Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sports Ramblings Part I

I think people are either true sports fanatics, or they aren't. If you aren't, it doesn't mean that you hate sports. In fact, there are probably a couple specific sports or teams you're really into. You might even enjoy playing on intramural/community teams or elsewhere.

But when you're really in the sports world, you're in it. You know so! much! information! about what's happening. Every sport. You know all the major players within the different sports. And how all the different teams are doing. And historical data about all sports. You read articles about sports multiple times a day. You have apps on your phone that allow you to stay up to the minute on what's going on. You watch ESPN whenever you can. You watch whatever game/match/tournament is on every night. You might say that your least favorite sport to watch is X - but you can still recite pages & pages of data (current and historical) about it.

My husband - and probably a lot of your husbands/boyfriends - is one of these people.  As are most of his close friends, as are my dad and half brother, as was my stepdad.  And I find it fascinating! I just don't understand how one can acquire so much knowledge about something so multifaceted. (Well, I mean, I understand, in theory that it comes from a lifetime of watching games, reading articles, watching ESPN, listening to sports radio, talking with friends, etc.)  These people, though, are otherwise contributing (and successful!) members of society.  It doesn't seem possible that given the amount of knowledge they hold about this one thing that they'd be able to do anything else with their time.

When I think of myself & my own knowledge pools, I'm not sure any of them go as deeply as Jonathan with sports.  Books?  Maybe - but I have a tough time remembering exactly what they're about after some time away.  Art?  Maybe - but it came from studying art history in classroom situations and it's definitely not attune to current art being produced now. Classical music? This is maybe the closest - but it came from years & years of piano lessons, choir, and college classes on music history. Even so, I'll often forget a composer's name, or be slightly unclear the exact musical period in which they were writing.

I think the overwhelming nature of the sports world intimidates me a little. I wouldn't have a problem going through espn.com or something everyday so as to be able to talk with Jonathan about what's going on and know more about what's on our tv every night. But where would I even begin? There's just so much info! So many teams/players/coaches/broadcasters. College teams. Professional teams. Pro players. Amateur players. Retired players. Brett Favre. It's too much!

I have some more thoughts - but you'll have to stay tuned for tomorrow's sports ramblings part II.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Weekend Re-Cappage

We had a fun weekend that has left me feeling quite accomplished.  Some tasks that were completed include: garden weeding, dog grooming, clothes washing, furniture moving & rearranging, and custom picture frame ordering.

In more detail, we had a fun Friday night at the Redbirds game (minor league baseball) with Anna & Kevin.  We followed with drinks & dinner at South of Beale.  The weather was gor-geous and the company was great.  A fun night downtown.

My whole plan for the weekend was to get most of my to-do list completed on Saturday so I could go to the pool Sunday.  Enter rainy quasi-thunderstorms Sunday.  Plan foiled.  But it was ok.

So Saturday, as you can imagine, was spent getting a ton of stuff done.  Laundry.  Weeding.  Dog to the groomer.  Grocery store.  Target trip.  And then in the early part of the evening, we volunteered at "Family Fun Night" at our church.  Jonathan & my post was in the game room, which was definitely the cool place for the kiddos to hang, thus giving us a healthy preview of parenthood at various childhood ages.  I also learned a valuable life lesson: I am really good at foosball when playing against children, but against adults, I suck.  That's an awesome realization, let me tell you.

After church night, Jonathan went to the bar with a friend.  So I found myself at the new frozen yogurt place, YoLo.  It. Is. Awesome.  It's one of those places where you fill your own cup, top it yourself, and then weigh & pay.  It's only been open a week - and the amount of times I've been there is almost enough to make a handful who said that?

There was an interesting sermon at church Sunday morning on "What is Hell?"  Then afterwards, with my pool plan foiled, I had the whole day ahead of me.  Jonathan and I got into some furniture rearranging and you guys, I am so excited about how it looks!  I know I mentioned awhile back about the great living room/dining room dilemma - that is, do we bring a dining room table from St. Louis to our house or do we turn the dining room into a piano room.  We went with option B and it looks really cool.  I've done some "Before" pictures, so I'll post them once I have the official "Afters."

So while I was cleaning the mail pile in our living room, I came across a coupon for $40 off custom framing at a new framer by our house.  We bought a three-picture Sharon Montrose series awhile back and haven't framed them yet.  I had my eye on some frames at Pottery Barn that were sold out by the time I went to order them.  So I'd found new ones from PB online which would work, but they were $130.  I wasn't opposed to paying that, but after I saw the coupon, I thought I'd just try the framer place to get an estimate.  I'm sure you can see where this is going, but I was able to pick out exactly what I wanted, have them size it exactly to the proportions I wanted, and the whole thing was $250.  Score!  So after those are hung, I'll post the pics of the new piano room.

I hope you guys had good weekends, too!

Friday, August 27, 2010

On the 27th Day of August...

Happy Birthday to Brad!  My Fellow 27th day of the month birthday.  Go get a Ted Drewes in one hand (Cardinal Sin, concrete style) and a Schlafly in the other and you'll be set.

I Need Help: Pandora

Do any of you guys know the inner workings of Pandora radio?

