Kidnapping fears and realities

Not my baby.  Mine was even cuter.Before my eldest was born, a baby was kidnapped from the hospital where I would eventually deliver.  It was in the news every night.

A woman, dressed in scrubs, walked into the maternity ward, took a baby from its mother “to return it to the nursery,” and left the hospital with it.  It took months to find the child.

This was the incident that made the hospitals in our area enact strict procedures for visitors checking in and out of the maternity, constant badge checks of nurses and doctors, etc.  None of that allayed my fear that someone would snatch my child.

Before going to the hospital, I made my husband promise that he would Not Let The Baby Out of His Sight.  Ever.

He did not want to agree to this, but knew that I could not deal with one more fear, rational or not.

I hadn’t planned for a hospital birth, and was already terrified of the c-section which was required to get my son out (he was breech and quite literally stuck, having somehow hooked his foot under my pelvic bone).

So, as they were sewing up his wife, he reluctantly but dutifully left the room so our son would not be out of his sight.

When he walked into the recovery room, without my baby, before I could say a word, he exclaimed, “It’s okay.  Your mom is with him.  I told her not to let him out of her sight.”  She didn’t.

We made it out of the hospital several days later without ever having lost sight of our child, so, even if he had not been the only newborn in the building with bright red hair, we would have no doubt that, not only had he not been kidnapped, but that he had not been switched with another baby.

Fast forward about three years.  It was beginning to dawn on me that all mothers find their own children exceptionally beautiful, even the ones who the rest of the world can see are mistaken.

So when the mother of a preschool classmate asked, “Do you worry a lot about your children being kidnapped?” I tried to sound nonchalant, and lied, “I try to be cautious, but, no, I don’t obsess over it.”

It seemed the prudent thing to say, so her reply shocked me.  “If I were you, I would worry all the time.  Your sons are so beautiful.  They look exactly like the sort of children who kidnappers want.”

Yikes!  I had been right to worry those past three years!  My sons really were the ones who would be the most likely prey for kidnappers wanting to sell off healthy, beautiful toddlers.

As you may have guessed, my children never were kidnapped.  Whether that is because I remained hypervigilant or because they really weren’t exceptionally desirable targets we will never know.

Now, it all seems funny.  Good stories of a new mom, so in love with her children that she was convinced that any lurking kidnapper would, of course, prefer her sons to every other child on the playground.

The reality of kidnapping is very different.  One of my friends experienced it this week.

She and her eleven year old were taken at gunpoint, although she was released soon afterward.  You can read her story here.  I promise it has a happy ending.

One man’s treasure, trashed.

Mid Century Modern Basement with Bar

photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc

I went to an estate sale this morning.  I’d never been to one before, but the craigslist ad said there would be pink pyrex there.  I’m wanting a set of pink Cinderella bowls, so my husband and I went to breakfast then stood in line for the sale.

It was a small mid-century house, which had never been remodeled or redecorated.  So it was filled with mid century modern furniture and decor.

We were the only people in line who were not dealers, all of whom were looking for specific types of items.

The first young lady in line has an etsy shop for vintage clothing.
The second one wanted the starburst clock.
The next several people were furniture dealers.
Then us.
Then the lady who was a pyrex dealer.  She got the only two pieces that were available.  I was looking in upper cabinets, while she was moving quickly through the lower ones, where they were.  They were casserole dishes, not the bowls I’d wanted, so I wasn’t disappointed.

The interesting part of the morning was the wait in line before the doors opened, listening to the dealers.

Some were quite pragmatic.  They tended to be the older ones.

Conversation Pit, Modern Decor

photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc

The younger ones – mid to late twenties, I’d guess – were more idealistic.  They were lamenting how often older people ruined mid century furniture.  Original owners and their children committed such travesties as drilling holes to refit pieces for new technology and – gasp – painting the wood.

I just listened, amused.

I grew up in a mid century home, with mid century modern furniture.  Many of my neighbors had it, too.  When it went out of style, it was sold at garage sales, given to Goodwill, or – gasp – painted.

When my parents moved to a new colonial style house, very little of the mid-mod stuff was kept, including the starburst clock.

Mid Century Modern Living Room

photo credit: ooh_food via photopin cc

Maybe it takes a decade of adulthood to realize that there is a difference between collecting things and living with them.

Or maybe it takes becoming a parent.

