Friday, January 29, 2010

The home stretch

Most of the story of yesterday morning is best left untold, but suffice it to say that I had a couple of weird bellyrumbles in the wee hours and when I woke up for good it was because I had to race to the bathroom. In fact, there were points where I was brushing my teeth mere inches from the toilet and I wasn't sure if I would make it. I can't see how it could have been food poisoning -- that usually shows up in fairly short order after eating the bad food -- so I have to assume it was all the hot angry vegetables. It's cool, though, because it was that magical combination of being sick enough to legitimately stay home (for at least four hours it was a bad idea for me to be further than ten feet from a toilet) but not feeling bad at all, otherwise. I made another tomato-and-feta omelette once I was okay with eating again, and finished up some home projects.

And today is the last full day of meatlessness, which I admit is a relief even though this really hasn't been as difficult as I anticipated it would be. Last night, I made honey-garlic-soy glazed porkchops with steamed vegetables and rice and as I was cutting up the pork for Hannah, my knees got weak. WANT IT IN MY MOUTH. I don't know why I tortured myself with that particular recipe, but that was the closest I've come thus far to sneaking a bite. I really do think, though, that keeping this up for the first two-thirds of the day would be doable, if not necessarily easy.

One thing I didn't think of when planning this whole ending-in-beer-and-bacon week is, I can't taste anything I'm making tomorrow until after I've made it. I guess AJ and Peter are going to be on tasting spoon duty a lot tomorrow.


I did not go to work yesterday. This is because I was at home all morning, pooping my brains out.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Stack that cheese

I suppose that eating vegetarian could be more healthful. You know, in theory. I could just be replacing my meat hunks with, I don't know, a bell pepper. Bell pepper! But I'm not. I'm replacing it with cheese, and fried things, and bread crumbs. Maybe even cheese coated in bread crumbs and fried...I do have a log of goat cheese at home waiting to be devoured.

Anyway. Monday night was Hannah's birthday, and her favorite meal is chicken nuggets and mac and cheese, so that's what I made, and in that case I did replace the chicken nuggets with a spinach salad for my own meal. Tuesday was Mexican -- the boys had beef tacos, and I had bean tostadas topped with avocadoes (and cheese). But let's face it, when you're not eating meat, just grilling the tortillas instead of frying them isn't an option. Now that I think about it yesterday was all-Mexican day -- I brought green chile and cheese tamales and a spinach salad for lunch, too. You know they're eating spinach salad all the time up in Guadalajara. And tonight is lasagna, which means more cheese, and probably another spinach salad. Between all the cheese and spinach, my bones are probably drunk on calcium. That's not the worst thing in the world...but don't get used to it, bones.

What is surprising me is how much more I have to think about what I eat, especially for lunch. Under normal meaty circumstances, I can just go grab a burger or a ham sandwich or a chicken shawarma and call it lunch, and more often than not that lunch includes something like zero vegetables. Maybe a slice of underripe tomato. So running errands, going to the gym, whatever over lunch isn't a big deal because I know I can grab something to eat wherever I am. But even the salads at most quick service restaurants have meat in them, and without the meat they are not particularly appealing. The obligatory basket of apples (usually MacIntosh, so they're guaranteed to be mealy and gross) or bananas (that look like they joined a fight club before hopping into the basket) aren't either. This way, I have to look a bit harder to find something that satisfies. This isn't a complaint, though; having to think about what I'm eating is most definitely a good thing, but it does require a certain presence of mind that I usually lack when I'm bouncing around doing stuff, or idly shopping. What I eat is fairly important, or it should be, so I should pay a modicum of attention.

At this halfway point, I will also admit that yes -- only three and a half days into it, I truly do miss meat -- particularly by the time I get home and have to cook it for everyone else's dinner. I might miss it less if I didn't smell it cooking. But it's not absolutely killing me or anything. In fact, I might want to revisit this challenge later in the year, when my garden is in full production. Maybe even go vegan for that one.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It had to happen: poop chat

If you don't want to read about pooping and peeing, stop reading now.

Okay, you were warned. I eat a lot, so consequently, I poop a lot. I don't mean pooping a lot in one sitting (although that is sometimes the case), I mean frequently. Like three, four, sometimes five times a day. I call it the garbage-in-garbage-out system, because within half an hour of eating a meal, the last one is on its way out. It works well for me, generally speaking; I never feel like I'm in my second trimester with a poop baby, know what I mean?

Well, since this week has begun I've noticed a swift, sharp downturn in frequency AND volume. (What, doesn't everyone fish it out and weigh it?) I don't know that I'm eating less, although I suppose it's possible. But I don't feel hungry or anything, and pretty much anytime I actively campaign to eat less, I feel hungry. I can't imagine that increasing the ratio of veg and grains in my diet would make me poop less, though. I hope I haven't angered my digestive tract with this experiment. Lord knows an angry pooper can really jack up your day. Maybe it needs frequent charred-animal sacrifices to keep it happy, just like the entire pantheon of my old gods. I guess we will see.

And then there's the pee. Normally, I don't pay nearly as much attention or give as much thought to pee as I do to poop, but I have to say, when you pee and it smells like a donut, you notice. I have no idea what that is about.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The eating's not bad

Well, so far, other than the chicken tidbit temptation last night, I am not feeling particularly deprived. Saturday night I had to bypass a prosciutto-and-mozzarella appetizer in favor of bruschetta, and I shared a tomato-artichoke-garlic-caper pizza with friends that was really tasty. Sunday morning I knocked out a couple of omelettes filled with sauteed tomatoes, onions, and feta cheese, and I've already mentioned last night's dinner of pasta with artichokes and mushrooms. Today's lunch (and only lunch, because unless four mini Twix bars count as breakfast I didn't have one) was purchased in the middle of errands at a nearby Panera Bread -- their Mediterranean veggie sandwich, made of cilantro hummus, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, red onion, and feta cheese on tomato bread. I usually get half of this sandwich in conjunction with a bowl of French onion soup, but today I had to be entirely hand-held so it was all sandwich for me. And while there is a definitely a dearth of vegetarian food in your average fast food restaurant (I don't like even a well-made a veggie burger, so the Gardenburger at BK is not a real option for me) I imagine it was a lot harder for the vegetarian-on-the-go even, say, ten years ago to find something to eat when en route from place to place. My intention was to bring lunch as much as possible, but I am fortunate to work near several very good Middle Eastern restaurants, so I have a lot of good lunch options should the occasion arise.

