Monday.

I haven’t kept up with the things I’ve been meaning to keep up with here. For example:

  • The new recipes we tried in May and June through the haze and hubbub of downsizing, moving, unpacking, and conference travel.
  • The races I ran back in April
  • The toddler’s latest obsessions
  • The books I’ve been reading (because I’ve actually been reading!)

I don’t have time or head/heart-space to do most of this justice right now, but I can do a quick mid-year check in on my 2017 resolutions:

  1. Eliminate credit card debt.
    Done. We hit our savings back in February to make this happen, and have been paying off balances each month. We’re still using our cards more than I would like, and are repaying our savings more slowly as a result, but we’re making it happen (and earning some travel points along the way).
  2. Take action every week.
    No, and I feel terribly guilty about that. At some point the many-times-daily asks for money overwhelmed me, and lacking an immediate way to prioritize, I shut down. I’m trying to get back in the swing of things.
  3. Finish Brain Pickings book club list.
    This has been so much fun so far! I don’t expect that we’ll read all 16 books, but that’s just fine with me.
  4. Incorporate professional development into my schedule.
    I’ve gone to conferences, but that’s about it.
  5. Finish weaning.
    We’re in the final throes of night weaning right now. We had planned to do this months ago, but it didn’t happen, and then we were moving and didn’t push it, and then it sort of organically happened around my work trip. Progress!
  6. PR at any distance.
    destroyed my 5K PR back in April, then ran a painful half marathon the next morning. A PR at both distances was within reach, but I have no regrets about letting the second one go because the first one was so huge for me!
  7. More regular visits with family.
    This one is happening! We’ve seen my family about once/month, including a trip to Iowa for my grandma’s 99th birthday in May.
  8. At least two blog posts/month.
    I managed to keep up with this until last month. Not bad!
  9. Try at least four new recipes/month.
    We’re still doing relatively well at this one. My parents gifted us with a Blue Apron gift certificate to help take some hassle out of moving meals, so that’s been a nice infusion of ideas. (We have free meal codes if anyone wants to try the service.)
  10. Make time for monthly dates.
    Thanks to the extreme generosity of our friends and my mom, we’ve been able to go out a few times, though definitely not every month. It’s progress!
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An afternoon list

Because my brain is melting due to survey analysis, a too-large cold brew, and possibly too much sugar, an afternoon list about our new life in Hyde Park:
  1. This morning I left my house a little after 7, biked to the gym (5 minutes), ran to the other gym to meet my running group, ran around Washington Park, ran 1 km repeats on the track, then ran back to my gym to get cleaned up before work. By 8:30, I was at my desk, fighting off the warm sleepies of a hard workout.
  2. While I was doing all of that, my family walked to Jackson Park to take in the Japanese garden, more properly known as The Garden of the Phoenix, where they looked at the birds and the leaves, and where the toddler ran freely amongst SKYLANDING, Yoko Ono’s only installation in America.
  3. On Saturday, we took a walk to the 57th Street Art Fair,which was a much more pleasant experience than the art-on-sticks onslaught of Ann Arbor’s Art Fair, but perhaps that was because we could dip in and out, our toddler falling asleep in the stroller as we walked down the shaded streets.
  4. The toddler and I attended a “nature playdate” at the pocket park out our back door. The park used to have the typical playground apparatus, but has been converted into a nature playground, with lots of sticks and rocks and tree stumps and a big sandbox for digging and exploration. Basically, it’s toddler heaven.
  5. We’ve developed an (unhealthy?) obsession with Roti, a Chicago-based chain with a location a short walk from our new apartment. Many ways to configure a vegan meal plus delicious non-vegan options for me plus extra pita bread for the toddler makes for a happy family.
  6. In addition to a wonderful independent grocery store at the end of our alley, we’re within a 10 minute walk of two other grocery stores, with other options a short bike ride away. It’s great to not have to pile into the car every time we need something – it’s also much more convenient since a smaller kitchen with smaller (Euro-sized, not dorm-sized) appliances means we have to shop more often.
  7. When we walk up the stairs to our third floor apartment, the toddler says, with emphasis, “New house!”.
  8. My family has been walking me to work, and then heading over to the quad to visit the ducks. We won’t do this every morning, of course, but it’s been a nice change from the mornings where I had to extricate myself from a crying child to get in the car and sit in traffic on my commute (which, while not terrible by Chicago standards, was still a driving commute).
  9. My commute is now a 15 minute walk or a 5 minute bike ride.
  10. I hate commuting, so my new commute is life-changing.

