Friday, November 17, 2017

November Joys

This past week has been hard, folks.

Just in ultimately inconsequential, non-threatening ways though, so not worth detailing. The usual trifecta of work/family/sick.

As a result I'm a bit behind on my word count for NaNoWriMo, but the writing itself is still going well, and I think I'll be able to catch up. Doing NaNo has been an amazing experience, actually, but I don't want to jinx myself by saying too much about it yet.

Mostly I wanted to share a couple of things that have been bringing me joy or energy when I've needed it.

First, some music: Visualízate by Gente di Zona.

Related image

I've had this for a few months and keep listening to it, but it's been on almost constant repeat in the car and at work this week. There aren't videos for my most favorite songs on the album (Que Tú Quieres and Más Whisky), but here's another one I enjoy. Well, heck, I like all the songs on the album.


And then, for a completely different kind of rhythm and energy, some poetry: The Black Maria by Aracelis Girmay.

The Black Maria (American Poets Continuum Series) by [Girmay, Aracelis]

Maria, in this case, referring to the mare, or "seas", that early astronomers thought they saw on the surface of the moon and Mars (actually craters). She describes this collection, "This cycle of poems focuses on Eritrean history, as this is a history I am somewhat familiar with as someone of its diaspora. But, of course, the history of people searching for political asylum and opportunity (both) is much larger than Eritrean history alone."

From luam - asmara:

No one loves the flies, their work,
their rearranging, marking us
with the light of other guests.

Religious world - 

if there are angels, they are flies
who hover over our privacies,
kissing us with mouths
that have kissed
other wounds.

What's been bringing you joy lately?
Annie



Thursday, November 9, 2017

Scary Movie Month Part II

More movies, more books. A rush report - but I didn't want to get too much farther into NaNoWriMo without getting this out.

After the tension of Get Out we decided to relax a bit with Hot Fuzz, the second in the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy by Edgar Wright. I love this movie. I always remember how funny and sweet it is - I never remember just how well it's made (or how gory it is). Now I may need to rewatch the whole trilogy (also includes Shaun of the Dead and The World's End).

Then it was Slither by James Gunn. Funnier than I expected - and more gory as well. Nathan Fillian was being Nathan Fillian but that's always a treat so who cares. And I could probably watch Elizabeth Banks in anything as well. This was just a perfect horror movie, it hit all its beats and had some fun surprises as well.

Next we saw Split by M. Night Shyamalan. Oooo, this was heartbreaking. Fascinating. Completely drew us in and had us talking about it for a while afterwards. And now I have to see Unbreakable.

One interesting aspect of watching this movie was how The Dude completely missed elements of Casey's story that I got immediately. I can't say anything without being spoilery but it reminded me how easy it is to not know things about our society if you don't have to know them. And yet other people are profoundly impacted by those things, so to not see them or deny them is another form of violence.

Then Alien 3 by David Fincher (remember that we saw Zodiac by him?) Visually arresting, but, eh.

Halloween II, written by John Carpenter but directed by Rick Rosenthal. Another meh, but now I've seen it and don't have to again.

Scream by Wes Craven. Okay, I know this was considered a big deal when it came out, one of the first horror movies to get all meta on itself and reinvigorating the genre, attracting female viewers in big numbers for the first time, etc., etc. So, from the point of view of knowing my horror movie history, fine. But it really disturbed me. I know it's satire, and you aren't supposed to take it seriously, but I just found it scary and unsettling and even more so because you're supposed to be laughing. At a woman being stalked and gas-lit by her boyfriend and his friend, who also killed other women including her own mother the year before. Plus lots of slut-shaming. No, thank you.

It Follows by David Robert Mitchell was next, brooding, atmospheric, interesting to think about. Almost a little quiet and slow at times, but perhaps we were just experiencing scary movie fatigue at this point.

And then, to finish the month, Psycho. Well. I will just say that I was probably not in the right mood for this one, probably because while the movie goes to some length at the end (though the voice of the psychiatrist) to emphasize that Norman isn't transsexual or a transvestite, it doesn't effing matter because what you see is a "psycho", dressed in women's clothing, with no nuance in that particular depiction at all*. And all the critical explaining away I've read doesn't do anything to change that initial impact. So again, no.

I've exhausted myself just thinking about these, I'll finish up with the books in another post. Thankfully I also read a lot of good spooky/scary books!

Worn out on scary so now we're binge-watching Shameless,
Annie

*As opposed to the same in Split, where McAvoy's female personalities are portrayed as convincingly as the male ones and not for shock value. Leaving aside the whole problematic portrayal of dissociative identity disorder in that movie, of course.




Friday, November 3, 2017

NaNoWriMo!

It's National Novel Writing Month and a whole bunch of us writer types are signed up to write 50,000 words this month on whatever project we've gotten it into our heads to do.

There's an official webpage and all, and Twitter threads and Facebook groups, national and local, and oh, all kinds of ways to connect with other writers doing this. In good and bad ways.

My project this year is the rewrite of the novel I was working on over this past year. Over the summer I realized I needed to change the point of view it was in, and once I got over the heartbreak of seeing eight months' work wither and die, I got excited about casting a critical eye on it in regards to plotting and character goals/motivations.

Of course in that process some elements I'd previously seen as, oh, window-dressing, decided that they were integral to the story I really wanted to write. So basically it's a whole new novel.

To my surprise I've gotten a good start, hitting my daily word goals. Just a couple of days ago I thought there was no way I could do it, and if I'd kept to my previous work method I couldn't. But for this month I'm writing loose and easy, all long-hand - no editing! We'll see if I can keep it up.

