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.

Advertisements

2015 Resolutions in Review

While I didn’t knock any of these out of the park, I made diligent progress on six out of eight, and made responsible decisions to postpone the remaining two. Hooray for adulting!

The fun:
1. Run a marathon.
I struggled with letting this one go for a couple of months, but it just wasn’t feasible for me or my family this year.
2. Read 12 non-parenting books.
Once I gave in and started reading exclusively on my phone, I found that I was actually able to read more – a few pages here and there while waiting in line, pumping, on the train, putting the baby to bed. I finished 9 books – short of my goal, but a very good showing, particularly since at least 3 of those were monsters.
3. Complete 12 more items on my Chicago Bucket List.
I managed 3: Calumet Fisheries, the National Museum of Mexican Art, and a new street fair (Fiesta del Sol). Not bad.
4. Keep a journal.
I kept up with a daily journal through the end of August, then made the fairly deliberate choice to quit during a very bleak period of sleep deprivation and other challenges that I frankly didn’t want to remember. I’m glad that I kept up a journal as long as I did, and am also very OK with quitting.

The practical:
5. Rebuild my savings.
We decided to prioritize debt reduction this year. It was more than a little scary to let go of my personal safety net and trust Nicolas’s, but it was the right choice for us right now.
6. Reduce debt.
Thanks to an error in my deductions that went unnoticed for 10 months, I had a huge financial windfall towards the end of the year that helped knock a big chunk off of my debt. We’re now on track to paying off all of my debt by the end of 2016, if not earlier.
7. Take better care of my skin.
I have been diligent about cleansing and moisturizing, though less so about sunscreen. Baby steps.
8. Start flossing.
While I can’t say that flossing has become a daily habit, I’m flossing much more regularly than before, to the delight of the dentist and the hygienist.

2015 in Meme

1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?
Discovered exactly how little sleep is necessary to function, watched the Hawkeyes go undefeated in normal season play, visited a Baha’i House of Worship, washed cloth diapers at home, drummed up excitement about an intranet, biked 1500 miles, roasted a zucchini inside an eggplant inside a butternut squash, served on a task force that shaped a survey administered by the federal government, mourned the closing of a bar.

Last Night at Neo//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? 50/50. Not bad. 3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Still more babies everywhere, though nothing like last year. A dear friend had her second son in June, Nicolas’s sister had a baby in October, and another dear friend had her daughter just a few days ago. Saying goodbye to our old lady this afternoon.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
4. Did anyone close to you die?
We lost Pandora in September, not long before my sister lost her Spock and my parents lost their Sasha. And my friend Mark died in January. We were never close, but I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve missed him.

5. What countries (or new places) did you visit?
No international travel this year, though we did spend a great week in San Francisco and an overnight in Michigan. Travel with a baby is harrrrrd. Instead, Nicolas’s mom came to us!

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?
More dates with my partner. More time with friends. More sleep.

7. What date from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
My baby’s first birthday was pretty damned special.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Keeping a small human alive with my body and not losing my mind through months and months of severe sleep deprivation.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I’m sure there are aspects of early parenting that we’ll regret. I wish I were more patient, and that I did a better job of communicating at times.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I threw out my back biking in May, and got a nice bit of road rash in June. The entire family was sick in November and then again in December. Nothing serious, thankfully.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Witch hazel and essential oils for me, stacking cups and a wooden kazoo for the baby.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
I am always proud of my sister, but this year she really knocked it out of the park.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Chicago Police

14. Where did most of your money go?
Food and drink and rent. The usual stuff.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Riding my big.

16. What song will always remind you of 2015?
Jammin’

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

ii. thinner or fatter?
Thinner than last year, and closing in on my pre-pregnancy weight and shape.

iii. richer or poorer?
Richer both financially and personally.

Family biking is the best.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Riding my bike with my baby. Sleeping. Watching movies. Reading books. Spending quality time with friends and family. Drinking.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Driving. Always.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
We drove out to Rockford on Christmas Eve and had dinner with my family, then did brunch and packages the next morning before driving back to the city. I was sad to not spend more time with everyone, but also relieved to be home early and with an entire weekend ahead of us.

21. Did you fall in love in 2015?
With my baby boy and my bike commute and speculaas cookies

22. How many one-night stands?
Zero

23. What was your favorite TV program?
Game of Thrones and Mr Robot

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year
Nope.

