Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Is Coming

And my minor Advent miracle today is that the baby is sleeping in a crib. He sleeps quite a bit, actually, just usually only if he is on top of or immediately next to another person. I wasn't even trying to get him to sleep elsewhere today (since I've had such poor luck with that so far) --- I had just put him down in his favorite hanging-out spot while I used the restroom. And then noticed that it was staying oddly quiet. Woo-hoo! Although I am scheduled to meet my mother at the library in half an hour, and she has no cell phone...

I have been getting a fair bit of reading done, since that's one of the few things I can do while nursing and/or being slept on. First I read my book club selection for December, though I wasn't able to make it to the gathering. Then I got caught up with my magazines (although I have realized the New York Times is too cumbersome to attempt one-handed so have reluctantly relinquished my Sunday subscription for the time being). Since then I've had one fiction and one non-fiction book going at all times. Who knows? If I can keep from buying new books I may actually get through a sizable chunk of my unread shelf before I have to go back to work. I'm well aware that once I do return I will get very little reading for, oh, the next couple of years at least.

Of course, if he keeps up with this sleeping in a crib business I won't be reading as much either... maybe I can finally finish his quilt...

Blessings to all on this first day of Winter!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Some Things I Forgot Abut Having A Newborn

They are astonishingly uncoordinated. I forgot about the flailing heads and hands.

Their skin is the softest thing ever, especially on top of the head.

They sleep, a lot, but not when you necessarily want them to.

They are astonishingly funny, weird little faces and noises and eye glances and oddly timed smiles. "Champ" is rapidly becoming "The Squeaker".

And OMG, I forgot how huge my breasts would get. Not happy about that. I don't mind the softness of my belly or the roundness of my face postpartum, but these breasts are out of control. Mostly I try to avoid looking at them in the mirror. And sadly, while my belly and face will return (cross fingers) to normal relatively quickly, as long as I'm nursing I have to deal with the boobies. Ah well. I'm just happy that nursing is going better this time.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Scary Movie Month 2011 - Wrap Up

Well, I was going to break down the rest of our viewing into a couple of different posts, but frankly, I'm tired (and sick) and unsure of how much time I've got before Champ makes his way into the world (and a pretty big list of things to do before then, crossing my fingers).

Was Halloween really just last night? (Clearly I started this post a while ago.) We had saved "Something Wicked This Way Comes" to watch on Halloween, after having rented it last year and not gotten to it, but by the time we got Buddy inside from trick-or-treating and to bed, we were too pooped to pop. Just as well, since he then remained up for another 45 minutes. Singing. Loudly. Which is what I told him to do if he couldn't fall asleep, as it beats having him holler for us, but it definitely impacts our ability to concentrate on any kind of "serious" viewing. We watched past episodes of "Community" instead, and planned to put "SWTWC" first on our viewing list for next year, to make sure we actually watch it.

Other movies seen this year...

Prince of Darkness
(1987 - directed by John Carpenter)
Oh, scary, scary. It seems there's a lot of contention around this movie, just among John Carpenter fans --- folks who don't find it scary find it silly, and folks who do find it scary find it really scary. Whatever pushes your particular fear buttons, I suppose. I don't even have any real belief in an embodied Satan, but this one got under my skin. And I love the goofy-looking special effects, they are so pre-CGI and so funny looking and yet still manage to be deeply disturbing. Truly, John Carpenter is a master.

From Hell
(2001 - directed by Albert and Allen Hughes, starring Johnny Depp, from the Alan Moore comic)
Ahhh... I liked this, even when it got stupid at the end and kind of petered out. I liked seeing Johnny Depp in this, I liked seeing him with Robbie Coltrane, I liked the visuals and the editing. (I didn't like Heather Graham.) I liked the depiction of Victorian London (I didn't like the overly complex conspiracy stuff). But overall, not the most satisfying movie --- mostly made me want to see the new Sherlock Holmes one coming out next month, or to reread Gail Carriger's steampunk series.

Prom Night
(1980 - starring Jamie Lee Curtis)
1. Jamie Lee Curtis has a magnetism that shines through whatever dreck may surround her. 2. The last scenes are actually pretty cool. 3. Lots of McGuffins. 4. But basically a stupid movie.

Would I watch it again? Probably, especially if enough beer were involved.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre
(1974 - directed by Tobe Hooper)
I started having my doubts about this movie when, a hour or so before watching it, I found out there was a character named "Leatherface" who wears a mask of human skin. That is, that this character is featured enough to have both a name and a description.

My one consistent thought while watching was, "Why, with all the real atrocities happening in the world, am I watching this?"

It turned out the The Dude was also not enjoying himself, so we fast-forwarded (slowly) through the rest of movie, thereby avoiding the sound and the visceral sense of outrage, while still getting to find out what happened. Which had been our main goal in seeing it in the first place. But my question has also led to a decision for future Scary Movie Months: to add a category called "Real Life Horror." Not true crime, but movies (fiction) that deal with truly horrifying realities. Movies like "Hotel Rwanda". "Blood Diamonds". "Traffic." "The Whistleblower". All the movies that are about things I'm willing to read about and want to know more about, but that I can't usually make myself watch. If not during Scary Movie Month, then when?

The Day the Earth Stood Still
(1951 - directed by Robert Wise)
This ended up being our last movie for Scary Movie Month 2011, and I think I kind of knew it at the time, because as tired as I was, I made a super special effort to stay up and finish it. It helped that it's a short movie, and that it was interesting: an alien spaceship shows up to deliver the message that Earth needs to not extend its aggression against other planets (though if we feel like killing ourselves off that's perfectly fine, of course), otherwise, be prepared to face extermination ourselves. Message brought to us from a "peace-loving" federation of planets. Huh. There are some inconsistencies in the final arguments of the alien visitor, though, as he himself says, their particular mode of peace-making is imperfect. But obviously it got us thinking, about war, about peace-making, about whether any kind of superior robot (their police force) could actually be trusted to in the end decide for humans (see Isaac Asimov's "Robot" series and their laws of robotics). Some of the "futuristic" effects used in this movie, from 60 years ago, don't seem all that strange now, and the increasing abilities of robots make some of these questions more pertinent than one would think (or would like to think). So, a good movie to go out on.

So that's it for this year! We've so enjoyed the practice of watching movies we wouldn't have otherwise (because too scary or too intense or too difficult) that we're going to start a monthly "Classic Movie Night" --- one night each month to watch a "classic" (along the lines of "I can't believe you haven't seen this!"). I'm looking forward to putting together our list.

Any scary movies you've especially liked this year? Any classics you'd recommend?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Scary Movie Month 2011 - Part 3

Our third week of movie watching had no truly scary movies, but interesting, enjoyable, and fun movies with moments of hand-wringing, "eeks!", and marvelous shocks.

The Blob
(1958 - starring Steve McQueen)
I had never actually seen a Steve McQueen movie before this one, and I have to admit that this one didn't argue for watching more. Very odd to see actors clearly in their twenties playing teenagers. (I know this happens all the time, including some of my favorites, it was just especially jarring in this one.) Yet again, we talked all the way through --- the main topic of conversation this time (other than the usual predictions of how the terror was going to spread and how it could be stopped) was to note how this movie fits into the canon of late 50's movies that start to celebrate teenagers over adults. Now, of course, it seems most of our media does, but youth culture really got its start in the mid- and late-50's, and it is interesting (to film and music buffs like ourselves) to see some of the early examples of the shift.

Alice in Wonderland
(2010 - directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter)
My work friend with whom I talk about movies/comics/books asked why we included this when it is in no way a horror movie. Before watching I figured, well, pretty much anything that Tim Burton does is spooky in some way, and this is Scary Movie Month, after all, not Horror Movie Month. After viewing, I can say this definitely belonged, there are some really scary bits in it. Also some really interesting bits (it got us thinking about the roles available to women in Victorian England, for example), lots of beautiful ones, and of course it's always a treat to watch Helena Bonham Carter, I'm always fascinated by her performances and her ability to be so different in each. I found Johnny Depp's character to be really moving as well though I wouldn't say it was necessarily a big stretch for him (I thought his performance in "From Hell" (coming up soon) was better).

