Thursday, October 30, 2014

Waifs or is it Waives

What I learned from Gilmore Girls
So, as you may know, Gilmore Girls just became available to stream for the first time EVAR and since I missed most of the show when it was on TV and have been in the mood for a massive girly binge and had some time this month, I have already blasted through the entire thing. I know, I know, it's so impressive. I even got it all done before I caught this stupid cold that would've given me the excuse of being home sick to justify the binge to the outside world. I don't bother justifying it to myself; it falls under the category of I DO WHAT I WANT and also PROCRASTINATION IS MY FAVORITE FORM OF RESISTANCE (which is an idea I came across somewhere and have been thinking about a lot lately).

I don't actually need to talk about the show because its wonder and ridiculum are both well, well documented. I very much enjoyed shipping Luke/Lorelai, watching Kelly Bishop be amazing and Melissa McCarthy be adorable, and seeing baby Jon Hamm, Danny Pudi, Krysten Ritter, Nick Offerman, Carole King, Sherilyn Fenn (in two different roles), plus a lot of "hey it's that guy!" kind of appearances by actors we've all seen on other shows. Those things all feel like little in-jokes.

I don't really need to talk about the music either--the music on the show was good!--but what I do want to mention is a song that appears in snippet form in a season 5 episode and with which I'm now a little bit obsessed:

So imagine that you're a dental hygienist living in Topanga Canyon and working in Beverly Hills in 1970, and one of your famous composer patients asks for your demo and then helps you record the songs you've been writing in private, and your record gets released and no one notices, and then record freaks discover it over the years and finally in 2000 you learn that your little record has become this cult hit and has been put out on CD. That's what happened to Linda Perhacs (read that lovely profile please), and "Chimacum Rain" is the first song on her 1970 album, Parallelograms. 

Learning about this artist has been my main takeaway from Gilmore Girls. Thanks, TV!

Waifs or is it Waives
I tend not to be big into wispy folk singing types, but I'd been thinking about making a WAIFS playlist anyway, for chilly gray fall days, and "Chimacum Rain" put me over the edge. Still adding to it and haven't put it in order yet, but here it is:

My least favorite dosage directions
"Take to bowel tolerance." The only way to determine this is to get all the way to "bowel intolerance" and then back up a little.

Numbers, real quick
I am a big old work in progress where strength training is concerned but I hit some personal milestones a couple weeks ago that I haven't bragged about/documented anywhere yet. I finished up one strength training program (Fit Woman Blueprint, just the workouts, which I liked--can't speak to the rest of the program) and before starting the next thing (New Rules of Lifting for Women) I wanted to take a little break and do something different. I mostly didn't do any resistance work for a week but one night I went over to the gym with the goal of finding my 1 rep max (1RM) on bench press, squat, and deadlift. I hadn't really done any of these exact standard lifts since the summer, though there were other types of chest/shoulder presses, squats, and deadlifts in the program I was using. I found some online thing to guide me through warming up to the 1RM and followed that, kind of loosely, but I followed it. Here's what I ended up with:
Bench press: 80 pounds
Squat: 115 pounds
Deadlift: 150 pounds
I'm happy with all of those, though the only one I pushed to "failure" was the bench press (it was 11 PM, I work out solo, and I wanted to be sure I had enough gumption to do both squats and deadlifts). I'm certain I could go higher on both the squat and the deadlift. The next goal is a bodyweight deadlift (that's about another 25 pounds, I think), and after that, a bodyweight squat, which is further off in the future unless I decide to focus on squats for some reason. And I want to get standard push-ups!

Important Winnie update
My cat loves kleenex and will dig in my purse to find it. When she finds it, she holds it down with her paws and chews it very seriously and protects it if you try to take it away. The end.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Grown-ass lady doing grown-ass lady things.

40, y'all. 40. 40. I remember when it was just a theoretical age. And I remember being like 33 and realizing that I would one day be 40 and, for the first time, it seemed real. But I didn't have a single drop of anxiety about my actual big birthday. I just hoped people would show up to my party and have fun, and they did, they did! My sisters threw the party for me and my dad tended the bar and so many people that I wasn't expecting to see showed up and stayed! They brought wine and unnecessary gifties and their moneymakers, which some of them shook, and we sang karaoke, and I finally got to do "The Winner Takes it All" and, more significantly, "Wuthering Heights" (while lying on the couch at about 3:30 in the morning, for an audience of two).

