The Judo Update

I have competed in my first judo tournament.  Actually, I have competed in two.

WHAT?

To recap- I started doing judo back in February.  If you remember, it is one of my life list/bucket list/ apocalypse list items, to do judo for a year (by husband and son both do the judo).

It’s really fun.  And it’s a ridiculous workout.  Seriously, sometimes, sweat is just dripping off of me.  But, I also like it because a lot of it just makes sense.  And there are a ton of good analogies for thinking about life.  Explaining these would require their own blog post, which will happen at some point, just not today.  Because today, we are going to talk about competitions.

Before we talk about competitions, it first merits discussing weight.  First, in judo, we talk about weight in terms of kilograms and weight classes.  The two heaviest weights for women are under 78kg and 78kg+ (spoiler: 78 kgs is 171.6 lbs).  The way I see it, I have to “realistic” options, given my height and proclivity for not being weak AF: stay in the 78kg+ weight class or attempt to get into the under 78kg weight class.  There are pros and cons to either of these.  But the long story short version is: the 78kg+ weight class is open ended, so it is possible for a person who is 172lbs to fight someone who is 250lbs or 260.  Or 300lbs.  But, also, there aren’t many women to fight in this weight class (not that many women+judoka+that weight class).  Some might read this as like, “scoreboard! less competition!”  Which is true.  But it also means less competition- because generally, people like to try to compete against players that are the same size.

In judo, they try to keep more advanced players going against more advanced players, and novices going against novices.  But in the 78kg+ weight class, there aren’t enough judoka, so you might, as a precious baby white belt, end up fighting against a black belt (more on that later).  Even in the under 78kg weightclass doesn’t necessarily mean there a lot of judoka to compete against, but there tends to be more.

It is no secret- but I am in the 78kg+ weightclass.  I think about what it would be like to be in the under 78 kg weight class.  Like, obviously, I would have to drop a lot of fat for that to happen.  But what about my ass?  Also, what about my muscles?  Would I have to get rid of those?

So, being in this weight class meant that when we went to Cleveland for the Rock and Roll tournament, there wasn’t anyone for me to fight.  No big surprise there (it was quite a small tournament).  In the Cohen tournament a couple of weeks ago, there were ladies for me to fight (a green belt from texas.  And a black belt former World Youth Champion.  NBD.)

Now here is where it gets real: When I showed up for the Cohen tournament, I hadn’t ever practice fought with anyone (we call it “rondori”).  There are a lot of reasons for this, but they are all kinda boring.  But that did not stop me.  Keep in mind that I am not expecting that I am going to make an Olympic team in my first match.  I was just looking forward to working with other ladies my size(ish).

Nico was also competing in the Cohen tournament and the whole morning was just a practice in hurry up and wait.  And also, make sure you’re paying attention so you know when you’re up.  Finally they call my division and I get suited up.  They call us onto the mat.  And my opponent (the former world youth champion doesn’t show up).  WHAT?

I am dying.  I win by disqualification- but am highly annoyed.  Turns out, my opponent was five mats away (she didn’t speak English and didn’t realize it was party time). I mean, its cool that I get points for that “win”, but I really just want my first match.  My next match up, I am fighting the green belt from Texas.

She throws me in about 30 seconds- after I pick up a penalty for being too defensive (spoiler alert, I wasn’t being defensive, I was just watching our feet, since watching my feet is pretty much how I walk everywhere).  It was incredibly frustrating.

So, after a short break, I step up and get ready to fight the former world champion, who is from Cuba.  For those of you who don’t know, Cuban judo is legit.

Now, here is where I should explain what happens when you have to fight in the elite division when you are a novice.  Basically, the elite divisions has some extra requirements.  Like, you have to wear a plain white shirt under your gi.  And you have to have a blue gi and a white gi.  Well, why in the hell would I know any of that?  I am just a little baby white belt novice.  So, I get on the mat to  fight the former world champion and she has to deal with her gi and shit and we’re ready to go when the referee says, “You need a blue gi.”  And I say, “Yeah, I know.  This one is reversible.  I just dont have my blue pants with me.  I’ll get it under control for next time.”  To which he replies, “No, you need a blue gi now.”

WHAT?

So, long story short, Dave grabs the texas girl, who strips down and lets me borrow her pants, because she is a goddamn angel, while I turn my gi around (remember, its reversible).  All of this is happening while there are about 100 people in the vicinity, watching what is going on.  Here is the thing…. in a gymnasium full of movement and action and activity, with five mats going on, no one would have noticed if we were fighting.  But since we weren’t I just felt like all the attention was on us.  And if you know me at all, you know how good I am with undue attention on me (spoiler: I am not).  In all, it seemed like it took 49579 minutes to get into a blue gi- so much anxiety.  Which was great, when the match started and former world champ threw me and pinned me in 40 seconds.  Like, if I had another 10 seconds I *might* have busted out of the pin.  But probably not- because she wasn’t even trying hard to keep me there.

FFS.