(1990 - starring Jeff Daniels and Harley Jane Koszak)
I don't have any problems with spiders, so this one didn't bother me as much as it did The Dude. First two thirds were kinda so-so and then the pace picked up and it got good and action-filled and fun. Another memorable cameo by John Goodman as well - he's always fun to watch.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Scary Movie Month 2011 - Part 2

The next week's movies were not as satisfying but still had some good moments. 

Once Bitten
(1985 - starring Lauren Hutton and Jim Carrey)
The movie started, and right away we knew it was going to be awful, stupid and aggravatingly 80's, with caricatures instead of characters.  Five minutes later we turned it off. Not worth anyone's time.

28 Weeks Later
(2007 - starring Jeremy Renner (sigh) and Rose Byrne)
Oh, so much better. Interesting, thrilling, scary, heartbreaking --- everything what you want in a scary movie. I did watch significant chunks of it with my head turned and my hands up before the screen so I couldn't see the most disgusting bits. A friend of mine at work laughs that I love scary movies but hate gore. On thinking about this, though, I've decided that I don't mind gore so much as I dislike seeing pain, either in the moment it's inflicted or as people are suffering from it. A bloody, disemboweled dead body lying in gore or a quick bloody death --- no problem. But ongoing suffering --- can't watch it. None of these so-called "torture porn" movies for me.

Friday the 13th 
(the original 1980 version)
Boring, ho-hum, thought I would fall asleep, only good for the opportunity to mock ("Who's going to die next?" "Oh, she just said/did something sexual, guess it's her turn.") because really, as a nearly middle-aged mom I have no patience for watching teenagers behaving badly --- and then, boom, totally got frightened silly. The Dude says it was worth sitting through it just for that, he kept plying me with sugar so that I would stay awake long enough for the big scare. It worked.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Scary Movie Month 2011 - Part 1

Well, while I haven't managed to stay on top of writing about Scary Movie Month, we've definitely been managing to stay on top of our viewing! (More impressively, I've managed to stay on top of baking for it, as we like our snacks for SMM, and I've been avoiding buying chocolate this year.)

Here's the first week's worth of movies.

The Frighteners
(1996 - directed by Peter Jackson, starring Michael J. Fox)
Enjoyed this while watching, but then five days later couldn't remember that I'd seen it. That either doesn't say good things about the movie, or should just be chalked up to late pregnancy. I'm inclined now to say the latter, as I've been talking about it with people about it since, and have found more and more that I enjoyed about it, though my main complaint remains the same (the romance is accelerated to an insane degree to forward the plot). Also an interesting movie to view given where it fits into the Peter Jackson catalog (between Heavenly Creatures and Lord of the Rings) - it's certainly more Hollywood and big budget than Heavenly Creatures but I never would have predicted his ability to do LOTR based on this movie.

Rear Window
(1954 - directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly)
Not really scary, but filled out our Hitchcock viewing. Most of our discussion afterwards (and during - this was the year we talked through every single movie we saw...) centered around changing experiences of neighborhoods and neighbors, and changing expectations of marriage. This really isn't one to critique - it is a classic, after all.

The Mist
(2007 - from a Stephen King novella, with a disturbing performance by Marcia Gay Harden)
Oh, scary, scary, and so sad. I get sad just thinking about it. I don't think we did much talking during this one, except maybe to make predictions about who was going to die next. I do remember a couple of breaks for extra snacks/bathroom - probably to break the tension of all that scary sadness.

I hope to get caught up by the end of the week! Only eight more to go before this last weekend's worth.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Here's what I've read in the last week that has made me think...

Why I Don't Want to Talk About Race - The Good Men Project
"I don’t want to talk about race because it gives weight to a fiction that was created to oppress. It has no basis in biology and is a social construction in this country that was engineered to maintain access to free labor... Black people can’t talk to white people about race anymore. There’s really nothing left to say. There are libraries full of books, interviews, essays, lectures, and symposia. If people want to learn about their own country and its history, it is not incumbent on black people to talk to them about it. It is not our responsibility to educate them about it. Plus whenever white people want to talk about race, they never want to talk about themselves. There needs to be discussion among people who think of themselves as white. They need to unpack that language, that history, that social position and see what it really offers them, and what it takes away from them. As James Baldwin said, “As long as you think that you are white, there is no hope for you.”"

He provides a good reading list for those wanting to learn more, and I would add to that the book "Learning to be White: Money, Race, and God in America" by Thandeka.

And then a companion piece to that one:

I Talk About Race Because I Don't Know How Not To - Good Men Project
"As Locke points out, as long as only people of color are asked to speak on race and then dismissed for doing so, white people maintain the privilege of not having to recognize the way race affects their everyday lives. Just as we need “good men” who are willing to talk about how being a man uniquely privileges them and how dominant constructions of masculinity hurt them... we need white folks to have open, public conversations about how their whiteness affects their everyday lives and to speak up against individuals, policies, and institutions that perpetuate racial hierarchies by refusing to talk about race. Silence isn’t only consent; silence is like giving a system based in racial hierarchies a bear hug and cooking it a romantic dinner."

On a seemingly unrelated topic (except of course it is)...

Preventing Orphans - Sit A Spell
"Our hope in writing this post is to draw attention to this missing element in our conversations about caring for the orphan internationally.  We moved to Haiti to care for the orphan, and yet the only ideas we had for doing so were to either start an orphanage or help fund one.  Isn't that neglecting one of the most critical pieces of this puzzle? We're simply proposing that this question, "How can we prevent children from becoming orphans" be welcomed into the room when we're talking about orphan care."

Some really good, provocative questions in this post.

And then some quotes from longer pieces that stuck with me...

The Elizabeth Warren quote that has been popping up everywhere:
     "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there — good for you! But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that maurauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did."

I like how it highlights the costs/benefits that usually don't get seen or taken into account...  but it also makes me think about other hidden costs/benefits, namely, that our country (and all industrialized countries) was built on slave labor and the profits from slave labor, and our ongoing economic growth and personal consumption continues to be paid for from slave labor, all around the world.

And then this piece from from "Ask a Quaker" (on Rachel Held Evans' blog).
     "Another characteristic of Quakers and the Bible is that Quakers have traditionally been serious about viewing the Bible as a message of today. For Quakers who relate to the Bible this way, the world is populated with Pharisees and Romans, Pharaohs and Ahabs, Pentecosts and still small voices. This means that any moment in the Bible is a potential new moment to be... Perhaps it seems odd to you to approach the Bible this way, but in many ways, this method of reading the Bible is actually similar to the way the black church tradition has read the Bible (especially Exodus)"

When I started reading the Bible as an adult I took it primarily on a metaphorical, poetical, and possibly a historical level --- especially all the bloody bits described in the psalms and the prophetical books. But the more I learn about all the levels of violence and oppression continuing in the world (rape as an instrument of war, modern slavery, genocide, torture), and the more I start to take these things seriously, the more I read these bloody bits (and therefore the Bible as a whole) as "a message of today" --- and as a "potential new moment to be".

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Isn't She Beautiful

My quilting frame arrived this weekend.

Plus a cutie who ended his naptime early to "help".

And now with my quilt in it.
I haven't gotten anything else done on it since ( I tried to get started this morning before the boys woke up but my thread wasn't cooperating). Hopefully soon.

I think she needs a name! Any suggestions? The Dude's guitars all have names, I think my beloved sewing machine and quilt frame need names too.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Making Progress & A Cool Website

I got home a little early last night and immediately undid the basting and seams I needed to, and then this morning a friend of mine canceled our breakfast plans, so after I dropped Buddy off I had time to put the quilt top back together. Still a little wonky but better than it was (and as good as it's going to get). And my frame is at the post office waiting to be re-delivered, so hopefully this weekend I'll be able to 1. re-baste the sucker and 2. assemble the frame and 3. get started on my quilting.

