“To look life in the face, always.”

“Dear Leonard. To look life in the face, always, to look life in the face and to know it for what it is. At last to know it, to love it for what it is, and then, to put it away. Leonard, always the years between us, always the years. Always the love. Always the hours. “

This morning: time and temp can’t decide whether it’s 80, 70, 75, or something in between. The sun is shining, and I have my windows rolled down on Lakeshore. I’m speeding a little, and my hair is blowing around, and I’m singing along with The Cars. The lake is an impossible blue, the surface wrinkled by wind.

Driving to my new job, the one where I get to do all the things that I’ve loved about my last three jobs, and none of the things I haven’t. Driving with my new city behind me, marveling every day at my good fortune at actually getting to live here. Thinking about last night – good food in the company of a newly dear friend and her close friends – and the night before – bourbon and The Smiths until far too late, just like in the old days. Thinking about the morning already behind me, waking too too early, a breeze ruffling the curtains, my sweet cat curled next to me on the quilt made by my great-grandmother.

Feeling thankful for the wall of love surrounding me, for so many amazing people in my life in so many different ways. Remembering how three months ago, I ran head-first into my own sadness – and how this morning, driving through my new city to my new job on a perfect day, I was struck by the intensity of my happiness in that moment.

“I remember one morning getting up at dawn. There was such a sense of possibility. You know, that feeling. And I…I remember thinking to myself: So this is the beginning of happiness, this is where it starts. And of course there will always be more…never occurred to me it wasn’t the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment, right then.”

Three months ago, I was afraid. Today I would say that I’m terrified, very deliberately using the word that a love and I once used to delineate our feelings about what we were coming to share: equal parts fear and delight. Terrified by the possibility that this just might be it, that this might actually be happiness, that I might have actually rounded that corner and found myself exactly where I’m supposed to be at this moment in time. Honoring everything that I’m feeling for what it is, and not needing it to be more or less. I’m so overwhelmed. I’m so thankful.


Vacation Shortlist

Photo by mollshot

I have four weeks’ vacation plus seven discretionary days plus a serious case of wanderlust. Who wants to take a trip?

  1. Yosemite, because parks and bears and outdoorsy!
  2. The Grand Canyon. Eva and I talked about this ages ago, and I sort of forgot that it existed until I saw this post.
  3. Germany to see Linda and Jeremiah and M I L O and my cousins and LARP Ticket to Ride.
  4. Italy, because Dharma and Erin are making it look damned good, and because I’ve never been, and because Jeanne said “Birthplace of the renaissance. And fabulous looking Italian men.”
  5. Spain. Spain Spain Spain Spain Spain. Voy a viajar a Santiago una vez más. Or Granada. Or Ibiza.
  6. Atlanta to visit Paul and eat all the sweet potato biscuits.
  7. Greece for the history and the food and the blue blue blue blue sky and because Lawrence Durrell makes Rhodes and Corfu sound impossibly idyllic.
  8. The Salton Sea. Vince D’Onfrio’s pig nose optional.
  9. New Orleans as I’ve never been much of anywhere in the South, and it seems like this is the place to start.
  10. Costa Rica or somewhere similarly tropical with crabs and monkeys and beaches.
  11. Spa World. According to Abigail: “Why only go to a few places when you can have the rest of the World, Spa World, that is.”

That said, it’s a Sunday morning and my curtains are blowing gently in the breeze and a train just went by and I’m drinking iced coffee, and while it does get better than this, this is pretty damned good.

This Weekend

Friday this-and-that:

– So hey, NATO’s coming to town! Which means that basically everything related to commuting or public transportation or the lake is just – ugh. On the bright side, it will be a good excuse to get on my bike and see the crazy.

– On Saturday, I’m taking a Chimpsy workshop so that I’ll be slightly more competent in my use of the DSLR that we bought, oh, three years ago.