I'd been waiting for several years to say "I spit on the grave of my thirties," to be honest (I thought I was misquoting Dorothy Parker, but it might have been H.L. Mencken who said "I spit on the grave of my twenties"--we share a birthday, coincidentally--and I also see it attributed to T.S. Eliot, which made me laugh out loud). Let's say it was a learning decade. It was full of rich, deep relationships and was often extremely fun. It was also emotionally painful and difficult. I got married and divorced. I worked for 6 years in a job that slurped up my will to do anything artistic and productive. I finished my doctorate. I paid off my student loans. I had a fair amount of adventures. I started blogging, back on rickety old Diaryland, 10 years ago! and also pretty much finished blogging, I suppose. I gathered a community around me through blogging that I would never have gained otherwise, though. Some of you are even still reading!

I never knew what the fuck I was doing. I still don't really.

Here are some things I know now, though. Lifting weights makes you feel as awesome as everyone always says. I've been doing it for about 6 months, after literal years of thinking about how I would probably like it and should really do it. (This is how I make decisions: I simmer on it forever, and then one day I snap.) I'm trying to be slow and steady with it, but even so, the nice thing about starting from like zero with strength training is that you make noticeable progress pretty quickly, and progress is a very good motivator. And so now I have little goals in my head, like "next time I do this workout I'm going to use the next dumbbell up." I have never loved my thighs more than when I get to the top of a squat, and let me tell you, that is a huge gift, because I have lamented the aesthetics of my legs my entire life. When I'm at the gym I am constantly yelling "HELL YEAH GET IT GET IT" to myself, silently. Let it be known that in my 40th year I saw, for the first time, muscles rippling in my arms. Don't get me wrong, you'd have to look closely and my arms still jiggle like whoa, but now they jiggle with both fat and MUSCLES that can LIFT THINGS. I also made friends with the power rack and stopped being intimidated by barbells. I like them now. I still feel like a big dummy when I try something new but that's good for me.

Another thing I know is that my mattress had to go. A new mattress wasn't exactly in the budget but again, I've been thinking about it for ages and about 10 days ago I finally snapped. I went to exactly one place and said "show me stuff" and I publicly laid on mattresses for 45 minutes and then I bought one and financed it at 0% for 12 months like a good American. My previous mattress--which I somehow already managed to sell off to a friend of a friend, hallelujah--had been wrecking my back every night for like a year. Just major mid-back stiffness that sometimes wraps around to the front of my ribs. Early in the summer it was bad enough that I'd wake up at 6 and just move to the couch for the rest of my sleep cycle. Or I'd hit my back with some Icy Hot before bed! I'm sure you'll agree that this is totally bogus. I AM A GROWN-ASS LADY. I am a grown-ass single internet-dependent cat lady and I need my sleep, god damn it. This is an investment in my well-being. My new mattress is being delivered on Friday and I can't wait. I hope it fits up the stairs, though, hahaha, gulp.

I know that mung bean pasta is filling my noodle hole. 25 grams of protein per serving, no weird noodle crash 20 minutes after eating it! You can make the whole bag at the beginning of the week and the leftovers do not suffer from sitting in the fridge! They cook up al dente and taste neutrally delicious! Oh naturally it looks like they're being discontinued, or just changed to include edamame, but I bet they will still be good! This has mixed up my culinary life a bit without complicating it at all, since hardly anything could be easier to prepare than NOODLES.

I know that I'm a thousand percent happier freelancing than I ever was in my office job, even though I now live with constant low-level anxiety about money, and I have to be making like 10 grand more a year, minimum, than I am currently, and I need students to take lessons every week, but I can't crack down on that right now because I will lose people I really like working with. Related: so far I've done one wedding and one funeral accompanying myself on the ukulele, which is not something that would've happened if I were still working that job, I'm guessing.

I know that right on cue, as I headed into 40, my skin started doing weird shit, because of general oldness, I'm assuming. I get dry, irritated patches on my face, which I've never had before. Cool.

I know that I'm finally wearing the correct bra size. I know that I'm not going to stop wearing hammer pants. I know that I need to use today to initiate the Great Wardrobe Switchout, which can be a melancholy process.

I know that Gilmore Girls streaming on Netflix for the first time means that my ass is going to be welded to the couch every chance I get.

