navel gazing

Note unrelated to this post:  MacBook, you are ON NOTICE.  When I unplugged you from power source to start typing this post, you were fully charged.  Twenty-three minutes later, you alerted me that I was now running on reserve battery power.  Unacceptable.  To the genius bar for you, young man.

Over the weekend we took a whirlwind trip to California, to go to Monterey for the wedding of my college roommate.

One of the most frustrating things about visiting Northern California with John is that it is literally impossible for us to see all of the people we love out there in the course of one weekend.  This is doubly true when we have to drive down to Monterey for an event, since Monterey is technically about 90 miles from where our friends live.

The wedding was beautiful, and my friend was so happy and radiant that it was impossible not to feel privileged to be a part of her day.  And we got to see some of John’s best friends, including one who is a few days away from a tremendous accomplishment, after many years of hard work, so it was great to spend time with him to celebrate.  Still, though, when we got on the plane to come home I couldn’t help but feel a little wistful about all the people I didn’t see.

What I didn’t feel wistful about, surprisingly, was leaving Northern California.  This was sort of unexpected.  You see, for years, whenever I got on a plane to leave California, I felt sad – California felt like home to me, and everywhere else was just a place where I was temporarily until I got to return home.

But on this trip, for the first time, I found myself not wishing that I lived in San Francisco.  Sure, I still love it, and I still spent much of the trip lobbying John to go to my favorite places to eat for food we can’t get back in Chicago.  But there was no part of me that wished we lived there.

There were a lot of things it turns out I don’t miss.  Talking to our friends who live in an adorable one-bedroom and discovering they pay more in rent than we pay in a mortgage?  I don’t miss that.  Driving on the 101 in traffic?  I don’t miss that.  Spending hours talking about the rarified world of Silicon Valley technology, where everyone knows the name of the founder of the Next Big Startup, when I don’t work in tech and never will?  I don’t particularly miss that.

(Our lovely friends do, in fact, work in tech, and it’s fun to hear them talk about their work, but the constant hum from everyone around you of “this startup just got this guy and that one just got that guy and this one just got X dollars of funding and that one just lost is next round of angel funding” makes my eyes start to glaze over.)

Yesterday morning, as we were packing to leave, the California State Supreme Court delivered its ruling upholding Prop 8.  As we drove to the airport, we passed a protest on the corner- people holding signs, some dressed in wedding gowns, objecting to the decision and pledging to continue the fight for equal rights. Dozens of cars (including ours) honked in solidarity and support as they drove by.

I felt a rush of affection for California’s culture of protests and the progressive tendencies of the neighborhoods where I’ve lived.  But I also was reminded of how broken California is, what a joke it is to have a state constitution that requires a 2/3 majority to pass a budget, but only a simple majority popular vote to take away rights from a minority group, and how bad the state is at addressing the needs of its poor families.

I don’t pretend that Illinois has this stuff figured out- god knows we don’t.  But these days, instead of wishing I could chuck it all and move back to the Bay Area, I found myself ready to come home – to Chicago.


My birthday was Saturday.  It was a big one: the kind that end with a zero.  I feel relatively unfazed by it, perhaps because I haven’t given it too much thought (busy at work, sister just had surgery, dear friend in personal crisis- too much going on to really fret over it).  One thing that does make me uneasy about birthdays, however, is how they serve as a stark reminder for the various ways in which I sometimes suck at friendship.

I am truly surprised and sincerely grateful when people remember my birthday.  I’m not picky about the medium- I love and appreciate cards, texts, and even facebook messages.  But with each birthday wish that I receive,  I feel a vague sense of panic as I run through my very fuzzy memories of the past year, trying to remember if I remembered to wish that person happy birthday when it was their special day.  Too often, I’m afraid, the answer is “nope, I totally forgot.” And then I feel bad and berate myself for being such a disorganized loon.

I fear it says something sad about me that one of my primary feelings associated with receiving birthday wishes is guilt.

