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Aggressive Driving

The following letter, written by Sarah, was published in the Villager, a local neighborhood newspaper, in their October 14, 2015 edition.


Last week, I rode my bike, equipped with a seat for my three-year-old and a trailer, to Target in Midway. On my way home from shopping, I rode along Hamline Avenue and was aggressively forced dangerously close to the curb and yelled at out of the window by a man in a very large SUV to “Get the f*** off the road!” as he cut his right turn right in front of me. I was rattled and shaken, most importantly because I had my three-year-old daughter with me, clearly visible to the driver.

I am a law-abiding bike rider. I have a flag on my trailer, always wear a helmet (as do my children), use bike lanes when applicable, would never even dream of blowing through an intersection or stoplight, yield and stop when I am supposed to, give hand turn signals, and never assume that drivers are going to give me the right-of-way. I usually go out of my way to avoid heavy traffic, but when I need to (as in my route to Target, which is difficult to get to using side streets), I am very aware of my place on the road and act accordingly.

99% of the time, drivers are exceptionally courteous to me as a bike rider, especially when my children are present. I am constantly pleasantly surprised when drivers at stop signs wave me across or stop for me to cross a busy intersection. But all it takes is one person driving aggressively for a tragedy to occur. A typical SUV weighs 6,000 pounds. My bike and trailer, plus me and my children, probably top out at 300 pounds. It’s easy to see who would be the loser in that confrontation.

We have all made bone-headed mistakes as drivers. I drive a minivan and have certainly been distracted enough to not see a biker or pedestrian quickly enough to slow down or give the right-of-way. I try very hard to be a courteous driver, but there are going to be times when I accidentally scare someone on foot or on a bike. What I experienced was no accident. The message to me from that driver was very clear: I am willing to purposefully endanger your life and your child’s life to get where I need to go. If you know an aggressive driver, talk to them. If you see aggressive driving, record and report the license plate. Let’s work together as a community to make our roads safe for everyone using them, including bike riders and pedestrians.

Loss

I’ve been struggling with how to write this post, or even whether to write it at all. Should I write it just for me, or write it to share? And I’ve decided to share it because this type of loss is something that is all too common among women, and I feel like we just don’t talk about it enough: I have had two miscarriages in the past year.

Andrew and I have been very lucky with our pursuit of expanding our family. Griffin and Maggie were conceived and birthed with very few complications. Two for two made us confident in the decision to try for a third, albeit a little more cautious considering our ages (I am 37, Andrew 42).

Miscarriage number one happened in March. I knew it was a statistical probability, but when it actually happened, I was a little stunned. It was still early in the pregnancy (I should have been around 8 weeks), and I was just starting to wonder about the baby and how it would change our family. After we found out the pregnancy wasn’t viable, I mourned the loss of a possibility more than an actual baby, and told myself to feel thankful for the two healthy kids we already have, feel thankful that I didn’t lose a baby later in pregnancy or at birth, or god forbid, lose a living child. I truly was thankful for all of those things, AND there was still a sense of loss that was greater than I expected. Much greater. It really threw me, including making me question whether we really should try again for a third child. I struggled with rocking the boat of the good thing we’ve got going on with the four of us, whether I wanted to risk going through a miscarriage again, how far I would be willing to go for another child…

In the end, we decided to try again. I got pregnant again at the beginning of August. The estimated due date would have been Andrew’s birthday in April, and we joked about how it seems like we’re destined to have all of our babies in April (Griffin’s birthday is April 8th, Maggie’s is April 24). I hoped the baby could wait until May, just to make life a little less crazy in April. I was relieved that this pregnancy felt different from the last: I had nausea, I was exhausted, and just overall, felt more pregnant than the last time. Then I had an early ultrasound, and the dating showed us off by about two weeks. This was a bit of a worry to me, but there was a heartbeat, so I clung to that. Then, three weeks ago, I began to bleed. We found out a few days later that this pregnancy was also not viable. I should have been 11 weeks.

I am mad. I am disappointed. I am weepy. I feel a little broken. I wish I had some answers. I am holding my two kids, whom I adore, adore, adore (even when they’re driving me nuts), tighter and making sure they hear me say, “I love you,” all of the time. I am marveling at the wonders they are, and thankful for the relative ease with which they came into our lives. I am in awe of how other women do it: those who keep on trying and do not succeed, those who lose their babies later in pregnancy or shortly after birth, those who lose their growing babies or children. This LOSS. It is deeper than I ever knew possible. To be attached to a being who doesn’t even exist yet feels so strange, and yet, there it is. There is truly no amount of logic that can explain the sadness of losing the idea of what could be, especially in the face of the richness that I already have.

There are many ways that people explain or deal with this type of loss. Many people take comfort in the idea that their unborn children wait for them in the afterlife. I respect that belief, but I do not believe in divine intervention, heaven, or an afterlife. What brings me comfort is the idea that women have held this loss before me. They have held it, grieved it, and pass on the knowledge of the struggle to me. I have met a lot of women since revealing I have had a miscarriage who have this knowledge, and while I don’t think it should define us, it is a part of who we are. This kind of knowledge deserves to be shared, whether it is a quiet acknowledgement or detailed processing with friends or family, I encourage people to talk. I hope it helps.