It's not exactly Wisdom of the Ages stuff, is it? I'm guessing this next decade will offer a bit more of that.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I'm 40 now.

I have some things to say about being 40, and I keep meaning to write them here, but in the meantime I made you (and everyone) another mixtape. Did you know "Love Don't Live Here Anymore," which I always knew as a Madonna song, is actually a cover? I felt like a real dumbass about that, so Rose Royce's original is on this mix. If you haven't already been listening to Robin & Royskopp's "Monument" on repeat, especially on gray days, now is your chance to get on it.  And a bunch of other stuff I've been talking about all year, like Ainslie Wills and Hiatus Kaiyote and Lost in the Trees and Laura Mvula, are all up in this piece too. Please enjoy.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Another year of pro-choice bowling!

Hi buddies. Once a year, I use this dusty space to ask for money for a cause I believe in: reproductive justice. Reproductive justice is, of course, about abortion rights, but it encompasses a lot more than that: access to a full spectrum of reproductive health care, sexuality as a human right, comprehensive sexuality education, support for parenting, support for relinquishing mothers and adopted children, and much more.

Pro-Choice Resources is a local, grassroots organization with programs that reach regional, national, and even international populations. It's not a clinic or a lobbying organization--rather, they work to reduce barriers to reproductive health access, and PCR is the only organization of its kind in the country to offer education, advocacy, financial assistance, and outreach under one roof.

So that's pretty cool, but every year they also host this kick-ass Bowl-a-Thon fundraiser where pro-choice allies from all over the area get together (and frankly, compete) to raise money for PCR's programs. We end up raising at least 10% of their annual operating budget through this event, which is pretty cool.

Every donation in any amount is WELCOME and IMPORTANT. Significant giving doesn't have to mean a large amount of money--if you are supporting something that is significant to you and giving an amount that works for you, you become a significant donor.

I support PCR because I believe that abstinence-only education is ignorant and dangerous, that education and access are crucial to reducing STDs and unplanned pregnancies, that every child should be a wanted child, and that we need to fight a political climate that has become incredibly hostile to women's autonomy. Join me!

You can donate online here. Thanks so much for considering this.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How much did that free parking spot cost me anyway? UPDATED.

I am really not a fan of going to Uptown, first of all. This is just one of the things that makes me Old, but the going to Uptown time of my life has passed and I don't miss it. Still, I can be coaxed there for good reasons, like some essential movie that is ONLY playing at the Lagoon, for example. Or for bar trivia supporting a worthy cause, in this specific instance. The trivia and the friends playing it were the only reasons I went to that stupid bar in the first place.

My car, you need to know, has been kind of a pain in the ass this winter. It starts right up, it's fun to drive, I still love it and feel perfectly comfortable in it, etc, but it is not good in deep snow. What I used to accomplish with the brute force of a large sedan, I can no longer accomplish without pushes from kindly strangers. I'm a good driver in snow and know how to use momentum and steering and such to avoid getting stuck, but sometimes you just get screwed. And at this point in the winter, I am probably not going to buy the snow tires, let's face it, even though I keep talking about it--not unless I come across a really good deal. I should have bought them on Black Friday like all the savvy tire shoppers.

Anyway, so there I was, cruising around Uptown last Wednesday evening looking for a place to park. It was about 37 degrees that day, which I admit I kind of resented. I don't want to be pulled out of my winter groove with tantalizing warmups unless the thaw is well and truly here, and the thaw is still at least 6 weeks away. I'd rather it just stayed reasonably cold until spring. I spotted a parking spot on a free street, which is a coup in Uptown, and I rolled into it. As soon as I parked, I knew I'd made a mistake. Thanks to the warmup, the snow was deep, mushy, and slippery, and I was going to be stuck in it. But I figured I'd deal with it after trivia, when I had friends to help push the car if necessary.

Trivia, which we lost by one point thanks to some illogical scoring rules, morphed into drinks at a new Russian bar that is stupidly clandestine (in the sense that there isn't clear signage outside) but fun. So it was 1 AM when I tried to rock my car out of that spot, with Laura pushing, to no avail. The temperature was dropping and I was digging myself a hole. So I abandoned my vehicle, like a young partying whippersnapper, and got a ride home.