The route I sometimes run in the morning takes me past several schools, including the largest high school in the city.  (It has 4300 kids.  I went to a school with 3200, so I’m hardly a small-school girl, but 4300 seems mindbogglingly big to me.)  This morning I start work a little later than usual, so I went for my run at about 7:15 instead of my usual 6am.  An unexpected side effect of this delay was that I was running past the high school right as kids were streaming in for the day.

Is it embarrassing to admit that I got a little bit of a high school anxiety flashback?

I didn’t loathe high school, but I certainly didn’t love it.  Like many, I felt nervous and self-conscious and left out much of the time (this despite the fact that I had some truly stellar friends, several of whom I am still close with today, 15 years later.)

Running around the school this morning, in my schlubby yoga pants and sweaty face and slow, plodding pace, I felt that old familiar pang of self-consciousness.  As I passed a group of boys, they burst into laughter, and I immediately assumed they were laughing at me.  (Which = preposterous, as I’m certain that a group of sophomores pays about as much attention to the 30 year old lady jogging past them as they do to their geometry teacher.  As in, not much.)

It’s funny: when I was a teacher, I walked confidently through the halls of the schools I worked in, never really worried about what the kids thought of me.  (Because I knew, for the most part: they either thought I was pretty cool or totally annoying, and I was fine with both assessments.)  Even now, when I’m doing schools stuff for my work, I can walk into the halls of a high school or middle school and feel just fine, even though those kids don’t know me at all.  But something about jogging past them in all my sweaty non-glory made me feel a little nervous and awkward. It reminded me of the time when it seemed like so much could turn on an offhanded comment or a minor mixup or an embarrassing gaffe.  And I was in high school in the mid-90s, when we were all about grunge-y tshirts and baggy jeans, so I didn’t even have to worry about committing social suicide by carrying the wrong purse or wearing jeans by the wrong designer like kids do today.  (Or at least that’s what Gossip Girl would have me believe.)

Around this time of year, as the weather starts to turn and spring and summer approach, I often feel pangs of nostalgia for the old days.  I recall how free it felt to go out, newly-obtained drivers’ license in hand, music way too loud, hanging out with friends on the beach as the weather got warmer and the nights got longer.  I think of awkward, long-anticipated first kisses in parks on balmy spring and summer nights, and the rush of staying out past curfew and speeding home, hoping not to get in trouble.  I remember sitting on the sand with a high school boyfriend, watching a lightning storm roll over the lake, talking about college and the future and the joy of feeling for all the world like someone really got me for the first time.

I usually think of these times a little wistfully, thinking that my adult life could use a dose of that exhileration.  But jogging past the high school this morning, I remembered that it was exhilerating in part because there was the ever-present risk of rejection and embarrassment, angst and anguish.  And so today, as I plodded along in my old-lady sweats, I felt pretty okay with being past all that.

It being Monday, I could update you on my weekend, which featured:

  • a Friday night happy hour that somehow extended itself to 1am;
  • a great play at the Steppenwolf, where I spilled a glass of wine on myself at intermission and then promptly ran into my boss as I pawed at my chestal region trying to mop it up;
  • and a lazy Sunday made even lazier when I went out to the car to run errands and discovered the battery had died, so instead of going on errands I sat in my jammies in our apartment waiting for AAA to arrive.

But the weekend ended on a truly high note with the return of the Golden Globes. I have no shame. I love awards shows. I don’t love the SPEECHES, per se, but I love the fashions and the ridiculous red carpet specials and the delicious, ever-present possibility that someone famous will do something tremendously stupid/clumsy/awkward/totally inappropriate.

I also truly adore Go Fug Yourself, and was delighted to learn that the Fug girls would be liveblogging the Globes red carpet. So even though I had to do some work last night, it was made so much better by the fact that I could put the tv on in the background, crack a beer, and enjoyed comedy gold such as this, from the Fug girls talking about Kate Winslet and Leonardo DeCaprio’s interview with Ryan Seacrest:

It’s a big ol’ lovefest here. He adores her, she cherishes him, they both value working together, etc. Thank God they’re not actually dating, because what the hell could you call them? Kato? Lete? No. Doesn’t work.

