Friday, February 26, 2010

Let us all say...



to our sweet LB! My friend, confidante, roommate, bridesmaid, intramural tennis partner, co-mommy, queso and banana bread maker - and also the World's leading expert on nut allergies, AlWHATfred's nightclub, box wine, Dr. Phil, and A+ additions to the Fino's turkey sub. Or in general, one of the greatest people I know.

So my friend - I wish you a day full of this:

With a little bit of this:



If you're lucky, some of this:




If you're even luckier, a little of this (Ole!):



And if all else fails, lots of this:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Memphis Moments

As a Memphian for the past 8+ years, I feel comfortable speaking praises and criticisms of the city. On the positive end, Memphis is vibrant and diverse, it's on a well-developed riverfront, the food is awesome, the music is awesome, it has a nice climate, cost of living is low, etc. But on the not-so-positive end, it's laden with crime (even in really nice neighborhoods), there's a lot of poverty and homelessness, public schools are awful, inter-racial relations are bad, and we had a corrupt mayor for about 16 years (until a few months ago).

Sometimes it feels really daunting to live here. To know that even in my very nice neighborhood, we can (and do) have crime. To know that our future children will have to attend (really expensive) private schools. To walk around downtown and without question, see a homeless person (or ten) everyday. To occasionally see prostitutes walking around in broad daylight. It hurts your heart to see the desperation - and the crime causes a great deal of unease.

Another thing that really annoys me about the city is vehicle emission testing. Basically, before you can get new tags for your car, you have to go to one of three vehicle emission testing centers to have the exhaust levels tested (in addition to the brake lights, blinkers, windshield wipers, etc.) on your car. I'm sure this is set up because there are so many bad, old, broken cars on the road. (Although I have to say I often question if these cars really get tested - I mean, you see some baaaaaaad, old cars on the road - and I don't think it's possible they've passed.) But, anyway, it's a huge annoyance if you're a law-abiding citizen who works an 8-5 job, because there's really no way to get around spending some time there.

I had to go yesterday to get my test. And yes, it's a few days before the end of the month, so in theory, I should've gone a couple weeks ago - and since I didn't, I should've expected what I got. But in total, I waited about two hours. TWO HOURS. The line was wrapped outside the testing center, down the road, past the juvenile court.

But the whole experience was just one of those Memphis moments; one of those moments that makes you think, "why do I live here?"

While waiting outside the actual testing center facilities (when we were snaked around the block), I observed tomorrow's youth going in for their juvenile court hearings. One of our future leaders was going up to cars in our testing center line & tapping on their window (begging, I guess?) until an undercover cop pulled up and put him in the car.

Then, once we got into the actual area of the center, I was causally reading a book when I heard some screaming. I looked in the rear view mirror to see a big woman getting out of her car with a baseball bat stomping towards my car. My heart raced a little. But then, when she threw open the door of the car behind me, I knew I was in for a spectacle, not a robbery.

I still don't know the nature of their argument (or if they knew each other before? But I think so because there was a lot of "punk-a ho" being thrown around), but for the duration of my time in line (about an hour?), this saga unfolded. They would both get out of their cars, scream at each other, she would wave her bat at him, his friend would get out of the car and restrain him, then they'd both get back in their cars. Then, a minute later, would get out & do the same thing again. They were probably in and out of their cars (doing the same charade, screaming the same stuff) 7-10 times. At one point, he ripped her bat out of her hands and threw it. Luckily she had another bat in her car, so that wasn't an issue.

At one point the guy's car pulled up and talked to the guy in the car in front of me, "did you see that crazy b-? Did you see her wave her wave her ho a- bat at me? Did you see I didn't touch her? You gonna be my witness - I didn't touch that b- if she call the po-lice [2 syllable]."

And call the po-lice she did. When they arrived, she started screaming, "he pull me outta my car and pull my hur! He pull my hur!" Over and over and over again. "He pull my hur! He pull my hur! He pull me outta my car and he pull my hur!" The po-lice then started going car to car asking what people saw. I tried to continue reading book so as to not be questioned, which worked. I guess they eventually got it worked out, and the police were taking notes, but no one was hauled off.

Then, to top the experience off, after 2 hours of juvenile delinquents and a police showdown, my car failed its emission test. So after I get it checked out, I'll get to go back and wait in the line again. Happy holidays.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Olympia!


I don't know about the rest of you, but I have really enjoyed the Olympics this year! There's something unifying about a worldwide event - knowing that people everywhere are sitting in front of their tvs like I am watching the same thing. And it's fun! I've enjoyed having a cool tv option every night of the week.

I'd say I feel equally interested in the summer and winter games - in that there are some sports I like in each and some, not as much. With the winter games, I've really enjoyed all of the skiing events (even the newer ones like snowboarding & that skijump flip/loop thing). And speed skating. And, surprisingly, curling. Have you guys watched curling? It's sort of a cool game of logic (and the Americans are hands down THE WORST - so it's a little bit like watching a freight train de-rail).

To go against the majority, too, can I just ask NBC, "PLEASE no more primetime coverage of figure skating or ice dancing??" Oh it's so boring! (But I guess we could also ask NBC a lot of things: "Dear NBC, please limit the commercials, please show us the good athletes in the given event - not just the Americans, please give more airtime to sports other than figure skating [seriously, you really messed up with the USA/Canada men's hockey game], please don't schedule your programming so we have to watch the whole night to see full coverage of one event, and please - PLEASE - give us more human interest pieces hosted by Mary Carillo. Thanks.")

