Saturday, December 31, 2011

On New Year's Eve

Forgive the poor typing. I'm still getting used to the iPad, and although I've borrowed a wireless keyboard, I'm not tech savvy enough to know how to set it up at this time. Like everyone else in the blogosphere and in the real world, I'm thinking about the new year tonight. It honestly thrills me beyond words that I have this newfound capacity to blog when I feel like it, without descending the stairs to my apartment building, bearing whatever the weather might be, entering my neighborhood Starbucks and ordering something I don't want just so I can utilize their free wifi. I blog from home, tonight. Although it probably doesn't intrigue my readers much, I'll still give a quick shout out to the successes of 2011. Among others, I visited 6 different states, read all off the Harry potter books (and before midnight I will have seen all the movies), got promoted at work - into a career that I think is truly a good fit for me, spent lots of time with my niece and nephew (whose mere existence fills my heart with so much joy),practiced lots of yoga,ran my first 15 k in 4 years and PRd a 10k. I was a guest writer in the classroom of a truly awesome professor. I helped raise a beautiful black puppy into a handsome black dog. I kept loving and being loved by my serious sweetheart. I spent lots of time watching NOVA, drinking beers, or having text chats with my besties. I also found my footing in Chicago, began to start planning ahead again (after a brief period of trying and failing at being a day to day type gal). I started working on my Dino blog, which will officially launch in February. I became a field museum member. I also met, shook hands with, and received the signature of, one of my greatest literary heroes, Roger Ebert. Overall, I stayed largely the same - which for some reason is comforting. Maybe because I think the years of seeking drastic change, of remaking myself whenever I have the chance, or seeking to be a different me, are behind me. These are the years of becoming a better me. A happier me. A settled and full me. I expect 2012 to be full of change. Of growth. Of faster times, longer distances, focussed intentions, and stronger relationships. Here's to continuing to improve the parts we like, cast off the parts we can do without, and seek the parts we desire. Here's to 2012. Namaste, my friends. Ps: I forgot to factor in "cats perpetually desire to walk on iPad" when I started typing. Love from Shake and Eli. (I also cleaned up a lot of cat puke and broken glass in 2011!)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bitten by the Apple

I can still very clearly remember the fist time I saw an iPod. It was the original, classic white machine - owned by a techy Apple-file classmate of mine. I think I knew two people who had them sophomore year of college, but for me it wasn't until much later. Even though I like technology, and was raised with a surprising amount aof access to it, I'm a bit of a grandma at heart. I did eventually get on iPod, and then a MacBook, and then a tiny pink shuffle for running. All in all, however, I still spent a great deal of time thinking and talking about how downloading music cuts out an important part of the user experience, about how the first draft of a story is always better in pen and ink, and how I don't want to read a book that I can't feel and smell and dog-ear and write penciled notes in. All those things are stills true. This grandma is still holding on, but I also share these words with a couple of grains of salt (this is a phrase I need to look up. I dont reall understand the meaning), because the blog post you are reading is my very first from my iPad. Regardless of my nostalgia for the past, I'm living my greatest blogger dream. I'm riding the train to work, tiny computer on my lap - the whole interwebz at my finger tips. It's almost hard to believe. I remind myself, in moments like these, where I leave behind a part of myself that would hae scoffed at this image, that the reason humans have gotten this far on this earth is because we put down the familar and moved into the unknown. Because we never decided who we are, and instead focussed on who we could become. If this little computer enables me to write more, there's not too much I can complain about. Post script: thanks mom. It's a wonderful gift.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Unfinished Life


Strawberry Heart has no relation to this post.  

In the dark medicine cabinet of my charmingly outdated blue tiled bathroom, a ¼ tube of Colgate toothpaste lies in wait. Beside the Colgate, practically bragging about its superior performance and obviously preferred status, a new nearly full tube of a different formula boasts. The ¼ tube has been waiting to be cradled in my hand since the new tube arrived, but like the iPhone 2, its worth declined substantially when the replacement arrived. This sad relationship is replicated other places in my apartment - the miniscule remnants of a container of Smart Balance resting a shelf below a recently christened tub of Country Crock; the un-pumpable inch of Vaseline Intensive care lotion, deemed useless at the arrival of St. Ives creamy relief. 

My preemptive purchases of replacement household items almost always results in the abandonment of the last 15% of its predecessor.  I don’t want to finish the first item, and find myself without. I buy in advance.
Worst of all, this habit spills over into my relationship with books. As a public transportation commuter, with a busy extracurricular schedule, I'm often carrying yoga clothes and mat, breakfast, coffee, lunch, a book for writing, and a book for reading.

I try to eliminate unnecessary items from my luggage. Sometimes, when the bag is too full I forgo lunch and opt to buy.  Or I leave my two-inch hard cover writing book at home and carry a smaller moleskin. Sometimes, if I’m in the last 20-40 pages of a book, and I know I’m going to be on the train for and hour or more, I have to make a decision. I either bring a second book to replace the first when I finish it (and increase my load), or I leave the denouement on the coffee table and start fresh with a new book. I promise to return. I promise to finish those remaining pages and return the book to its subject matter- arranged crate having fulfilled its journey.

