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.

2/3 Book Challenge: Let’s Bring Back

Vintage Slip Ad

I should have written this review much closer to finishing Let’s Bring Back – sometime in July – as I would have been able to share more delightful specifics. The book is a celebration of nostalgia, of the manners and customs of a better time.

One aspect of the book that I loved was the broad definition of ‘a better time’. In skimming the book together, Mom and I both found aspects of our childhoods – hers from the 50s, mine from the 80s. My grandma, born in 1918, could have done the same. There are remembrances of early 20th century cultural figures – and entries advocating for the return of naps. There are recipes for drinks, and bon mots such as the following list of quotes attributed to Edith Head:

  • “You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.”
  • “The cardinal sin is not being badly dressed, but wearing the right thing in the wrong place.”
  • “Your dresses should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to prove you’re a lady.”
  • “Clothes not only can make the woman; they can make her several different women.”
  • “I say sacrifice style any day for becomingness.”
It was thanks to this book that I knew exactly what a remarkable find I’d made when I found a pair of Elsa Schiaparelli stockings in a lot of six pairs for $12. And thanks to this book, I have yet another argument in support of my favorite color scheme: brown and pink and cream, the colors of Neapolitan ice cream: “Strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate side by side: This combination of pink, white, and brown should be made into the flag of some languorous, pleasure-oriented country.”

 

A languorous, pleasure-oriented country. I like that. Let’s bring that back as well.

 

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

Photo by BlueVelvetVintage.com, licensed under Creative Commons