This year, in particular, I've enjoyed the Lindsay Vonn saga (and might or might not have gotten a little teary when she was interviewed after she won gold). And I've been impressed by Bode Miller (which might or might not be solely attributed to the fact that he's not such a huge chatch like he was last time). And I can't take my eyes off Shaun White! That guy is a machine - and is so so so much better than all the other competitors, you really can't even compare them. And of course Mary Carillo - I love you, Chompers!

As a final note, does anyone know the origin of the biathlon? Because as noted by my husband last night, it's seems like the only person who would really benefit from bi-athletic skill would be a sniper.

What about you guys? Are you into the Olympics or not? What's YOUR favorite sport to watch?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

NEW PRODUCT ALERT!

I'm not entirely sure how long these things have been on the market, but I bought my first package on Sunday. OH MY GOSH - they are great!

I'd seen them mentioned on a few food blogs, but I wasn't all that interested because I thought they'd be too much like a whole wheat pita (which is dry and hard, in my opinion). But at the store, I actually touched it through its wrapper (which I recommend you do too if you're skeptical about the texture), and was shocked at the softness!

It reminds me of an english muffin (in terms of convenience, size, and caloric value); but it doesn't have the same sort of baking soda delicious taste that an english muffin has (which is why I might have to buy both of these products from now on). The sandwich thin makes up for the lacking taste, though, in awesomeness: 1) it's a really soft bread-like texture; 2) it's a perfect size - basically the diameter of a large bun; but 3) it's not too thick (like a bun), it's actually thinner than bread. And the stats make it a faaaaaar better option than a bagel: 100 calories, 5 grams fiber, 1 gram fat, 5 grams protein (and no high fructose corn syrup).

I've only made sandwiches thus far - but i think an open-faced mini pizza would be great, or some cream cheese with fruit, or a (veggie) burger. Sometimes buns overwhelm me - too much bread, too many calories, not enough flavor - but this is a perfect medium between a traditional bun and an english muffin (which, while awesome tasting, is lacking in diameter and is pretty dense). Give them a try!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ready to Run

I started running the summer after my junior year of college. I've mentioned before that I gained a lot of weight my sophomore year; well that summer, I was home in St. Louis with a pretty cushy job that allowed me to go to the gym most days a week. Through some mild weight training and the elliptical machine, I lost 25 pounds that summer.

Well, the following summer I was living in Memphis, and for whatever reason, instead of continuing my journey at the gym, I decided to give running a try. (I consequently lost 15 more pounds that summer - igniting an unknown interest in running that has stayed with me since.) And I should say, I use the term "running" interchangeably with "jogging" - because in the beginning, I was unquestionably at an 11 minute pace or something really slow.

I remember the first couple weeks of running. I would park my car at the south entrance to Rhodes (on North Parkway) and take off via Hein Park to do the loop that circles the school. The first day, by the time I turned the corner into Hein Park, I was winded (this is about .1 miles), and all I could do was find a street sign (maybe another .1 miles away?) and tell myself to just run to that street sign. Then I walked the rest of the loop. The next day, I would similarly become winded, but instead I would chose a different landmark, a little bit further and run to that.

I don't know what made me continue to do it - why I didn't just get frustrated and return to the elliptical machine at the gym. But I did continue, and low & behold, by midsummer I was running the full 2-mile loop. And then, AND THEN, after I had mastered the 2-mile loop, I would do more! And it was the same sort of deal as before, do the first loop, and then gradually build up the next .1 miles day after day - running to that street sign or that tree or that house, until I was able to do 2, 2-mile loops! It was so satisfying, and the results were so measurable, I think that's what has kept my interest through the years.

I have dreams of doing a half marathon, or even a full; but sadly that awful, little 3-syllable word "injury" has plagued me of late. After college (before I made friends with the cute neighbor who had a treadmill), I would run outside through our neighborhood. This started the long, painful process of hip flexor injury and general hip pain. That pain, though, was remedied by running on a treadmill instead (I guess the street and sidewalk are too uneven? But LAME - treadmill running sucks compared to outside).

But then, after the hips were resolved, I started to develop the dreaded, often unavoidable beast: knee problems. And these are bad, and constant, and seem un-fixable. I SWEAR these started when I was toying around with Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred (where there are a few sequences of really fast lunges that are just too quick for attention to form). And then when we did the pre-wedding P90x, it felt really tough on all my joints. But the thing that bugs me most about my knees now, is that even after prolonged rest (cough, cough, two months of almost no exercise after my wedding, cough), the first run I took re-ignited the knees. Immediately.

I'm at the point now where I basically can't run faster than a 9-minute pace (or else it really hurts), I can't run outside, and I can't run more than 4 miles at the 9-minute pace (5 is the absolute maximum). And I mean, what am I supposed to do with that? For all you marathon/half marathon running friends, how have injuries impacted you? What about you, other friends who dream of running more but worry about your injuries - do you think you'll ever be able to?

And yes, I know physical therapy is probably the best option - but that expense (when it's not really necessary aside from helping me attain my dream of long-distance running) doesn't seem justifiable at this moment. I bought a knee brace from Target that offers mild compression (which helps), but knee braces don't really fix the problem, they just make it tolerable. But is this what I need? Just to tolerate it? Really friends, I'd love to hear your stories about running & injury!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Oh College...