– I realized earlier in the week that since I drive up Lakeshore every day, it was silly to go home, change, and then run in my neighborhood. Instead, I’m paying $1/hour, parking on the lake, and getting my run in immediately after work. I’ve also decided that modesty is overrated on days when it’s over 70, and if people don’t like the sight of me RUNNING in a sports bra and shorts, they can deal.

– It’s pretty likely that I’ll continue to obsessively listen to The Cars, as I’ve been stuck on the same song for the last three weeks.

– I’ve been stupidly busy after work every night this week, and while it’s been mostly fun stuff, I’m SO looking forward to having no responsibilities or plans other than reading magazines and watching Mad Men and thinking about summer vacation, whenever and wherever that will be.

– My grocery list currently contains three items: olives, dark chocolate, and bleach. You know, just the essentials.

And some links for your perusal:

– A woman in California picked up some pretty rocks on the beach AND THEN HER PANTS CAUGHT ON FIRE.

– These dance-bombing teachers are pretty much the best ever.

– Renowned silver fox David Byrne turned 60 this week. I celebrated by looking at photos of my nephew in an oversized suit.

– A perfectly curated and edited video of Sherlock Holmes insulting people.

This Tumblr is full of vintage love.

Burn It Up (or: April at the races)

5K Pigtails

My wide eyes tell you everything you need to know about how I was feeling before April’s races. Tired. Overwhelmed. Undertrained. In need of a hug, a pep talk, and a lucky charm.

Motivational Speech

I already told you about my race plan for the CB10. I stuck to it for the most part, though the sun didn’t cooperate with #14, and there were no space blankets (#18) on offer. Instead, I shaved five minutes off last year’s time, even with stopping for an Oreo and 2 oz of Yuengling, even with cold weather, even with the the wall I hit between 8.5 and 9, just like last year. Jeff brought us sweatshirts, and Tina’s friends provided a sun-drenched brunch. And I logged a new PR: 1:33:56. Two days later, I moved into my new apartment in Chicago.

Medals and Swag

A couple of weeks and a new job later, I drove down to Champaign for 24 hours of races – the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon weekend, with races ranging from a 1K fun run up to the full marathon. I was registered for the Half I-Challenge – a 5K Friday night, and the half marathon Saturday morning.

My feelings for Champaign are complicated, as I’ve explored here before. It felt like home from the time that I first moved there, and no place has quite replaced it in my heart. Between the race expo and the 5K, I went to Kopi and worked on my laptop at one of the small tables just like I did for years and years, with the same people ordering the same drinks as they have for years and years, and the same music on the stereo as has been playing for years and years.

When I moved to Champaign, it was on the heels of the end of my first marriage. I was alone for the first time in my adult life, making choices that would establish my new life independent of the person on whom I’d based my world. It was scary and overwhelming, but also so full of possibility. It got easier than in those first days, and what made it easier – and what made Champaign feel like home – were those anchors – like Kopi, like the regular customers, like the park at night, like the family of friends that surrounded me.

I mention this because when I queued up for the 5K in the cold and the wind, totally alone in the crowd of thousands south of campus, I looked to my right and saw one of my favorite regulars from the years I worked at Aroma. I don’t know his name or anything about him beyond his regular order – a small coffee and a brownie – but every time he came in, he made me smile and think of my dad. I have no idea if he remembered me – hell, I lost him in the crowd almost as soon as I spotted him – but it was a moment of grace, and gave me energy for the cold, rainy, windy race ahead.

5K PR!

We went down First past the Stadium, turned right on Green, and then up Sixth, where I blew a kiss in the direction of GSLIS. The rain started as we turned right to head past the art museum, but it hardly mattered at that point. Down into Memorial Stadium and onto the field, where Jill spotted me and yelled out a cheer that pushed me to the finish line with my last burst of energy. Another PR, this one by 20 seconds: 25:58.

Dinner with Erin and Jadon, one of the last of my GSLIS crew still left in town. We had pizza – maybe not the best race fuel, but damn, was it delicious – and I slept fitfully on their very comfortable couch, concerned about oversleeping, concerned about the race, concerned about the weather, concerned about everything.