In full disclosure, I usually leave the book behind. And I usually don’t return. In at least half of the books I have read in the past year I left the last 20-40 pages unread. Those books eventually get returned to their spaces, like the butter that eventually goes in the trash when I determine it’s probably not safe to consume.
Those 20-40 pages will still be there if I ever decide to return, but the toothpaste and lotion won’t.

Which behavior is more wasteful?

Friday, September 9, 2011

127 Hours Part 2: The Closet

Every time I open my front room closet door, to retrieve cat food, a winter coat, a reusable shopping bag, a sombrero, or my Bacon and Egg themed Halloween costume, Shakespeare The Cat bounds from his meal, nap or hiding spot to try to sneak in the closet before he misses his chance.
 
There's nothing especially intriguing in there for him. I don't hoard a secret a pile of fish or yarn or frosted mini wheats (things I'm told cats like) in said closet, but regardless of what he would gain by accessing the space he races to the door like it was a shrinking portal to the future providing his last opportunity for survival in an early 90s sci-fi film.
 
Usually, I just scoop him up mid-cat-jog and toss him gently away. Some days, when hes too quick for me and gets in, I have to leave the closet door open and go about my day.
 
Sometimes, amid all the smoke and mirrors, with a sleight of hand or whisker, he darts into the closet without my knowledge. He is sadly unaware that this trickery can only be harmful to himself.
 
Such an illusion on Shakespeare's part resulted this week in his spending the night locked in the closet. I was dog sitting, and did not sleep at home - or I surely would have heard his scratchy voiced cries. When I returned to my apartment and called for the two felines to greet me at the door, I was slightly alarmed that there was no sign of Shake.
 
I cased the apartment, checked the bedroom closet, confirmed that there were no ropes made of bed sheets hanging from any of the windows and then, finally, heard his tiny cat cry coming from the closet.
 
He emerged from the closet a little startled. As I snugged his face and led him to his water dish, images of James Franco and a pocket knife filled my head. Maybe he thought about ways to escape, or contemplated what items in the closet were edible and what could be poisonous. Maybe he thought about me and his brother and hoped to chocolate that we would still eat salmon flavored treats without him. Maybe he closed his eyes and imagined his favorite toy - the rainbow fleece - floating dreamily against the rising sun in a field of cat nip.
 
I was thankful that he emerged from the closet with all four paws, but I hoped that the experience wouldn't scar him forever.
 
I'm starting to think that Shake lacks the brain capacity to hold on to this fearful experience for too long because this morning, as I opened the closet to retrieve a plastic bag, he sprung to his feet and darted for the door - determined to revisit the place where he so recently almost met his maker.
 
Brave little man.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Edward Hammerhands?

I love my apartment, but my building is almost 150 years old and my appliances might actually be even older. Especially be fridge/freezer combo.  When I moved in, Moses' baby picture (basket and all), was stuck to the refrigerator door with fossilized tree sap. I found an abacus in the freezer. This thing is old.

Its also not grown-up sized. I don't know if Americans were between 13 and 18 inches shorter 100 years ago, but a race of mini-Chicagoans occupying the Lakeview neighborhood when my building was raised would really be the only legitimate reason for the minute size of my fridge/freezer combo.

Surprisingly, this is the "after" shot.
I'm not ageist or sizeist, even regarding appliances, but I am functionist. I mean, a fridge is meant to keep food and drinks cool and a freezer is meant to keep food frozen (and liquor crisp). So on this level I discriminate against this "machine" on the basis of not-workingness.

In my fridge things spoil or freeze, in my freezer the ice wall creeps around and engulfs all of my food items and, yet, some how ice cream still melts and meat spoils. Usually I just get around this by buying very little food and eating it quickly before the ancient fridge beast has time to claim it as a victim. Or I buy no food and eat Subway twice a day.

Sometimes the massive encroaching iceberg in my freezer makes me flip my grid and get a little crazy. On that special day, once a year, I calmly walk over to my tool box, carefully remove the hammer from its hammer-shaped slot, and return to the kitchen. I open the freezer door, and like a coked up Edward Scissorhands I swing the back of my hammer at the ice wall over and over again with all my might. As ice chips and chunks fly at my face, body and kitchen walls, I break a sweat and begin to see the edges of what might be a bag of frozen corn or a bottle of Jagermeister. 

Eventually, my bare feet are covered in an inch of ice on my kitchen floor, and the freezer looks more like a storage space for food and less like the ice-cave of a Yeti.

It most likely still won't freeze food, but at least I feel better about it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Its Politics Time!

I can't believe how long its been since I've been able to use this blog as unfettered liberal propaganda during an election cycle!! But its that time, again, folks, and there are some great characters out there in the republican party* for me to quote and comment on. I'm pretty darn excited!