Since I'm the chairman of our Rhodes reunion planning committee, I needed to have a meeting with the Rhodes staff member who assists with the planning. When we were deciding on our meeting time and place, there was really no other option in my mind: the Rat for lunch. The "Rat" (officially Catherine Burrow Refectory) is the more formal of the two on-campus eating locations. And to completely simplify it, it's basically a huge, delicious buffet with 3 rooms of different types of cuisine.

I was worried that my memories would be more idyllic than the actual eating experience - BUT - I'm happy to announce it's still as awesome as I remember (and maybe bordering on being more awesome?). AND - if you are an outsider paying for lunch, it's $4! FOUR dollars! (And, I mean, I don't think just anyone can march in for lunch - but I think alumni are always welcome, as are faculty and staff members - so friends, next time you're in town, you can guess where we're eating.)

The main room in the back is still pretty much the same (and I only glanced in at it) - but still has pizza, burgers, fries, grilled cheese, etc. (and the lady I had lunch with had a slice of pizza that looked great - a pesto sauce with mozzarella and sliced tomato). And the room that leads into the back one has turned into a huge salad bar with TONS of toppings. I made myself a salad with: a couple different types of lettuce, chickpeas, black beans, a corn/bean/pepper relish, pickled jalapenos, marinated tofu, gorgonzola crumbles, cherry tomatoes, and broccoli. And while I used a little balsamic vinaigrette, they had about 8 Ken's Steak House salad dressings available.

Then the room to the right of the cash registers was really impressive. They still have the mongolian BBQ-type thing where you pick your vegetables and have them cooked for you on the grill top. And they have added a little section labeled "vegetarian" and another labeled "gluten free" with those items. Then - this was great - they've added an all breakfast, all the time section. From that I got some hashbrowns and a half english muffin with an egg. There's also a sandwich-building station in this room (which I think they had when we were there, but I can't remember where it was) with lunch meats, cheeses, & veggies and TONS of breads/bagels/tortillas to choose from.

After our nice little lunch meeting, you can imagine where I went: straight to the fro-yo! Yesterday it was FF chocolate and FF strawberry. I might have done a swirl. I might have fixed a huuuuuuge cup of it. And I might have wished I still went to Rhodes.

But seriously, something about being on campus was awesome! I guess I don't really go there that often, or if I do, it's for an occasion (like homecoming, or parent's weekend when Megan Cian was still there); even going to the gym (which I haven't done in a few years) is a little different because you actually encounter community members as well as students. But yesterday, at noon, a random Thursday, I felt like I was back in the action. All the students and professors were out doing their normal thing, signs were posted everywhere for the different events on campus, kids were gossiping to each other while they walked to class, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day (and I might or might not have shed a little tear). I went to such a beautiful college - and times were so much simpler then. Oh College...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lenten Vows

The comment Brad left on my Mardi Gras post really got me thinking. He said that Lenten vows should be more than just a new, New Year's resolution; and pointed out his friend who said she would walk her dog everyday for Lent (which, um, does she not walk her dog everyday now? I thought if you had a dog you had to do that?). Anyway, this got me thinking that by saying I would "get my healthy eating & exercise plan back in action," I am really just making a new resolution.

So, I looked up the formal explanation of giving something up and fasting. (I should say, too, that I'm not Catholic anymore - but I love the traditions of Lent, preparing for the resurrection, so I still partake in most of them.) The principle of giving something up is rooted in the idea of conversion - turning our lives more over to God - so, by turning away from a sin (giving it up), we are preparing ourselves to renew our baptismal commitment on Easter. (And obviously, this period of sacrifice should lead us to give up the sin forever [but I guess 40 days is good, too.])

Fasting was practiced in ancient times as a means of self control and preparation for Easter. It was also practiced as an aid to prayer (the hunger pangs remind you of your hunger for God). These are still viable reasons to partake in fasting - but it can also serve to remind us of the poverty in the world, calling us to show Christ's love to everyone (especially those who are hungry and in need). Similarly, not eating meat can serve to remind us of the poverty all around (and those who can't afford meat); but I'd say having a simple meal probably hits the purpose more accurately (as eating a huge lobster dinner, even though it isn't "meat," isn't really understanding the sacrifice).

In addition to these things, I view my Lenten vows as small sacrifices I can make to remember the HUGE sacrifice Jesus made for me. Think how meaningful your own personal sacrifice becomes if you actually use the recognition of it to think of God or say a quick prayer (so, when you feel hunger pangs if you've given up some type of food, or if you have an intense craving if you've given up a beloved treat, or if you have a strong desire to do something, if you've given up a certain activity). And think how meaningful and glorious Easter becomes when we too have suffered through desires and sacrifices and cravings through the 40 days.

So, my amended Lenten Vows:

1) To avoid the sin of gluttony, I'm going to count every single calorie that goes into my mouth and stay within a certain limit each day. This will be good because I know to stay within a limit I'm going to have to cut down on intra-day and after-work snacks, both traditionally gluttonous times for me.

2) I'm going to read my Bible every day. This one is going to be hard, I think - but I want to prepare myself for Easter and for my renewed baptismal commitment.

