Like it or not, life is going to change

By August 22, 2016 Musings, The Daily Dish

IMG_4878

Ever since finding out I was pregnant back in April, I’ve been consumed with worry.

Am I going to miscarry again? Is this really happening? What am I supposed to do?

These days, though, I’m obsessed with something else.

Change.

I mean, major change. Like, my-whole-life-will-never-be-the-same change.

And it’s scary.

I find myself daydreaming about my former life, before dogs, between boyfriends, when I didn’t have to compromise on Netflix movies, when I could surf whenever I wanted, when I could plan a last-minute trip to Nepal if I found cheap tickets online.

Now, I have three dogs that need to be walked twice a day, a husband whose schedule I need to respect, a paycheck I can’t just squander, a yard that needs weeding, a fridge that needs filling and now a baby that’s coming whether I’m ready for it or not.

I’m sure my anxiety is normal. Every first-time expectant mom worries about this. No pre-sunrise, 12-mile hikes on the weekends. No more napping in the middle of the day. No more sleeping, period. My life will revolve around pumping and feeding and burping and bathing. There won’t be time — and money — for pedicures or massages or yoga retreats. No more spontaneous trips to third-world countries. And Champagne for dinner will be a painfully sad memory.

I worry about my own goals, even the small ones (like picking up my guitar more than once a week), that they’ll all be put on hold as my priorities inevitable shift. Will I miss them? Will I be resentful? Will I have to give all that up?

One of my girlfriends gave birth this weekend to her second child, a miracle baby. She’s a year older than me and had pretty much given up on getting pregnant again.

I asked her how much her life has changed and she agreed it had changed a lot. “But,” she said, “it’s better. Life is way better. I don’t know what [my husband] and I did together by ourselves.”

When I was younger, I figured I’d have kids. It was just something I thought I would do, along with securing a full-time job with benefits and owning a home.

But as I got older, I realized those goals aren’t as easy or as practical as they may have sounded. There’s really no perfect job and I didn’t major in anything that would get me the kind of salary where I could actually afford to own a home in Hawai‘i. (God, I wish I loved accounting.)

So there. Life didn’t work out the way I had planned.

And having a baby? Also not as easy as it sounded.

There was a time, maybe about 10 years ago, that I had stopped thinking about having kids. I was dating someone who didn’t want children, then single and worried I’d never find anyone, then single with a dog and loving the freedom. I saw less of my friends who were starting families and wondered what would happen when everyone abandoned me for a life with kids and trips to Disneyland. I would be alone, with my dog and surfboard collection, and I guess that would be OK.

But then I met my current husband, who was eager to start a family, and suddenly, there I was, weeping at inspiring stories about women in their 40s getting pregnant and stocking up on ovulation kits and pregnancy tests.

Everything changed.

And now that I’m nearly six-months pregnant, I realize things are about to change again. And soon.

I’ve already stopped surfing. (I can’t paddle on my swollen belly.) And hiking takes way too much time and effort. (I’m literally carrying 15 more pounds of weight — and not in a convenient place!) I sleep longer, I can’t drink wine, and I can barely eat more than carbs. Life has already started to change in ways that are hard to accept.

So what happens in four months when I have a newborn who needs my attention 24-7? Are my dogs going to hate me? Will I have to ditch my dreams of writing a novel or living in Paris or taking a year-long vacation around the world?

Will I care?

I don’t know. And, to be honest, not knowing is a bit of an adventure in itself.

I guess I’ll have to wait and see. Change is happening, and this baby is just going to have to come along for the ride.

You Might Also Like

What? My hair is going to fall out?

By August 1, 2016 Musings, The Daily Dish

IMG_2695

The other day my girlfriend, who has two boys and no plans to ever get pregnant again, told me that my hair was going to fall out.

Really? Seriously? As if I needed anything else weird to happen to me!

I just hit my fifth-month mark and, while we’re elated that this pregnancy has lasted so long, I’ve been weirded out about the strange things happening to my body — and beyond.

Why didn’t anyone tell me that morning sickness could be all-day sickness? Or that I would have strange dreams so vivid, I wake up at 3 a.m. — and after peeing for the third time that night — can’t go back to sleep?

