As the Cyclist Turns: Brooklyn Edition

 

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This is my first installment of As the Cyclist Turns but probably not my last!

Like all work day mornings, I dropped the girls off at school and hopped on my bike to ride to work. Commuting by bike is a crazy endeavor in NYC and as I’ve learned over the past year, there is no shortage of insanity on the roads. This morning, I was taking the normal route when I noticed another rider salmoning (going the wrong way) up the bike lane. This is not out of the ordinary in Brooklyn because many people don’t understand how the bike lanes work. As I got closer to the rider, I noticed he was riding erratically and yelling at the cyclists riding past. As he got closer to me he began screaming at me to get out of the way and as he passed he spit in my face. Now spit is probably the most disgusting substance in existence and my kryptonite. It makes me crumple into fits of emotion and this was no exception, as soon as this happened I stopped. I needed to gather myself and figure out what the hell had just happened. I turned around to see where he went and saw him trying to run other riders off the road. My husband was behind me and something about him made Mr. Crazy jump off of his bike. He dropped his bike, started chasing and punching after my husband and screaming about “white fuckers”. When he couldn’t take out his aggression on a person he began kicking and punching a parked car, leaving huge dents. We didn’t stick around to see what happened next because clearly this person was looking to hurt someone.

We took off and headed to work. When I got to my office I called the local precinct to give them a description because I’m sure this man will strike again. Anyway, here’s a brief description in case you come into contact. Tread lightly, he is volatile.

Caucasian Male, early to mid-thirties, 5’11, stocky build, tan, curly brown hair, baggy t-shirt and basketball shorts and he is riding a mountain bike around the Greenpoint area. If you see this guy, watch the F out!

Let’s just hope he gets help.

 

Twenty Minutes

I’m giving a talk tomorrow on Gentle Parenting. I’ve been doing so much research over the past few weeks so that I can cover a wide array of topics but also so I don’t sound like a total ass! When I was going over my research I came across a little piece I wrote 2 years ago (let me wipe the tears now). It encompasses my relationship with Adeline in just a few words, and I love it. After an entire day of insanity, as a mother, all I needed was Twenty Minutes of her to erase all of the bad!

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Twenty-Minutes – 2013

My youngest is three and at her most challenging age thus far. Most days are spent wheeling and dealing, compromising, crying, splitting up fights, yelling, threatening and at some point one of us (usually me) in a room thinking up our next move. Not all days are this intense but it seems more and more lately. I have been through the 3s before with my oldest and I remember feeling discouraged, angry, guilty and frustrated but either my patience has diminished or this child is part devil!

I hate fighting with her but there are times when we need to leave the house, wear clothes, eat food, not spit on the carpet, not rip drawings off the wall, not punch her sister, stay out of traffic and keep her screaming to a low roar. I try communicating with her; help her understand her frustration but some days we just go to proverbial blows. I put in the time with parenting books and philosophies, which are valuable and have helped with so many problems but what they do not supply me with is the ability to not lose my shit after the four-thousandth loogie she has hawked on the floor. So, I just try and remember she is three, she will not always be three and things will get better (even though some days feel like eternity).

The other thing I rely on is bedtime; sometimes I count down the hours until I can finally have a moment of silence and sanity. Bedtime of course is no easy task. It is so bittersweet with the refusal to brush teeth, her refusal to stop screaming or jumping on the bed but the moment she finally gives in is heavenly! The twenty-minutes it takes for her to fall into a deep sleep feels like the most rejuvenating twenty-minutes of life and I live for it. She crawls into bed, rolls over and says “mommy hold me.” I curl up next to her tiny, warm, silent body and take it all in. Those twenty-minutes are magic for our relationship. She has the comfort and security of her mother and I get to recharge and remind myself that these days are fleeting, and to try and enjoy them. No matter how hard the day has been, those twenty-minutes make it all ok, make each day worth it and nothing heals my broken day like those minutes right before she falls asleep!

Gentle Parenting Talk, Friday, November 6, 9-10

A wonderful business that helps provide childcare and workspace, is having a series of talks, one in which I’m involved in. The Workaround will be hosting me and a discussion on gentle parenting. I would not call myself the master of gentle parenting and positive discipline but I’ve had my hands in many groups/organizations that focus on just that thing. The focus of the talk will be to help parents understand behavior and how better to guide children and help with frustrations. These are lasting techniques that can help create an environment of communication that will have long term results!