On Thursday, the last thing I wanted to do was go back to goddamn Uptown. But there was a blizzard coming. I rode my bike to Emily's (why?), where I borrowed a shovel, ate some banana bread, postponed the inevitable, and finally called a cab. By the time the cab arrived, the blizzard was happening for real, and the cab could only crawl along with its rear-wheel drive (WHY?). But the cabbie was very kind and spacey and he just turned off the meter, since there was so much RWD-related rerouting. We were having a hard time getting up hills and turning corners. "Let's call it $10," he said. He dropped me off at my car, all concerned for my fate. I paid him $13 (total so far: $13) and commenced to digging.

After about 15 minutes the cab circled back around the block, where I was still resolutely not moving. "I wanted to make sure you got out," he said. He tried to push my car; my car dug itself deeper into a nice little ice rut. Another dude stopped to help push and we got absolutely nowhere. I thanked them and sent them away, determined to use the roadside assistance that came with my car warranty. Well, guess what? The roadside assistance only covers towing for warranty-covered mechanical breakdowns. Otherwise you can roadside-assist your own ass, or pay $85 to get winched out. The person on the phone was very apologetic, and I told her I better explore my options. The snow fell. The minutes ticked by. I was paralyzed by indecision, and immobilized by snow, so once I determined that I wasn't parked in a place where I'd be towed, I decided to go home and deal with it the following day. I bought some gatorade and dill pickle chips to help me retain water ($3) and took the bus home ($2.25). Running total for the free parking: $18.25.

When I got home, I added roadside assistance to my insurance policy--about $5 for the remainder of my policy period. The only reason I declined it in the first place was because of the stupid Mazda roadside assistance. Stupid! Running total for the free parking: $23.25.

On Friday, it was cold as hayull. I bundled up and got on the bus again ($1.75, off-peak, booya!). I got to the car, cleared it off, and ordered roadside assistance with the insurance company app. After a half hour I got a call apologetically informing me that because the roads were such a nightmare in my area (thanks to the thaw-blizzard-freeze trifecta), all tow trucks had basically been commandeered by the police for emergencies and they wouldn't be able to send anyone to me. Roadside assist your own ass, part deux! This is when I finally cried a little bit and started posting sad things on social media about my plight and considered just letting my car be towed to the impound lot, fuck it. Then I googled hardware stores in the area and walked over to the nearest one to buy a shovel with ice-smashing capabilities ($13). I took my new shovel to a coffee shop to soothe myself with treats ($4.50). And then! Friends texted to say they were coming to rescue me! I hustled back to the car and started manically chopping the ice, snow, and slush that had engulfed my front tires. I was manually lifting 20 pound icewads out from under the car and chucking them in the snowbank. Functional fitness!

The rescue operation that ensued involved two friends, a prophylactic call to AAA on their card (estimated time: 2-4 hours), two strangers, some cardboard (useless), my floor mats (equally useless), two shovels (one useless), a costume change (I was way overheated), and pushing out the van in front of me before we all united to push my car out. Grand total: $42.50, plus a ton of goodwill and tire rubber.

Another sign you're Old: you don't drive around trying to score free parking. Next time I'm paying to park in a fucking ramp.

ETA: Oh my god, I can't believe I forgot to add one of the most offensive/sad costs. Thursday night I was supposed to go see Lucius, a show I'd had tickets for for AGES. Guess who couldn't face going back out immediately after getting home on that exhausting/demoralizing Thursday? Add $20 to my tally for the ticket no one could use.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Future ruins.

When we last checked in with our heroine, she was failing at NaBloPoMo. Since then, there has been one lone earnest request for an update. And I truly aim to please, so a month or more later, I am writing in my blahg. It's a snowy day, one of those where the earth and sky are the same color and the monotony is broken up by sloppy asphalt and bare trees. And one lone red icehouse on the lake that briefly disappeared into the flurries this morning and is now a bright spot again, like a cardinal.

It's been cold as hell this winter, you know. It's always pretty cold up here, but this year there have been unprecedented school cancellations because of windchill (and also plenty of snow). There was a lot of bellyaching about that on the social media among parent-friends I know, and I get it, but those were mostly folks who had to arrange childcare and take personal days to deal with the kids being at home--inconveniences, in other words, but they were all able to take care of it one way or another. There are plenty of parents who HAVE to go to work in order to get money and don't have any personal days or sick days or whatever, and plenty of kids who won't get fed if they don't go to school, and plenty of immigrant kids whose parents have no context for this type of cold and no appropriate clothes for standing at a bus stop or walking to school when it's below zero. So I did a lot of scrolling past all of that even though I truly feel for the stir-crazies, I do.