I'd also really like to exercise 4 days a week (3 times other than the yoga class I go to on Wednesdays). But I'm not sure if I feel comfortable calling this a "Lenten Vow." I recognize that it will be a time commitment (ie, choosing to get on the treadmill instead of watching food network on the couch), but I don't know if this is too personally motivated. Maybe I could group it in with my eradication of gluttony? Because I guess gluttony can extend beyond just eating - like, being gluttonous with your time and your treatment of your body? Thoughts on this?

Anyway, I feel good about calling 1 and 2 Lenten Vows. So please, friends, I'm asking you to help keep me accountable! I really want to commit to a mindfulness about the Cross this season of Lent. And what about you? Can I help keep you accountable to something?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Risky Business

I heard an interesting segment on All Things Considered (on NPR) last week. It talked about the part of a person's brain, the amygdala, that assesses risk - the doctor called it "an early warning system about impending threat." So, it's the part of our brain that's ok with having a person stand 3 feet away from us, but feels uncomfortable when the person moves to 1 foot away; or, as shown in the study this segment highlighted, it's the part of the brain that stops us from taking big financial risks - or at least the part that helps us to weigh the risk-reward probability.

When clinically evaluating the extent to which this part of the brain functions, they use a woman who's amygdala has been damaged by a disease. So, her brain doesn't recognize the "warning signs" like people with functioning amygdalas: she's comfortable having people stand too close to her, and she's fearless in situations where she could lose large amounts of money.

Listening to this segment made me wonder, if this woman can have an under functioning amygdala, could I have an over functioning one?

I was in line at Walgreens today when the man behind me was waaaaaay too close for my comfort. That's what made me remember the NPR segment - because probably in general, he wasn't that close. (And I wasn't uncomfortable in a I'm-in-Memphis-could-be-robbed sort of way, it was more just like ew-sick-get-away-you're-gross-and-way-too-close-ew kind of way.) But it made me really uncomfortable. Or often in the elevator at work, I'm hyper aware of when someone is standing in my area. Or in store aisles, when I need to pass someone, I notice if they don't move over enough to give me space. What I'm saying is that I really like my personal space.

I also wonder about financial risk - now I'm definitely not unrisky (ie, I recognize that a certain level of risk will most likely attain a certain level of reward). But I can't ever see myself ever being comfortable with gambling, or flipping houses, or putting a lot of savings into opening a business, or putting tens of thousands of dollars on a racehorse (which is how a certain family member sent her kids to college). But I'm not sure if these are normal sentiments toward financial risk, or if I sound straight-up frightened about losing money.

So what do you all think? Would you consider yourselves risky? Or frightened little frady cats like me? The NPR segment is interesting though, I recommend a peruse if you have time.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mardi Gras Mambo

Happy Mardi Gras! I returned yesterday from a great time down in New Orleans - my 9th Mardi Gras, and counting. This year, Patti made her first voyage to the mardi party at Chez Cian/Crane (since her previous MG experience included, but was not limited to: roofies, bourbon street, crotch grabbing, and being bitten). I was glad to have the great company in the car - and we all had a lot of fun together.

It's always the same general story - lots of food, drink, merriment, parades, ladders, and beads. And, in addition this year, there was a lot of WHO DAT spirit going around. Bacchus had record crowds, all trying to catch a glimpse of Drew Brees (who unfortunately had his back turned for the few seconds his float passed our ladders). But in general, it was great to see the city so excited and united.

We had great weather (chilly, but sunny); and while the Cian girls didn't have tons of people in town, everyone who was there was great company. Aside from a minor incident with some Yats who encroached on our ladders, everything went smoothly. On Saturday night, we went for delicious sushi and met up with the London clan for a drink. All in all, as expected, so much fun (and as expected, I'm in detox mode for the next 2 weeks).

To celebrate our Mardi Gras here in Memphis, we'll be attending a pancake dinner at our church, which, can I just say YUM? I guess pancake dinners at churches on Fat Tuesday are pretty common across the US - but my church growing up didn't do this, and man are they missing out, in my opinion. But anyway, I plan on doing some damage to the pancake supply tonight, because my Lenten vow this year is to get my healthy eating and exercise plan back in action: no more intense after-work snacks, a major decrease in sodium consumption, and only one to two meals out a week.

What about you guys? Any Lenten vows? Happy Mardi Gras!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Be Mine

Man, the blogosphere is LIT UP with Valentine's Day hatred! And it's all the usual comments: there shouldn't only be one day a year to show someone you love them, it's the one day a year flower prices are inflated, there's too much expectation, it makes single people depressed, it's not really a "holiday," Hallmark created it, etc. And I agree with some of these things - but not quite as vehemently as others - and actually, dare I say it, I think the holiday is alright.

I love the color red - and seeing Walgreens light up with red and pink is sort of fun. I think those candy hearts (in the pic above) are DELICIOUS - mmm - I love them! Or those awesome red, heart-shaped suckers with Minnie Mouse on the package - the BEST sucker, hands down. And how can anyone complain about a holiday where chocolate plays a starring role? Or flowers - they're beautiful - and while in theory "people should give flowers other days of the year, too," it doesn't really happen all that much (aside from birthdays and anniversaries) - so I say, why not on Valentines?

