Thursday, January 19, 2017

8 Minute Memoir, Day 9: Eight

Eight years old.  1996, second grade.  I would have been fully ensconced in worlds of make believe, of staying outside during the summer until it was sunset and the fireflies were out, blinking away, and playing in the snow until our noses and cheeks were pink and our hands were numb.

I remember liking school, though I didn't really like teacher very much (she seemed like she gave off more of a frightening vibe than a nurturing one).  Still, I enjoyed learning.  The movie Twister came out that year--I loved and still love that movie--and I had a classmate, an elementary school friend who loved the weather and who also loved the movie Twister.  In fact, we wrote our own script to Twister 2, complete with local landmarks and special appearances by our friends.  (Sidenote: this elementary school friend went on to become a research meteorologist, so cool!)

1996 also brought the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia and needless to say, I was obsessed with the Olympics.  For the two weeks of the games I was riveted.  I loved the gymnastics events, and I specifically remember begging my parents to buy me the gymnast Barbie for the 1996 games; her arms and legs were bendy and she had a beautiful leotard (and much to my delight, they let me take her home).  I can remember replicating the swimming events in our swimming pool with my brother and my daytime siblings, and pretending that my bicycle was a horse to emulate the equestrian events.  I was inspired and delighted by the Games and in retrospect, it's a very fond memory for me.

At eight, I still had so much innocence.  I also know I lived within my imagination, already starting to write (however elementary it was) and read, creating worlds for myself.  It's crazy to me to think that eight years old was 21 years ago, but here we are.  In looking back at eight years old, at being a kid, I know I am so fortunate and so lucky to have had the childhood that I did.  Man, did I love growing up "out in the middle of nowhere," a five minute's drive from town, underneath big skies filled with stars and planes on the flight path to O'Hare, the quiet of crickets and the low hum of the interstate in the distance.  To be eight again!

January, so far

I'm still having moments where I can't believe the new year is upon us... but it's 2017 and I only wrote "2016" a small handful of times!  I consider that a victory of sorts.  And here we are, over halfway through the first month of the new year.  We started it out by spending NYE at home--I had to work from 6am-4pm--making soup in the Crockpot and watching the ABC 7 New Year's holiday coverage, as has become our tradition.  Happy to say I made it to midnight, but it wasn't by a whole lot, haha.  The next day, we mostly hung out around the apartment, but we did make it out for a run!  It was really refreshing.

Speaking of, I'm hoping to get some good running in over the next few days.  We've been having some weird January weather lately... thunderstorms in the middle of the night... a high of 55 on the forecast for the weekend.  Just bizarre.  Anyway, I have been feeling a little cooped up lately and I definitely haven't been as active as I should be.  Plus, I know that what I need now is just to get back into the routine... I have been a little derailed from going out there and getting it done because of my injury and then winter, but I am bound and determined to make it happen for myself.  Real talk, I've gained about 10 pounds since my lowest weight over the summer, when I was marathon training.  10 pounds over ~6 months isn't that bad, but what I really feel like I'm struggling with is the decline in strength.  I know it's cliche but the start of a new year really is the perfect time to refocus on health.

One thing I am doing to that end?  I've started going to yoga!  Our gym has yoga classes several times a week so it was relatively easy for me to find one to fit my schedule.  And yeah, I am definitely still in the beginner, learning stages of this whole thing.  But I really enjoy going, I think it will help me with my goals of becoming stronger and more self-minded, and the only way I'll get better at it is if I keep practicing!  In fact, I have my eyes on tomorrow morning's 8:30 am yoga class.  It's good to have a routine, and I think this will also help me to keep running more regularly.

Besides all that, Tom and I have mostly been hanging out at home.  While this week is weirdly warm in Chicago, we dealt with some pretty brutally cold temps too and it hasn't really been nice enough to do anything but stay inside.  We've made a pizza in our brand new cast iron pan twice, the most recent time being last night (and it was PERFECT!  Also the reason why I need to run more, haha).  I saw La La Land last week and absolutely loved it.  We also had Tom's company party at Whirlyball which was of course a fun adventure!

I also decided to request some time off around my birthday...  we'll largely be stay-cationing, but I am hoping to go down and spend some time in the state's capitol with my sister's family.  We'll probably also be trying to find a neat airbnb in Wisconsin for a few nights as well.  Mostly, I just want to take some time to decompress and relax and celebrate turning 29.  We'll see where the week ends up, though!  Part of the beauty of it is not having any concrete plans and just seeing what happens!  ...January, you've been quite alright so far!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

8 Minute Memoir, Day 8: Birthdays


[top: one of many large fruity boozy concoctions I drank that weekend.
bottom: youngins at the Hoover Dam, aw!]