I do wonder, though, if this vaguely weak, tired feeling is due to lack of protein, or if it's just continued PMS and, you know, life. Or entirely made up.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Week 4: I meat my doom

Before I get on with week four, some housekeeping, literally. I wrapped up the pantry and tackled the basement closet, and in both cases, realized that each could use some help in the hardware department.

Here's the pantry. Putting everything back together, I realized it could really benefit from a rack to hold the broom, mop, etc., as well as some hooks to hold a couple of folding stools..leaning the damn things against the walls means they flop around so much you can't move things without getting cracked in the head. It's Sideshow Bob's worst nightmare.
And here's the basement closet. It was worse than this picture makes it seem. This is really a crap closet -- games, CDs (though many CDs are stored elsewhere, too, and totally arbitrarily), unused couch cushions, random blankets, odd pieces of luggage, hardware for a skateboard for some reason.  Up to this point my usual method of putting things in here was to crack the door open, shove whatever item I was holding in through the crack, and shutting the door immediately so nothing would fall out. When I opened the door to take this photo, two Tonka trucks that were balanced on top of the cushions fell out and almost took off two of my toes.
This is the after. Editing the games was a bit of a problem -- how many versions of Trivial Pursuit do we need? -- and I probably will go back and do more work on that now that I can enter the closet without fearing for my toes. I definitely would like to put up some shelves on the opposite side of the closet, although what that will mean for the couch cushions, I don't yet know. I'm on the fence as to whether I should just toss them, but I keep thinking that when we get new couches we'll want to give the old ones away, and thus should probably keep them to go with the couches.

Overall, even though I got derailed halfway through, regular decluttering is definitely something I'd like to continue to do. Going through all my old hidden crap forced me to look at just how much I hold on to things for no good reason, and I don't think I'm a particularly hoard-y type of person. I know I can't devote daily time to it, but I think devoting even a few minutes a week while I'm watching TV or whatever would go a long way to keeping the level of accumulation to a manageable level -- so I'll keep y'all updated on my ongoing efforts to clean out the closets and drawers and shameful paper piles.

And now I have a pretty daunting week ahead of me -- seven days of vegetarian meals. I mean, I love meat. Meat delights and entrances me. As a gardener, I absolutely do love vegetables and fruits, but not to the exclusion of meat and meat products. Beef, pork, chicken, turkey, veal, lamb -- if it has a face, I will eat the flesh off its very bones. Part of this, no doubt, is because I came from a total meat-and-potatoes household -- if there wasn't meat covering half the plate, it wasn't dinner by my dad's lights. Although I do make vegetarian meals from time to time, it's hard for me to imagine making meals on a regular basis where meat isn't the main attraction. Even in stir-fries and stuff like that I often will add extra meat, because I feel like every bite should have meat available, just because it's, you know, meat. MEEEEEAT. It calls to me.

But there are plenty of reasons to add more vegetarian meals to our rotation -- replacing meat with vegetables is better nutritionally, and meat's environmental cost is a major consideration. There's also its, you know, cost cost. Meat is certainly the most expensive portion of our grocery bill (well, that and soda, most probably, but that's another week.) I tried to institute Meatless Mondays for a while, but it was such a pain in the ass to think about that way -- like, oh, it's Monday, I can't make meat, hope I have enough lentils or whatever -- that it never really took. So, while I'm not making the rest of the family abide by the rules, but I'm also not going to bend over backwards to make meat the centerpiece of every meal.

For instance, tonight's dinner was lemon pappardelle with artichokes and mushrooms in a creamy parmesan sauce. I added sliced grilled chicken to everyone's but mine, so it was easy to omit -- but, I tend to pop chunks of meat in my mouth as I'm cooking, and that was surprisingly difficult to keep from doing. I absentmindedly reached out to grab a piece of chicken at least three times while I was cooking everything else. There is something about small pieces of meat...they just want to be in my mouth, you know? YOU know. When I was a kid and my mom would make a roast for dinner or some other communal meat-hunk, she would sometimes leave the leftovers out on a cutting board and every time my sisters or I would pass by, we'd hack off a piece until it was gone. I still can't make a roast beef as well as my mom, but it doesn't stop me from trying.

Holy smokes. I've only been vegetarian for what, 28 hours, and I already miss meat. Long week ahead, my friends. Long week.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Over the last two days, I did not have a spare minute -- literally -- to devote to decluttering. LAME. I have been running around making myself nuts over Hannah's birthday party, which was supposed to be a simple affair but, due to my desire to make everything myself, was somewhat less than simple. And while I'm glad I did it that way, it meant that I completely derailed this week's challenge. So, penance! I will knock out the remainder of the pantry, line the shelves in the bathroom, and tackle the heinous basement closet tomorrow while starting day one of...sound the trumpet...vegetarian week, which will begin tonight at 7 and end at exactly 7 pm on Saturday: the Bacon and Beer Party.

More later.

Friday, January 22, 2010


It is not hard to talk me out of things I don't particularly feel like doing. Yesterday I was on edge all day. I could feel every one of my muscles twanging and I couldn't figure out exactly why I was so jangly but I couldn't stop it, either. I've been a little on edge all week, but I think yesterday was especially bad because we finally received a few RSVPs for Hannah's birthday party this Saturday, and so my worrying went from "what if nobody comes" to "what if EVERYONE comes" and all of a sudden I couldn't string two thoughts together, but my mind was still racing. I stood for a full ten minutes staring blankly at pinatas at the party store before making a decision. Peter thinks I'm all wound up because I am scared that Hannah will feel bad if her party isn't well-attended, and maybe he's right in some respects but I am also aware that she is four, and she feels bad if she can't find barrettes that match. And honestly, I always get a little nervous before parties or having company because I'm a dork.