I have my account.  The only thing I've ever done to listen to music is click "new station" and enter an artist's name.  So, I searched Norah Jones and now I have "Norah Jones Radio."  I do realize this doesn't only play Norah Jones songs (that it plays stuff like Norah Jones, too).  I understand that aspect.

But my question is this: on my account, there are ~15 stations like that (so, "Norah Jones Radio," "Amos Lee Radio," "Grizzlie Bear Radio," etc.).  Is my "station" my whole account?  Or are the only "stations" associated with my account the blanket stations for the different artists I entered when searching?

I sometimes see people post things on Facebook like, "I have created the best Pandora station known to man."  But if Pandora only works in the way I've listed above, how has a user "created" anything?  The user has really just gone to the station of an artist he likes and is therefore listening to music in the same genre.

Or does it go deeper than that?  Is there a way that my station would be a compilation of all the stations of the individual artists I have in my account?  Or is there a way to rate songs or artists that would then affect the outcome of what I'm listening to?  Those are the only two things I can think of that would justify someone saying he "created" a station in Pandora.

Does this make sense?  Does anyone know the answer?  I would go to Pandora.com to find out myself, but my work blocks it.  Awesome.

Happy Friday, guys!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

All-Inclusive Vacay

The weather outside is finally starting to cool down a little (read: temps in the 90s instead of the 100s), which is awesome.  But it's also making me generally disgruntled to be in the office all day.  SO - how to cure a case of the get-me-out-of-heres??  Daydream about our quickly approaching vacation!

We decided on an all-inclusive resort in Mexico.  Price & ease were the main factors here; when we looked at a possible Hawaiian vacation, we realized we'd be paying about the same for our week in Mexico as we would be for airfare alone to Hawaii!  Insanity.  Ole! it is - not aloha.

We've done one other all-inclusive vacation - our honeymoon - to a secluded resort 30 miles or so north of Cancun.  It was gorgeous and luxurious; we ate & drank for ten days (often starting drinks around 10:30am), lounged at the pool, read about 4 books each, had some spa treatments, did an excursion to ruins in Tulum & a natural water park, had a romantic dinner on the beach, took some yoga & pilates classes, went to some shows at night - basically it was the perfect honeymoon for us: we wanted relaxation & gluttony & romance & didn't want to think or make decisions - and we got all of that.

With this upcoming trip, though, I think I might do a couple things differently.

1) Do the eating portion of the trip better.

I think with the first trip, I knew we'd spent a lot of money, so the whole time, I kept trying to "get our money's worth."  I ended up being really full the whole time we were there - but I didn't want to skip meals per se, because I wanted to make the price worth it.

With this trip, one, we didn't spend that much money, so maybe that thought won't be in the back of my mind.  Two, I'm not going to eat a full plate of something that's only decent.  I have a problem with leaving a lot of food on my plate (because there are starving kids out there!); but I just need to get over that for the week, I think.  Three, when you eat a ton of food, you never really feel the effects of the 300 drinks you have over the course of the day - I think I might like to feel them a little this time.  And four, if my lunch isn't all that delicious, I think I might just eat a bag of M&Ms in the room, or a ton of chips & guac instead of a mediocre sandwich - the mistake I made last time was first eating the whole mediocre sandwich and then eating the M&Ms or chips/guac - no need for that.

2) Eat more little goodies along the way.

I'm pretty sure at our honeymoon place, there was a bar that made fun ice cream drinks & served scoops of ice cream at night.  I had one ice cream drink, but not once did I have a scoop of ice cream.  I love ice cream!  I never eat ice cream at home - so I might as well get some on vacation.  So again, this will go back to the previous comment - I'd rather have a big scoop (or two!) of ice cream than a mediocre dinner.  I think that will mean eating smaller amounts at meal time (unless the food is awesome) to leave room for fun goodies.

3) Do more during the down-time between leaving the pool/beach and dinner.

It might be different now, since it's the end of Summer, but on our honeymoon (late November), the prime "sunning-sun" you'd want was pretty much gone by 4pm.  We had a very luxurious 2-story room at the last place that had an upstairs patio & private pool - so we'd spend some time up there, usually after pool time.  But I think this might be a good hour or two to maybe get in some physical activity?  Even if that means just walking around the resort or on the beach.  Or maybe going to the beach with some drinks to watch the sun set?

4) I'm a little uncertain about this still - but I think I might like to get a liiiiittle more exercise on the trip this time around.

Clearly after our wedding (and the 90 days of 6 day/week workouts [P90X] leading up to it), we didn't want to work out.  Actually, before we left, Jonathan mentioned bringing the Plyometrics dvd with us (which is basically the most intense P90X video there is - it's an hour of "jump training") and I wouldn't let him.  But for this trip - I don't know - I think I might feel better if I do something that requires more effort than, say, moving the chair throughout the afternoon to stay with the sun.  I don't want to be crazy/compulsive about it.  But I think we could easily bring some running shoes and at least walk more.  Or maybe rent a sea kayak and take off (which we did in St. Thomas and loved).  Or do some bike rides around the property (which was offered at the last place, but we never did).  We'll see.  Maybe we'll just lay around like we did last time, which would be fine as well.

