Tuesday, January 28, 2014

While we try to teach our children all about life,

our children teach us what life is all about.

Angela Schwindt

I came across this unpublished post while sorting through all my drafts. 
Every bit of it is still true. 
Today is as good a day as any to press the publish button.
I love this kid.

He reminds me every day to have a little fun. To lower the barriers and let loose.


He encourages me to never stop learning. No matter how much I think I know about Star Trek, it's not enough. 
(Just this morning on the ride to school he asked me if I'd rather be trill, klingon or vulcan.)


He keeps me on my toes.


He shows me that anything is possible. With enough practice, I can do it.


Above all, he never allows me to take myself too seriously.

He makes me mad, frustrated, sad, anxious and happy... sometimes all in one day. Or hour. But such passion comes from a love few can imagine. He's my soulmate, my buddy, my reason for everything. He's the yin to my yang. 

I see so much of myself in him. I also see an unimaginable future should he set even a fraction of that brilliant mind to something.

Here's to you, Kid.

Monday, January 27, 2014

In Boston they ask, how much does he know?

In New York, how much is he worth? 
In Philadelphia, who were his parents?

Mark Twain 


I've been talking about big cities a lot lately. Thinking about them, too. I'm not a country girl, you see, and therefore find myself to be a restless soul in small town America. For the past few years I've felt like an island... separate from the world around me. That's why, on a particularly restless weekend, I often gravitate toward the city. For us, "The City" is Boston at just 90 or so minutes from home. I wanted to stretch the legs of my new camera lens, so we headed out. A change of scenery was long overdue and an unexpected snow storm was not going to deter us. It turned out to be a lovely evening. 
(On a side note, that lens is bonkers. Although daylight had long since disappeared, it let in so much light. All the more reason to learn how to do it justice.)


I remember our first visit quite clearly. We came up to explore the area just a few weeks before leaving St. Louis. New England was the last uncharted territory in my world. I'd never been there and it was love at first sight. We had a late dinner at The Black Rose, a restaurant for which I will always have a soft spot. The history, culture, and nautical vibe... Boston will forever be a home away from home. The moment we set foot there, it was added to the list of cities we may one day settle down. That hasn't changed in the last 6+ years.

Here's to you, Beantown. I'll miss your face. 






The Custom House Tower. My favorite building in Boston.



Owning a condo in this waterfront building is a pipe dream.




Another favorite spot is this steaming teakettle above a quaint little Starbucks.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

CrossFit: An Updated Perspective



Back in September I wrote about my CrossFit experience thus far. I had concerns, but was committed to giving it my all. At the time I was literally forcing myself to walk through the door after working up the courage to steer my car in the direction of the studio. And I was only going three days a week. I hadn't found my groove, nor had I established my place in the group.

Then, along the way, a shift happened. I wish I could pinpoint the day. CrossFit was no longer agonizing. I felt much more comfortable in my own skin, and found kindred spirits in the 9a and noon classes. Going every day felt as routine as brushing my teeth. Although the tides had turned, I still felt like something was missing. In early December I started establishing my one rep max weight in different weight lifting moves, and began feeling like the missing piece was in place. Instead of floundering during the strength training portion of the workout, I started to get a glimpse into what my body is capable of doing. I wasn't the only one surprised by what I could do, and my name is now on the record board in three places: front squat, back squat and deadlift. I also became comfortable with modifications. In lieu of pull ups, I do ring rows. Instead of handstand pushups, I do wall walks or hold in plank pose. Anything and everything can be modified. And my body responded. Sometimes from one workout to the next.


My head space changed, too. I stopped caring about being last or not being able to keep up with the more experienced athletes. I compete with myself with the end goal of feeling better. Stronger. To not have to squeeze into my pants. I also abandoned the scale. I touched on this the other day, but discovering what my perceptually imperfect body can do for the first time in my life is a pretty amazing thing. I'm strong. Broad hips and shoulders can do a lot of heavy lifting. Running, jump roping, and burpees, while still unpleasant, are doable. I did thirty consecutive burpees during a WOD the other day. Two months ago I could barely manage five in a row.