Come by and check it out!talkabout!

Let Them Dream…

A few years ago, Jason and I had this wacky idea to move from New York City to Santa Cruz, CA. We lived there for 2.6 years and realized that we didn’t really fit in. However, I managed to meet some amazing people and connect with a great organization, The Resource Center for Nonviolence. There, I met Jacqueline Seydel. I instantly liked her because of her infectious personality and intelligence. She was really strong in her political beliefs about women’s issues and appeared fearless! She is a young, adventurous woman who loves to read, ride her bike, and spend time having fun. She is the daughter of a woman who was once described by her children’s soccer coach as a ball of fire. I am very happy to have her write a piece here, especially about her relationship with her mother! Thanks Jacqueline!

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Traveling became a real thing that I dreamt about when I was 12 or 13. A few friends and I would spin a globe around with our eyes closed and let our finger drop somewhere. We held so much excitement and would soon discuss everything we knew or what we wondered about this place. I used to drag my finger until I felt the subtle, braille like ridges of mountains. At the time, we committed to starting a band “The Melancholy Meltdown” – that’s how we would get to these places, meet new faces, and escape the dark places in our head.

Those years will be some of the darkest in our lives, I am sure. The desire to leave our surroundings was real and rooted in our realities as young girls who all had experiences we couldn’t understand at that time. Traveling, getting away, was our manifestation to believe in something else. We needed that faith. We needed a path to transcend our pain. We needed each other to share stories and dreams.

Overtime I let that dream go – well, not the traveling but the band. At that point, I could barely play the recorder and had a few years of flute in school. Jayme could plan shocking stage stunts and create some thought provoking artwork for our publicity. Siera sung briefly in her church choir and years later picked up a guitar. Eventually, she played in a band in Chicago during college. She has a beautiful voice, is a poet, an artist, a world traveler. More importantly, she is an inspiring, badass, breastfeeding Mama.

I eventually found my way to Costa Rica, Peru, and Mexico. It feels incredible to have reached one of my childhood dreams. Many factors played a role – but a significant factor was my mother. A strong woman who worked, cooked, cleaned, drove, helped, gifted and did so many unnoticed things for my siblings and I. And you know what? We gave her hell. But that did not matter. My dreams, my thirst for travel, would not have been possible without her. The fact that I am 25 and still dreaming is proof of her support, sometimes harsh and hard to hear.

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I am not yet a mother. I have not birthed a child or powerfully shot another human through my cervix. However, I am a daughter of an incredible mother. I am a curious traveler, a cyclist, a feminist, an avid book reader, a poet, and a compassionate human being. My mother has pushed me to me. During my childhood I can remember things that helped me, hurt me, and that I slowly grew to be grateful for. It took a lot of time. Yet, I can look at myself now and know that as my relationship with my mother grows, it is her constant belief and encouragement that has given me my strength to keep achieving my dreams. It is her worried concern that guided my forward thinking. It is her values that laid the path of my actions. It is her quick-witted sense that gave me the skills to problem solve in tricky situations.

When I think about what I can offer to the mothers of this blog it’s this. Let them dream – big, weird, funky, unearthly dreams until they choose one or a few or many to work towards. Then, love them even if you don’t understand or agree yet. Work harder than ever to let them know you’re there. Even if you waiver, express your hesitations, and let go. Mend them when they fall. Soothe their sores, aches, and pains. Believe in them when they doubt themselves.  Let them dream.

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She Started It All!

kissingThe evening in question happened some time in January 2008. The Laning couple had just spent a weekend away from each other doing their various social justice work. Mr. Laning had been involved in an action in D.C. with Witness Against Torture, where he was arrested for protesting at the Supreme Court. Ms. Laning was engaging in her first nonviolence workshop with Alternative to Violence Project, where she spent a weekend with ex-gang members in the Bronx. It was one of those rewarding, transformative weekends where you view the world differently. Apparently, we viewed the world so differently we decided to make a baby, our first!