So this is what my head was like walking into the house yesterday, an hour later than usual because I had gone grocery shopping for party food. And I was trying to get dinner ready, put laundry away, pick up in general and finish up the "happy birthday" banner that for some reason I decided I must make myself. (It did turn out cute, though.) And as the evening ticked on, it was suddenly 10:30 and the 15 minutes I mentally set aside to finish the pantry and the half-hour I planned yoga were rapidly becoming an impossibility. Around 11, Peter patted the couch beside him so I'd sit for a minute to watch Conan, and that, as they say, was that.

Before I went to sleep, though, I wrote down a list of the things I need to accomplish before the party on Saturday, and when I added times to it all, it helped me settle down some (although thinking about it now, I failed to add a couple of things to the list.) I did wake up early this morning and got some yoga in, which also helped. But the pantry is still half-done, and I blame Conan and Peter.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The pantry: not cleaned!

First, allow me to explain our pantry: it's not really a pantry. It's a breezeway. There's the back door, and then there's the outside back door, and between, there's a closet-ish space that we put leftover IKEA shelves into and christened the walk-in pantry (and, during winter months, a walk-in cooler.) It suits us fine, because while our kitchen isn't small, it's not blessed with much cabinet space.  Plus, we're Costco shoppers, and in Chicago, thirty-six rolls of TP can't be stored in the garage because then we'd be wiping our asses with newspaper or each others' pillowcases rather than trudging out in the snow to the carhole.

Stationed where it is, the pantry has become a place to put lots of stuff besides pantry items. Winter again becomes an issue here because when it's cold the gentlemen in this household prefer to let garbage pile up in the pantry area for a few days to really let the flavors meld before throwing it away in one massive, whiny effort. (The summer provides a little more olfactory incentive to throw the garbage away sooner than later.) So things like garden supplies and small tools find their way in there, along with seldom-used appliances and the three or four sets of wedding china we own. It's also the spot for things like light bulbs, cleaning equipment, picnic supplies, and computer parts that Peter insists he will someday re-use or refurbish or make a fucking headband out of, I don't know. The point is, it's yet another "catchall".

Here's the pantry when I walked in. You can see that it's just all over the place, with canned food and boxes and champagne alongside azalea food and crockpots and half-empty boxes of random crap. There's an old garbage can back there that I use as a recycling bin for paper, but I guess I never told anyone else about it because I'm the only one that uses it that way.

Now, as I mentioned, it's cold as balls back there, so I worked only my fifteen-minute minimum because my bare feet were freezing. Why not put on shoes, you say? Screw you, I do what I want. I'm going to say it's also because I need some time to think about what really belongs back there. Like the gallon of deck wash on the floor. Isn't that more of a garage thing? Then again, the pantry is closer to the deck than the garage is. Really, I need to watch an episode of 24 before I can make that decision with a clear head.

And here, my friends, is a demonstration of why I need to do this exercise: in my adorable vintage ice bucket that was sitting on a shelf there has been resting is a floret of broccoli cut from my garden at least four months ago. It was like broccoli powder in there. How I don't have a king rat living in my pantry is beyond me.

So here's where I left it: maybe half done with crap all over the floor still because I know I'm going to throw more stuff away. But it already looks better, so I'm going to call it a good first effort and go watch 24. Shut up! I said I do what I want!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Upstairs bathroom shelves: cleaned! Mostly!

Today's decluttering was in a more common area: the upstairs bathroom. There's this weird little nook in the upstairs bath with some makeshift shelves that I tried to tidy up with baskets and shelf liner when we moved in. It worked, sort of, in that it looked better than the ancient shampoo-encrusted crapfest it was before. But the problem I find with baskets as catchalls is that they really do catchall, and then all gets buried under all the other all. So a purge is necessary once in a while to keep you honest, you know?

Here's the before. One thing you may note is the nearly-empty bottle of, what, five-year-old Salon Selectives Perfectly Normal on the lower left there. There is also a travel bottle half full of the same shampoo, which was discontinued several years ago, much to Peter's chagrin. You see, back in college Peter had some reason to try out Lucky Lindy's Pomade or whatever, and found it more or less amounted to creamy, tarry Vaseline. The only shampoo that removed the grease satisfactorily was Salon Selectives deep cleaning. Later, impressed with pomade removal level the deep cleaning line displayed, Peter discovered their Perfectly Normal shampoo perfectly suited his perfect locks, and a loyal customer was born...until eight or so years later, when they stopped making it. Once word got 'round whatever fruity Salon Selectives fan club Peter was in that the brand was kaput, we bought a case of twelve bottles from to delay the inevitable, but many months later, that sad day was nigh. He has since tested any number of shampoos but none came close to the glory of Perfectly Normal, and he and his hair haven't been the same since, really. So while he can't bring himself to use the last seven or eight hair washes those few ounces represent, he can't throw it away, either, so it just sits there. Sad, isn't it?

And now that I've brought you down with that sad tale of love lost, here's the after. I trashed a bunch of products that I haven't used in months or that just didn't work (such as that stupid foam hair remover that didn't remove a goddamned thing but the top layer of my leg skin.) Wiped down the shelves, but no time to replace the liner; maybe I'll do that tomorrow in conjunction with another purge. And then I straightened up the rest. It's better, if not perfect. Actually, this decluttering project made me realize how discontent I am with this particular setup. The shelves don't fit right, the painting is all slapdash, and it's just sort of ghetto. Plus the little scrap of carpet at the bottom is just weird. So with that, I have added another spot to my mental list of things to fix around the house. Sigh.