Has anyone else done an all-inclusive and have thoughts on the best way to "do" it?  I don't know how you guys feel - but thinking about all this had made me super excited for my trip!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I Interrupt Your Afternoon For a Second....

To wish a belated birthday to my lovely Claire!  I sort of thought she was gone from the blog-reading, which is why I didn't mention it yesterday.  But then I was perusing old posts and saw a new comment from her.  So if you missed it yesterday, she won't mind, go ahead & give her a belated shout out!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lose It!

Sorry about that little snafu yesterday.  I'm not sure if any of you read the unfinished blog post that published at 8am.  Basically, I'd written it weeks ago, but didn't finish.  So I'd set it to post "way in the future" (which was, coincidentally, yesterday) - thinking I'd have a chance to go back and finish it.  But I could never really get it to sound the way I wanted it to - so it sat & sat & sat in my queue until it posted yesterday without my notice.  Perhaps it will get finished and published at some point - but maybe not - no big loss, though, I promise.

So with that aside, I wanted to tell you guys about the iPhone app with which I'm currently obsessed.  It's called "Lose It!" and it's for calorie counting.

Lately I've been of the mindset that I want to stop eating "fake" foods - that is, processed stuff.  But also, I want to stop considering some whole foods off limits - stuff like avocados, nuts, nut butters (the natural kind, obv), full-fat cheese, etc.  And while these things are probably more nutritionally sound than, say, a Pop Tart, they can still have a lot of fat and/or calories.

My main grievance with the Weight Watchers program is that a point is a point is a point.  So a Pop Tart (just to keep going with that) might have 3 points.  Well, two tablespoons of natural peanut butter might have 4, in which case you're thrown into this weird place of "do I eat the Pop Tart, even though it's processed full of junk, or do I waste 4 points on two measly tablespoons of PB?"

So I wanted to find an app that helps me manage calories & isn't annoying to use or lacking in it's online database.  This is where Lose It! is awesome.  So you start by entering your gender/height/weight and come up with a weight-loss goal (lose no pounds a week [maintain]; lose one pound a week; lose 1.5 pounds a week; lose 2 pounds a week) and the program formulates how many calories you need to eat each day to reach your goal.
(And no, unfortunately I got this image from the internet - I'm not lucky enough to eat 1,911 calories a day to lose weight.)

And then you log your foods and exercise.  When you enter exercise, it reformulates how many calories you need to eat the rest of the day based on the calories spent during exercise.  And the database of exercises is tailored to your own height/weight/gender.  So for me, for example, 30 minutes of running at a 10 minute pace will burn 356 calories.

And the food database is really big.  Granted, it's easier since I've been eating mostly whole foods, so finding something like a sandwich from Panera might be more difficult.  But for me, everything I've needed to enter has been on there.  And if it's not, you can manually enter the calories in the item.
(Again, this is an image from the internet.  But how much cooler would you guys think I am if you knew my 45 minute exercise of the day was shooting hoops.)

So we'll see!  I'm hoping to drop a couple LBs before our Mex vacay (where I'll probably re-gain any loss at the swim-up bar - banana mama, anyone?).  But it's a cool app.  I highly recommend.  And actually, even if you don't want to lose weight, it's interesting to see the exercise and how many calories are burned during different kinds.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Books You Can't Put Down

If you're a reader, you know what I'm talking about.  The books you just can't put down when you're reading them.  You read late into the night, during your lunch hour, after work, at the gym - wherever you can eke out just a couple more pages before you have to put it down and continue on with your life.  You finish them in a couple days - a week max - because even though you don't want them to end, you can't bear not reading everyday.

I think common culprits are mystery/thrillers and children's books.  For example, I couldn't put down:
The DaVinci Code (I actually read a page at a stoplight once)
The Lost Symbol
Shadow of the Wind (a mystery set in Spain)
The Swan Thieves (as I said a couple days ago)

Or on the Children's side:
All Harry Potter and Twilight books
The Giver (both when I was a kid and when I re-read it a couple years ago)

And then there are other books - ones that aren't mysteries or written for children - that one way or another suck you in.  Some of these for me were:
Never Let Me Go (a book set in a dystopia-type society)
The Handmaid's Tale (another dystopia)
I Know This Much is True (I brought this on the treadmill with me because I wanted to work out but needed to keep reading)
Water for Elephants
The Time Traveller's Wife
Perfection (a memoir I sort of randomly stumbled on)

But I love this!  I love books like this.  Sometimes they're legitimately well-written, acclaimed books (I think Never Let Me Go and The Handmaid's Tale won major book prizes), and sometimes they're just random books you happen to hear a little snippet about and read on a whim.

Now this list in no way represents what I consider to be some of "the best" books I've ever read.  They're just books that sucked me in (and this is pretty much recently [the past few years] - I'm sure if I dug deep into my brain I could think of many more - Where The Red Fern Grows, anyone?).

