Friday, February 27, 2015

And The Lake Looked Amazing

I had a long run scheduled for today, the first one I'd really consider long, and the first run to work, in what's been at least a couple of months. I had it on my calendar for a couple of weeks and watched the weather closely and everything seemed like a go...

And then three days ago the forecast changed and now today was supposed to be the coldest day of the week, not the warmest. Starting at 5 degrees this a.m. and then warming up to 15, tops. Fahrenheit (for my overseas readers).

Grumble, grumble.

And both boys woke up in the night, one with a bad dream (easily taken care of), the other hysterical the way he wakes up sometimes and it took forever to realize that his mouth was just hurting* and he needed a little medicine and a lot of loving. And then he too went right back to sleep. But it took me quite a while to get back to sleep myself after these.

So the alarm went off way too early this morning.

And I got up, changed my morning plans around a bit to make sure everything I did would support heading out for a long run (ate a good breakfast but earlier than usual, skipped my strength training and boxing, made time to double-check my supplies**), and then once the kids were taken care of and the youngest dropped off at preschool, I headed down to the lakefront for eight beautiful sunny cold miles.

Oh how I've missed these.

Rethinking my racing plans,

*Because, OMG, he totally pulled a "Christmas Story" stunt last night and licked the damn railing on the train platform, as the train we'd been waiting ages for pulled in, and with no way of gently thawing his tongue. So... r-i-i-ip went the skin and then I had a hysterical mouth-welling-up-with-blood child for the ride home. Fun times. (For the record, the bleeding stopped by the time we got in the door and he ate normally at dinner, so I think no lasting damage done.)

**I forgot to bring a coat and outer gear with me ahead of time, so on the way home I'll be wearing the same hoodie and hat/scarf I wore for my run. It won't really be warm enough (and somewhat smelly) but oh well. I knew I would forget something in the preparation for this, it's just been so long.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Home Sweet Home

These are a few of my favorite things (about our new place)...

Coming home at night with Goo and seeing the porch lights on. The Dude and Buddy are home!

Looking out at the sky while I shower.

Our houseplants love our front room, and in the morning when the sun comes through the windows you can see their leaves stretching out, a bright clear green.

The pressed-tin ceiling in the upstairs bathroom.

That we have an attic! It's cold up there (or hot, depending on the season), and dark, but we have our stuff loosely organized up there and someday we'll turn it into additional rooms.

We have a resident opossum. (It's taken me a while to consistently remember how to spell "opossum". One "p", two "s"s.) S/he likes to hang out on our back porch. It is a startling thing to come across her/him but I imagine it is startling for her/him as well. I have no idea how to determine the sex of an opossum and even if I did I don't want to get close enough to find out.

(I don't like that there are three neighborhood cats who also like to hang out on our porches. Ours is not the only house they visit - and poop at. They do have a home of their own but appear to be left outside all the time.)

Our kitchen is a gem and I can stand in the middle of it and reach everything. Very handy when making dinner. (Not so handy when The Dude and I are trying to both make lunch and put groceries away at the same time. But I still love it.)

Our pantry! Admittedly, it's in the basement (the original pantry upstairs was turned into a half-bathroom), but I love having one.

My study. Mine. Did I mention that I have my own study? I share it with guests when they stay the night but when no one is visiting... all mine. And the kids love coming in and hanging out on the futon in there too. It's red. The room, that is. The futon has a green cover and a reddish brown frame.

Someday I'll have a smartphone and can take pictures easily to share with you.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Birthday Challenge 2015

I'll be turning 43 soon, so about a month ago I started thinking about my birthday challenge for the year. Last year's was pretty cool, but I decided I didn't want to take on any physical challenges for myself this year, in keeping with my resolution to spend more time on my other interests. So what to do? Up until last weekend all I knew was that I would take a day off for myself - how was I going to use it?