So, when I come off the mat, I am fairly annoyed (read: upset- like trying to keep it together, but not understanding why I am so upset trying to do a sport for what is damn near the first time and not being good at it- but if you know me, I don’t like it when I practice and try to do things and that doesn’t work out for me).  Also, in total at this point, I have had less than two minutes of competition judo.  Which, to me, is really annoying to pay as much $$ and spend as much time doing the tournament, to have such a short amount of time (maybe next time, don’t get thrown so quickly?  Just a suggestion).  But, apparently, that is how judo is.

22538574_10110706373822883_1047917198943403094_o.jpgUltimately, I took 3rd out of 3 people.  The former world champ beat the Texas girl, so at least I was in good company.  The tournament director got me an exhibition match against another girl (KW), who is lighter than me, just so we could get some matches in.

With my knickers  sufficiently twisted, I stepped on the mat against this KW girl, outweighing her by a solid 40-50 lbs, but totally outclassed belt wise (she is a green belt).  So, the match starts and I am trying to not look at my feet, not get thrown, and not  violate any of the other rules I don’t really know.  She gets in close and is on the verge of throwing me.  Like, I feel like I am about to be thrown onto my face and I start to panic a little.

Here is the problem for me: all the things that I know intellectually how to do work very differently in practice.  Like, I have been working on a couple of throws, that should work, if I could just think through it (read: they require require that your brain is not in panic mode).

Narrator:  JBR’s brain was in panic mode.

Now, there is a move in judo called an ura nage.  It is a pick up, where you just wrap your arms around the person and pick them off the mat, and throw them over your shoulder.  For those of you familiar with wrestling, it is very similar to a souffle.  It’s a strong man’s move- because it doesn’t really require timing or skill, just being strong AF.

So, my brain, which is in panic mode, just thought, “Just pick her up and throw her over your shoulder and maybe that will be a thing.”

Yeah, I literally thought, “maybe that will be a thing,”.

Narrator: It was a thing.  In her third match ever, JBR thrown ura nage for ippon.

Ippon is “match ending point”.  It’s when a throw is so good that there is no need for the match to continue.  This can also be achieved by pinning opponent for 20 seconds or forcing their submission through a choke or an armbar.

There are a lot of times in a judo match when the referee will restart the match- like if someone is breaking some of the rules or there is a failure to progress in grappling on the mat.  So, when the referee stood us up in our starting spaces, I thought we were going to keep going- I didn’t realize that I had won.  Which was cool.

The lesson: there is almost always a way, as long as you’re in the fight.  So the trick is to be in the fight.

I was really glad to get the exhibition.

Ultimately, KW  talked me into fighting in the Halloween tournament in Minooka last week, where she beat me twice.  One of these was me not understanding how physics works.  22688074_147304212679471_1514927869203751786_n.jpg

But, I played better judo (apparently).  We’re going up to Wisconsin in December and I hope to get some more matches in.

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Where do I even Start?

The last 10 weeks have been unreal.

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Starting with the trip to Montreal for the American Sociological Association meeting in Mid-August, I have been traveling a lot.   For work, for fun, for everything in between.  After Montreal was a judo tournament in Cleveland, then a wedding in St. Louis, and an alumni thing in Tallahassee.  When I got back from that, I headed out to Ann Arbor for a work thing.  Next week I am going to see Springsteen on Broadway (squee).  Then we’re going to South Florida for Thanksgiving and up  to Wisconsin for a tournament in December and then to Dallas for Christmas.

It’s great.  But it’s also tiring.  Added on top of that, I am teaching two classes this quarter, a hybrid class that was supposed to be face to face and an online class.  So, it has just felt like I shouldn’t be working on this blog.  It felt wrong.

This is dumb.  Because in this time, I have watched all of the first season of Mindhunter and the last two seasons of Justified.  And all of Parks and Rec (to be fair, I’d started  that little task back in the spring).  I have also read some books.  *no explanation*.

I did recently pass a milestone though- last month WordPress was all over my ass about re-upping my blog hosting.  Having to decide whether or not to do that got me thinking about where this blog is versus where I want it to be and whether this is a project that I can sustain.  The conclusion I came to is that I still have some stuff to say.  It feels premature to shut it down, even if I don’t post nearly as often as I would like.

But we’re at that point of the quarter when I am starting to feel myself.  Kinda like the second trimester of being pregnant.  When your energy levels are back to being normal (somewhat) and you start taking on all kinds of new challenges and such.  That is where we are today.  But, the good news is that by mid-November, I start the long gentle slide to the end of the year… I am not teaching as much.  More time off- so that is good, even if I am traveling a lot.

Here’s to finding the rhythms that suit us.

Labor Day Hike Fail

Over Labor Day weekend, we decided to checkout the Skokie Lagoons in Skokie for some fishing and some hiking.  According to my “60 Hikes within 60 Miles of Chicago” book, this place had some decent hiking and lagoons.  If you knew me in real life, you might know that when I was a kid I could fish.  Not like it was my job.  But like, a country girl who knew shit but wasn’t interested in doing more of it.  Every field trip to Pine Island to go fishing (it was the 1980s)? Caught fish.  Fishing in our swimming pond (before we realized it was home to gators)? Caught fish.  