I also think it's hard to argue that Valentine's Day isn't super fun for kids. They get to pick out special cards to give to their friends. They probably wear red or pink to school that day. If their parents are awesome, they might get some candy or a new toy. And I'd assume that most high schools do some kind of candygram or flowergram thing where you pay 50 cents and get to send one to your friends or your crush - and come on people - this is fun! It's fun to be in high school and wonder if you're crush will send you something! It's fun to walk around all day with the flowers or candy you received - even if they are just from friends. It's a fun day about love or friendship.

And that's just it. Kids are so much more able to enjoy the day because they don't care about it's origin and they don't care about inflated prices or not giving Hallmark business out of principle or dissecting every. little. aspect. of our society - basically, kids just go with the flow. They're so much less stuck up than adults.

I think my 2nd grade teacher utilized the holiday in the best possible way. We were learning about addresses. So she moved our desks into rows (roads, if you will), and posted big signs over each row like "Sweet Street" or "Lollypop Lane" - and then put a big number on each kid's desk. And we had to give valentines to everyone in the class, but we had to address them to each student. What a fun way to learn about addressing!

All this to say, though, my husband and I won't be doing anything for Valentines Day. I'll be out of town and we decided not to get each other presents. Which is fine - and actually feels more right, in some way. Maybe marriage does that to you? And I have to say, even if I was going to be in town, I don't think we'd do anything - maybe get takeout (because who wants to be subjected to set menus and higher prices)? But I look forward to having kids someday and helping them pick out the PERFECT valentines for their friends - and putting little candies on their pillows for when they wake up. It's the little things that make life sweet - and sometimes not being so cynical makes things a little easier, too.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Wheels on the Bus

I'm sure it has happened more than once, but there is one huge, whopping, enormous time I was pushed shoved punched TKOed thrown under a bus.

Each class at my high school had it's own President, VP, Secretary, and Treasurer of Student Council, and then overruling the whole Student Council was an Executive Board. My junior year I served on the Exec. Board as the "Assistant Dance Chair," and my senior year as the "Dance Chair." These were straight-up event planning offices: we had 3 dances a year, Homecoming, Turnabout, and Prom (which were a big deal because we didn't have deb stuff - so they were our only official date functions of the year where we got to dress up). Homecoming and Turnabout (Sadie Hawkins, basically) were planned by the Dance Chair, and Prom was planned by someone else (parents, maybe?). Anyway, the first two were the domain of the Dance Chair positions.

So, my junior year I was assistant to a girl (we'll call "Beth") who was a senior. We were roughly in the same group of friends, so we had a great time working together. She was a really sweet girl - and was great at the position. But perhaps one of the reasons she was so good was because she was a PERFECTIONIST to the max (which might or might not have led to what had to have been a pretty severe eating/overexercising disorder and an awful smoking habit), and made her prone to intense stress breakdowns and always-present anxiety. (Her mom had died when she was ~10, so most people were able to look past these negatives and sort of attribute them to that - she had some issues - but they were justifiable issues; and like I said, she was really nice - and fun/outgoing, etc., so she still had a lot of friends.)

Our first dance of the year (Homecoming) was great - no complaints, no problems, just a really nice experience. The second dance of the year, though, was a little different. I should say that even as her assistant (and someone she trusted), she still did a lot of the planning alone. I was really just there to do whatever she told me; it wasn't like the assistant position had different job assignments than the actual Chair, it existed purely to assist.

So night of Turnabout: I was having a great time! I had a cool outfit (a pretty, beaded cashmere twin set and a long, slate-colored taffeta skirt), we had done group pictures at someone's house, and then went to dinner at a nice restaurant with a big group. We arrived at the dance and were rocking out, having a lot of fun; I was with my boyfriend and all our friends - it was just great.

Then the time came for the announcement of "Turnabout King." We did this for all the dances - had a "court" that the classes voted on, and then at the actual Homecoming and Turnabout dances, we announced the court and they walked out on the stage ("John Smith, son of Deb and Mike Smith is on the football and lacrosse teams, his favorite subject is biology, and he likes to sing with his band on the weekends" blah blah - stuff like that). And as you can imagine, going along with Beth's anxiety, she was always too nervous to be the reader on the stage, so I did it.

Right before I was about to go on stage, Beth came up to me, really anxious (as normal) and said, "I did something really bad and I know you're going to be mad at me but I didn't know what to do and I'm really sorry and I hope you'll forgive me but I just didn't know what to do."

Um... "It's ok, calm down, what did you do?"*

"Well, I forgot to get chaperones for the dance. Like, we needed 15 parents to be at the dance and chaperone and handle things and I totally forgot to get them."

Which, ok - I mean, this is bad I guess, but why would I really care? And then she went on, "and everyone was pressuring me when I got here about where they were, so I said that I had assigned you the task of getting them and you didn't do it."

Oh. Ok. I see now why I would be mad at you. But even at the time, I was like, "it's ok, I need to go on stage now, we'll get it all sorted out." So we went on doing the dance thing. And it was fine - I wasn't going to let that ruin the night, and I figured we would get everything settled the next week.

And this is where it really sucks: we didn't ever get it settled. I told Beth after the dance that she needed to tell the Principal and the Student Council advisor that it was her: she needed to tell the truth because 1) it was rude that she lied and blamed me, and 2) she was graduating - I had to go on and work with these people for another YEAR as the Dance Chair - imagine how much it would suck if they thought I was incapable of performing the job correctly? And she kept saying she would - "I will tell them, I just need to find the right time" - and I kept checking up on her status of telling them, and it was always the same. Then, I asked her one time (the final time) if she'd told them yet and she said "look, I'm really sorry, but I can't tell them - I just can't risk ruining my legacy here right before I leave. I'm really, really sorry - but it will be fine, everyone will forget it next year, anyway." And that was that. Closed. Done. Never to be spoken of again with her.