Still, it's better than a sharp stick in the eye, no?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dresser top: cleaned

Today's accomplishment: a clean dresser top! I threw away no fewer than eight single earrings and two broken bracelets, and cleaned the rest of my meager jewelry collection, so now I have no excuse for not wearing them (well, other than laziness.) The odds and ends of my mending kit have been reunited in a plastic lock-top box, which will be nice when I'm hunting for a needle and can't rely on my usual method of stepping on the one hidden in the carpet. The bungalow garden article is officially thrown away, the motley collection of Hannah's barrettes are in their proper place in her room, and the bobby pins are neatly stowed in that horrid Longaberger basket I got at a horrid Longaberger party. God, I spent a lot of time at those types of parties in my twenties. I don't miss them. Anyway, ta-da!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Week 3: I've got the piles

First, a note: in an attempt to keep at the Week 2 challenge, I must record that I went sledding for an hour today with the kids, and if the burning in my thighs is any indication, it counts toward the exercise quota. Week 1's lessons, however, are long forgotten. I just made a "fork it over" comment thirty seconds ago, in fact. Suck on that one, AJ.

So on to Week 3: the De-Cluttering challenge. I tend to drop things where I stand -- literally. Walking into the house at night, I will leave a trail of hat, coat, gloves, purse, keys, shoes, socks, preschooler, bra, popsicle in my wake -- and that naturally makes for a very frustrating morning most days. Some of this is just because I am only now, at 34, beginning to understand the real meaning of "a place for everything and everything in its place." I do find that if I have a dedicated spot for something, it's easier to organize and maintain -- but what that usually means is that it is easier to organize in my every-couple-of-weeks fit of cleaning (which often coincides with the threat of company coming.) The root of the problem remains, though -- that I just...put things places, and then I walk away. I will deal with that root another time, however; this week is about cleaning up the old to make way for some nothing.

To wit: this is the current pile of paperwork to be filed. Bills, medical stuff, financial records, whatever: the paper seems to stack up faster than I can deal with. And this pile is the result of me being good about opening mail and recycling the envelopes and junk mail over the last few months. I have another pile three times as big hidden shamefully in a closet.

This is my dresser top. I don't know why I hang on to that five-year-old article about a Chicago bungalow garden -- I've read it a few times and I don't see what more I can learn from it -- but I can't bring myself to throw it away. And there's a pair of earrings that are best suited to Jem or perhaps one of the Holograms, but you know...maybe Hannah will like them someday. When 1983 comes back.

And it's not just me. Here's the top of Peter's chest of drawers. He saves movie ticket stubs. Freak! Plus every receipt we've ever gotten. And used tissues, because you just never know. I'm just throwing this out there so I don't feel like the biggest slob in the world.

Ah, and here's my side of the bed. When I'm not reading a particular book, I just grab whatever ancient magazine strikes my fancy and leave it on the side of my bed. If I have to wake up in the middle of the night, I slide like a cartoon dog on a frozen pond on all the glossy paper.

Lastly, here's what I call "the landing strip". Well, the other one. Everything gets set down here: AJ's keys and wallet, mail, tools that move upstairs and down, glasses and silverware. When it's clean, the whole room looks a thousand times calmer. But it's never clean.

So my goal this week is to clean off and de-clutter one area every day this week, working for at least fifteen minutes. It could be a junk drawer (we have at least seven), a dresser top, a closet, whatever. Today's effort was my car, which...even I am embarrassed of its usual condition, and I don't embarrass easily. I had no fewer than five pairs of shoes in it, plus months and months' worth of Hannah's school artwork, petrified french fries, yogurt tubes, fast food receipts, melted wonder it always smells like feet. I drag so much stuff from the office to the car to the house to the car to wherever, and the car had become a sort of Island of Misfit Crap. So, I combed through the seats and the trunk and threw pretty much everything away but the shoes. Even Hannah's artwork, since most of it had been rumpled and sat upon so many times it was ruined anyway. A shameful highlight: half an Oscar Mayer hot dog, sufficiently aged to have become grey, desiccated, and withered, not unlike what I imagine a fossilized penis looks like.

Tomorrow the Brown Elephant guys come to take away the dozen or so bags filled with what I combed out of our closets and drawers a couple of weeks ago. Here's hoping it's the start of something good.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Back pat

Well, it's the end of the week and I batted six for seven -- that ain't too shabby. I hit the gym this morning while Hannah was in ballet, which was a decent use of the time, even if I really needed to get my eyebrows did. But, I can do that tomorrow morning.

If you had asked me yesterday what I thought of this week's challenge, I'd've said it worked out really well -- I felt more alert and less tired, I slept better, and for the most part I ate decently, so I feel like I bought myself a few more minutes of life. But today I'm groggy and irritable, and I don't know if that's attributable to the exercise or the state of the house (and what I feel is lack of assistance from the other members of the household...cough.) And it's hard not to think that the time I spent working out is time I could have spent catching up on laundry or picking up, even though realistically that's not exactly the case. It's all about the time tetris again.

Still, it's helpful to get it documented that exercising, particularly yoga, does make me feel better, and it'll do me good to keep that in mind -- that I need to make it a priority not because I need to lose weight or look better, but because it makes me feel healthier. And that it's okay for me to take that time for myself -- this is something that will take getting used to.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Yoga and donuts

Last night, I did about 45 minutes of what Steve Ross, the TV yoga man, likes to call "high-energy" yoga. And while after all of these little exercising jaunts occurred I felt glad I did it, I am especially glad I did it last night. I forget how good yoga makes me feel. I know that if I want to lose fat, strengthen my heart, gain all those blah blah health benefits, I need to mix cardio into the routine, though.

Looking ahead to next week, I'm not sure what I will be doing yet but I know it will not be waking up early. That one is waiting until the mornings are a little brighter. I find it nigh impossible to drag myself out of bed on dark winter mornings, but as the sunlight starts showing up again, it's a little easier. So maybe like a month from now. I'm leaning toward a clutter-busting or cleaning challenge, since the twelve boxes and bags of household stuff and clothes I gathered up after the new year will be leaving my home on Monday morning and I think it'll inspire me to do more, but we'll see. Maybe it's time for donut-an-hour week instead. That's a real character flaw I have, not supporting the donut industry enough. It's been making me feel pretty guilty lately.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The gym.