Since moving to Chicago, I have been trying to make being outdoors doing stuff a thing.  It is one of the things I missed about living in the south.  When we coached at Wakulla (to the south of Tallahassee), almost every single one of our soccer girls could have taken us fishing, scalloping, etc.  We  lived across from a wooded greenspace, where a Turkey lived.  When Dave and I started living together, we lived a quarter of a mile from a lake.  How many times did we go kayaking?  Twice, and both times it was a beat down.  The last house we lived in in Tallahassee sat on 1.25 acres of land.  I had a shitty garden that I half-hearted attempted to grow stuff in.  Spoiler alert: I was “too-busy”.  I wanna say to my younger, Tallahassee living self, “Like, bitch, you don’t have to do shit to grow tomatoes.  Just put those bastards in the ground.  They’ll grown year round (practically).”

In any case, I am nervous Nico is going to grow up being one of those kids that’s like, “Hey guys!  Let’s skip going camping this weekend and go see the three Star-Wars movies being re-released in 6D.”  And then, I would have to die of embarrassment.  

So, I have been trying to make fishing a thing.  I don’t know if it’s the bait I am using or the weather or what, but I have been striking out and this Labor Day was no exception.  And the hiking was suspect.  I only got onto a little footpath that went nearish the lagoon we were fishing at.  To be fair, the day was kinda over at that point, and my boys were ready to go.

But the good news is that we made it a little bit of a picnic and I had pecan and peach pie, which, if we are completely honest, ain’t too bad.

The One Where I Learn How to Brew Beer

I brewed my own beer this summer.

It wasn’t great.

When we lived in Tallahassee, we were good friends with Leslie and Keith.  Keith is an experienced homebrewer, with quite a lot of expertise.  So much so that he even brewed a beer for us to celebrate our wedding.  I was pregnant at the time, but I think Dave was fairly certain that I would cut him if he drank all of the homebrew before I could have any.  When it was time, it was delicious.  Just a really great beer.

When we were in Tallahassee, we tried to get into home brewing, but it was hard.  I was in grad school and Nico was young, and we were coaching.  So, it didn’t really happen.  Eventually, I got rid of all the home brew stuff.

But since I am trying to knock out the things I can off my list, I figured it was a good time to try again.  So, I bought a new kit.  And the stuff.  And the materials.  And gave it a go.

Truth be told, it wasn’t great.

The thing is, that I like crisp, light beers.  My favorites include Old Style.  Technically, I like pilseners, which are kind of a special class of lager (I think).  This beer I made was, while light, kinda of tangy, which is a weird taste for a beer.  I want beer that I can slug after mowing the lawn or playing soccer.  This wasn’t refreshing like that.  It is drinkable.  But I’m not sure I would share it with  a lot of people.

But it was a good learning process.  I learned how to use a hydrometer, which is a tool for measuring the gravity of liquids.

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I actually walked through all the steps of making the beer, and did it completely by myself, which was pretty cool.  It was a bit of a shit show:

  1.  I scalded the wort.  I didn’t realize it was possible to do this.  Essentially, I was using malted extract and poured the big can of syrupy thick stuff in the water and didn’t realize that it was so thick it would settle and scald.  I ended up having to strain black burned bits out of the beer.
  2. Sanitizing and cleaning bottles is a beat down.  I bought some bottles from the brew store, but also recycled a bunch, which involved soaking and peeling the labels off.  Something I didn’t realize, is that among the pry-lid bottles, they are not the same size.
  3. I broke several bottles.  I thought  I wasn’t using the bottle capper right, but it turns out that there were several different sized bottles.  So, I was putting the muscle on this bottles and they were just shredding in my hands.  It was kind of annoying.
  4. Brewing beer is a messy endeavor.  It really should be done outside- most kitchens are not well set up for it.
  5. Our place isn’t big enough.

The unfortunate thing about home brewing,  is that I feel like you do a lot of work and can’t even be guaranteed a good beer. Which is annoying.  So, when I plan to be out by the brew place, I plan to take a bottle of my beer and ask them why it tasted the way it did.

If it is a matter of the type of extract I used, that is an easy fix.  I think I might try actually brewing with the hops next time.  Take my game to the next level.

 

Summer Stretching Out to the Horizon

Summer is here.

For me, summer arrives when Nico gets out of school. There is something about the imposed structure of his school year that just keeps my feet on the ground.  Knowing every day he has to be up at 615 am just puts a dent in our plans.

Plus, the winter and spring just sucked the life out of me. Teaching 2 classes in winter plus a new prep in spring kept me and my plans grounded.

But now? Summer is here.

Remember the sequel to Anne of Green Gables, when Anne befriends Catherine Brooke, the headmaster of the school she teaches at when she leaves Avonlea?  Towards the end, they are in the Cuthbert orchard picking fruit…

BROOKE: Oh, Anne. Summer has flown by so quickly. A school teacher really is a slave of time. I don’t know how I’m ever going to go back.

