Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fireflies & fireworks

Well, I'm still behind three days on bicycling, but with my shoulder all cocked up, I don't know if it's worth riding tomorrow. Who am I kidding, though -- I'm gonna do it anyway. I miss the ride.

And the summery challenge is clipping along okay. I -- aw crap. I can't remember what the hell I did on Tuesday. Oh wait! Movie in the park! The movies in the park program has easily been my favorite city perk in recent years. There is something so magical about watching a movie, new or favorite, under summer stars. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was showing at Portage Park, so even though we'd seen it before, we packed up some blankets and settled in for an evening of film and merriment. (When you have kids, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs counts as film.) AJ had tweaked his knee in football camp that day, so he mostly just lay on the blanket and texted people as Hannah crawled all over him and played with her dad's iPhone. Of the four of us, Peter and I were by far the most invested in the movie. Sadly, I missed my favorite part, where Earl/Mr. T squinches up his butt in preparation for judo moves. I guess I had a good time anyway...I guess.

Last night, I kinda hosed it. I mean, I could say the grilling steaks counts as a quintessentially summery activity, but it really doesn't -- I grill year-round. In the winter it's not uncommon to see bare footprints in the snow on our deck leading up to the grill -- I mean, if you want a bratwurst and it's cold outside, you can't let that make you do something crackheaded like steam the bratwurst, can you? But the day and the night got away from me, and before I knew it, I was asleep.

But tonight, Hannah and I caught fireflies in a jar, chasing them up and down the block, ferreting them out of tomato and pumpkin vines, jumping in the air to pretend to grab them. They wouldn't light up in the jar, though, so we let them out, and that seemed to make them happy; all of them lit up as they flew up into the sky. We turned on the lights strung in a tree in the side yard and read books in the pool of yellow light. We played a couple of games of Bingo on the deck, where we could see fireworks that our up-the-street neighbors shot off -- not just bottle rockets and roman candles, but big sparkly colorful jobs, too, that made Hannah squeal. I didn't just enjoy the summer night, I enjoyed my little girl in a way that I don't get to, or don't allow myself to, very often. Good things happen when you go outside.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Week 26: All Summer in a Week

The week of honesty passed without much incident, I'm sad/happy to say. I always thought I told lots of social-lubricant type lies, but maybe I don't, or maybe I just didn't need to this past week. It got so that I reminded Peter about my week's challenge yesterday morning as we woke up. We had an interesting discussion about the kids after that, but nothing earth-shattering.

The better, or at least juicier, challenge would be a week of admissions of all the horrible and awful and stupid things I've done in my life. Not telling about these things isn't lying if I'm not asked, and there are many things that virtually none of people I know would never think to ask about. When it comes to horrible and awful and stupid things, I run my life like a terrorist cabal -- no one knows everything about me. Not even Peter. But Peter had the opportunity to ask whatever he wanted, and really, he didn't grab the brass ring. And that's probably for the best. Perhaps my funeral will be interesting, if everyone decides to share. But wouldn't everyone's? No matter, though; there'll be no confessional week coming anytime soon.
And now it's week 26, when I will do one quintessentially summery thing a day. Summer, in Chicago, is unbelievably fleeting, especially for those who love summer, like me. You're in it before you know it and out of it before you took a breath. The activities I love most in the world -- gardening, going to the beach, eating, napping, watching baseball -- are either only done in summer or are best in summer, at least in Chicago. So right off the bat, we're talking about a state of being that I try best to prolong, to wring the most life out of. I suppose that a significant portion of this would be avoided if I were to move to, say, Southern California. But Chicago's my home. I don't know any better or more meaningful way to say it, because it just is and that's that. Although I'm not averse to a winter home in Calexico should the opportunity present itself.

I think, though I can't say for sure, that I get increasingly shrill and panicky as the summer goes on, because for as long as I can remember, every spring I have created a mental list of Things That Must Be Done for the summer. And come September, I've usually done like four of them, and I get this crazy intense worrying feeling that life is passing me by. It's Sunrise, Sunset all over the fucking place. The boy is a suddenly a man, a situation that could have been avoided with just one more trip to Navy Pier! Every year my list grows -- so in addition to "camp out in the backyard, catch fireflies, have a water balloon fight, build a bonfire, cook and eat breakfast on the beach, make homemade ice cream, dance outside, sleep outside, eat outside, get shitfaced outside, shower outside (this one calls for highly specific circumstances, I admit, but still), make s'mores, basically do anything and everything I can outdoors because before I know it, the tomato plants are brown, it's 2 degrees outside and I'm back to crockpot cooking and hating mankind" -- to all that, these days I am mentally adding "take kids on hiking trip, drive up Lake Shore Drive for no reason the way Dad used to do, throw a block party, plant a community garden" and then, inevitably, I tack on "just relax and enjoy the summer!" I find that my best relaxing is when half of my brain is screaming "you've already SEEN this episode of Community! GO OUTSIDE!" at the "blah, it's 8:30 and there are mosquitoes and all the ice cream is inside the house, anyway" part. Part of me is thinking that maybe if I document the small things I do this week, by the end of the summer I can look back and say, well, at least I didn't hose the WHOLE summer. If nothing else, I had one good week.

Tonight's activity: the jammie walk -- in temperate weather, just before Hannah's bedtime, Hannah gets dressed for bed and we all take the dog for a walk. This is one of those things that, when I do them, I think, hey, that was fun, the kids had a good time, it only took ten minutes, we should do this every day and be a nice family, like the ones in TV shows we don't watch. But then the next day, it's 8:30, Community's on, AJ's in the middle of another Red Dead Redemption marathon, and I find myself carefully avoiding the word "walk" lest the dog hear, 'cause then the jig would be up. Still, tonight, we walked. And you know what? It was cool and quiet outside, and the brief walk was refreshing. Hannah had a good time; she loves having our attention that way. And it only took ten minutes. Maybe we should do it every day.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The last week and the doctor

I'm going to attempt to tally up where I am from last week.

First and happiest: the yoga. I have actually done it every day but one since last week, and I am pleased to report that it has helped immensely with my right hip. I saw the doctor today about the hip (and my wrenched right shoulder, but that's another story) and the diagnosis is a strained butt muscle. That's what I get for using my butt to pick things up off the floor, I guess. On the upside we've never had to buy a nutcracker.

Second, and obviously, given my last statement: I am pleased to report that I am fairly certain that I made it through seven days without being sarcastic. Well, at least overtly. But much like the hoary-joke week and the no-swearing week, I find that when I'm not being sarcastic I don't have much to say or much to write about. I don't know; to me this felt like I was borrowing trouble -- more on that later.

Third: the biking thing. I am at 4 days on that, because I fell down the stairs and it's been rainy. No really, one follows the other. I fell down the stairs on Sunday and wrenched my left deltoid hanging on for dear life. I didn't know for certain until today that it was merely a muscle pull, and I didn't want to fuck it up worse, so I layed off the bike -- I am not one of those fancy no-hands bicyclists, like the dude I see once in a while around here to rides his bike, talks on his cell phone and smokes a cigarette. If I weren't already married...anyway. Now that I know my left arm isn't going to fall off, I can get back on the bike with reckless abandon. And a helmet. Which, I suppose, I should also be wearing when I walk down the stairs.

So back to the honesty thing. I have to admit that it turns out, I have been lying to...pretty much everyone about something that's pretty important about myself. In fairness, I didn't really know I was lying, and it's possible that I was right before and I was just not quite living up to my fullest potential today.

You may have guessed it by now, so I will just come out and say it. I'm not 5'6". I'm 5'5-1/2".

You can unfriend me now. I understand.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Week 25: If I'm Being Honest

As is probably obvious at this point, I don't feel much like writing lately. And yet, here I am.

This is week 25, and I'm 3/7 of the way through being completely truthful. There's really not much to report, though. This might be because I haven't really told anyone who can really take advantage of it that this is the plan for the week. Peter knows, but for some reason hasn't put it to the test yet. Maybe he just doesn't want to know. AJ doesn't know, but when he does I promise you the first question out of his mouth will be, "Do you love me or Hannah the most?"

I did have jury duty yesterday, but since I was not interviewed at all, I had no occasion to tell my interviewer that I was anally probed by aliens, or spent three years "tapdancing" on the Atlantic City strip for money, or tearfully confessing my seamy career as a movie bootlegger. I did call the police to report a burglary I witnessed in the afternoon, but as tempted as I was I did not give them descriptions of the burglars that match Peter and AJ.

This isn't to say that I spend my life blithely prevaricating from one situation to the next. I don't. I think on the whole I'm a honest person. If a clerk gives me too much money in change from a transaction, I give it back. I've accidentally stolen things and then gone back to pay for them. But I've also not gone back to pay for them when it causes me too much trouble, even when the "trouble" is "walk across half a parking lot in light rain." And, if I get eight days of sick leave from my employer, I can pretty much guarantee that I will be "sick" eight days that calendar year; it's just that days seven and eight might simply be "sick of going to work".  So, I am prone to the lie, or implied lie, of convenience. But my kids are watching -- one who, at four, is just learning about what a lie is and what it can do, and one of whom is a teenager that is positively delighted to pounce on any hint of untruthfulness or hypocrisy on his parents' part. As a parent, I am loath to give my child that sort of happiness or enjoyment.

