2017 in Meme

1. What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?
What did I do in 2017? Participated in a protest march; ran the entire Lakefront Path; made an impressive-looking maqluba; potty-trained a kid; broke a finger; baked with aquafaba; kept a book club going for the entire year; submitted an article for publication; went an entire year without getting my hair cut*.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
About half of them, and probably.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My sister, sister-in-law, and several friends had babies this year.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My friend Molly passed away at the beginning of the year.

5. What countries (or new places) did you visit?
No new places this year. Conference travel to Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Indianapolis. An overnight to visit my grandma in Davenport. A one day trip to East Lansing for a football game with Mom. A quick trip to Madison to celebrate the kid’s third birthday.

6. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?
An actual vacation, as Timehop keeps reminding me that I haven’t been out of the office for a full week since we went to Belgium in September 2016.

7. What date from 2017 will remain etched up on your memory, and why?
At the moment, nothing stands out.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I’m pretty damned happy with some of the work I did this year.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I have basically lost my last shred of patience over the holidays between multiple days of sickness and extremely cold weather have kept us cooped up inside. I’m sure there have been days when I was grumpier, but not in awhile.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
In August, I broke my right ring finger while getting on my bike. Yes, you read that correctly. I also had a wicked stomach bug over the holidays.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
We picked up an electronic keyboard for $30 a few weeks ago, so that’s been the standout purchase recently. Other great buys for the year include the Fjällräven totepack N bought me for my birthday and the terrible spiralizer I got for free that convinced us that we would actually use a spiralizer. Oh also we finally bought an actual bedframe after multiple years on the floor.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
I never cease to be proud of and amazed by my sister.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Most elected officials’.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Food and drink and rent, as usual.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Aquafaba, spiralizing, weekend long runs (miss u, warm weather), being able to walk to work.

16. What song will always remind you of 2017?

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
Happier

ii. thinner or fatter?
I’m striking this question.

iii. richer or poorer?
More money and less debt than this time last year.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
The usual: sleep, running, time with friends, lying on the couch doing nothing.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Emotional labor.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
We’ve made a real effort to keep all holidays low-key. Sometimes it’s really hard, but sometimes it’s really worthwhile. This was the first year the 3 year old was excited about “Christamas”, and basically everything about the last month was magical for him: making decorations for our tiny tree, opening the doors of the paper advent calendar, drinking hot cocoa and shaking sleigh bells at the winter celebration in the park, looking forward to eating apple pie at my parents’ house on Christmas Day. The day itself was hectic and exhausting after a 4:45 wake up, but he was so happy, and there were big hugs all around, and now I understand why parents work so hard to make these moments special, even if their kids won’t remember.

21. Did you fall in love in 2017?
We finally moved to the neighborhood where I work after almost six years in my job. When I first moved to the city, I had absolutely zero interest in living in this neighborhood as it felt like the suburbs, and that was NOT the point of moving to the city. Priorities change, however, and the move has been such a net positive for our family that it’s caused me to see the neighborhood in a whole new light.

22. How many one-night stands?
Also striking this question.

23. What was your favorite TV program?
Comrade Detective, followed distantly by The Crown, Game of Thrones, and Twin Peaks. Also let me just tell you that texting about TV with my pal Jimi makes just about any show better.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
See above re: elected officials.

25. What was the best book you read?
This was the year that I maxed out my library account – apparently you can only check out 50 books at a time from the Chicago Public Library? Most of them were for the kid’s obsessions with dragons and Mr Putter and Tabby, of course, but I read a number of good books as well – more than in the last few years put together. My top three were:
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life – Amy Krause Rosenthal
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? – Roz Chast
Liturgy of the Ordinary – Tish Harrison Warren

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
The new lcd soundsystem album was the first album in a looooooong time that I deliberately chose to sit down and absorb the first time through rather than treating as background noise.

27. What did you want and get?
Good news.

28. What did you want and not get?
Impeachment.

29. What was your favorite film of the year?
Moonlight absolutely destroyed me.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I got a brand new birthday buddy – niece #4 was born on my 37th birthday. My fell on a Monday, so a friend babysat the night before so that we could go out for a wonderful birthday dinner at Dusek’s. I was pretty hung over the next day. We went out for lunch and coffee, and apparently had pizza for dinner, though I can only tell you that because I’ve been keeping track of our dinners in my planner all year.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
More time at home with friends. I sincerely miss having the people I love in my home, even (or especially) when it’s for no good reason.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017?
My Lent challenge this year was trying out a capsule wardrobe. My core wardrobe was something along the lines of 4-5 sleeveless tops, 3 cardigans, 2 skirts, a favorite t-shirt, and a pair of jeans (and maybe other things that I’ve forgotten because it was 9 months ago). These were, of course, the things I gravitated towards wearing anyway, but I was surprised to find that it wasn’t difficult at all. Of course, you’ll note that workout clothes aren’t included in there – or pajamas, for that matter – but these 12ish items worked out just fine for me. So: drapey sleeveless tops, a colorful skirt OR sweater paired with a dark sweater or skirt, kneesocks or tights, and practical shoes.