So I clocked some time on the elliptical at the gym on my lunch break (capped off by a Whopper much for the "gym time makes for a healthful lunch" hypothesis.) And I spent some time bouncing up and down and thinking about why the gym is so very problematic for me. Let's review in list form, shall we?

1. I have major naked issues. I don't relish seeing the general public naked, and I don't care to be naked around strangers. It held me back from exotic dancing, and it's making going to the gym suck a little more. I realize this is my dorkitude -- I mean, no one else seems to care about exposure to fat asses, mine or theirs, so why should I? But I do, and knowing it's my defect makes it worse, because I don't want to expose this defect by changing in the toilet stalls, either. So instead, I avert my eyes from Grandma Moses' Bea Arthur-bush and crouch in a corner, twisting myself into what probably amounts to undiscovered yoga positions to spare my fellow gymgoers a flash of my nip. This is stupid, and I need to get over it. I don't think getting over my fear of being naked in public is going to make the List of 52, though.

2. The amount of stuff going to the gym requires. I don't sweat much, even when I'm seriously exerting myself. Small sweat glands, or maybe I'm a lizard, I dunno. But this wetback's back is not very wet. Still, I don't want to head back to work smelling like workout ass, you know? And I think my co-workers would agree. So I have to bring a towel, soap, and a brush at minimum, plus all the clothes. For some people this seems like no big deal, but I forget stuff all the time. Have you ever tried to dry yourself off with a sports bra? Or the tiny sweat napkins they have at the gym? It takes some doing, and it's a vicious circle -- the less you go, the more square acreage you have to dry off with inadequate instruments. Maybe I could just upgrade gyms -- mine's pretty basic -- but that seems silly when I avoid the damn place like the plague anyway. And then -- then! -- you have to remember to bring the bag back in the house, or you've got these stank gym clothes and a damp towel moldering in your car, and a couple days later, you're trying to figure out what rodent climbed into your trunk, took a massive shit, and died, because nothing else could explain the smell.

3. I cannot stop myself from comparing my size with other women at the gym. I just can't. It's just, it's all out there. Like when the girl who could only be a stripper because she's like 20 and drives a Porsche sashays in and watches herself do these cute little swishy things with small hand weights in the mirrors, presumably so her arms stay lean. She is so...narrow. Like there can't be any bones under her skin, like she could compress herself like a mouse and squeeze under a door. There was a point my life -- pre-children, pre-thirties, pre-bacon and beer parties -- when my hips approached that level of narrowness, so I often think wistfully that I will never look like that again. This thought is usually followed up with, "Well, neither will she, most probably." And THAT is followed by a shot of Jim Beam and a derisive laugh, and then another shot, and then I'm under a dumpster with my keys in my ass.

4. I frequently ruminate while I exercise -- make mental lists and stuff like that -- but I have no way to write them down, and I always, always, ALWAYS forget what it was I was thinking about by the time I get to the showers. Seriously, I find this so frustrating, you wouldn't believe. But who brings a pen with them to the treadmill?

5. The music sucks, and I forget my headphones all the time. I can shut it out if I'm reading but I often find it's the insidious kind of rave bullshit that bores into your ears and wraps around your brain like a horny squid. For instance: "Every Time We Touch", by Cascada. It sucks. And I can't stop singing it.

I don't know...I just don't like going to the gym much. Gym activities aren't very fun. I feel good when I leave because of the exercise, but I don't enjoy it while I'm doing it. We had an elliptical at home for a while, and it made quite a nice drying rack for my fine washables -- so it's not just the gym, it's the mindlessness of the activity, I think. If I'm going to be engaging in physical activity expressly to get exercise, I really do enjoy a class environment more, plus it works more as an appointment for me than an errand. Perhaps switching to the gym with more classes is the best way to go about this.


I blew it last night. I had intended to do yoga after putting Hannah to bed, but she was restless and squalled until well past 11, so I was trotting back and forth to settle her down. By 11:30, it just wasn't happening.

I am surprised at how disappointed in myself I am. Silly, but true. I think part of it is that by the time I admitted defeat, the house was a disaster, and I had been doing a decent job of maintaining order up until yesterday. (Not a great job, but a better one.) I was tired and cranky and felt like a schmo for not running up and down the stairs fifteen times as a last resort, just to get it done, even if it would have resulted in my being unable to sleep for three hours.

It's okay though. It's another day. And now I have to decide if, say, hitting the gym on my lunch break AND doing yoga or the effing basement stairs or something would make up for yesterday's bust.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The morning after

Before last night, I hadn't gone running outside since...when was it the police were chasing me last? April? I don't know. It'd been a long time. And I was never a serious runner -- the most I've ever run is a 5K -- but it didn't take long for me to get back into a comfortable breathing pattern and settle in, even if it hurt some. The biggest problem was a couple of unshoveled blocks that made me fear for my knees, but I just jog-walked there. Well, there was also the wound on my foot. I'm a barefoot type around the house (and, if I'm being honest, just about everywhere it's allowed, except on dance floors and formal parties) so as I was walking around the kitchen, I somehow managed to step on a piece of flat, sharp metal about 1/16" square and of unknown provenance in a way that drove it straight up into my right heel, creating a 1/4" cut. It didn't hurt much after I pulled out the metal (hurt like a sonofabitch going in, though) but gracious, did it bleed. By the time it stopped bleeding the kitchen floor looked like Susan Atkins had taken a stroll across it. I figured that since the cut was so small, it wouldn't be a problem for a short run, and it wasn't -- until this morning, when it's making walk all gimpy.

Beyond the festering heel, I am a little sore today -- my shins and my hips, in particular -- but it's the mildly pleasant soreness of righteousness, so it's cool. Tonight is definitely a yoga night, though, because I have more errands to run on lunch...though these are mostly errands, I am slowly realizing, of my own making. Errands of avoidance? Perhaps.

