Mo-mo-more?

We’re in Rockford for the holiday, having moved the majority of our material possessions to Chicago three days ago. The last two days have been full of cookies and presents and traditions and relaxed family time. Max has been running around playing with trains and pointing at various delicious things and saying “mo-mo-more”, his voice lilting upward as he points at the object of his desire.

I mention this because as I look forward to 2012, what I want most is mo-mo-more. More time with friends and family. More travel. More flowers, more movies, and more amazing food. More miles. More love, more patience, and more connection in my relationships and with the world. So this post is me reaching my hands in the air and asking the universe for what I want in the next year:

  1. This year was about running further. 2012 will be about running faster in at least two half marathons plus the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.
  2. I want to take better photos of more than just food, though better food photos would also be progress. I want to take a class, read a book, participate in an online workshop – in general learn more about the fancy DSLR we bought almost three years ago. And then apply that knowledge for good, not for evil.
  3. I’m reasonably certain that the only movie I saw in the theater this year was the final Harry Potter installment. With two movie theaters within a mile of our new place, we should have no excuse – other than lousy offerings – to see fewer than 12 movies in the theater.
  4. I want to write more letters – at least one per week. Do you want to be my pen pal?
  5. I need to find a job in Chicago, as it will make many of these mores possible. More time with my family as they’ll be 75 minutes away instead of 5-7 hours. More time with many many Chicago friends (though less time with A2 friends). A new and exciting city life for the two of us. I’ve loved my MPub job, but I need to be in Chicago.
  6. I wanted to bake 24 unique loaves this year. We made significant changes in our diet over the summer, and I haven’t really baked since then. I think, however, that one pie per month is a reasonable goal.
  7. Bourbon and I got back together in 2012, but I need to have more in my cocktail repetoire than the trusty Manhattan. There will be many opportunities to drink fancy cocktails in our new ‘hood, but I want to master at least one new cocktail at home per month.
  8. We took a fun road trip vacation over the summer, and I took solo trips to Philly, DC, and New York for work, races, and fun. I would like more of the same this year, beginning with my birthday weekend in California and possibly including a trip to Europe after the semester wraps up.
  9. More books read: finish the 2/3 challenge, keep up with my book club, and hammer away at the To Read lists while reading at least two books per month.
  10. Step up my game and learn to do alterations so that I can finally finish all of the half projects in my closet.
  11. More feats of strength! More push-ups. More miles on Orange. And maybe, just maybe, a pull-up.
  12. And, most importantly, more time connecting with the important people in my life. I’m not sure how to quantify this other than to say that I want to fight my introvert nature and say ‘yes’ more than ‘no’ for lunches with friends, dates with my husband, or visits to my family.

What will you do in the new year?

Estoy Peregrina

I got my first tattoo about a month ago.

I waited a long time for it. I’ve considered other tattoos over the years, but each time decided to wait a year to make sure I still wanted whatever it was that I was considering. I’ve been waiting five years, and while what I got isn’t precisely what I’ve been imagining for those five years, it’s precisely what I wanted.

Five and half years ago, I walked a portion of the Camino Portugués, the Portuguese branch of the Camino de Santiago. I dreamt of the Camino for seven years before I set foot on the Road. I’ve dreamt of it for the five and a half years since I turned back in Vilarinho, since I sat in the plaza outside the Catedral, swearing I would return.

Catedral del Apostol

Everyone who walks the Road carries or wears a scallop shell to mark themselves as a pilgrim. For years I’ve liked the idea of having a tattoo based on the scallop shell, a permanent and tangible reminder that I am – or want to be – constantly seeking, moving forward, deeply connected to the world around me.

Day 2: Mosteiro

The Road is marked with wayfinding devices – some permanent, erected with official placards, and others spray-painted on curbs. For years, I thought about having a rough arrow on the inside of my wrist – an approximation of the yellow arrows I saw on stone walls and the backs of signs. I liked the idea of a wayfinding device as a reminder that I am seeking direction, and that help will always be provided when it is needed most.

And so I settled on both: the stylized scallop shell used as a wayfinding device. I nearly cried when the tattoo artist brought out the sketch and applied the temporary to my arm. The pain was intense in a purgatory way, just as the physical and emotional pain of the Road were so long ago. I left euphoric.

I’m so happy with it, with what it means to me, with the intentions formalized by the inscription on my body.  Estoy peregrina.  Voy a viajar a Santiago.

2/3 Book Challenge: Then We Came to the End

In September, my book club read Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came to the End, an enjoyable, engaging read.

On the one hand, I zipped through the book in a couple of days, so I obviously enjoyed it. On the other hand, I had a hard time determining whether Ferriss was intentionally beating on tired office cliches: the secret romance, the underdog(s) who go on to bigger/better things, the breakdowns, the enigmatic boss with inner demons, etc.

Aspects of Then We Came to the End were well done: the first person plural narration, the sense of futile frenetic energy in a workplace trying to justify its existence, the disconnect between real life and work life. I loved the bits and pieces of Chicago that emerged throughout the story. The interlude at the center of the book – a meditation on a woman’s cancer diagnosis – was moving and effective. The ending reminded me a bit of the “wake” towards the end of The Wire, when they’re “burying” various characters’ careers as Baltimore police: the simultaneous sadness and fun. But again, done more effectively elsewhere. At the same time, Ferris’s intended satire of workplace characters and tropes often falls flat, feeling more clichéd than clever.

Ultimately, Then We Came to the End reminded me a lot of Douglas Coupland’s Microserfs. This is actually somewhat problematic for me because Microserfs is among my favorite books, making me susceptible to over-appreciating the workplace novel and also unable to appropriately compare other workplace novels. The two share many of the same character types and scenarios, but I feel like Microserfs carries a different and more substantial emotional weight. It’s not that Ferris did something specifically wrong – it’s just that Coupland does it better.