Today, I'll join the ranks of everyone else on the internet to talk a little bit about Michele Bachmann the Minnesota congresswoman who is running for president and who won the Ames Straw poll in Iowa over the weekend. Here's a short round up of good commentary on Bachmann from the past couple months:


Jezebel had a great short piece this week on how Bachmann's win at the Straw poll pretty much guarantees she won't be president, including this great little nugget, "before you find yourself having nightmares about her delivering the State of the Union, take heart in the fact that the Ames Straw Poll often means approximately shit."


In June, Think Progress gathered a great selection of examples in "10 of the Craziest Things Michele Bachmann Has Ever Said" such as a warning the "The Lion King" was gay propaganda, or when she likened the war in Iraq to visiting the Mall of America. Some real gems in there. Think Progress also posted a list that same month of Bachmanns Top 10 Attacks on the LGBT Community that includes simply devasting quotes about how telling a child about homosexuality is child abuse. Seriously. Is this really a person who should lead our nation?

I'll post more about Bachmann and the rest of the presidential candidates over the next year and a half. This is just an appetizer!


*I'd like to make it clear that its not necessarily Republicans that I have such a problem with, its any one who specifically campaigns on the promise to take away the rights and freedoms other other Americans, any one who encourages and supports descrimination, people who don't believe that protecting the environment is worth their energy, and those who think the rich deserve more breaks and special favors then the poor. So, no offense to Republicans who do not fall into those categories!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Is it Crevice or Crevass?

There is a crevice between my pressboard counter-top and my aging, sloping gas stove into which I constantly drop bits of food that are impossible to retrieve.


A blueberry muffin flavored frosted mini wheat.
A c-shaped sliver of fresh green pepper.
A single piece of wheat bread, slathered in mustard.


I’ve come to think of this crevice as a metaphor.


Some days, the lost food item is a metaphor for acceptance – a reminder to accept the things I cannot change and …whatever the rest of that inspirational phrase is.


As I watch a portion of my meal disappear into the darkness, I think to myself, "what will be, will be." As that rogue piece of aged white cheddar takes flight from the blade of my knife in the direction of the black hole of snack foods I know it will be lost – I find myself feeling thankfulness. I am thankful for the remainder of the cheese left on my 6x8inch yellow cutting board.


I realize that there is some sacrifice coupled with all pleasure.

As I feel this realization, I can feel the Catholic indoctrination of my youth flexing its muscles. I ask myself, “Do I really think that sacrifice is unavoidable??” That’s weird.


Other days, when I’m feeling less positive or less at peace, the crevice is more enemy than it is teacher. I’m sure it’s punishing me, or trying to push me over the edge. Taking from me. Inspiring me to fear a a future odor that might radiate from its depths.

I don’t know how such a small opening can consume so many perishables. It’s like there is a magnet in there intent on destroying me.

When I move away from this apartment, I hope no one checks the crevice for remnants of my residence. I can’t imagine that whatever beast the primordial crevice ooze has created can have good intentions.

Friday, August 5, 2011

I Found A Horcrux

It’s so late in the Harry Potter game that even I have read all the books, so I'm not even going to bother protecting you people from spoilers.


In HP 7.1 our young wizards find themselves on the most challenging journey of their sheltered-from-public-high-school-devastation-but-not-from-constant-life-and-death-struggles adolescence. They are seeking a series of horcruxes - a portion of a person's soul which has been split, by committing the act of murder, and stored inside an object to ensure immortality. They are seeking these soul pieces from the original bad-ass Lord Voldemort (a word that I am truly shocked my mobile blogging device doesn't recognize!) and, since he's super evil, his soul slivers are equally as nasty.


When one of the horcruxes is found it must be destroyed to bring V one step closer to death. But they aren't easy to destroy, so, in HP 7.1, Harry, Ron and Hermione are carrying around this locket they know is a horcrux but they aren't able to destroy. For safe keeping, they take turns wearing the locket, but it becomes clear rather fast that the locket effects the behavior of the wearer, inducing anger, distrust, and general bad vibes. The others have to be on the lookout for these effects so they can relieve the horcrux protector of his/her duties for a bit and rid them of the negative emotions that come with the job.


Now that everybody is clear what a horcrux is, and how it effects someone who possesses one, I'll start from the beginning again.


I found a horcrux.


Its the extremely talented Adele's sophomore album entitled 21. Now, I'm not saying that this powerfully voiced Brit killed anyone to create this horcrux. She is, after all, a mere muggle - I think - but there is without a doubt a piece of this woman's soul stored inside this album. Which is impressive unto itself because I'm not totally sure what kind of Steve Job’s computer jargonese you'd have to master to convert the mythical human soul into binary and upload it onto iTunes.


The album is melodic, passionate, powerful and soulful (pun intended). The lyrics mostly describe lost love, broken hearts, and reminiscence. Overall, it is an honest, beautiful, enchanting, impressive bummer of an album.


Like the young and fearless wizards of the Harry Potter series, I did not know the affect of the horcrux. I heard through the social media grapevine that the album was not to be missed and eventually I broke down and downloaded it.


I like to listen to an album on repeat for a while to really get a feel for individual songs and also how the artist weaves them together to create an overall message, emotion or theme - one time through just wont get you that much of a sense. But after a 3 or so hours of listening to 21 on a Saturday morning, I found my usually busy-bodied weekend self sprawled out on my tiny love seat, holding a sleeping cat, staring off into the middle distance, wondering if I was happy.