This is gonna be hard, I'm not going to lie. But I'm feeling game. You won't see much of me on Facebook this month but these days I'm far more active on Twitter anyway and you can find me there @AEllisC, hanging out with queer romance writers/readers and other interesting cats. And actual cat photos. And foxes. And red pandas. Who knew?

May need a hand massage when this is through,
Annie



Monday, October 23, 2017

Did A Marathon Thing This Month

So, a recap. This was my fourth Chicago Marathon, and my fifth overall.

The first 8 miles were good. I followed my plan of 4:2 run/walk and that was comfortable, I felt I could keep going just fine. The pace allowed me to eat and drink as I needed to easily, and also gave me a chance to cool down each time I walked. I knew it would get hotter as the day went on so that was important.

And then, suddenly, my left ankle twinged. Loudly. Angrily. The same feeling it had given me six weeks before. Back then that pain wasn't what had stopped me (the foot bruising on my right foot was the ultimate culprit), but I recognized it immediately. I kept going, cautiously, but within a mile things were much worse.

Excruciating, in fact. Make me cry kind of pain. It was clear I wouldn't be able to continue for another 17 miles. I stopped. Hobbled forward. Stopped. Texted The Dude to let him know I was calling it. Just like that, my marathon was over.

Except I wasn't willing to wait at the side of the road, so I kept limping on to the next aid station. Only it didn't come. I kept going, stopping from time to time to rest, rotate my foot, start again. I reached the Gatorade/water area and asked about the aid station only to be told it was past all the drink stands, so I kept going...

And somewhere between the beginning of the water area and the end I realized my foot didn't hurt as much as it had been. In fact, enough so that I didn't look for the aid station and decided to go just a little bit farther.

After all, it felt lame to only be out there for two hours. Could I possibly do 3? Four? Could I get to 10 miles? Eleven? A half? Or even 16 (the length of my longest runs to that point and the place where I'd sometimes had trouble in past marathons)?

And underlying all that, I remembered what an online friend had written me early that morning:

I woke up thinking about you. Today is going to be a very good day because you will be open to possibilities- and I know in my heart that you will be a blessing to someone else on the course today, simply by being YOU.

Well. If Laurie thought I would be a blessing to someone - but I didn't know where, or how, or when - then I needed to stay out there on the course for as long as I possibly could.

I put on a podcast and kept walking.

I was resigned to not finishing - I figured I was going so slowly I would get scooped off the course when they needed to shut it down. But that was okay. That was out of my hands. All I could do was keep walking, and so I did.

At about mile 15 I thought I might try to run a little, walking was getting tiresome. Keeping my feet very low I tried a little shuffle run - and it was okay. So from there I ran a little (shuffled a little), walked some. Shuffled a little, walked some. Made sure I was still taking in enough to eat, to drink, taking my salt tabs.

I had never been so aware of the course as this time and it was glorious. In the past I had remembered some parts of it as being bare. Desolate, even, and I kept looking for that and couldn't find it. All along the way there was something to see, to remark on, to enjoy. I recognized people on the course - passing them, being passed by them - more so than ever before. This was a whole new marathon.

At some point I realized I could probably do it. My God, I'd already endured 10 miserable miles, what was another 8 really? And with each mile it became more and more within my grasp, even the possibility of finishing within the cutoff.

Make no mistake, this was rough. Painful. Tiresome. Hot. (I was doing okay on food, but I spent easily the last eight miles fantasizing about a cold Coke.)

And then it was 20 miles and I thought, okay, this is going to happen. Then 22, 24, and then there was the turn and the rise and the last stretch and I was done. Despite the pain, despite my disbelief.

And in (almost ) all my photos from the course, I am smiling.

Six hours and thirty-six minutes. Over the allotted time, so not an official finisher. But. I have my medal. I know what I did and what it took. And I wouldn't change anything about it.

Yours,
Annie

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Books of Long Ago

Don't feel quite ready to write about the marathon, but my mind has been full of books lately - ones I've read, ones I'm reading, the one I'm working on. A while back I started a list of my top books from 2016 and then never finished it - here you go.

A word on how I chose these books. I read a fair bit. Poetry, literary fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, urban fantasy, and at the top of my list, romance. For a book to make my top 10, rather than just receive a star in my book journal, it has be not only well-written and make me think, but it has to haunt me, to weave itself around my soul in some way so I can't forget it. These are books I might not be willing to lend out, and I'm usually pretty free in sharing.

So, in the order in which I read them, my favorite books of last year.

Voyage of the Sable Venus, by Robin Coste Lewis (poetry)
Voyage of the Sable Venus: and Other Poems by [Lewis, Robin Coste]

Difficult subjects, told beautifully. Each of these poems a story, complete in itself, but together a voyage.


American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition: A Novel by [Gaiman, Neil]

Rich, tender, fascinating. A lot of the same sort of material as in his Sandman series but I felt done even better (or I may just like the format more).



Wrenching yet also poetic, and totally mind-blowing.


World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by [Brooks, Max]

This book amazed me. It was chilling and compelling and utterly believable. I kept being drawn on and on into it.


Glitterland by Alexis Hall
Glitterland (Spires Book 1) by [Hall, Alexis]

Oh, this just pulled me in, the language, the characters, the situations. I loved watching them change and develop, was impressed with the depiction of anxiety and the aftermath of depression and how they both kept fighting forward. (Plus super hot, of course, as all his are.)


Signs Preceding the End of the World by [Herrera, Yuri]

There was so much packed in to this book, such inventive use of language while still absolutely, beautifully readable. (And an interesting translator's note at the end.) Dreamlike, haunting as a dream will, and also haunting knowing what we do about border policies.
      

Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya

Oh my God, what a treat to find these in this edition. I started reading this series years ago, before it was done, and got overwhelmed with how many volumes there were to it. Still a bit overwhelming (there are 12 thick books of this and I'm about 2/3 through), but so worth it. The marriage of the story and the art - how there is so much unsaid that can be hinted at instead. Glorious.


Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudine Rankine (poetry)
Citizen: An American Lyric by [Rankine, Claudia]
Brutal truths, an incredible weaving together of the personal and the metaphysical. The form as jarring as the material yet perfect.


Duma Key by Stephen King
Duma Key: A Novel by [King, Stephen]

This was good, good, good, and then it got great. One of my favorites of his.


Sexing the Cherry by Jeannette Winterson
Sexing the Cherry (Winterson, Jeanette) by [Winterson, Jeanette]

How did I even think I understood this when I read it before (in college)? I don't think I did, I think I read it back then for the characters and the transgression of it, but certainly I didn't come close to understanding a fraction of what is going on. And of course her language is sumptuous.


Books in the running for top 10 of 2017? Though I read so much romance now it only makes sense to have a top 10 romance and a top 10 everything else.

Romance
   Pansies by Alexis Hall
   K. J. Charles - all of them!
   Burnt Toast B&B by Heidi Belleau
   A Boy Called Cin by Cecil Wilde
   Save of the Game by Avon Gale
   The Soldier's Scoundrel by Cat Sebastian

Everything Else
   Extracting the Stone of Madness by Alejandra Pizarnik
   Trash by Dorothy Allison
   Underground Airlines by Ben Winters
   The Romantic Dogs by Roberto Bolano
   Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
   The Vegetarian by Han Kang
   Thorn by Intisar Khanani

We'll see if these end up getting knocked out by others as I keep reading.

Happy reading,
Annie


Friday, October 13, 2017

It's The Return Of Scary Movie Month!

Marathon or no marathon, it's October and that means it's time for Scary Movie Month, where The Dude and I attempt to watch as many scary movies as we can possibly fit in.

This year I left the selection in The Dude's hands, I didn't much care what we watched - my mind was first taken up with the marathon and now with preparing for NaNoWriMo. Especially when we only ever see a fraction of what we want to anyway.

We always have some TV show as a fallback, for those nights when we sit down too late to watch a whole movie or one of us needs to go to bed early or when the movie up next isn't one we can reasonably split over two nights. This year that fallback is the third season of Buffy. I saw most of this season years ago by myself, up late with a colicky D, and once you get over the angst of the first few episodes it's one of my favorite seasons. So we've been working our way through that. Though I will say the older I get the less I enjoy it, I get too cranky about the immaturity on display.

Our first movie for the month was Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, we try to get one Hitchcock in every year. A classic, of course. I last saw this decades ago on a small black-and-white set in our kitchen - I hadn't even realized this movie was in color. Watching it now I was struck by just how creepy it is, there's behavior that is portrayed as matter-of-fact for that time period that would have red flags going up all over the place now. Brrr. But watching this made me want to visit San Francisco, for sure.

Then, spread out over three nights, David Fincher's Zodiac. There's a great article here with more about the film and why it might be considered his masterpiece.I'll just say that it was really hard to stop watching each night - it's put together so well and the performances are so compelling. I almost feel ready to start watching it again.

We gave ourselves a night off after the marathon to watch the Bears lose to the Vikings, and then watched Jordan Peele's Get Out. I'm trying to think how to respond to it without cursing in appreciation. It is so scary - in so many ways - and so well made - and so interesting, especially from a horror movie perspective - I just feel kind of dumbfounded. And I don't want to say anything that would give anything away or that would discourage anyone from seeing it. So, see it! And then we can talk.

I've been using this month to work through my to-be-read list for fantasy as well. So far I've finished the first book of Zoraida Córdova's The Vicious Deep trilogy (and just got the next two in the mail), and am almost done with Nnedi Okorafor's Akaba Witch. In theory I'm also working on the 2nd and 3rd volumes of Stephen King's Dark Tower series as well, but I have no expectation that I will finish those this month. I'm finding that series interesting but not as compelling as other books I'm reading or even other Stephen King I've read, so they're out and at hand if I've got some time to read and don't want to pick up a book that will be hard to put down, but not my first choice if I'm settling down for the evening. I'll be happy if I get through them by the end of the year.

Loving the cooler weather and dark evenings -
Annie

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Got A Marathon Thing Tomorrow

My iPod is loaded with podcasts, playlists, and albums.

My race vest is loaded with fuel.

My gear bag is loaded with clothes for after.

I've slept as much as I can this week, am as carbo-loaded as I can stand.

And I raised all the money I needed to.

Physically I'm probably in the worst shape I've ever been heading into this - mentally I'm probably in the best.

So wish me luck and we'll see what I can do!

Eagerly,
Annie

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Oops, I Did It Again (Back In)

Yeah, I'm back into marathon training. It seems I just can't stay away. I start getting excited... and then thinking about how I might do it... it's for an awesome cause... I've spent the money after all... I could just start that day and see how far I can go... I'll regret it if I don't...

Whatevs. After this I should stop saying I'm going to do a set thing when it comes to running 'cause I cannot tell you how many times I've set out with a plan only to watch it fall through. At least if I stop writing about it I don't have to admit to changing my plans. Again.

Anyway, I've been thinking about how I've gone about my training this year all wrong. Once I started back up again mid-summer I should have taken a much more conservative approach, and planned on a walk-run strategy from the start. (Also, I should have replaced my shoes sooner.)

