Thursday, February 23, 2017

8 Minute Memoir, Day 17: Sibling

The prompt for today's 8 Minute Memoir suggested writing about a sibling.  The thing is, I am blessed enough to have 3 siblings who are so wonderful that I can't pick just one.  (I also have great three brothers-in-law, two being my husband's younger brothers and one being my sister's husband.)  In fact, I may have won the sibling lottery.  I have an older brother, an older sister, and a younger brother.  It's true that we may have had our differences here and there growing up (because what family hasn't?) but I love each of my brothers and sister fiercely.  And I am so proud of the people they have become as they have grown into adults!  They are pursuing their passions and learning new things and creating lives that are important and fulfilling.

They are such unique people with individual but related likes and dislikes to mine.  It's great that we can always find common ground with one another.  My older brother, for example, continually impresses me with his prowess at running and the art of the Ragnar Relay.  My older sister is a pharmacist who is passionate about her job, and it is great to hear her stories of being able to help people (though my job is a quite a bit less serious than hers--because she is saving lives!--in the ways that we are given the opportunity to serve others it is similar and I can relate to a lot of her feelings).  She also made me an auntie and I love watching her as a mom.  My younger brother is witty and into movies and music and podcasts and coaches the robotics team at the middle school he works at, which I think is just awesome!  In addition to all of this, my siblings are kind and caring individuals who work hard to make life betters for others, and I am honored to be related to them, to have them as friends, too.

Friday, February 17, 2017

8 Minute Memoir, Day 16: Learning New Things

I have always been an interested learner.  If it made more sense financially for me, I'd probably have gone back to school by now to get a graduate degree.  Instead, I strive to keep learning and growing my knowledge of, well, everything!  I know this is a great way to become a well rounded and enlightened person and I definitely love learning.

Getting outside of my comfort zone is really important.  Sometimes, for me, this means trying new kinds of food or pushing myself to go to yoga class.  I've worked hard to learn more about running--everything from mechanics to nutrition to form--and I feel as though it is absolutely beneficial for me to keep reading and getting more information.  In the end, this will help me to be a better runner.

I have a library card and have used it to check out some great books!  Being a member of the Chicago Public Library is a huge benefit and I highly suggest that anyone get a card from their local library.  I also like to do a lot of research on the internet.  Obviously there is a large amount of information to sift through but I try to make sure I'm getting my information and knowledge from reputable sources.  I am also a fan of NPR and PBS on the visual side, and I try to learn about cooking or painting or anything I might find interesting!

One of my goals for this year is to try and become a better cook, and in doing so I have been learning more about the art.  just the other week I made Hasselback chicken breasts stuffed with goat cheese and spinich, with a quinoa rice blend and sauteed asparagus.  it was delicious!  It was totally outside of my comfort zone, but certainly a dinner I would make again.  I have been researching via Pinterest and recipes that I find online.  I would ideally like to cook something new once a week in an effort to learn more about cooking but also to try new and different things I might previously have avoided.  So far, this has been a valuable experience for me--and exciting to try new meals!

8 Minute Memoir, Day 15: Camping

In the summer of 2007, Tom and I spent a week camping at Devil's Lake near Baraboo, Wisconsin.  I make no secret of the fact that I love Devil's Lake--it is one of my favorite places in the world.  It is just a beautiful collection of Midwestern natural beauty and there is such a wide variety of things to see.  I love swimming in the lake, hiking the trails, climbing the bluffs (which I haven't actually done in a long time, long before I got into better physical health).  Tom and I got engaged at Devil's Lake, at the end of a hike up the Balancing Rock trail, and so the place also has sentimental meaning to me as well.

Anyway, we'd gone camping the previous summer but this was just the two of us, and for much longer.  It was a great week!  We set up camp and went back into town to get supplies at Aldi.  (We certainly did not purchase any alcoholic beverages with an ID that may or may not have been valid.)  This trip was only the second time in my life that I had ever been camping, besides the occasional backyard camping I did as a kid.  I loved it, spending the entirety of my time outside, sleeping under the stars.  We did a ton of hiking, cooking meals over the campfire, taking afternoon naps, pretty much just doing whatever we wanted.  Devil's Lake covers a pretty significant area so there's a lot to see and explore!  I really didn't want that week to end.