ANNE: Don’t be silly. There’s always another bend in the road.

BROOKE: Bend in the road. There’s no bend in my road; I can see it stretching straight out in front of me to the skyline.

Anne is all about bends in the road, but me?  I like a long road stretching to the horizon.  Curves and bends require attention and effort and action, straight roads stretching to the horizon are nice.  🙂

I’m working on putting the class I taught face to face this past spring online for the summer. You have no idea what a relief it is to be teaching online again. Seriously. I feel like Sean Spicer doing sociology lectures- like it’s just a matter of time before the whole thing has gone off a cliff. And I have said something terrible, inappropriate, or flat out wrong.  Or better yet, like Tommy Boy trying to make his first sale.

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Yeah.  It’s that bad.

It’s not that I don’t know what I am talking about- its just that I don’t interact well with an audience.

I have a new research project I’m trying to get off the ground. It’s interesting- a throw back to one of my first graduate courses, using formal demographic techniques. Also, I have a couple of manuscripts in preparation. I’d really like this summer to be productive on the research front.

I’m hoping to get a little travel in, too. I’m set to present at a conference in Montreal in August. I think we’re going to be able to make it into a short family vacation. I am planning to tack on a few days at the end for a section hike of the Long Trail in Vermont. Essentially, I’m using it as a scouting trip- to determine what my thru hike in 2019 will be like. I’m hoping to get Nico out on some trails this season. His sports seasons are winding down- he has a handful of baseball games left, which is a relief. It’s the stress of watching your kid play sport, but it’s also the stress of managing the schedule, constantly wondering if you’re missing a practice or a game or what?

Also, my 20th senior class reunion is next year.  NEXT YEAR.  What is even happening?  How can that be 20 years ago?  I can’t even.  Back in the winter, we did a reunion soccer game (which hadn’t been done in a minute).  In order to keep it going, we have one scheduled for November.  The main guy who is organizing it has decided to make a 19.5 year reunion event weekend.  There will be our soccer game, plus a softball game.  One of the things I need to put some time into is helping with the organization for that.  It’s weird, but I spend a lot of time organizing shit, for someone who definitely did not major in it or have any time of early inclination for it as a child.

What about you?  What kind of big summer plans are on your horizon?

 

Make 100 Lovelies: #1 Chunky Cowl

My mom can make anything.

In part, I think her willingness to try to make stuff came from the fact that raising kids is expensive and she had three kids.

Growing up, she learned how to sew from the lady across the street. When my mom had kids, she didn’t shy from teaching herself quilting, knitting, dressmaking, cross-stitch, embroidery. Her attitude has always been that she could make something that was twice the quality for half the price.

Her approach has always been, “You don’t know how? Well, boo hoo for you! Can you read?” Literally. In third grade, When I was nervous about cooking for the first time, she said, “You can read, can’t you?”

That attitude- that if I was willing to learn, I could do just about anything I wanted to has permeated my life. Of course things are different now than when I was a kid. Now, Google and YouTube can teach anyone how to poach eggs, knit, or juggle.

So, at Christmas, I bought some chunky yarn to make a new cowl. With chunky yarn, it knitted up pretty fast. The pic below is my mom’s hands working to finish it. 

It really is something- to think about those hands and what they’ve done. I remember the feel of those hands, twisting my hair into a high and tight French braid for the first day of third grade. Those hands working the delicate orange-gold satin of my senior prom dress. Those hands working quickly and deftly at pressing homemade pizza crust into a round pan.

A lot of parents pass on terrible things to their  children; mental illness, physical disease, poor habits.  I am really glad that my mom passed her willingness and ability to learn how to do stuff, but more I am happy that I got her fearlessness about it.  Like, what is the worst that can happen if a project fails?  You’ve wasted time and maybe materials.  Big deal.

What did your mom pass onto you?

Taking Stock Volume 2

Pip and Maggie started me on the idea of taking stock.  Periodically, when I get a minute, its nice to think about the things that are happening.

Taking Stock Volume 2

Making : Nico’s baby book.  That is not true- I started the thing like 5 years ago.  Almost seven years after the fact, it’s still not done.  I know.  I am a bad mom.

Drinking : an Old Style.  I have convinced myself that my beer tastes are too fancy for Natty Light or Budweiser.  But my undying love for Old Style suggests otherwise.

Reading : I just finished The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball, which I absolutely love.  It’s brilliant and beautiful and essential reading for anyone who has an itch to start a farm.  The thing that I was most suprised about it is that I am still the same as a 37 year old mom as I was a 12 year old girl in that horses dying had me ugly cry  blubbering.  I also started reading the English Patient (as part of my Booker Man reading challenge).  I am also listening to White Trash by Nancy Eisenberg.Something that I didn’t know, mostly because I didn’t know much about him, but Andrew Jackson was kind of a son of a bitch.  Think Trump before Trump.

Wanting : I wish there was a book or a blog devoted entirely to city gardening.  It would explore the different ways people grow stuff in their homes in big cities, in garden plots, on balconies, on decks and rooftops.  Seriously.  If you guys don’t watch yourselves, I am going write one.