From talking with other marathoners who have moved to a walk-run approach, I think it's not impossible to make a good attempt on Oct. 8 (three weeks away!) The Dude is worried that I'll push too much and injure myself seriously and that's not an unreasonable fear. So I'll have to have a mindset that day that allows me to stop if need be - and yet still provides motivation to continue even in tough spots. Not a tricky balancing act at all. In some ways it's lucky that I had that disastrous long run a couple of weeks ago - I could feel when I needed to stop. Mind you, I kept going and that was a mistake, but it was a good reminder that if I pay attention I do know the difference between when things are uncomfortable and I want to stop vs. when I'm about to hurt myself and need to.

And most important, I have to be okay with the possibility (likelihood) that I won't be able to go the whole distance. Like, really okay. I think I am now... I know I hadn't been before, and that's why I had thrown up my hands and quit. Twice. But now I'm thinking, what, give up this awesome opportunity just because I might not finish? Pshaw. It's not as if I ever look at my finisher medals anyway.

So I'm planning out my podcasts and playlists, I registered for the team pasta dinner the Friday before, I've started getting to bed a bit earlier...

I'm in it.
Annie




Wednesday, September 13, 2017

To New (Musical) Loves

I have fallen in love with Juan Gabriel.

I was listening to a podcast tribute to him, on NPR's Alt.Latino. I had read some articles about him shortly after his death, but this was my first time actually listening to his music.

And oh my, this one song just blew me away.

Do listen to the whole thing if you can. Oh, the build, the build!

In the podcast they only played a snippet, but the discussion of it got me intrigued (fun fact: I knew one of the commentators, Carolina Miranda, from college), and after I finished the podcast I went back to listen to the whole song.

And then again, and again. And then to other songs of his, and then to other versions of that song, and now I can say I am a full-on convert to the magic that is Juan Gabriel.

The whole podcast is worth listening to, but if you just want the discussion of that song, go to 13:20 on it.

And if you're now intrigued too, these articles are good places to start to understand the cultural phenomenon he was:


Now the only question is, for my Saturday morning cleaning, which CD do I subject the boys to?

Got my headphones on,
Annie



Friday, September 8, 2017

On Opinions vs. Reviews & Resigned to Not Being More Adept at the Latter

I've been filling in my Goodreads account, a few books at a time (I'm on there as Anne Crow). I'm only going as far back as last year, though I started my reading journal in 2007, back when I first read a collection of Nick Hornby's "Stuff I've Been Reading" columns from the Believer. I'm also not putting everything in - aside from the fact that I would be embarrassed to admit just how many romance novels I read in a month - I only include those books that I admired or thought about a great deal. No one-star reviews from me.

No reviews from me at all, as it turns out, just opinions. I've long admired people who can write reviews of books and movies: analyzing them in different ways and looking at them in larger contexts. And I love reading good reviews, I like having additional perspectives on what I'm taking in, whether from a broader or closer range. But I'm not naturally an analytical person myself and that's not how I write - about books or about movies (such as during my annual Scary Movie Month roundup), and even my Bible devotions for work are from a personal, contemplative stance, not historical or sociological or theological. And the few times I've tried to write differently (at least with my devotions) I've not been met with much enthusiasm and I haven't been very satisfied myself.

No, what I write are my opinions and personal reactions to the books. (I thank the women at Smart Bitches Trashy Books for helping me understand the difference.) Things I admired or that made me think or that I got stuck on. And just as I like to hear other people's opinions of what they've been reading/watching/hearing, especially if it's thoughtful and gives me a new way of thinking about things or new insight into that person, I have to hope that my perspective on things, narrow though it may be, is useful in some way to some people some of the time. And as I write this I realize I do - have hope, that is. Because I really do believe in the power of small things. Sometimes all on their own, and sometimes little by little until you have what seems like suddenly more. But the small things do matter.

Sometimes even if it's just an opinion.

Hopefully,
Annie

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Off the Road Again

I'm out of the marathon again. I hurt my foot on my last long run - too stubborn to stop when I should have and I didn't think it was that bad and when the hell would I have rescheduled for anyway? But it's been a week now and I still can't run and there just isn't any room between now and Oct. 8 for any setbacks. And who's to say I wouldn't injure myself the same, or worse, if I persisted?

(Not sure what the foot injury is. My ever-lurking plantar fasciitis flared up again but something more has happened on top - at first I thought it was a bad bruise but now I'm wondering if it's not a stress fracture. I'll have to go in and see.)

I should not have attempted marathon training again in the first place. I did not have the base I needed for my long runs, especially not for making the kind of mileage jumps I was attempting and needed to do with my late start and then missing three due to vacation and work commitments. I'd been able to do the first couple of jumps but it had been the equivalent of a new race-day effort each time - without the post-race recovery. And I'd known that, and still wasn't willing to make the changes I needed to make it all happen. Because that would have meant completely reorienting my life to be solely marathon-focused for these three months and I just haven't been willing to do so. Because, you know, I have a life. That I like.

So why didn't I stop before hurting myself? Stupid pride. I don't like to be seen as someone who doesn't follow through on commitments at work. (I'm actually quite happy to pull out of things - with the required amount of agonizing about it first - in nearly any other area of my life.) And while Chicago Lights is technically not the same organization as the church, and being part of the team is not part of my work responsibilities, I work closely enough to Chicago Lights and have enough colleagues on the team with me to feel uncomfortable about quitting. Again.

Of course the question is, why did I start again in the first place? Because I had quit once before, in the spring, before the real training and excitement got started, without any real bruise to my pride.

So here's the backstory. I quit in the spring because I was pregnant. And then miscarried. And that's a whole other story for another time. For now I'm just going to say that once my body recovered from all that - and once we decided we were done trying - once running began to feel natural to me again, the way it used to - and once my body felt like mine again, after more than two years of not quite feeling that way - then yes, it seemed like the most natural and wonderful thing in the world to take up the commitment I'd made last fall along with the hope and promise of what marathons can be.