One last note: I did call for a tour of the fitness center, which I will be taking tomorrow.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mission accomplished...?

I went for a run at 9:15. By 9:17, I wanted to die. By 9:25, I was feeling pretty good so I pushed myself one more block. One block later, I wanted to kill myself for not dying earlier. But the 9:37-9:39 mark was awesome. By 9:45, I was home.


Puttered around until I had no time to do anything. So, exercise is moving to the evening hours...sometime.

Cold and grumpy.

It's 7 am. This is a solid half-hour before I normally wake up.  It's cold as ass in this house, and I dragged myself out from under mounds of soft, warm blankets to do yoga, because I know I have to run errands on my lunch break. Actually, I argued with myself in bed for about fifteen minutes before coming down and it finally came down to realizing I couldn't go back to sleep anyway. I'm beginning to think other me was right, though.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

It wasn't 11 o'clock.

It was 10:10. But still!

Week Two: I have a problem.

So, with Week One's relatively successful conclusion, I am moving on to Week Two. I had expected to start with the challenge of exercising every day, because of all the things that bother me, it's the lack of exercise that I think hurts the most. I could chug Coke with less guilt if I exercised regularly, because it would both lower my triglyceride level and work off some of the calories, and um...the resulting saliva overload would decrease tooth decay, so fewer tooth worries! Yeah! And, I could curb my clothing purchases if I didn't think all the clothes I have and love make me look like the Michelin Man, but browner and less energetic. Theoretically, that is. Most importantly, though, I know that regular exercise makes me feel better -- less tired, more alert, and slightly, but measurably, less homicidal. This can only be a good thing for the welfare of my co-workers. And working out on my lunch hour means I have to bring my lunch, which is nearly always better for me and cheaper than going out to eat. There are more reasons to exercise, I suppose -- piddly things like living a longer and healthier life so I can stick around for AJ and Hannah and Peter -- but you get the gist.

Last night, Peter and I went out for a steak dinner (Ruth's Chris. Butter. BUUUTTER. Oh man.) and you know, any weight concerns I have didn't stop me from eating two thirds of a delectably bloody ribeye, mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat, and chugging most of a bottle of Shiraz. But as I was cramming it all in my steakhole, it did cross my mind that it probably never will, unless I am forced to change my eating habits for serious and immediate health reasons, like diabetes. I mean, I know there's heart disease and cancer to worry about, but they're so...not present right now. There's not a big dude wearing a shirt that says "heart disease" coming over and punching me in the face twice a week. But the steak? Totally present. And delicious. More delicious than thinking about the grabber I might have in ten years.

So the easier step for me to take for now is working exercise into the routine. So, what do I know about myself as far as exercise is concerned? I already know I hate going to the gym, but I feel great coming out. I know that I really enjoyed the weekly yoga class I took with my mom a while back, but that I have a spotty record of practicing yoga on my own at home. For a while I was running with a partner at a nearby park, but that sort of petered out after she hurt her ankle, and I never got into going it alone. What this adds up to, I think, is that I do much better with external accountability. A running partner, a class environment, something that makes me think "I'm expected to be in X place doing X right now" motivates me much more than a nagging, "Oh, I should go do the elliptical over my lunch break...but I don't have fresh nutmeg for the soup I wanted to maybe I should just go to the store and I'll absolutely go to the gym tomorrow...yeah..." I guess I could use this blog as accountability, but I have no shame about admitting failure here. The pain would be too brief. Still, I am trying to find a way to make this work. It's important, and I would like it to stick.

As is my wont, though, I have been putting off taking a tour of the NEIU gym, which is five seconds from my office and features a variety of appealing fitness classes. But I WILL call...tomorrow. I swear. In the meantime, I have a problem, and that is that I had alllll childless morning to go running, do yoga, whatever, but instead I nursed a red-wine headache and didn't hang up all the new curtains in the front room like I had intended. And now I have the girl, Peter's gone for the day, and I have a variety of chores that are in my face, plus my mom wants to go to the movies later, and who am I to say no to that? My point is, I blew it already, and I don't know if I can recover the day. If I were considering cheating, and I am, I could just switch challenges to something easier, like the Eat Breakfast Everyday (although it occurs to me now that the two pieces of bacon I had at Mom's probably shouldn't constitute breakfast, and it's 1 in the afternoon...). But I won't. Like I said, this is important. And every day is going to have things that I should do instead. Make it a priority, is the deal. I will find a way to make it happen today, even if it's at 11 at night.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Thank god

Today is, thankfully, the last day of the no-lame-jokes challenge.  I'm happy to be nearly done with it because it was two things I don't like: boring AND introspective.

It was boring because it involved me not doing something, which is always difficult, I think, and harder to entertain yourself with. (Unfortunately, that's probably going to be the case for like a third of what I want to do in this exercise.) I had to stop and think about what I was going to say, evaluate its relative lameness, and then decide whether to say it. By that time, the moment had passed, so I'd just shut up. I'm used to just talking off the cuff, I guess, and it turns out that I like that about myself, whether the things I say are funny or not. And while it took some introspection to get to that conclusion, and that's probably a good thing, I really, REALLY hate examining myself. Which maybe makes this whole thing an exercise in crap, but you know, only 358 days to go, right?