When you live with your stuff, you get tired of it, or it no longer suits your needs, and you either replace it or remake it.  In the meantime, your kids bang up the tables, spill things on sofa, and leave dripping cups on everything.  It’s called life, and, yes, sometimes it ruins the furniture.

I have some old furniture, things that belonged to my grandmother, things that are not really my style but which I love anyway.  Although I wish they were in better condition, I look at them and see generations of people who cared more about their family than their stuff.

I am keeping up a fine tradition, then, even if one day collectors will turn up their noses at everything in my house.

Weight Loss and Body Image

Am I this size?Although I often discuss body image and my eating habits with you, I’ve been reluctant to share my actual weight, not because I’ve ever been ashamed of it, but because I know that it is easy to be discouraged by comparison.

Listening to someone talk about needing to lose 10 pounds is annoying when you are trying to lose 40.  Listening to someone talk about being 40 pounds overweight can be disheartening to someone trying to lose 100.

I don’t want to be a source of discouragement.

I want all of you to recognize the beauty in who you are, and to know that your appearance is merely a reflection of that beauty.

Happiness, confidence, kindness, love – these are reflected in our faces and in our body language, and these are what make a person beautiful.  Beauty and self worth cannot be measured in pounds and ounces.

Having said that, I know that most women have an idealized vision of beauty for themselves.  A body type, a weight, a form to which they aspire.  I also know that many of us do not have an accurate body image.

I know I don’t.  My perception changes with my moods and hormones.  Some days, I’d describe myself as heavier than I am; other days, I think I am considerably thinner.  My husband pointed this out to me earlier this year, when he saw this post.Some days I feel bigger than I am.

That day, I had trouble believing him, but when I’m shopping it is noticeable even to me.  Depending on the day, I’ll grab clothes that are sizes too big or too small.  I don’t recognize my own size when I see it.

My self perception has never been accurate or stable, unless you count it as stable because it does not matter what size or age I am, my body image remains skewed.

Despite that, I feel content with my appearance.  I was content before I starting losing weight, too.  I did not enjoy the feeling of being overweight, but I did not feel ugly because of it.

I began tracking calories in order to assess the healthiness of my diet.  My perception of that was delusional, too.  It turned out I grossly underestimated my sugar intake and overestimated the rest of my calorie consumption.  Healthier eating was my goal.  Weight loss was incidental.

Incidental, but significant.  I’ve now lost over twenty five pounds.  I’m within ten pounds of “ideal weight” for my height.

So has anything changed?

I am a size smaller, but I don’t feel more attractive, prettier, sexier, or any of that.  My proportions haven’t really changed, just their dimensions.  There are parts of me that look better now, and others that looked better then.

My legs are trimmSome days I feel thin.er.  They’re still dimply with cellulite, but I think they look great below the knee and fine above it.  Lumpy, but fine.

More importantly, no more chub rub.  My thighs are not sticking together with sweat this summer.  Since I wear skirts almost daily, this is significant.

On the top side, I miss my chubby girl breasts.  I knew I’d lose a cup size or two when I lost weight, but I was hoping the skin would firm up so they wouldn’t look empty.  No such luck.  My breasts now look way too National Geographic, and I have not yet found bras that fit exactly right.

My neck is still waddlesome and crepe papery, a genetic gift from which there is no escape.  The former double chin is, while not quite a single, perhaps more like a chin and a half.  My face is more slender, and I think that is what people have noticed when they say, “Have you lost weight?  You look great!”

Since dissatisfaction with my body was not the reason I began calorie tracking, I find it disconcerting when people compliment me on losing weight.  I know they mean well, but I dislike the notion that thinner is always better, always prettier, always healthier, always happier.

Model Me in purpleLast summer, I was more physically fit, riding my bike several miles daily.  This summer, I’ve been a slug and have barely taken my bicycle out of the garage.  I usually take a stroll in the evening with my husband, but I don’t sweat or raise my heart rate.  I just walk and talk.  Sometimes I don’t even talk.

I’m also not happier, which is another thing people say.  “You must be so happy with…”  No, losing weight hasn’t impacted my happiness.  In fact, I don’t think I would have lost weight if I’d started out unhappy.