Being pregnant is a strange thing. Your body is changing, your moods are all over the place, you’re craving foods you’ve never liked before.

No one told me that you could be so sick with nausea and vomiting that you could actually lose weight in the first trimester (a condition I now know as hyperemesis gravidarum) and have to get fluid and nutrition through an intravenous line every week.

Or that you would have to take a cocktail of medication to keep the nausea at bay for at least an hour so you could get work done.

Or that the medication may not even work and you’d be sick, anyway.

Or that you could feel the equivalent of motion sickness throughout the day, the worst being at night while you’re lying in bed. Like you’re on a small 18-foot Whaler in the middle of a very angry ocean and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Or that you can’t take any kind of motion sickness medication — or Advil and Pepto-Bismol, for that matter.

Or that you’d want to brush your teeth 17 times a day just to get the taste of whatever you could actually eat out of your mouth because it starts to make you sick. (I did have a stellar dental check-up, though, thanks to all that teeth-brushing. Bonus!)

Or that you’d cringe at eating some of your favorite foods, including pizza, fried chicken and plain white rice. How random.

Or that that only foods you can keep down are breads, crackers, bananas, cereal, milkshakes and Slurpees.

Or that even prenatal vitamins can make you queasy. Even the gummy ones. And you didn’t even know there were such things.

Or that your body gets so hot and sweaty, even on the rainiest, coldest nights, all you want to do is lie in front of a fan, on full blast, totally naked.

Or that, despite eating just carbs all day long, you still can’t fit that pair of jeans you keep around for your bloated days.

Or that feeling bloated is now a way of life.

Or that you forget the names of your pets, your dentist, your cousins, the person you just met.

Or that you pee ALL.THE.TIME.

Or that your husband would suddenly start purging everything in your house, including your bookshelves (with books), clothing, camping gear and your entire dining room table set.

Or that walking up the stairs to your front door would feel like hiking to the top of Kuli‘ou‘ou.

Or that people will want to rub your uterus — and you actually don’t mind it.

Or that you start dreaming about your child wanting to get a tattoo (this happened last night) and you start explaining that he should wait until he’s 30 because if you had gotten a tattoo when you had wanted one, you would still have Fido Dido on your ass with the phrase, “Nobody On Board,” next to it.

Or that you could close your eyes for a second during a commercial break and wake up the next morning. Naked in front of a fan.

Or that people can’t quite tell you’re pregnant yet and assume you’ve just gained a ton of weight.

Or that you find out your friends have kept all of their baby stuff — and their kids are in grade school already — cleaned and in tact, almost as if they were just waiting for you to get pregnant.

Or that cribs and strollers and car seats are expensive and that websites only make you more confused about them.

Or that your boobs are so big, you actually wish they were smaller.

Or that you’ll never sleep on your stomach again.

Or that being pregnant makes other people happy, like they’ve been rooting for you this whole time.

Or that a twinge of pain in your abdomen could actually make your smile.

Or that you realize how awesome your husband is because he suddenly wants to rub your back or fetch you another Slurpee and then he starts talking to your belly and you just die.

Or that your priorities start to suddenly change and things that mattered before don’t matter that much anymore.

Or that life will be different and interesting and better.

I’m just not looking forward to my hair falling out.

You Might Also Like

Pokémon Go is a Pokémon No to me

By July 22, 2016 Musings, The Daily Dish

pokemon-go

The other day, on my way to work, three teenage girls in graphic tees and glasses walked right into me outside a 7-Eleven.

It was clear from the iPhones in their hands and that strange swiping motion they were making they were playing Pokémon Go.

For those of you who aren’t one of the millions of people who have downloaded the free app already, Pokémon Go is a hugely popular augmented reality game where users “capture” virtual creatures — Pokémon — on their phones and wage war against each other. It boasts more than 30 million downloads and $35 million in revenues so far and is the first mobile game to surpass 10 million downloads in a week.

Despite its popularity in about 20 countries, the game was just released in Japan — the origin of Pokémon — today, with more than 1.3 million downloads in just the first three hours of its release.

In just two weeks, this game has become a global phenomenon.

And I’m not into it.

I had a debate with a coworker the other day about the game. He says it’s getting people out and about, tricking users into exercising when they likely would be sitting behind a game console. Isn’t that a good thing?