So I want to know - what books could you not put down?  Like, really, legitimately, couldn't put down (not just a book that's awesome that I should read).  Because I want to read the ones you couldn't put down!  Even if it's silly - I want to know!  (Although, if it's a murder mystery [a la James Patterson, Patricia Cornwall, Dean Koontz], I acknowledge you probably couldn't put it down, but I won't read those.  They scare me too much.  No, really.  The only reason I can handle Dan Brown books is because there's a historical element to them [but they still scare me].  And no - I haven't read the Dragon Tattoo books & probably won't [too scary!].)

Maybe my question should be though, more broadly, do you guys experience moments like this?  Or do I just have an obsessive personality??

Thursday, August 19, 2010

3-2-1 BLASTOFF

My morning routine at work has become pretty ingrained, and for the most part, unless I'm super super busy, it's the same everyday.  It goes like this:

8am: arrive
9am: eat breakfast
10am: drink one (only) big cup of coffee
~noon: eat snack
1pm: eat lunch

Everything is timed perfectly for my body.  That is, I don't drink coffee before eating because that gives me a stomachache.  I don't eat before nine because that also (sometimes) gives me a stomachache.  I eat a small snack before lunch or else the caffeine in the coffee makes me jittery.

And for the most part, it works perfectly.  Like clockwork.

Well, yesterday was a different story.  Everything took place on time, but at about 11:30, I started to get major coffee jitters.  I had no idea why; and frankly, it was a little annoying because I hate taking my lunch earlier than 1 (it's just a personal choice - but when I take it earlier, I feel like the afternoon just draaaaaags on).  But whatev.  Not a huge deal.

Well this morning, I happened to go into the breakroom to get my coffee when the cleaning lady was in there.  As I reached for the pot, she said, "I'd be careful with that.  The man who works in the office right there [pointing down the hall] used TWO bags of coffee when making it."  Say what?

Ok, guys, we brew Starbucks coffee in our office.  As you all know, I'm sure, that stuff is strong!  Even a huge cup from a pot made with the correct amount can blast you off straight to the moon.  But two?  That's absurd.

So I marched down to his office.  (He might or might not be the most annoying man on Earth one of the co-workers I hate don't necessarily get along with as well as I do with others.)

Me: Hey, I was just in the breakroom and the cleaning lady said she saw you brew with 2 bags of Starbucks?  Is that true?
Him: Well...no.  I didn't brew with two.
Me: Really?  Because that's what she said.  I mean, it's not a huge deal, but you might want to stick a post-it on that pot or something, since for some people [all people, you JA!] two bags might make it a little strong.
Him: Well, I don't brew with two bags.
Me: Ok, then...  I guess just be forewarned, then, that if you get a cup of coffee right now, it's really strong.
[I start to walk out]
Him: I brew with one and a half bags.  But never two.  You know, I like my coffee strong.  But two bags, that'd be way too many.  But yeah, I brew with one and a half.

He then launched into this long stuuuuuupid story about a time he drank too much Cuban coffee when he was meeting with a company in Miami.  But then reiterated at the end, "so, you see, I might brew with one and a half Starbucks bags, but they're nowhere near as strong as that Cuban coffee."

Oh, well in that case.

So yeah, I'm about to blast off again today, even though I cut about half my cup with hot water and milk, and while I was drinking my cup, made sure to drink plenty of water with it.  Friggin jerk.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Urgent Prayer Request!

Two posts in one day!  LUCKY YOU!

But really - I feel compelled to post this.  Amy mentioned her friend Sarah today - and guys - this young woman (and her family/friends) needs our prayers!  She's 27 and was diagnosed with Stage 4 terminal cancer a couple days ago.  Her spirit is absolutely incredible and inspiring.  This is her blog.

I know there's so much illness and despair in everyone's life.  But let's all, for a second, support this friend of a friend in prayer.

And also, let's all be thankful for our own health and the health of our loved ones; it's so easy to take for granted.  It's also easy (as Amy says in her post) to forget what's really important in life.  It sucks that such an awful, heartbreaking situation is what sometimes causes you to get smacked in the face with a reality check. 

Reality - my life is surrounded by life and love and health - and for that, I am truly grateful.

Clarification on Heat

Have you guys seen the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray?  Where he wakes up every single day and it's the same?  And it's sort of cute and charming in the beginning, but by the end, if you see that stupid alarm clock scene one more time you might throw the closest sharp object you can find through the tv?

I've maybe seen it once or twice.

But anyway, I sort of feel like I live my own version of Groundhog Day every year about this time (August).  But it's not the same event, per se, it's the same conversation.  It takes place between two of my coworkers and me (the same two every year) and goes like this:

Person 1: Man, it's soooo hot outside!
Person 2: Oh I know!  Just awful!  You can't even leave the air conditioning.
Me: Can you imagine not having air conditioning, I mean, you'd die.  Literally.
P1: Oh yeah, you couldn't be without air.  It is just soooo hot!
P2: It really is.  I mean, seriously, it wasn't this hot last year.
P1: No.  It couldn't have been this hot last year, I mean, it's soooo hot out.  The low for the day is in the 80s!
P2: Last year was hot, but not this hot.  This is unbearable.

And then I'm left standing there feeling funny - like I'm having dejavu.

So I want to clear some things up.  So that next year, if I find myself in the same conversation, I can refer back to this.