My birthday falls on the 4th of March.  I have always thought this a rather interesting time of the year to have a birthday, for a number of reasons.  I mean, living in Illinois meant that occasionally, my birthday would fall on Casimir Pulaski Day, the first Monday in March--and I'd get the day off!  Which, of course, was awesome as a kid.  Another thing about it is the weather... it is totally and completely unpredictable.

For example: in 8th grade, I flew with several of my classmates out to Washington DC for the annual class trip.  It was kind of a big deal that I was being allowed to go as this was only 6 months after 9/11, but I had such an amazing time on that trip and I learned a lot.  I've only been back to DC once since then and I really need to remedy that!  Anyway, we were due to fly home on my birthday and we ended up getting stranded at Dulles for a few hours, delayed because of snow.  And when we finally landed in Chicago, and got home past midnight, it was indeed so snowy, and icy, and cold.  Other times, though, it can be a rather nice day!  Totally just depends.

Of course, one of my most memorable birthdays was my 21st birthday (isn't it for almost everyone though?)  On the night of my actual birthday, we went out to a few bars; many alcoholic beverages were consumed on that fateful night.  The next morning--yes, the day after my birthday--I went to my 8am class and may have been still slightly intoxicated for my midterm on John Milton (still pulled off an average grade on it!)  What made that birthday especially exciting though is that I went on a weekend trip to Las Vegas--a long promised gift--with Tom, my parents, and my uncle and his girlfriend.  My first trip to Vegas, on my first weekend of being 21.  I've been several times since then, but I will always hold that trip close to my heart.

This year, I will be turning 29.  Sometimes I still feel like an awkward 17 year old, but here I am, doing pretty alright at this whole "grown up" thing, I think!  As of right now, I don't have anything solidly planned for my birthday, though I do hope to be in the midst of my vacation, so long as my time off is approved.  I kind of like it that way... there is more potential for fun and adventure that way!  No matter what I end up doing, I will certainly take some time on the 4th to reflect on the year I'll be leaving and all of the goodness that lies ahead.  Another trip around the sun!  What an opportunity!

(Speaking of... happy birthday to my dad!)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

8 Minute Memoir, Day 7: Finish

I am currently in the midst of a lifelong love affair with the written word, with crafting stories, with collecting and documenting the moments of my life.  Those who know me well know that I've been writing for decades.  Some of my earliest memories of writing are from kindergarten, first grade--where we all kept journals in spiral bound notebooks, simple prompts from elementary school teachers... and at home, make believe in the form of word documents on our old family Macintosh computer.  It's been a part of my being for as long as I can remember.

But sometimes you grow older and your priorities shift, and sometimes you lose sight temporarily of the things you love.  Over the last few years, I haven't spent as much time journaling and writing fiction and poetry as I did when I was younger... maybe it's because of work, maybe it's because I've been focusing on other things, I don't know.  As I've mentioned in this space, one of my goals for the year is to write more, and so far, I feel like I have done a good job of keeping up with this.  Writing is a luxury for me, but it is also something that can, and should, be a part of my regular existence.

The word "finish" reminded me of the many paper journals I have started and left unfinished.  I'm pretty sure that in this apartment alone there are 4 different notebooks I have spread my thoughts across.  4 different notebooks that I didn't finish.  I've never been a finisher of notebooks.  Some might consider this a fault, or a character flaw... but I don't really.  In a way, I think it's kind of symbolic of life and the journey we're all on in our lives.  The words and stories unwritten, yet to be put down on those lined pages.  My story is unfinished, the best yet to come.  Who knows, maybe this current journal will be the one I fill completely.  If I do, great!  If I don't, if I move onto another notebook before I finish this one, it will just be another continuation of my story.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

8 Minute Memoir, Day 6: Games

My siblings and I had a childhood full of board games (and, let's be real, video games, too).  Frankly, I still love playing board games, and the reason I don't currently have any in my possession is that I just simply don't have the room for them!  Probably my favorite board game when I was a kid--and now, really--is The Game of Life.

This game, I just love it!  I mean, it plays into all of my creative tendencies, my propensity for dreaming, and still has that competitive edge to it.  After all, wasn't the whole point of Life to become the most successful in the end?  Of course.  I always loved the journey to get to that goal, though.