Pilsen, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down

We’re moving to Hyde Park this weekend after three years in Pilsen – four years total for me. This is the longest time I’ve lived anywhere since moving out of my parents’ house twenty years ago, and as I write them down, both of those numbers seem crazy to me. For a solid decade, I moved at least every year, and while few of those moves were capricious, this current move has been so exhausting that I can’t imagine what the previous ones were like.

But I suppose things are different now. This apartment is the first that we shared together, and the last place we lived before becoming parents. It’s where we brought our baby home from the hospital. Where I breastfed him in the green chairs by the window while watching the marathon that I had wanted to run. Where he learned how to roll over and crawl and walk and talk and feed himself and use the toilet and draw jellyfish. Where those milestone came on the back of days and weeks and months of broken sleep. It’s where we said goodbye to Pandora, N’s faithful cat companion of many many years.

When I first moved to Chicago, Hyde Park felt like the suburbs to me – geographically far, relatively sleepy, and generally undesirable for someone who wanted to live in the city. I fell in love with the idea of a certain kind of life, and Hyde Park didn’t offer any of those things.

But again, things are different now. Five years ago, I went dancing every week. My weekends involved boozy nights out and foggy headed brunches with friends. I could do my long run, nap all afternoon, and then stay out until the wee hours with few consequences. It’s been almost two years since I went dancing – not since Neo closed. We’ve been trying for almost two weeks to wrangle a night when the toddler goes to sleep early enough that we aren’t too wiped to go out for an hour AND our friend is available to babysit. Long runs are squeezed in between early morning grocery store breakfast dates and trips to the park and the lake and the butterfly garden. Most nights I’m in bed before 10, if not earlier.

When we chose Pilsen, it was because it split the difference between the north side, where we would prefer to live, and my work on the south side. We were three miles from the heart of downtown and two miles from the lake. We could see the Sears Tower and, on a clear night, fireworks over Navy Pier. We could pretend like we were still going to go out, even if the reality was very different.

Pilsen has been our home, but it’s time to move on. Over the last year, it’s become clear that Hyde Park offers us many of the things we value about the north side – for example, access to the lake and museums – but with a dramatically shorter commute. In the years since I moved here, a number of amenities have been added to the neighborhood that have made it sooooo much more appealing – for example, there are grocery options other than the terrible Treasure Island. The wide range of ethnic foods down the street from us (and Jolly Pumpkin!) is a better fit for N’s vegan-mostly diet than the Mexican-mostly options in Pilsen. And I don’t even know where to begin with the parks.

So: it’s bittersweet, but it’ll be good. I will miss our life in Pilsen, particularly our lovely light-filled apartment, but I’m excited to start our new life in Hyde Park as well.

“we don’t pay enough attention to those things that can be catastrophic for women.”

I cried at my desk this afternoon while reading NPR and Pro Publica’s absolutely heartbreaking piece about maternal mortality. In case you don’t have the time or the stomach to read the entire article, the key findings of their investigation are:

  • More American women are dying of pregnancy-related complications than any other developed country. Only in the U.S. has the rate of women who die been rising.
  • There’s a hodgepodge of hospital protocols for dealing with potentially fatal complications, allowing for treatable complications to become lethal.
  • Hospitals — including those with intensive care units for newborns — can be woefully unprepared for a maternal emergency.
  • Federal and state funding show only 6 percent of block grants for “maternal and child health” actually go to the health of mothers.
  • In the U.S, some doctors entering the growing specialty of maternal-fetal medicine were able to complete that training without ever spending time in a labor-delivery unit.

These findings are presented in the context of the death of a mother – herself a neonatal intensive care unit nurse – in childbirth as her horrified husband – a trauma doctor – tried to convince the attending doctors and nurses that something was very wrong and needed immediate attention.

I read this and cried as all of the scared, scary memories of late pregnancy and childbirth flooded back. How I was convinced that I was experiencing symptoms of preeclampsia which were dismissed by my doctor (but validated by test results). How I was pressured into scheduling a c-section that I didn’t want (and not given any information about alternatives). How there are things that I flat-out don’t remember – like the first time I held my son – because I was so sick after delivery, sick to the point that my partner wouldn’t leave my side, despite our plan being that the baby would always be with one of us. Begging for someone to look at an intense pain in my shoulder that made sleep impossible. Weird questions from the nurse who gave me my first post-surgery sponge bath. My swollen feet squishing like wet socks as I slowly made my way up and down the hall pushing the plastic bassinet where my son slept.