And this gem:

It’s the Disney-friendly segment of the show: Ryan talks to the Jonas Brothers, and then gets the entire Cyrus family. Miley looks very cute and much more age-appropriate than she did at the Oscars, but then complains that she only got a HAND-ME-DOWN Porsche for her sixteenth birthday and we lose all feelings of goodwill for her. Stop complaining, you spoiled brat. Some people only get hand-me-down floor mats. America’s collective broke asses aren’t going to have much sympathy for your struggles with your mildly used luxury sports car.

In lieu of a clever transition, I’m going to completely jump topics now.    As you may have heard, today is Delurking Day!


Complete with vaguely creepy flasher-man logo! So hey, if you’re out there and reading and perhaps have not said hello before, do so today!

Maybe you could tell me your favorite Golden Globes outfit trainwreck (my nominee: a tie between Renee Zellweger’s mountain of crazy:

and Drew Barrymore’s insane hairdo):

Or tell me why I’m a big loser for watching the Golden Globes at all. Or just, you know, say hi.

Like every other person in the country, I’ve started out the new year recommitted to my exercise regimen. I will lift! And kick! And jog! And it will be great and my pants will fit again!

You know how when you work out hard, you get sore muscles? It’s a good sore, that satisfying feeling of “yeah, my quads ache a little, but that means it’s working!” Sometimes I will even casually drop it into conversation, saying smugly, “yeah, my arms are so sore! I’ve been working out!”

You know what’s good for achieving that effective smug sore muscles feeling?  That  30 day shred everyone talks about. I have it. I love it.

Except. Recently I’ve noticed that when I do vigorous shredding, it hurts my back. I have had over a year of back and neck problems, which required several months of physical therapy, and so am very sensitive to things that hurt my back or neck, and avoid these things at all costs. (Or regret them immediately afterward. I’m looking at you, California Screamin’.)

excellent for people with neck pain.

Fast and upside-down roller coaster: excellent for people with neck pain.

So I’ve been having an internal struggle about whether to stop doing the Shred.

I’ve been making a list of pros and cons.

only 20 minutes

back pain

arms are looking AWESOME

back pain

Pants fitting better

Involves doing a bunch of maneuvers, like push ups, that force me to confront the reality that our rug is kind of gross and could really use vacuuming.

“Feeling like a badass” level has increased one million percent.

back pain.

It’s been going on like this for a few weeks now, this pro-ing and con-ing.

Yesterday, after doing level 2 (I’ve downgraded to doing mostly levels 1 and 2 because of the back pain) I filled John in on this debate.

“So what do you think?” I said.  “Should I stop doing the shred?”

“Um,” he said.

“What?” I said.

“Seriously?” he said.

“WHAT?” I said.

“Where does your back hurt?” he said.

I indicated generally throughout the back region, especially in the mid back.

“Dude, those are your lats,” he said.  “Those hurt because you are SORE.  From LIFTING.”

“Erm…” I said.

“Do you have any spasms?” he asked.


“Pain in your lower back?”


“Pain in your actual neck, where it was hurt last time?”


“Were you not aware that you also have muscles in your back? And that probably half of the exercises you just did are designed to work those muscles?  That, in fact, strengthening those muscles makes it LESS likely that you’ll hurt your back or neck again?”


“What was it you were saying to me smugly the other day about your muscles being so sore but it being the GOOD kind of sore, because it meant you were a workout badass?”


Ahem. So! Excuse to bail on new year’s resolution: foiled! Back to shredding!