Uh, not when they’re walking into me at 7-Eleven!

I’ve seen people armed with iPhones wandering into our cul-de-sac — even in our driveway! — chasing virtual Pikachus and Jigglypuffs. That’s not cool. They walk in the middle of streets, wander grocery stores and public parks like zombies. It’s a bit annoying, to be honest.

We live in a beautiful place, designed with trees and blue skies and rainbows. How could an augmented reality be better? Look up from your iPhone or you’ll miss it.

And yet, people would rather live in an artificial world chasing virtual monsters. It’s just strange and sad to me. (Not to mention — and cue the conspiracy theorists — who knows who’s mining your phone for data on you!)

The game is already being blamed for accidents, crimes and injuries. (Japan’s government has warned players not to enter dangerous places, wander into obstacles or ride bicycles while playing the game. West Japan Railway banned it from train platforms.)

A man crashed his vehicle into a police car in Baltimore while using the app. (The entire thing was capture on police video.) In Delaware, a group of people assaulted and robbed a 20-year-old user. (The assailants, who stole cash and a gold chain, were playing the game, too.) And a registered sex offender in Indiana was caught playing the game with a 16-year-old boy, violating his probation.

I’m not anti-game. In fact, I had every game console every created. (I don’t think that’s entirely true, but it did start with an Atari and I was a bit obsessed with a Super NES and GameBoy for much of my teen years.) But I’ve resisted video games since college and have never played a single smartphone game — no Bejeweled or Angry Birds or Candy Crush — ever. Not one.

The reason is simple: There’s so much more to do than sit and matching lemon drops. (Though, I’ll admit, I’ve been tempted.) I’d rather surf or hike or walk my dogs — or even purge my closet — than waste time on an iPhone that I already feel I’m tethered to.

Not to judge anyone who downloads Pokémon Go and finds entertainment in capturing Mews and Muks. Really, I shouldn’t care what people do in their spare time. But just don’t wander into my driveway or run into me while I’m drinking a Slurpee. I’d like to stay out of your augmented reality, thanks.

You Might Also Like

No, I didn’t have a huge breakfast

By July 14, 2016 Musings, The Daily Dish

IMG_3816

Some of you have guessed it. Others have wondered. And still others thought maybe I was enjoying my job as a food editor too much.

But the truth is…

I’m (finally) pregnant!

It’s been a long time coming — and honestly, I couldn’t hide it anymore, figuratively or literally. I officially can’t fit my jeans and the only thing I want for dinner is a Slurpee.

We haven’t shared the news with many people, mostly because we’ve had at least two miscarriages last year and we felt like everyone who was so excited for us suffered the loss, too.

I’m into my fifth month, with a delivery date sometime around the holidays. I know at 41 and having miscarried in the past, I’m not out of the woods yet. And, as we’ve heard from many couples, you can lose your baby at any stage of pregnancy. So we’re cautiously optimistic — but more optimistic every day.

Let me tell you, getting pregnant was NOT easy.

It involved way more than just a bottle of wine and a back rub.

We had tried for a couple of years, first on our own and then with the help of over-the-counter ovulation kits, online message boards, ovulation tracking apps on my iPhone and fertility specialists. I’ve had long conversations with other women — you’d be surprised how many! — who have struggled with infertility. Some never got pregnant, even with costly IVF (in vitro fertilization). Some are young, not even 30, and having trouble getting pregnant naturally. Some have had too many miscarriages to want to try again.

And then there were the ones who got pregnant after years of trying, the ones who kept with IVF and got pregnant, the ones who saw this as an opportunity to change their diet and lifestyle, the ones who decided to adopt, even the ones who never got pregnant but accepted it and have fulfilling lives without children.

All this gave me hope, that even if my husband and I never got pregnant, it would be OK. We have each other, three dogs, a great family and circle of friends, our health and the ability to live in a place where we can surf before work and hike whenever we want. It’s not a bad life, really.

To be honest, though, I knew getting pregnant in my late 30s would be challenging. But I didn’t know just how challenging.

You spend most your young adult life trying not to get pregnant, thinking it’s so easy. The reality is human reproduction isn’t that efficient, even when you’re young. There’s only one week in your cycle during which your odds are favorable — and who’s tracking that at 25?