And then I remembered the article about the moral imperative behind my colleague Isabel’s work as a doula to families of color that I’d read earlier in the week and felt proud and angry all over again. Proud of my colleague and friend’s work advocating for the needs of mothers, babies, and families through pregnancy, childbirth, and new parenting. Proud that groups like hers exist to provide support for communities that are underserved by or that slip through the cracks of our healthcare system.

But then angry that it is necessary for doulas and birth worker groups and crowdfunding campaigns to do this kind of work, to pick up the slack, to compensate (and make amends) for our broken social safety net in our broken country. Angry that our system stands to actually get much worse if the AHCA actually happens.

Angry that even with my excessive privilege as a white, middle-class, able-bodied, educated, outspoken, financially secure, and fully insured woman living in a city where I have access to excellent health care, adequate public transportation, and a social safety net, the difficulties that I experienced during my (relatively very easy) pregnancy and my son’s birth clearly still affect me – so how much worse must it be for mothers and families that lack the resources to obtain adequate (primary or supplementary) care, or who experience complications or trauma or loss, or who get one of those doctors who received more training on fetal care than on maternal care, or – as in the example that opens the interview with Isabel – have internalized that the way they are being treated is just the way it is.

This Week’s Reads (Friday, May 5, 2017)

Let’s All Stop Apologizing for the Delayed Response in Our Emails – Science of Us
This is so relatable. I’ve read a few articles in the last few months that have highlighted ways that women’s use of language unconsciously or subconsciously expresses deference. There’s even a browser extension for it. This article takes a different, but still relevant, tack, encouraging us to reframe that ‘delayed’ response as being sent within a reasonable time frame – it also suggests several tools that will help you prioritize your email to (hopefully) minimize the number of apologies. I’ve been using Inbox for this reason for a few months. Of course, it doesn’t help with (or excuse) the long personal emails that have lingered in my inbox for literally years – but it does help me knock out, prioritize, and snooze the ones that require action, especially when that action doesn’t have to be right now.

7 Tips for Donating Old Books Without Being a Jerk – Lit Reactor
I get rid of books every time I move. I used to have hundreds and hundreds, which meant that I used to move hundreds and hundreds nearly every year. I’m tired of moving paper around, and besides, I work in a library that holds millions of books, with access to many millions more. This article is helping me think about ways of getting rid of my unwanted books without burdening someone else. Also, this app is super duper.

How to Build New Habits by Taking Advantage of Old Ones – James Clear
I started hacking my morning routine (after, ahem, establishing a morning routine) when I was 21 and working the first in a series of mediocre desk jobs. I was super proud of the fact that I’d gotten my morning down to approximately 35 minutes from bed to door, including a shower, breakfast, and tea. Actually, now that I think about it, I started doing this earlier – maybe in high school – though then it was less about how much I could cram in, and more about how late I could stay in bed.

Having a small child obviously disrupted the perfect flow of my long-hacked morning routines; however, it turns out that small children thrive on routine, so this blog post has me thinking about ways to scaffold new things into the flow of our mornings, particularly once we move.

The Invisibility of Middle-Aged Women – Lit Hub
This was simultaneously wonderful and sad, and made me think of the women in my life as we approach (or are well past) the markers of middle age: “In a world where women are almost always defined by their relationships (daughter, sister, lover, wife, mother, grandmother) it strikes me as important to shed a light on the woman herself. What is she without all these shoes she has to fill? Well, she’s an existence and she’s an existence that either disturbs her surroundings—or is in the danger of retreating from them: like mist.”

April Eats

April was a blur, and when I sat down to make notes in my cookbook last night, I felt a little dejected because I didn’t remember cooking that much. But flipping through Naturally Nourished, I realized that I actually did make quite a number of new recipes despite being crazy busy.

April’s list is in chronological order because my brain doesn’t have the capacity to rank things right now. All recipes from Naturally Nourished unless otherwise noted.

1 and 2. Smoked Lentil Tacos with homemade tortillas – Isabelle Eats
These tacos were a big time winner in our vegan-mostly household. I increased the recipe by 50% thinking it would give us some leftovers for lunches, so we ended up with a crazy amount of lentils – enough for dinner for 3, 3 days’ worth of lunches (in Mason jar salads), and 2 cups for the freezer. I didn’t make any of the accouterments recommended in the recipe, opting for store-made pineapple salsa from Mariano’s (which was just OK).

This was also my first attempt at homemade tortillas. As you can see, they weren’t the prettiest, but they were way easier than expected. (We won’t talk about the second attempt.)