Postscript:

This post was written as a way to talk about my miscarriages, and I had started writing it before the second miscarriage had passed and completed. (For those unfamiliar with miscarriage, it generally takes a few weeks to pass, from the start of bleeding to the end.) This second time around, I did pass most of the miscarriage naturally, but unfortunately, not all of it passed cleanly and I started to hemorrhage in the middle of the night. This resulted in a large amount of blood loss and a visit to the ER. While in the ER, as I was being assessed, I suddenly started going into hypovolemic shock (shock caused by an excessive loss of bodily fluids). It was the scariest event of my life, and for a few incredibly terrifying minutes, I felt like I might die. Thankfully, the ER team at HCMC stabilized me quickly, and with fluids and a procedure to stop the bleeding, I was discharged to go home six hours later. This fact, that I was in serious medical distress at 5am and discharged on my own two feet by noon, continues to baffle me. Luckily, I did not need a blood transfusion, but I am anemic and have been slowly recovering with lots of rest, nutritious food, iron supplements, and TLC from family and friends. Frankly, my ER experience has eclipsed my feelings about the pregnancy loss. The potential for loss had I not gone in to the ER has haunted me the last couple of weeks, and I have spent a lot of time feeling grateful for trusting my instincts to get medical help when I just didn’t feel right, grateful for the support network we have, and most of all, deeply thankful for my life and three of the most important people in it.

Mississippi Whalesongs

At about 4:00 AM this morning Sarah and I awoke to the songs of a passing pod of whales. Truly, it sounded like distorted whalesongs, or  a family of giants groaning in their sleep, or some 100-foot tall shutters creaking in the wind. We lay there, bemused, wondering what it could be. We didn’t have any good guesses. Our most realistic hypotheses didn’t make much sense: the crane at Macalester creaking in the cold? Distant wolves howling in the suburbs? Turns out, we weren’t the only people awakened by it. Local news sites ran headlines like these:

Strange howling sound awakens St. Paul

 

Whales? Organ music? St. Paul residents try to place eerie early-morning noise

 

MYSTERY HOWL: What caused haunting St. Paul sounds?

 
Nobody is sure what the sound was, but after eliminating a number of possibilities (including checking to make sure there were no train accidents in the vicinity) the best guess of the Army Corps of Engineers is that it was shifting ice in high winds on the Mississippi.
 
Check it out for yourself (works best at high volume with no other background noise):

 

January 2014

It’s been a very busy month around here so the blog has been neglected. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Sarah’s birthday!
  • Unbelievably cold weather. I wrote a post about the cold in December, but that was nothing. On January 6, the Governor officially closed all the schools in the state due to the cold for the first time since 1997. That was the first of a string of ultra-cold days. Local public schools have missed five days already this month due to dangerously cold temperatures; these were not snow days. At SPA (my school) we missed only 4 ½ days because we reopened at noon on one of the days. This many lost days is unprecedented in the memories of my veteran colleagues.  We’ve had multiple days where the high temperature was below zero, and wind chills in the Twin Cities have dipped into the -40s. Crazy! With that said, I’m pleased to note that my cold weather gear is handling it marvelously — those ski goggles are getting far more use than usual!
Griffin and Daddy, ready for the wrath of Boreas
Griffin and Daddy, ready for the wrath of Boreas
  • Sandy’s shoulder surgery. My mom, Sandy, (usually known as “Grummy” around here) had shoulder surgery at the beginning of the month. Recovery looked very good for 24 hours, then very bad for another 24, and a slow but steady recovery since then. I flew out for MLK weekend and had a wonderful visit despite the struggles.
  • “Winterupt.” At SPA we’ve launched a new two-week program for 8th graders called Winterupt. (See the announcement letter I wrote to 8th grade families if you’d like more info; it’s a bit PR sounding, but it gives a good overview.) It’s been a ton of work and we’re only half-way through, but the first week has been outstanding. I feel lucky to work with an amazing team of educators who make this whole thing come alive. Today I simply had a blast doing my job. In the course of a few hours this afternoon I got to play with legos, tromp around in the snow with 80 kids (taking measurements and trying to locate hidden rubber ducks), assist students in creating accurate scale sketches of our playground, blast great music, and try to get a cookie from my forehead to my mouth without using my hands (I succeeded, but then had to spit the cookie out because I’m not eating sugar and flour right now, see below).
  • Whole30. Sarah and I are almost done with our second Whole30 program. It’s basically 30-days where you don’t eat or drink sugar, grains, dairy or legumes. This is, obviously, a royal pain in the ass, but it’s worth it. We’ve both experienced it a bit differently this time around. Sarah has been less excited about it this year, and is definitely ready for day 30 (next week). I, too, am a bit fatigued by it (I had to spit out an oreo, grrr) but have mostly found it to be far easier than last year. In particular I like how it resets my appetite, makes food more about sustenance than emotional satisfaction, and makes me pay more attention to what I’m eating.
  • Escargot! The cafeteria today featured food from France and China (this connects to the language immersion component of Winterupt, and our cafeteria is awesome.) I had never had escargot before, and there it was for the taking. At first I was a bit leery, but then I saw some of my students heading back for seconds. If they could try something new, so could I. Overall impression… not bad. Loved the garlic sauce. Reminded me of shellfish or octopus—the chewy texture. Will definitely try it again some time. (Note that technically this broke some Whole30 rules because I think it was soaked in butter, but trying somewhat legendary cuisine trumped the fine print.)
Escargot
My snail.

Hello cold!

Winter has arrived for real. Our first big winter storm just passed through at the head of a mass of arctic air. Lots of snow yesterday (more than three feet on the north shore, but much less in the cities) and now the temps are plummeting. My phone greeted me with this outlook this morning — yes, Fahrenheit. I walk to school before sunrise, so those lows are what I dress for. And the wind chills are much lower. Brrr!

WeatherBug results this morning
WeatherBug results this morning

 

Update: this is my standard costume for sub-zero temps. The only thing I’ve ever added to this are additional under layers and a second hat on the rare days when the air temp drops closer to -20.

Space Suit
My space suit.

 

Update 2: A bit colder than expected on Saturday, with a vicious wind chill, and this is after the sun has been up for a while. Geez.

Really Cold
Colder than expected.