Temperature Timetable

June: it's starting to get hot.  There might even be a few really, unseasonably hot days.  But it's still tolerable.  You can still do stuff outside (even though it's hot).  And the main difference between June and later is that at night, it still cools down considerably.  You can absolutely go to, say, an outdoor nighttime concert.

July: it's hotter.  It's also a somewhat stormy month, with severe storms in the beginning (presumably caused from switching from the milder hot of June into the blazing heat of July).  But by the end of the month (the last couple weeks) it's really hot.  Like, heat advisory hot - literally - the newscasters will call it a "heat advisory" and tell you to stay inside unless you have to leave.  Like, temperatures don't drop to the 70s at night.  The air conditioner never shuts off.  In the mornings when you first wake up, it's still hot.

August: the first 2-3 weeks are just as hot as the end of July.  There are still heat advisories.  The temps don't go below 80.  And then after those 2-3 weeks, it cools off.  But it's still hot - it's still in the mid-90s everyday (it just feels cooler because on some of the hot days from the weeks before the temps were "102, feels like 112").  We maybe start to get a little cooler at night, though (into the 70s), which makes the mornings slightly cooler and doesn't allow the day-time temps to reach quite as high as heat-advisory temps.  But it's still hot.  This is the point I'd like to drive home.  It is this hot every year - we just forget.

I'll also probably have to do a similar post in October, because I feel like there's a similar dialogue about the hot temps then.  BUT - I'm going to close now with a note from present-day, mid-August Jackie to future, end-of-September Jackie:

 Dude.  It's not hot now.  Even though the highs for the day might still be in the 80s (and yeah, I know, it sucks because Fall is our favorite season and St. Louis has such a lovely Fall that Memphis just doesn't), but the 80s are NOTHING compared to what we had at the end of July/early August.  Remember those days?  Remember when you were at Concert in the Garden with KC & Katheryn and you thought there was a bug crawling on your arm?  And you went to swat it away only to realize it was a trickle of sweat?  Remember when Jonathan complained multiple times a day about how hot the house was (and yeah, I know, he still complains now [I know - so annoying!]), but at least he's only complaining now once a day.  Remember when you were at the Junior League thing at BRIDGES and the final task was outside in the sun and you had to get all the girls over that wall?  And you were the one pulling them up and everyone was so sweaty that they're arms were slipping through your grip?  And by the end, your hair was soaked through with sweat?  Yeah, girl.  Cowboy up - you're fine now.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Inner Fat Girl Syndrome

We were informed about a month ago that our first official Junior League event would be a day-long retreat at BRIDGES for all the new members.  Mentioned in the email were terms like "team-building activities" and "high and low ropes course."  And I didn't need to hear anymore.  I was overcome with anxiety because the only memories I have of doing anything like that are clouded with emotion from my inner fat girl.

My inner fat girl comes from the middle school/high school decade of my life (ie, the last time I did any kind of team building/ropes course activites).  She's out of shape, overweight, and not particularly comfortable with harnesses or the thought of her peers lifting or carrying her.  Even though I'm not necessarily "the fat girl" anymore, the emotions from my childhood stay with me in certain circumstances (thankfully they're repressed most of the time).

And it's weird.  It's weird that my confidence - confidence in myself, and even in my strength - can be instantly derailed with the mention of something like a ropes course - that those words can bring back such strong associations from childhood.  And it's weird, still, that upon arriving at BRIDGES, one of the ways I was calmed with what was ahead was by acknowledging that there were some fat girls in our group.  It's horrible!  I know!  I hate that I was forced into this strange, judgemental state of mind.  But just to be completely honest (since, you know, it's my blog and I shouldn't really have to censor), I was.  And that's how the inner fat girl works - she thinks in drastic extremes: fat/skinny, able/unable, out of shape/fit.

So we got there.  I was nervous.  Especially once I actually saw the high course, because, as appropriately deemed, it's friggin high.  We spent the morning, though, doing some standard team-building games.  The classic "we have 4 long wooden beams and have to balance them on the wooden blocks in the middle of the 'river' to get everyone across."  Which was fine.  (And actually, sort of a funny aside: when you're an adult group doing that activity, 1) it's not as tough to figure out as when you're a kid, and 2) you're on more of a time schedule than if you're say, at camp - so likely, if you drop one beam "in the river," they'll probably let you have it back pretty soon or else it will take up too much time.  Oh adulthood, how you've jaded me.)

Anyway.  We also did the standard "spider's web" game where there's a web constructed in the center of the room and you have to pass each person through it (not using the same hole twice) to get everyone to the other side.  When I saw the web, I had a brief inner panic "OMG they're going to have to lift me what if I'm too heavy what if I don't fit through any of the holes!?" but it was calmed again, embarassingly, by sizing up some of the other women and determining that I was not the heaviest in the room.  And it was fine, of course. 

But then after lunch, it was go time.  My group would do the high ropes course first and the rock-climbing wall second.  I should clarify now that the weight-related anxieties of the inner fat girl were calmed, and instead replaced with the other element of inner fat-girl syndrome, the I'm-not-strong-enough-or-in-good-enough-shape.  This was not a height issue for me.  I mean, yes, heights are scary, but they don't cause me anxiety.  This was strictly an inner voice telling me that I was unable to do it because I wasn't physically strong enough.  (And if you're wondering - the answer is yes - you can sit out for any activity you want.  Their theme is "challenge by choice."  And actually, quite a few girls sat out the high ropes course.  Or they rode the lift up, and then came right back down [presumably because of height issues].)

