Thursday, January 31, 2019

Emotional Weather Report

Okay. So, the Midwest is going through this whole Polar Vortex thing. We've had plenty of snow and the last couple of days we've woken up to 25 below zero actual temperatures and fifty below wind chills. Nice.

People I know are asking what anyone does to cope with this crap. I thought I'd give you my "coping strategies".

Me in Louisville at the Mint Julep sculpture. Thanks for taking the photo, Burne Sippy.

While my first instinct would be to drink cocktails almost as tall as I am, I know that isn't practical...Right? If it seems practical to you, let me know. I'm looking for any excuse I can find.

This weekend it got all the way up to ten degrees ABOVE ZERO. How warm. So, we were able to ski and play outside both Saturday and Sunday. I have found that it's really important for my sanity (what little there is left) to go outside and play as much as possible in the Winter. If not, I start getting cranky and feeling caged.

But once the wind chills are dangerous, I have to give that a rest and then I incorporate my two favorite cold weather coping mechanisms - comfort and escapism.

This past week I read classic science fiction that took place on a planet called Winter. It was surprisingly comforting to read about people traveling for weeks in the snow and temperatures even colder than ours. I guess I felt better about myself knowing others (fictional others, but others just the same) had it worse than I did.

I also was obsessed with watching "Outlander". Holy cow! Talk about cheesy deliciousness. I watched all four seasons in about a month's time. Sadly, I watched the last episode of this season on Sunday evening. I suppose I could start it all over again if I'm going through withdrawal, right?

This year for Christmas my daughters bought me some small, fancy soaps, a cup that came with a loose leaf tea strainer thingy and a sample pack of some fancy loose leaf teas. Both of them have been perfect for this weather. My skin is so dry that I'd love to take a bath in warm lotion, but since that would be too expensive and possibly a little gross, I've been taking bubble baths and using the moisturizing, lovely smelling, soaps.

I also bought another sampler pack of teas from Numi to try. Some I really like and a few I could do without, but nothing takes away the chill quite like a hot bubble bath with fancy soap while drinking fancy teas.

Finally, I am doing my trainer work-out and watching a show thing I started last year. Right now, the show I'm watching is "Game of Thrones". I started watching it a few years ago with John, but after the first couple of episodes, with the five million characters getting introduced and all the wacky hijinks going on, John finally said, "It just seems like people doing a bunch of medieval stuff and I don't know why." So, we stopped watching it together, but now I watch on my trainer bike and it definitely keeps me motivated to ride more.

Of course, this being Iowa, it's supposed to get to almost fifty degrees this weekend. So, that means without the windchill we'll experience a sixty degree temperature change in just a few days, and with the windchill, it will be closer to 100 degrees. How does anyone acclimate? You know what? Scrap what I said about the impracticality of drinking a cocktail as tall as your person. It's starting to make perfect sense to me now.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Out of the Tree of Life I Picked Me a Plumb. You Came Along and Everything's Startin' to Hum.

Monday was our second wedding anniversary. Originally, we planned to go out to dinner after work, but in the afternoon, John emailed me to tell me that his mother fell down in her retirement community and they were taking her to the hospital to get checked out.

A few years ago, John's mom sold her condo and put the money into a down payment at a retirement community in town. She has a studio apartment there and as she gets older and her health declines, her community will adjust to her changing needs until she dies. She did that because she didn't want to impose on her children, which is nice of her. The best thing about it, is that they have nurses on staff there and when she fell, she just called them, they came right away, and took her to the hospital.

She had surgery on her hip yesterday and they had her walking on it already today. That's pretty good for someone in their eighties.

John spent most of Monday evening at the hospital with his mom, while I stayed home and made enchiladas and rice and beans for dinner. He finally got home around 8:30 and apologized for keeping us from our anniversary date. I told him that family always comes first and it's not like we don't eat out enough. We finally did go out to eat last night and got fondue and drinks and had a lovely meal. It was well worth the wait.

The post above are all of the reasons I am so happy to be married to John. He takes good care of his mom and he is always so considerate and sweet to me. It may only be our second wedding anniversary, but we'll have been together nine years this coming September. I haven't regretted a day.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Batman, Batman, Batman

OMG, Kids! We finally hit winter here in Iowa. We've had many inches of snow and the actual temperature got down to -11 this morning. I don't even know what the wind chills were.

The good thing about all of that is that we now get to cross country ski every weekend and it's been a few years since we've been able to ski this much.

Archie doesn't care about the snow or the cold, since he doesn't go outside. He got a new kitty jungle gym and he spends hours entertaining/blinding himself on it.

He also does a great Batman shadow on the ceiling. He is very proud of his impressions...As well he should be.

Since it doesn't seem to be warming up anytime soon and it's supposed to snow another 5 - 8 inches on Sunday night, we'll just check out new places to ski and I also told John I'd take him to get tacos at a wonderful taco place in town. Skiing and tacos. It should be a great weekend. I hope you all find fun things to do in the snow and cold this weekend too and that Batman shadows are plentiful in your house.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

So, Let Go. Jump In. Oh Well, Whatcha Waiting For?