Enter the 40s and your chances of getting pregnant — with or without help — are greatly diminished.

And that’s the truth. Even though people would say to me, with all the right intentions, “Oh, you’re still young, you still look good,” I’m reproductively old. I have fewer eggs and the quality of those eggs aren’t getting any better.

I knew all this — and yet, despite everything I had read and heard, I thought getting pregnant wouldn’t take two years, dozens of blood tests and urine samples, and multiple visits to the hospital.

We tried everything.

I downloaded two ovulation trackers on my iPhone — Period Tracker Lite and Glow (both free) — and carefully tracked every indicator of ovulation, from the length of my period to the stickiness of my cervical mucus. (Yes, I did that, too.)

I saw fertility specialists. I attended an IVF seminar. I read books and articles online. I took Clomid to stimulate my ovaries for a few menstrual cycles. I took prenatal vitamins and baby aspirin. We tried a couple of rounds of IUI (intrauterine insemination) that’s colloquially called the “turkey baster method.” I even spent $300 to see a qi gong master who unlocked the negative energy that was hindering me from carrying a baby.

And still, nothing.

We got pregnant, but I couldn’t maintain the pregnancy.

Still, I didn’t give up hope. Not yet.

At some point, I knew I would have to stop trying. The process of just trying to get pregnant can take over your life. If you’re not waiting for an LH surge indicating your ovulation, you’re waiting for a positive (or negative) pregnancy test. All this waiting — particularly for an impatient Aries like me — is sheer agony. I couldn’t do this for much longer.

Luckily for me, I have a very patient and understanding husband who kept me calm throughout the entire process. He knew I was trying, he knew this was difficult, he knew I was riding an emotional roller coaster and we couldn’t do this forever.

Then, in April, on our trip to New Zealand, we found out we were pregnant.

We were happy, of course, but like any couple who’s suffered miscarriages, we were very cautious about that enthusiasm. I’ve miscarried just three days after finding out I was pregnant. So anything could happen.

I was 41. That meant 90 percent of my eggs were chromosomally abnormal, the leading cause of miscarriages within the first trimester. My uterine lining was thinning and the blood supply to it decreasing — thanks to age — making it more difficult for any egg to implant. I had a 5 to 8 percent chance of getting pregnant and a 50 percent of losing the embryo. These were not good odds.

And yet, every week, I was still pregnant. That gave me hope.

Then, at Week 6, I got an ultrasound and saw the little blob on the screen. “You’re definitely pregnant,” the nurse told me, beaming. I was still skeptical.

But weeks went on, and soon we heard a heartbeat, I started throwing up constantly, I hated the smell of smoked meat and fried chicken, and we saw something on the ultrasound that looked more like a human baby than a squid.

And it began to really sink in: I’m pregnant. I’m actually, really pregnant.

For now. I’m forever the realist. But I’m enjoying every painful twinge, every visit to the bathroom, every Slurpee I can get my hands on.

Thanks for sharing this journey with me. Promise, you’ll hear more soon.

***
Thanks to everyone who wrote, posted and shared their experiences about miscarriage with me, both publicly on the blog or social media or privately through emails and texts. It’s been so touching and inspiring.

You Might Also Like

A behind-the-scene look at “Family Ingredients”

By June 22, 2016 #CatTravels, Food

IMG_9438

“This is our first soba encounter!”

That’s how we started the first morning of shooting “Family Ingredients” in the first soba shop in Okinawa last April.

Chef Ed Kenney, the playful host of the half-hour series that debuts 7:30 p.m. tonight on PBS Hawai‘i, couldn’t have been more excited to eat one of the most iconic dishes in Okinawa — soki soba — or Okinawan soba — which, by the way has nothing to do with the Japanese buckwheat noodles with the same name. Not at all.

This noodle dish features thick wheat noodles in a clear dashi (broth) made from pork or bonito fish flakes — or a blend of both. The chewy noodles are always thick and sometimes flat or wavy. It all depends on region and preference.

And we were here, in the southernmost prefecture of Japan, to eat a lot of it.

The Emmy Award-winning show, which aired nationally on PBS on June 16, traces the origins of local dishes to their roots around the world. Pipi kaula to California, gandule rice to Puerto Rico, poisson cru to Tahiti. Soki soba to Okinawa. Every dish has a story. That’s the premise of the show.