So it was my turn.  I was last in our group (which caused inner-alarm: "everyone is going to watch you").  I rode the lift up (~40 feet in the air) and was on this tiny platform with a BRIDGES employee.  I freaked out.  I was hugging the metal pole that ran through the center of the platform.  "I want to go back down."  This guy, though, clearly well-trained at his job, I think could tell that it wasn't a height issue for me.  So he talked me up.  I don't remember exactly what he said, but it was something along the lines of "you're only limited by your mind, your body is capable of doing anything your mind will let it do.  And you can't let your mind convince you that you aren't good enough." 

It was what I needed to hear - it was really what I needed to hear, not just at that moment, but for my life in general.  So I did it.  I walked across the two shakey metal poles to the next platform.  Then I stepped off the edge of that platform (into the air!) to be quickly propelled forward on a zipline to the next platform.  Then I climbed across the final element, a rope cargo net, and was safely lowered to the ground.

My group immediately went over to the climbing wall (like the kind you see in sporting goods stores - the rock-loooking wall with lots of fake rocks of different colors and sizes).  I wasn't as nervous, but still slightly concerned ("what if I don't have enough arm strength to even get up a couple feet?").  But, as I'm sure you can predict because of the positive turn of this post, I did great.  I was strong and fast, and was able to use my height to my advantage, really reaching for far rocks.

I know this is going to sound totally lame, but I'm soooo proud of myself!  I felt like, through completing those things, I've sort of proved myself....to myself.  That is, I maybe don't need to carry around the ghost of my inner fat girl as much as I do.  That healthy eating and exercise have actually changed my body.  I'm able to do things now that I physically couldn't do before because I wasn't as healthy.  And I feel awesome.  I'm so so proud that I didn't come back down from the first platform - I was literally about to be lowered. 

I hadn't been looking forward to a whole Saturday of Junior League or particularly, a day of campy activities (because really, my Sunday was going to be super stressful trying to do all the weekend chores in one day).  But it was so great. Totally worth the cleaning & laundry of Sunday.  And who knows - it might have made a climber out of me, because I really want to go to BRIDGES on "open climb" night for the community.  My my how things have changed in this decade...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Pull Out Your Pearls

I joined the Memphis chapter of the Junior League.  Yes, I realize this sounds sort of silly, or at the very least, overwhelmingly Southern.  But if you're unfamiliar with it (as I was, since I used to define "junior leaguer," in my mind, as a giant collection of women who wear pastel suits/kitten heels/pearls and go to daytime luncheons), it's actually a community service group.  And on top of that, even though there's definitely a big social element to it, it has a somewhat strong underlying "girl power" theme that runs through the whole thing.

So I'm excited about it.  I've been wanting to volunteer for awhile now, but was having trouble pinpointing exactly what to do.  This will be a good way to sample lots of different types of volunteering.  And will force me to actually get out there and do it; literally - because in your first year, there are a TON of requirements for different projects.  I'm also hoping to meet some new people, so I think this will be good.

We had our first official event on Saturday.  It's totally deserving of its own blog post, though.  But in the meantime, to keep your interest piqued, I'll give you a hint.  Two little words: ropes course.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Swan Thieves

I've not done a great job blogging about books I've been reading.  And now, instead of trying to remember the past three month's worth of reading (although I can say some standouts were Little Bee, Bee Season, and Eat Pray Love), I want to give special attention to the book I just finished:

The Swan Thieves, by Elizabeth Kostova

This is Kostova's second novel (following her bestseller The Historian).  Both novels share similar structure, prose style, and genre (historical-type mystery), and I enjoyed each immensely.

My problem with modern mystery novels is that: they aren't written eloquent and/or they're scary (ie, lots of murder, rape, tense situations, etc.).  I know this isn't necessarily everyone's preferred taste - but for me, because of these "issues," Kostova's novels are awesome.

They're written really well - with eloquent, smooth prose.  (She went to Yale and got her MFA from the University of Michigan, and I think you can tell from reading them.)  And they're constructed unusually, not just a straight story with one narrator from start to finish.  The Historian is about historical Dracula and travels across several countries and decades while trying to "solve" the mystery. 

The Swan Thieves is an art history mystery.  And I couldn't put it down!  It switches voices constantly; and travels between 21st century America and 19th century France.  Art history buffs will recognize this as the peak of French Impressionism (my fave - so cliche - but I love it!), which makes it so much more interesting.

I highly recommend.  And actually, I think it'd make a nice book to end the "summer reading" season and move into Fall, since it's still a gripping mystery, but is written a little better than, say, James Patterson's newest (The Historian, on the other hand, is definitely more of a cold-weather book).  I'd sort of challenge anyone to read a couple chapters of either book and not become intrigued enough to want to continue.  I'm sort of sad I finished yesterday.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Green Thumb

"Green Thumb...or Lack Thereof" is perhaps a little closer to the truth. 