Up at 5, and out the door by 5:30 because I was anxious about road closures for the race. I sat in my car and listened to music and blasted the heat and prayed for the rain to stop. I dug out a permanent marker and wrote Keem’s cheer on my hand: YOU’RE DOING IT. I stretched at Assembly Hall, then hopped in ahead of my designated wave, hoping to pace at 9:15 and beat my Detroit time.

I can’t really explain the race – I couldn’t then, and I can’t really now, a few weeks later. The course was easier but the run more demanding than in Detroit in October. It was cold and windy. It never seemed to end. We ran through campus, past Hendrick House, where Mark lived for years. Maybe I took too much water. Maybe I didn’t have enough water. My nose wouldn’t stop running, but my legs felt like a million bucks. We pushed on through Urbana, passing the street where Amy and Adam lived, past the turn to go to Sarah and Hannah’s house. We hit the edge of town, turned south, and ran through Meadowbrook Park. I hung with a couple of guys, laughed as others challenged each other and ran off the edge of the path to get around slower runners. I felt strong and steady. I had no problem hitting my pace.

We turned north to head back toward campus, and I hit a wall. 10.5 miles and I felt like I couldn’t possibly go any further – and then, on the sidewalk, just walking, not paying attention to the race, I saw Rick Powers. I used to see him occasionally when I was dating Shawn and going to English department events – and then once in a while around town – but hadn’t seen him in years. That little burst of happiness helped, though not enough to get me through the side cramp a mile later, or the complete and total exhaustion to come. The latter would come in the form of two marathoners who came up beside me near the Meat Science lab and stayed with me for a few blocks, encouraging me about my time, telling me that I was lucky that I was almost done.

A hairpin turn, and around the corner into the Stadium. I looked down at my watch, and poured everything I had into the last minutes. As in the Cherry Blossom race, I repeated over and over: All the pain. All the sadness. All the hurt. Burn it up. Use it as fuel.

I crossed the finish line, hit the stop button, and saw this:

Half Marathon PR
Under two hours. 1:59:09. A PR by almost six minutes. I got my medals, sat down, and immediately lost it, crying hard enough that another runner came over to check on me. No, I didn’t need help – I was just overwhelmed. Overwhelmed to finish, much less PR, much less break two hours. So very thankful for every person and emotion and thing that had carried me through the miles and through the last few months. So very much, all in those miles, in those medals, in my aching body and heart.

I fucking did it.

Marche du Nain Rouge

At breakfast on my last weekend in A2, Olivia mentioned that she’d heard about some sort of festival? parade? taking place in Detroit on Sunday – maybe something about a dwarf exorcism? Of course I had to look it up once I got to work: “Detroit dwarf exorcism”.

So the story goes, Detroit has been haunted by a red dwarf – the Nain Rouge – since it was settled in the 1700s. The appearance of the Nain presages disaster, and so for the last 300 years, the people of Detroit have gathered together to cast out the demon.

Beautiful Revelers


Monstrous Unicorn



And so on a perfect Sunday in March, we found ourselves a part of a rolling party – a costumed parade through the streets of Detroit. There were horse head masks and hula-hooping luchadores. There were tremendous drag queens and children in Radio Flyer wagons. There was a bejeweled marching band. We started in the heart of the Cass Corridor, and spiraled outward, ending at the Masonic Temple, the largest in the world, where there was music and break dancing and adequate beer. A perfect way to say goodbye to Detroit.

I’m A Cleanse Quitter

Photo by hellojenuine

So hey, I quit the cleanse. I’m officially a quitter. And I’m OK with that.

When I quit smoking in 2005, it actually wasn’t that difficult. I was sick as hell for two weeks at the end of the semester, and I figured that if I’d gone that long without smoking (or doing much of anything aside from lying on the couch and watching TV from Netflix), I could stick it out through the holidays. And once I’d made it that long, I was done. I’ll have a cigarette now and then, but I’ve stayed quit.