33. What kept you sane?
Running. My sister.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Nicolas Jaar tweeted about frogs and I replied and he liked my tweet and it was basically the best.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
Everything was terrible all year. It’s hard to pick just one.

36. Who did you miss?

*I may have actually gone a year between haircuts before, but not in at least a decade, and since that’s long enough for things to fall off a credit report, I think that’s long enough to count here.

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Q1 Resolutions in Review

A new post in a new location! I moved my blog from my own domain to WordPress about a month ago, but this is the first actual post over here. Please update your feed readers, assuming you still use such a thing!

1. More letters.
I’m keeping up with my goal of one letter/week, but they’ve mostly been thank you notes. (I need to write more thank you notes as well.)

2. More books.
1/16 completed. Not great, but not too far behind.

3. More miles.
Running: 161/750 completed. I entered the Chicago marathon lottery in March, and am running the Illinois Half I-Challenge at the end of April. Running is feeling really good. I like my current training program, and my current running routes. I need to be more consistent about long runs, but the combination of winter and sickness has made this difficult.
Biking: 94/2000 completed. I just haven’t felt like riding lately. I’m not sure why that is.

4. More movies.
1/12 watched, but it was a big one! We took the baby to see Star Wars in the theater. He was unphased by the noise or explosions, but he definitely didn’t like the non-human creatures.

5. Less meat.
N is working on perfecting briami and the eggplant sauce from a favorite Italian restaurant. I’m playing with Persian food and crusty rice for bi bim bap. I don’t know that I’m eating less meat, but I am enjoying exploring vegetarian cooking.

6. Less debt.
We have a substantial amount of travel coming up in the next six months, including an extended trip to Belgium, so I don’t think that we’ll pay off all of my debt, but we’re making steady progress, which feels good.

7. Less complaining.
8. Less guilt and regret.
Works in progress, always.

2016 Resolutions

1. More letters. I’m aiming for a letter each week.

2. More books. 16 sounds like a nice round number. I’m on track to finish my first this weekend.

3. More miles. Barring injury, I’m aiming for 750 running and 2000 biking. I also really want this to be my marathon year, but I’ve said that before…

4. More movies. We saw a grand total of 6 last year. 12 seems possible.

5. Less meat. I’m not ready (or interested, really) in going back to being vegetarian, but I am interested in expanding my repertoire of meat-free meals, particularly since Nicolas has been pescatarian for nearly a year.

6. Less debt. We’re on track to pay off all of my debt by the end of the year. I really want to make that happen.

7. Less complaining. This might be the hardest resolution on this list.

8. Less guilt and regret. This one is hardest to quantify, but I’m pretty over beating myself up about things I can’t control, or things that aren’t mine to begin with.

November Around Here

Unseasonably beautiful weather makes for weekend days full of crunching leaves and golden light. I need to soak up as much warmth as my skin can handle in anticipation of the winter to come.

A sudden windfall in a month of austerity means getting out of debt within the year is now feasible. Being responsible sometimes feels very hard, but also very good.

And for the baby, now a toddler: first tentative steps and a confirmed first word: kitty, which is applied specifically to the cat (his one true love) and more generally to all beloved things. We took him to the zoo, where he correctly identified two kitties (the sand cat and the puma) and other kitty-like creatures (red pandas).

So much hurt and sadness and fear in the world. There are days when it’s all too much, and all I can do is crawl into bed and hold the sleeping baby – for then he is still a baby – to me and cry. But so much love and generosity as well.

Reading:
Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantell, because the mini series was remarkable.
House of Light – Mary Oliver, because reading poetry to the toddler feels like a good use of our quiet mornings
Bedtime in the Meadow – Stephanie Shaw, because try as he might, the toddler hasn’t been able to destroy it, unlike all of his board books
The Argonauts – Maggie Nelson, because she slays me, and her writing about pregnancy and gender and identity feels very relevant
A Thousand Mornings – Mary Oliver
Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates, because I have learned more about race and privilege in the last six months than the whole rest of my life to date

Watching:
Fringe

Eating:
Spontaneous Persian food
Pie for days
Pasta with fennel, kale, and lemon
All the pears and apples

Drinking:
A second cup of coffee, as the toddler was up before 6 for a second day in a row

Doing:
139 miles to go to hit 1,500 on the bike for the year
Not enough running, but with good reason
Catching up on all the postcards I didn’t send during this year’s 31 Postcards
Babyproofing all the things

Planning:
A Thanksgiving menu (hint: it contains pie and a Vegducken)
An intranet communication plan
New hats for everyone
Eliminating my debt

August Around Here

The days slip together. Wake up early. Diapers and coffee and a ride to work. Meetings. Writing. Ride home, dinner, a story, nursing to sleep. An hour or two before bed. Repeat.

We traveled a bit this summer – a week in San Francisco, a weekend in Michigan. Lots of good food and long walks and sunshine. Not enough time in the water – ever.

Every week the baby is onto something new. Every week (day, morning) we scramble to move things out of reach. Some days the constant stream of babble seems to have meaning. Other days, it’s just noise.

