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Waiting for the ‘Wear it Out’

26 May

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There comes a point in time when something that’s potentially embarrassing becomes an exciting challenge, and I’ve hit that point with these socks.

I’ve had these socks for a long time–probably a good 12 to 15 years, although time is relative because there were many years that I avoided wearing them in favor of other socks. They’re pretty thick, so they were too hot in the summer; because they’re anklets, they were often too cold in winter. Now that they’re fairly threadbare on bottom, they’re just about right.

The Boy saw me put them on one day and kindly suggested that I retire them. He’s one to talk, as Old Stripey still takes up space in his closet. Old Stripey is a short-sleeved button-down white dress shirt with bluish and reddish vertical stripes. It’s at least 20 years old, though I think I’m being kind with that number. The Boy doesn’t wear short-sleeved dress shirts–if it’s a short-sleeved button-down, it’s a Hawaiian shirt.

Why is it so beloved that it has a name? Well, we live in New England in an apartment with closets that any HGTV-home-searching couple would reject in an instant, so space is at a premium. We don’t really have the room to house clothes that we don’t really wear.

I was cleaning out one day, and since I’d never seen him wear this shirt, I thought maybe he’d want to donate it.

“Not Old Stripey!”

“What?! This shirt has a name? And you think it still fits?”

Gauntlet thrown, he squeezed into Old Stripey, and by some miracle, no seams ripped or buttons popped off.

“See! It fits! We’re keeping Old Stripey!”

OK, we’re keeping Old Stripey. He’s been hanging out with us ever since. Never worn, but the proof of fit still happens on a regular basis.

Needless to say, based on Old Stripey, I can keep my socks for a while longer. Sure, I don’t really need to keep this particular pair–my sock drawer is full of socks that are in much better condition. Why keep these?

Well, one day I put them on thinking that my heel would poke through immediately, and that didn’t happen. Then I thought for sure the threadbare area would rip in the wash. That didn’t happen either. Now the question is, how strong is this amazing thread?

So far, they’ve lasted the entire winter, with no signs of ripping. I wear them at least once a week–more if I do laundry more often–so they’re getting regular use. Can they go the entire summer? Can they make it to 2018? Looks be damned, that’s a challenge I want to try.

Unless I make a bargain with Old Stripey.

 

 

 

 

Road Tripping: We Did It All Wrong

20 Jan

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For about five years or so, the Boy and I have pointed the car south to spend Christmas with the family in Florida. Sure, it’s a long trip–two days at least–but we like having access to a car, and it’s fun to experience little bits of the country along the way. Driving south reminds me of how vast and different our country is–how interesting it is–and how those differences weave together to become one.

Over the years, we got pretty good at making this trip, finding great stops that we looked forward to making every drive. This year? Not so much. It’s as if we had never taken the car out of state before. How bad was it? Well, it made me feel like I needed to turn in my frequent traveler card.

It was a learning experience though, and if you’re not experienced with road-tripping, here are some of our biggest blunders. Learn from them so you can have a better time in the car!

  • The night before you leave, don’t go to bed so late that you oversleep the next day and are forced to make a late start.
  • Don’t start late enough to avoid Boston rush hour traffic, and then wonder why you’re in New York/Philadelphia smack dab in the middle of evening rush hour.
  • Know where you’re going to spend the night more than an hour before you decide to stop so that you’re not driving from hotel to hotel looking for a room.
  • If you don’t want to deal with full-service gas stations, don’t calculate your gas tank refill to be smack dab in the middle of New Jersey.
  • Stop at Wawa. Don’t bypass Wawa.
  • Find decent restaurants for meals. We actually did better on Day 2, when we found Molly MacPherson’s in Richmond Hill, GA, and had decent food (including excellent salads) and great service).
  • If you want to stop and see something along the way, figure that out early on in the day, not when you’re driving by and realize it’s closed for the day.
  • Pack good snacks.

We did make our traditional stop at South of the Border, but having spent far too long on the road, we were in and out as fast as possible.

Needless to say, we got to Florida in a less than optimal mood, and that’s not a great way to start holiday vacation. It got better, for sure–because sun and warmth really do make a difference–and we had a really fun trip. However, we also pledged to make sure our drive home was something we actually wanted to remember.

 

2016 Year in Books

6 Jan

Welcome to 2017! After taking a couple weeks off for holidays and travel, I’m ready to get back to it, which means the weekly blogs are back.