I wrote this whole long blog post yesterday, and then it all disappeared. Sigh.

Today I'm going to write about my 2018 firsts. If you're new to this blog, I like to try and do new things every year. It's not that I think it's going to make me live longer, it's more that it will make the rest of my life more interesting and me more engaged in it. Some of my "first time" things are pretty small and some of them aren't in my control, but they are things that take me out of my routine and keep me from getting in a rut.

Here is my list of new things for 2018:

My first first was going to the Sports Column for the first time. It's a big sports bar/ restaurant in downtown Iowa City. I never went in there in the 80's because I was angry and not into the jock scene in college and as I got older, I wasn't as angry in general, but I'm still not into watching ball sports that much and hanging out with a bunch of drunken frat boys or ex-frat boys has never been all that appealing to me.

Now, though, my son-in-law works there and Coadster worked there last year and Stinky had her bridal shower there last spring. Turns out, it was just fine to hang out there and the woman working behind the bar was sweet and adorable and very good at her job. Of course, I'm sure it would all be very different there if were to drop in on a football Saturday...

Thanks to In His Image Photography for the photo.

This was my favorite new thing last year. I got to help give the bride away on Memorial Day Weekend. It was so hot that day and there were some family dramas going on, but it was a lovely ceremony and the reception was so damn much fun.

Thanks to our friends Heidi and Garry, I got to try paddle boarding for the first time on the Fourth of July. I didn't do it for very long, but it was a great work-out and I definitely want to do it again very soon.

For as often as we go to Clear Lake, last July was the first time I ever visited the crash site where Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Richie Valens met their demise.

We were surprised at just how many people were out on a very warm day hiking through a cornfield to check it out.

Winter started early in Iowa and in November we had quite a bit of snow and ice for a while. The last few years I have slipped while trying to run on the ice and the older I get, the more damage that kind of stunt can do. So, this year, I gave John and old pair of running shoes and he put screws on the bottom to keep me from slipping on the snowy sidewalks when I ran. It worked like a charm. I've been told to keep an eye on them though, because when the screws wear down they can lose their grip.

In December we went to Louisville for a week. We had some great firsts there. The first first in Louisville was that I walked across a bridge into another state (Indiana) for the first time. I've ridden my bike across a bridge on the Mississippi to another state, but never walked.

We also went to our first cat cafe in Louisville. Tea and kittens. How did we not do that before?

We got to do two firsts in one adventure when we rode electric assist bikes for the first time in a cavern. I've never ridden a bike in a cave or a cavern, and it was really cool when we did.

At the very end of December we got our house reroofed and in the process, we had them install our very first sky tubes (like a sky light, but smaller and less likely to leak). Our dormer room only has one light, so the three sky tubes make a huge difference as far as giving us more natural light up there.

Thanks to Anas El Tuhami for the photo
The biggest first for 2018 was helping to start a new bike/sport team. There was some shit that went down with our old team and originally when we quit it, we thought we might just do our own thing without a team or I thought I might join a Des Moines women's team that I love, but we had some people ask us if we would want to start our own team, and so we did.

We got to pick out our own kit, which is a lot harder than I thought trying to get 12 people to decide on a design or colors. We put on a time trial series this first year that went pretty well, we got some new members by the end of the year and we're now expanding to put on another race this Summer where we race around a car racing track in Cedar Rapids. It feels so cool racing a bike on a race track.

Anyway, as you can see from the photo above, I'll be just as big a spaz on our new team as I was on the old team.

I had some pretty good firsts last year and I hope to have even better ones this year. I hope you all do fun stuff that might also scare you a little bit, so you get the most out of your lives too.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

All Your Compliments and Your Cutting Remarks Are Captured Here in My Quotation Marks

Since we're just finishing the first week of the new year, I thought I'd start doing my look back at 2018. I'm going to start with books.

In 2018 I read 95 books. Holy shit! I was really sick for most of January and all the dizziness and hormone issues I had that kept me from playing outside as much as I wanted to at the beginning of the year, were probably big contributing factors with my overabundance of book reading.

My favorite genre is probably contemporary fiction. Last year I tried to read a lot more classic fiction and non-fiction. I love them both, but they aren't my natural go-to. I enjoyed the classic fiction a lot, but with my attention span issues, I did have problems with so much description and how long it can take those olden day writers to get on with it. Sometimes, in order to juice things up and because I have the maturity level of a 10 year old, I would assume that they were using the modern day use of some of their words. That way sentences that went something like, "His wild ejaculations made their intercourse much more penetrating" were way more fun than originally intended.

Anyway, let's get on with the lists, shall we?