The next summer, in 2008, we made reservations to go camping again at Devil's Lake.  Unfortunately, the Madison/Wisconsin Dells/Baraboo areas received a ton of rainfall and damaging storms.  Many parts of the park were flooded and in need of repair after the severe weather.  We ended up having to cancel our camping reservation, and as of yet we still haven't gone camping again.  Our adventures have just taken us elsewhere.  Hopefully this year will be the year, though!  

Friday, February 10, 2017

Jess Goes Running: February, and getting back into it

(Earlier this afternoon.)

We ran south through campus, on the path right along the lakefront.  God, it was beautiful--Lake Michigan was in rare form, just stunning in sky and water and skyline ensconced in fog.  The wind, though... it was brutal and unforgiving.  We were right there, unprotected from the shoreline, almost yelling at one another because it was howling so loud.  The kind of wind that flirts with the idea of knocking you over, powerful bursts of energy.  Still we persisted through the elements, getting in 4 miles along the Evanston lakefront, the lovely Northwestern University campus.  V. and I have been going on running adventures; I am so happy to have her as not only a running buddy but as a friend.  This was our favorite location by far!

I ran 17.4 miles in January.  The most mileage I've had since marathon training ended at the end of the summer.  January was a pretty tough month for me--work was stressful, the weather was very cold at times, and I also battled the illnesses going around.  Today was my first run in two weeks, since my last run with V.  Though I only ran 17.4 miles last month, the runs I had were all incredibly important and incredibly meaningful.  Every run, one foot in front of the other--breathe in, breathe out.

Every run is a blessing.

I know this is not a given.  I ran so hard for so long, making progress in my own time, not even really considering the fact that I could lose that.  And then it happened.  So this winter, really, has been a period of transition for me... in continuing to heal and get stronger.  Sure, I only ran 17.4 miles in January.  In December?  I ran 4.  I would say this is definitely an improvement and I know that I will only get stronger--as long as I maintain the balance between pushing myself, challenging myself to run harder and faster, and also listening to my body... because I am still healing, I am still getting my fitness back.  This is a process, and it's slow going, and I need to be patient.

(Scenes from a few of my runs over the last month.)

I was recently guided towards the conclusion that before I can focus on distances and getting faster, I really just need to start running again, period.  I need to essentially start from the beginning.  I need to run for the sake of running.  So that's what February will be about...  getting more mileage than January would be nice, of course, but more than anything I just want to run, I want to find myself in my feet on the pavement and the lakefront wind whipping up my braids, stinging my cheeks.  I want to fall in love with it again.  I've made peace with my fears and I know what to do if things go wrong again.  I'm prepared for all outcomes, and I'm ready for whatever comes.  

Thursday, February 9, 2017

8 Minute Memoir, Day 14: School Lunch

School lunch!  Throughout the vast majority of my school career I was a bring-my-lunch-from-home kinda girl.  I had money on my lunch card to get milk every day and occasionally would get hot lunch (usually on pizza day).  Here's a pretty standard example of school lunches throughout elementary, grade, and even middle school:

I used to bring a lunch packed by my mom.  A sandwich (turkey, ham, peanut butter and jelly), chips (usually Doritos, occasionally a potato chip or corn chips of some sort), and something sweet.  Usually cookies (Oreos or Chips Ahoy) or a Hostess product (the cupcakes will forever be my favorite).  Drank with a chocolate milk.  When I went to RMS, I used to bring change to get a Fruitopia from the vending machine--Strawberry Passion Awareness was my favorite.  I used to get school lunch on pizza day, or Bosco sticks day, but that was about it.

In high school, I would get school breakfast before the day started, getting bacon egg and cheese bagels wrapped in foil.  I still often brought my lunch to school, but again, ate lunch at school for pizza day--are you seeing a pattern here?  At least by the time I got to high school, the pizza came from Pizza Hut!  I also pretty regularly got the turkey sandwich boxed lunch from the separate cafe lunch line; the bagel and cream cheese and Brisk Lemonade was also another frequent flyer option for me.  

Then I went to college, and I had a meal plan and Huskie bucks.  So "school lunch" entirely depended on where I was on campus or what I was up to.  For example, when I was a freshman, I was frequently eating in my own dining hall for lunch, Grant, or heading over to Stevenson to get pizza or the taco bar.  Making sandwiches and ramen in my dorm room, on my desk, with supplies I'd purchased on a number 7 bus trip to the Walmart on Sycamore Road.  When I was a sophomore, I went to the Dog Pound in Douglas to get sandwiches and in Neptune, where I lived that year, I got breakfast sandwiches on the way to class.