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The pregnancy was normal and miserable (I quickly discovered I hated pregnancy). I was working full time, puking part time and growing a gigantic baby. I didn’t really have any pregnant friends or family around, and so I sought out my own community. I joined a yahoo group and arranged pregnancy meet ups after work. The meet ups quickly turned into pregnant ladies complaining about pregnancy and stuffing their faces; basically perfect! It was a great way to meet people and talk about things my husband didn’t understand! I didn’t know much about pregnancy and labor, and so I researched the hell out of everything. I had not been exposed to much about births other than my mother who had two c-sections, and my sister who had two hospital births. I did not know anything about midwives, natural birth or home birth but knew I wanted something different from what I had heard. I remember the first time I watched the Business of Being Born and bawled every time a baby was born. Actually, I watched births on youtube constantly and read birth stories like crazy. I was obsessed with this world and knew I wanted it. I contacted my insurance company and they falsely told me they would not cover a home birth. I did what I thought was the second best option and went to a midwife practice at Beth Israel.

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The midwives at Beth Israel were nice and I particularly liked one. She was British and really open to any of my alternative ways of laboring. She was brutally honest about the hospital and informed me that many of the practices at the hospital were archaic. I tried to ignore this as much as possible because I wanted to believe in my ability to force my needs and wants when it came to labor. As my pregnancy progressed, it became clear that I was going to give birth to a 10lb baby. This was a concern for my midwife because she claimed the hospital frowned against vaginal births and big babies. Around my due date (the first week of October) she intervened and swept my membranes. I agreed to this because I was worried if my labor didn’t get started, they were going to force me into surgery. This was not a healthy mindset for a full term pregnancy.

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The morning of October 4, 2008 I woke up giant, pregnant and leaky. I couldn’t really distinguish between the type of leaky I was feeling and the normal type of leaky. So, I used the bathroom, ate some breakfast and waited to find out what would happen. The leaking kept happening and seemed heavy enough I called the midwife. She asked some questions and then told me to wait 24 hours before heading into the hospital. She explained that if I were to go into the hospital now, they would either send me home or strap me to a machine. So I waited, wet and uncomfortable. I was not feeling any pains other than braxton hicks, waited my 24 hours and I headed into the hospital. They checked me and said I was at most 1cm dilated and no contractions. They tested my leak and claimed it was urine. I had no faith in these people from that moment because it was clear to me that my leak was not urine. Anyway, they sent me home angry, worried and very uncomfortable.

The following morning, Monday, October 6 I went in for post-date, fetal testing. I was leaking like crazy (towels in my pants crazy) and very irritated. The testing went fine, my fluid was good and my baby was healthy. I headed to the midwife, pulled down my pants and she freaked! Not only was I leaking like crazy but now there was meconium, or newborn baby poo. This was a red flag because it was obvious there had been fluid leaking for two days and the baby may be in trouble. Before she sent me to the hospital to be admitted, she told me to stop and eat before because they would not allow me to eat during labor. She also told me to sneak in gatorade because I would need it. I followed orders, worried and scared.

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I arrived to the hospital and they immediately started a pitocin drip, strapped on a baby monitor, laid me on my back and told me not to get up. Until this point, I had not felt any real contractions and so when the pit contractions hit, I was overwhelmed. The contractions were strong and constant but I remained strong and refused medication. This process went on for 7-10 hours and with each hour they would increase my dosage. At around this point the contractions were coming every few minutes and hitting me so hard I cried. I could not get up and walk off the pain, or get on my hands and knees. Everything they told me to do felt opposite to what my body was telling me. I completely lost connection to the baby and could not do anything but focus on fear and pain. Around hour 10 I finally gave into their suggestions for drugs and got an epidural. Not only was the pain too intense but I was not progressing; having only reached 3 cm at this point. Also, I had a fever and could not keep up with the demands of consciousness.

Once the epidural was in, I relaxed and slept. I felt nothing and after 7 more hours in “labor” I began to throw up and I felt her drop. She was in the birth canal and I felt it. It was the only thing I had felt in the second half of labor and I knew it was time to push. I started pushing regardless of who was around, I knew she was ready to come. The midwife and nurse came in to check on things and agreed it was time to go. The baby was doing well and I had enough strength in me to push her out. After I had been pushing for 10-15 minutes a bunch of people came into my room. They claimed because of my fever the baby was in distress and they were worried about infection. They tried to give me a fever reducer but since I was pushing, the medication did not stay in (this is what happens when they try to administer medication to a pregnant woman who is pushing a baby out). So the doctor came in and made a decision, “Ms. Laning, if you don’t push this baby out in 10 mins, we are taking her out.”

It was at this moment that I gave up. I knew there was no way she was coming out now because my body shut down. It went into flight mode and they wheeled me into the O.R. I don’t remember much about my surgery other than feeling cold, exhausted and high. A couple of times I remember them adding more meds because I could feel them cutting me, and I was shaking on the bed. I knew they were done when I heard her cry and it was magic. I wanted her so badly but my body wasn’t able to have her. I felt some comfort knowing her dad could take care of her and that she was healthy (the cry was intense)!

