30 December 2009

end of the decade commemorative post.

The 2000s are over.  Hurray!  I've been reading so many commemorative accounts of what to call the decade (I liked this one from The New Yorker) and summaries of events (I liked this icon chart from The New York Times) that like, really, how glad am I, as an individual and an American, to put this decade behind me?

IIn honor of that simpler time- before hanging chads, 9-11, the Iraq War, swift-boating, sustainability, iPods, social networking sites, the recession, and change you can believe in- or for me, before dating, state lacrosse championships, parental divorce, baptism, high school graduation, community college, acquiring a sister-in-law, singles wards, college, nieces, working, and graduate school in two states-- I present to you my own lackluster account, straight from my journal, of New Year's Eve, 2000.  I was a sophomore in high school.  If anything, in contrast to my account of 2009, the entry is evidence that the most humdrum of occasions (dancing in a gym? come on!) can portend a decade of change, accomplishment, and greatness.  However you celebrate it, Happy New Year!

(edited in spots for coherency; names abbreviated to protect the innocent. spelling errors left intact.)

"DUN-DUH-DUN! HAPPY NEW YR.! It's January 1, 2000, 2:18 am!

Alright, a quick run down of todays events...
11:30 wake up by hang up phone call
1-2 library, checked out The Divine Comedy by Dante, Beloved by Toni Morrison, etc.*
2-4 Reading
4-4:15- attempt to get ready for planned "Main Street" course run (27th to 67th, 67th to Cirque, Cirque to Grandview, Grandview to 27th, up 27th to home)
4:20 leave house, under excuse of don't want to be worn out, do the "2000 m spring" (approx) in 7:21, w/rest / 1000m.

My last millenium meal:
-1.5 beer marinated pork chop, dipped in ketchup & Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce
-shoestring french fries

We ate with Big Brother, Mom, Big Sister and Dad.

-Big Brother hosted a small get together and smoked stogies w/ T at midnight.
-Mom went to CF's, as tradition stands.
-Dad worked, unwillingly.

And A showed up early- at 7- for the big par-tay, so we could help set up.  Of all places, the Tac-South Stake [city-wide conglomeration of Mormon congregations] rented out our High School, so I went to school for New Years!

We left [the party] around 8:15, went to Dairy Queen, but someone was in our spots so we stopped by my house for a bit o Toblerone ( :) ) and went to B2's house for a while. Went back to the school- swung by the Youth dance for a while, but there were way too many little kids in there and it smelled like B.O. Danced with B2 to one song and then me and A had a shift managing the inflatable "bouncer" for 30 minutes.  Then we hooked up with J & E & went to E's house. The boys played pool & we girls were obnoxious with this big blue bouncy ball. Got back to school @ 11... that's when New Year's got fun.  The dance was movin, and it was a great time. I got sick of following A & B though, so I just hung out with the other group I know- lot's o' fun!

Last Song- "I'm Dreamin'"- Selena
Partner- Freshman DD

Then we did the countdown and poof- 2000! The lights stayed on & I came home. Ate licorice, triscuits & choc milk & a See's mint truffle, read Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets and am now here.

My goal, as told to A & B, was not to be an old spinster this millenium.**

Oh, my attire for the eve. was:
new heman shirt
green cargo shorts
brown Saltwater sandals
old navy pullover, gray fleece***

My goals for this yr, officially are:
-to lose at least 5-7 lbs & keep it off
-Learn the non-metric distance system (yds. vs. meters)
-play la-x & run varsity x-c
-build my testimony
-expand my base of friends
-get kissed
-be a better friend to J
-not eat so much chocolate!

...Merry freakin' millenium, as Dad said!

*I'd love to know what the etc. was, as I never read either of the books listed.
**Jury is still out on how I'm doing on that one. Good thing I have 90 years to work on it...
**It just so happens that I still own this entire outfit.

29 December 2009

2009 end of the year meme.

So I'm back in Philly, and like, so tired that I'm drooling.  It was smooth sailing getting back here, aside from the getting up and 4 am and having a facefullofsnot all day parts.  I am already homesick and missing the constant company of siblings, dogs, and the little people but feeling very enthusiastic about sleeping in my own bed tonight, once I dig it out from the laundry I left on it two and a half weeks ago.