Not like I don't have enough other things to be doing in these next weeks.

If you don't already know about it, I recommend checking out the International Quilt Study Center and Museum's website, and in particular, their "Quilt of the Month" online display. Always very interesting. And the center is located in Lincoln, Nebraska, only five hundred miles from Chicago --- I'm hoping someday to go out there for a visit. Road trip, anyone?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

More Mistakes

So, here is a photo of the top layer of my quilt, laid on top of the backing so that I could trim the backing to the same size and thereby have a better chance of matching certain squares up.

The squares that look white are actually very faded denim.
You might notice that for the most part my points match... except where they very definitely do not, where the lower three rows meet the middle three rows. I had noticed this when piercing the top together but thought I could live with it. But the longer I look at it, the less I can live with it, especially since it won't take that much to correct it (I estimate redoing only four seams).

Except I went ahead and re-basted last night and correcting it would mean redoing the basting yet again...

I might mention here that I am 7 1/2 months pregnant and have been doing my basting on the floor since I don't have a work table big enough to accomodate even this little quilt. A bit on the uncomfortable side.

Bah. Guess I'll be unpinning again tonight. At least my new frame hasn't yet arrived, that would make it very hard for me to resist just plunging in with the quilting again.

Lesson learned? Aside from the obvious, of better checking how my panels line up against each other when piecing together, and being willing to correct mistakes when they happen, the other thing I've learned is to measure and cut my own squares, even if I get my hands on a bunch of precut squares that seemingly all measure the same. They won't.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

And Out It Goes

Monday I basted my quilt for Champ, put it on a frame, and started quilting.

Yesterday I undid it all.


I had pieced the back as well as the front, and while I thought it didn't matter if certain edges didn't line up, once I got started with the quilting I realized it did. At least to me. Thankfully it's a small blanket and I hadn't gotten very far with the quilting. (I also realized that the frame I had was NOT going to work for me and have since ordered a new one - hopefully it will arrive soon.)

I will give it another go tonight, using the basting tips from this blog.

And I wish I had thought to take photos on Monday, but I didn't, so now I have to wait until the weekend for the good afternoon light.

At least in the process of starting to hand quilt it I found (as I'd hoped) that I really enjoy hand quilting. A good thing, since this one at least needs to be hand quilted (old corduroy and denim), and also because I just like the looks of hand quilting better.

Friday, September 30, 2011

What I've Been Up To (Not Sewing)

Getting ready for Buddy's 3rd birthday, which of course necessitated rearranging the whole apartment, multiple trips to Target and Ikea, assembling new Ikea furniture, cleaning (as we moved furniture around and uncovered dust monsters), framing posters/photos that had previously just been tacked up, packing up books to move bookshelves and then unpacking them, rearranging books on the bookshelves as I decided how they really should go, and, oh yes, making a cake and having people over.

And then in the weeks since then continuing with all of the activities above since we only managed to get the essential bits done before his party. But it's all coming along. Our bedroom will be last and will probably take into next year --- now that some of the junky storage solutions have been replaced some of the previously "nice" ones are looking mighty shabby, but since very soon my pay will be temporarily reduced and our daycare fees will more than double we're not spending any more money right now on home furnishings.

Still some bookshelves in the front rooms to rearrange and a couple of closets to empty out and sort through. More framing and hanging. At least one more trip to Target to get storage bins, now that we have a "mud shelf" in our entryway.

What else?

Reading about / looking at art since I haven't been making it:

Poor Buddy is undergoing many transitions right now --- into a new room at daycare, into a big boy bed, into potty training. He is trying very hard but it is a lot, so that is demanding some extra care and attention and energy. But it is also amazing to watch him become a "big boy".

Lots of thinking/journaling about work since there are some big changes coming up in my responsibilities. But since these are due to changes in my boss's responsibilities (and not any inherent change in my position), and because I have a somewhat nebulous position that leaves me managing myself for big chunks of my work, it is mostly being left to me to figure out how to make it happen. I have been trying not to gripe but I am unimpressed and collecting observations for my (eventual) exit interview.

To be fair, I should say that I think these changes will be good for me in the long run, I'm just unimpressed with the support I am (not) getting in making them. But since what I'm seeing is typical of where I work (hence the noting of observations for an eventual exit interview) I can't say I'm really surprised. Just unimpressed, and a little sad. My eventual departure is now more certain.

Moving around in a physical sense is now getting harder and slower, though Champ is moving more and more. It's a very odd feeling, when reading to Buddy, to have a squirming child against my belly while also a squirming baby inside it. Champ responds especially strongly to Bud's voice so the movement is quite intense at those times...

My fingers are itchy with wanting to get to sewing projects --- I am taking a day off on Monday and plan to baste Champ's quilt finally so I can get started quilting it, among other personal projects.

And glory of glories, Scary Movie Month is finally here! I am so excited. First up, brownies, "The Frighteners", and "Rear Window". We're even putting Sunday Night football on hold for the month to try to get as many movies in as possible. Last year's SMM felt like kind of a bust for me and I missed it, so this year we have been really preparing for it.

And that's plenty!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Busy Fingers

I've started quilting again, after a several-month hiatus. A completely different project than the one I was working on before, I acquired a number of pre-cut squares (random stuff shows up all the time at work, one of the benefits of working at a church), and in sorting through them I felt a strong urge to make a baby quilt for Champ. Especially since Buddy ended up getting four different handmade blankets but I don't expect the same largesse for baby #2. I've "commissioned" two already just so he won't be left blanketless (from my mother and a woman at work who is very attached to my child(ren)) but both of those will be knit, and I felt that he needs a quilt as well. Because of course Buddy won't be giving up any of his precious blankets! Buddy has been eyeing this one as well and keeps talking about it being his "house" so I think my next one has already been claimed... I did want to make one for me but it may just have to wait a little longer.

No photos just yet but I do have the top and bottom already pieced and hope to get it basted over the weekend. I'm doing the piecing by machine but will quilt by hand. Just in time for both football season and Scary Movie Month.

As I've been working I've had lots of thoughts about why I stopped before and what I am drawn to when looking at quilts and what is important to me when considering making my own... have been taking notes so sometime soon I imagine I'll have my own quilting "manifesto". Because I was, after all, an art student and have lots of thoughts about art and handcraft and the like...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

May Have Spoke Too Soon

So I went running today. Didn't mean to, wasn't planning on it, and really what I'm doing can hardly be called "running." More like "moving forward at a gait that is not exactly walking since at some point both feet are actually off the ground (barely)"...

I planned to go for a walk after dropping Buddy off, not long, since I had to be in at work early, but it's been so long since I had regular exercise that I was going a little stir-crazy. Put my headphones on, starting walking briskly. After about a half mile I thought, well, maybe I might try running for a block, epsecially since I was cutting things tight timewise as it was. Ran for a block. Walked a block. Ran for another block. Walked a block. Then thought I might try running two blocks and ended up going for three.. and from there I mostly ran the rest of the way back home, with some short walk breaks here and there. And would have loved to do more if I'd had the time...

During that last mile when I was mostly running, the George Michael "Freedom 90" song came up on my playlist and it just felt so dead-on. Because the thing is, even though I'm not especially fast (even when not pregnant), and even though I have to be careful about not running too many miles in a week (since this older body doesn't recover like it used to), nothing gives me the feeling that running does. When I run I feel free and strong and nothing, absolutely nothing, is the same at all. So yes, there are times when I run when it's probably not the wisest or best thing to be doing for myself at that time (like when sick, or have other things I should be doing), and I just don't care. I want to run.

There's something deep inside of me
There's someone else I've got to be...
All we have to see
Is that I don't belong to you
And you don't belong to me...

Take back your picture in a frame
Don't think that I'll be back again...
May not be what you want from me
Just the way it's got to be...