By the time I moved out on my own, I was making simple lunches in the townhouse (junior year) and apartment (senior year).  Sandwiches, tomato soup, macaroni and cheese.  Pretty regularly I would get lunch on campus, eating at the dining hall in the Holmes Student Center or getting Subway.  Always valuing something salty and something sweet to go along with a sandwich, or a salad, or a protein.  

8 Minute Memoir, Day 13: Your Most Important Hair Moment

I'm sure my answer to this prompt is a common one.  I've had a long and tumultuous relationship with my hair over the last almost 29 years, and we have finally, in my adulthood, figured out a way to happily coexist.  My most important hair moment, though?  I would have to go with June 11, 2011, our wedding day.

I loved my wedding hair!  I'd spent the majority of college growing it out and when Tom proposed to me, I realized that I needed to see it through and wait until after we got married to cut it.  I was lucky enough to have my aunt do my hair on the big day, and it made a special moment even more memorable.  I went with half up and half down, pulled back out of my face in a twisting braid, with long curls in a waterfall down my back.  I truly felt beautiful and I loved how the updo turned out.  I wore a headpiece with white flowers and a small veil; it was perfect with my dress and made for a very classic look.  

At the end of the night, after the reception ended, dizzy with happiness and love and drinking champagne, we sat on the bed in our suite pulling bobby pins out of my updo until it wasn't really an updo anymore... just a mess of curls, half tangled, still full of life even after wedding photos on a windy afternoon and hours of dancing.  Still perfect, even deconstructed.  Ah, what a dream of a day!

(Photos by the lovely and talented Sarah Pawula)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Lately, Currently.

It's been a while since I've done one of these.  Thanks to Susie at @the_suzlyfe for the inspiration!

[Reading]  I borrowed a few of Anthony Bourdain's books from one of my best friends the last time I was over at her place, and I am happily making my way through them.  I love Parts Unknown and so reading his books brings out a similar joy in me.  I love food, I love travel, and I love the way that Bourdain so masterfully shares them in word.  Kitchen Confidential was the last book I read in 2016, and A Cook's Tour will be the first I finish in 2017.

[Doing]  Well, at this very moment, I am resting because I seem to be afflicted with the cold/sinus infection/whatever this is that is going around.  It was bound to happen, almost an inevitability.  Besides that, I am writing a whole lot more (which is so exciting to me!) and being diligent about making time for it.  I am trying to be intentional about going to yoga more often... really, my beginner yoga experiences are deserving of their own blog post.  Suffice to say, I am enjoying it and looking forward to having yoga as an important part of cross training for running.  I've also been trying to run more (though the below freezing temps and not feeling well put the kibosh on that today) and I am cautiously optimistic about my future as a runner, post-injury.  A few weeks ago, I went to Whirlyball for the first time with Tom for his work's holiday party... it was super fun and ridiculous, and I was super sore the next day, but I'd recommend it for something different to do!

[Thinking About]  Running more, planning out my summer as far as races and training are concerned.  Recently I've been struggling with running, from a more mental place than physical.  Sure, I am still struggling with building back up my speed and pace.  But it's also been harder for me to break through the barriers of running more than just 2-3 miles.  I am learning that I can run farther and that I can handle it.  I am of course listening incredibly closely to my body and to my foot, watching for any changes or signs of trouble.  But so far... things have been pretty good.  I'm feeling optimistic and I'm hoping to take that with me into getting more running outside, as we enter into February and the end of winter.

[Watching]  We're perpetually rewatching things around here... most recently, we've been working our way through Arrested Development and BoJack Horseman.  On a more serious note, we have been making sure to watch PBS News Hour as regularly as we can.  Now more than ever, it's important to get the news and stay informed of what's going on at home and around the country.

[Feeling Thankful]  For technology allowing me the opportunity to stay in touch with family even though we all live apart from one another.  I'm thankful that my foot has been strong lately, allowing me the opportunity to get in some really amazing runs over the last few weeks.  I'm also super excited that Chicago Cubs baseball spring training starts very soon!  Ahh, despite not feeling super great at the moment, life is pretty alright!

[Loving]  Friday 8:30 am yoga class.  Making pizzas in our new huge cast iron pan... a constantly evolving craft, but so good!  Writing more regularly, both in my 52 Lists Project journal and in a personal notebook--it is so wonderful to be getting back to that.  Figuring out plans for my vacation time in early March--it's going to be a great 9 days off!  The fact that it is now staying lighter later than before... it makes me feel confident that spring will be here soon!