There’s a lovely blog list thing going around where people reflect on the past year and think about the year ahead, and in my head I had kind of made a pre-New Year’s resolution that my first act of 2009 (aside from drinking too much and kissing John and then sleeping) would be to fill it out, but I’m feeling tired and a little foggy so instead I’m going off-script and stream-of-consciousness. Lucky you! Happy new year!

I’ve been out of town since last we spoke, visiting my family and John’s family. I didn’t touch a computer for 8 whole days. (Though I did check email and twitter on my iphone. I’m not totally self-punishing.)

Going to LA at the holidays profoundly weirds me out, as there are all these palm trees sporting twinkly lights and people wearing fleeces and uggs with their miniskirts and whining about the 68 degree weather, and frankly, unless the weather is such that there’s actual risk of frostbite it’s hard for me to feel really Christmas-y, you know.  Also, there was some stuff about inlaws and stress my poor coping skills, and there was a little crying and some gnashing of teeth and my recently-diagnosed TMJ did NOT get any better this past week, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

But! Now it is a new year, and a fresh start, and we ate some truly delicious AND sort of healthy pancakes this morning (is that something you would like a recipe for? I’m toying with the idea of adding a recipe feature to this site, but I’m no smitten, so I’m not sure I’d be adding much) so I’m successfully feeling both decadent and virtuous, and that’s a pretty good way to start a new year.

I’m feeling so good, in fact, that I’m going to do a very foolish thing and actually put my resolutions IN WRITING, where people can read them, and where I might feel sort of accountable towards actually, you know, doing them.

Resolution the first: Reach out more, in all ways. I have lovely friends who I don’t call/email/write/see enough, and I resolve to make more of a concerted effort to be in regular touch. It means a lot to me when my friends call or write for no other reason than to just say hi, and yet it seems to be impossible for me to muster the effort to do the same for them. That sucks. I want to be better.

Resolution the second: Read more, both professionally and personally. I already read a fair amount, but I’m kind of ADD about it- I read the first few paragraphs of an article, or have several news sites open at once so I can skim the headlines, but I’m spending too much time scanning the internet and too little time actually sitting down and focusing on print. My book club gives me at least one book a month, but I have a long list of “to reads” that I’m going to start attacking this year. (To that end, I always like adding books to me “to read” list, so if you read anything amazing this year, please let me know!)

Resolution the third: Keep exercising. This year, I actually got into a pretty solid habit of exercise. I love what it’s done for my mood and my health, and I want to keep it up. I don’t know if it counts as a resolution if you’re essentially saying “um, don’t eff up and stop doing this thing you’ve finally succeeded at,” but I think it will help keep me honest to write it down.

Resolution the fourth: learn Spanish. Classes start in January. Que bueno!

Do you all have any good resolutions?  (Or, if you did that meme I mentioned before that I was too lazy to do, send me a link!  I love READING them, I’m just not up to WRITING one.)

Happy New Year!

Dear Body:

Two colds in one month is just not acceptable.  If I wanted to be sick every two weeks, I’d still be teaching 5th grade.  There, one was guaranteed to catch every pestilence that floated through the greater metropolitan area, but at least there were art projects and the wacky humor of 10 year olds.  Now I work in a law firm.  If I’m going to leave behind fun and art projects in favor of cubicles and a persnickity copy machine and hours spent redacting and editing, it seems the least you can do is agree to stay mostly snot-free.

Also, if you could buck up and start responding to the one million crazy-ass crunches and pike crunches and scissors crunches and other ridiculous maneuvers that Jillian keeps making me do, I’d appreciate it.  I resent having sore abs and no visible results, ever.

Finally, would you be interested in negotiating some sort of deal whereby I’ll agree to drink my minimum 8 glasses of water a day and take my multivitamin, and you agree to stop responding to all delicious spicy Asian foods with excruciating stomachaches and lethal heartburn?  It’s making me feel geriatric to have to say “no no, I couldn’t possibly have any of that amazing looking panang curry.  If I do, I’ll be up all night.  I’ll just have some plain white rice and couple of tums.”



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