Monday, August 29, 2011

On the Other Hand...

Scary Movie Month is fast approaching, woo-hoo! The Dude and I have been busy laying our plans. I believe I will have to start baking some of my super-healthy, ultra-crunchy, low-sugar cookies again, mmm.

And the Running Is Done (For Now)

It's just too much effort at the moment. Unfortunately walking for longer periods of time hurts my back in a way that running didn't, and for some reason I've felt no urge to go swimming recently. (Probably just the effort of getting and out of a swimsuit. I may look into getting a maternity tankini, one that is actually meant for swimming, as opposed to the one I have from Target from my last pregnancy, which can't have been designed for actual physical activity. Which is why I've been trying to get myself into regular swimsuits, albeit in larger and larger sizes.)

Between work and family this month (and every year at this time, I am so glad August is almost done with) I haven't even been trying to fit in much exercise, but even regular activity is becoming more effortful. So, time to let go of the dream of running throughout my pregnancy, and instead find ways to make walking and swimming more palatable, if not as satisfying. In six months I'll be able to start up again, and hard as it is to believe, those six months will actually move by pretty quickly.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Elvis is Alive 5K 2011

Last Thursday I ran the Elvis is Alive 5K with my friend R. It was so much fun, and a great way to end my racing season (I'm still running, only no more events for the year). The Dude was right, even with this being a non-competitive, untimed event, I still pushed myself --- first, to run the whole thing without stopping, and then, in the last mile, to pick up the pace and keep it there. And of course, at the very end, to go all out. It is a good thing I let him talk me out of the half marathon I'd wanted to do this month.

R was the perfect running partner for this event. I always enjoy running with her, we run very comfortably together (talking the entire time). But in our previous races, I've been pacing her, just because of where we have been in our training at that particular moment. Making sure to keep an even pace, pushing the pace as I felt she could, checking in constantly to make sure she was still handling it, giving encouragement. And not concerning myself with my time or pace. I get great pleasure and satisfaction out of pacing people in races, so for me it's just a different race experience, not a diminished one.

This time she paced me, doing all those same things. And it absolutely made the race for me. I would have finished without her there, I'm sure, but not with the same pleasure of pushing myself and then the satisfaction of knowing I had. I mean, running is kind of uncomfortable these days, even when it's going well. That whole needing to pee the entire time thing, for one. And I know I was more comfortable pushing myself knowing that she would be with me the entire time and looking out for me, making sure I wasn't overdoing it. I know The Dude had been relieved to know she would be with me for this event, since he knew he couldn't talk me out of it (having already talked me out of the aforementioned half).

And then the party afterwards! I should have mentioned that there were folks dressed up as Elvis everywhere, a treat just on its own. They had an Elvis impersonator providing the music, our recovery fare was beer, watermelon, frozen chocolate-dipped bananas and peanut butter banana sandwiches (plus the usual water, pretzels, and Gatorade), and the whole thing took place on a grassy, tree-lined hill, with the moon and sailboats on one side of us, and the city stretching up on the other. I love living in Chicago!

And now I can set racing aside for myself for the year, and completely set my race focus on supporting The Dude as he gets ready for the Chicago Marathon. Plus maybe a little scheming over my race calendar for next year.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Sociology Experiment of One

Pregnancy has a way of, say, "filling out" certain physical attributes that one may or may not otherwise have. In my non-pregnant state I am not especially busty --- broad in shoulders and chest, yes, but my cups, they do not runneth over. I am, however, well-endowed in the hips, butt, and thigh area (good for running, and probably also for weight-lifting, should I ever decide to take that up). And over time I have noticed that the bulk of the male attention I get comes from black and Hispanic men.

Now that I'm pregnant, however? White guys, all the way. I don't think they even notice the growing belly underneath the breasts, or if they do, they don't care. My conclusion from all this: White men like boobies.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Quickest Way To Shut Someone Up

When they say, "Oh, I hope it's a girl," respond, "Thanks, it's another boy." And smile very nicely.

A less common experience than the usual unsolicited input on names, but certainly more rude.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sewing in the Sunshine

Had a very 19th-century moment earlier today. Buddy and I went outside so he could dig in the dirt and I brought my mending with me (patches on his pants)... not only did I get to sit outside in the shade working on my own thing while he played but I actually finished the last two pairs... this has been sitting on my project table since we last had cool weather. I had a sudden moment of realizing, not intellectually, but viscerally, that the reason why 19th-century literature and film portrayals of it so often depict women with their handwork is that the only way it can get done, is to always be doing it. I'm fortunate in that sewing by hand is a choice, not a necessity, for me. Still, it made me feel very cinematic today.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Yes, I Take My Moral Compass From Rock 'n' Roll

Some unexpected inspiration from the Gospel of Freddy Mercury...

and love dares you to care for
the people on the edge of the night
(children of the streets)
and love dares you to change our way of
caring about ourselves...

               --- from "Under Pressure" by Queen

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Little Light Reading

This is just a nice example of how much of a geek? nerd? I am.

I've ordered a few books from Amazon for my summer reading, and these two arrived on the same day.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Oh Yeah, Pregnant

I give up. I finally give up. I've been struggling so hard during this pregnancy to maintain the things I'm used to doing, albeit in modified form --- things like making my cards and writing regularly here and watching movies with The Dude on weekends and oh, making plans to do other things --- and I just can't do it. I am so tired. I remember being tired the last time but back then all my time was my time so it didn't matter if I just ended up doing less --- now much of my time is actually toddler time and the little bits that I can make for myself I just want to keep for myself. To have my quiet study time in the morning, and get some kind of workout in before work, to read on the train and then again for a bit before bed. To watch a sitcom or documentary on DVD with The Dude (the thought of an actual movie seems too much right now). Well, and to read as much as possible. Normally winter is my reading season but right now it's really all I want to do.

There are some projects I want to get done before this baby comes --- mostly scrapbooking stuff that I know if I don't do now will end up waiting another 3-4 years (plus I need the space currently taken up by boxes of cards/photos). And of course there's any number of baby preparations that need to be done. I don't know how these things will happen given our schedules in the next few months but I can't worry about that right now. Oh and of course I've now entered into the busy months at work...

This does not inspire hope for the months after Sweet Pea's birth. Sigh.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Some Questions I Have Been Pondering

One of the most influential books I have read this year (or started, rather, I haven't finished it yet) is Mark Labberton's "The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor: Seeing Others Through the Eyes of Jesus". I've been working my way through it since shortly before Lent as a way of grounding and strengthening my commitment to address child abuse and related injustice, particularly the more brutal aspects of it, since I was finding that it was very easy to want to close my eyes again, and I didn't want to do that.

The book is set up as a series of short essays and reflective questions around the themes of paying attention, seeing, naming, and acting. It's slow going on my part, but it's definitely been illuminating. Here are some of the questions that I've found particularly meaningful.

How does your life's momentum affect your capacity for empathy: entering into the lives and needs of others, especially those who have no tie or evident benefit to you? Notice today or this week the time and energy you devote to engage with the needs of others. What does empathy cost you? (p. 46)

What moments or circumstances expose your distance, fear, rejection, anger, prejudice, or dislike of "they"? Why do these responses seem natural and justified? What experiences or voices in your life have contributed to that? (p. 51)

Do you invest energy daily in avoiding problems or pain? What does this lead you to see in your heart? Who is someone you know who does a good job of stepping towards the needs of others? (p. 53)

Sight is how you see. Vision is how you see and your interpretation of what you see. What factors most significantly affect your vision of people around you? Of people in need? Of global suffering? Of individuals who are victims or violence and oppression? (p. 78)

I expect it will take me the rest of the year to work my way through this book but I am grateful to have found it.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Answering a Question I Don't Know How to Ask

...We will go before God to be judged, and God will ask:
“Where are your wounds?”
We will answer, “We have no wounds.”
God will ask: “Was there nothing worth fighting for?”
--- Rev. Allan Aubrey Boesak, South Africa

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Must. Always. Stretch. After. Running.