I reached a similar turning point in this whole cleanse business yesterday. In week two, I added back beans, soy, and seafood. I made several delicious meals. And I felt terrible. Like, really terrible. Canceling plans, not going to yoga, lying on the floor with a heating pad terrible.

Part of this was to be expected. After all, part of cleansing is ridding your body of the bad stuff that has accumulated. But after a week, give or take, of that, I’m ready to throw in the towel. I’m OK with making inconvenient changes. I’m not up for electing to do things that make me very uncomfortable. I mean, other than distance running, but at least in that case, I feel great before feeling really uncomfortable.

So today I’m calling it quits and starting to reintroduce dairy, eggs, meat, and whole grains. I’m going to keep eating hella veg. I’m going to do my best to continue avoiding sugar and processed foods since hello, that’s a good idea anyway. I’m glad I tried it, and am equally glad to be done.

Some thoughts in parting:

  • I’m surprised that the WLAP didn’t include any guidelines on caloric intake. I would wager that most people need more than 200 calories of juice to get started in the morning, especially if you’re used to eating a full breakfast. I struggled the first few days because the recommended meals were so light – if the menu was followed explicitly and with no snacks, you’d be taking in less than 1000 calories.
  • I’m also surprised that the WLAP didn’t emphasize – or even mention – fermented foods, which are very good for you for a variety of reasons. I strongly suspect that one of the reasons I had digestive problems was that I generally have (plain, unsweetened Greek) yogurt every day, and eliminating it from my diet meant eliminating my primary source of beneficial bacteria for 2+ weeks.
  • I am newly infatuated with tahini, miso paste, and Marcona almonds.
  • I have a newfound respect for vegans and other friends with dietary restrictions. It’s really, really hard, and you guys are awesome for making it work by choice or by necessity.
  • Here is some green juice:
    Day 7: Green juice

A Wish

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”

— Neil Gaiman

“We’ll Eat You Up – We Love You So”

I’ve never really understood why we as a culture experience grief at the passing of celebrities. I had a conversation about this last week after observing the outpouring of sadness in various pockets of the Internet over the death of MCA – a person whose music was an integral part of formative periods of many of our (though not my) lives. To the best of my knowledge, no one that I know personally knew Adam Yauch, or will feel his absence in their day-to-day lives – and yet many were shedding tears over his death, just as many did over Steve Jobs a few months ago, or Michael Jackson a few years ago. I don’t get it.

That said, I gasped when I heard the news of Maurice Sendak’s passing this morning. Much has already been written about him, and in much more eloquent ways than I can manage, but that gasp of sadness seems justification enough for adding my words to the pile.

Perhaps it will come as no surprise that I was a bookish kid, or that books (and my thumb and blanket) were my truest friends from early childhood. This photo of my brother and I circa 1984 was taken at my aunt’s apartment in Iowa City, where I first remember encountering the stories and illustrations of Maurice Sendak. In fact, if you look closely, I think that the stack next to Mark includes one of the Little Bear books, illustrated by Sendak.


I remember reading The Nutshell Library with my aunt, the small books just the right size for a child’s hands. We read In the Night Kitchen – what a strange story – and I remember experiencing a thrill of the forbidden because Mickey is naked as he gets baked into the morning cake. And of course – Where the Wild Things Are. The story and illustrations figure large in the imagination of people my age – larger than the monsters who threaten to eat Max up because they don’t want him to go.

For a year, I lived in an apartment with the beginnings of murals on the walls of my living room. There was the Lorax, speaking for the trees, and Curious George, reaching for the hand of The Man in the Yellow Hat. And then, in the west and north corners of the room, a pair of Wild Things:

Day 5 - 7/28/07

The Wild Things cemented my love for that apartment, and were the source of wonder for friends who visited, and confusion for those who woke up on the couch to a lovingly menacing face:

Wild Rumpus!