There have been days that I just didn't have it in me. It hurt or took forever or my body wouldn't respond to my requests. Where everyone else was done and rallying around me to finish even though I wanted to quit more than anything. But once I walk out that door, I pat myself on the back for a job well done. Regardless of my time or the weight I did or didn't lift. I've been working on my strict pull up for almost two months and haven't improved much at all. I simply move it over to the next month on the goal board and keep plugging away. I scarcely recognize this girl. The girl who has always expected way too much of herself. It's kind of awesome.


This is not to say my CrossFit experience is now wrinkle-free. I pushed Mario to find a physical outlet of his own, and knowing what CrossFit has done for me, I encouraged him to attend their month-long Foundations course in November. I verbalized my concerns about sharing a workout, but assumed my fretful nature was to blame and things would be fine. By the second session, his competitive drive kicked into high gear. He is an extrovert who enjoys attention, while I shy away from it. And I'll be honest: I couldn't handle it. He could do things I couldn't and was very open about showing me (he should be proud!). For the first time, the attributes that made us work so well as a couple, well, weren't working for us. In that particular environment, anyway. A more emotionally evolved person would have been happy for his success as he was mine and better able to separate his journey from my own. But I couldn't. And boy did I try. His competitive behavior wormed its way into my psyche and began to sour CrossFit for me. Part of it was his unwillingness to step away despite knowing I had grown uneasy. (In all fairness, I didn't ask him to. Nor should I expect him to read my mind.) Part of it was that my physical outlet no longer felt like an escape. Mostly it was more complicated than that. I came to realize how much I'd gone through to get where I am. Two months spent mustering up the courage to sign up for an intro session. More mustering to sign up for Foundations. Overcoming feelings of insecurity, insufficiency, and fear in order to keep going after the bubble of Foundations burst. Coming back after a two month summer hiatus was hard and I was fairly sure I wasn't going to be able to stick with it past the month of September. I had to work through some deep-rooted issues in order to be successful. And the work paid off: for the first time in my life I enjoy working out. That's right, I used the word enjoy. I've found my niche. Husband walked in the door and instantly became obsessed with the culture. I'm jealous it was so easy for him. What took me months and months and months took him what seemed like moments. I acknowledge that it was more complicated than that for him, but from where I stood it appeared that way. After feeling rather miserable for a over a month, I finally had to ask him to find something of his own. I felt guilty. And selfish. I was afraid he'd stop working out altogether. But I came to realize that burden is not mine to bear. I'm his wife, not his mother, and he has to find his own path. I had created this whole mess by micromanaging his life. I want to be able to talk about my progress and vice versa. To have separate interests. Perhaps one day I'll be comfortable CrossFitting with him. Just not today. And you know what? He was totally cool with it. A little bummed, maybe, but he respected my feelings. What felt like a huge marital hurdle ended up being a valuable life lesson.


I recently had another revelation: I need balance. CrossFit is adrenaline-pumping, strenuous and singularly focused; my body also needs to move in more calming ways. So after an 18 month hiatus, I walked back into a yoga studio. What was once an escape from anxiety became monotonous for me, so I stopped. Still, it was there waiting for me when I needed it again. But CrossFit isn't an inexpensive endeavor, and I felt bad paying for both. I got over it. There are so many things I could cut back on (lattes, for example), but something that improves my health and well being shouldn't be one of them. Today I converted Kiddo's Y membership to a family one. Mario will have a place to go, Kiddo will maintain his activities, and I can mix up my routine. I've always wanted to try Zumba and I have a friend I can go with. I can take a class instead of waiting in the lobby while Jared is in fencing. My point is this: CrossFit can be all-encompassing. And while my journey with it has just begun, it is important that I do other things, too. Perhaps Mario and I can find another form of physical activity to do together in the process.