Only, this time, it wasn't. I'd left it too late in the season, but also, time has moved on since my last marathon (which wasn't that pretty anyway). I'm older of course, but more to the point I have other commitments now, other challenges that move and excite me. I'm not going to say "never again" to the idea of a marathon, not like I did after my last one - but I think a lot would have to shift in my life to make that the main focus again. Which it would have to be (especially since I'm older).

I learned something from those first couple of weeks of training, though. I had forgotten how much running means to me. Not just how much joy it brings me, but how much I need it (or some other intense physical activity) to feel like my best self. I don't like to throw around phrases like "running is my anti-depressant" because I never want to disparage medication for those who need it. But for me, running really is an anti-depressant, and an anti-anxiety treatment as well. And so while I can function perfectly fine, mostly, without that kind of activity, when I am running hard on a regular basis (but not too hard, clearly), I am a much better person. Certainly a happier one.

With that in mind, along with the memory of the fierce satisfaction I had mid-summer and the sense of being right in my body and my head, I know I need to keep running and in particular, racing. I'm looking forward to going back to my favorite distances, 10-milers and 15Ks, where I can push myself hard on an early weekend morning and then go nicely long on a weekend - without wrecking myself in the process. But for now it's about resting and healing, the start of the school year and all the intense activity of fall and early winter that comes with having kids - sports! holidays! recitals! more sports! - and digging in to the other things that move me.

I wish I could say older and wiser but if I were wiser my foot wouldn't hurt,
Annie

Monday, August 21, 2017

Starting Over

Welp, I've realized I need to rewrite my novel. All of it. (I realized I needed to change the point of view.) Gah.

I knew I was going to have to do some massive reworking - and making this change will allow me to address some other issues I was having with it - I just didn't think it would involve rewriting the whole thing. Thankfully I have a sense of how to start. Because otherwise I really would feel thoroughly effed.

Right now I need to be focusing on the marathon anyway, what with less than two months to go... and I have a baby quilt overdue... and school is about to start which always takes more time and energy than it feels it should... all of which is to say I don't see myself plunging into this rewrite in the next two months. But that doesn't feel good either.

So, I've decided this year to tackle National Novel Writing Month again. Or NaNoWriMo, as they put it. November - 50,000 words, 30 days. And use that time to tackle my rewrite.

And in the meantime I will prepare - more research and writing exercises. I've got my list and have started to work through it and am getting excited.

I have no idea if I'll manage the word count. It's so out of my normal writing rhythm it seems impossible. But why the hell not try. It's not as if I have anything to lose, after all.

(And if you're doing NaNoWriMo too, you can find me on there as A Crow, Chicago. I'd love to have company.)

Yours in words,
Annie




Saturday, August 19, 2017

Some Music for August

Listening to lots of great music these days, here's a few songs I've been loving this month.

A little fair warning - though if you know me this shouldn't come as any surprise - some of these songs have language not suitable for the office or small children.

Also, my favorite songs are almost all - as a friend of mine describes it - booty music. Just FYI.

Ali K. turned me on to K. Flay earlier this year and I've been grateful ever since. This is just one since so far I've loved every song I've heard.

Champagne


Then Dua Lipa is another new favorite of mine, amazing dance music. I love the whole album of hers, though, including the ballads.

Blow Your Mind (Mwah)


Total guilty summer pleasure - Ricky Martin!

Vente Pa' Ca (music starts about 30 seconds in)


An old favorite, Macklemore & Ryan's Thrift Shop:


And then one that has been in my head a lot this past week - Nina Simone's I Wish I Knew How It Feels To Be Free. I've always loved this song, but right now it makes me cry even as my heart soars listening to it.

Because music keeps me going when nothing else can,
Annie

Friday, August 18, 2017

16 Miles

Back when I posted about training for the marathon again, I knew that despite my commitment to running it, I wouldn't be able to really get into training until now, less than two months beforehand. Which is ridiculous and all that but sometimes you just have to do ridiculous things for love.

I've now had my first truly long run - 16 miles - and yes, it was ugly. At six miles I emerged from neighborhood shade onto the heat of the lakefront and felt my energy drain away accordingly. Six miles! With ten left to go! Jiminy crickets, what have I gotten myself into?

After a quick mental scan of my calendar I realized I didn't have any other dates I could do this. So ten more miles it was. I took an extended walk break - realized that walking felt fine - and so just continued. At first trading quarter-miles walking and running, then once I got a bit more energized again I ran half miles with quarter-mile walk breaks. And got through them well enough that the last mile I just ran home.

And then spent the rest of the day (after my ice bath) with my feet up, reading. Three days later and my legs still feel a bit heavy, but I also know I haven't been stretching properly (or foam rolling or putting my legs up or doing any other kind of recovery work, shame on me). I need to get back on that part of training too.

But now I know I can do it.

Still a badass (at least to me, sometimes) even though a soccer mom,
Annie


Thursday, July 20, 2017

So, About That Marathon

You haven't seen me write much about this year's Chicago Marathon because up until a couple of weeks ago I thought I wasn't going to do it. I had some health issues that made it impossible to train the way I wanted to (or to run at all, for a while), and I wasn't thrilled with the idea of just starting off that day and seeing what I could do, though I was keeping that open as an option. I even told the team leader that I wouldn't be doing it.

And then...

I started to be able to run again. And I started to enjoy it again, consistently, for the first time in months. And I started to think that maybe I would start that day and just see how far I could go.

And then I started thinking seriously about what I thought would happen if I trained to be able to run, oh, say 14 miles, and got out there that day and got to the 14 miles point. Did I really think I would stop?