For me, 2016 was a weird year all the way around, and my reading list really reflects that this year. In 2015 I really didn’t read very many books (especially for being a writer), so I’d signed up for a Goodreads Reading Challenge, and decided to go light with just 20 books. That goal was more than I’d read in 2015, and what I thought would be a decent stepping stone into making reading books more of a priority. Totally achievable, right? I could really crush that goal and go way over it! Actually, I just barely made it happen, and finished my 20th book on Christmas Eve.

Number of books isn’t the only thing I’ve been tracking for the past few years. After reading some of Ann Morgan’s “A Year of Reading the World” blog, I wanted to expand my horizons a bit and see just where my influences were coming from. Instead of taking on the world, I thought I’d take on the United States and see if I could read authors from every state (tracked by where they’re born)–perhaps not a task I’d accomplish in a year, but eventually would be nice.

The other wrinkle is that I want to read the books I own. I have a problem with tsundoku, or buying books and not reading them. While I continue to buy books, I’m also working on reading what I own. I don’t have any particular order for reading things (no FIFO or anything like that), but it also means that there’s a constant inner struggle to spend less time buying and more time reading (also less time buying, and more time at the library, but that’s a topic for another day).

Anyway, I did meet my reading goal of 20 books for 2016, so I’m pretty proud of that. I was surprised, however, how much of a slog some of these books were. I had some chick lit and young adult lit that should’ve been a breeze but weren’t. While I have a personal rule that I’m allowed to stop reading after 50 pages or so (there’s not enough time to waste it reading bad books), I think I only used that exception once this year, and that was for Gone Girl. I hated all of its characters and had no interest in reading about what they did, so I put it down. I won’t even keep space in my brain to remember the 50 pages I did read, so I couldn’t tell you much of what it was about.

I didn’t do that for Accidental It Girl, which maybe I should have. This was about a paparazzi (who had shelved a dream of being an art photographer) who accidentally got linked with a big star and became the object of the paparazzi. Turnabout is fair play–though it was also a dull book. The character (whose name I can’t even remember) really had no goal other than to not be photographed all the time, and she didn’t drive the action–most of the action happened to her, making it difficult to root for her. It was also full of a lot of stock characters–the wacky mom who got in the way and didn’t really get her; the helpful roommate; the movie star who was a nice, genuine guy. The only thing that kept me reading was a MacGuffin of a package that the main character’s mom sent that sat in the corner of her bedroom for most of the book, was mentioned all the time, and when finally opened, revealed a reminder that the main character that her true passion was in art photography, and shouldn’t she do that instead of paparazzi-ing?

Needless to say, although I wouldn’t recommend it, it was a good example of what not to do when writing, so at least I got something out of it.

I covered nine states and four non-US countries this year. I seem to really like Ohio (four books) and the UK (five books). Still, I’m making progress on my map coverage–I’m up to 19 states and 10 countries in three years. Not bad. Could be better, but I’m happy enough for the moment.

For the moment, I’ve added just one book to my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge total. Maybe I can do better than that, but my first read of the year, The Games: A Global History of the Olympics is turning out to be a really slow one. A really good and interesting read, but it’s a little slow-going right now. It might be a book I read alongside some others, just to make progress.

Speaking of progress, if you want to follow along, feel free to check out my book reading tracking doc. Suggestions to fill in my missing geography are welcome!

 

Read Friday

25 Nov

This week I finished reading a book, which, in the age of tracking everything, means that I needed to log it in my Goodreads account and see how I was doing on my 2016 Reading Challenge.

Not good.

At the beginning of the year, I was really hopeful about reading more books (especially since I have a tsundoku problem and want to rectify it a bit), so I signed up for Goodreads’ annual reading challenge with the optimistic hope of clearing up the piles a little bit…..though really I should have done some sort of “here’s all the books I didn‘t buy” challenge as well, just to make it seem like I made some sort of actual progress.

Anyway, my Goodreads account had said I’d read 14 of 20 books in my challenge.

Gulp.

Quickly log book.

We’re at 15 now!

Realize that I hadn’t logged a couple of books I’d read this year.

Furiously log them.

Remember why I hadn’t logged them: Mostly embarrassing chick lit books that took weeks to read because they were poorly written (is good learning tool!).

Doesn’t matter! Have to hit goal!

Now I stand at 17 books down, three to read within the next month and change.

That’s three books I’ve challenged myself to read during a very busy month–except that there will probably be a few days at the end of the year where there’s nothing to do but read books, and maybe I will also be smart and pick books that I can’t put down, which technically means getting them done quickly.