So while the challenge itself was a slog, the outcome, I think, is a positive one in that it turns out that this particular habit of mine really only bothers my easily-embarrassed, easily-annoyed teenage WHO CARES? Suck it, AJ, and go shovel the damn walk. Oh, and happy birthday! Love you!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Things I have NOT replied to by saying "that's what SHE said", morning edition

"My throat is still sore."
"We're getting like 10 inches today and tomorrow."
"I'm not afraid of 10 inches."
"10 inches? That's nothing."
"It's the front piece that's important."
"Are you going to have that insert ready for me?"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Standard repertoire vs. in-jokes

Here's a question that I suppose I'll have to posit to the arbiter of the week, AJ: what if one person's hackneyed joke is another person's (presumably) endearing in-joke? For one: Peter and I do this thing where he puts on a sequined vest and Irish steps his way into the bathroom, then I hunt for the One Ring in...wait, wrong thing. We do this thing where he'll say something like, "Hey, can you bring that bucket upstairs?" And I'll respond, "I'll bring YOUR bucket upstairs" in a threatening tone. Occasionally it turns out funny, but most of the time it's just talking to talk. I probably do it more than he does, and swear when I die he'll miss it, just like he'll miss my nipple-tweaking and secret money-spending, and he'll every night he'll cry, "Oh god, if only SOMEone were here to threaten me nonsensically, I would feel so much better. And this clothespin on my left nipple just isn't the same." Still, to me at least, it's one of those things we do as a couple that is part of our Us. It's an in-joke, in other words. And I imagine that to AJ, it's less a relationship quirk and more a Mom-thinks-she's-funny thing, so he finds it annoying. This is the sort of thing I'm having a hard time stuffing, because it's just part of my patter now.

I could make AJ feel guilty by pointing out that one of the things I miss most about my dad is his Dad jokes -- the cheesy one-liners that we could rely on his busting out right on cue. You know, like telling a skinny kid to turn to the side when she's standing in front of the TV so there'll be just a line down the middle of the screen, or when she asks to watch TV he says she can, but not to turn it on, or asks where you got that new dress, from Omar the tent maker? Yeah. I never thought about whether I'd miss that stuff, but I do. So now it's got to be me making the jokes, I guess.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The first rule of fight club

A coworker stopped by a few minutes ago for our usual ten-minute cock-and-bull session in the afternoon. I explained my challenge of the week, and he replied, "Huh. You did seem less talkative yesterday. I figured there was something wrong." I said, "Oh, there's something wrong with me..." and immediately thought, why did I say that? It's not funny. It's like the "you don't have to be crazy to work here, but it helps!" type of humor. Blah.

This isn't to say I don't think I'm ever funny. I fall down sometimes, and that's funny. It's just, I throw a lot out there. Maybe it's better to choose your moments, than to always try to be Funny Guy.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Earlier this evening, I was telling AJ about how I dodged that one bullet at work today when I realized that, because I felt like I couldn't make my little jokey remarks, I simply talked a lot less. That's something to think about.


I just bit back an "can anyone REALLY know him?" remark in the office. I make this joke alllll the time. It was like halfway out of my mouth but I sucked it back in like a spit-string.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Rules and The List, Pt. 1

Well, after an afternoon of laundry-doing and Cootie-playing (that's not what it sounds like) and Avatar-seeing, I'm finally getting down to the housekeeping. The Rules are very simple: I will try my best to abide by both the letter and the spirit of the week's challenge -- meaning no weaseling on technicalities by having someone else do something I cannot (see challenge #5) unless it is completely unavoidable. If I fail on a given day, then I have to make up for it on another day until I get seven days of each challenge completed, although they will not have to be consecutive. Because I'll be on the honor system, I'm afraid you're just going to have to take my word for it.

I nearly blew today's challenge about fifteen minutes out of the gate. I was standing at the stove making breakfast when Peter made a comment, I can't remember what, about something coming out of the bottom of something else. When I hear the word "bottom", well -- I perk up and my mouth opens immediately. That didn't sound right, and I'm having to stop myself RIGHT NOW from typing a stupid joke. Anyway, I literally had to bite my lip to stop from making a poop joke. Even Hannah says all I talk about is poop.

Well, it's getting late, so here's the first quarter of 52 changes, subject to change themselves. These will not necessarily be the first thirteen weeks, either -- they're just the first things that come to mind.

1. Perform some form of exercise -- gym, yoga, treadmill -- for an hour every day. I should probably get on this sooner than later.
2. No soda -- especially not my blessed Coke, which I drink every morning. What the hell -- let's make it no caffeine either, in case I'm tempted to move to coffee.
3. A week of vegetarianism. I won't make the rest of the family follow, though, if they don't want to.
4. Learn to pop and lock. I can do that in a week, right?
5. Buy nothing -- no consumer goods, no groceries, nothing. Not even a lollipop from the Victory Church guys.
6. Make all food from scratch. Even bread and butter. This is a late summer one for sure, once the garden gets crackin'.
7. Put everything away -- mail, laundry, shoes, everything. If I take it out, I put it back.
8. No swearing. Not even in traffic.
9. Practice perfect hygiene -- floss twice daily, wash face every night, style hair every morning instead of an indifferent floppy ponytail, all that jazz, including starting with and maintaining a decent manicure and pedicure. And posture.
10. Follow all traffic laws to the letter. No speeding, no lane weaving, no rolling stops, no driving with my feet (unless it's necessary, naturally.)
11. Make the bed every day -- mine and Hannah's, although I'm not touching the boy's.

12. Bike to work. I used to do this every day, but then Hannah started preschool.
13. Wake up ass-early. Ass-early to me, for the record, is 6 am.

Okay, basta per oggi. Good night.

Week One

Last night, the four of us went out to dinner at a nearby Ecuadorian place (La Humita on Pulaski, for those who are interested -- and it was really good -- if you're in the neighborhood, you should give it a shot -- the only bum note was my hominy, but it could have been good, for all I know about hominy, it's that it tastes like plain white rice and looks like giant exploded bugs, but anyway, go and get the fritadas) and I tried to pry some suggestions for my list out of AJ and Peter. The problem was, they're not stupid. I could see all the ideas bubbling up to Peter's lips but he was very cagey, knowing that I will pounce on anything he says. To wit: I mentioned the plan to him a couple of days ago, and he said, "So I could say anything? Like, eat less?" According to Peter, that was just off the top of his head. According to me, there is no such thing as "off the top of your head" in that situation, except maybe my fist bouncing off the top of his head. (In Peter's defense, "eat less" has been his mantra for the past few weeks. In my offense, what the hell, dude?)