Had a hard run this morning, I was in a hurry after my Monday run and didn't stretch that day --- it didn't seem to affect me in my regular activities or in my swim, but boy did I notice today. About 5 minutes in my right quad (thigh muscle) felt tight, hard even, and painful, and I had to keep stopping, walking a bit, and then starting up again. I tried running slower, I tried switching to the other side of the street (don't laugh, those of you who don't run, the slope of the sidewalk can make a difference with these things), and it wasn't until I got about a mile and a half in that I thought to stretch. Problem solved. I made sure to stretch my trouble spots when I got home, for sure.

The other thing I have to watch out for these days... peeing. Namely, that going too fast, or going too vigorously downhill, sets off a need to pee that is unignorable, and I'm typically able to ignore such things (when running). I've been running routes that bring me by decent public restrooms, though the last few weeks I've only had to make use of them during the first half of my run, then I'm fine. But no, today I had to take one descent a little too quickly... luckily I knew my yoga place was open that early and they kindly let me come in and use the facilities. I have to remember, speed is beside the point these days, it's just about going the distance (and enjoying myself in the process).

Sweet Pea is beginning to add commentary to my activities... kick, kick, kick, just like Buddy... but why right before bed?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Notes on a Satisfying Week

I got to run or swim every day this past week - yes! I have started doing some of my running at the gym, mostly to avoid heat and humidity, but it's also easier on my legs, so I may switch to more of that as time goes on. I have found with pregnancy that everything hurts just a bit more. But my plan of more short/medium runs seems to be working well for me, I've been able to keep my weekly mileage more consistent.

We did the Hunger Walk for the Greater Chicago Food Depository (raising funds for Ravenswood Community Services) on Saturday, all of us as a family, which was great fun (for me at least, The Dude said I could let him sleep in next year). This is the first year we've done this and I'd like to make a regular practice of it, along with running (or volunteering for) the Ravenswood Run each year, which is the other main fundraiser for RCS. We're looking forward to being able to volunteer at the RCS pantry and dinners as a family, but will need to wait a few years until Sweet Pea is old enough.

D & M came over on Saturday evening to play board games --- Buddy is in love with D, which is so fun to watch --- and I made strawberry upside-down cake. Didn't think to take a photo though. I used a recipe from Joy the Baker that I got from a fellow mother at Buddy's daycare, then tweaked it a little to our taste buds (less sweet, more whole grain). Totally yummy, so much so that not only is it going in the permanent file but The Dude has requested it as his birthday cake next week. Guess I'll have more opportunities to photograph it.

We have less than a week now before we head to Ohio and there's so much to do! I'm so excited though, I look forward to this trip every year.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Why Me? Why This?

The Dude is always asking me good questions, ones that make me think. Last night it was, "Why child abuse?" Meaning, why do I care so much about it? After briefly being stunned by that question (what? are you kidding me? after which I remembered that there are lots of injustices in the world that I am not particularly passionate about but other people are), I started to think.

I've been concerned about the foster care system for a long time, I don't even remember when that started. The idea that any child would not have a safe, loving home hurts my heart. But that concern stayed mostly in the abstract for a long time, until I became a mother, in fact.

Now, I know that I often present as patient and calm, and I am, often, at work and in public and when it is needed of me. But those who know me well also know that I have a horrible temper. Especially when tired or feeling overwhelmed. So I quickly saw, in those first months with a infant, that I certainly possess the capacity to hurt my child, verbally, physically, or emotionally. (Which just makes me so sad to think about that I'm crying as I write this.)

I also saw that what keeps me from hurting my child is not any special quality within myself, but a whole slew of resources that I have at my hands. First of all, the belief that hurting my child is wrong to begin with. The knowledge that doing so won't help any given situation and will likely make things worse. A set of strategies for what I can do if I am feeling so overwhelmed. A loving partner who can step in and help me when I am at my worst. Oh, and then all the many privileges of my place in society that shelter me from additional stressors: reliable shelter, food, water, safety, health. So how much harder is it for parents without those resources?

I am fortunate that through work I spend some time each year focusing on child abuse prevention awareness, bringing attention to those agencies in our city that work actively on the factors I mentioned above (as well as direct care for those abused). But I also knew, deep down, that there is abuse more serious than can be addressed through better support for families, or education, or counseling, and over time I became willing to open my eyes to this. Once I did I became aware of abuses far beyond what I could imagine, far beyond hurting a child out of anger or frustration or ignorance.

Children sold to brothels in southeast Asia. In indentured servitude in India and Central Asia, generation after generation. Child soldiers in Africa and across the globe. Photos of child sexual abuse traded and sold online in the US and Europe, parents inflicting unspeakable horrors on infants and children and swapping the pictures of it online.

What I have been learning about is so awful that my heart can only make sense of it in religious terms. Sin. Evil.

I realized quickly that in order to be able to make any kind of a difference I was going to need resources of my own. People to talk to and work with. A way of framing all this in a historical/sociological/religious context.

A deepened spiritual life.

(Of course the problem with a renewed prayer/study life is that it transforms you in ways you can't have planned on, but that's a topic for another time.)

What can any one person do, what can I do? I'm still at the beginning of all this, watching things unfold. But I can start to make a difference, to move in that direction. To keep educating myself and others. To support those people and organizations taking direct action. To start to write about it. To find ways at work to do more. To continue to pray for strength and guidance and an open heart and opportunities to be useful.
    And then, to the question, "Why me," I believe that, regardless of what happens when we die, heaven and hell are right here with us on earth, right now, and that we each have the ability to move our world closer to one or the other. With that in my heart, how can I do otherwise?


    If you'd like to learn more about any of these issues, here are some basic resources. I plan to put up a page with more in the next few weeks. And if you have any suggestions for additional resources, please let me know!

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Notes on a Week of New Things

    I decided last week not to run the Chicago Rock'n'Roll Half Marathon in August after all (and also not to try to do any fundraising). I just don't know from week to week how I will feel, and I never liked the feel of that race anyway, too commercial. Instead I'll just keep my larger goal of training for mid-distance races in mind and try to keep my overall mileage (including swimming) as consistent and as high as possible for as long as possible, so that my heart and lungs stay strong.

    I've noticed that since then I'm actually getting more running in. By not having my long runs, which were really wiping me out, I'm able to run more often --- with more mileage overall. Guess that's just where I'm at these days.

    Also I've noticed that just in the last week it's gotten harder to run, I have to stop and take more breaks. Oh well, whatever works. I figure at some point things will flip and I'll end up doing more walking than running, but I'm hoping to stave that off as long as possible.

    I did have to skip my swim last Friday for work. I hate doing that, especially when the work I'm skipping it for is just mindless administrative tasks. Hrmph.

    I went to a movie in the theater for the first time in a year and a half last Saturday --- got invited by a friend to see "Bridesmaids" with her regular "chick-flick" movie-going companion. She had hesitated to ask me since she thought I only watched "sophisticated" movies, hah. (Mostly I watch art/music documentaries, comedies, and action - we saw the Guy Ritchie "Sherlock Holmes" a couple of days ago, for example.)

    However, while I very much enjoyed spending the evening with the two of them, I did realize that while I may not always watch serious movies, I am always serious about them. I had wanted to see "Bridesmaids" because I'm familiar with the actors and the director and producers, and was curious about how all those viewpoints would converge. It wasn't long into the movie before I thought, "I should be seeing this with The Dude," because I knew he would be looking for the same sorts of things I was, and has the same approach to movies that I do. (Not always the same opinions, hurrah, so our conversations are always interesting.) Once the movie ended and my companions GOT UP WHILE THE CREDITS WERE STILL ROLLING I realized I probably wasn't going to be able to discuss it at length with them. Which puts me in the position of having A LOT of opinions about this movie --- and having to wait until The Dude gets to see it at home. As I said, I very much enjoyed spending time with these two women and will probably even go see other movies with them from time to time --- just not ones I care a lot about. I'll save those for The Dude.