I have more to say, but if I don't post this now I never will, and I have to leave my desk. Don't feel like writing much...and yet. Once I go, I can't stop.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Not sarcasm, but an understatement

In retrospect, it might not have been the best time to schedule a no-sarcasm rule for the week, given that I've been PMSing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

One and a half down, one and a half to go

Unsurprisingly, I find I am having a little trouble determining whether or not I am being sarcastic. Is all humor sarcasm? Maybe, when you're me. Does being flippant equal sarcasm? I suppose if you're going by the strict definition.

I did, as mentioned, ride my bike to work after dropping Hannah off at daycare, but I did manage to pick a rainy day to ride, so I wound up getting a ride to my car in the afternoon. That means no bike ride for me tomorrow, since I'll have to drive to work and then drive again to bring my car back. Guess I'll have to figure something else out for my bike errand. Last night, I was "lucky" in that Peter had a quick errand to the bank that needed to be done, so I was able to knock that off my list.

The yoga is a little more elusive. I did a few poses yesterday to satisfy the requirement, but despite having gotten up early today, I didn't manage to get it done. No worries yet; I have the whole night ahead of me. Keep on truckin' Erica.


Guess who totally rode her bike to work today? And guess who totally also forgot her bike lock today?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Weeks 22, 23, and 24: Three in one blow

Yeah, so...listen. I won't begin to make excuses; let's just say that no-makeup week got a little cray-cray and I kind of lost my way from there, and leave it at that. (Didn't get crazy due the no-makeup rule, although I did have to meet my little sister's boyfriend wearing no makeup and with facial hair issues, but that just served to buttress Leslie's constant claim of being the prettier sister. You're welcome, Les.) I did consider retroactively throwing in some "challenges" like sleeping late, or eating candy every day, both of which I faithfully completed for two weeks total, but ultimately my flimsy little conscience prevailed, and here I am, ready to do the job I set out to do. And I'm going to do it all in one week. Give or take. You know. Thus this Monday, I embark on an unprecedented challenge: do all three at once. The challenges are to ride my bike for one errand or commute each day; to do fifteen minutes of yoga every day; and to cap it all off, use no sarcasm.

Allow me to explain. The first challenge, the biking challenge, is the one I had planned for this week anyway, because it is Bike to Work Week here in Chicago and companies are in competition for the highest number of participants over the week. My particular company hasn't had a lot of wins lately, so I'd like to do my part, and maybe that will delay the layoff that is surely coming my way soon. Plus, it's looking to be a fairly temperate week. My bike has the flattest of flat tires, a condition I am finding myself in a lot these days, but I was going to circumvent that little problem by using my son's bike this morning. That is, until I remembered I have no clue where my bike rack for the car is, and I still need to drive Hannah to school in the morning and home at night. I mean, the idea of Hannah on a kid seat or in one of those terrifying bike-back carts flopping around behind me in traffic is enough to make me crap myself. I could encourage her to take her little Radio Flyer bike alongside me, but I don't see that going particularly well; I'd end up towing her. All that said, I have errands to run that I can do on a bike tonight without too much trouble. For instance, I would really like those new Goody Spin Pins. Messy buns really flip my switch. That didn't sound right, but I'ma leave it. So maybe I'll hop on my bike tonight and head to the local Walgreens to purchase said pins. Thank you, commercials! Or maybe I will do a real errand, like going to Home Depot and buying an extender hose. The possibilities are endless.

And then, the yoga. It needs to be hip-focused, because my right hip is feeling elderly these days. I'm pretty sure it's nascent hip bursitis or maybe arthritis, which makes me feel EXTRA old, but it's been coming for a while; I've had this problem in the past but not as persistent. Its likely cause is many years of carring a child on that hip -- a child that was way too old/heavy to be carried. Even twiggy little Hannah and her 34-ish pounds are too much. That plus I am a leg-crosser, which my last doctor told me was bad bad bad. (I just uncrossed my legs. Feet flat on the floor!) I'm planning to see the doctor when I can get a weekend appointment for a real diagnosis and maybe a recommendation for physical therapy, but in the meantime, some online research has told me that yoga can help ease the condition. It's really not too painful, it's just sort of naggy and sore and makes sitting in a chair low-level uncomfortable. I am tired of it and would like to nip it in the bud if possible. Plus, I like yoga and maybe if I do it consistently again, maybe it'll be the kick in the pants I need to get it going again. I mean, this one is encroaching in the "make time for Erica" territory which always leads to the "stealing time from family/job" guilt, but we'll see how it goes. If it helps, I can't see not doing it, even if it means leaving the laundry or sweeping for another day.

Finally, the sarcasm thing. You have probably noticed by now that sarcasm is my primary language. I am sarcastic without thinking; it's just how I communicate (as does the rest of my family.) In fact, I had to rewrite or go back over sentences written here to remove sarcastic phrases; I had to do the same with a LiveJournal entry earlier today. I don't think that it's mean-spirited (most of the time) but I do think that being sarcastic helps keep me from being emotionally honest, helps me avoid topics I find uncomfortable to discuss in a straightforward way. I don't think anyone wants to be 100% emotionally honest all the time, but there is a world of difference between saying, say, "you know, I really like being around you" to your spouse and sarcastically braying "Oh my GOD I never want to be apart again! Come with me to the bathroom and let's share!" There is a time for the latter, and I would argue that it's most of the time -- I don't think that I could be nakedly affectionate all of the time (again, not sounding right, but I'm going to leave it) and I think it'd be sort of gross and slobbery. It's not my style -- but the braying sarcasm is. That said, sometimes people need to hear the unvarnished, un-jokey version to really get it and believe it to be true. This isn't the best example, but you get where I'm going.

So, here we go.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Week 21: Au naturale

Welp, one more day of not using paper towels is ahead of me. Friday night, Peter and I had dinner with a friend at a quick service chicken place (Chicken Works and Salad, which I recommend for a good cheap bite) and, not having brought along my own serviceware with me, I was forced to use the plastic cutlery, paper napkin, and worst of all, styrofoam cup. Oof. I could have just gotten the damned hot dog at 7-Eleven after all.

And naturally today, since I am home from work this week to do some big garden changes, Hannah woke up froggy-throated from a cold that she'd had all weekend. Her colds almost always morph into ear infections, so I brought her in to the doctor to see if the ear infection had begun. It hadn't, so we were sent home with directions to call when/if the fever starts and she'll be put on antibiotics again. Anyway, I dropped her off at my mom's place to nap while I went and picked up a sod cutter. A couple of hours later, Mom brought Hannah home (she didn't nap) and joined me to work in the yard. A couple of hours after that, Hannah finally passed out on the floor but woke herself up with a coughing fit -- a coughing fit that, as they often do for Hannah, turned into a barfing fit. I haven't bought paper towels for some time, so I had to clean it up with a rag. I wiped it all up, then brought it to the sink to rinse out. I took one look at the stringy, phlegmy, chunky brown barf in my hand, said "fuck it" and threw it out.

Don't look at me like that.

Overwhelmed by guilt and a deep desire to not have to clean up barf with a rag for the rest of my natural life in order to complete this challenge, I fished the damned thing out of the trash, rinsed it off, and threw it in the laundry. I remain virtuous on this Monday.

Week -- whatever it was, 13, 14, whatever -- when I tried to be presentable and pretty every day made me think that I should try (sort of) the opposite -- no makeup for a week. And since I'm home this week and thus won't have to deal with the "are you feeling well?" questions a makeupless face would mean at the office, I'm going for it this week. It's not the complete flip side of the perfect hygiene week --I'm not letting the 'stache grow out or the brows meet or not showering -- but I'm going to go starkers face- and hair-wise until Saturday. Why only Saturday? Because for one, I haven't worn any makeup or hair stuff since Friday night we're having people over on Saturday and unless some complete transformation happens in the next several days where I don't wake up looking pallid and half-dead, I'm wearing some slap for company.

I do have several activities planned over the week where normally I would put on a little makeup -- foundation and mascara are usually my go-to minimum, and really should be for everyday errands. I shudder to think of what I run around looking like on your average day when I don't go to work -- I've worn the Mom Who No Longer Cares ensemble of holey yoga pants with a holey t-shirt, a hoodie, and flip-flops to the grocery store on many occasions. I have...more than one pair of pants that I wear in public with a hole in the buttal area, even. So the naked face is probably the last thing people notice on those occasions. Still, a bit of makeup goes a long way to making me look rested, pulled together, and perhaps a little less wild around the eyes. I feel a little better knowing I have something between my face and the world, to be perfectly honest. And now I won't have that.

Maybe I will look into ski masks.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pour it in my hand for a nickel

About an hour ago I spent the better part of ten minutes trying to talk the 7-Eleven guy into giving me a hot dog without the paper sleeve.

Me: Hi, I'd like a hot dog, but I have a question --
7-Eleven guy: They're all beef.
Me: No, that's fine, I just don't want the container or paper or whatever they come in. I just want the hot dog.
7-Eleven guy, eyeing me suspiciously: Are you looking for a discount or something?
Me: No no, I'll pay full price, I just don't want any packaging.
7-Eleven guy, slightly panicky: Are you from the board of health? Is this some kind of test?
Me: NO. I just...I'm doing...look. I know this sounds weird, so I'm sorry. I want the hot dog, I'll pay full price for it, as long as I don't get any paper or plastic packaging or serviceware with it.
7-Eleven guy: want me to pick it up with the tongs, put it in the bun, and just...hand it to you?
Me: Exactly!
7-Eleven guy: I don't know if I can do that.
Me: I'm just really trying to cut down on waste, is the thing. I'm going to pay you and everything, and there's no one here but me and you, so if you're worried about that, I won't tell.
7-Eleven guy, looking at the security camera: Um...
Me, sighing: Never mind. I'll just take three bananas.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I picked a great week to stop using paper towels.