The last component has involved what goes in my gullet. I can honestly say I don't participate in traditional diets anymore. (Been there. Done that. Been miserable. Quit. Lather, rinse, repeat.) But CrossFit promotes a Paleo lifestyle and I was willing to give it a go. So I joined a month-long Paleo challenge back in October and actually liked it. After just a couple weeks it less resembled a diet and did indeed seem more like a way of life. I was better able to examine what I ate and how it made me feel. This month I recommitted to the Paleo way of eating. The eczema on my hand cleared up after a year spent battling it. (This morning, during a regular checkup, my doctor attributed this to going dairy-free... something I know I am sensitive to. But I couldn't quit you, Cheese.) My fingers are less puffy. I feel better. But my weight has been creeping up and my pants were feeling more snug. In a moment of weakness I pulled out the scale and experienced total and utter discouragement last week. My muscle mass is increasing steadily, but what about the pudge? While I've yet to find total resolution with this issue, I'm sticking with it. Perhaps adding in other activities will help. Paleo has me feeling better, and that's more important than pant size at this juncture. I ordered the two Well Fed cookbooks and love them. The boys do, too. (For the record, I'd buy them again even if they weren't Paleo.) If I feel deprived, I eat a scone for goodness sake. Just not every day, or even every other day. Self control is a good thing, after all. If nothing else, Paleo has helped me learn to enjoy cooking. I don't shy away from recipes that require chopping a bunch of ingredients. I made my own mayo from scratch and mayo has notoriously made me want to gag. This stuff doesn't. I meal plan, complete with a list on the fridge. We make our own nut milk which Kiddo drinks by the glassful. If you had told me a year ago I'd be making my own nut milk, I would have scoffed at you. (I giggle every time I say "nut milk". Because clearly I am a 12 year old boy.) Good things, as Martha would say.

So there is my rather lengthy explanation of where I am at now. I imagine my perspective will change again with time. Our trip to Rio next month will be a good test of my devotion. Eating Paleo on vacation will be tough. Waking up early to work out will be, too. I know enough now to create my own WODs, but will I? I say yes, yes I shall. Only time will tell. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

This that and the other.

Gosh. I'm a little worn out. I've been telling myself it is likely a symptom of my increased number of CrossFit sessions, which has included a lot of serious weight lifting. Oh, and that elimination diet I'm working. And a lack of daytime structure. And the little stomach bug I've been fighting off the last couple days. And, and, and. That heavy-limbed and foggy-brained kind of tired. The I only want to wear sweatpants kind of tired. The remedy on this particular afternoon? A trip to the coffee shop to blog. Because let's face it: laying around watching television all day begins to become a syndrome in and of itself. Be warned; this post is a bit stream of consciousness.

source
I've been in a show rut. Kiddo and I used to watch half an episode of Once Upon a Time before bed, but he's lost interest. Probably because the story line has become a bit tired. I'm pretty sure Revenge jumped the shark a couple weeks ago. And honestly, I cringe my way through The Real Housewives anymore. I once found their absurd behavior to be some sort of ridiculous but entertaining social experiment, but now I'm just embarrassed for them. I get genuinely uncomfortable. I'm not sure what happened there, but I find myself walking away from an episode a half dozen times. I have many rotting away on my DVR ready to be thrown out.

I finally got around to downloading my Amazon Prime account onto the Wii because let's be honest, Netflix is great only if you do not have something specific you are looking for. For example, I was in the mood for the Little Mermaid the other day and it is one of the few Disney movies it doesn't have. The one thing I want is never there. Ever. But I digress. 

I was looking for something new. Edgy. Something that had been around a while so I could spend some time catching up. I want to be in it for the long haul. I was seconds away from Sons of Anarchy when I passed by Parenthood. I've heard of it. I've never watched it. But something said I should. So I did. And did. And did. Now on Season 3 in just a week, I'm a bonafide Parenthood fan. I'm eating that show up with a spoon. It's a departure for me, I think. Though I did love Gilmore Girls and by association must love anything with Lauren Graham in it. Or so I think must be true. Golly is it good. I've quickly become invested in the characters. And so many times I've thought I do that, too! or I think that, too!. And boy do I find myself wishing I had that family. Wishing that Kiddo had play dates with his cousins and sleepovers at his grandparent's house. That I had sibling relationships. There is drama with family, yes, but the love. Oh, the familial love. I think I may be living vicariously through the characters.