    Something else new I'm going to try... regular themed blog posts. I want to start posting my "week in review" entries over the weekend/Mondays (already behind schedule, I see), and then on Fridays post on some question/book/essay I've been thinking about. There are so many things that get me thinking that I just can't do a quick entry on --- maybe by choosing just one topic a week and then carving out some time each day to think and take notes about it I'll be able to get at least some of these thoughts down. I've been struggling all spring with how to write about some of these things I've been reading, I need to figure out some way of doing it.

    Never fear, cute pictures of my kid and random stuff I find online will still make an appearance. Here's one for spring.

    For once not trying to "bounce" the tulips.
    Happy first day of summer!

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Expanding Boundaries

    Today I like this article, on why black men should be feminists (written by a black man).

    My reading about exploitation of youth/children has led me to read more deeply about 18-19th century slavery and the civil rights movement, so I would say, much like the author eventually came to see how oppression of women affects him, I'm also coming to a deeper understanding of racism and how it perpetuates itself in ways I wouldn't have thought were specifically "racist". All these forms of injustice tie together --- we come the larger question of human injustice through our own personal touchpoints.

    Thanks to Blue Milk for posting the article.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    And Another One

    Tee, hee, hee.

    Oh, Funny

    I think I am actually more of an adult by now than this post suggests, but I still find this incredibly funny, especially the end: Why I'll Never Be An Adult.

    Read her stuff! (Oh, except she swears as much as I do, so be forewarned.)

    (Added 6/16/2011) No, no, this is the one you must read: God of Cake.

    All about a small child's efforts to get cake.

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    Notes on Another Week

    This has been a kind of frustrating week. It started off with the drain on our tub no longer, well, draining, to the point where we couldn't even leave it dripping for our cat (the only way he'll drink, which is a whole other ongoing frustration). Lots of bailing out the tub, and an upset cat. (Who shows his upset by waking people (me) up and by puking, this week on my desk. Twice.) The Dude showered at the gym, I "showered" in our kitchen sink, and Buddy, thank goodness, had water days at school, so we didn't have to bathe him.

    During this same time we also had our string of absurdly hot days. Enough said.

    Lots of little annoyances and needy people at work, my ankle hurts, I had my four-month checkup and have gained more weight than I thought possible, and I didn't get as much done on my day off as I hoped to (I never do).

    On the upside, however...

    I am sleeping better if still not enough.

    I am swimming better (I was struggling with the change in center of gravity and the sudden slo-o-wness of everything, more so than with running) --- I have adjusted, gotten into a rhythm, and have been able to start adding distance again.

    With the morning sickness basically over (hallelujah!), I can focus more on eating better (and less).

    I have started chipping away at my personal to-do list, now that I've given up on trying to get anything done in the evening or weekends and am going ahead and taking occasional days off of work just for that purpose.

    The baby and I are healthy, and, at the moment, Buddy is at least interested in the idea of a baby --- he seems to think it will be a sister.

    And, as if The Dude needed any more proof of being The Best Husband Ever, on the third day of our heat wave, when the apartment had just filled up with hot heavy air and all the fans couldn't help, the same day I had scheduled to stay home and sort through the closet in Buddy's room, I came home from the pool (delaying my return since it was actually nicer outside than I knew it would be inside the apartment) to find that he had INSTALLED THE AIR CONDITIONER IN BUDDY'S ROOM. Wow.

    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    ... Or Maybe Not

    A few days ago I wrote about about perhaps being able to set aside my continuing study of child abuse and sexual exploitation, or at least during non-work hours, now that there is movement happening around it at work...

    And then I just had to use birthday money to buy this book and stayed up late reading it...

    And I had to write The Night Ministry and ask about raising money for their youth programs...

    And I think I may just be committed to this path despite myself.

    Not to get grandious or anything, but I feel a little like Jonah being sent to Nineveh, sulking included.

    Friday, May 27, 2011

    Oh, Yeah

    So, another reason why I haven't written so much over the last few months is that I'm pregnant. And frankly, the first couple of months sucked. And even once I started to feel better, about a month ago, it was still too early to feel comfortable telling people.

    Obviously that's no longer the case.

    I've kept running throughout, though not without a lot of changes. No more speedwork, for one. Long runs now have me stopping every two miles for a water and walk break. Recovery takes a lot more time, so I'm not doing quite as many long or hard runs as I'd like. And in the last week or so I've started needed to pee --- badly, painfully --- within 10 minutes of starting my run, even if I hit the facilities just before hitting the sidewalks. Dragsville, I tell you.

    (Swimming has actually been even more frustrating, but that's a post for another day.)

    I mention it now because I actually am running a major event tomorrow, the Soldier Field 10M, and at this point it's ridiculous to write about a race without including that essential piece of information. I do have a friend I am running it with, much to The Dude's relief, and a sensible plan. (Oh, and I've run my current running practice past my nurse-midwife, and she gives it the thumbs-up, as long as I make sure to STAY HYDRATED.) I had hopes of being able to pick up the pace at mile 6 if I was feeling spry, but I've been staying up way too late the last couple of nights reading, so I'm not currently optimistic about that part of my plan. Oh well. Strictly speaking, since I've never run this distance in a race before, whatever I do will be a PR. But really I just wanted the opportunity to keep training for something significant. That and the finishers medal, of course. I don't see why The Dude should get all the race day fun this year, just because I am bearing our second child.

    And then, because I was "enjoying" my long runs in preparation for this event, I decided I wanted to keep training through the summer and do some fundraising to boot. So I am planning to run the Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon in August while raising money for Girls On The Run again, along with The Night Ministry. I'm actually holding off on registering for the race (since it's horribly expensive) until the last possible moment, just in case it becomes abundantly clear that it's not a good idea to attempt it --- I have, however, made my fundraising pledges already and am now committed to raising a set amount of funds. I'm trying to think of some good incentives to offer people --- I am open to suggestions.

    Wish me luck tomorrow!

    Messy, Messy

    Today I like:

    "If you are messy right now, too, give yourself some grace. The mess might mean that we are actually going deep enough to elicit growth."
                        ~ from Kristin Armstrong's blog "Mile Markers"

    Monday, May 23, 2011

    Maybe Now I Can Take A Break...

    The study group I put together on the commericial sexual exploitation of children in Chicago got off the ground yesterday - what a strong, intelligent, committed group of people! I am very happy. There were lots of great ideas that I would never have come up with on my own --- too much outside my skill-set, too much outside my comfort zone --- and that's exciting too. I am very grateful that this is moving forward with the resources of a place like Fourth Church behind it, and, that, because this is my place of work, I can continue to be immersed in it.

    I am also now excited (and somewhat relieved) that in my personal life I can now dig deeper into this whole issue of girls and athletics --- to "follow my bliss" as The Dude puts it. I don't yet understand why I am so compelled to explore further, and that's part of what this exploration will be, I think. That's okay. I've been wanting to find a way to write about these things that move me so and I guess this can be a start.

    From a friend of mine at work:
           The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.
                    -- Frederick Buechner

    More Hot Times Ahead

    Today I do NOT like this:

    An article in the New York Times about significant warming (and increasing precipitation) trends in Chicago.


    It's embarrassing to admit that my second thought (after realizing I am just going to have to get used to running in heat and humidity) is that now I have even more impetus to shed some extra pounds and tone my upper arms (I believe I currently own one sleeveless shirt). Vanity, thy name is Anne.

    On the other hand, Go Chicago! for looking ahead and starting to make necessary changes now.

    Friday, May 20, 2011

    A Night Out

    Oh, it was great to get out last night! The film preview was interesting and I'm looking forward to it being finished (also got more info on the production company, Kartemquin Films, and their other documentaries, which may be useful for work). Learned lots of interesting stuff about Title IX and the work of a Chicago organization, Girls In The Game, that works to bring sports and the numerous advantages of participating in sports to inner-city Chicago girls, which is especially important since sports opportunities in Chicago's public schools and after-school programs keep disappearing, alarmingly so for young women and girls (well, they were barely there for girls to begin with). And got to chat with Emily and Charlotte from Girls On The Run --- they remembered me from last year, which is always nice.

