Buckman Bridge. I could be in Manhattan, in a Zipcar on the Westside Highway on the Friday before Labor Day.

But things are better now. My feet are warm again, and I can feel my toes.

So, I guess as long as the mercury doesn’t freeze, there will always appear to be a silver lining.

Thanks for letting me vent,

May

The Scary Storm

There’s a profound metaphor a-brewin’.

While scrolling through my Facebook feed and ignoring the happy, oblivious posts of those who aren’t being affected by Sandy, I came across this photo. Click on it and say some prayers.

Winds are howling, lights are flickering, transformers are exploding. Autobots wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons. There are reports of green electrical arcs in the sky, a scary form of the Aurora Borealis. I doubt New York has seen many hurricanes, and it probably hasn’t received the Noreasters that Boston has, but it seems that the Big Apple finally gets to enforce a lot of its emergency preparations. I know my friends are prepared.

The island would seem different than a mainland hit, because it’s an island. Two and a half miles wide by 12-13 miles long. The tunnels and bridges are closed.

Yet, no man is an island.

But I also don’t want to downplay the rest of the Northeastern shore. They also have floods and fallen trees and power outages. Leaky ceilings and floating cars.

Hang on to your hats.

My friends are prepared. I’ve seen their statuses of the provisions they’ve gathered. Lights, food, batteries, water, cheerful souls and prayerful hearts. When the winds stop whipping and the water subsides, they’ll use their optimism to clean up their towns and get back to their usual lives. Which happen to be extraordinary.

I believe John Donne.

Sandy Dunkin New York

Right now I imagine a former home of mine is receiving a lot of rain, lightning, and high winds. Many former homes have been part of those circumstances.

I was born during a typhoon in the Philippines. This may be why I don’t really freak out during big rains. My birth versus the storm: I won, but I’ve also always made sure never to get too cocky. Don’t stand in an open field under lightning clouds. Don’t play in puddles and get ringworm.

I lived in Guam. Seems if you live in the Pacific Ocean, you have to expect the whole range of tropical weather. Which would include earthquakes. And if volcanoes were nearby, those, too.

I lived in Key West. Consistently warm weather often compelled my brother and me to stay inside with the air conditioning. But I played a lot outside, too. But I mostly blame Key West for making me break my brother’s arm.

I lived in Jacksonville. Hurricanes mostly miss Jacksonville. The city often catches the fringes of the swirlstorms, and it receives a lot of rain, but Jax has had its share of lucky breaks when hurricanes decide to turn northward toward the Carolinas. And that’s not so lucky for the Carolinas.

I lived in New York City. That damn town greeted me with a blizzard, and it rained when I left it nearly 7 years later. That place brought out my allergies and gave me a true glimpse of depression. Rain, snow, strikes, sweltering and stifling heat. I miss that place.

I live in Utah. The sun is out, I can see the mountains that still hang on to the turned leaves. I walked two blocks through wet and heavy snow the other day, and I felt nostalgic. Today, nary a trace of that white stuff. But the mountains cling to that, too.

New York, I know you’re prepared. Candles, flashlights, water, food, batteries. Board games, radio. Dance parties. Storytime. Quality time. Run to the Hills. Or Washington Heights. I’ll be praying for you.