The spinner on our Life game board only worked properly about a quarter of the time... we were constantly having to reset it (was this a problem with all of them?)  Nevertheless we kept the game moving, either going right to work, or going to college... finding a job... eventually getting married and buying a house (always the Tudor)... if you were lucky, having a kid or two.  And so our plastic cars, filled with tiny (literally, they often got lost, disappearing into the carpet) pink and blue people, made their way across the colorful board, wandering down the road of Life, celebrating triumphs and failures.  Would we end up at Countryside Acres, or Millionaire Estates?  Only time would tell.

Only time will tell.  When I played this game as a kid, I wondered how close real adulthood would be to the game.  Because, well, of course I did; I hoped it would be something accurate to go off of, playing pretend with my friends and imagining that I was a grown up.  Now that I am a grown up--or so they tell me--I can confidently say that really, Milton Bradley pretty much got it right.  Except this is the real deal, and that makes it even more exciting.  Graduating from college... getting the job that would change my life... marrying my best friend... it's all happening, in real time, and it couldn't be any sweeter.

All that being said, I'm always down for The Game of Life.  I'll pick the blue car, please!

Friday, January 6, 2017

8 Minute Memoir, Day 5: Little Things

I am a big believer in the little things.  The smallest opportunity can make someone's day, turn someone's mood around.  That old adage about never knowing what other people are going through comes to mind here... you never know what a glance or a simple word can do.

Take my job, for example.  Retail management, a very customer service oriented position in an upbeat, vibrant, and positive environment.  People from all situations and all walks come through our doors, and I feel fortunate to have the chance to brighten people's lives, even if only for a moment.

Story time:  on Christmas Eve, I had a customer come to the register to check out who seemed obviously worn out.  She was friendly, and over the course of our short chat, I learned that she and her husband and kids had just moved into their house the previous day, after closing on the property in August.  It had been quite a journey for her and she was, to say the least, wiped out, exhausted.  I couldn't even imagine what it would be to move with small kids the day before Christmas Eve, but she and her husband had made it happen despite obstacles.  She allowed me the gift of conversation, a window into her experience, and I?  I wished her good luck with a hug and a small, but beautiful. bouquet of flowers--and the look on her face said it all.  It was almost as if she was awakened by our brief interaction.  I felt lifted by it, too.  One of many, many examples why I love my job and treasure why I do.

I thrive on the little things at home, too.  Tom and I have a system, an agreement that has fallen into place after years of living together, that one of us will cook and the other will do the dishes.  If I know he is going to take a shower after me, I'll put a dry towel on the rack so he doesn't have to get out of the shower and grab one from across the bathroom.  If I go to bed before he does, he very often if not always whispers that he loves me when he, too, finally settles in.  There are countless other examples of things we do for one another, these small tokens and instances building up to form a mountain of goodness.  There are those huge, monumental moments that matter, of course--but the little things, they provide that steady wave of love throughout the in between.

"Life is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of the little things, in which smiles and kindness, and small obligations given habitually, are what preserve the heart and secure comfort." 
--Humphry Davy

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!

Today is the first day of 2017--a blank slate, a tabula rasa.  2016 was quite a year... parts of it were wonderful and amazing, parts of it were difficult and challenging.  I feel like I've started out the year on a great note...  I slept in, Tom made brunch (and it was delicious!), I did some writing, and we each went for a run (I ran just over two miles, he went for just over a 10K).  Now it's late afternoon, early evening, sunset, and we are relaxing in the apartment, making dinner tonight.

I have a few resolutions, goals, for the year.  I will be 29 this year, and, cheesy as it may sound, I want to make this the best year yet!  I am all about personal discovery and self-growth and I plan on making taking care of myself to the fullest an absolute priority.  I want to lose the next 15-20 pounds, become stronger, and hopefully, accomplish my goal of running the Chicago Marathon.  I want to write more regularly, more often... I want to find my voice again and the 8 Minute Memoirs, 52 Lists Project, and my new journal are providing an excellent start on this front.  I want to become a better cook, to learn more about food.  This will benefit me both personally and professionally and I am excited to venture out, to really make a concerted effort becoming a less picky eater.  I feel like all of these goals are reasonable and things I can accomplish over the course of the next 365 days.

I know that 2016 was difficult for many people, myself included.  Like I said, there were things I really loved about it... and things that I wish would have gone differently.  I feel optimistic about 2017; I am excited for the prospect of changing and growing and getting outside of my comfort zone.  I want to be open to love and the goodness of the universe.  I guess what I'm trying to say is, I want to live life to the fullest and savor every second.. take advantage of every opportunity.

This, the New Year's wish of the Eternal Optimist (and always mine, for as long as I can remember.)  May 2017 be the happiest, the very best!