    But I think the best part was just being in a room full of people (mostly women, but also some men), thinking about the sorts of things I think about --- how to bring equal opportunities to girls, particularly girls growing up in poverty or low-income areas, how to care for all of our children, and how sexism is still alive and strong in our culture, both internally and in the media.

    When I got home The Dude and I ended up in a bit of an argument about the need for Title IX. I actually understand where he was coming from, given his particular experiences, but he asked me a question that I couldn't really answer last night: "Why is Title IX important to you?" We left the discussion last night, if not on the same page, at least somewhere in the same book, but when I woke up this morning that question was the first thing on my mind, and I started thinking about my own history with sports. Lots of emotion there --- no wonder I was upset last night! So I've started taking notes on that and thinking about why Title IX is so important to me. But that's a post for another day.

    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    Extracurricular Activities

    I'm so excited! In a couple of hours I'm heading out to a presentation on "Women in Sports: The Legacy of Title IX," featuring a new documentary (In the Game) and then panel discussion. Folks from Girls On The Run will be there as well, and since I'm going to be fundraising for them again (and continue to volunteer) it will just be nice to connect.

    I think this is the first non-work, non-daycare, non-church-related event I've been to on my own since Buddy was born so I am both nervous and excited. I'm even making up faux business cards in case I make any good work/personal connections (my real business cards are out of date and don't have this blog on them anyway). Will report back tomorrow!

    Monday, May 16, 2011

    Hurts So Good

    Today was my first run over 10 miles this year. It almost didn't happen --- I had it set in my head that I would be able to stop to pee somewhere in the first four miles --- after the FIFTH stop failed me (all gas stations or storefront chain restaurants, since all the McDonald's were on the other sides of busy streets) I got so frustrated I just stopped and walked for a while. The stupid thing too is that I could easily have held out for a while longer, I just had it in my head that I'd be able to stop more or less when I wanted to. But it was a great day for a long run and I had no morning meetings and I just wanted to do it. So in went the earbuds (thank you, "Doug Loves Movies"!). Ahead was a Walgreens where I've stopped successfully before. And from there it was smooth sailing for the rest of the run. (Well, the last 2 miles hurt, but, you know, in that "I will make it through because I am an effing rock star!" kind of way.)

    And then a fresh sesame bagel with chive cream cheese when I got home, plus the first ice bath of the year. Thanks to the latest issue of Vanity Fair for getting me through that one!

    Now, of course, I just want more...

    Sunday, May 15, 2011

    Hot Times, Summer in the City

    Well, the temperature has dropped back down to a more seasonable 50 degrees, but this past week we had a string of 85 degree days (with humidity, of course) that had us all cursing global warming thinking summer. More specifically in my case, thinking about running in the summer, in the heat and humidity, because while I really dislike both, summer is too effing long in Chicago to stay indoors. So I figure I need to not only get used to it, but even find a way to embrace it. Or at least give it the good old college try.

    What I did... Ran slowly. Looked for routes that I know have shade and breezes. Brought electrolyte water with me and on runs longer than an hour, made sure I stopped every two miles to walk and have a drink. Made a point of looking around more and using the time to listen to music, notice what flowers were blooming, and even try to enjoy the feel of hot air on my skin. Slowed way down every time I thought I might be inching towards overheating until I felt more comfortable again. I haven't done any speedwork for a while and that I will just save for the gym and air conditioning.

    And it worked, I enjoyed my runs this week, and I'm feeling more comfortable with the idea of running through the summer (I had some hard times last year from being too wedded to a certain pace without taking weather conditions into account).

    (And I love that my freckles are coming back, I don't feel quite the same without my freckles.)

    All the same, I'm very grateful that it'll be 50 and breezy tomorrow as I set off on my last long run before the Soldier Field 10M at the end of the month.

    Thursday, May 12, 2011

    Make My Day!

    Today I like:

    Going to a doctor, having her listen to my heart and ask me if I'm a runner --- "You have a runner's heart."

    Monday, May 9, 2011

    Mother's Day

    I couldn't get to the computer yesterday, but wanted still to send my prayers out to all mothers who struggle to mother:

    in poverty
    in war
    with violence at home
    with addiction / mental illness / health concerns - their own or their children's
    in isolation
    with conflicting ideas of what it means to be a mother

    and to all the children whose mothers aren't able to mother them as well as all children should be mothered,

    and to all people who step in to mother when mothers can not.

    I am so blessed as a mother --- my cup runneth over.

    Saturday, May 7, 2011

    2011 Resolution #2 ("Be Job Search Ready") - Review & Other Stuff

    At the beginning of the year I posted my resolutions for 2011, with the intention of checking in on them once a quarter. I can tell you, all, repeat, all of them have gotten seriously derailed --- and that's okay. That's good, in fact. I know from long experience that my life is better when I am not trying to fit it into a particular plan. (While my resolutions were simple enough, I had created elaborate plans to execute them, those are what have gotten so completely off track).

    And yet I still love making plans, even when they bite me in the butt. (The Dude likes to remind me that on our second date I showed up with a list of expectations/rules, with bullet points, no less. Verbal bullet points, I'll say in my very weak defense, I was not quite so lame as to show up with a written list.)

    Anyways, among the many things I have been wrestling with over the last two months is the idea of conducting a "career search." Pulling out the old skills inventories, reading "Finding Your Own North Star," identifying my "true" passions, identifying what I like and what I find frustrating about my current work. All sensible stuff, yes? Except then I keep coming back to the desire to be a faithful disciple of Christ. You know, stuff like "present your bodies as a living sacrifice... Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God..."

    (You'll just have to excuse the religious language here, it's the best means I have to express how I think about these matters.)

    Do these two... methodologies, shall we say... have to be exclusive? No, and I think I can probably use some of the tools of the first to assist in the second. But the first way feels to me very me-centered (which really has not worked all that well for me in the past), whereas the second is God-centered (which has).

    But I struggle with this always. I grew up with the expectation that I would "be" someone (presumably someone important by the measure of this world), and this expectation only grew as I went through high school. (I was, after all, voted "most likely to succeed.") And then I went to a college where it seemed the expectation was for everyone to go out and change the world, and in some way that then also brought glory upon oneself. While I know and even often feel that I have a good and blessed life, I really do struggle with the sense that I should be doing more with it. Especially in some way that also celebrates me.

    Except I'm not comfortable with that. I often get attention for stuff I do (mostly at work) and it never seems right. Everything I do is done not by me alone but in working with others --- in the planning, often, and in the execution, always. I don't know how to reconcile the two, the sense that I "ought" to push forward me, me, me, and the very real knowledge (and deep gratitude) that I do nothing alone.

    I think that is why I am, in the end, a professing Christian, despite my thorough knowledge of the failings of organized religion and religious people, and my certainly unorthodox beliefs. I need other people to be on the journey with, and this is not something I have been able to find for myself outside of the Christian church. (From Maya Angelou's poem, "When I Say I Am A Christian": When I say... "I am a Christian" / I don't speak of this with pride. / I'm confessing that I stumble / and need Christ to be my guide.)

    On a less personal note, this week was the first flowering of two+ months studying and planning, a panel discussion on child sex trafficking here in Chicago. We had representatives from Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, The Dreamcatcher Foundation (an organization that does direct outreach to victims), the National Runaway Switchboard, and The Salvation Army's STOP-IT program (works against trafficking of all forms). Lots of enthusiasm and now we need to figure out a way to channel it in a way that actually helps and is sustainable over time. In the next weeks we'll be pulling together a number of possibilities for action and forming a study group specifically around how we might take action as a church.