Tuesday morning, I woke up and went to the kitchen to feed the animals, who were meow-and-bark-nagging me the second my eyelids cracked open. After I took care of that, I realized I had an extra few minutes from being awakened early, so I started fixing my breakfast and lunch to take to work. I was merrily chopping along, laughing at how easy it was to forego the use of paper towels, when I realized I had to use the bathroom. But, since I was midway through getting my food ready and packed, I didn't want to stop while I was being so productive. So, I just held it. And held it. And held it, through crushing garlic for salad dressing and peeling cucumbers and bagging oatmeal. Finally I got everything in the lunchbox, so I uncrossed my legs and dashed to the bathroom, where a few feet away, I discovered my cat had barfed. A lot. And recently. I had planted my entire left foot right in the warm puddle and damn near brained myself slipping. Gross, but no time to dwell -- I hopped into the bathroom ready to burst, with my foot dripping effluvia and half-digested Royal Canin Urinary SO cat food the whole way. I stuck my foot in the tub and rinsed it off, and all at once pulled my foot out from under the tap, yanked down my pajama shorts, and leapt to sit on the toilet just barely in time. We're talking milliseconds to spare here.

And then I had to clean up the cat puke with a rag. Here is my dilemma with cleaning gross stuff with rags -- you have to then wash the rag. I don't want to do that in the sink -- there are often chunks and stuff, and if I'm disposing of gross chunky things, it's usually in the toilet, know what I mean? But I don't want to be rinsing things off in the toilet bowl, either. So I wound up knocking the big chunks off in the toilet and then rinsing the rest off in the sink. It was more work than just wadding up a bunch of paper towels and tossing it in the trash, plus I had to physically deal more with the barf itself.

See, y'all, there's a lot of thinking here. Not my strong suit. And ultimately it's why I eschewed cloth diapers in favor of disposables. I just didn't think I could handle the work. In the grand scheme of things it's not a ton of extra work -- when you break it down it's a literal minute more. But that's a minute I could be spending not holding a rag full of cat yack.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Week 20: The Disposable Life

I realize I owe a #7. Spoiler alert: it's gardening. But it doesn't mean shit without photos, and I ain't got none. I will post some later, when the sun's out and I can take decent photos.

Given that I'm all about celebrating nature these days it seemed an appropriate time to trot out the ol' environmental guilt card and try to go disposable-free for a week. I can't do too much about the amount of paper/disposables that is foisted on me by others -- say, when someone gives me a cupcake in a paper liner or on a paper napkin, it's still a cupcake and it's still going in my mouth -- but I can at least curb my use. Some things get exception -- products that hold nasties, like toilet paper and ::cough:: tampons, I'll continue to use and toss without guilt. But everything that is easily replaced with something washable/reusable, including paper towels, tissue, plastic wrap, plastic bottles, paper napkins, aluminum foil, wax paper, plastic flatware, all of those things are out of my life for seven days. And those things that are intended to be disposable that I have already, I will reuse wherever possible. That also means no take-out. BOO. I guess that BK pork fritter sandwich is going to have wait 'til next week.

I am a particular abuser of paper towels, something my mom finds horrifying even though I've gotten much better about it. I grew up in a rag-using household. Mom had all kinds of systems -- when t-shirts became unwearable, they were cut up and made into rags. (And let me tell you, it takes a LOT of holes for a t-shirt to be unwearable by my mom's lights.) When washcloths became too worn out, they were downgraded to dishcloths. And the bottom rung for everything was toilet-rag. Yes, Mom eschewed the toilet brush entirely as ineffective, and she would just go all up in the bowl with a rag. I made an abortive attempt at going paperless for household cleaning a while back, and to get started I bought a gigantic bag of white terrycloth shop rags at Costco. Mom, as you can imagine, was aghast at the idea of buying rags. She was like, they're RAGS. You've got pre-rags all over your house! I would feel bad using these to clean things -- they're too clean themselves!

And now the word "rag" is starting to sound really weird to me.

Anyway. I blew it yesterday because I made chicken nuggets at AJ's request, and out of force of habit, used paper towels to line the (reused) pie tin that I drained them in. And I almost blew it today when I went to the bathroom at work and went to grab a paper towel to try my hands. There are no hot air dryers here, so I had to use my pants like a toddler (or a dude.) And now my butt is cold. Oh wait -- I did blow it today -- I used a paper napkin for lunch. Shit! I guess I better bring in a cloth napkin for tomorrow.

I'm also beginning to think that I should re-set my week challenges to start on Monday, since that seems to be the way it's going. I dunno.

Friday, May 14, 2010

OKAY OKAY. What about you? Tell me something good. About you.

Lord how this week has flown. I am tired, y'all, T-A-R-D TIRED.  On with the show.

3. I think I'm a good writer. This is something that I have tremendous difficulty saying or writing, because my head is full of "buts" (I'm not as good as...I need to work on...and I have a tendency to...all those things.) Then again, whose head isn't full of buts? Come on Simone...let's talk about your big but.

4. I like to make people laugh, and I laugh easily, loudly, snortfully, and at just about anything. My favorite people to be around are the ones who laugh easily, so if nothing else I hope I make my friends think they're funny because I laugh at everything. Especially Peter. I think they're funny. I also think Peter's funny. Funny is important to me, in case you couldn't tell. Ever been around people who, instead of laughing, sort of smile and say, "that's funny"? NO. I do not do that. I haaate that. To me it's like they're acknowledging that the natural human reaction would be to laugh, and that they understand that, you know, they "get" "jokes", but they are actually creepy robots who stole someone's skin.

5. Check out my ass. Seriously, check it out. It's pretty nice. It's a nice ass. I better celebrate it while I can, before I have to roll it up and tape it into my underwear.

6. I'm a good cook/baker. And I like doing it. Come over to my house and I'll feed you good. I'll feed the shit out of you. I mean, I think I run about 80% on new-to-me dish success and that's pretty fine, and I'm nigh 100% on stuff I make regularly. Plus, I just like food a whole lot. I do. I enjoy growing it, cooking it, eating it. So if we're eating dinner together and you are just tearing up a big trough of mac and cheese or something, baby, I am right there with you and I do not judge. I will roll a scoop of mac and cheese into a chicken skin and eat that motherfucker like a cannoli. You and me, if we eat together and you like food like I like food, it'll be a good time. Unless you say "that's funny" instead of laughing. Then I'll just get drunk.

So, I have one more to go. BAAAAAHHHH this is hard. Tell me something you're awesome at.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Week 19: Sheepish

It is always hard for me to come back and write here after a weekend. And I find that the more time goes by without writing, I procrastinate even more and put off just getting in here and doing it. It's not that I don't want to, it's that I feel bad.

But this week isn't about feeling bad, which is probably part of why I feel sheepish. I figured a week starting with Mother's Day would be a good time to reflect on the things that I actually do well. I've had 18 weeks of reflecting on the things I do less than well, after all, and I am in a bit of vapor lock with a million things to do that I'm just not doing for one reason or another. I could use a boost, in other words.

And for the record: meditation sure as shit wasn't doing it. I might want to revisit that at some point when life is a little more settled but with a couple of things coming up I feel a bit pulled around and I am just not succeeding in quieting my head. My last shot at it was Sunday and while I had a decent grocery list formed in my head by the end of the ten minutes, it wasn't what I wanted to have. I wanted a few moments of tranquility. For me, for now, though, I think, I have a better shot at that with yoga.

Anyway -- this week is about feeling good, and happy, and giving myself a little pat on the back. Thus, my task is to write a few words each day (well...each day after this one, for the rest of the week) about one thing I am good at, and -- this is the hard part for me -- not equivocating or qualifying in any way. No "I could be better" or "not the greatest, obviously, but..." kind of shenanigans. If I am giving myself credit, I am giving myself credit, period. So. Here goes, briefly.

Sunday being Mother's Day, that's where my head was. I've been a mom for sixteen years, and I think I'm pretty good at it. I love my kids, they know I love them. We have fun with each other, and I take good care of them. In general, they're nice, happy, smart, funny kids that other people are happy to know. I might bitch about it a lot here, but I like them a lot -- like, I would like them even if they weren't my kids. They're awesome, and I am proud of them and proud to say that I had a hand in their being awesome. More than that, because I'm such a swell mom, I didn't even complain about making my own Mother's Day dinner.

Although that might have had to do with knowing I wouldn't be cooking on Monday night. Monday was a delayed Mother's Day celebration with my mom, who works all day on Sundays until 9 at night. Family tradition (and husbands/children who cannot or will not cook) has been that Mother's Day dinner consists of a bucket of KFC chicken and an easy-to-make or store-bought dessert. So Monday night, I loaded up the kids and hit the KFC drive-thru for our customary bucket of fried chicken and sides and brought it to Mom, where we chatted about this and that. I know my mom is having a hard time adjusting to life since Dad died, and I've been trying to help in every way I can, trying to keep her company, listen to her, but give her space to figure out what and where she wants to be. Honestly -- it's hard. It's hard because I hate to see my mom sad and I hate being reminded that my dad is, in fact, gone. But I think I'm doing a pretty good job of letting her know I'm there for her, and it makes me feel like I'm doing a good job at being a daughter.

Blugh. I'm tired and this is weird. More later.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Guess what? I'm an asshole!