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They brought her over to me and immediately I felt differently. Yes, I was totally out of it but I was so happy to see her, to hold her, to have her in my life. It wasn’t perfect but she certainly was. It wasn’t much later that I passed out and they wheeled me into recovery. Dad had to make a choice between his wife and child, which I know was hard. She needed him more than me but it was the first time he had to chose someone over me.

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I woke up in recovery alone, high, sore and scared. I was in a room with a bunch of empty beds and I yelled out. A nurse came to me and I told her I wanted my baby (it was more of a demand). They wheeled me into the NICU to see her. She was staying in the NICU because they believed she may have an infection from the meconium or my fever. She was huge, 9 lbs 6.8 oz,  20.5 inches and looked like she could eat the other babies (my little sumo)! They had all kinds of wires and machines attached to her, they were giving her antibiotics and pricking her foot every hour to test for infection. It was not something I handled well. This was really our first meeting because I barely remembered the first. She opened her eyes and looked deeply into my soul. She knew my voice immediately and calmed down, it was truly a magical moment. They allowed me to nurse her for a few minutes but made me give her up way too soon.

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From the moment of our first meeting, I fought every second to get her out of that hospital. They bullied me into giving her formula, claiming my milk had not come in. I was producing colostrum (liquid gold) and that was all she needed but I agreed to the formula because they told me they would let her out of the NICU. The formula they gave her distended her stomach and she threw up everywhere. Once I finally got her back I went to see the lactation consultant who became a quick ally. Everything she said made sense to me and was in opposition to what the other nurses were saying. She taught me a lot about nursing and was the one positive thing (other than Emma) that came out of that place. We played the game as best we could so we could get out and after three days they released us. I had never been so relieved as the moment I walked out of that place and was able to take my baby home.

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We adjusted to life as a new family poorly. Emma refused anything but me, and I struggled to deal with my birth. I cried a lot in the beginning and so did she. A wave of anxiety hit me so hard that I could barely function on the inside. My mom stayed with me for a couple of weeks which really helped with recovery but nothing could have ever prepared me for the emotions that hit after her birth. It was so hard to recover physically and emotionally while trying to care for a newborn. I didn’t let any of it stop me from doing my job and she was cared for very well but we struggled. Emma never slept (and didn’t until she was 3), she nursed all day and night and freaked if I put her down. I know now that all of this was related to birth trauma and we both felt very insecure without each other. I tried to go back to work when she was 9 weeks old and it didn’t last because I cried every day for a month and quit. We eventually figured it all out but those first few months were rough.

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We went to therapy together to deal with my anxiety and we healed together. She was a very perceptive and wise baby, and she taught me many things about being a mother. We adored each other and she completely transformed me. I never expected to accept my birth because I was just so angry but I learned to appreciate her birth. Now that so many years have passed, the exact emotions leading up to surgery are a little fuzzy. I can really only see images about the experience and I think that is good. Trauma is emotionally and physically draining, and if I were to continue to carry those intense feelings with me forever, I would not function properly. I have had to let go of those feelings in order to be a happier person and a better mother. It is not an easy task but time has definitely been my friend. Aside from having time on my side to heal, I have also begun looking at my hospital experience in a whole new way. I am not saying I look back and think “that was a good thing, the doctors sure knew what they were doing” but I can look back now and see so much life, Emma’s life. Emma’s life changed my life forever and I cannot thank her enough. Actually, each day I should say that to both of my children but rarely do. When I look back at my birth with Emma, I now see only her life and how it makes everything better. Without Emma, life would be meaningless, without Emma, we would not be a family.

I retell Emma her birth story on her birthday every year, partially because she asks and partially because it is amazing.  When I started retelling her story, I had to chose my words carefully. I was pissed about my section but how could I possibly make Emma feel like her entrance into this world was devastating. My birth experience was not her fault and she should in no way feel the weight of that. I started telling Emma that her birth can be explained by her stubbornness, assuredness and attachment to me. These have been her strongest traits since birth! She has such an intense personality and it actually makes sense to me that she was a difficult birth! When I tell her story or think about her birth, I think about how hard it was and how Emma and I shared this truly difficult experience but it was what forged our relationship. We were tested as mother and daughter, we prevailed as mother and daughter, and our love is way bigger than any crappy birth story!