And I loved – and continue to love – his illustrations for The Animal Family, a small and magical book about a hunter, a mermaid, a bear, a lynx, and a child. That a war poet and a noted curmudgeon could create a world so intricate, sensitive, deliberate, and wonderful – it gives me chills.

“I have nothing now but praise for my life. I’m not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can’t stop them. They leave me and I love them more. … What I dread is the isolation. … There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready.”

So today I am sad because this amazingly talented and insightful person is no longer in the world – that monsters, both real and imagined, will go undrawn. And I’m grateful for all the magic his work brought to the lives of so many children, young and old, for so many years.

Things I’m Afraid To Tell You

There’s this thing that’s been going around the internet for the last week. It started with one woman writing honestly about aspects of her life that were incongruent with the persona and lifestyle depicted on her blog, and spiraled out from there. These confessions have ranged from very superficial to very personal, and have left me thinking a lot about what I do and don’t share here (or in other, less public fora).

I’ve written here since 2001, though the URL has changed a few times, and much of what I wrote in the early years is no longer public. Since I started this blog, I have lived at 15 different addresses in 6 cities, worked at 13 different jobs, and had 4 serious relationships, much of which has been documented here. When I need to remember what I was thinking or feeling at a particular time, this is one of the places I turn. On this site, as in real life, there are few topics that are off limits – but on this site, as in real life, I’ve constructed an identity that incorporates the parts that I’m willing and able to share.

The last 6-9 months have been a rollercoaster for me. I’ve been trying hard to put my finger on a triggering event or events, but end up with more questions than answers. In doing so, I’ve been working on being very honest with myself about a lot of things. Along the way, I’ve realized a few things I’m afraid to tell you:

Over the last few years, I’ve used my tendency toward introversion to avoid investing in my relationships. It’s not that I’ve ever had a shortage of friends. It’s that I stopped trying to really connect. Since realizing this and starting to open myself up, I have experienced a depth of connection, communication, and honesty in friendships that I’d forgotten was possible.

I require fulfilling work to be happy. Of those 13 jobs, I can point to two that really made my heart sing: the year and a half of gyne instruction and the almost three years at GSLIS. I’ve had jobs where I worked with wonderful people, and I’ve had jobs where the work was challenging, and I’ve had jobs where both of those statements were true, but for the last few years, I’ve been stalled professionally. My current job holds a lot of promise in this area, but I’m trying not to swoon yet. I would like to be one of those people who can leave work at work, for whom a job is just a way to pay the bills, but when I’ve been in those jobs and when I’ve aspired to those things, I’ve felt myself steadily go numb. I would be such an excellent housewife if I could just turn all of this off.

I really don’t know how I feel about having kids, and that’s a pretty scary thing to me. Most days I’m resolutely in the anti-kids camp, in part because I can’t see a persuasive reason TO have kids. But my strong opinions on this subject are undermined by a nagging fear that I’ll change my mind after it’s already too late. I also worry that the fact that I’ve never had a serious pregnancy scare points to some underlying fertility problems.

I have a very hard time communicating my needs in relationships, intimate or otherwise. I’ve become inured to disappointment, and to a large extent, that’s my own fault, as I haven’t given my partners or friends the opportunity to be the people and things I’ve needed them to be at the time, and so of course I’ve been hurt and disappointed. This tendency grew out of a terribly low self-esteem that led me to believe that no one would ever love me as much as _______________ did, and so I’d better do whatever I could to be happy with whatever was given, rather than advocating for my needs – emotional, physical, intellectual, spiritual, etc. I have worked hard at this in the last few years, but I’m still so far from where I need to be.

I have never been able to establish the habit of flossing. I also keep nail clippers in my desk because I will destroy my cuticles otherwise.