Is my job good enough for me? Should I have moved back to Chicago? Does my girlfriend love me? Near tears, I posted on Facebook that I was laying around, listening to Adele and feeling down.


Within moments there were multiple responses to my post - encouraging me to slowly step away from the Adele. I mournfully pried myself from my sedentary state, and changed my Adele iTunes playlist to a Justin Timberlake medley.



Immediately, the sun came out, the birds started chirping, and my heart was suddenly light. The good feelings about my job, my life, and my girlfriend came rushing back. The somber cloud that had enveloped me was lifted.


Once out of my melancholy, I was able to lucidly reflect on what had happened, and to realize that the horcrux’s strength was far greater than my own. In true Harry Potter fashion I would have been required to destroy the album, perhaps with the venom of a basilisk, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.


The album is just too damn good.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"First Bird" Competition Heats Up

Fossil freaks are chatting up and down the Internet this week about a "new" fossil that will potentially shake up how we view the history of dinosaurs/avian-dinosaurs/birds. Readers might know that in addition to being a dino-gal, I have a very specific affection for Archaeopteryx, pictured right, the current holder of the "First bird" title, which it has boasted for 150 years.

Might Archaeopteryx be usurped as Urvogel ("Original Bird" or "First Bird") by this new fossil, Xiaotingia (pictured below)? Maybe. Maybe not. Researchers are agreeing that the fossil may change the way we see this evolutionary process, but it also might be a fluke, or a minor change of course. The "new family tree is statistically weak," says Xing Xu, the fossil's identifier/promoter/manager, and these things are usually theoretical for a long time before anything is "proven" - if it ever is.

It is amazing that we are uncovering the history of our Earth every day. Our knowledge of what came before us is and should be constantly changing -evolving- or our intelligence and knowledge is wasted. With each new fossil we learn more about where all of these amazing life forms came from, and where they are going. Where we are going.


The new fossil doesn't change the fact that birds evolved from dinosaurs, and doesn't eliminate Archaeopteryx's huge role in supporting Darwin's theory of evolution, and demonstrating that what we know is not what always was. Darwin told us that life forms are constantly evolving, that the relatives of species took on different forms in the past - and Archaeopteryx still shows us either a bird with teeth, or a dinosaur with feathers - or something beautiful in between, whether or not it loses its place at the base of the evolutionary tree branch.


For more about the battle of the birds check out these two great articles at NYT and iO9.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Post-Storm Commute

Chicago had an eleven minute storm on Monday. I wasn’t actually timing it, but the time between the moment that the brightness in my 7:30am apartment slipped from baby shower to gay bar like someone leaned on the sliding track lighting switch after too many cocktails, to the time I was standing soaking wet on the train platform, watching the sun peak out from behind the receding clouds, wasn’t long enough to defrost a chicken breast.

The rain shot sideways like a compressed garden hose in a summer backyard. Its trajectory rendered umbrellas useless and spurred joggers and commuters alike to hit full speed on their run for cover. It was messy.

This storm not only soaked the space inside my open apartment windows and my already sloppy clothes, it also wreaked some serious havoc on Chicago public transportation (and left 852,000 without power).

I made a mad dash from my front door to the train station one block away: pants rolled up, golf umbrella held in front of my body like a shield. (I later heard from the internetz that my sister and her little ones got caught it the nastiness as well.) I climbed the stairs to the train platform, and was notified by our state-of-the-art, and often inaccurate, Scrolling Time Arrival Notification Marquee that the next train to my destination apparently didn’t exist. There were other trains in 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, and 14 minutes, but, alas, my train had disappeared into the abyss.

Thankful that the 11 minute storm was over, I stood on the platform reading Charlotte’s Web, recognizing my total lack of control over the situation. My only possible plan of action was to stand on the platform and wait for the train. It would not help to pace, or glance at my watch, or post all over Facebook how annoying this was. Just wait.

And I did.

And after a few minutes, the marquee announced that my train would arrive in 17 minutes. Wow. 17 minutes. In commuter time, that’s like saying, “You’re train will arrive right after Harry Potter 9 hits theatres.”

This delay would certainly cause me to be a few minutes late to work, but no big deal. I read until it arrived, standing patiently with countless other soaked individuals. It eventually arrived. On the train I noticed the extent of this short storm's damage – trees fallen everywhere, backed up traffic, and an extremely slow train pace. I don’t know how many horsepower an L train has, but this one was for certain being pulled by a single donkey.

After about 40 minutes, my train arrived at its first scheduled stop, approximately 5 stops and 10 minutes from my office, and the conductor politely let us know that this train would go no further. And, it wasn’t just this train whose travel was arrested – it was all trains. A hidden, metallic voice intercom’d to us to exit the platform and catch the buses to our various destinations.

In the crowd of tardy, dripping wet commuters, I shuffled along looking for this mythical bus that would take me to work. I glanced at my watch and noted that I was already about 20 minutes late and not quite near it yet.