I could have done things differently: I could have gone to the Principal and the Student Council advisor myself and told them, but I didn't. I felt bad about it - I didn't want them to corner this girl who was clearly on the verge of breakdown and ask her who messed up the chaperones. And actually, I told the advisor the next year (after Beth was gone) what had really happened, and as predicted, the advisor said something like, "Jackie, it's ok what happened - it's in the past - we've all moved on - and we'll just be sure to do everything right moving forward" ie, "no way do I believe you because Beth was fastidious about doing EVERYTHING, she wouldn't have forgotten, and I'm annoyed that I have to micromanage everything you do this year because you messed up so big last year." And micromanage she did - the whole year - everything I did I had to show her. Every purchase order I wrote I had to have approved. All because Beth was unwilling to give up her image at our high school.

And a sort of interesting twist of fate was that Beth's dad moved to Chicago right after she graduated, so she was never back in St. Louis on breaks or anything hanging out with all of us. I really never saw her again. And we're friends now on Facebook - and I have to say how tempting it is to message her like, "hey, do you remember what you did? The way you threw me under the bus more than anyone EVER has in my life? Thanks for that." But I don't - it's water under the bridge - and I'm sure there was a learning experience buried in there somewhere? But it really, really sucked - and I will never forget it.

*Note that even though I'm not necessarily the most cool-minded person now, I used to be a lot more calm - and being in the situation with her where she was always so HIGH STRUNG, I sort of had to be calm or we wouldn't have been able to function.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snow Day Deux!


Yesterday we had our SECOND snow day of the year! And it was glorious! There had not been a lot of warning about the storm (or really, any); so Jonathan woke up Monday morning and took his shower as usual. When I woke up 10 minutes later, oddly, I looked out the window (which I usually don't do) and WOW - whiteout! So after jumping around giddy for a little bit (and confirming that Jonathan's office [and the rest of the city] were closed) we got back into bed. What a nice way to begin the work week!

And we had a lovely little day! Jonathan baked banana bread; we braved the totally clear treacherous roads and went to the grocery store; Jonathan prepared a slow-cook pot roast for himself; we attempted to watch Transformers II (which was so bad we had to turn it off after ~15 minutes); we watched Sunshine Cleaning instead; and then exercised, did laundry, read books, and went to bed thankful for the whole day.

Today it's sunny and all the snow looks really pretty. I'm glad I live in a city that shuts down with 3-4 inches (since we still get an occasional snow day), but I also miss stuff like owning a snowsuit & boots, sledding, ice skating outside, starting snow day rumors - fun little things that come from living in a sliiiiightly colder climate (that isn't so cold that it's 100% prepared for all snow).

When I was a kid and we had snow days, my mom would sneak into our rooms and turn our alarms off - so it would always be the most fantastic feeling to wake up at 10am and realize I wasn't in class - SNOW DAY! And when I was a lot younger, it was fun because every kid in our neighborhood would meet at a huge hill behind some of the houses - and we would sled all day long. I remember solving the big sledding conundrum (which is how to stop the snow that gets kicked up in front of the sled, blowing into your face and burning) by wearing ski goggles and a scarf-type thing that would cover your head and face. You could sled for hours, burn free! And if your mom was cool like mine, you'd have hot chocolate waiting for you when you got home.

Those were the days - but now, being home from work isn't that bad either!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday!

Hands down, Friday is my favorite day of the week. It starts with a nice, casual day at work: we're allowed to dress business casual, everyone takes long lunches, we leave early. But then there's also just a general happy feeling to the day. Since most stock market-related transactions don't happen on Fridays, everyone is a little more chilled out; there's less profanity heard across the floor; less yelling; less stomping around.

Then I get home early, and have a glorious few hours to myself. And I can accomplish so much during this time! I can have a long workout if I want; I can clean up the house if I want; I can go to a late afternoon yoga class; I can run a couple of errands. There's just something about this time - even laundry or cleaning the house feels better in these couple of hours than it does on Saturday - it doesn't feel like I'm devoting my day to it, it's instead that I have a little spare time, so I'm using it productively.

And Friday night - I love Friday night! Whatever we do, I just enjoy it. (Whereas, sometimes on Saturday night, if we stay in, I don't really love it and feel like we should be out doing something.) But on Fridays? We can stay in, we can go out, it's great - there's no pressure. We can stay up late (since we get to sleep in the next day), or go to bed early and get a lot of sleep. I usually don't cook on Friday nights, but even if I do, there's no time constraint - we could eat dinner at 8pm and it wouldn't matter because we can go to bed whenever. Basically, Friday night is our sweet, delicious oyster.

And can we talk about the first beer/glass of wine on a Friday? I hate to say it, but it almost feels deserved: I survived the work week, I haven't had a drink, I ate healthfully and worked out, I deserve this beer. And man, it tastes good. It tastes colder and more refreshing than any other beer the rest of the weekend.

So friends, cheers! Happy Friday!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

How Do You Feed a Family?