Anyways, I was catching up on my blog reading to stave off going to bed too early and happened upon PilgrimSteps' version of the "2009 End of the Year Meme."  After a sort of blog hiatus, it looked appealing because it's a fill in the blank thing.  So here it goes:

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?
Finished a Masters thesis, got my MA, fell in love with the English countryside, presented at three academic conferences, went to Wales, moved to the Eastern time zone, started a PhD program, sold my car and became a bike commuter, bought a pack of cigarettes (naughty naughty!).

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I didn't make any last year, but 2010's will probably have to do with achieving balance or some shit.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
does my brother's BFF's wife count? my circle really isn't much for breeding.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Lost a great uncle and an acquaintance from Utah.

5. What countries did you visit?
England, Wales, middle Pennsylvania.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
cop out answer: headlight for the Dahon, or better yet, a road bike.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
the day I went to Park City and decide to go to Temple, the day I played in the Pacific at Ocean Beach.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Finishing my Master's thesis meant a lot to me.  Broadly, figuring out that I could make things happen in a big way.

9. What was your biggest failure?
The times that I lost sight of my worth and abilities. 

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
The Great Kidney Stone of January, hangovers, heartburn.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
All those plane tickets. My iMac and my foam mattress will have to duke it out for runner-up. Also, a pair of gold leggings for my superstar niece.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My family, doy- and all the people who propped me up during a very difficult Spring semester, and really, year round.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Meh. I got over it. So let's go with all those people who tried to block healthcare reform.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Rent, travel.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
moving to Philly, going to England, going to Denver for WHA 

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?
Sun Kil Moon, "Lost Verses." my anthem.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?
a) way happier!
b) thinner
c) poorer

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
More fiction reading. More walks in the park by my house. More embroidery. More trips to the Philadelphia Art Museum. Basically, more me time during the school parts.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
fixating on my ridiculous man problems, moody wallowing and brooding.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
3 busy days with family, culminating in a beautiful dinner at "my other parent's" house.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?
I fell in love with my profession. A lot of things clicked for me. I fell in love with Philadelphia as I rode my bike every day. I am so happy to be here.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Mad Men and Gossip Girl. I get uber dorky over those shows.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I have better things to do with my energy.

24. What was the best book you read?
So the other night I was reading a book and my brother said something to this effect: "If somebody would've asked me a long tiime ago what you were going to be when you grew up, I would've said, 'I don't know, but she sure reads a lot of books.'" Here's my best effort at a short list:

For work: To Serve God and Wal-Mart; Catholic Intellectuals and Conservative Politics in America; Woman's Body, Woman's Right; Fighting for American Manhood; The Bitter Road to Freedom.

For pleasure: The Road; Bloodsucking Fiends and You Suck; The Yiddish Policeman's Union.

I really discovered magazines in a huge way this year. I'm a little obsessed with Vogue and The New Yorker.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
The Weepies, Phoenix, Sun Kil Moon's acoustic albums.

26. What did you want and get?
To have a life I could be happy with.

27. What did you want and not get?
see 30.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
The Wrestler. I also rediscovered Rocky and it occupies a special place in my heart. Godfather 1 and 2 as well.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Suffice it to say I drank a lot of free beers. I'll tell you the story in ten years.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
It was pretty damn satisfying, if anything because I had such a great time working to make up for what I didn't have.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
Cardigans, or, dressing like a grown up. I was really into wearing a ton of colors at the beginning of the year, but I toned things down a lot as the year progressed. 

32. What kept you sane?
Family & friends, long soaks in the tub, bike rides, lager.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
John Hamm. Yowsers. Though I do love that Ed Westwick as well. 

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
The Inauguration, health care, Iran, education funding.

35. Who did you miss?
So many people! I hung my hat in 4 different places this year, I was bound to miss somebody and everybody.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
I've been lucky to meet lots of great people in my new program and through the internets. 

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.
To paraphrase Thoreau: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life that you've imagined. Build your castles in the air, then build foundations under them.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Don't stop me now

'cause I'm having such a good time!

-Queen, "Don't stop me now"

Let me know if you do the year end meme!

28 December 2009

disney templates.

Big Brother shared this with me. The kids liked the music. Clever stuff.

24 December 2009

a pack of strays.