Not fifteen minutes after I wrote last night's entry, I went to the family room to find that Peter had picked up and vacuumed the whole thing. And he did the dishes.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

shut up shut up SHUT UP

Did I meditate today? Oh, I meditated. I meditated on the following.
1. My kid's crapping the bed gradewise in English. ENGLISH. What the fuck. This grade shit is an ongoing battle with my kid, who by the way has been tested as pretty bright. The child is not stupid by any stretch. If only he was, we wouldn't give a good goddamn that he doesn't seem to care about school or trying hard.
2. The neighbor two doors down is always doing something noisy. Mowing. Weed whacking. Polishing something with something loud. loud loud LOUD LOUD FUCKING LOUD. Who cuts bricks every Saturday for five mother fucking years?! WHO?
3. I'm PMSing hard. Sorry for the TMI. But it seems to be getting worse the older I get. And that sucks. I hate getting old.
4. The plastic-covering job I did on my veg beds looks like it was done by a one-armed blind moron, and I didn't get enough of it anyway. I am certain death is imminent for all of my seedlings come this weekend's cold weather.
5. Nothing is ever cleaned or put away in this house unless I do it or specifically ask someone to do it. NOTHING. And if it is cleaned or put away it doesn't stay that way for longer than fifteen minutes.
6. Back to #1. I can't help but feel this is my fault. I never asked/demanded much from the kid, but until he hit the teenage years he delivered on my minimal requirements: don't be an asshole, get good grades. They don't have to be perfect, just good. And then around 12 it kind of fell apart and now that he's 16, we have to bring the hammer down and start taking things away -- XBOX, Facebook, social time. I hate this so much, but I'm so tired of this same goddamned argument I could scream. And, AND, now that we're putting fairly serious restrictions on him, since Peter works much later than I do typically, it's pretty much on me to see that AJ's doing what he needs to do. I realize it's not Peter's fault, and I'm pretty certain that he doesn't want to come home and work more any more than I want to come home and work more (although I already do, what with dinner and laundry and cleaning and shit.) And I hate being the heavy. So I need to suck it up. Really, I was born to be a non-custodial parent. I would be the best fun weekend dad, y'all don't even know.

All this is to say that I tried to quiet my head. Really, I did. I was outside because the house smells funny to me right now and that is making me angry. The other neighbors are having a loud, ignorant, obscene (even to me) conversation in their garage, where they hang out pretty much every night in temperate weather. I would rather that they were dealing, as we previously suspected. So, by the end of today's attempt I was actually angrier than when I started.

If it weren't a Wednesday, I'd just say fuck this, I'm getting krunk. Now THAT's meditation.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Serenity now!

This morning I woke up at my usual slovenly 7:20, kissed my husband goodbye, and then flopped back over to half-listen to NPR for a few minutes while I gradually enter consciousness.  At about 7:30, I remembered that I had a limited amount of time so I sat up and assumed a meditative position. Eyes closed, I concentrated and focused on breaths in...and out...and in...and out...and shoulders slumped...I folded over at the waist...rested my forehead on the bed...and fell asleep for another ten minutes. I woke myself up snoring. I suppose this is a sort of meditation, no?

My plan to finish up the charity week has not yet come to fruition, but I half-assedly (and inadvertently) wound up performing a seventh act of charity when I gave a dude all the quarters in my purse at an intersection today because once again, I had no cash. It was probably like $5 worth of quarters, though -- I've been throwing the quarter leftover from my daily Coke purchase at the vending machine in it for a few weeks now. He looked up, said, "thank'm fuckin' starving." And immediately crossed the street toward Jewel. I don't know if he was starving for whiskey or a grilled cheese, but whatever it was I hope he got it.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Week 18: the ten-minute workout

Wow, this past weekend sure got away from me in a hurry.

Let's see where I left off. Friday. Yes. Friday, I volunteered to cover reception. Yes, this is sort of lame from a charitability standpoint, but you have to understand: plainly, I do not like covering reception. It is boring and a time suck and people ask stupid questions and are rude to receptionists but you can't be rude back. And I like being rude. But there was a dental appointment and the way the thing works is, the person who manages the reception desk sends out an email to a few people asking for volunteers and we all sort of wait each other out, I believe. "Oh no, I didn't see that email yet," you know, that game. Not only do I dislike it but it was a 9 am cover, so I had to be bang on time. Not my strong suit, punctuality. But I was there with several seconds to spare. SEVERAL. Anyway, I covered reception and it was uneventful and boring and a time suck, but in volunteering I made someone else's job easier. Maybe not charity in the classic sense but I felt pretty good about it.

And then there was Saturday. I had completely forgotten about it by the afternoon, but Peter and I were driving up Cicero and there was a presumably homeless guy panhandling. I didn't have any cash on me so I tried to finagle some cash out of Peter but he totally charity-cockblocked me. His excuse was that he only had a $10 and a $5 -- I was willing to give the dude a fiver, but Peter wasn't. And then, it wound up being an unexpectedly late evening, and then I had forgotten again. So, I'm a day short on that challenge, but I have an idea for it that should wrap that up shortly.

This exercise, I liked. I enjoyed it. It's false charity from a certain perspective, I admit, but it kind of does the psyche some good to look for ways you can help, ways you can make people happy, ways you can ease a burden even a little. Shifting my focus from my problems (real or imagined), my complaints, just for a few minutes a day was a break from myself. And I get pretty sick of myself most days.

Unfortunately for both of us, I am stuck with me. So this week, I'm looking to get to know myself better. Not THAT way, perv. Well...maybe that way. But also in ten-minute increments. None other than the Queen of Chicago and Giving Away Cars and Then Moving to the West Coast herself, Oprah, has recommended trying daily meditation in ten-minute spurts to help settle and clear your mind. If there's anything my mind actually does, it's chatter. Constantly. Where's this? What's that smell? When is this thing? Where's your purse? How soon is now? Part of the reason I enjoy yoga, when I actually do it, is because my mind is so focused on not falling down, not snapping a tendon, not farting, not staring at that guy's ball slipping out of his tiny shorts, that everything else fades away. But guys' wayward testes don't present themselves for psychic relief often enough to count on them for a daily meditation.

I gave it a shot this morning and it I was antsy. I kept peeking at the clock and was extremely cognizant of the dwindling amount of time to apply war paint available to me. But by about minute eight, realizing I only had a couple of minutes to go, I yelled at my brain to shut the fuck up for a second and just focused. I respond well to anger, it seems, because the last minute and a half were not so bad. I actually felt a little calmer -- a teeny bit, but it was there -- by the end of it. I wish everyone else would respond to my anger the same way. "I see you are angry, Erica. I understand now. I will just do what you ask." Damn, just imagining that made me feel calmer right now.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

No, Chest Press Lady...YOU saved ME

Long ago, I used to work as an admin for a community newspaper mostly owned by a longtime alderman. This was pretty much my first job (not counting a two-week stint at a retirement home when I was 17 that mostly just served to instill a deep fear of aging in me.) When I started, there was a staff of three others: the managing editor, Jim; Karen, the office manager/bookkeeper; and Sharon, a salesperson.

At the risk of sounding mean, Sharon was not what one would call attractive in any respect. She was short, stubby, and reminded me a lot of those troll dolls, albeit an albino one. Her appearance was an unfortunate combination with her personality, which was sort of cheerfully aggressive, manifesting in non-recognition of personal space, painful side-hugging, literal cornering to talk, but she seemed to have no understanding that she was so grating. Basically she was a short female version of Mongo crossed with a used car salesman. Worst of all was her laugh. It was a lot like Beavis', but more of a rat-a-tat-tat, and I heard a lot of it because her long, boring stories were frequently punctuated with her laugh, and always began with "you won't believe this." As in: "You won't believe this. I went to go see Orv's Pizza. snort. heh heh. heh. And, get this, he pretended he didn't see me. heh. heh heh. snort. He locked the door while I was standing right there. heh." Anyway, one day her you-won't-believe-this story was eminently believeable. She regaled me with the tale of lonely weightlifting at the Y. "Erica. You won't believe this. I went to the gym at the Y over lunch. heh. And I went over to the free weights. heh heh. snort. But. snort. No one would spot me. heh heh. heh. snort. No one ever spots me. Not even if I ask. snort. They all spot each other. heh heh. But I try to talk to them. heh. And they just walk away." I was 18, 19. I didn't need to go to the gym then, so I didn't completely comprehend then how difficult it would be in a gym environment to not notice someone needing a spot, much less ignoring someone asking you to spot them. But I did get that the story, no matter how cheerfully-in-a-sad-clown-way it was told, was profoundly depressing.  Let's face it: if Sharon had had the same personality in a prettier package, the situation would have been very different.

Today, I saw an average-looking lady at the gym. Mid-30s, frumpy gym clothes, stringy ponytail. Me, more or less. And as I was on the back extension machine and watching the Cubs game, I saw her look forlornly at the free weights, touch them, walk around them. She sat down, leaned back, looked around, sat up, looked around, stood up. So I asked, "Need a spot?" She smiled and said, "Ohgodyes...thanks. I was afraid I would crush my own throat." She did a few chest presses, we shared a laugh and rolleyes at a meathead grunting/farting his way through a set of squats, and we went our separate sweaty ways.

I do not want any social interaction at the gym. Really, I don't. I'm just there to hate my way through a lunch hour, you know? All the fucking spiky-haired dbags who bob their empty heads like chickens at the oonst oonst oonst music that's playing, all the impossibly tiny post-teens in full makeup and coiffed hair daintily traipsing on the treadmill, all the hypertanned Lincolnwood moms aspiring to be Lake Forest moms who yak on their cells as they perch on whatever machine it is I would like to be loathing for them fuels me through 40 minutes of hateful exercise. I hadn't even noticed all the normal, average people that are there hating them alongside me until today. It makes me feel good to know that I am not alone in my impotent dislike, and I have Chest Press Lady to thank for that. Thank you, Chest Press Lady.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Went past the Home Depot, and the kid selling candy was there again. It just now occurs to me that yesterday, around the same time, he probably should have been in school, if he is in fact a kid. I wonder if I am stupid.