Looking : At farm Instagrams (would that be Farmstagrams?)  This is always a bad idea and makes me question most of my life choices.  Some of my favorites: Modern Farmer, Dishing Up Dirt, and Kreeky Tree Farm.  I am trying to remember that I have made some choices in order to maximize occupational stability and that at the end of the day, farming is probably not as stable as I think it is (based on my cursory reads of a few farm blogs and instagram).  It doesn’t stop me from wanting 20 acres in the upper midwest.

Waiting : I ordered a camp stove.  A CAMP STOVE.  I have been wanting one for a while, and had convinced myself that I needed a JetBoil, because I am fancy AF.  But I realized that the huge sell for a JetBoil is if you are into coffee, which I am not.  So, if you wanted to have hot food and having coffee isn’t a requirement, than you don’t necessarily have to have a JetBoil.

Wondering : So, one of the reasons why I want land for a farm is that I want rows on rows on rows of produce *I* want: strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, kale, zuchinni, potatoes.  I want to walk outside and pull strawberries off a plant and be able to taste the sunshine on them.  In any case, I remember thinking last year that I ought to just get some strawberry plants and shut up about it and if I did that, I would have strawberry plants before I knew it.  Well I didn’t. So here we are, a year later, no legitimate strawberry plants.  This year, I went ahead and bought some strawberry root plants.  It took me a couple of weeks to get them into the ground- and when I did, they were very dry.  I am not sure they are going to root- but thought I would give it a try.  I salvaged a large tupper ware container from the recycle bin and put some of the baby mostly dead rootballs in there.  I also put some greens seeds in too- thinking that by the time the strawberry plants needed the space, the salad greens would be done.  I am also planning to put the rest of the strawberries in the garden plot I have.  The only problem with that, is that you’re not supposed to grow strawberries in places where tomatoes have been grown a lot (due to a the risk of fungal infections in the soil that kill strawberry plants).  But I do what I want, so they are going in the ground.  Still, I am wondering how this strawberry experiment will work.

Listening : Springsteen’s Live from Dublin album.  When it first came out, I wasn’t really a fan- mostly because I have a taste in music that ranges from poor to plebian (much like my taste in beer- I acknowledge).  In any case, I stumbled on “When the Saints Go Marching In,” which is so lovely and mellow:

Buying : I gave up my garden plot in our old neighborhood.  It was just too hard to get over there after we moved to Rogers Park last year.  In the year we’ve been here, I had gotten a little discouraged because it didn’t look like I would get to the one closest to our place.  The other close place (walkable from our place) had a fee that was very high.  I was so discouraged, I tossed $60+ in leftover seeds from last year’s Territorial order into the garbage.  So, in a one off shot in the dark, I sent a note to the organizer for the closer garden to see if there was any movement on the waitlist.  BAZINGA!!  When she told me I was in, I put my foot on the pedal.  The plot is small (4′ by 8′)- but I am so stoked about it.  I placed a Territorial order and got supplied for up for gardening.  The news has also encouraged me to redouble my efforts at deck container gardening, which have been dismal in the past.

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Questioning : my love of the West Wing.  I am on my third watch.  I like it because it isn’t violent (for the most part) and the language isn’t bad, so I can have it on on the background when I am grading or cleaning or whatever, and I don’t have to worry about what Nico might see or hear.  Also, I am a liberal- and West Wing makes us liberals feel a certain kind of way.  Before it was a thing to pile onto Aaron Sorkin for being somewhat obtuse, I sorta had a problem with the way his women characters are written. As others have said, they are so one-dimensional.  I think that thing that bothers me most about them, is that when they make mistakes, the mistakes are the result of poor judgement or being emotional (anything CJ or the First Lady does), but when men (read: Sam, Charlie, or Josh) make mistakes they are the result of miscalculation or over confidence.  So I have been rewatching the West Wing and thinking about what would the same kind of show look like that did a decent job of character development of women?  What would that show look like if it wasn’t centered around a group of white, heteronormative dudes working out their father issues against the backdrop of national policy and legislative stuff?  In fact- wouldn’t it be great to have a show that was about the presidency of 45 where the staff are all women and POC?  You have a couple of token white guys, but the rest are LGBT loving women and POC, who have to deal with a complete imbecile as their boss?  It would be sorta like a mash up of West Wing, Scandal, Veep, and the Office, minus the endearing aspects of Michael Scott boss.

Wearing : a three-quarter sleeve ringer softball-style shirt with Cubbies on the chest.  Its really comfortable.  Somehow the sleeves are the perfect length.  I don’t understand why work clothes can’t be this comfortable.

Noticing : that  I seem to have positional vertigo.  A new occurrence, it is mostly just when I go to lay down (on a bed to sleep or on a bench to bench).  I went to the doctor and she didn’t seem too concerned.  She did refer me to a “neuro-oto” specialist, which I expected her to do.  But then she threw in, “We can also get a brain MRI, just to be safe.” A brain MRI.  A brain MRI.  Simultaneously intrigued and horrified.