Past mid-summer. Fall is in the air, almost. A neighborhood festival just about every weekend. The garden is growing. We are growing.

 

Reading:
 A few months ago, I remembered I could read on my phone. Since I don’t have a transit commute, this is the only way reading gets done around here.
The Argonauts
A Ball of Beasts
A Slow Archive
Every single news article about Neo closing.
Bloomberg’s coverage of Warren Buffet’s family’s long-time subsidies for IUD development
Grumpy Cat

Watching:
True Detective
Mr Robot
Wolf Hall

Eating:
Elotes and blueberries to infinity

Drinking:
Basil gimlets

Making: Thinking of making, rather:
Rice pudding
That sweater I intended to knit last year

Planning:
A trip to Belgium next year?

Books about pregnancy

As you might expect, I did a lot of reading in anticipation of the arrival of our son. Some of it was very helpful. Some of it I will need to revisit in 5-10 years. Some of it was pretty useless. Here’s what I found useful during my pregnancy:

Opting In: Having a Child Without Losing Yourself
I read this before I got pregnant. While other friends hated it, I appreciated the discussions of the various waves of feminism, our relationships with our mothers, the decision/value of returning to work, and the challenges for couples who choose or embody different gender roles. Good if you’re still trying to wrap your head conceptually around the many ways having a baby will change your sense of self.

Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong–and What You Really Need to Know
If you only read one book about pregnancy, let this be it. This book should be REQUIRED READING for any expecting parents, but will be of most interest to those who are at least a little skeptical of the advice and warnings doled out by books and other media related to pregnancy. The author and her husband applied their training as economists to analyze the recommendations she received from mainstream and hippie sources, as well as from their doctor – which was of particular interest to me as she provided enough detail to make it clear that she went to the same hospital we used. Their findings? Some of the well known recommendations are supported by good data. Many are not. Some are based on frankly terrible science, or on studies that haven’t been repeated or updated to reflect current medical practice. I finished this book feeling a great deal more confident in my ability to trust common sense, good nutrition, and my body – and a great deal less paranoid about the occasional drink, sushi roll, or falling asleep on my back at a time when sleeping in any position is kind of a miracle.

Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy
This was my mainstream medical establishment guide of choice. It seemed to be less alarmist than What To Expect When You’re Expecting, though it did still present a lot of recommendations that we flatly ignored. On the whole a decent reference book. I also consulted Your Pregnancy Week by Week, which I picked up for $1 at a conference, and got at least that much value out of it.

Real Food for Mother and Baby: The Fertility Diet, Eating for Two, and Baby’s First Foods
I loved Nina Planck’s first book and actually bought and read this long before pregnancy was on the table. I talk about this after talking about the Mayo Clinic book deliberately because it contradicts and complements the recommendations made therein. While I’ve softened my stance on supplements over the years, I still greatly prefer to get what my body needs from whole foods – and that’s what Planck does here, talking about what your body needs and where to get it – from conception through your child’s first foods. I worry a little that the data supporting her recommendations is selectively fished out of the great ocean of dietary advice, but it’s hard to argue with her simple, clear, time-tested advice that doesn’t rely on highly engineered products to support something we’ve been doing quite well for millennia.

The Pregnant Athlete: How to Stay in Your Best Shape Ever–Before, During, and After Pregnancy
Including this more as an afterthought – I picked this up at a conference after I’d had to stop running due to Braxton-Hicks contractions and general largeness and discomfort. I wish I’d read it earlier, as it does a better job than any other book I saw at addressing training during pregnancy – not just taking a walk to stay active.

2015 Resolutions

Part of my day job involves making sure that goals are specific and measurable. Here are my attempts at specific and measurable resolutions for 2015:

The fun:

  1. Run a marathon. I really wanted to do this last year, but pregnancy got in the way. I’m planning to run Chicago, with Detroit as my back-up choice.
  2. Read 12 non-parenting books. I read (most of) 17 books last year, but really only finished 12 in their entirety, and the great majority of those were parenting books. I’d like to read more for pleasure this year, but am setting my sights low.
  3. Complete 12 more items on my Chicago Bucket List. I knocked out 17 items last year, and added a few to the original list.
  4. Keep a journal. My grandpa kept a daily journal for years. It often wasn’t much more than the weather (including on the day of my mom’s wedding!), but that’s more than I’ve managed. I’d like to remember more about my baby’s first year than the milestones. I hope this will help.

The practical:

  1. Rebuild my savings. I took 4 weeks unpaid during my maternity leave, and that took a good chunk out of my savings. I’m far short of the recommended 3 months’ of living expenses, and don’t think I’ll get there this year while also reducing debt, but 2 months’ worth of living expenses in savings seems reasonable.
  2. Reduce debt. I wanted to eliminate my credit card debt last year. That didn’t happen; in fact, I’m right about where I was last year, though I’ve paid off two cards. I’d like to cut both my student loan and credit card debt in half this year.
  3. Take better care of my skin. For many, many years, I have done nothing on this front. Moisturizing daily will be a start.
  4. Start flossing. The dentist yells at me about this every time I go, so I need to either start flossing or stop going to the dentist.