I can say with certainty that Jackie's Garden failed miserably this year.  When choosing a bed, there were two options: I liked option one; Jonathan's parents liked option two.  So I went with two, mainly because a) his parents are really good gardeners themselves, and b) if I'd gone with option one and it failed, I knew there was potential for a bad case of I Told You So (although, it would've been in his dad's soft-spoken, non-judgemental voice, "you know, maybe next year you should try the other bed by the side door," but maybe with just a little judgemental thrown in, "you know, maybe next year your should try the other bed by the side door, the one we originally suggested").

Anyway, I realized pretty soon that bed two was a bad option for the reason I'd originally thought: even though it's a West-facing side of the house, there's an enormous tree that blocks sunlight for all but about one hour a day.  His parents thought this bed was the better option because they'd sort of underestimated the size of the tree.

Once I realized this fact, I became uninterested in Jackie's Garden, since I knew the tomatoes probably wouldn't grow.  Then the door to the crawl space of the house fell and crushed one of the plants.  I became more uninterested.  Then there were puppy prints in the bed and all the basil plants were dug up. Aaaaaaand I was done.  Mission unaccomplished.

I've been a little better about tending my plants in the front of the house (8 new azalea bushes, some other flowering plants, and two ferns in hanging baskets).  The ferns though, don't look too awesome at the moment.  They're still alive - but they aren't lush and low-hanging like some of the ones I've seen in my neighborhood.  And the azaleas - well, I just water them a lot and hope for the best.  I'm terrified of finding them dead one day and knowing the culprit.

All this to say, though, I love the idea of being "a gardener."  I so badly want the plants to live.  And with that in mind, I'm thinking about getting two window planter boxes for under the two front windows in our house.  Does anyone have any experience with window boxes?  My mom keeps some boxes on her deck and they are lush and beautiful this year.  I want that.  I just don't know if it will happen.

Monday, August 9, 2010

H-Town

We spent this past weekend in Houston at the wedding of my college friend, Lauren.  And overall, the weekend was fine.  It was fun.  Not super epic, nor will it be etched into our minds as The. Best. Wedding. Weekend. EVER!  But it was good - and really nice to hang out a lot with Katie & Brian.

We got in town Friday and headed to the rehearsal dinner, which was at a sort of saloon-type bar/restaurant.  And after, we went to a local dive bar that, we were told, used to be a stripclub.  It was a good night.  Katie & I chatted with the bride and wedding party for most of the night, and Jonathan/Brian played shuffleboard at the RD place, and darts at the dive bar.

Saturday morning, Katie and I were invited to a bridesmaid-type luncheon.  This was one of the standout moments of the weekend for me because it was held in a home unlike anything I'd ever seen before.  It was the penthouse (so, the top three floors, 29-31) of a really nice - like, marble floors, gold leaf, huge chandeliers - condo building in Houston.  The girl's dad is the CEO of a very well know, public accounting firm.  It was styled impeccably; the whole exterior was floor to ceiling windows; and the toilet had a computer hooked up to it so you could get a "front wash," a "back wash" or a fan dry (I tried the fan - it was a nice warm breeze).  Pretty awesome.

Saturday during the day was probably the most humorous, mainly because we had no idea what to do in Houston.  Jonathan shot down the idea of going to walk around Rice; Brian shot down the idea of walking around an art museum; and Katie & I shot down the idea of going to a bar all day.  So instead we: 1) ended up accidentally eating at the same restaurant we'd eaten at the night before; 2) walked through Crate & Barrel; 3) went to Sprinkles Cupcakes (which, I thought was awesome - I got banana with chocolate frosting - mmm); 4) acquired some kind of contact rash; and 5) played Scrabble in our crappy hotel's lobby - a gameboard that, by the end, contained the words, "TW*T," "BEDICKED," and "IMA."

The wedding and reception were nice.  I'd say they were pretty much what I now consider a "standard" wedding ("standard" for the type of weddings I usually attend: that is, upper-middle class Southern people who went to the same small, private, liberal arts college as me).  It was in a pretty, old church; the bride looked gorgeous; the reception site was cool; the flowers were beautiful; it had an open bar; a classic wedding band; and a nice buffet.  You could say the The Three D's were successfully achieved: Dining, Drinking, and Dancing.

It made me wonder a little bit if most weddings are going to seem the same, for the most part, as we get older.  It will obviously be different if it's: 1) a family wedding; 2) the wedding of a really close friend; 3) a wedding where 20+ of your good friends are there; 4) one of those random weddings that cost $100,000+; or 5) a wedding where one of the three D's is NOT achieved.  But other than those, I'd say weddings are just, fine.  This weekend's was fine.  I certainly wouldn't have wanted to miss it; but I also don't think I'll necessarily remember it for the rest of my life.  It was fine.  It was fun.  And the love from the weekend has come back to Memphis with us in the form of Jonathan's contact rash - so we get to reminisce even longer.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Equality

This is slightly old news, I suppose, since all the Prop 8 stuff happened a couple days ago.  But I was thinking about it after the new California ruling, and I continue to be overwhelmed with this simple question:

WHY isn't same-sex marriage legal?