This is the second of at least 15 books that I plan to read in the next year for my friend Mark’s 2/3 Challenge.

“Energy is everything,” she says, “not emotion.”

Rob Brezsny’s Astrology Newsletter – December 14, 2011

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Emotion is the resource we treasure when we’re young, says poet Naomi Shihab Nye, but eventually what we thrive on even more is energy. “Energy is everything,” she says, “not emotion.” And where does energy come from? Often, from juxtaposition, says Nye. “Rubbing happy and sad together creates energy; rubbing one image against another.” That’s what she loves about being a poet. Her specialty is to conjure magic through juxtaposition. “Our brains are desperate for that kind of energy,” she concludes. I mention this, Capricorn, because the coming weeks will be prime time for you to drum up the vigor and vitality that come from mixing and melding and merging, particularly in unexpected or uncommon ways.

This is feeling particularly timely as we approach the end of our time here. My time will continue for a while longer, but our life here as a couple, as a family unit, will end in a little over a week. It feels like every day we’re rubbing happy and sad together: solidifying friendships just in time to leave, revisiting favorite spots that won’t carry the same weight when we come back to visit, one last time for x or y or z.

Places I Have Lived: The E Haus, 12th St, Rockford, IL

August 1999 – August 2002

My first real apartment! It is also worth noting that the three years I spent here were the longest I’ve spent at a single address since my family moved out of the house on Pepper Drive.

I moved into the apartment on 12th Street in the fall of my junior year at RC, but I’d been a regular visitor for nearly a year at that point.  The apartment was occupied by a rotating cast of coworkers from Barnes & Noble, so I have no idea who first lived there, or whose name was on the original lease, if there even was one.  The circumstances – or, rather, the conversation – surrounding my first visit are subject to some debate, but the facts are these: I helped Eva do a bathtub full of dishes.  She was living with Stu and Jessica at that point, Jeff and Steven having both moved out.  I remember late nights in the apartment after closing, hanging out with my impossibly cool coworkers and hoping they’d like me as much as I liked them.  In the spring, Stu and Jessica moved out, and Erin – another coworker – moved in.  If we weren’t working, the three of us would order pizza (cheese and pineapple) and watch Must See TV.  When I needed a place and there was an open room, it made sense for me to move in – and my boyfriend along with me.

Looking back, I can’t believe how insanely cheap the place was – we paid something like $450 for a three bedroom apartment, split four ways.  Even split three and eventually two ways, this was worlds cheaper than any place where I’d lived before or since.  We kept it up to exactly the degree of squalor that you’d expect from 3-4 early 20-somethings.  Eva and Erin had a continual battle of wills over the dishes, and I wasn’t much better.  At one point shortly before I moved in, they boxed up all of the dishes and stuck them in the attic, where I found them sometime later, still crusted in food, though miraculously not disgusting.  We hosted Thanksgiving dinner for our friends, but had to farm out most of the cooking because we had one oven rack and zero counter space.  We also had maybe three chairs, so everyone had to sit on the floor.  We wanted to learn about wine, but did so with 2 bottles for $6 deals.  We hosted a lot of parties.  It was a very fun time.

Erin had the first room – large and sunny, with hardwood floors and giant windows.  My boyfriend and I moved to this room when she moved out before Christmas.  I had the second room, which had accordion doors and a walk-in closet, and which we later used as an office.  Eva had the back room – tiny and painted in two different blues.  When she moved out in the summer of the following year, we used the room for storage and for our cats!

Baby Gypsy

I had never had a cat before, and I wasn’t the best cat owner, but good lord, did I love those furballs.  We had hideous hand-me-down furniture, made worse by destructive cats and lots of parties.  Our kitchen was big enough to dance in, and the bathroom had a claw-foot tub where I would often read entire books.

Our landlord was a 30-something guy who would come over to do maintenance – and would stay to drink beer and hang out with us.  Our downstairs neighbor was an obsessive snow shoveler and griller, the two of which came together when he would clear a pathway to his charcoal grill at every snowfall.  Our next-door neighbor fed squirrels and may or may not have been in a ladder cult.

Oh, the stories this apartment could tell.  We stayed for the duration of my time at RC, and another year beyond that.  On 9/11, I watched movies on that hideous couch in order to avoid the non-stop coverage of the towers going down.  In this apartment, I started to learn how to cook, gave up my vegetarianism, and fell deeply and somewhat disastrously in love.  I discovered yoga and Hello Kitty Cube Frenzy.  I did a lot of things I regret, and many more than I don’t.  It was in most ways an ideal college apartment, and I was very sad when we moved out, even though we weren’t going far – next door – and would visit often, as my sister and her best friend were the new tenants.

Keeping Our Wits About Us

This is the obligatory ‘sorry, we’ve been MIA’ post from a neglectful blogger. It’s not that I don’t love you and/or don’t want to share things here. It’s just that it’s the end of the semester and the holiday season and, oh yeah, we’re moving to Chicago in TWO WEEKS. Put all of those things together, and you don’t get a whole lot of coherency out the other side.

On the other hand, we have been cooking: Thanksgiving dinner for friends, lentil stew and other soups with the six quarts of turkey stock, shrimp tacos, and last night’s very passable impression of chicken piccata served on the fine china. And we’re throwing diets out the window and enjoying meals at many of our favorite places. So it’s not that I don’t have things to tell you about – it’s that I don’t have time.

In lieu of actual content, here is a picture of our cats behaving strangely:

Cat Train

We’ll be back soon. Promise.