Admiring : A couple of new additions to my gallery wall.  It is remarkable how much better hanging stuff on walls is with Command strips.  In the good old days, it always seemed like I lost interest and patience before getting picture frames “secured” to walls with nails in something resembling a gallery wall.

Feeling : Good about this quarter.  I am teaching one class (an Intro class).  This is a new experience for me, since I have never taught it.  I am stretching my legs and putting my back into this class, because it is SO FUN.  Seriously, if you can’t find something to like in Introduction to Sociology, we should talk about why your life is so sad.  Also, I am just really excited about being able to do lots of different kinds of activities.  In my stats classes, we mostly just do lecture, exercises, and big course projects.  But Intro?  Videos!!  Response papers!! Discussions!!  Games!!  According to a post at IHE, the quality of Intro professor is incredibly important for undergraduates deciding to major.  Challenge accepted.

Helping : Ahead of my in-laws visiting this week, Dave and I have been in uber power cleaning mode.  I had some teeth pulled on Tuesday and had *geniusly* requested the following couple of days off (assuming tooth extraction was going to be a total shitshow).  I lost track of what week it was, so I ended up being home recovering from the oral surgery and cleaning the house.  Luckily, Nico has started stepping up his helping game.  It’s not bad.  Not bad at all.

Starting : I have started in on item #36: Training as a judoka for one year.  Nico is pretty excited about it.  I think he really likes being in a position to explain things and be a leader/coach.  My father-in-law (also a judoka) has informed me that he will show me a power taotoshi that will crush any opponent’s will to live.

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So far, its really fun.  I hadn’t appreciated how hard of a workout it can be.  I mean, I have done some pretty tough Starting Strength volume workouts that made me hate my life.  But judo is pretty sneaky.

Embracing : Running. Meh.  The idea was to transition my training into something that would support quickness and cardio needs a little better than weightlifting. So I thought, “Oh, I should start running again.”  I am working through a C25K cycle (can you call them cycles?).  It’s not awful.  I did 1.5 weeks before the teeth debacle, so I will be back on it this week. I like the format of C25K largely because it is similar to judo, where you have balls out activity for 4 minutes, and then recover for a bit, and then back on it.  So we will see.

Which is It?

I have been incredibly contemplative the last couple of weeks.  This happens a lot when I teach- I get to thinking about how I would design my life, if I could do so deliberately and purposefully.  I am starting to recognize it as a symptom of when I feel like I don’t have choices.  Also, I can be just as big of a procrastinator as anyone else- so conveniently, these contemplative moments happen when I am supposed to be grading or reading papers or prepping for class.

In any case, I have been thinking a lot about what keeps people from accomplishing the things they want.  I read The 4-Hour Workweek  by Tim Ferriss a while  ago.  At the time, I was working in state government and was really frustrated with his ideas.  Long story short, he advocates outsourcing everything possible in order to free up time.  I thought it was highly unrealistic for people like me (people working in places where they have little control over their work life).  But, I am starting to realize that he’s right about some other stuff.  Mostly, that people do a bad job estimating what they actually need in order to accomplish dreams and live their biggest and best lives.

I think that if most people took a long hard look at their life lists and bucket lists, they would be surprised about how much of it is doable.  See, according to Ferriss, the things that most people are putting off until they retire or until their kids graduate or until whenever, are actually doable before then.  It’s mostly just a matter of figuring out what it is that you need in order to do the thing.

On top of that, if you don’t hate your job, you might not be looking forward to retirement (obviously, this is a very bougee thing to say-I recognize the relative privilege that allows me to be able to say that some people don’t hate their work).  While I don’t doubt for a second that there are people who want to win the lottery so they never have to work again, a lot of the rest of us don’t hate our jobs.  If you are a person predisposed to hard work, you might THINK you want to lay on the beach for the rest of your life.  But what happens when you get tired of doing that?  Beaches are kinda boring, once you’re past the thrill of being on a beach and your friends/family still have to work.  So what is the point of working your ass off for a pile of money so that you can retire and lay on a beach, when the rest of your friends and family are still working or in school?

It is easy to think that you need to just become a millionaire and then you can retire and start checking things off your life list.  Alexander Heyne notes that “breaking free” of the “rat race” isn’t likely to ensure your eternal happiness, because often, we don’t have a good read on the situation.  In the end, we have these big goals and life dreams, not necessarily because we WANT to actually do them, but rather because we aren’t really honest about WHY we want them.  With the exception of things that actually require vast sums of money (like buying a fancy yacht or donating a pile of money to charity), many of the things that we want to do don’t require a lot of money.

Time?  Yes.

Knowledge?  Yes.

Logistical support? Yes.

But not necessarily a pile of money

In the last couple of weeks, I have thought through the kinds barriers that people face to checking items off their life list.  And here is what I came up with:

Most of the big things we want require logistics, knowledge, resources, and/or time.

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For me, things clicked when I stopped thinking in terms of “When I retire…”and more in terms of “Which of these can I do now?”  Literally, nobody has time for that.  I got things to do NOW.  I don’t have time to wait.  None of us do, really.