I can dream.

Or I can put away the computer and pick up the book I’m currently reading and make some progress that I’ll be proud of at the end of the year.

In related news, I also keep track of my reading in this spreadsheet, as I’m also trying to see how geographically diverse my tastes are. Here I track author by birthplace. I have no real set focus for how I choose what I’ll read next–the goal is mainly to read the books I currently own. If I manage to ever do that, than perhaps I’ll put myself on one of those interesting journeys to read books from authors in every country of the world. For now though, I just like seeing where the authors I read come from and wondering whether and/or how birthplace has an impact on writing.

But Jill, why double up on the tracking?

Honestly, the Goodreads challenge puts a little impetus on reading as a goal. It’s my accountability buddy (and if you think an app as a buddy is a sad thing, the app doesn’t mind waiting for weeks while I read a few pages a night. A real buddy might get tired of tapping their foot and rolling their eyes at me). The spreadsheet is just a nice view of the overall picture of where the challenge has taken me, and I like to see it laid out over the years in nice, neat columns. It seems like real progress over time, no matter what my annual reading challenge goal is.

Speaking of which, that challenge is going to take me back to the couch to have a nice read for a couple of hours.

Postcard from the Suburbs

15 Feb

“Are you sure you don’t want a ride?”

The Doctor and I are at our childhood church. She’s in town to visit her mom; I’m here to take care of Ma Jaracz post-knee replacement surgery. We decided to walk to church because it would be good for us. A dumbfounded mother of a guy who was in our class keeps offering to drive us home because it wouldn’t be that much trouble, and it was a pretty far walk for us.

Before my arrival I’d been recruited to take my mom’s place serving coffee on the first Sunday I was here. Within 48 hours of my arrival, I was recruited to fill her spot in the handbell choir on the second Sunday. It’s been nice to be helpful.

The problem now though is that I haven’t been very helpful to myself–surgery means a lot of people bring food over. A lot of food. And desserts. For the first few weeks of recovery, I’ve had to stay close to home to be at the ready when needed, so my exercising quickly became limited to two main activities: Walking the dog and lifting the fork (or beer) to my mouth.

By my second Sunday in the ‘burbs, I’d noticed just how much I wasn’t moving. Everything’s by car here because why would you want to walk when you can drive? And if you’re driving, I certainly hope you didn’t have to park too far from the entrance of wherever you’re going. And heaven forbid you walk the half-mile (if that) to church. Life in a Midwest American suburb is hard–take it easy when you get the chance.

My waistline has really taken that advice to heart, and I can’t help but notice just how much I have been eating this past month. Stress eating. Feeling guilty about having all of this food on hand from people who so want to help and bring us meals that each feed a half-dozen people so that we don’t have to worry about cooking or eating take out. Problem is that each meal is approximately 4 1/2 more servings than we need per meal, since Ma J isn’t eating a ton. Even though they’re meant to cover multiple meals, when multiple people bring a multi-meal dish, well, that’s a multiplication problem.

We can’t freeze all of the overflow because she prepared for this event by filling her freezers (that’s freezers, plural) with meals and ingredients. That means a good chunk of this food has gone into my belly. My ever-expanding belly that doesn’t get a chance to digest it because I’m also not sleeping much. By the way, did you know that cooked carrots are delicious with dill–and brown sugar and butter?

At any rate, it’s all added up and shown me that life in these Midwestern suburbs has been kind of hard this month. But that doesn’t mean I should take the best parking spot and make that the easy factor in my life. It’s really time to change up some eating habits, some ways of thinking, and a lot of ways of eating–though that’s a lot easier to say than it is to flip on the switch that gets it done. But I think I can make that change, and I suppose that’s the first step to a better reality. If I’m wrong, just lie to me and tell me that it’s so. I’ve got a really long way to climb, and right now I need to believe that I can do it because the new additional poundage on me is saying I can’t.

Will Run for High Fives

4 Jan

While I was out doing a New Year’s Day 5K last Friday, I came up with my running challenge for 2016. Now, I don’t consider myself a runner runner, but I like to do several 5Ks a year, mostly because a 5K is a way to get a half-hour (or so) of cardio in and you go someplace (even if it’s a big circle). Doing a bunch of 5K runs gives you something to work toward, and the races are good points of progress throughout the year. And maybe more importantly, if you do enough races, you build up an extensive wardrobe of t-shirts and other gear.