It satisfies.

I kept an eye out yesterday, I really did. I was hoping, I suppose, that a little old lady would fall down and I could help her up, or maybe the woman at the gym who always seems drunk might choke on her own vomit in the locker room and I could swoop in with the Heimlich. I considered whether thinking charitable thoughts would qualify, but with all the road construction going on let's just say my thoughts weren't exactly of the Mother Theresa variety. I knew I wouldn't be going anywhere for the evening once I got home, so that left me with the relatively lame possibilities of donating money online to this or that charity or giving something away somehow. Actually, now that I think about it I did finally drop a big bag of clothes Hannah had outgrown into a donation bin. But really, I was doing myself a favor then, getting that damned bag out of my car -- it'd been in the backseat for about a month.

Anyway, knowing that I wouldn't have much overt opportunity for charity once I got home, after lunch I drove past Home Depot where a kid was selling candy for his baseball team. I bought two Snickers bars from him and then bought him a Coke from the hot dog stand. He was a little confused by the whole thing, truth be told, but when it was clear I wasn't trying to rob or kidnap him he thanked me quite sweetly. If every time I try to open my heart to the world, a Snickers bar finds its way into my belly, I might be more encouraged to...well, what? Buy more candy, I suppose.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Week 17: It starts at home. And ends, sometimes, on the corner of Peterson and Kimball.

A little housecleaning before moving onto Week 17 -- there are two recipes unaccounted for from last week.

Friday night was pizza night, as is our family convention. My plan was to use a couple of bags of whole-wheat pizza dough from Trader Joe's that I had, but I guess I had them longer than I thought, because they were...kinda gross. Unless pizza dough is supposed to be speckled with what looks like barnacles. So I tossed them and sought out a quick recipe for pizza dough -- no time for a leisurely rise, know what I'm saying? Eating was necessary within the hour or heads were going to roll. I found this quick dough recipe on, but was skeptical that you can just knock all that stuff together and come up with a nice crust. After reading some of the reviews -- occasionally, the people who review a recipe online actually make it the way the recipe prescribes, instead of completely changing/ignoring the recipe and reviewing it based on their totally different dish, and then suggest useful adjustments or improvements -- I let the yeast mixture proof for a bit while I prepped the toppings for the pizza. I wound up having time to let the bread go with the dough hook and then even rise a bit while I finished caramelizing some onions. So, it was more of a half-ass job with the dough than a no-ass job, but it felt good and smelled good, so I went with it.
I made four different types of pizza. There a whole pepperoni for AJ, who can be a real bite in the ass when it comes to pizza. There was a whole fig, caramelized onion, and goat cheese, which I'd had a version of at a girls' night not long ago and knew Peter would love. And, one more pizza that was half potatoes, leeks, bacon, and goat and mozzarella cheese -- the other half was artichoke, tomato, olive, roasted garlic, mozzarella and parmesan. The only one of the three "new" pizzas was anything I'd truly never tried was the potato-leek one, but I'd never made the other two types either. (Mark, I'd bought the ingredients for a queso fundido pizza, but then decided that I would rather just have queso fundido, because why mess with perfection?) Peter and I were the only ones who ate the non-pepperoni ones, but we both liked them quite a bit -- I was surprised at how tasty the potato leek number was. Pizza, to me, is tomato sauce and cheese, so it was difficult to think of it as a pizza, but whatever it is in my head it is also very tasty, and came together fast. I think it'd be a nice option for an evening when Peter and I are spending date night at home. All of them would be, in fact.
And then Saturday night. I decided to stay in with the kids since I had a full day of fundraising ahead of me on Sunday, while Peter headed out to a poker tournament and later a party. I'd kind of forgotten about my challenge -- I had initially planned on trying a new sandwich recipe for lunch, and then that got away from me. I started getting bellyrumbles late in the afternoon and, having no desire to go the grocery store, I rooted around in the fridge to find a small amount of ground beef, some egg buns, and the chorizo I had just bought the day before. So, I gave chorizo burgers a throw, topped caramelized onions and goat cheese. The beef and chorizo didn't really want to stick together (hmm, is that analagous to anything?) and kind of fell apart in chunks on the grill, so if I did it again I'd probably run the two meats through a food processor first before forming the patties. I wish I'd put more onions and cheese on mine, too. But they were good, if a little unexciting.
Sunday was a long, long day. Peter is the titular fundraising chair of the baseball league AJ used to play in (but hasn't for two years) with the understanding that he would go to the meetings and I would do most of the actual work. (He'd always wanted to be a figurehead.) This works fine for me, as the meetings were really the toughest part of the job for me when I was fundraising chair -- the actual work can be done more or less on my schedule, where the meetings can't. Anyway, yesterday was the second annual mixer/auction fundraiser -- we piloted the event last year to great success and thus decided to do it a second time. The event was just as successful this year as last, I'm happy to report, and as both a baseball nerd and a parent who strongly advocates for youth sports, I feel good that I can play a role in funding a worthwhile enterprise.
In general, I will help out when asked. I figure I'm pretty shitty at managing my time anyway, so why not add more to the mix? We were sort of recruited for this board, in fact, by someone who will remain nameless but whose name may or may not be used as a curse word in our home as a result. But working for fundraising at work, although tangentially, and at home, has gotten me thinking about how many small charitable entreaties I pass up in my day-to-day life. I ignore most panhandlers -- including those horrible eco-panhandlers, as a friend smartly put it, that used to stalk in front of my building when I worked downtown. (The Save the Children guy shouted after me one day, "A child is dying right now of hunger, and you won't help because you have to talk to your husband?!" Fuck off, dreadlocks, and shove your sanctimony up your scrawny vegan ass.) I don't generally buy candy or Streetwise or whatever from guys on the street, not out of any enmity but because I'm just not interested in what they're selling. Like the guys who sell water bottles on street corners -- they might be enterprising but they're not getting my cash because I try not to drink bottled water.
I admit that there's also an element of discomfort when it comes to panhandlers in particular. They're, well, disturbing and sad. I don't know what's worse -- when panhandler scoffs at the offer of the 75 cents I have in my pocket (I really don't carry much cash at all), or when they ogle my boobs, or rant and froth about crazy shit, or when they're terrifyingly grateful for my pocket change. It's all very sad, and it's mentally much easier to walk on by.
Fortunately, panhandlers are not the only people you can do charitable things for, and charity isn't only about money. (Discussing this with Peter last night, he suggested what I had already been considering -- doing a charitable thing every day. I asked if he meant, like, fucking an ugly guy. He didn't. THANK GOD. I don't have that kind of time.) And it takes a certain open frame of mind, I'm finding, to look around for opportunities to help people, even in small ways. I know that the times strangers have helped me out, even when it's just holding a door when I'm loaded down with bags and babies, have honestly and instantly made me feel better about life. I think I'm a pretty nice person, all things considered, and am as kind and polite to strangers as I can be most days. But I don't go around actively seeking ways to help strangers. So, what happens if I do?
Well, I don't know yet, but Sunday, I goaded upper-middle-class families into buying gift cards and signed baseballs. I felt pretty accomplished, I'll be honest, at the end of the event. Today, I bought five lollipops from a guy who sells them on a street corner near work and he was absurdly grateful. And, I helped an elderly lady load her grocery bags full of bran cereal and prunes into her into her ancient Chevy today at Dominick's. Small things to be sure. But, I felt good about it. I even feel good thinking about it now. Is that selfish?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Stuff it...with sausage

I might be a little hosed for tomorrow, it just now occurs to me. Friday is traditionally pizza (or takeout) night in our household, and AJ would certainly protest if we didn't have pizza. Sometimes I make pan pizza at home on Fridays, though; maybe I'll make one experimental pan to fulfill the challenge and one of pepperoni to fulfill the AJ.

Anyway. Like I said, last night I noted that for the second day in a row that AJ didn't seem to eat much, so I wanted to make sure that today's dinner was something he would eat. Not that he's at risk of wasting away or anything, but I just hate seeing food thrown away. I really didn't want to go to the grocery store today, so I did a little scavenging in my freezer. Turns out I had two links of Italian sausage, so I searched on for something that used chicken breasts and Italian sausage, and came up with this fancily-named sausage-and-cheese stuffed chicken, Poulet a la Saucisse. I mean, it's not like, revolutionary or anything, but it was something I hadn't tried before.

And it was pretty good. AJ ate it all, as did Peter and my mom. It was awfully rich -- two kinds of cheese will do that, I guess -- so I feel like it could have used a little acid, maybe a little lemon zest or something. The side of whole-wheat rotini with roasted tomatoes helped offset the richness some -- the tomatoes might have worked better as a topping for the chicken, actually. A little tweaking and it'll make it onto my permanent roster, I think, which is all a chicken breast could hope for, really.

So now back to the issue of pizza. I have tried pretty much every kind of pizza topping combination there is, I would think, at this point. I have eaten a lot of pizza. The only thing I haven't tried is anchovies, and as a person who doesn't really care for fishy fish (I've tried gefilte fish, so I know) that's not a path I'm interested in treading. Any thoughts for imaginative toppings I can try?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

But of course

I had this flank steak burning a hole in my fridge today, and beef sounded like a good bet, so I decided to give steak au poivre a shot. I know that it's traditionally made with beef tenderloin, but I'll be damned if I'm going to ruin $10/lb meat with a first pass at a recipe. Besides, I like flank steak, and I didn't want Asian or Mexican, which is the direction I usually go with a flank steak.