There are different reasons why I haven’t done all of the big things I want to do, like hike the Long Trail, learn to ice skate, brew my own beer, and run all the bridges in Chicago. Hiking the Long Trail requires 3 weeks off of work and a commitment of some resources.  Learning to ice skate will require that I have my life arranged in a way that I can commit to showing up and practicing how to do it, maybe hiring a coach, if I needed it.  Brewing my own beer requires a little equipment (most of which I have) and a lot of knowledge.  Running all the bridges in Chicago requires time and a daily commitment- but not a pile of money.

All of us are capable of starting where we are, once we know what we want.  The question is, what do we need to get there?

Knowledge?  If you want to learn to speak another language, are you currently not doing it because you don’t know how to get started?  Should you try an app or local classes?  Should you find a tutor online?  What way of learning a language works best for you?

Logistics? If you want to run a marathon, but are currently caring for a young child or an elderly parent, what do you need to have in place in order to get training runs in place?  Is it a matter of getting a treadmill for your basement?  Or do you need to arrange your days so you can run in the morning before your spouse goes to work?

Time? If you want to write a novel, is it just a matter of carving an hour out of your day to write?  Is there a way to reclaim some time in your day that you can repurpose for writing?  Or would upgrading your phone allow you to write while commuting on a train to work?

Resources? If you want to own your dream home, is it really being able to throw a stack of money at a realtor?  Have you considered the different paths to home ownership?  Is it matter of buying the perfect home or could you buy a fixer upper? Is it only the perfect home in the perfect neighborhood in the perfect city?  Or would you move anywhere?

All of these are questions we should be asking ourselves about why we haven’t done the big things on our lists.  Once you’ve answered the questions, you’re ready to start.

Shakedown Kayaks with Dad

I don’t remember when my dad and I started talking about doing a kayak expedition.  We’re both kinda  fans of kayaking and during a holiday visit, we chatted about the trips we wanted to do.  He told me about a series of paddle races that are longer (200-300 miles) and mentioned that he wanted to do the WaterTribe Everglades Challenge.

We talked about it very briefly in 2015 and called each other’s bluffs last year.  We aren’t getting any younger.  I also helped matters along by telling Dad that the paddle expedition is on the Forty by 40 list.  It is officially, put up or shut up time.

boxer_1487994622-048446_assetMy Dad is a lot like me in that once we have decided to do something, we sorta obsess over it.  Dad being Dad and not having a double kayak meant that was the first order of business.  The double being bought, we planned a couple of shakedown paddles for when I was in Florida for the Alumni game.

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I have been away from home about as long as I was there, which is a weird thing to say.  Since I left, an actual manatee park was opened nearish my old stomping grounds.  The morning after the game, we headed out, hoping to see some manatees.  The really cool thing about Florida is that in the winter, the manatees stay close to “warm” water.  In many cases, this is in the rivers near springs and power plants.

The spring we moved to Chicago, Dave and I took Nico to Crystal River with my mom, where we rented a boat and swam with manatees.  They are such chill animals.  Really, “sea cow” is the only way to describe them.  Nico accidentally stood on one, which you’re really not supposed to do.  But he was little and the manatee didn’t seem to mind.   Still, you shouldn’t do stuff like that.  boxer_1487994644-840043_asset The weather was absolutely spot on. It could not have been nicer.  Mild, with lots of sun.  Being in the midwest these last four years means my skin color has reverted to factory settings.  I learned my first beach trip back that the Florida sun don’t play, so I wore the long sleeves.  It wasn’t too bad at all.

We saw lots of manatees.  There were a lot of people on the water that day.  The cool thing about the park is that it is close to motor boats and the people living on the river were pretty much all at work.  It was quiet and peaceful, sunny, and breezy.   We paddled for a couple of hours before heading back to the hotel for dinner.

Dad did a good job picking out the kayak.  We can move it pretty well.  We both decided though that we really don’t want to do the Watertribe Challenge without a sail rig though.  So, that is our next step.

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The next day, we headed out on the river that ran through my old stomping grounds.  The day was overcast and a bit windy, waves crashed over the deck more.  Both my dad and I prefer the sit on top kayaks, but for different reasons.  He likes them because they aren’t as hot as the sit in models, which is fair.  He mostly paddles in South Florida.  He knows a thing or two about how warm it can get there.  I like the sit on top ones because I have doubts about my ability to right a boat that has been tipped over.  Regardless, when we actually do the challenge (next year or the year after), we are going to need to figure out waterproof gear.  Of course, it might not be that big of a deal- we might just do the course, but have my mom drive as a support vehicle.  So we could camp where we camp and just throw that stuff in the back of the truck, and keep water, snacks, and lunch on us.

It’s not a bad plan.

Item Complete: #22 Organize and Play in a North High Alumni Game

In 8th grade I got into the IB program at Ft. Myers High School.