I eventually located the correct bus, lucky to watch people push and shove their way beyond its maximum capacity from a safe distance. I waited. Another bus arrived with similar results.

The third bus had space for me, although the space was a sliver standing between a couple of heavy breathers. We inadvertently spooned. Er, at least, I can say the spooning on my part was not a choice. The bus navigated the fallen trees, traffic and stop signs, and after a while came to a full stop, swung its mighty doors open, and allowed us cattle to escape our transport and scatter off into the free world.

By the time I arrived at work, close to 10 am, my clothes were actually dry and I was in a decent mood.

In a city like Chicago, sometimes an 11 minute storm means a 2 hour commute.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth

There is really nothing better than quoting the Bible when writing about dinosaurs. I adopted this little darling yesterday from Chicago's Field museum of natural history. I had a bit of a rough week and made a gloriously selfish decision - to take a vacation day and spend some time in a place, to crib from the brilliant Sarah Vowel, that is the closest thing that I have to a church.

I had no real intention of buying anything from the store of a museum I had visited so many times, but his absolute minuteness struck a chord in me. Not just the part of me that coos and whimpers over tiny things, but the part of me that loves dinosaurs for their extreme existence.  Their larger than life sizes and abilities.  For their 160 million year reign of this planet.  Sue, the largest and most complete TRex skeleton ever found, lives at the Field.  Her fossilized remains tell us that, in life, she was over 40 feet long and weighed more than 7 tons. She was huge (and, possibly, a he).

This tiny guy,  in his diametric opposition to the real TRex, just reminds us: in a world where dinosaurs once ruled, anything is possible.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Not all News is Bad News

For every person who advocates for Americans becoming more aware of current events and more involved in the political process, there is an equal and opposite voice that, almost as loudly, tells Americans to turn the news off. To stop buying the newspaper. News and current events, they say, just bring us down. Our sources for this “important” information often only bring us death and scandal and rarely celebrate success or positivity. News depresses us, and it could be argued, maybe connects directly to this national crisis of obesity.

If you watch enough news, or follow Twitter regularly, or pick up the paper every couple days, once in a while you are going to be shocked with some good news. Yesterday was one of those days. In the midst of all the political gore smeared in front of our faces, the state of New York legalized equal marriage. Marriage for everyone. New York is the biggest of the states who have legalized equal marriage, and we can hope is a tipping point for other states (especially those that support large urban populations).


This news comes at a good time for me – the weekend of Chicago Pride – a weekend that has unfortunately become more and more agitating to me the older I get. On my way to work yesterday I picked up the Red Eye (the Chicago Tribune’s commuter short) to check out the reporting on Pride events. I almost didn’t open it after my eyes slid over the cover: a cartoon of a woman in a tight blue and pink outfit and a muscley man in a speedo with a caption about “Beads, Booze and Bods.”

To me, this is like the newspaper encouraging everyone to go out on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and listen to rap music, get corn rows in their hair and eat fried chicken.


Seriously. Equating Gay Pride with rainbow beads, getting blasted and taking your clothes off is totally insulting to what pride SHOULD be. Its degrading. I’m not saying that the Red Eye is uniquely misappropriating the meaning of this event – quite the contrary – the media is simply choosing an angle that will interest its viewership. I’m not pissed that people drink and party over pride weekend – that is certainly part of a celebration. But maybe be a little more considerate about WHY you are celebrating.


I’ve heard people say, “I don’t have white pride parade” or “I don’t have a straight pride parade.” Lets remember, the reason Americans celebrate things like gay pride or black history is because we have come a long way in regards to equal treatment and visibility in these communities. You don’t need to celebrate being a powerful majority since the beginning of time. Celebrate growth and change, and improvement. Celebrate the world being more opening and accepting then it was last year, or even yesterday – thanks to New York.


I did learn from the Red Eye that for the first time teachers from the Chicago Teachers Union would be marching. And that there are 48 entrants in the politician’s category. And that there will be 250 kids and their parents marching from my neighborhood elementary school.


I guess not all news is depressing.


Happy Pride.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Time To Drive

Don't worry, nervous friends. This post has nothing to do with me getting behind the wheel of a car and everything to do with driving. Where else does one drive that is not in a comfy leather pilot seat navigating 2 tons of steel and plastic? Why, on the range of course! Last night I had my first official non- lightsaber-related experience with a golf club at a far flung suburban driving range (the only one of its kind in Illinois, I hear).

Now, I want to start by taking back everything mean I’ve ever said about golf. OK, I’ve never said anything mean about golf, but I have flipped through TV stations on a weekend afternoon willing to watch reruns of the Andy Griffith Show before I'd watch even one hole of golf. And that’s pretty mean.

At the range you don't even have to master complexity of score keeping for 9 or 18 holes, or need the reasoning skills important in picking the right clubs. A rookie like me can just put down her beer, swagger on up to the little green patch of Astroturf, drop that little pocked ball onto its platform, and swing out into the abyss.



And miss.

Or almost kill the semi-pro donning official looking glove and Easter colored hat in the bay next to you.