source
Last week Mario was compiling a music list for a work conference. Music for the breaks and in-between moments. This led to me giving my two fifteen cents on the matter. Because music is an opinionated thing. The first year we dated, Mario and I did the long distance thing. The two hour drive between us called for mixed CDs, which he burned for me often. I'm on a mission to find the first one. I know I kept it, but where? It had Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" and so many other favorites. It really was the best mixed CD ever burned. Van Morrison was also in attendance. Which eventually became our wedding song. (Along with Wyclef's "Take Me As I Am". It became ours, too, along the way.) Anyway, the quest for good, soulful music to share brought me back to that song. Our song. Van the Man has been at a lot of weddings, but "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You" is lesser known and from his hard-to-find 1989 album Avalon Sunset. Which led me to believe that I must have a copy and it must be in LP format. Which means I need to buy a record player. I love the crackling of needle to record. I can further justify this purchase because I have an original copy of The Gnome Mobile soundtrack that may be liberated from its frame on my gallery wall and listened to with abandon. Mario may have thought I'd lost my mind... but I know he'll look for it every time he comes across a stack of old records. Because he is just that big of a gem.


Our town is straight out of a quaint New England stereotype. At one end of Main Street lies the town square and at the other is the college. As I drove through town this morning on the way to Kiddo's school, stopping every 100 feet at packed pedestrian crosswalks, I realized today must be the first day of classes for the semester. And I'm not there. What a strange and wonderful feeling.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday's a free day. A woman's day.

Neil Gaiman

I'm in this weird Oh, look at that. Another week has passed. mode. Mario will be home today and we'll spend the weekend as a family. But Fridays don't signify another week of classes down, a break from work, or being a week closer to x, y and zed... so on. It's a day. And that's weird. Still, turning off the alarm completely on Friday morning in preparation for the weekend is pretty awesome. 

What was the point of that paragraph? Your guess is as good as mine. Let's move on.

Here's a look at a few things that have made this week stellar:

1// This kid. I say that all the time. But gosh is he some kid. 2// I'm finally up to 2010 in terms of advancing my technological prowess. That's right: a Bluetooth keyboard for my iPad. No more lugging my 20lb laptop around. I can do some bonafide blogging with it now. (I've had the Blogsy app for a long time but couldn't get over the hurdle of the tap screen keyboard. Now I'm really cooking with oil.) 3// It's true love. I picked the Boscia black cleanser as a 100-point bonus from Sephora a month or so ago and fell hard. It gets hot when you rub it on your face! Magic! This hydrating gel is no exception. Softer than a baby's butt around here. 4// Hello, beautiful. As I mentioned earlier this week, I bought a new lens. A 17-55mm to fill the gap between my macro and telephoto lenses (and replace the standard one that came with the camera). Holy moly is this thing awesome. It's my first Sigma lens, as I've stayed pretty loyal to Nikon, but I have a hard time believing they can make a better lens than this one. My collection is complete! (I think I'm becoming a real photography nerd!) 5// I've been feeling dangerous lately. I don't wear lipstick very often, but appreciate what a great color can do. I also think trying to find the right shade online is an impossible vortex you may never get out of. After a return and lots of perusing, I found this one. This picture doesn't do it justice... it is a deep berry that is universally flattering. It's definitely for evening wear, so I may have to establish regular date nights so I can wear it with abandon. Oh, and so I can bond with my husband. [Manna Kadar lipstick in Street Smart] P.S. I am certainly not the selfie queen. They are awkward-looking and I always have google eyes in them. Can I still be a blogger?

Have a great weekend!

[Linking up with Lauren]

Thursday, January 16, 2014

I made no resolutions for the New Year.

The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.

Anaïs Nin


I realized today that I've been procrastinating about writing my new year/clean slate post. Not because I was forcing a post that simply wasn't in the wings, but because I wanted it to be written with intention. To delve a little deeper as opposed to just scratching the surface. I want to be able to look back at this post in the coming years and have it mean something. To have it really reflect where I was and where I will be. Reflection, I believe, will be integral to a better understanding of what I want and where to go from here. My heart's desires are often harder to understand than one might think.