Hooo, I didn't mean to get into that rant! What I was going to say is that without the enforced exercise/winter recreation of biking to a stupid office most days, my way of dealing with winter this year has been to snowshoe or ski almost every day. And if I don't put some weird equipment on my feet to get recreational, I just go for a walk. And it's been really good, even on the days when we were enveloped by the rage of the polar vortex. It makes you feel tuffff. Walking on a lake makes you feel powerful and small at the same time. And I have discovered the joys of being out in the dark in the snow, which was something I avoided when biking was my main winter jam. When it's overcast, there is so much light trapped between the snow and the cloud cover that you can walk at 10 PM on the golf course and see your way and feel safe, no problem. And when the sky is clear, there is a thin bluish light reflecting off the snow that is equally easy to see by. And when the moon is full, you cast a distinct, dark shadow, and almost feel conspicuous out there.

In about a month all of these things are going to feel like very small consolations but as of mid-February, I have not yet had it with winter, which I feel is pretty good.

Another update is that I started volunteering with an organization that supplies meals to people living with HIV/AIDs, MS, and breast cancer (and their families), no strings, no income requirement. Just people making and delivering food to other people. I had been wanting to do something with food justice and this way I get to be in a big commercial kitchen and meet a lot of interesting people while I slop food into trays or, you know, chop onions for two hours (truth). As a bonus, they keep a fridge just for the volunteers and it is always full of frozen meals and cookies they've made in-house. I'm looking forward to working a bakery shift one of these days, but maybe that won't happen unless I take a really early shift (so I guess that means it probably won't happen).

I also randomly got a very part-timey job that is quite amorphous at the moment, but basically involves working as an assistant to some very lovely people on their donor activism (meaning they do a combination of both big-ticket giving and working on the ground stuffing envelopes and door-knocking etc) for radical, progressive social change. It's going to be very collaborative and fun, I think.

And the voice students do trickle in, though it is a very slow trickle and I often wonder what on earth I am doing with myself and why. Then I have a good day of teaching, and I think "yes I do love this," and it's all better for awhile. I wish I knew what it was like to have clarity of vision and purpose because this is not something I have really ever experienced personally. Or, like, vocational passion. I don't seem to have much of that either. I truly think that what I like best is hanging out, either alone or with my peoples. My most contented-to-transcendent moments in the last several months have quite honestly occurred on snowshoes.

I think 2014 is likely to be mostly about vocation, though--not that other years haven't also been, but this year it's probably going to be much more specific than in years past. It feels more important than it has in years past. And it's the central thing in my life right now, because I've recuperated from my marriage/divorce, and have made a number of personal changes that seem significant--living alone, getting a furry companion, buying a new car that feels like me, quitting a job that didn't feel like me at all--and my preoccupation has to be how I am spending my mortal life. And how I inhabit myself completely, whether that is as an artist or a teacher or a compassionate human being or a reliable and wonderful friend/family member, etc. And also how I inhabit my physical body, frankly. These are the things I think about whilst snowshoeing.

I also think of stupid things while on snowshoes, like I finally came up with my roller derby name after observing many gnawed and felled trees creekside: Beaver Damage. Or maybe it's Beaver Damn. I don't know.

There are big family changes happening in 2014 too. My sister Emily is getting married in April, which is very soon and I have things to do for her. I'm making her bouquet and I need help from the Thrift Army: find me some more non-shitty vintage enamel flower brooches in pinks, reds, and pale oranges for under $5 apiece. Sighhhhhh I do like a thrifting challenge but this one is slow going. I don't think I even have half of what I need yet. The problem with these pinteresty crafts is that they drive up the price and drive down the availability of the raw materials. We're also planning the shower and bachelorette stuff right now, too, which drives home how quickly this is all coming up. And most important of all: what on earth am I going to wear, and which color should my hair be?

Once that's all over, we'll be manically awaiting the arrival of my brother and sister-in-law's BABY this summer. It will be so good to have another baby in the family. These kids here are getting too old. Henry is going to be TWELVE in April.

This whole thing is turning into like one of those coffee dates you have with someone to catch up on the last 10-15-20 years (I had one of those recently too, with my high school English teacher). Disjunct, bonkers, overly newsy. Maybe I should just write more often.