Or let the velocity of the club take over, lose your balance, and almost fall into the safety net.

Or, if you are lucky, and you focus, maybe you hit it 50 yards. Or 80 yards. And you feel awesome. And then you see why people like golf. Because it’s hard. And it’s rewarding. That's a good combination in any activity (a combo of which I've only obtained part one in writing)

I’m not good at most sports. I have poor hand-eye coordination, I’m not fluid or smooth, and I have a short little span of attention. I usually give up after the 3rd frame in bowling (or 2nd gutter ball, which ever comes first) and plop my self down in the hard plastic seat encouraging anyone else to play my turns, but I liked the driving range enough to swing that club until my two buckets were empty.

To be clear, I made contact with the ball less often than the Loch Ness monster has skulked up on shore and auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent, but I had fun!

How Archaeologists Make Jokes

The Mayan conference is at the beach. Those silly archaeologists!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chicago weather.

Yesterday I rode my bike down to the beach and read the newspaper by the water. Rain had been threatening for 48 hours, but had not followed through on its promise. Today? Its a dismal as it comes. Dark, rainy, people commuting underneath umbrellas up and down the streets. The bottom four inches of everyone's slacks are wet, and messenger bags bulge with Ham and cheese sandwiches - today is the kind of day you eat lunch at your desk.

At the very least, its still pretty warm, and the closest Chicago ever feels to London.

Nothing really to complain about, I suppose.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Yoga, Running and Gratitude

Like a desert wanderer, my vision was obscured by the blurry, hazy horizon of hopelessness, savage heat, and hunger. Seeking an end to my suffering that was more than a mirage, my legs shook as I pounded out each step. The sweat dripping from my brow stung my eyes and my aching lungs stressed against my ribcage ready to burst like the lungs of a deep sea diver.

I remember the pain like it was yesterday. Running the mile each spring in high school was torture.

How funny is it that ten years later I could run a mile in high heels after devouring a 72oz steak – if I had to.

I’m not the best runner. I’m not even a good runner – I’m not fast, I wimp out often and I rarely run more than 5 miles. Eliminating all that, though, I can run.

Any one can run.

Running is still hard for me. It is a challenge - but thats one of the reasons why I do it.

Only one in a million of us will become a Lukas Verzbicas, a runner from my hometown, coached by a family friend, who recently became the 5th American high school student in history to break the 4 minute mile with a time of 3:59.71 . A stat like that might actually put Lukas in a smaller group than 1 in a million.

His accomplishment is amazing, and a true testament to what the body can accomplish.




I’ve been running for about 5 years (a timeline assessed by the moment I moved exercise on the treadmill to outdoor running – and when I ran my first race.) I’ve been practicing yoga for about a year. The two activities come together harmoniously. One reason I first began yoga was to improve my running (and to protect myself from the flair up of a back injury) but it turns out the two activities have more of a symbiotic relationship.

Running lets me get outside, and lets me play with the push and pull of my physical ability. It allows my mind to traverse even more exotic routes than my sneakers. I think, I sweat and I observe and exist within my environment.


Yoga demands my concentration. It builds my skill, my patience, and requires that I keep my mind focused and present. Yoga makes me listen and follow rules.

My runner’s body feels leaner and stronger from the conditioning of near constant yoga, and I can withstand the 60 minutes of heat and demand on my muscles in a yoga class because I am a runner.

The most important thing that I have learned from my practice of yoga is gratitude.

There is something inherent in our bones, our blood, and our psyches that challenges our ability to feel good about our bodies. We stress about our weight, our shape, our ability. The colors of our eyes, hair and skin. The perfection of our smiles. We are always criticizing ourselves for not being perfect.

Yoga has given me an opportunity to be thankful for my body for enabling me to eat, to drink, to hug, to do downward dog – and to run. I am thankful that my body listens when I say “faster” or “one more mile.” I am thankful that my body will grow stronger and learn new things. I am grateful for yoga and how I’ve learned through my practice to be grateful for my body and all that it does for me.

Do you remember to be grateful for your body?

Friday, June 10, 2011

The War of the Window Unit

Because Washington, DC is built on a swamp (with the fill in remnants of drudging the Potomac River to increase its depth and create a more viable shipping industry for the region) the summer months are a hot, wet, buggy mess. It's one bad combination - the humidity of heaven's waiting room, Florida, and the blurry chemical and exhaust-filled thickness typical of an urban concrete jungle.

For residents, one moment of relief from living in the government’s very own inferno is that most rental properties come complete with air conditioning. This fact came as a delightful surprise when I moved from Chicago to the District in 2005. In Chicago, A/C is found less frequently, and the War of the Window Unit is familiar to Cubs and Sox fans alike. There is some dreaded weekend waiting quietly all spring for all of us when we have to dig those units out from storage and attempt to move, lift and secure the 40 lb beasts into a window space as ill fitting as the best pair of ladies khakis.