As I sit here typing this post, the aroma of a freshly-made chicken philly from Lenny's is wafting into my office. My coworker who is eating it is a tall, thin, young guy - and fortunately so, because I'm sure those phillies can pack a real calorie punch.


(Cough. Cough. Ahem.)

Anyway. Up until very recently, I didn't know much about nutrition. My mom pretty much fed me most of my meals growing up (breakfast, a packed school lunch, and a family dinner) - and I think she did a good job with balancing foods (there was always fruit, protein, vegetables, dairy, etc.) - and, I mean, she did a good job, period, of feeding a family of four with mostly homemade stuff - I hope to one day offer the same quantity of time spent in the grocery store and kitchen to my own family. But all that aside, even with homecooked dinner every night and packed lunch everyday, there was a lot of unhealthy in my diet. My sweet mother happens to be an awesome cook and awesome baker (so there was always a homemade baked sweet treat sitting around); and in classic mom form, anything we asked for, she bought/made. So if we wanted the newest Hostess snack treat, she'd buy it; if we wanted her to bake a cheesecake, she'd bake it; if we wanted to eat fettuccine alfredo (with real cream, Parmesan cheese, and white-flour noodles) once a week for dinner, she'd make it.

And quantity of food. Oh man. Again, I know this was out of love - and I think as a mother, since we were able to buy whatever food we wanted/needed, she wanted to give us however much we wanted/needed to eat - but man, I ate a lot! Like, huge helpings of things like cheesy pasta, potatoes, pizza, unrefined carbs, full-fat cheese, red meat, donuts, etc. I think for most of high school, I had a sweet bagel (like cinnamon sugar or dutch apple) every morning for breakfast. And my mom was actually famous at my lunch table for the sandwiches she would make me: an asiago cheese bagel with copious amounts of ham and swiss and mayo. We had delivery pizza for dinner a lot on Friday or Saturday nights. And if we had friends spend the night, one of our parents would make a donut run on Saturday morning.

And then I got to college, and it was ridiculous how much I ate! Freshman and Sophomore year, we ate most meals in the "Lair" - the more casual of the two on-campus dining options. Some commonly consumed foods included: french fries, double stacks, chicken phillies, chicken tenders, sub sandwiches, grilled cheeses, pizza, turkey burgers - you name it. And after gaining about 25 pounds those 2 years, I decided to make a change. So I started exercising and learned about nutrition - the classic weight loss strategy - and it worked fine, and here I am now.

But all this food growing up, as you can imagine, took a toll. I was always overweight. But I was also happy. I was happy that I had so much delicious stuff to eat - and in a weird way, I think this style of eating as a kid led me to enjoy food the way I do now - it gave me the ability to really appreciate a good meal. And oddly, having no food restrictions gave me a feeling of Independence. I remember being at a friend's house for dinner in 5th grade. We were having chicken - but lots of small pieces (not just a breast per person or something more measurable). I was allowed to eat whatever I wanted, but when my friend went up to get another plate, her mom said, "you don't need another one." I remember feeling so strange when I heard that - and almost pitying the lack of Independence my friend had over her own body and needs.

But what do you do as a parent - it's a conundrum: you let them eat what they want, and they potentially become overweight; you call them out on how much they can eat, and they potentially develop an unhealthy relationship with food; you feed them only healthy things, they might not like them; you feed them only healthy things, they completely binge when they're at friend's houses or old enough to buy food away from you, also creating an unhealthy relationship with food; you let them eat whatever at home, and when they go to live on their own, they think having a double stack and fries is a good meal option.

But here's where it gets sort of weird: while I suppose I wish I hadn't been overweight when I was younger, I am soooo happy I didn't have the pressure of calories and healthy eating constantly haunting me. And I know that sounds horrible, and that as a responsible person, taking responsibility for what you eat is necessary. But it also kind of sucks. Anytime I eat something unhealthy now, it sticks with me. I think about it, pine over it, feel bad about myself for eating it. Now, if I ate one week of meals I ate my sophomore year of college, I don't know if I'd be able to sleep at night. I'd be on the scale every day, I'd be thinking how much fatter I looked in the mirror everyday, I'd feel the need to work out for hours a day. But before I knew about nutrition, I had no issues.

So what do you do with your kids? Do you teach them about nutrition early on? Do you let them eat whatever they want? Or do you let them be kids, and trust that as smart adults, they will learn about healthy eating? I'm not sure that my childhood would have felt the same - as warm - if my mom didn't bake a lot, or if we didn't have donuts on Saturday mornings, or if my mom hadn't packed my lunch everyday. I would have been thinner, but I don't think happier. It all felt so blessed, so idyllic at the time - and even looking back, it feels that way.

So what were your eating habits when you were younger? How do they (if at all) shape you as an adult eater?

(And as a side note, can I say how funny it is that two people have sent me links to the article about Heinz's new ketchup packet design?? Thanks, guys!)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Zzzzzzzz

Sleeping used to be one of my talents. In college, I had to set an alarm for all morning classes. Sometimes on the weekends, Katie & I had to set an alarm for 2pm so we could make the meal cutoff for the afternoon. An 8 o'clock class was really tough for me - not to mention a 6am Bible study on Friday mornings of my senior year (which I ended up attending rarely to never).