Happy 7 years to the girl who made me a mother. I get to hang out with you and be in your life, and I cannot think of anything better. You drive me crazy with your moodiness, sarcasm and intensity but you balance this with your empathy, kindness, and desire to do good. You are a complex creature who feels beyond your years, and ability but it is these things that draw people to you. Each year you get stronger and I see you being able to handle this gift, and I know the world is going to benefit immensely from it!

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Birthday Wishes to the only man in my house, in my house!

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39 years ago my man was born, and if he knew I was writing this he would totally hate it! Well, too bad because today I’m going to honor your birth baby! Join me on a wild ride of pics and gushyness to celebrate this guy!

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I met Jason in 1998, just a wee lad of 21 years old. He was driving a beat up Jetta, played in a punk band, was attending art school, painted and had an attitude I couldn’t resist. I pretty much hated him at first because I thought he was pompous, rude and solipsistic but I was intimidated and really, really attracted to him! We fought endlessly for that first week until we finally gave in and I moved in (which is totally my style, not his)!

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Our lives have changed so much since we met 17 years ago including moving to Brooklyn, having two babies, moving to California, moving back to Brooklyn and getting crazy old! One thing that has not changed is his desire for knowledge and his quest for adventure, it is probably one of his most attractive qualities. Over the years he has played music, played sports, written for blogs, joined social justice movements, painted, biked, hiked, backpacked, fished, surfed, husbanded and fathered. I’ve often referred to him as a Renaissance man (or a polymath) because I’ve always been amazed at what he can do. I used to compete with him but after losing almost everything, every time, I gave up and decided to be his groupie instead!

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Life with a man this talented and smart can be difficult (can you imagine the ego) but it is never boring. He keeps me on my toes, pushes me forward and challenges me to no end. I see so much of him in our children which freaks me out and excites me at the same time. Emma has that annoying habit of being good at everything she tries, and the desire to be good at everything she tries. She has endless talent and the personality that forces her into the dark side when things don’t go well. Adeline is very internal and has so much imagination and creativity. She is musically gifted and has great comic timing (which definitely came from dad) but she struggles to be social in new situations. I imagine both of these girls going far in life because they have his drive, his smarts, his good looks, his adventurous spirit and his humor.

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All of my greatest memories have been with this man and I really don’t remember a time he wasn’t there. The beginning of our relationship was just us and for 10 years we got to be selfish, adventurous and wild. The past 7 have been shared with two wonderful people that we created. They have refused us the relationship we once had but from the moment he held his children, he became a more complicated, sensitive and loving person.

jason as dad

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They give him shit constantly and think of him more as a punching bag than a cuddling bag (that’s me) but these girls look to him every day, and see a man who is caring, supportive, fun, smart and badass! May we all remember to tell you this more often, and learn to support you as much as you support us!

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So I leave you with this Jason. May you have a wonderful day and many more kick ass birthdays! We LOVE you!!!

Coming Home…

I have a lot of guilt about working full time and only seeing my girls 2 to 3 hours a day. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way, and so I’ve come up with a list of ways to make coming home a big deal! As I’m riding home from work I get excited about seeing those little faces and hearing about their day. Yes I’m tired, yes I’m not super happy with my day but we get so little time together that I want to make it a positive experience.

  1. Be happy to see them. Walk in the door happy and acknowledge them immediately.
  2. Hug them, kiss them, say I love you and missed you, get down on their level
  3. Find out how their day was and listen. Talk about your day too, as long as it ins’t just complaining (they have missed you and don’t want to hear about adult problems).
  4. Sit down with them and talk. Not just about their day but anything, open communication is huge. Sometimes we just crawl into my bed and snuggle.
  5. Do homework if needed. If the homework is done, look it over and talk about it.
  6. Make dinner and invite them to help
  7. Have dinner together and talk extensively about their day, their emotions, who they played with, what classes they had, how their afternoon was, did they have fun with the babysitter. I also like to make sure they know what to expect for the rest of the night such as bath, games, stories, bed, etc. This time of the day is actually one of our most fun because dinner time is silly time!
  8. Take baths
  9. Play a game or make art
  10. Get ready for bed
  11. Read stories, hug kiss, sweet dreams, I love yous.

Our schedule isn’t perfect and I miss them so much but if things must be this way, then we must make the most out of the time we have!