The inevitably poor fit results in the use of half of a roll of duct tape, and the MacGyvering of common household items to fill in gaps and to secure the beast for the summer. One of the challenges includes completing this task on a tight rope, or, rather, over a busy street some 2,3 or 4 stories up. Passersby are often blessed with falling lead-tainted paint chips from the windows of century old buildings, stagnant water dripping from the unit’s last use the previous summer, and probably an array of curse words falling from the lips of the installer. Another challenge is finding an appropriately sized item to wedge between the heavy-in-the-rear unit and the window ledge.

Last summer, I helped my girlfriend duct tape a perfectly sized piece of her best Tupperware, an item which was certainly being groomed for the most important role in its plasticine life. Weeks after witnessing her ingenuity, I tried to use the same method, only to find some of my Tupperware was too big, some was too small, a few pieces were too feeble - none was just right. I then had a moment of my own brilliance.

Searching the apartment for an item that could weather the summer weather, and most likely something that would not survive the feat, I remembered the entire drawer I kept of old CD cases and booklets (a collection that for certain is the beginning of a hoarder’s existence). I selected some cases that I could easily sacrifice, duct taped them together and crammed the creation under the weight of my dangerously wobbly air conditioning unit. Perfection. The success of this project is only heightened by the fact that from the street level, its extremely clear that Fiona Apple, All 4 One, and Green Day are working tirelessly day and night to keep pedestrians safe from being crushed by my window unit.

Today on my way to work, I saw from the L a unit held up by two soup cans. Pretty clever.

Have you ever had to fight the War of the Window Unit? Who won?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Think Yourself Thin (Or At Least Relaxed)

Some 15 years olds panic in the moments before the curtain rises.


Standing in the cafetoriums dark wings, some students quietly run their lines waiting for the one word or character decision that will ignite the 3 or 4 minutes of stage time for which they have been rehearsing for months.


Other 15 year olds stand in those same wings and recite the lyrics to The Beatles' Rocky Raccoon. As one of those Rocky loving teen actors, I have to admit that I don't know how RR became anxiety go-to. I just remember that the lyrics took enough of my focus that the nervous part of my chest started to relax AND that I could remember every word to the song. This dependence only grew in College, but also took on a different purpose.


My freshman year it was very popular to go to parties and dances 20 minutes or 30 minutes away at a rented banquet hall. The all-you-can-drink model was a large contributor to why we attended these banquet hall parties, but the bigest draw was really that you also got to drink on the bus on the way to the party- and everyone knows there's no fun like drinking-on-the-bus-fun.


The problem with this seemingly ideal set up, a problem that some how always slipped the minds of me and my 18 and 19 year old co-ed friends, was a simple equation.


Booze + booze + booze + bus = sick party animals.


The midnight ride back to campus, complete with rocking and rolling and pot holes, was often a very rough trip. When my best friend would inevitably start to feel sick, I'd press my head against the green plastic seatback next to her head, and softly slur Rocky Raccoon from beginning to end - distracting us both just enough from our nausea that we'd make it home without losing our (liquid) dinners on the well traveled floor of a yellow a school bus.



There's something about being able to distract yourself from anxiety and illness - feelings which seems unavoidable.


Why am I remembering the gifts that RR gave me in high school and college on this day? Because I spent my lunch hour almost completely horizontal with my dentist's responsible hands and buzzing tools all up in my grill. It's scary to be so vulnerable, and scary to not know if physical pain might win the battle of the Novacain. It's scary to think about your teeth falling out or how much it costs to put them back in. The dentist is scary no matter how nice or easy it is. Luckily I'm pretty good at calming myself down.


This time it wasn't Rocky who slowed my heart rate and lowered my blood pressure - it was Vinyasa. Closing my eyes and running a simple sequence of yoga poses, remembering the often well rehearsed lines that accompany each pose, imagining those poses perfect on my body in a way that I can't actually wear them yet. I can get a lost in my imaginary practice even with the tugging and the taste of blood in the back of my throat. It's cool to be able to separate your mind from your body, to distract yourself from what you are feeling.


What tricks help you manage your anxiety or control your fear? What else can you gain from having a mind over body connection?


PS: I originally blogged this post from my phone, and felt like there were too many errors to ignore, so this is a corrected version!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Is anybody out there?

I'm always sort of freaked out when someone mentions to me something they read on my blog. Of course, of the reasons people like me start blogs is to be read, but I find I'm so embarrassed of my low budget blogging for the last 5 years that I almost wish the select handful of you who opted to be notified that I've posted would just quietly remove yourselves and no longer cause me the tension of having your audience.  In all likelihood, if I wanted to maintain a blog on which I might actually be encouraged to write on it would probably be dedicated to the following subjects: dinosaurs, cats, running, yoga, music, and public transportation/delights of urban living. While staying on these few subjects might be kind of fun for me, I don't really know how much fun you all would have. The other option is to do Readers Choice and take suggestions for posts. I'm happy to write on any subject. As my voice echoes out and back from the blogosphere I ask- what do you want to read about?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Mediations on Writing

What causes the desire or capacity to write change for some so much from day to day? There are days, admittedly rare ones, in which I cover page after page, or post it after post it, or perhaps napkin after napkin- tangential thoughts, complex story lines, snapshots not fully formed. Sometimes these words and phrases flow the way we imagine Bob Dylan composing in bursts of perfection and timeless clauses that have the power to change a generation (it really does feel that way sometimes ). Other days I can try to force my hand to move. Try to feed my brain story leads. Try to reflect on old ideas which I captured briefly to later expound upon, and, yet - no writing appears. Nothing. Not one joke. Not one familial anecdote. Nothing that will.change anyone. These days, it's rather hard to feel like much more than a nonprofiteer. A cat owner. A yogi. Certainly not a writer. Certainly not.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I'll Take "Home" For $2000, Alex

The instant my foot crossed the threshold of my apartment after almost two full weeks out of town for both work and pleasure, those stereotypical words drifted unconsidered into my mind: “It feels so good to be home.”