I loosely followed this Epicurious recipe except I grilled the steaks instead of pan-frying them. I had a ton of dishes from the night before to deal with, and I didn't want to dirty up another pan. Seriously -- I don't remember those dishes all being there last night, so I'm forced to believe that either the dishes are somehow reproducing or AJ is taking Ambien and engaging in very couth, flatware-intensive sleep-eating, and also maybe some sleep-souffle-making. Also, I wanted to try roasting some potato wedges in garlic and olive oil on the grill rather than in the oven -- I try to forget the oven exists in the spring and summer.

Anyway. I was mixing up the ingredients for the sauce when I realized we're out of dijon mustard, so I had to sub in spicy brown. (Ever try asking a dude in a limo for spicy brown? Very different from the commercials, let me just say that.) Then, Hannah asked me to help her read Are You My Mother? so I decided to dump the sauce on the steaks to let them soak a bit while we read. There's a word for that, isn't there? Soaking food in a flavored liquid? Whatever, I'm not a brainiac chef. I threw the prepped potatoes on the grill for a nice slow roast and we read about the adventures of a lost baby bird and his borderline negligent mother. We finished up (spoiler: he finds his mother) and I tossed the steaks on the grill and put the salads together.

A word about making salads in my household: it gets a little stupid. Peter doesn't like cucumbers or hardboiled eggs; AJ doesn't like tomatoes, olives, or mushrooms. Neither likes onions. I will eat whatever. Isn't that what salads are about? Throw all that shit in there, it's all good. There's no point to this; I just wanted to make a stand for the garbage salad lovers out there.

When Peter walked in the door, the steaks were resting comfortably and I was working on the sauce -- boiled up what became the marinade and added the cream. While it thickened I sliced up the steaks. Mine: nice and rare. Theirs: medium. The sauce was a little funky tasting in the pan, so I served it on the side rather than risk it on the meat. But when I tried it with the potatoes and the meat, it was much, much better -- especially on the potatoes. Peppery and beefy and yum. I imagine it'd be even better with, you know, good meat. And real dijon mustard.

A note: I have no idea why the photo keeps rotating 90 degrees, but you get the gist.

I don't know how Peter felt about it -- he ate it, so I guess he liked it -- but AJ wasn't a fan. I'm thinking he's not enjoying this week much because he was far from a member of the clean plate club with yesterday's chicken, too. I guess I'll try to find something he might like for tomorrow's dinner, lest he waste away. Or lest he sneak-eat a frozen pizza.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Baby, don't be sad

The human breast causes great joy for so many. Nursing infants, Girls Gone Wild viewers, bra manufacturers, plastic surgeons. So, too, is the chicken breast. A lean source of protein, yes, but also a nearly-blank canvas for your culinary desires. You can pound it into a paillette; you can cut a pocket it in it and stuff it with other meats and/or cheese (or vegetables, if you must); you can poach it, broil it, grill it, bread and fry it; you can use it as a handy stand-in for push-up pads as long as you're not going anywhere terribly warm or buggy. And most of all, you can marinate the shit out of it.

That was the advised method for making Grilled Fusion Chicken here. The ingredient list for the marinade/sauce base was intriguing -- what with the Worcestershire sauce, lime juice, chipotle, and ginger, it sounded vaguely Asian, vaguely Mexican. Asican, I guess. I figured it'd be great or it'd be a disaster, but the peppy reviews on the website made me think it'd be great. So, I whipped up the marinade, pounded the breasts (heh) and let them soak while...

Actually that sounded way simpler than it was. I am as distractable as a toddler on meth and once I got past the first three ingredients I was halfway to dumping it in the dish when I spotted the limes on the counter. Oh right, limes. Mixed it up, dumped it on the breasts, and then thought, oh right, ginger. Oh right, fucking CHIPOTLE. I must have drained the dish and refilled it four goddamned times. I guess I was in a hurry to get to putting climbing roses up on the trellis Peter just installed.

45 thorny minutes later I headed back in to cook. Chopped up the broccoli and got it started roasting in the oven, and started water boiling to cook the pasta. Once all that was going, I cranked up the grill, slapped on the chicken, cooked the sauce, and we were ready to go.

The result was decidedly meh. The ginger and lime didn't really come through; they were way overpowered by the chipotle. But roasted broccoli and Trader Joe's lemon-pepper pappardelle dressed in a little olive oil are always welcome in my belly, so they made up for the chicken's meh-ness. Oh well, two out of three ain't bad.

Monday, April 19, 2010

How in the hell is it already after 8?

Since I had two post-Hannah-pickup errands to run -- one to Supercuts to get her self-barbering from last night fixed, and one to the grocery store -- we didn't get home until almost 7 pm, and everyone was starving. I had a lineup of a few new recipes I wanted to try, but all but two called for marinating. (Note to self: might want to rethink the lineup.) Bitch, I ain't got time for that shit! Marinating, while lovely and amazing, requires night-before or morning-before planning that most days I just don't have in me.

Anyway, one of the two recipes was this sort-of pork kefte, which I simplified even further by replacing the spices with a hefty dose of ras al hanout instead. Then for the starch, this Moroccan pilaf came together very quickly -- I didn't have the currants, sadly, but everything else made it in there. I added a quick spinach salad with supremed oranges, red onion, and bacon dressed with rice vinegar and oil, and that was that. It all got done inside of half an hour -- while the rice cooked, I formed the kefte and grilled them, and while those cooked I got the salad together.

The rice was so-so -- good, not great; I imagine the currants would have made a big difference. But the kefte were YUM -- the ras al hanout worked really well with the sweetness of the pork. I got 11 skewers out of 1 1/4 pounds of ground pork, and I wish I had made more because they would make kickass sandwiches on pita for lunch with some harissa and red onions. This one's definitely making a comeback.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Week 16: What's cookin'?

Well, turns out weeding and swearing, while the makings of an excellent party, are not much for blog fodder. Or maybe I just needed a bit of a break from the keyboard. Either way, I need to get back in the swing of things.

There's really not much to tell about weeding. I weeded. There are still a lot left. And more keep coming. The dandelions are all over the lawn, which I don't really mind, but in a couple of weeks when they set seed, I'ma be hosed. I keep putting off putting newspaper over the veg beds but since they're full of loamy fertile soil, I better get on it or it's going to be all dandelion seedlings come May. I know dandelion leaves are edible and all, but I'm just not that far down the patchouli path of hippiness yet. I did take a bunch of garden photos on my phone, but my phone is dead tonight so they'll have to wait.

I decided today while watching the Cubs snatch defeat from the jaws of victory at Wrigley that this week is going to have to be something fun. Weeding, as rewarding and productive as it is, is not fun. Especially when it's only 50 degrees out. But eating is. And I really like to cook.

My mom used to complain that she made the same dozen things for dinner over and over, and I used to think, so? As long as one of those dozen wasn't that heinous hamburger "stew" she inflicted on us every so often, it was cool. My mom was, and is, a really good cook. In fact, it was when she'd try something new that things would go poorly. But I still can't make a roast beef and gravy that's anywhere near as good as hers is.

Still, I understand where she was coming from now that I'm doing the cooking. I'm a fair cook with a mildly adventurous palate, but I have a standard repertoire of thirty or so dishes that I go back to frequently. Most of these things I cook without referring to a recipe because I've made them so many times. And while all those things are good to eat, you do begin to get a little bored. Most times when I consider branching out a bit and trying something new, though, I talk myself out of it because if it turns out poorly it's a big ol' waste of food. It doesn't happen often, but the lemon-artichoke chicken debacle of '06 is still a subject of discussion in this household. SHOULD have been good. I'm still bitter about that.

Anyway. Rather than continue to wallow in a sea of bi-weekly steak taco nights (not that I'm complaining...I never get tired of Mexican food) I'm going to venture boldly into the culinary world and try some new shit. And when it crashes and burns, I'll make another batch of macaroni and cheese with ham and the kids will love me again. And we always have bologna if things go really wrong.

Tonight's new recipe: Korean Barbecue Burgers. My version is pictured here. Y'all, I love me some Korean barbecue, and I also love me some burgers, so this was like the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of recipes. Plus, I didn't actually drag my carcass out to the grocery store until like an hour before dinner time so I needed something quick to throw together, and this fit the bill. Simple, fast, and really tasty, and most of the stuff I had on hand. On the side is soy carrots with almonds, which made a nice side dish (not one that I made as much as heated; it's a Trader Joe's purchase.) I wish I had radishes on hand though; the crunch and mild spice would have been a nice addition. It's not the big schmancy Sunday dinner I like to make, but on a night when nothing was getting done fast enough, it was great. Yay! Food! It's my favorite.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

You can put your weed in it

We don't have a lot of yard by suburban or country standards, but by city standards, our double lot is big. It's sort of u-shaped, wrapping around the house. On the north side is a driveway with a narrow planting strip; on the south is a side yard. And in the space that's there, lots of weed seeds have found purchase.

We currently have a lot of projects in the works with regards to the yard -- we're putting in a small stone patio in the side yard, lattice on one side of the house plus skirting around the deck Peter built a couple of summers back, reshaping and edging the borders, and lots of containment of various plants I hastily put in the ground (like the raspberry brambles.) I guess home ownership made me ambitious. So, when I head out to the back forty, there are a lot of directions for me to go in.