At the time, it was the possibility of getting two years of college done as a HS student that appealed to me.   I wasn’t terribly concerned about being ABLE to do the work. I guess I figured that if I wasn’t able to do the work, I wouldn’t have been admitted to the IB program.

At that point most of the kids I attended elementary and middle school with ended up at either North Fort Myers High or Fort Myers High.  Because we were a soccer family and my little brother had plans to go to North, we followed their soccer seasons. It was easy, because we knew all the players and families; they drove trucks and hunted on the weekends.  It was closer to our house than Fort Myers was.  Despite the Ft.  Myers soccer program being decent at this time, I couldn’t have told you more than two guys on the boys team. But I could tell you just about every guy that wore a North jersey between 1994-1997.

If I am honest, I wasn’t *really* able to do the work the IB program required. I scraped along for three years, miserable. I was in a class with doctors and lawyers kids, but I was woefully under-prepared in math and science.  Unlike a lot of those kids, I worked a lot. My mom helped a friend deliver newspapers on a commercial route overnight on Saturday Night/Sunday morning. In the winter of my sophomore year that friend spent a couple of months in the hospital. My mom picked up his daily route and my sister, brother, and I helped.  This consisted of leaving our house at 2am with books and lunches in tow, to run papers and then head to school.   The route ended with a stop at a gas station to brush teeth, change clothes, and wash newsprint from our hands.  During those months, several days a week, I showed up at school on only 3-4 hours of sleep.

In the end, I wasn’t smart enough to be in the IB program. I might have been able to outwork my deficiencies, but I just didn’t devote myself to schoolwork like I really needed to, as a consequence my GPA (of a 3.0) landed me in the bottom half of my IB class at Ft. Myers.

As a sophomore, I had started playing soccer and did well, given my lack of experience. My sophomore and junior years were filled with training and I found my way into a lot of training sessions, because no one wants to play goalkeeper. Eventually, the idea of playing college soccer started to become a possibility, which encouraged me to double my efforts. Despite this, I couldn’t make the Varsity squad at Ft. Myers. Undeterred, I continued training like a maniac and eventually ended up at state ODP tryouts. There I learned that to be considered a college prospect, I needed to be on a Varsity team.

Within a week of ODP tryouts, we’d decided to transfer to North. Later that year as a junior, I sat for IB exams whose outcomes I knew didn’t matter. It was liberating.

The following fall, I enrolled at North. Despite knowing all the guys on the soccer team, and many others, I felt pretty alone. It’s hard to transfer your senior year. Cliques and groups had been formed 2-3 years before and I wasn’t the kind of person who’d rule any school.  I didn’t have the confidence to walk into a packed cafeteria and sit down  for lunch with kids I’d known all my life.

But soccer was different.

I was welcomed.

I didn’t feel like people were thinking in their heads that they were better than me.  On that team, I played an important role.  I was mature and steadfast.  I have since coached high school girls and this is what I have come to know:  all it takes is one person, playing one position. On some teams, it might be a “big gun” striker, on others, it might be an enterprising midfielder. You can build a team around one player.  On that team, I think it was me playing in goal.  By being a calming presence in goal, the rest of the team was given the time and space they needed to mature into decent soccer players.

That year, the North girls were just as good as the North boys.  We ended up winning the district championship game and a winter tournament.  Even better, we hung with some crosstown rivals and I posted double digit shutouts.  The best part was that I found a team I really liked.  I felt like I belonged.  I grew up in the country doing chores and fishing.  These kids grew up in the country doing chores and fishing.

Several years ago, several North High Alumni began commiserating on Facebook about how we ought to  revive the old Alumni game.  Back in the day, the game used to be a big deal during winter break.  This was so “back in the day” that the current team would played against a team made up of alumni.  Seriously.  This is akin to thinking about how cars haven’t always had seatbelts and pondering how more people didn’t end up hurt in the aftermath of the Alumni game. In any case, some alumni on Facebook got an Alumni game organized for January 14th.

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It was really fun.  I played well.  Actually, I was brilliant.  Full stop.  No need to qualify that statement.  Only one person got hurt and no one fought with anyone else.

I traveled from Chicago to SW Florida for the game.  Only one other person (a girl from my team) traveled from out of state.  The guy that did the in-town arranging has mostly stayed put (outside of a brief forray to college in the late 90s).  He’s stayed in contact with a lot of people who he has known all of his life.  Which is strange to think about.

A lot of us have kids now.  Other than being parents, I have so very little in common with these people now.  But it didn’t feel that way.  The overarching feeling I had socializing with these people was that we were old friends catching up.

The more disorienting thing to consider is time though.  Several of us have our 20 year high school reunions coming up next year.  In one sense, it feels like it was such a long time ago when we were teenage gladiators, willing to fight for the jersey on our backs.  But in another sense, its hard to believe that that was almost 20 years ago.  I try to remember what my mom and her friends were like at this age, but I am having the hardest time.  You could  make the argument that 20 years out from high school now is different than 20 years out from high school then, which is probably valid.  Regardless, it’s weird to say.

Like, when did I get old enough to talk about anything that happened 20 years ago?  When did that happen?