I've been touched lately by the thoughtful Christmas essays featured in The New York Times recently.  One spoke to the realities- and hopes- of being a single person during the holidays, another, more poignant, answered for the struggles of the unmoored and the families who take them in on festive days.  While I have never been in the foster care system or experienced even half of the traumas the author alluded to, I have felt the pinball feeling of ricocheting off of other people's (and sometimes my own) family events as both a grateful participant and an uncomfortable intruder.  Confronting this feeling annually involves a late, reluctant, and resigned purchase of an airline ticket and a frustrating blend of enthusiasm and dread.  I love, love, love being around my family but I struggle to really enjoy the holidays (coming home in the summer is so much easier!).  After reading this NYT story about people skipping the holidays- I, feeling very curmudgeonly (probably from gorging on candy and teriyaki to cope with, you know, the stress) was like, YES! Maybe next year I could just spend the holidays at home in Philly in my most amazing bed that I miss so much, without any drama or feelings of holiday malaise!  Maybe I could just skip it, all of it!  Validated in my dark and brooding state, I was plotting a dramatic iCal reminder that would suggest I consider traveling after New Years so that I could just bypass all of the running around and the inexplicable misery I feel in the midst of all this apparent happiness.

It's like you see me making a white sauce, but really I have this complicated inner life. 

I recognize that I'm not the only person on the planet to feel this, and I recognize I'm probably not the only person in this house who feels it either.  Which is why I'm so especially grateful that my some special folks rallied our pack of strays this evening.  Fragments of an extended family, we boast a large percentage of single people.  We lack a clear leader- there are no matriarchs or patriarchs here, just a  contingent of several generations willing to go where they are called.  Suddenly planned, the food was simple, the giving was directed primarily towards the children, and the evening involved the installation of a car radiator.  This was not some ungainly production, but an effort of basic pragmatism:

We would all celebrate Christmas elsewhere, but tonight, we needed to celebrate our Christmas.  We gathered from the far-flung corners of Seattle, rural Pierce County, Tacoma, and Philadelphia to be together.  And perhaps, because of the nature of the season, we were able to see in each other qualities we'd missed or thought too long dormant.  It was an awakening moment for me.

It is easy to see the holidays for what they aren't, for what ones' life isn't.  It is a default, for some, to feel lost and aloof amidst endless hams and cookie platters.  It is not difficult to focus on those feelings, it just happens.  And that is why it is so blissful when that moment of grace presents itself and you can't feel anything better than the love and caring that comes from being a part of a family.  We say we're coming together for the holidays, but really, we're coming together for each other. It is good to be reminded that we are no longer strangers and together we are no longer strays.

God bless us, every one.

07 December 2009

slow and steady wins the race.

In conversations about the health benefits of moving to Philadelphia and bike commuting, I typically use the "fat summer" of 2008 as a point of reference.  I had moved to Utah, lost ten pounds from the stress, bought a bike, gained all the weight back, and then set upon a rather solitary, sedentary summer that included a lot of air-conditioned hours spent watching movies while consuming a steady intake of drinks, Pringles, Cheeze-Nips, Oreos, and the like.  It was a lonely time that was met with poor food choices. We've all been there.  There are basically no pictures of me from that time because I took special care to delete them along the way.  I had no energy, wore loose sundresses because my pants didn't fit, and was pretty squishy.  I didn't have a waist.  We don't have to talk exact numbers here, other than that I had a BMI of ~27- right in the middle of the overweight category.

Fast forward fifteen months.  There were some slow and steady changes made over time.  I started with not buying junk and drinking less.  I lost about 12 pounds doing that.  I moved to a city with a Trader Joe's where I do most of my shopping, making sure to toss a bag of spinach in with my groceries and skipping out on the treats (I bought sweets at TJ's for the first time in Philly this week... seriously).  The last 8 pounds came off as I embarked on a car-free lifestyle.*  This was unintentional.**  I should round out Fall Semester with 500 miles under my belt.  

I've mentioned the changes in posts along the way, but today was a big milestone.  I've lost 20 pounds since the "fat summer." My BMI is 23- right in the midst of the normal weight range.  I am decidedly less doughy. I've lost about four inches off my waist and now have an extensive collection of pants that are much too large.  Double chins in photographs are seldom a problem.  I weigh less than I did my senior year of high school in 2002 and any time since.