But I learned the hard way that weeds can get out of control in a hurry. There are these giant colocasia-like (but ugly) leaves in the south border that are, as best as I can tell, unkillable. I tried digging them up last year but apparently the smallest bit of taproot will grow a new plant. I thought I had hit the mother taproot, but since it was seriously like nine inches across and punched down straight to the bowels of hell there was no way I got it all. And did that bastard ever come back with a vengeance. All these baby hell-plants are currently threatening my cherry bushes, like those little skittery parasite things in Cloverfield. And I have no idea how to get rid of them without scorching the earth. A couple of weeks ago I tried spraying them with vinegar and covering them with black plastic to solarize them, but between you and me I think I just pissed them off. So I'm hoping that this early attack on the rest of the weedy garden will avoid problems like that in the future.

The last couple of days of quick-hit weeding have been interesting (to me, at least) in that while I'm only clearing out small areas, I'm looking ahead to decisions I will have to make. Dandelions are a no-brainer in the beds, of course, but do I bother with them in the lawn? Up to this point I had claimed to subscribe to the "freedom lawn" concept, that being the one that allowed me to pretend to not care about the lawn. I don't want to use chemicals if I can avoid it (thus my feeble handwaving at south bed devilweeds) so the ol' weed-n-feed approach isn't one I'd like to take for the time being. But...there are a lot of dandelions in the lawn. Like...a LOT. And hand-pulling them would require setting aside a decade to do. Still, leaving them means that some of them will, inevitably, set seed, and that seed will spread as far and wide as Wilt Chamberlain's. Maybe it's time for some protection. For all of us.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Make that Wednesday

I totally hosed the day on the not-swearing makeup when a turquoise car pulled out in front of me at like a 45-degree angle from her parking space completely without warning as I was toodling along Kimball Avenue at a brisk, but legal, 30 miles per hour. I had to swerve to within a foot of the car parked on the opposite side of the street to avoid her because she was headed out at this crazy angle, and I would have been nailed if oncoming traffic in the opposite lane had been fifty feet closer. Because I am a person who relishes a bout of righteous anger, I stopped at the red light just past where I swerved and yelled out the window, "What the FUCK is wrong with you!?" I mean, do we not look behind us before we pull out of a parking space? Are we not a society, with rules? Goddamned dumbass shithumping fuckwit!

Aaanyway. As I suspected, last night I got started weeding in the driveway and wound up spending 45 minutes out there digging around. Not what I meant to do, and not what I'm going to do tonight, but man...there are a lot of weeds out there. Still, the tulips and bleeding hearts are blooming and my planting from last year and the year before is starting to pay off...things are filling in a bit more each spring and it's starting to look a little more cohesive. All good things.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Week 15: The Seeds of Discontent

Listen, I'll be honest: I didn't write here for a week for two reasons. One, I was just lights-out exhausted all week, though I don't really know why. And two, to no one's surprise, I suck at not swearing. I blame my boss.

Early last week he asked me what my challenge for the week was. This conversation, when it happens, is usually started by his offering me something and then saying, "Wait, is it No Candy From Your Boss week?" And then we discuss what week it actually is. When I explained that it was no-swearing week, this sort of dismayed/bemused look crossed his face and he launched into an avuncular "why are you doing this to yourself?!" speech -- saying, you're a good person who happens to like Coke and swearing -- what's the problem? And while I certainly appreciate the compliment, I had to explain this whole project, both to him and myself. Which was weird. Really, the first rule of 52 Changes for me has been "don't talk about 52 Changes." I don't like introspection much, and even asking myself why I am doing this is more than I'm comfortable with. Still, I did think about it, and what it comes to is this: why not? I like myself. I would hang out with myself. But there are some things I haven't really tried for good reasons or bad, and this project a good excuse to do some of those things, or at least a good excuse to stop making excuses for just a week. It makes me focus on one thing about my own behavior that might be a positive addition or subtraction to make. And it's been fun so far, for the most part.

But this little chat made me think to myself, hey, self, what IS so wrong about swearing? Like my boss said, I don't do it when it's not appropriate, and let's face it, I can't really be expected to talk about my baseball team and not swear. So I was less inclined to discipline myself in this respect, especially after many drinks and many dorky boys to make fun of at Smartbar, and now, I'm three days behind on the week, which is why I refrain from comment on the !$(#%#@! Cubs until Tuesday.

So I have half a week running over into this week, but I am encouraged because I finally allowed myself to see some fruits of Week Two's continuing challenge to hit the gym and Week -- I've lost eight pounds, per my mom's evil little scale. That's pretty sweet. Up to this point I didn't want to step on a scale until I felt I had lost at least a little bit of weight for fear of getting discouraged. And, I looked up the results of my recent spate of blood tests from the company-sponsored "wellness exam" a little while back and everything, including the infamous triglyceride level, is well into the green zone. I don't know if my blood pressure has dropped any since then, but 120/80 isn't the worst. I'll get there, just like I'll get to where I want to be weightwise. And I feel good about it because I'm doing this in a way that doesn't make me miserable.

Okay, back pat time is over now. We've been having really pleasant weather here in Chicago, which is pretty unusual for April, but has been great for getting a jump on gardening. Snow on opening day at Wrigley is not uncommon, although it never sticks, and it's not safe to plant most things out until May at the very earliest.  Saturday I was too tired from Friday's shenanigans to do much in the way of house or yardwork, so Sunday I spent the bulk of the day in the yard, weeding, replanting, standing and thinking, that sort of thing, while being Peter's assistant as he attached some lattice to the side of the house for roses to climb. It's been such a pleasure to get out and enjoy the outdoors, but while I'm out there enjoying I'm also seeing a to-do list. Basically, in garden season my housework load doubles; it's just that I happen to like a lot of the garden part, even when it's hard work.

That said, weeds are kind of the equivalent of mail clutter in the garden (which, I've not been quite as consistent with the mail clutter as I should be, either...sigh.) When they're there, it's all I see, but I get so overwhelmed that I put off dealing with them until I need like three hours to get through it all, when it would  obviously be more efficient to deal with them a little at a time consistently. I spent quite a bit of time weeding yesterday, but there's so much more to be done that I'm making this Weed Clutter week -- I'll spend just 15 minutes a day pulling weeds, and maybe by the end of the week I'll be at a point where I can get down to the bigger tasks. Shouldn't be too hard -- the weather's nice this week, and it's staying light outside until much later in the day -- but I guarantee there will be one evening by flashlight at the very least.

Plus it's an excuse to talk about my yard. And I like to do that. I would totally hang out with me and talk about gardening.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Without swear words, I guess I don't have that much to say.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Week 14: #$%*(^*!

Turns out, I'm pretty good with a bedtime on school nights, for a week at least. As was the case with other challenges, it was sort of nice to have an excuse to behave the way I normally should. There was definitely some adjustment -- I sometimes felt tired when I didn't think I should, and vice versa -- but it's hard to say after having done it for only a week. It's not enough time for my system to even itself out, really.

And I have to admit to some chicanery. Saturday night Peter and I planned to get dinner and see a late movie -- specificially Clash of the Titans. (What? It's practically a lesson in Classics!) But while we were eating lad nar, Peter remembered that I had to be in bed by 11, especially since I had botched it the night before. But -- but -- I didn't WANNA go to bed. Peter and I get one night a week without the kids, and it seemed a waste to squander it on something trivial like sleep. Before anyone feels compelled to say it, yes, there are other things you can do in bed without the kids around, but I'm so sick of waking up in a pile of Scrabble tiles, I can't even tell you. So, we gamed the system -- we went back home, moved a futon to the front of the TV and watched a movie. A futon is, after all, a bed, and I didn't say I had to be in MY bed by 11. (I tried to convince Peter that I had to remain supine for the challenge requirements to be completely satisfied, but he wasn't willing to carry me up two flights of stairs, the slacker.)

What it boils down to is that at 34, I'm not ready to hang up the late night dancin' shoes just yet. An 11 o'clock bedtime on a Saturday IS the worst thing in the world. It's our primary non-kid-having time, and let's face it, lots of fun social stuff is happening after 11 pm. I guess I'm willing to sacrifice the routine once or twice a week for now -- there'll be time for an extra couple of hours of sleep when we're in the rest home. So, I'm going to try to keep going on this one during the week -- but a late evening once, maybe twice a week is kind of a treat, and I can usually sleep late the next day so there's no sleep deficit (although it does present the problem of getting back into a sleep routine, which was the whole point of this challenge, but anyway...) The upside to this challenge is that it was super-easy to make up the day I missed last night. I was out like a light.

I had a few ideas for Week 14, but my lack of planning kind of did me in this week and I don't know what I did or didn't do yesterday that was awesome and that I could do for a week. Hide eggs? Hang out with superkeen friends? Eat ham? Okay, ham-eating is awesome and I could do it for a week, but is that advisable? Hmm...maybe.

Wait, seriously, I could eat ham every day for a week. Lord knows we have lots of it leftover from Easter, and that would be much easier than my other plan, which is to give up swearing for a week. Anyone who has spoken to me in a less-than-formal situation or read anything that I've written knows that I tend to drop a lot of four-letter words. I think of them as salt and pepper in the dinner of life. Funny are funnier, anger is angrier, happy is happier with an f-word or a b-word in it. They're color when you need it, you know? Plus, I have kids. I probably let more slip with AJ now that he's older, but when he was younger I had lots of haughty discussions about language and how constant use of obscenities belies a lack not just of vocabulary, but imagination. (And then I'd meet friends at the bar and proceed to swear like a sailor.) I still am careful about swearing in front of Hannah, a.k.a. The Shame Mirror. The other day, while driving to school, I must have made some sort of irritated interjection because Hannah said, "When you are driving and someone lets you in, you say thank you, and when they don't, you say, 'DUDE!' Right? Right Mommy?" What she doesn't yet know is that when I say DUDE! I'm thinking...something very different. And it takes a lot of restraint to stop at "dude".