Aaanyway. The one list item Peter offered up was to not buy anything online for a week. And I said that that wasn't challenge enough. I've gone a week without buying anything online before. There were like twenty years I was alive before e-commerce was a real option, and before we met, there were a few times when I had maxed out my credit cards anyway. (That was before Paypal.) I've gotten better about that sort of thing, but mainly because Peter takes care of things that, left to my own devices, I forget about and/or avoid. Like bills. But, as Reggie Warrington said, "Can't STOP a woman from shopping." At least, this one. Even at thrift stores I overdo it. I must have cleared out thirty bucks' worth of thrift store stuff from my closet last night (it was New Year's Rockin' Closet Purge) -- which, in real store dollars, is like thirty-five dollars' worth -- not to mention at least three non-thrift-store items that still had the tags on them. Why did I think I was going to wear a glen plaid vest shot through with gold thread? And when did I think I was going to wear it? 1992?

I'm getting off track, because this is not going to be the week of buying nothing, since AJ's birthday is Tuesday and Hannah's birthday party is coming up, so I have to plan, and shop. No, this week is going to be AJ's pick, in recognition of his upcoming 16th birthday. Last night during dinner, after rolling his eyes at the umpteenth stupid joke I (or his father, let's be honest) made, AJ suggested no lame jokes for a week. According to AJ, I have a standard book of stupid jokes and references that I make all the time. One in particular: he says that when I am jokingly demanding that he hand something over, I invariably say, "Fork it over fork it over" like a robot in the show Futurama. Now, until he told me this a couple of weeks ago, I honestly had no clue I did that. I'm a little surprised that I have that many opportunities to use it, actually. Hell, I don't even remember what episode it's from, but I do know that every single time I have said it, I thought to myself, "Heh...funny." So clearly, AJ's on to something. There is some hack comedian lizard part of my brain that won't edit what comes out of my mouth, and maybe I need to pick my moments a little better, rather than barfing out every loosely connected thought that floats through my head. Oh man, living with me must be like a never-ending episode of Family Guy -- I feel so sorry for my family now. So Week One's challenge is: No Lame Jokes.

Since AJ obviously can't be with me every moment of the day, I am going to have to pay attention today to what he considers bad jokes and try to apply those parameters throughout the remainder of the week. On to the maiden voyage! This is going to suck!

I have to fix something for the little bit to eat, so I will be back in a bit to do some housekeeping with regard to rules, and to post the first fifteen or so list items.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Week 0

It's 1:30 pm on Friday, January 1, 2010. I'm sitting at the desk off my kitchen. My family and I -- husband Peter, almost 16-year-old son AJ, and almost-4-year-old Hannah -- rolled out of bed at varying times between 10 am and noon, since we were all up until 3 last night (except Hannah, who crashed, finally, around 1 am.) I made omelettes for Peter, AJ, and myself, and Hannah had a cold Oscar Mayer hot dog and chips and dip for breakfast. Hannah just informed me from under her open pink umbrella that she "decorated her floor" with a tube of purple glitter. AJ has only moved from the couch to cheer for the Nittany Lions and to (reluctantly) fetch his breakfast,which he consumed mostly while lying down. Both the kids are still in their pajamas, and there are puzzle pieces, shoes, shipping boxes, torn-out magazine pages and tumbleweeds of dog hair scattered about. Peter's in the basement family room learning PHP from the internet, having fulfilled his household duties by rinsing the dishes and leaving them on the counter above the dishwasher -- technically, it's AJ's job to load, which would take three hours' worth of nagging, so I'll probably wind up just doing it myself. The dog and cat are fighting again, knocking things off the counter in their chase. And me? I'm just sitting at the computer pretending to mentally plan closet reorganizations and Hannah's upcoming birthday, followed by a bracing dogwalk to the park, when the likelihood is that I will pick up this Entertainment Weekly that I've already thumbed through twice and lie down the couch for an hour, listening to a football game that I could not possibly care less about. There may also be a nap.

This is pretty much how things go here. And for the most part, it's cool. I'm happy, the kids are happy, Peter's happy (I can't say for sure about the cat, but the dog's happy as long as there's food within reach of her paws left on the counter.) But, like most people, I feel like I could do better, like I should have been doing better all along. I should have a book written by now. I should be ten pounds lighter and my triglycerides level twenty points lower. My floor should be visible, instead of covered in used tissues. And, as my mom has noted on more than one occasion, the dishes should be done, seeing as how I have a dishwasher for god's sake, her dishes are always done and she doesn't even have a dishwasher...SIGH.

Well, I thought about it carefully for about thirty, thirty-five seconds yesterday, and decided that what I'm lacking, what I've always been lacking, is what the old folks call stick-to-it-iveness. I start a million things and never finish...hold on. Hannah's coming up the stairs crying.

Ah. She's upset that she can't use the computer downstairs. Well, the couch DOES look lonely, and I DID miss this article about Li'l Wayne's newest's the deal in a nutshell: starting Sunday, January 3, I will take on a personal challenge each week of 2010. All of those "I really should..." and "I'd like to try..." and "maybe if I" things that float around in my head constantly, I'm going to give a shot for a week. Small habit changes, like filing bills as soon as they're opened, and big habit changes, like exercising daily. Attitude changes, like being totally honest with everyone all day, and lifestyle changes, like buying nothing for a week. And maybe tap dance lessons. At the end of the week I will evaluate whether it's a change worth maintaining, or if I'm going to ditch it.

Since my family will be bearing the brunt of these changes, I'm letting them in on the action by letting them make their own suggestions. I mentioned this to my mom this morning, and she said, "Great! Mine's going to be a long list." And, I will look to you, my friends, for the fun suggestions, because I frankly don't think I can do 52 weeks of organizational challenges and introspection without throwing myself in front of a train. I have a couple of ideas for the first few weeks, and then I'll present the list as it unfolds and go from there. Maybe votes on which challenge to take on next? Who knows? I still have to figure out this blog shit, so we'll see.

If I do it right, this is going to be embarrassing, honest, funny, and difficult, and I guarantee you in about four weeks I will be ready to call it quits. So there you have it. Computer's all yours, Hannah.