I'm not trying to brag-- but I really, truly believe in the power of lifestyle change.  There are lots of reasons to consider getting on a bike, and weight loss is a legitimate one.  Most days I ride between 2 and 6 miles, with the occasional 10 or 12 mile day.  So there you have it-- you don't have to run a marathon to see results!

*My comments about nutrition should be qualified to note, in earnest, that I consume lager and fried bar food with greater frequency nowadays.  That's slowed my weight loss but nonetheless, since selling my car, I have steadily lost weight without any gaining back. Eating everything I can- including glorious full fat dairy- has not stemmed the tide of weight loss.  So there's some logic there.

**No, really. My poor roommate can attest to the endless whining about being hungry all the time and how none of my clothes fit- and I couldn't even buy Gap Jeans any more because even the smaller sizes are cut too wide (I recommend J. Crew for bike-altered bodies) .  It was a very rough time for him. 

05 December 2009

because it's snowing, i should be riding my bike.

Most things I do fall into two categories.  There are the things that I do that are a good idea, like eating a balanced diet, and things that I do because I can, like supplementing that diet with lager and whatever kind of bar food can be rustled up (lately: perogies from my beloved Oscar's and beer battered green beans from Prohibition).  The two categories aren't mutually exclusive (selling my car) and things can even migrate from one category to another (moving to Philly without a job).  

I tell you all this because today I rode my bike to the store in the snow. I did it just because I could. I am not quite sure if it was a good idea or not. 

I went back and forth on it all day- I was down to basically zero food, but the weather was crappy.  A girl has to eat, but I was making good progress on one of my papers. (approximately 6,000 words to go!).  Finally daylight was starting to dim, and it occurs to me that if it freezes there will be zero food tomorrow.  So I bundled up a little more than I do for just rain and headed out into the mess wearing all this:

On my feet- a pair of soccer socks, with a pair of wool socks over them, with a pair of rubber boots.
On my legs- (thermals tragically MIA) yoga pants, rain pants.
On my torso- shirt, North Face puffy coat (I like to sweat), rain jacket.
On my hands- water & wind resistant gloves
On my neck- a scarf that got very wet.
On my head- crocheted beanie and Nutcase helmet, sans pads.

So this was no small effort, but I'm thinking, riding in the snow? I've done this like a million times.  And I get outside, and it's kind of crappy.  And I get on my bike, and I'm like WHAT ARE THESE DAGGERS STABBING MY EYES?

Utah people, allow me to delude myself here, but the snow in Utah is as fluffy and dry as marshmallows, and getting hit in the eye by a flake is akin to, I don't know, an angel's wing brushing against your eyelashes.  When I saw the big flakes out my window, I was thinking of that. Not being stabbed in the eyeball.  I think it might've been sleeting, but that was really unpleasant.  It was also unpleasant that the only people doing dangerous shit on the road were from New Jersey.  If there's any prejudice I've learned to cultivate while living in Philadelphia, it's that people from New Jersey are the worst (try going to a decent bar on a Friday or Saturday... ugh). This did not help their case.

I interrupt this blog post for a Church of the Granny Bike Public Service Announcement:
If it's snowing, stay the hell out of my city, New Jerseyians!

Those people crossed the line.

proof that I went (after 11,000 pictures my camera struggles a little in bad weather)

Anyways, the grocery getting part wasn't so bad, because I inadvertently stumbled upon The Secret to managing Trader Joe's on a Saturday.  It's called "Forget To Turn Your Blinkee Light Off." No wonder people gave me so much space!  I am going to do that every time I go from now on.

I made it home intact, basically dry, but not really filled with the joy that I usually feel after grocery getting by bike.  A balaclava and some goggles probably would've made it better, but the visibility was a bitch.  While fortunately I'm off of grocery duty here for the next couple of weeks, I may have to get on board with public transportation for my shopping when it gets to be high winter.

really... poor strange little camera!

The up side to all of this is now that I have plenty of food to get me through whatever further inclement weather comes, and that food stash includes Candy Cane Joe Joes, one of the best foods of all time! In fact, now that I'm having a cookie, I think I will never question the value of riding in the snow again.