Honey, please.

So, knowing me, I thought it would probably be safer if I trained to do the whole thing, ugly or not, lots of walking or not, rather than train to run a shorter distance (and then try to do more on the spot).

Last week I ran 10 miles - with lots of walk breaks - and felt good afterwards. This was up from my previous long run of 6 miles, so a considerable jump. I made sure to ice bath afterwards! Plus we went to the pool twice over the next two days, which I know helps my legs. This week I will run 14 - with more walk breaks, more icing and more pool time. I've also been careful to stay on top of stretching and foam rolling for my tight bits.

Then I have a few weeks when I don't have weekends free for long runs, so I will instead do some back-to-back midweek mid-length runs and possibly a couple of two-a-days. By mid-August I should be back on track with the beginner's plan that the team coach gave us.

And I am excited and happy and so glad I can make this happen again. I've missed marathoning! I hadn't realized just how sad it made me feel, thinking I was done with it.

If you're like to help in my fundraising efforts you can do so here. Any donation of $50 or more gets you something homebaked by me. I'll be writing more about Chicago Lights and why I support it in a later post (you can also read here and here).

Here's to chafing and black toenails and crashing hard as soon as the boys are in bed - and the utter absurd joy of running for hours -

Annie


Friday, June 30, 2017

Despacito

I had not heard this song prior to reading about the Justin Bieber controversy around it (where he admitted to not knowing the lyrics that he sang on the remix), but then listened to it and... fell in love, like much of the country has done. The version without Justin, though.


I'm not wild about the woman in the video, either, so until I bought the song I listened to the video without watching it. Over and over again.

A few days later I was at a party when this came up, and while there was nothing I could quite put my finger on, I wasn't real happy with how people there were talking about it either. As if yes, it would be too much work to learn the words to a song in Spanish. Or as if there's something a little declassé about enjoying it too much.

Never mind that the rest of the world loves American pop despite it being in English.

So I've made learning - and understanding - the words to this my Spanish project for the summer.

Not only is it a fun project, but it also gives me an excuse to delve a bit more into reggaeton, which I enjoy although mostly in fusion with other musical styles (as Despacito is). Since then I've also found an interesting article about the song, an interview with Petra Rivera-Rideau, a scholar who has written about the racial dynamics of reggaeton in Puerto Rico.

Ah, some of my favorite topics - music, race relations, language, popular culture. All with an irresistible beat. Perfect for summer study.

Yo no tengo prisa, yo me quiero dar el viaje
Empecemos lento, después salvaje.

I'm not in a hurry, I want to take the journey,
let's start slowly, then wildly.

Slowly yours,
Annie





Monday, May 22, 2017

Ravenswood Run 2017

This year was the first year we ran the Ravenswood Run 5K as a family, following on the heels of our tremendously successful Turkey Trot last year. It benefits Ravenswood Community Services, the organization housed in our church that provides food, meals, and health screenings to people in Ravenswood and Uptown.

As before, I ran with D while The Dude stayed with G. Before starting the race, D decided he would run half of it with me before taking off on his own. We went over the instructions on the way to the race - where we would meet up afterwards, how to know where to go, that sort of thing. As I was describing how the course was laid out he became uncomfortable with the idea of leaving me - he's really not that aware of his surroundings and while he's been on all the streets I was naming, he clearly wasn't remembering them. So then we decided to go with our strategy for the Turkey Trot, where he stayed with me until the finish line was in sight.

We started and I could immediately tell we'd started off a bit fast for me, and that I was going to have to either slow down - almost impossible to do with D there - or take more walk breaks than I was anticipating. So halfway through we ended up splitting up after all (though I did catch him looking back a couple of times).

He ended up beating me by about a minute and a half, and 35th in a field of 135 (boys 14 and under - he's eight). Very nice!

I ended up taking walk breaks every half mile, and then for the last mile decided to up them to every quarter-mile, so I could pick up my pace in between. Those breaks also coincided with the major turns in the route. At the last one an older man saw me walking and decided to be "encouraging". I would have been more sympathetic if I hadn't heard him haranguing his granddaughter about her pace earlier in the race. So I just said I knew what I was doing - and then passed him half a block later.

My final time was 30:16, for a 9:45 pace.

I always hope to finish a 5K in under 30 minutes, so yes, I was a little disappointed that I'd gotten so close and not done it. On the other hand, nothing from my running in the last half year would have suggested that I could have done as well as I did, so I'll take it as a win.

I found D right where we'd arranged to meet, though he was sitting on the ground so I had a moment of panic when I didn't see him. I think he's up for more 5Ks - he certainly liked the range of snacks afterwards. G did not have as good a time on this go-around and says he wants to do the Kids' Dash next year - but he's still very proud of his t-shirt. So maybe in a couple of years.

A very nice family excursion, and a good organization to be helping!

Slower than an 8-year-old,
Annie










Friday, April 21, 2017

Just Something I've Been Thinking About

There's a line in Macklemore's "White Privilege II" that goes
"We take all we want from black culture, but will we show up for black lives?"
That line echoes all the time in my head now.

So last fall I'm walking from work to the train station and I pass by Ditka's, a restaurant owned by legendary Bears coach Mike Ditka. And as always, they're piping out the most awesome selection of 60's soul music. I have been enjoying their playlist for years. It has never failed to give a little lift to my day.

Except last fall, Ditka went on national TV to give his opinion on Colin Kaepernick's protest of the national anthem.
"If they don't like this country, they don't like our flag, get the hell out, that's what I think." 
"And I don't see all the atrocities going on in this country that people say are going on."
Leaves a sour taste in my mouth, that's for sure. Meanwhile Marvin keeps asking "what's going on" while Sam tells us "I know a change is going to come", and I walk down the street wondering when.