Naturally, yesterday I was swearing all up in the place when the kids weren't around, since I didn't have a no-swearing plan in place yet. Well, it's Monday and while I've thought all kinds of f's and b's and s's and s-c-s-m-fer's, I have neither spoken nor written one, and we'll see if I can make it for seven days straight.  If you're smart, you'll bet against it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

12:57 am


Plumb tuckered

As Hannah now likes to say, LORDAMIGHTY. I am the tiredest of tired ladies in the known tired world, and for no good reason. I wound up staying home today due to a closed daycare center. At 10 am we took Hannah to a park district egg hunt. Pretty low key, not particularly early. Then we went home and I puttered around the yard and repotted half of my seedlings. Then, we drove through throngs of people who seem to have forgotten how to cross a street over the winter to pick up a couple of food-grade plastic barrels to make into rainbarrels (whoop whoop!) And that's it. Other than it being really gorgeously warm outside, nothing crazy strenuous or out of the ordinary.

B ut now it's a little after five and I am just zonked. I went to bed on time last night and woke up around 8, just like I'm supposed to do. I could have stayed up and watched the Thursday shows, but I didn't. I could have stayed up and picked up the house, but I didn't. I could have stayed up and taken the shower to end all showers but I didn't. And what do I have to show for it? A messy house, a full Tivo, and a tired Erica at 5 fucking 19. No makey sense. We're going to do a little mini-golfing and a little pizza-eating and hopefully that kicks some life back into me.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Last night

My original plan was to post from bed last night using my phone, and laboriously type out all the things I could have done that evening instead of going to bed.  It would probably have been possible from Peter's iPhone, but my little Samsung Mythic wasn't up to the challenge, sadly, and since Peter's not hitting the pillow at 11 with me, I just turned off the light and tried to sleep. "Tried" being the operative word. I was really sleepy at 10, but showering and brushing my teeth and idly flipping through catalogs was enough to keep me up until Peter came in about 11:30 -- and then he talked to me just enough to knock all the sleepiness out of me. So I lay there in bed while Peter slept, thinking of all the things I could have accomplished in that time, regretting not folding the clean laundry or running out to the store to pick up yogurt for Hannah's school party or waxing my moustache or making my lunch...yeah.  By 1 am, I'd had enough tossing and turning and took a couple of Tylenol PM. So instead of waking up early to accomplish those things, I woke up at 7:30 and did what I could.

This is all to explain why I still have a moustache this morning. Hola, Senor Erica! I'll get it ripped out along with the Bert-brows later today, after Hannah's and my haircuts. By 8 pm, I might even look passably female. And I won't have as many food crumbs getting caught on my upper lip, which is always nice.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A revelation

Listen up, because I'm about to tell you some shit that will blow. your. mind: going to bed earlier makes it easier to wake up in the morning.

I'll allow you a moment to change the pants you've surely just soiled.

Last night, true to my word, I performed my evening ablutions and packed it in at 11 pm almost on the dot. I was asleep not long thereafter. And while I woke up at 6:45 this morning because the dog was snuffling in my face, I was able to get out of bed, do a little puttering around, and even get in some yoga without any trouble at all.

So now, at 34 and change, I realize that what I tell my children all the time -- that just going to bed earlier would make them feel so much better in the morning -- is actually true. It's enough to make me want to re-examine the whole "wind is trees sneezing" theory. Unfortunately it doesn't get the first floor cleaned up (although Peter did do some nice work in the kitchen last night, which was a pleasant surprise this morning) or the laundry put away, but it's driving home the notion that I really, actually, truly do require 7 1/2 - 8 hours of sleep a night, and there's no getting around it. So maybe it's not laziness that made it so difficult to wake up early without going to bed early. And maybe it's time to accept that and plan around it instead of fighting it so damn hard. You I tell my kids.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Week 13: Time to put your bookmark in, Mr. Brady

This was me at about 12:15 am on Sunday. I was at a party. (I know my hair looks terrible, I'm getting it cut this week. DON'T JUDGE ME) I had been throwing down vodka tonics for about two hours, counting down the minutes until midnight (although at a few points I was fairly certain time was moving in reverse.) At about 11:50, I headed out to the 7-Eleven a couple blocks away. I updated my Facebook status as I walked, in order to not waste time. Selected a Big Gulp cup, filled it a third of the way with ice and then my one perfect love, Coke. Paid for it, headed out, and about half a block into the walk, the clock struck midnight and I took a sip. It...was...delicious. I think I stumbled a little, but I don't know if it was from delight or drunkenness. You can see in the photo my last vodka tonic, ice melted, rejected in favor of the Coke. I chugged that bastard like there was no tomorrow.

It was a blissful reunion until my insides exploded up into my esophagus. I hadn't had much to eat besides popcorn before I started drinking, so I think artificial butter plus vodka tonic plus 32 ounces of Coke = burny. No barfing, but I had to contort myself over an armchair for a while trying to twist into a position that didn't make my chest feel like it was full of angry alien when a Jay Baruchel lookalike in pleated khakis (see also: Peter ten years ago) came over to chat. It's tough to be charming and pleasant when you're in esophageal agony, but maybe being bent backwards over an armrest with a leg in the air makes up for lack of conversational aplomb because he stuck around for a while. Eventually the acid roaring in my torso settled down to a dull fizz, and I was able to stand upright again and return to insulting my husband in front of his friends.

We headed home after the party and didn't get to sleep until maybe 2:30 or so, only to have to get up for a fundraising meeting at noon. I woke up around 7:45 and couldn't go back to sleep, so I took a long shower then went back to bed. Still couldn't sleep, but I didn't want to get up either, so I just burrowed under the covers until about 9:30 and we went to get the kids from my mom's. A couple of very fine friends were willing to watch Hannah (and Ollie!) while we were at the meeting, so we dropped them off and headed to the meeting. Now at this point I fully expected to be back on the Coke wagon, but after the ass-kicking I'd received a few hours before, it just didn't sound that appealing. What I really wanted was a big ol' glass of water. Of course, once food was in front of me I went ahead and ordered a Coke (well, Pepsi) anyway, but I only drank about a fifth of it. At home later that evening, I had a can of Coke and I didn't finish that one either. Is it possible that the threat of wicked heartburn is enough to dry up my Coke lust? I don't know, but I do know that I haven't had a Coke yet today.

The residual effect a boozy and burny Saturday had on my Sunday was that I was painfully low on sleep. I was able to catch about a half-hour's nap later in the afternoon, but I was still dragging ass most of the day. Thus, borne of convenience and a strong desire to sleep, I resolved to make week 13 bedtime week -- I must be in bed by 11 pm every night. I don't have to be asleep, but I do need to be in bed. We don't have a TV in our bedroom so I can't cheat by catching up on TV into the wee hours. I could read in bed but I'm only good for about half an hour of reading at night while lying down before I get sleepy so it's not to my sleep total detriment. I was in bed by 10:45 last night, asleep by 11, and man, was my body was grateful for it this morning. Eight and a half hours in happy sleepy land. I'm sure this'll put a damper on weekend activities but it's all for science. An 11 pm bedtime on a Saturday isn't the worst thing in the world, is it?

Friday, March 26, 2010


Look, I'll be honest: I was not expecting this change to stick. But I was really hoping that by day 6, the craving would be gone, or at least abated.'s not. It is ever-present. There is, as the guy from Naked Eyes once said, always something there to remind me. There is one can of Coke in my fridge at home, and I see it every time I open the fridge -- and without drinking Coke, there is a little more fridge-opening happening these days. There are at least three billboards advertising Coke on my way to work.

And yesterday at Potbelly's, there was this business in the refrigerated case. I know it's on a can of Diet Coke, but still -- I felt like Coke was sending me a message. Letting me know that it still thinks of me and loves me, and when I'm ready to come back, it'll be waiting for me. Maybe it's too soon to call it, but it might be time to face it: I will never be free. Coke will always be a part of me. I am making up for its loss by appropriating crappy songs, which might be worse than the disease.

Maybe it is the lack of caffeine, maybe it's the last gasp of winter, I don't know, but I have to admit to getting a little discouraged about this project right now. Nothing I'm doing seems to be doing much for me in the end.  Last night I was presented with a batch of photos from my brother-in-law's birthday party during a trip to Texas a few weekends ago and LORD. I look massively bloated, especially in the face, my hair is stringy and gross despite my efforts to get it to look decent, and I just...ugh. I hate photos, because as my dad liked to point out, they don't lie. I just got a report that my blood pressure isn't exactly stellar (120/78) --so what's all the fucking exercise and vegetable eating doing for me? I'm still heavier than I'd like and it's not even netting me any health gains as far as I can tell. And then the house stuff -- well, some of it's stuck but when it's often just me fighting the tide of paper and clutter, it's easy to get behind. With gardening season fast approaching, I just don't know that I have the time or energy to do all the things I need to do, much less any of the things I want to do. I know, I know: there's a club for that, it's called everybody, and they meet at the bar. Well, I guess I will see everybody at the bar, then. This weekend, at least. But, I'm still on the horse.