I know this is in no way an original thought - that people dedicate their lives to fighting for this - that anyone in a same-sex couple obviously cares 1000x more about it than me.  But I think one could argue, even from a non-partisan standpoint, that "allowing" or "not allowing" it doesn't even seem like a right the government should have.  As if the government shouldn't "allow" candy to be sold anymore because of the obesity epidemic.

I hope sometime soon all people will be "given" equal human rights.  Hopefully the ruling a couple days ago is a baby step in the right direction for the country.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fancy Seeing You....Again

Do you ever find yourself in a situation where you constantly run into the same person over and over again?  You go to the grocery store, the person is there.  You go on a walk, the person is also walking.  You go to a random event - say, the annual meeting of the association of southerners against the production of silk - and lo and behold, the person is there!

It starts to get weird.  You realize you run into this person more than you see most of your friends.  Because you're seeing him once or twice a week.  Your mind wanders to a sort of weird place, "is it possible that this person is somehow following me?"  "Am I somehow following him?"  "Why??"

Yeah.  This whole scenario?  I'm living it right now.  Living it, too, with the funniest possible person, in my opinion.

The guy I sort of* dated eons ago - when I was young and didn't care about having a relationship (or really anything but myself, my friends, the bar, circle of death, porch nights, etc.).

*I say "sort of" because in total, we didn't really go out that many times.  And the closest conversation we had to defining a relationship went something like this:

Me: "My mom is coming in town this weekend!"
Him: "You know, I wouldn't be opposed to meeting her - I'd like to, actually."
Me: "Probably not.  I don't really think we're there yet."

That was the way things went in our interactions - he said something, I shot it down, we moved on.  You can imagine how interested I was in that.  So the whole thing ended pretty quickly (and I should say, somewhat poorly/immaturely on my part - ie, I just stopped calling/answering his calls until he stopped trying).  I don't really care, though.  Maybe that's bad?  I still don't care, actually, even now, years later, and we're seeing him (and hearing him - the loudest talker you've ever heard) everywhere.

Literally, though, everywhere.  Grocery store.  Farmer's market.  Driving in the next car.  Rhodes pool.  Gym.  Hold Steady Concert.  Al Green concert.  All arts events in this young art group we're in.  It's almost like we know now, if we go someplace, there's a pretty strong chance he's going to be there.

Could he be following me?  Not sure I would put that past him, seeing as he did a day's worth of yardwork at our house when we were out of town one time AFTER TWO DATES! 

If you don't hear from me for a few days...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Social Media Stalking

The title of this post is not to be confused with one of my favorite pastimes at work the practice of "facebook stalking."  That is, reading other people's pages (people you haven't talked to in awhile, maybe even people you don't know that well?) to figure out what's going on in their lives.  I cast no judgement on fellow facebook stalkers (or blog stalkers, while we're at it).

But what I'm genuinely concerned about is a less breezy form of stalking (because my form of "stalking" - totally breezy).  I saw a segment on soft news (the Today Show) a couple weeks ago about crime as a result of social media.  DUNH DUNH DUUH!  Specifically, break ins at people's houses/apartment because their social media (facebook, twitter, or blog) said they were either out on the town or out of town.

I'm not sure this had necessarily crossed my mind before.  But now, I'm starting to notice all the time when it's done on facebook or blogs (I don't do twitter - but I'm sure it's rampant there as well).  And actually, if you guys start to notice, too, I think you'll be shocked!

"On our way back from a great trip, can't wait to see the puppies!" [after facebooking about the trip in FL the whole time]
"At the bar."
"Experiencing the night life."
"HS reunion meeting."

These are all actual posts on my facebook from today.  Totally innocuous, right?  Unless you're a burglar.  Then it might as well say,

"I'm going to be gone from my house for X amount of time, now's your chance!"
Or if you're on vacation and blogging/facebooking about it, "Seriously man, any time this week is your chance to have at my big, empty house.  I'm G-O-N-E!"

I hate to be paranoid.  And on my facebook, I only allow friends to see any of my info, anyway.  But this blog?  No security.  I'm not sure how twitter works - but is there any security there?  I guess, too, it might depend on the burglar.  For example, in thinking about the people caught for break ins in Memphis, I think it's reasonable to guess they are not looking at social media to find their target.  But maybe in other cities?  Maybe the people who look to social media to find their targets are the really creepy ones.  In which case, you might want to be a little more discreet in posting at which exact bar you're enjoying that brew.

Is this paranoia at it's finest?  Or a reasonable concern in the age of technology?

Monday, August 2, 2010

I (heart) Yog

On Saturday of this past weekend, something incredible happened: the new TCBY by my house opened! I loooooooove delicious, lowfat frozen yogurt!

There used to be one in Midtown, but because of the constantly stoned teenagers that smoked up & hooked up on the job it closed. While those few years TCBY-less were tough, I feel happy that the new one is a few blocks closer, putting it in easy walking distance from my house! Frozen yogurt in walking distance? Score!

We had our inaugural visit on Saturday afternoon and, as expected, it was the perfect way to cut the 100s-all-week heat.

I'm really excited about this. No seriously. Really, really excited!