We were here with Hisae Uki, the daughter of the owners of Sun Noodle, a Hawai‘i-based noodle manufacturer and, incidentally, the only company in the U.S. that makes authentic Okinawan-style soba noodles.

Hisae is an old friend, someone I had met through the local Cherry Blossom Festival. When the producers came to me for suggestions for an Okinawan subject for one of the episodes, Hisae popped into my head. Not only is she half Okinawan — her mom is from the island — but her family business makes soba. Perfect!

Hisae Uki and Ed Kenney at the Honolulu International Airport last April, getting ready for our flight to Okinawa.

Hisae Uki and Ed Kenney at the Honolulu International Airport last April, getting ready for our flight to Okinawa.

And this wasn't even ALL of our luggage!

And this wasn’t even ALL of our luggage!

It was going to be a whirlwind of a trip, eating at several soki soba shops in Okinawa, visiting landmarks, touring a noodle manufacturer, walking through markets, interviewing people, finding co-producer Dan Nakasone’s long-lost uncle — all in five days.

And while we were here, I had freelance work to finish, Hisae was managing her company’s LA office and Ed was finalizing the menu — and a million other things — for a new restaurant he was opening, Mud Hen Water, in Kaimukī. (Okinawan soba wound up on the menu there. Of course.)

Oh, and the rest of the crew was working nonstop, editing photos, prepping gear, planning shoots and making sure everyone was on time and on task. It was truly a working trip. No vacation here.

Co-producer and veteran filmmaker Heather Haunani Giugni with director Ty Sanga — working, of course.

Co-producer and veteran filmmaker Heather Haunani Giugni with director Ty Sanga — working, of course.

Someone grabbed my camera during a crew meeting and got this shot of me. I was working, too!

Someone grabbed my camera during a crew meeting and got this shot of me. I was working, too!

I can’t complain, though.

With the help of Chizu Inoue, an editor of a local magazine and our interpreter for the trip, we ate at several of the best soba shops in Okinawa. One that specialized in tonkotsu soba and yushi dōfu (soft tofu), another that featured thin Yaeyama-type noodles run by women, another that was all about the Okinawan soki (pork). And to be honest, I didn’t get tired of eating it, either.

IMG_9025

IMG_9040

Okinawan soki soba — why we were here!

Okinawan soki soba — why we were here!

Here’s how it went down: The camera crew went into a shop to set up. The producers met quickly with the restaurant owners, letting them know what we were going to do, what we needed, what to expect. I waited outside, out of the way. Hisae and Ed got prepped. The shot was set. The cameras were on. Action!

Hisae served as translator during the shoots, which was helpful since Ed was deficient in that area. The rest of us stood nearby, snapping photos and staying as quiet as possible. Once the shot was done, everyone grabbed bowls and chopsticks and dug in. It was like that at every shop.

What’s amazing is how generous and friendly people were in Okinawa. We were disruptive and intrusive, with bulky camera gear that needed a lot of space. But no one complained. They smiled, shared their seats, helped us open doors, told us stories. The outpouring was incredible.

We even got to spend some time with Hisae’s mother’s family in Okinawa. What a treat! The family made us its special version of soki soba — among many, many other things — and that was one of our favorite nights together. We all ate and drank and ate more and drank more. It didn’t matter that most of us didn’t speak Japanese (or Okinawan) — we all laughed and hugged and felt that family connection, regardless of language differences.

Ed making himself at home at Hisae's family's house.

Ed making himself at home at Hisae’s family’s house.

It was a privilege to be part of this production. Truly. The crew is hard-working, slightly insane, but kind and fun and giving. Some of my best memories are in the van, driving to locations and just talking and laughing. (Ed really hated my playlist and Heather can fall asleep in two seconds.)

You won’t see all of our behind-the-scenes shenanigans, but I’m sure you can sense the camaraderie and closeness everyone shares. Because you can’t hide it. And I think that’s what makes this series so special.

***

“Family Ingredients” premieres on PBS Hawai‘i at 7:30 p.m. tonight. It repeats at 11:30 p.m. tonight and at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.

You Might Also Like