I think it is hard to lose weight when you’re unhappy with your appearance.  It’s a lot easier to lose weight when there is no emotional baggage to lose along with it.  When calories are just calories, and eating is just eating, not an indication of your value as a person or an indicator of your character, it’s easier to make healthy choices and not be bothered by the occasions when you don’t.

Unwelcome in Iowa

New Yorkers have a reputation for being unfriendly, rude, brusque, but I’ve never experienced that in NYC.  I’ve had strangers hold doors for me while I navigated a double stroller, patiently give me directions, and make change for me when I got on a bus with only dollar bills.

IowaMost of the places I’ve been in the USA have been more or less friendly.

The exception is Iowa.

On Friday, we drove from Fort Wayne, Indiana to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  It was dusk when we arrived in Cedar Rapids, and we exited Rte 30 at a sign that claimed lodging was near.  We didn’t see any motels, but signs don’t lie, do they?  We drove on, looking for a place to stay.

Moments later, flashing lights were behind us.  Since my husband was driving slightly under the speed limit, we were surprised that the car pulled in behind us instead of passing by us.

A young Iowa State trooper walked up to the car and told us he’d pulled us over because our license plate was obstructed by our bike rack.  He asked for my husband’s driver license and proof of registration, which were handed to him.

Then, he started asking questions.  Why are we here?  Where did we come from?  Where are we going?  Why are we on this road?

Now, we know we don’t have to answer, but we also know that not answering often takes longer, so my husband politely told the officer that we are driving back to Colorado from the DC area, looking for a motel that will accept our dog.

“What were you doing in DC?” he asked.  We were visiting family, and told him so.

The officer walked away to run our tag and we discussed how weird Iowa is, because the last time we drove through it, we were pulled over for the same pretense.  That time:  different road, different vehicle, no bike rack, more kids, different dog, and that state trooper claimed that the license plate was obscured by its frame – that plastic thing that car dealers put on a license plate with their name on it that in no way covers the name of your state or the numbers on your license.

We had plenty of time to discuss the validity of the “obstructed license plate” excuse for traffic stops, because the officer was taking forever, leaving us wondering how long it takes to run a tag.  As we wait, another police car pulls behind the first, and that officer gets out and begins talking with the original one.  Then a third car pulls up and a mini conference ensues.

By this time, bafflement had given way to annoyance.  Okay, mine had.  My husband was bordering on irate and ranting about the unprofessionalism of the line of questioning and the absurdity of needing two back up officers for an “obstructed license plate” stop.

I was being the calm one, saying things like, “I’m sure it is their training.  They’re probably told to be conversational,” and, “Maybe he’s new and nervous.”  As you can imagine, this did not have a soothing effect. It’s really hard to think of pleasant excuses for poor behavior.

There is also no good speculating why three police cars were needed to pull over a middle aged couple with a bike rack on their car.  I suggested that they were profiling middle aged people with sullen teens and sleepy dogs.  My husband suggested they were on a fishing expedition.

We were relieved when the conference finally seemed to be over, and the first officer returned to our car.

Until he asked my husband to step out of the car.

I admit:  up until that moment, I was annoyed, but not worried.  When my husband got out of car, I began to imagine news stories of cops gone bad looking for reasons to beat up fellows twice their age or shooting small dogs without provocation.

While I watched in the rear view mirror as two of the officers quizzed my husband about I did not know what, the third came over to my side of the car to ask me why we were in Iowa.

I resisted the urge to say, “Doesn’t anyone ever visit Iowa?  Are we the only people to cross your borders this year?”  Instead, I reiterated that we were traveling home and looking for a hotel that takes dogs.  Trixie was asleep on my lap, but since the young man’s eyes were searching the back of my car, I thought he might not have noticed her, which did diminish my dog harming fears, but increased my concerns for my teenaged daughter in the back seat.

As if to answer my unasked question, he responded, “Most people take 80.  What are you doing way up here?”

I was right!  Nobody does visit Iowa!

I explained that it was the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Highway, so we were driving it.  We’d only left it to look a motel.

At that point, whatever had transpired between my husband and the other two officers had ended, and he was back in the car.  The officer questioning me backed away and we drove off.

My husband has sworn that we will never drive through Iowa again.

Once is forgivable, but twice is ridiculous.  What is going on in Iowa that they feel the need to harass those who are just passing through?  What did they think we were?  Terrorists?  Or do they simply find it entertaining trying to intimidate travelers?

It’s no wonder nobody visits Iowa.