I worry that I’m too selfish to be in a real, lasting relationship. Since starting this blog, I’ve had two relationships that lasted six years, a relationship that lasted three years on-and-off, and a relationship that lasted one very tumultuous year. I don’t (think I) have unrealistic expectations about relationships. I’ve been there. I’ve done the work. But then I’ve also not done the work in significant ways, and I’ve hurt partners, and I’ve failed partners, and I’m no closer at 32 to understanding any of it than I was at 21.

I’m afraid of failure. Like, really afraid. You’re saying to yourself “duh, everyone feels that way,” but I feel it acutely, and am often simultaneously too lazy to do anything about it. I’ve been a perfectionist and an overachiever since at least age 5, when I came home from kindergarten in tears because, as I told my mom, I felt like I had to turn my brain off when I went to school. I was moved up to first grade shortly after that, and haven’t stopped being my own hardest critic since. If there’s anything you might think is wrong or could be improved in me, you can rest assured that I’ve already dug into it and remind myself of it all the time. Like my failure in relationships or my stagnated career.

I’m trying to practice vulnerability. This post is part of that practice.

On Cleansing

May is all about getting my shit in order after six months of chaos. Between job hunting, moving, moving, teaching, job hunting, leaving my job, moving, moving, starting a new job, and other things that I will talk about eventually, my day-to-day life has lost all sense of order. An important part of fixing this is getting my diet in order – and getting my ass back in the kitchen after months and months and months of not cooking.

The Whole Living Action Plan seemed like a good way to kill a few birds with one stone: get my food stuff under control, eliminate foods that might be causing me trouble anyway, and help my body bounce back from a few months of abuse. I started on Monday, and will continue with it for two more weeks.

Biscuits & Gravy
Everything in this photo is forbidden. Including the silverware.

Week One (right now): no dairy, eggs, meat, seafood, animal fats, beans, soy, grains, gluten, processed food or beverages, or added sugar. I’m also not supposed to be having caffeine or alcohol, oops, so I’m enjoying the latter in moderation, and the former at the normal rate of consumption.
Week Two: add back seafood, beans, lentils and soy.
Week Three: eggs and gluten-free grains, yum.

Some observations thus far:

  • Juicing is fun! And noisy! And messy! This week’s breakfasts are all about juice, and I’m very thankful for Steph‘s loan of her beast of a juicer. I’ve had carrot-grapefruit, beet-carrot-apple, and carrot-grapefruit-ginger. Tomorrow’s juice might involve mangoes.
  • Monday night I was so grumpy and hungry that I nearly started crying at Home Depot while trying to find the right bolts to mount my new Illinois license plates.
  • Man, I really don’t like drinking water. And I really need to drink a lot of water or else I get headachey and dizzy and my contacts start behaving weirdly.
  • The monstrous headaches from Tuesday and Wednesday have finally subsided – only to be replaced by terrible abdominal cramping, which may be due to the cleanse, or may be due to the questionable avocado I ate Wednesday night after walking my bike 3 miles home after getting a flat on my first ride out of my neighborhood.
  • When I weighed myself yesterday morning, the scale claimed that I’d lost 7 pounds since Sunday. That isn’t actually physically possible, and is a good lesson in why you shouldn’t weigh yourself every day. Today showed a much more reasonable 4 pounds, most of which is probably water weight from pre and post-race carbs.
  • If you eat a lot of beets, your pee might turn pink. Apparently this is less common than I realized.
  • I appreciate that the meals were built around produce that is readily available in the winter – citrus, root veg, and dark greens – though I think the menu would be more fun in the summer.
  • I feel like a giant pain whenever I try to order something at a restaurant. Next week should be easier.
  • Running has been OK but not great. I had to walk a little on Wednesday, but was fine this morning. I couldn’t do this while training, which is another reason it’s perfect for May.

Foods I have been craving like nobody’s business:

  • Ice cream, but that’s pretty normal.
  • Cheeseburgers.
  • Pizza, especially after reading this post.

Five days (almost) down, sixteen to go. And then maybe I need to see a man about one of those burgers at Kuma’s Corner.