I'm not one for New Year's resolutions. Not because I think they are setting oneself up for failure... they just aren't for me, personally. To each their own. I just know changes have to be big to be effective and long lasting. (Again, in my case.) I have to have a solid purpose. Simply hanging a new calendar above my desk isn't sufficient to elicit real change. Wanting to be skinnier will never be enough to prompt regular gym visits or healthy eating. There has to be more. Wishing for weight loss is to just scratch the surface. Dealing with what led to that extra layer of insulation is the issue that must be sorted out. Dig deeper, always.

I put a lot of pressure on 2013. I envisioned all kinds of drastic changes. What I realized, after a mini-crisis of sorts, is that it was a staging year. It prepared me for what is to come. While amazing things certainly happened in the past 12 months--life changing things--my existence, as it is now, still resembles what it did a year ago. The skies didn't open up and reveal everything. Did I really think they would? But, you know, we set ourselves up for such disappointment. Unrealistic expectations are the root of a lot of heartache, in my opinion.

A while back I stumbled upon a journal-type notebook, stashed in the back of a desk drawer. Only the first page contained writing; a list. It is not so much a bucket list as a life list. It has some of the standards: learn a different language, see the world, etc. Cliche or not, they're staying put. I've always wanted to speak Spanish well, and should therefore never stop aiming for fluency.

I imagine I wrote that list about 7 years ago. And by the time of its rediscovery, I could cross off 3 of the 10 items, all of which I accomplished in the last 12 months. Those 3 items, written by a rather different woman than the one before you, will be the foundation for 2014:


1// Graduate from college and get your dream career. On December 14, 2013, I said goodbye to my undergrad years. A mom to a rather fastidious kiddo and the wife of a traveling businessman, the road to academia was a bumpy one. I've talked about this journey from time to time. (Or in every post. Who's counting.) A lot of hard, painful things appear easier than they were thanks to some time and distance. This isn't one of those things. I ran on fumes for 4.5 years. I'll never forget how hard it was... which serves to fuel the final push to get through grad school. These last few years will not be for nothing. Eye on the prize. The next 12 months will involve applications and essays and uncertainty. And hopefully an acceptance letter. I also hope to score a job I can love to fill the in-between period. Above all, I intend to bask in the pride that comes with a great accomplishment. I'm very prone to the what now? syndrome. I didn't grow up in a home where college was encouraged. The older I got, the less I thought it would happen. But boy did I want it to. Another resolution? Don't ever underestimate my capabilities. Sheer determination and willpower drove me down this road.  
Imagine what else I can do if I want it bad enough...


2// Find fitness. Find a happy size and stay there. Okay, so I didn't accomplish the last part. But I still crossed it off. Because somewhere along the way size stopped mattering. And really, that was the goal, wasn't it? Have I found total body happiness? Nah. But I found fitness. Never before have I wanted to work out. I don't claw my way in the door or mimic a hamster on a wheel day after day. I work harder than I ever thought possible and challenge my body in ways I never foresaw. And it responded. My wide shoulders and hips have a purpose: to work. To lift heavy things. To amaze me. If only the 20-year old me had known they served a greater purpose than to make me self-conscious. I will never be a size 6. Ever. But I can deadlift 240 pounds after only a few short months of practice. I like that number much better anyway.


3// Find a hobby you will love forever. Just over a year ago, I unwrapped a camera for Christmas. A beautiful creature with the potential to take amazing photos. It has given me the opportunity to tap into my creative side in ways a formal education often neglected. I'll admit, I've only just begun experimenting with the manual setting. I didn't understand what the different aperture and speed settings meant for a very long time. Heck, I didn't know what aperture meant a year ago. What I do know is that I love photographing things. My family, food, nature... the whole wide world around me. When seen through the eye of a camera lens, everyday things have the power to amaze. This week I (gulp) bought the final lens to round out my collection (and a new case... I'm still a bit queasy about the amount of money we plunked down, though I expect to have these things for many, many years). It isn't a particularly cheap hobby, that's for sure. But the fulfillment I get from it rivals all other past hobbies combined. I'm using this in-between time to study it. Learn it. Do it some justice by totally disregarding the auto setting. (Jenni, at Story of My Life, is one of my favorite photographers. I've spent oodles of time admiring her amazing shots and mentally noting the qualities they possess that I'd love to emulate in my own photography. She has mentioned using the Extremely Essential Camera Skills to get started, so I thought it'd be a great place for me to begin as well. My goal is to finish it before our trip to Rio next month.)