    And back on a personal note, this is a good example of something I would NOT have chosen for myself to explore and to bring to others. Too grim. Too overwhelming. Too heartbreaking. And yet I felt compelled to do so, and doors kept opening, and then even when I thought I might be able to walk away I was told by others of how important my witness had become to them --- so now here I am, being transformed, hopeful and curious about what may come next (even when fearful).

    I do still need to update my resume, though.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    And the Reading of Inspiring Books

    Home sick. The kind of sick where what I'm supposed to do is sleep, sleep, sleep, and maybe do some light lounging around, reading fluff magazines. Only I don't like sleeping during the day. And I don't like reading fluff. So I've taken my morning nap and am now lounging around reading somewhat more substantive matter, just not in any focused way.

    The last few weeks have been mostly study, personal study and reflection (Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck and The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor by Mark Labberton). Nothing I can really write about here, I'm nowhere near coming to any conclusions or particular actions. Just moving in that way, which is enough.

    And then reading inspiring books, mostly memoirs, sort of a collection of modern-day "Lives of the Saints." Three Cups of Tea (though I've also downloaded the Jon Krakauer expose on Greg Mortenson and will get to that soon*), Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder (about Dr. Paul Farmer), The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day, Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, Take This Bread by Sara Miles. And then, because I don't only read non-fiction, the marvelous (though difficult) The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.

    Feeling sleepy... I may just lie down on the couch and see what happens... no pressure...

    *Note added 4/20: Wow! Just finished reading the Krakauer piece and it's clear that there are a lot of problems with how Greg Mortensen portrays himself in his books (and public appearances) --- not so inspiring anymore, more disappointing. Boo-hoo.

    Thursday, April 7, 2011

    How to Steal Like / Live Like / BE an Artist

    Great essay here: "How to Steal Like an Artist." And not just for artisty folks, either. I think it's for anyone who sees themselves as actively creating their own life.

    Thanks, Austin!

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    Workshop in Progress - April 6

    Well, the woman who was hosting the online quilting group "Workshop in Progress" had to take a break for a while (my prayers for you and your family, Cheryl), and I hadn't been posting for a while on it even before that. But I've finally finished one project - whew! - and thought I'd share it here.

    So finally, The Dude's amp cover.
    All made from old pairs of pants, even the edging.

    And in its natural habitat.
    Had a sticky moment close to the end of the project when I realized that it only just fit and could end up being difficult to take on and off, not so good for the end of a long rock-and-beer-fueled night. But once I put the final edging on it that was less of a problem.

    Here is also one of my Christmas projects --- I could only share it now because the last one only got mailed out today. (No, not because I hadn't finished, just, you know, because.) These are made out of felt and are approximately six inches long, in a variety of colors.

    Then I also finished another of my card projects, but I can't show that until they are all written and sent, which may be another week (or two) or so.

    I'm mending a pair of Buddy's trousers at the moment, but once that's done I should be able to go back to working on my small quilt, which, after a six or more week hiatus, I'm very eager to do. Even though I'm still one Christmas present past due...

    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    Oh Yeah! (More Self-Care Ideas)

    How could I forget to mention listening to as much Michael Franti as humanly possible?

    "Hey hey hey
    No matter how life is today
    There's just one thing that I got to say
    I won't let another moment slip away.
    I hold on."
           --- "Hey Hey Hey," The Sound of Sunshine

    On a Lighter Note

    Here's a picture of my cute kid.

    I love this picture because 1) he looks a lot like I did growing up, and usually I just see The Dude in him, not me, and because 2) he just looks so freaking confident. When I know that he was nearly out of his mind with excitement (not only are fire trucks one of his favorite things in the world but he also got to SIT in it). I am so very proud of him.

    Plus I made yummy blueberry muffins this weekend. Still no progress on any of my sewing projects, though!

    Nope, Not Going to Write About It

    No, I've pretty much decided that I'm not going to write about what I've been studying the last few weeks* because it's just too sad. It's one thing to need to talk about this stuff for work, and still another if I end up finding a way to work on these issues through my own church, but this is my own personal blog where I write about fun things, like running and baking and my cute kid. Not things that make me angry, or that horrify me, or that make me mourn.

    But what I can write about is what I am doing to try to sustain myself as I continue to study and try to figure out what actions I can/should take. And for me it comes back to a need to deepen my faith life. So going regularly to my church** and letting the liturgy and readings ready sink into me (I'm so grateful we have found a church that prioritizes outreach). Committing to a program of prayer and theological study during Lent. And finding ways to weave myself more thoroughly into our faith community, so that I'm never in danger of thinking that I'm alone.

    And giving myself permission to be quiet, myself, and to seek out silence around me.

    *Child sexual exploitation, global and domestic trafficking.
    ** Not where I work, which is a great place, but not the right place for me to attend.

    Saturday, March 19, 2011

    No Race This Weekend

    So, I'm not running the St. Paddy's 8K this weekend after all. I didn't feel like changing my workouts to get myself into racing form, and I don't have any emotional connection to this event that would make me want to do it as a fun run instead. I also didn't want to give over any part of a precious open weekend as next month will have some pretty intense ones. Plus, they had the UGLIEST SHIRT EVER.

    Just not feeling it.

    That's okay, I have some other truly fun runs in my sights, and I've been enjoying my running, though I probably won't be writing about it much for a while. I've been studying and reflecting on some serious matters for a few weeks and trying to figure out how to bring some of that here --- that will probably be my focus for a while. More questions than anything else, I imagine. Questions are good.

    Monday, February 28, 2011

    Running Trumps Art

    My birthday is this week, and as a gift to myself I am running/swimming six of those days. (So excited!)

    And, to support that, heading to bed at 9:00 every night.

    I guess running and the things I do to support my running (swimming, yoga, sleep, eating well) trump art for me. Last year, when I planned time for myself this week I thought I'd use it to paint. And I have been working on my projects and expect to do more on them this week as well... but, really, it's all about the running. And I've been seeing that over the past two months anyway. Just... interesting.

    But also that making things is essential too, in a different way. To borrow from Ntozake Shange, "art as necessary as collards, running even in our dreams."*

    *Borrowed liberally from Ntozake Shange's Ellington Was Not A Street ("politics as necessary as collards / music even in our dreams"). Read this!

    Wednesday, February 23, 2011

    Workshop in Progress - Feb. 23 (On Not Making Any Progress But Eating Well Instead)

    What, it's Wednesday again?

    No sewing progress to report this week, I'm afraid. Intense work stuff + a cold + a weekend spent cooking/baking for my family = no sewing. That's okay, I know where I'm going with the amp cover and have a number of evenings to myself coming up, so I expect to have it mostly done by next week. At least I better --- his next gig is March 5.

    But here is a photo of what I did do this weekend...
    Butter cookies with frosting (for a party that didn't happen --- I froze some and brought the rest in to work).

    "Morning Glory" muffins, healthy version. Yum! This will become a new staple. Plus I figured out another reason why muffins are better than quick breads --- much easier to halve the recipe.

    Then a spicy cauliflower and potato dish from my new cookbook, The Indian Slow Cooker by Anupy Singla. I am so pleased with this. I love Indian food and have always been intimidated by the thought of making it, but it's so expensive to eat out. This was easy and I only had to buy a couple of extra spices (note to self: when an Indian recipe is titled "spicy," cut the spices in half). I do have to go to the library now though for a more tradional Indian cookbook --- seeing all the lentil dishes got me excited to try them but as I'm the only one who will eat lentils I don't want to make an entire slow-cooker's worth.

    Oh, and why did no one tell me before how amazing jasmine rice is? No more Uncle Ben's for us!

    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    Good Stuff for a Sad Tuesday

    Today I like this.

    And this.

    ...if you follow your tears, you will find your heart. If you find your heart, you will find what is dear to God. And you find what is dear to God, you will find the answer to how you should live your life.
    from H. Norman Wright, "Experiencing Grief"

    And this.
    Yesterday at the Field Museum.
    Apparently, "Rawr" means "I love you" in dinosaur.