Even with those words in my head, within minutes (or maybe minute) of dropping my suitcases, loneliness crept in.

I picked up my cell phone and found no texts. I perused my emails only to be met with advertisements and offers. I sunk into the tiny green loveseat near my street-facing windows and watched the summer heat beat down onto un-acclimated Chicagoans. My sunburned and dehydrated body had no interest in exercise. The cats were still at sleep-away camp until a ride could be arranged for their return. The fridge was bare, my girlfriend was 40 miles away and after 2 full weeks of constant social interaction I found I didn’t remember how to be by myself.

2 weeks of constant business with work, or constant easy chatter with my best friends, or continuous phone calls to folks at home...it was too quiet.

Without my love, my friends OR my cats – how could this place be considered home?

After a few hours (reconnecting with my books, NPR, and cheese and crackers) I started to feel more like a local in my apartment, but the gap was harder to close than I had expected.

What makes your house a home?

Gay Marriage Vs. Cousin Marriage

This is Americer.

Friday, April 29, 2011

It's not Harry Potter, but it will do.

Since I finished grad school I have tried to rededicate myself to the hobby of reading for pleasure. I've always loved to read, but I'll be honest in saying that it was a little challenging to remind my brain that all reading wasn't exhausting and demanding.  When I got over the damage higher ed had done to me, I started reading everything I could find, including, finally, the Harry Potter series. For the record, I loved it.

A few weeks ago, I encountered one of these "100 Books Everyone Should Read" lists on Facebook and felt wildly unread. After sifting through the list and deciding that making a dent in it would be one of my summer goals I started the first book on my list- Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre.

Like practicing yoga, reading the Bronte sisters is something that I thought I would never do. Turns out, you totally aren't done evolving when you are 22, 25, or 28 - I'm a little under halfway through with Jane Eyre, and I'm loving it. I don't really know why, yet. But I do. Who knew?

Most of my reading is accomplished on my commute, and while I feel a little bit nerdy (or undergrad-y) reading "classic lit" in such a public space, I like to see (and judge) what other people are reading on the train, too. From text books, to Manga, to Russian lit, to John Grisham - Its fun to look at the book, look at the person, wonder why he or she is reading said book and if he or she likes it. I wonder what people think of me and Jane Eyre (or, before Jane, me and random paleoanthropology books). The sad part of this game, however, is that people are all using Kindles/Nooks/iPads these days so their texts are a mystery.

 I have more to say about the Kindle/Nook/iPad - but that's for a different post.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The 30 Day Yoga Challenge

I've taken up the 30 Day Yoga Challenge.
 
This is not a challenge that raises money for sick kids, nor is it a challenge that raises money for my own personal indulgences. Completing the challenge does not enter me in a raffle or get my name on a faux gold font printed list. All it does is begin to prepare my body for summer (swimsuits and summer running season) and produce street cred among my social circle of fellow yogis and yoga enthusiasts.
 
All I have to do is complete 30 yoga classes in 30 days. I don't have to actually take a yoga class everyday - I can double up some days in a row, and then skip days if need be (and I'll need be, because I'll be going on a 10 day journey to New Orleans with work where it will be difficult for me to get my Namaste on.) I like it. I like yoga. I like the challenge. I like how my body will feel all beaten and bruised and strong and limber at the same time. 
 
This yoga challenge has got me thinking. If I look forward to yoga challenge, in this way - to committing at least an hour average a day (without travel, prep, shower) why have I never been able to complete a 30 day blogging challenge? Why have I never been able to blog every day for thirty days? Are my expectations set so high that I freak myself out? Do I demand a level of interest or creativity from each post that I have a hard time reaching? Have I convinced myself that I "don't have time"?
 
If May is 30 Day Yoga Challenge, maybe June should be 30 Day Blogger Challenge. If I can dedicate that much time to challenge my body, I should find the time to challenge my mind, too. Want to join me?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Shakespeare is ready for his close-up.

Attempt from interwebz phone

I'm guessing there's a Blogger app. Maybe that's something to look into.

Re-Learning How to Mobile Blog

In this iteration of Nervous Blogging, I'm planning to try some short form mobile-blogging. If I can remember how to do it, that is.I didn't get me an interwebz phone for nothing.
 
Stay Tuned.
 
Post Script: Happy Administrative Professionals day from your favorite Administrative Professional.

--
If righting is wrong, I don't want to be write.