25. What was the best book you read?
While I read other books that were more important, I was completely absorbed by Wolf Hall.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
My child is a kazoo prodigy.

Medal as big as my face//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
27. What did you want and get?
My running form back. Professional opportunities and new work friends.

28. What did you want and not get?
My athletic body back. The opportunity to run a marathon.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
I literally only watched 3 movies this year, all of which were in the last month.

35 years/17 weeks//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 35. We waited around for a good part of the morning hoping the baby would poop (he didn’t) before heading out to Eataly for a late lunch, and then to the zoo for our annual visit to the small mammal house. We had made dinner reservations at Nightwood (RIP) and arranged for a babysitter, but decided that the baby wasn’t ready (we weren’t ready), so the three of us had dinner at deColores instead. Later in the weekend, I went to King Spa with a group of friends. My mom was supposed to come in for a weekend in the city later in the month, but the baby had hit the four month sleep regression, so those plans ended up being cancelled.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
I sound like a broken record: SLEEP.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?
Easy access for breastfeeding

33. What kept you sane?
Riding my bike, the friends in my phone.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
No one in particular.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
I feel like I’ve learned more about race and privilege in the last year than the whole rest of my life.

36. Who did you miss?
My sister. Our much more flexible life pre-baby.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
I’m thankful for new work/professional/mom friends.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015:
Ask for help before you need it. Don’t underestimate the detrimental effects of severe sleep deprivation. Everything is a phase. Everything is a season. The only constant is change.

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

Living History: The John Feathers Map Collection

I almost never click through to watch videos on YouTube*, and I almost never share things about libraries (despite having worked in them for the last 7+ years) but this CityLab article about a treasure trove of hoarded maps led me to start watching the associated short film. Take a few minutes out of your morning to enjoy one man’s obsession and the goosebump moments it’s provided for others.

*Unless I’m having a bad day, and then I search for “mama cat carrying kitten”

2014 in meme

Unbelievably grateful for the 14 weeks I've had at home with this little guy.

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?
Got pregnant, went to Turkey, Belgium, and Las Vegas, gave birth via major surgery, took 3 months off of work.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
50/50. Getting pregnant dramatically changed my plans for the year. I haven’t yet decided on my resolutions for next year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
YES. In addition to our son, born in September, my sister and sister-in-law both had babies, as did Nicolas’s brother’s partner. A number of other friends also had babies. Babies everywhere.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My friend Janet passed away in May. It’d been a couple of years since the last time I saw her, but I miss her all the time.

5. What countries (or new places) did you visit?
Turkey and Belgium with Nicolas in February and March and Las Vegas for work in June. I also explored new parts of Michigan, Seattle, and Chicago with Nicolas.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?
A waistline.

7. What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
September 19

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Not losing my mind during my pregnancy and postpartum period; keeping a small human alive with my breasts.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I had a hard first trimester emotionally, and that tainted our trip to Belgium and our time with Nicolas’s family. I wish I could do that over.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Mostly just normal pregnancy stuff, though I did literally swoon on a street corner in the heat in Vegas.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Our 12 week Bradley Method course was probably the best way I spent money this year. Also we joined the cult of the AeroPress.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Nicolas is a wonderful father, and I’m so grateful to be parenting with him.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Grand juries.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Food and drink, rent, clothes that only fit me (or the baby) for a few weeks.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The water taxi.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014?

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

ii. thinner or fatter?
About 20 pounds heavier, though I will note that I’m at least 30 pounds lighter than a few months ago.

iii. richer or poorer?
Richer both financially and personally.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Sleeping. Taking long walks.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Driving. Always.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
In Rockford with my family. Nicolas made Christmas dinner: stoofvlees, a very traditional Flemish beef stew, which he spent all afternoon and evening of Christmas Eve preparing. All three of us were a bit overwhelmed and overstimulated by the Christmas celebration with the whole family, so I’m glad we kept it low-key at home. In future years, I think I’d like to shift our celebration to St. Nicholas’s Day to space out the crazy and be able to form our own traditions.

21. Did you fall in love in 2014?
With my baby boy, obviously, and even more with his papa.

22. How many one-night stands?
Zero

23. What was your favorite TV program?
True Detective was amazing, and we watched all of Battlestar Galactica during my maternity leave.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Nope.