Now, I’m sure some of you might not think “doing it for the t-shirt,” is a really great reason to spend a lot of money on fancy running shoes and insoles and pound the pavement regularly, but I don’t always do it for the t-shirt. Sometimes I do it for the post-race snack or beer.

Oh wait, did you think I would say that I run for the health benefits and for some sort of inner peace that I get from escaping my desk chair and running all over the world? Fat chance. I’m also the person who spent five figures on grad school for equal parts getting to wear the master’s robe at graduation and getting to move to Chicago….oh, and yeah, because I was somewhat interested in library science as a way to earn a living. Of course I run for the benefits–all of them–and “health benefits” are as far down my list as library science was.

Anyway, I’ve noticed at 5Ks that you’ll sometimes get little groups of spectators. Some of these people are stuck in traffic (and are angry because they had no idea a 5K was happening that morning), but some of them are there to watch the race. Sometimes they’re friends of the runner out to support them, but sometimes, they’re just watching to watch. And that’s what puzzles me. Why watch a 5K? There are a million of them every week–it’s not a huge deal like a marathon. Why do random spectators watch a run-of-the-mill road race?

I’m not sure, but I’ve decided that my new running challenge will be to make people happy that they decided to be along the side of the road when I run by: I’m going to high five as many spectators as possible.

I’ll have rules for this of course–I’m not going to get in other runners’ way by beelining from the center of the road to the gutter. I’m also not going to weave back and forth trying to slap every hand that’s there.  My personal time is somewhat important to me, but let’s face it — I’m not winning anything, not even my age group until I’m in the 80-89 category, if I’m lucky. When you live in Massachusetts, you quickly find out how many real runners are around these parts. A couple of years ago I was excited to move up an age group because it meant I might place better. NOPE. Folks are serious about their long distance runs here. Heck, there was a guy who could’ve been in his late 60s–or he could’ve been a well-preserved late 70-something–running without a shirt on New Year’s Day in 40-degree weather. That’s no chump.

Anyway, if I’m out there pounding the pavement, stuck in the back of the pack, watching the people with their baby strollers race past me like it’s no big deal, I might as well have some fun with it. I consciously made an effort to do this during this New Year’s Day run the Boy and I did (free socks!), and while I think some of the kids were a little perplexed that a stranger wanted to high five them, I have to say that the energy they gave me put a little pep in my next few steps and kept me going. I certainly appreciated that too–when you spend good chunks of the race thinking, “Where in the heck is mile 1?” and, “No, seriously, we’re only at mile 2? I’ve still got a good ten more minutes of this crap?” and, “Wait. Are we going uphill again?” mixed in with whatever one fast-paced song that’s running a continuous loop in your head for 30 whole minutes (usually my brain mashes up most of the “Run Lola Run” soundtrack. This race I only had T. Swizzle’s sick beat in my head. For the entire three-point-one miles), you appreciate the good will that a cheering spectator brings–even if they don’t think they’re really there to cheer for you.

So if you happen to be at a race I’m running in the near future (I’ll definitely be doing the Cambridge 5K series this year), look for me and hold out your hand like a fun spectator–I’ll be sure to slap you some appreciation.

 

My Trusty Steed

19 Nov

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This year I’ve had to get back in the saddle–the bike saddle, that is. Back in the day, when I lived in Chicago, I was a somewhat dedicated bike commuter, and I had no problem riding my bike around the city.

Moving to Massachusetts changed some of that — true, I tended to ride less because the Boy doesn’t have a bike (it’s no fun to do long, leisurely rides on your own), but living in a place where the drivers are flat-out lousy really scared me out of riding much. But needing to live better scared me back into it.

I used to have access to our car during the weekday, and I tended to fit in most of our errands during the week so we could avoid weekend store crowds and traffic. The Boy commuted by train to his job and got a little bit of reading time.

Well, that changed this year when the Boy’s office shuttle service disappeared. The train station isn’t near the office, and to be honest, adding the price of a cab ride onto the cost of a train ticket wouldn’t be any cheaper than driving. So he took the car, and if I need to go anywhere during the workday, I have to figure out how to get there.

For a while, I walked to wherever I was going, and if it was really far, I hopped on a bus or commuter rail. This often took a lot of planning — a 30-minute physical therapy session often required a couple of hours round trip on the bus, because the bus schedule is a little more sporadic where I live. Even walking to the nearest grocery store meant budgeting a minimum of one hour–and that’s if I flew through the store. And I could only take home as much as I could carry, which meant “not much.”