There is one other thing that wasn't on the list but that I work toward every day. Not a resolution, but rather an ongoing goal that will likely be carried over from year to year:

4// Go a little easier on myself. I would never place such unreasonable expectations on others. Letting myself off the hook once in a while or saying no to someone is not a sign of weakness. I don't have to be everything to everyone all the time. Nor do I want to. Perfection is overrated. So stop it already.

Rather than reinventing the wheel, or my life as it were, I'm going to continue focusing on these goals in 2014. Why stop here? Why heap on more goals when I can expand on existing accomplishments? Maybe this will be the year that I achieve the second half of the second goal. I'll never know if I move on after merely scratching the surface.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

New York is an ugly city, a dirty city.

Its climate is a scandal, its politics are used to frighten children, its traffic is madness, its competition is murderous.
But there is one thing about it - once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.

John Steinbeck


I am such an unfocused blogger lately. Although real life resumed a week ago, I have yet to settle into the in-between. I have fallen into a regular CrossFit schedule, which serves as something concrete to tether my day to. That helps. But my 6a wake up call hasn't gotten any easier, and I'm lacking focus. My goal for this month was to sit down and write every single day. To portion off part of my day and dedicate it solely to putting fingers to keyboard. It's simply not happening. Perhaps I need to take a more aggressive approach. Because I wasn't going back to school this semester, I neglected to buy a planner. That appears to be a misjudgement. I'm finding that my day feels better when I know what I'll be doing and when. I have a list of blog topics on a virtual sticky note, but I have yet to organize the photos and get started. I also have over a dozen drafts that have been abandoned and need to be deleted, rewritten, or finished. That's my goal for this week. To get a planner and use it to divide my time, meal plan, and find a rock solid period to write. I know how it feels to be over scheduled. I lived that way for years and will again when I go back to work and as grad school approaches. And while I don't want to resume that rather heart-racing pace, I'm finding that having (almost) every second planned isn't such a bad thing. When done with intention. When at least a few minutes are blocked off to "do nothing."

In the meantime, here are some photos and thoughts about our New York City trip over the holidays. (Check one post off the list!)























Every time we are in The City, no matter how long the visit, Mario and I begin to test out the idea of living there. There is no denying the buzz of city life... the hustle and bustle carries a certain attraction for us. The thought of selling our stuff and giving up our cars in favor of walking and a smaller dwelling carries a lot of appeal. No more junk in the basement and closets... space is at a premium in The Big City.

Two things cause us pause: First, could we maintain our quality of life? We checked out an apartment on a whim while we were there, and although charming, $2500/month would buy us less than 500 square feet and just a single bedroom. By the American standard, our house is pretty small (but perfect for us) at just 1300 square feet on the ground level. And our mortgage is over a thousand dollars less per month. Second, how does one raise a child in the city? Hundreds of thousands do, but how exactly? Private or public school? What neighborhood do you decide to live in? So many questions...

We have always said that if city life calls, Chicago would be at the top of our list. But there is simply nothing like New York City. There isn't. While we certainly say hello to tourist favorites like Times Square and Rockefeller Center, we love nothing more than to find hidden gems... places prized by native city dwellers. To take the subway to and fro. To scope out a funky flea market in Hell's Kitchen. To walk through neighborhoods and imagine ourselves living in a particularly lovely walk-up in the West Village.

The seed has been planted. Perhaps once Kiddo is on his own journey. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. But for now, it is just a dream.
(Did the Nelly song just pop into your head, too?)