Friday, April 14, 2017

Back In The Saddle

Well, it's been a bit of a rough start to the spring.

I'm usually pretty healthy, but there are a couple of recurring illnesses I am prone to, and I got hit with both this year. I'm still dealing with the last, a cold that settled into a lasting cough. From past experience this can take weeks to get rid of.

Oh, and our basement got flooded when the drains backed up. Tree roots in the sewer lines. Thankfully the lines themselves are still in good shape.

(I think that was actually the tipping point on my cough, all those hours of cleaning up with bleach and Lysol.)

We still haven't pulled the trigger on the last preventative flood measure (exterior sewer pipe access). There's a lot of work to be done on the house and we can't afford to do all of it this year. So we're still deciding what exactly is the most important thing to do first. Outside wiring or extra flood control? Hmm.

Have I mentioned I'm running the Chicago Marathon again this year? For the Chicago Lights team again.

I've decided this will be my last one. It will be marathon #5, that's a good number to go out on. And my third time raising money for Chicago Lights.

Thinking about it as my last one is helping me get excited about the training again.

I'm about a month behind where I wish I was with my running, but it's still early in the season. And I'm finally feeling well enough, despite the cough, to start working on mileage. It helps that it's Spring Break this week and I'm home a few days - that's given me some extra time in the morning for longer runs. And it helps - a lot! - that it's not so dark.

So, a lot on our minds. But! There's a lot to be thankful for, and I have been.

Doing well in Chicago (if a little wet, cold, and coughing) -
Annie

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Happy Birthday To Me

Some of you may know that The Dude's birthday present to me was tickets to the Pitchfork Music Festival, the closest I come to an annual spiritual retreat. So that's awesome. (Plus, A Tribe Called Quest! Plus, Solange!)

But the thing that's making me grin right now is the birthday present I bought myself. A book shelf. Or two, rather.

About 20" across and three feet high.
I stacked one on top of the other.
It fits right in a narrow gap of wall in our dining room, next to our other bookshelves. We'd been planning a trip to Ikea for several months and it kept not happening, so finally I gave up and just found these on Amazon. They're perfect.

And why another bookshelf? Aside from the obvious, of course, that we are always running out of space for our books, despite annual culling. What about this bookshelf makes me giddy?

This will be our genre bookshelf. This is where all our mystery and fantasy and science fiction is going. Right into the dining room, to have equal pride of place with the theater books and our literary fiction.

Which then frees up the bookshelf in my study so my comic books and romance novels and paranormal mystery books can breathe. And I can see them and admire then and touch them. And love them.

And this means that all this week I get to handle books, sort them, rearrange them - which is absolutely one of my favorite things to do.

I'm excited just thinking about it.
Annie



Friday, February 24, 2017

Feeling Stupid And That's Okay

Earlier this week I got the opportunity to feel stupid. Like, really stupid.

(Note to self: when you reply to blog posts written by people you REALLY REALLY admire and you ask a question, make sure you give it the proper context. Otherwise the answer might have you going, "but, I totally knew that, and now I look stupid in front of this person I REALLY REALLY admire, and it's not a real conversation so there's no point in going back and trying to explain or defend or whatever". 'Cause it really isn't worth going back to it.)

Nope. I just got to sit with feeling stupid for a while. But it got me thinking about stuff I've been learning in the anti-racism trainings/study I've been doing, how one aspect of dominant white culture is the need to not be wrong. And how that can lead to all sorts of really ugly behavior, in some cases (ahem, our current president).

In my case it leads to not speaking up. To not asking questions. To not taking risks.

And thus to not being there, for myself or for my friends or for, oh, the world.

Ugh.

So, one of the things I'm actively working on is to go ahead and take risks in what I say. Which means learning to be comfortable with not being comfortable.

Even if that means sitting around feeling stupid for a while. And not acting/reacting in response to it. Because you know what? It's just a feeling. And I'll be fine.

Always learning,
Annie

*There's lots more I could say about this but I think these two posts cover it well.




Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I Want To Ride My Bicycle, I Want To Ride My Bike

A beautiful day here in Chicago yesterday (leaving aside that it shouldn't be 70 degrees in February), and we went, as a family, to the park on our bikes.

ON OUR BIKES. All of us. Well, not G, since one of his training wheels came off en route and we had to turn back to get his scooter instead. But we all started off on our bikes.

I haven't ridden a bike since, oh, I don't remember. And I haven't had one I liked since high school.

I'm not totally wild about this one, either. It's very... squishy. And heavy. And low. The minute I got on it I had the song Low Rider in my head. On the other hand, riding with G, I have to do a lot of sudden stops, so it's probably good to have a bike with serious shocks.

But I want to name her, so I guess I'm already smitten.

Technically, it's not my bike, it's being housed here while my sister-in-law lives overseas. So I can't mess it up with stickers or the like. I'm tempted to, though. I should just write her and ask if it's okay. Some Harley Quinn, maybe, a calavera (sugar skull). A crow, of course.

It was awesome, even riding down the city blocks with G, stopping every house or so. And then when we got to the park and I could drop G off with the others and just ride around for a while - GLORIOUS.

High on the wind in my hair,
Annie

*According to this blog, I had a bike and rode it in 2010. I don't remember what happened to that one, it's not the one I'm currently riding. It was not comfortable to ride, I remember that clearly.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Trying To Remember That February Always Drags

Not a lot of energy these days, and I'm finding that some of the time I would normally dedicate to keeping in touch with people (including this blog) is instead being spent on following the news (and then talking to people about the news). Bah.