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3. Grilled Eggplant and Mushrooms with Saucy Almond Butter Noodles
Except that we roasted the eggplant and mushrooms along with a large amount of broccoli for the toddler, and used whole wheat linguini (instead of rice noodles) because that’s what we had on hand, and sometimes I just can’t justify $3+ for a single ingredient for a recipe I haven’t tried before.

The combination of an interesting vegetable + noodles + a creamy sauce is basically always a winner, though for eggplant and almond butter, I expect we’ll fall back on this Minimalist Baker recipe.

4. Snappy Spring Salad with Lemon-Mint Date Sauce
The recipe linked above isn’t exactly the same as in the book, but it’s close enough – particularly the dressing. This was fast, simple, and refreshing. I expect we’ll be making similar salads all summer.

5. Grilled Caesar Salad with Tempeh and Chickpea Croutons
So when you read “grilled Caesar”, I’m guessing you thought “grilled ______ Caesar”, as in whatever is ON the Caesar was grilled, not the salad itself. Well, you’d be wrong – and you probably understand why N was super skeptical when I told him what was for dinner. I asked him to trust me, and cited as evidence of the concept a really wonderful grilled salad I’d previously enjoyed at Jolly Pumpkin. (When oh when are you coming to Chicago, JP?!)

This salad was a revelation. I baked a block of tempeh to round it out into a full meal, but you could just as easily add your protein of choice. Another one for the summertime roster.

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6. Fantastic Falafel Waffles
I keep trying to make healthier takes on falafel at home, and they keep not working. Ironically, so does Sarah Britton. I don’t know whether it was the recipe or my waffle maker, but these quite simply did not waffle. I ended up frying them – and tossing my waffle iron after one too many recipe fails. They were good, probably better than the previous attempt, but I think I’ll leave falafel to the pros from now on.

7 and 8. Rainbow Hummus Bowl with Simple Mint Pea Dip
I don’t know that I would call this a recipe, per se, but I like the idea of the Rainbow Hummus Bowl – a bunch of crunchy veggies served on top of, rather than underneath, the dressing or sauce. After a run but before an afternoon excursion, I blended up a batch of Simple Mint Pea dip, then spread a generous layer across the bottom of our prettier plates, topping each plate with several different kinds of veggies. We spread the rest of the pea dip on crackers. It was all delicious.

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9. Cool It Noodle Salad with Radishes and Peas
(Another close enough link above.) I had the ratio of noodles-to-veggies all wrong, but that was sort of what I wanted, though I’ll (at least try) to get it right next time. A good amount of crunch, but with a fresh dressing.

10. North African Sun-Dried Tomato Soup
And then there was a solid 10 days where work was stupidly busy, and we were in and out of town, and by the time I surfaced, it was the end of the month, and the nice weather had disappeared, and our apartment had been rented out, and a recipe put on the list earlier in the month seemed just right. I didn’t want to spend $7 on a jar of harissa (see above re: single ingredients), so used the last of the cayenne and paprika in our cabinet. We were out of couscous, so I substituted a handful of slivered almonds in the topping, inspired by romesco sauce. The soup was flavorful and spicy, but the topping – olives, lemon zest, parsley, and the almonds – really stole the show. (Please note that the chickpeas weren’t organized in any way – they popped to the surface like this all on their own.)

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So, not a bad month of cooking after all – and more than enough new recipes to carry me through May, since our ability to cook will be limited by the fact that we’re moving to a new apartment at the end of the month.

I will miss the wonderful natural light in the kitchen, but have gotten inspired by all of the minimalist kitchens in the IKEA catalog, and am excited to see how we can do more with less – in the kitchen, and in general.

A Media Interlude

We have been devouring Hotel Beau Séjour on Netflix after seeing it recommended in a friend’s post requesting new dramas for binge-watching. The show is in Flemish, so it’s a rare opportunity for N to watch TV in his native language, and for me to light up when I recognize the odd word or funny translation. I’m a crime drama junkie, so this was right up my alley, but we’ve both been totally drawn into the mystery. We’ve been watching 1-2 episodes per night as bedtime allows, but when an episode ended on a particularly crazy cliffhanger the other night, we had no choice but to get more snacks and a second glass of wine and settle in for another hour.

Also, can we talk about The Young Pope? N warned me that “not much happened” in the first couple of episodes, so I expected it to just be background noise for knitting, and was surprised to find myself riveted. It’s beautiful to watch, with interesting  and dramatic cinematography. Jude Law is subtle and compelling. Don’t watch it expecting arguments for or against Catholicism – watch it for a visually rich and “surprisingly serious meditation on loneliness and faith.”