The answer? A multi-stage challenge:
  • 90 minutes running
  • 90 minutes painting
  • 90 minutes on writing projects
  • 90 minutes on my latest quilt
The running is just because I like to start my days off that way, and that's what I'm up to in terms of distance. The painting is next because it will be the most challenging, as I've written before. I have a couple of specific writing projects that I want to finish, and 90 minutes should allow me to do so (if I get my preparatory work done), and 90 minutes working on a quilt is easy - though again, to make best use of that uninterrupted kid-free time, I have some significant prep work to do first.

Speaking of preparatory work, here's what I need to get done in the next few days:

  1. Inventory all my paints (oil, acrylic, and watercolor) and determine what I'm missing; 
  2. Reorganize my paint bins in the process of doing inventory
  3. Review my basic oil technique book and determine what other supplies I might need
  4. Visit an art supply store for most-needed supplies
  1. Type up the first draft of one essay
  2. Start writing notes for the second
  3. Read a book related to the material for the second essay
  1. Cut squares for the front (nearly done)
  2. Cut squares for the back
  3. Piece strips to make multi-hued squares
Good thing it's a snow day today - I might be able to get some of this work done!

Productively yours,

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Art & Fear (& Boxing)

It occurred to me during boxing drills the other day that it is really good practice for painting.

Boxing, like art, demands that I be present, fully engaged in what I am doing.

And I don't always know if I have what I need to do it.

With boxing I know that I don't, and won't for a long time. That's why I stay in my basement and don't seek out matches.

With painting, to a great extent I also know that I don't have what I need. My picking it up and putting it down, over and over again over the years, has left my hand rusty, my technique minimal. That is why I stay in my study, and don't seek out showings.

But with both I can trust that if I stay with it, and keep stretching myself, over time I will know what I'm doing.

That won't take away the fear. I will still have to show up, and be fully present, and ready to expose myself, and willing to take risks. And still struggle with my materials (the paint, my body) and with technique, and still keenly feel the gap between what I have in my head and what I can put forth.

But in practicing both, in honing my hand and becoming familiar with my materials, I will also be practicing standing up with fear. And so I will become familiar with that too, and able to work with it.

Sounds worth it.

Practicing being brave.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

January Reading

I've been reading books again. Hallelujah! I don't know what I was doing instead during the fall, but looking back at my book journal, whatever it was, it wasn't reading. At least not books. Magazines, maybe?

Some good books/articles read in January:

Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Find Your Life's Work, by Steven Pressfield.
A super fast read, but one I think I came across at exactly the right time to read it. I was particularly interested in the idea of a "shadow career" - those things we do, even pour a lot of investment and energy into, in order to keep us from really facing the things we want to do with our life.

A blog post by Mat Frazier (of No Meat Athlete, though this was featured in the Huffington Post) on being obsessed about your goals.

A blog post by Seth Godin with some good advice for life (and perhaps especially parenting), including this quote: "A pitfall of throwing tantrums is that sometimes, people throw them back." I think all of my worst tantrums have come as a parent, and I don't like that.

An inspiring post by Leo Babauta, of Zen Habits, also about setting goals and making changes, but from a quite different perspective than most such writing. A quote: "Acceptance isn't stagnation - you will change no matter what. You can't avoid changing. The question is whether that change comes from a place of acceptance and love, or a place of self-dislike and dissatisfaction."

A disturbing but important article from The New York Times: "U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit", reminding us, yet again, that farm animals are not covered under U.S. animal welfare laws.

And an inspiring one from The Nature Conservancy's blog, Cool Green Science, about a woman who is mapping animal movement pathways in India in preparation for the infrastructure improvements expected to take place there.

And finally, one of the most amazing books I've read, ever. One Day I Will Write About This Place, by Binyavanga Wainaina. A memoir of his growing up in Kenya in the 80s and 90s. Fascinating, but also beautifully written and put together. I kept looking for a sentence that I could quote but every time I opened it up, every place I looked, I just started reading again. I was introduced to his writing through his satirical essay for Granta, "How to Write About Africa," but they are very different pieces (though that one is great: pointed, funny, and lyrical, which is why I'm including the link here). I'm hoping that at some point a collection of his short stories and essays will published.

What have you been reading?

With a stack of books at least 10 volumes high,