25. What was the best book you read?
With the exception of Bill Bryson’s new book, my year in reading was either baby/parenting books or Game of Thrones. One of these days I’ll get around to blogging about things I found useful during pregnancy and “the fourth trimester”, so I’ll save the book discussion for then.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Despite my good intentions, I really didn’t listen to much music this year. I suppose installing SoundCloud on my phone counts?

27. What did you want and get?
A baby.

28. What did you want and not get?
The chance to run a marathon.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
We didn’t watch all that many movies this year, and certainly didn’t see many in the theater. I really enjoyed In a World and Finding Vivian Maier.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 34, and did all of the things I shouldn’t have done given that I was 2-3 weeks pregnant and didn’t know it. I worked a half day, then took the train to Lakeview to meet Nicolas for lunch: fantastic burgers and beer at DryHop. We took a cab to the zoo to see the sand cat, where Nicolas surprised me with party hats and cupcakes and candles outside the small mammal house. (The sand cat didn’t want his cupcake, so I ate it later.) We walked to YogaNow in our party hats, and then I got a deep tissue massage, while Nicolas headed home to rest up. Megan, Annette, Stef, and Karina joined me for dinner at Oiistar (sake, ramen with mussels, a tiny creme brûlée), then I met Nicolas at Neo for a long, fun night of dancing and too many strong drinks. Nicolas was supposed to have class the evening of my birthday, so we celebrated the next night – wonderful food and cocktails in the library at Gilt Bar followed by Darkside at The Metro. Three days after my birthday, I found out that I was pregnant.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Peace of mind. Living closer to the beach.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
Pregnant. Stripey.

33. What kept you sane?
Exercise, friends, and sisters.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
No one in particular.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
The Case for Reparations

36. Who did you miss?
Friends in other cities. Our much more flexible life pre-baby.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
My baby, obvs.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014:
Being a mother is harder and more wonderful than I could have imagined. Parenting involves falling in love over and over and over again with your child and, if you’re lucky, your partner. It’s challenging and humbling and completely worth it. But that doesn’t mean you don’t miss what your life (or relationship, or body) was like before. And that’s OK too.

See also: 2011, 2012, 2013.

Appetite for Reduction

If you know me, you know that I’ve moved A LOT. By my count, I’ve received mail at 19 addresses since I moved out of my parents’ house in 1997.  Given that I’ve moved at least once a year for most of my 20s and 30s, it really is shocking the amount of stuff I have.

Over the last few months, I’ve been starting the process of downsizing in anticipation of yet another (in town) move, this time with someone with a significantly more minimalist lifestyle. I’ve identified things of value that I can sell, many of which I’ve been moving around with me for up to 10 years despite less than annual use. I’ve been setting aside books for his neighborhood’s Little Free Library, and have been mending, donating, or tossing clothes that no longer work for me. Today I gave my roommate my vintage find of 2012: several boxes of mint condition nylons from the 40s that were incredibly cheap, but could only fit me if I removed several inches of my femurs. No point in keeping pretty things in a box.

Inspired by 10 Excuses We Make To Keep Our Clutter, I’ve decided to take on my biggest challenge: nostalgia. Since moving out, I’ve hauled with me several boxes of letters, photos, and other memorabilia.  As a lifelong letter-writer and creature of extreme sentimentality, I have a hard time tossing anything of emotional value, and have never figured out a good way to decide what stays and what goes. Every so often, I’ll figure out a way to weed some of the stuff, but that doesn’t stop the flow of stuff INTO the boxes.

After recycling a few things last night, I sorted out a small shopping bag full of letters for scanning. The particularly precious letters – like those from my grandparents – will go back into storage, but many will likely be recycled. I’m not sure what my process will look like exactly, but I’ve been using that as an excuse for years, and so decided to start with the less precious items while I figure out a sustainable and durable process for the rest.

This post about Digitizing Old Letters suggests a potentially useful workflow: scanning letters into Evernote, using OCR to translate as much as possible to searchable text, and transcribing the rest. I’ve been trying to figure out how to incorporate Flickr into my process, particularly for friends who send mail art. I’m limited by what I can do on the cheap – using the scanners we make available to patrons at work – but that’s better than nothing.

I would love your advice if you’ve tackled this challenge for yourself – or if you’re a pro who digitizes and stores things for a living. And I will report back here as I figure out a process that works for me now, and for a future sentimental me who wants to revisit the correspondence of her youth.