Top Six Contemporary Novels. All of these lists are in any order depending on my mood at any given time

1.) "Lincoln on the Bardo", by George Saunders

2.) "Pachinko", Min Jin Lee

3.)"Atonement", Ian McEwan

4.)  "Sing, Unburied, Sing", Jesmyn Ward

5.) "Less", Andrew Sean Greer

6.) "The Leavers", Lisa Ko

I'm also going to do an honorable mention list of contemporary fiction for books that were great, fun reads, but didn't quite measure up (as far as I was concerned) to the six above:

1.) "Underground Railroad", Colson Whitehead

2.) "Little Fires Everywhere", Celste Ng

3.) "My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry", Frederik Backman

4.) "The Round House", Louise Erdrich

5.) "Autumn", Ali Smith

I love Westerns, but this year I only read one for some reason. Lucky for me it was a good one. Western:

1.) Days Without End", Sebastian Barry

Sc Fi. I didn't read any classic sci-fi this year (I guess I could put the Octavia Butler on that list, but I'm putting her on this one instead) and the book I loved the most wasn't the one I thought it would be:

1.) "The Book of Strange New Things", Michel Faber - this book was so good.

2.) "Maddadam #3", Margaret Atwood

3.) "Dawn (Xenogenesis #1), Octavia Butler

4.) "The Book of Joan", Lidia Yuknavitch

I ended up reading a little more Young Adult fiction last year than I normally do, which made me want to read even more this year. I'm putting Children and Young Adult together here:

1.) "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings", by Maya Angelou is a reread for me, but it's been forever and it still holds up so well.

2.) "Eleanor and Park", Rainbow Rowell

3.) The two Harry Potter books I read, by J K Rowling. I finished the series this year, and it put a hole in the heart of my reading list. I will never be able to read those wonderful books for the first time again.

4.) "The Hunger Games", Suzanne Collins

5.) "The Replacement: Book 1 of Replacement Series, Bianca Sierra-Luebke (my niece)

I read some great Horror/suspense fiction this year. By far, the best of all of those was "Lovecraft Country". I highly recommend it. Here's the whole list:

1.) "Lovecraft Country", Matt Ruff

2.) "His Bloody Project", Graeme Macrae Burnet

3.) "The Hunger", Alma Katsu

4.) "The North Water", Ian McGuire

5.) "The Invisible Man", H. G. Wells

In 2017 I didn't read any detective/mystery fiction, so I made a point to read some in 2018:

1.) "Murder on the Orient Express", Agatha Christie

2.) "The Trespasser", Tana French

3.) "Ill Will", Dan Chaon

4.)  "Girl in Disguise", Greer Mcallister

Besides the Maya Angelou book, I only did one other reread this year. It was one of my favorite books when I was 19, and it should stand alone:

1.)"The Color Purple", Alice Walker

Like I said above, I'm trying to read more non-fiction. So, here were the favorites I read this year:

1.) "Hunger", Roxane Gay

2.) "Slouching Towards Bethlehem", Joan Didion

3.) "Kitchen Confidential", Anthony Bourdain

4.) "I Saw Ramallah", Mourid Barghouti

5.) "Why We Run", Bernd Heinrich

I read a few short story collections last year too:

1.) "Difficult Women", Roxane Gay

2.) The Bloody Chamber", Angela Carter

3.) "Skin Folk", Nalo Hopkinson

Finally, we're at the Classic fiction I read. There were some amazing books. "Tess of the D'ubervilles" didn't make the list. It's not that it wasn't an amazing book, it was just so depressing and it made me want to go inside the world of the novel and shoot every man in the face. Here are the novels that DID make the cut"

1.) "Pride and Prejudice", Jane Austen

2.) "Rebecca", Daphne Du Maurier

3.) "The Count of Monte Cristo", Alexandre Dumas

4.) "Midnight's Children", Salman Rushdie

5.) "Vanity Fair", William MakepeaceThackeray

Now, I will make it my mission to go out and read all kinds of books for my list next year. I'm going to continue to try and read more non-fiction, and classic literature and my latest little scheme is to read all of Jane Austen's novels and follow that up with reading "The Jane Austen Book Club". The nerdiest of endeavors. I hope all of your nerdy endeavors end well for you this year too.

Friday, January 04, 2019

And I Have No Resolutions, For Self Assigned Penance, For Problems With Easy Solutions

Thanks to Burne Sippy for the photo.

Hey, kids. Things are still crazy in my world, so I haven't been able to write on here. I will keep trying.

I hope you all had a great New Year. Everyone has different experiences in different years, and I got lucky with last year. After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, and then my oldest daughter going off the rails trying to deal with her depression and anxiety issues in 2017, it was nice to have a pretty mellow year this time around. I guess the two last rougher years made me appreciate the less dramatic and stressful 2018 even more. If your year wasn't as mellow, I'm hoping for a much better year for you in 2019. As for me? I'll always hope and work for the best, and try to deal with the crap when it gets flung at me without losing my shit. Ahem.

I don't do resolutions, but every day, no matter what year it is, I'll try to drink more water, and less alcohol, move more and eat less, be better with money and try to buy less crap, play outside as much as possible, not let fear get in the way of trying new things, try live as sustainably as possible, keep away from people who aren't good for me, have as many adventures as possible, read as many books as possible, be as kind as possible, and most importantly, appreciate the hell out of the people I love. I know that's a lot, but it's all so important, and some days are easier to work on stuff than others.

I hope you all are able to live the best way possible for you. Happy New Year!