Along those lines, have you seen the twitter feed for RoguePOTUSStaff yet? "The unofficial resistance team within the White House." Fascinating. And this winter we've been watching "West Wing" again so that makes for interesting discussion, comparing the two.

All this news watching makes me feel scattered. I've been telling others (because I need to tell myself) to remember to rest, to eat well, to draw strength from whatever works for you.

So poetry, of course, for me. Language(s). And then some art.

HPM-GOLD-2.jpg
by Ernesto Yerena Montejano, through his Hecho Con Ganas project 

And a special Valentine.

Image may contain: flower, plant and text
by Kate Madeira, posted on Afropunk
Wishing you a peace-filled and righteous February,
Annie

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Okay, Now I Really Want The Sun

I've been using my early morning runs as a time for prayer and meditation, since I won't wear headphones when it's dark. And that's great, it's a guaranteed time I might not set aside otherwise. I have set prayers I've memorized and then let my brain drift from them as needs be. For example, on a line about healing I might then think about those people I know in need of healing, physical or otherwise. So that's good.

But I gotta tell you, I miss my music. At this point, I am aching to be able to go out when the sky is beginning to turn, slip my tunes in, and run through the park without worrying about anything.

Waiting,
Annie

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Changing Skies

The light is changing.

On my way back home yesterday morning the sky was a deep periwinkle blue, instead of its recent heavy Prussian.

And if it hadn't been cloudy I might even have been able to see flashes of pink or orange, reflected on clouds or the undersides of gulls' wings.

It cheers me to think I may someday soon be able to finish my run in time with the sunrise, to watch the clouds change as I pass under, to see the sun flashing on the river, to go through the park freely.

The world turns and spring is coming. I know we may have two more months of snow (or possibly just rain, ice, and mud), but spring is on its way.

Which is good to remember, because winter is coming, winter is here.

Bleakly,
Annie

*And yes, that is a Game of Thrones reference.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

500

I've finally found a writing rhythm that seems to work for me. This includes the macro view of how I split my time up between work on my novel, poetry, journaling, correspondence, and yes, this blog, and the micro view of where I write (at the dining room table, in my study, cafes), when I write, and how (by hand or on the computer, depending on the kind of work I'm up to).

Right now I have a corner in my study where my decrepit old laptop lives. This is where the bulk of my work on the novel takes place, though I have a notebook I keep for it as well. The laptop can't keep a charge, so for a while every time I wanted to work on it I would have to wait while it started up again. But time is precious! I experimented with different locations in the house until I found I could work upstairs in my study, propped upright on the futon sofa. This meant I could just leave the laptop parked there and plugged in, saving me valuable moments. And today I determined that Tasha (our cat) is content to settle down next to me while I work, as long as I leave a blanket out for her and crack the curtain that serves as my study door. No more howling at doors, making me fear that she'll wake the other inhabitants.

And there I sit, tea at hand, plugging along for 500 words a day.

And some days it flows and others I sweat blood,
Annie

Friday, January 13, 2017

That White Privilege Thing

And, of course, I am aware that things might have gone differently for us at airport security if we had been:

  • black
  • brown
  • visibly Muslim
  • visibly queer
  • non gender-conforming
  • non English-speaking
  • disabled

Or any other way of not fitting in to Trump's America.

Maybe. Or maybe not, but that things might have been different for us based on who we appear to be wasn't something I had to think about in the moment. And I didn't. And that's not true for everyone.

I did think about these things when our Uber driver was pulled over on New Year's Eve. (He had new tags but hadn't put them on the car.) There was a moment's joking about jumping out of the car and running and all I could think was, Are you effing kidding me? That might be the difference between living in Chicago and living in a suburb of Denver - even if I personally don't have to worry about my interactions with police I know too many people who do, never mind the daily news.

Still pissed off that the Trib endorsed Gary Johnson,
Annie

And yes, "queer" is a loaded word, and I gave a lot of thought about whether to use it or go with the newspaper-friendly "gay/lesbian". But this isn't a newspaper, and it's how I identify, and so in the end it felt odder to me to not use it.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Hot Sauce Is A Liquid, and Jelly Is, Well, A Gel

We were in Denver over New Year's to visit my sister. That was a great trip and I suppose I should write about it sometime... but it also made me aware that we are not used to traveling by plane. Because while we were very careful about what toiletries to pack and not, and about not bringing bottles of water to the airport, it completely escaped my notice that the special bottles of hot sauce and homemade jellies we were bringing home, are, in fact, liquids/gels, and therefore cannot be in carry-on luggage.

Well.

After some discussion (carried out over a distance of twenty feet since we had two bags that got stopped and The Dude went ahead with the first bag and the first TSA guard while I waited - along with everyone else in line - for the people reading the machines to realize that the two bags belonged to the same family and that therefore the first guard wasn't, in fact, going to finish up with the first bag until the second bag was also brought over, which required bringing over a second TSA guard from a different line), we were able to repack all the questionable items into one bag, which The Dude then had to bring back through luggage check. Thankfully through all of this, the two TSA guards, while having their careful "I must not display any emotion" faces on, were actually quite patient and helpful and even gave G "assistant TSA badge" stickers when it looked like he might freak out. And we had come to the airport in plenty of time and so were not worried about missing our flight. The only real discomfort to come from this was that we had barely managed to close that suitcase in the first place and with the rearrangement of items there was no way of replicating that magic, so I got to carry a child-size life vest on the plane with me in my already overstuffed bags, along with our winter coats and everything G was now too overwhelmed to carry.

It's now been three out of four flights with the kids where we've managed to tick off fellow passengers, and the kids haven't been at fault for any of it. Bravo them. Not sure what that says about The Dude and me.

Thinking about the train next time,
Annie