I was even more talented with my sleeping in high school, with the ability to sleep anywhere, anytime. Sleeping locations included, but were not limited to: plays, movies, a Santana concert (I know - I'm awesome), any car ride - no matter the distance/time, floors, buses, airplanes, at two different Cirque Du Soleil shows, and perhaps the most impressive, Disney World. (We were on a school trip to Disney World and I fell asleep at a table while we waited for friends to get off a ride.) Not to mention that most nights, when I got home from school, I would sleep on the couch until dinnertime.

But it's not the random places or even the quantity of sleep that I reminisce about now - it's the type of sleep. I used to get in bed at night, fall asleep, and wake the next morning when my alarm went off. Pretty much all the time. Some nights would be full of dreams. But then sometimes, my alarm would go off in the morning, and it felt like one minute had passed between falling asleep and that moment.

Now, on the other hand, I can say with 100% affirmation that I can't remember the last time I went to bed at night and didn't wake up until the next morning - but it has been at least 4 years. (Aside from nights aided by Ambien - but I try to keep those minimal - and actually haven't taken one since June.) Four. Years. If you are a person who doesn't have any sleep issues, imagine how awful it would be to not sleep through any night in four years.

And one of the truly mystifying things about it is that I don't know why I wake up. Some nights it's because I can't get comfortable; some nights it's because Jonathan is snoring; some nights I'm up worrying about things; some nights I'm scared the boogie man will break into our house; but the majority of the time, I just wake up. And it's infuriating - especially considering my sleeping past.

Now I do think there's something that happens to our bodies as we get older - a stronger internal clock, if you will - that allows us to wake up for work everyday, and wakes us up earlier on the weekends than we might like, and that prohibits us from sleeping until noon like we did when we were teenagers. But I do not think this internal clock prohibits the average person from sleeping through the night.

Or does it? What do you all think? How have your sleeping habits changed, if at all, from when you were younger? And - the question I really want answered - do you all sleep through the night the majority of the time?

(As a side note - our new king-sized bed is awesome! It's really comfortable and HUGE! But no, I still don't sleep through the night. With the increased size, though, it's maybe a little easier to fall back asleep after I wake up - so that's a plus.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

On Books

I was thinking that I probably hadn't updated my Facebook profile in awhile. And I really had no recollection of what was listed in my "favorites." But after reviewing it, no matter when it was last updated, the info still seems to be relevant enough. And I was reminded as I looked at my "favorite books" of some oldies - but GREAT books - definitely on my ever evolving (and growing) list of "favorites" (although a full list could be potentially really long).

What's on the Facebook list:

1) The Brothers Karamazov - I think this book is on there because finishing it felt epic. Does anyone agree?? It's super long - and really well written - and loaded with allegory. I would say anyone who has read it might list it somewhere among favorites, just out of the principle of reading a long and difficult book.

2) The History of Love - Given to me by my husband (then boyfriend), it's a must read. It's pretty complex with lots of different characters, different times & places, a novel within a novel - but it's well worth your time.

3) Midnight's Children - I loved this book! I'm not sure it's for everyone - but I found it to be the most accessible Salman Rushdie that I've read. Really well written - and a plot that nicely moves between different times and places.

4) Heart of Darkness - I first read this in 12th grade; and actually, it was an assigned reading book that I didn't finish within the assigned time - but then went on to finish on my own time, even though my class had moved to a different book. I think that says a lot. This was the first book like this (erring on the post-colonial side) that I had ever read - and it really resonated. Not high on everyone's list of favorites (and I will admit, the plot might be slow at some points), but I loved it.

5) The Alchemist - Such a short, strange, little book. If you haven't read it - give yourself a couple hours (that's all it will take) - it's interesting and unusual.

6) Hotel World - This is a book unlike a lot of other books - it's structurally postmodern - which makes it a little inaccessible. But if you can get past that, Ali Smith does a great job with all the different voices. And the whole book has a sort of ethereal quality to it. It was short-listed for the Booker, so it received some critical acclaim - but I don't think the "one-star readers"* on Amazon would appreciate it.

7) Interpreter of Maladies - I LOVE Jhumpa Lahiri. It's as simple as that. And I would feel comfortable having her other two books on this list as well (The Namesake and Unaccustomed Earth) - she is just an awesome writer. Period. And I would say, if you haven't read Unaccustomed Earth (a book of short stories), there are three stories at the end that all go together - and they took my breath away. Awesome.

8) On Beauty - I also LOVE this book (and I know I've recommended it to a couple people who didn't necessarily have the same reaction) - but I finished reading this and felt inspired to either write a paper or teach an English class or become a professor - something - I just didn't want to close the book and be done. It reminded me what good writing can be: thought provoking, allegorical, a representation/critique of our current culture - so good! (And also, if you read White Teeth and are turned off to Zadie Smith - give this one a try - I didn't like White Teeth that much.)

9) The Time Traveller's Wife - It's a good book - plain and simple. And I think it has fortunately received the recognition it deserves because of the movie. But even though the movie was a little lame, the book is wonderful.

It's a good list, I think. And in current news, I just finished reading The Historian (which I would recommend - it's a historical mystery about Dracula - and who doesn't love a book about vampires??). Then yesterday I started Let The Great World Spin (this year's National Book Award winner). On deck to read next: Netherland.

*On Amazon.com, my husband likes to read the one-star reviews given to really good, critically acclaimed books and make fun of the people who wrote them. The reviews are usually something like "this book was too confusing" or "I had no idea what was going on" or, the latest, "there were too many curse words."