“But Jill, why didn’t you just start doing your shopping at nights and on weekends, like everyone else?”

I’ve seen you people. I might slit my wrists if I had to battle everyone else on a Saturday. Even weeknight shopping can be a combination of many near-miss car accidents, long lines and irritable people who just want to get home. And I say this with a lot of experience doing grocery shopping during senior citizen hours, when a busload of seniors gets dropped off at the store for their weekly shop and then only know how to move slowly and have their carts take up entire aisles [the bonus of shopping during senior citizen hours is that it’s a reminder to go home and exercise so that I maintain some strength and mobility and hopefully age more slowly]. Plus, the Boy hates errands, so why burden his free time with them if I don’t really have to?

Anyway, this summer I got tired of how small my world had gotten due to the limitations of walking, so I pulled on my big girl pants and started riding my bike on the mean streets of Massachusetts, where if the potholes, garbage and debris in the roads aren’t going to get you, the Massholes might.

Even though it’s scary–and the Boy worries like crazy–my trusty steed and I go out on an almost daily basis. I still mainly do errands, but I’ve learned how to carry 100 empty bottles and cans to return them to a recycling redemption center. I’ve managed to tote a bunch of office supplies in my saddle bag and lug 22 pounds of groceries four miles–while a massive truck towing a bulldozer sped past me (honking furiously, like I could magically jump the curb)–all while managing to get the eggs home in quite decent shape. And I’ve learned how to rig up bungee cords to attach big boxes onto my back rack so I don’t have to awkwardly walk them to UPS.

All in all, since mid-August, I’ve put 150 miles on my bike (and that’s with me being out of town a lot), and gained about the same amount of confidence. Even though it’s getting colder and is a lot less fun to ride, the freedom the bike gives me is totally worth it. I try really hard not to be a cyclist Masshole who runs red lights and stop signs, and I still fear that some idiot is going to hit me some day. But I can’t not get out there and live the better life that the bike gives me.

 

Internet: I Need Your 80s Knowledge

17 Apr

My British friend is getting married in a few weeks and for the dancing portion of the celebration, she wants to play Kylie Minogue’s version of “Locomotion” and have me lead everyone in doing the dance.

What dance? There’s a dance specifically for this song?

We fly to YouTube. “It’s not from her video. I just remember doing it,” she said.

We couldn’t find any videos of Brits from 1988 who are doing this particular dance–not in the clubs, not in random gatherings, not on the streets. There are lots of different “Locomotion” dances on the Tube, but not the one she’s thinking of. I thought maybe it was particular to her area of England, but she said she was 10 at the time and didn’t really travel much.

I’ve asked around a little bit and have heard that maybe this dance could simply be a conga line, with everyone moving their arms in a steam train motion. My friend thought there was a little more to it, like the macarena (click on that link at your own risk).

Internet, I’m asking you: If you were around during the late 80s and were in Britain, do you remember this dance and can explain it to us? Help a bride and groom out!

Goal Achieved?

1 Apr

I’ll get to the point: I disappointed myself in March. 12.34 miles short of my monthly goal. I have no idea how this happened–after all, I thought I ended up having to walk a lot this past month. To the bus, from the bus multiple times during the month, which is about a mile each way, plus other walking and running in between and a great 5K run.

Obviously though, I regularly cut corners and figured I’d make up the distance later. Unfortunately, I realized far too late just how bad the situation had gotten.

This shouldn’t have happened–I use a tracking app while I’m out, and I also have a training journal. But using them and using them are two different things. I didn’t check in weekly to see how things were going and make sure I was staying on track. If I had, I wouldn’t have backed myself into such a corner.

While I lick a tiny wound from having to learn a lesson, the calendar still turns. It’s onto another month, one that’s a blank grid ready to fill with accomplishment. I can turn it around and get back on track–no try, no perhaps. Can. Besides, it’s National Walking Day, so what better way to get started?

Damn Resolutions

30 Mar

With three days to go in the month, I decided to count up the mileage I’ve logged outside and see where I was in terms of meeting my 100 miles/month goal.

Apparently I thought March had about 35 days in it because I was 21.98 miles short.

Uh oh.

Time to implement a two-a-days plan andget that mileage logged. Then learn that maybe I should check in with my progress weekly and make sure I’m on track. The days of “oh, I can make that up later this week/next week” must end. If I managed to meet my  goal in February, there’s no excuse to not accomplishing it in March.

And speaking of excuses, it’s time to get outside and run. Those miles aren’t going to log themselves.

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