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 I 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?

Sticky Note Productivity

Truth:  I love office supplies.

It goes back to when I was a kid.  It was just a simpler time.  Growing up in the country in the 80s with a couple of old-school parents, we didn’t splurge on a lot of things, largely because we couldn’t afford it (we lived on a non-working horse ranch and there were three kids)- but also because there wasn’t a lot to buy.  Especially once we got to be 10 or 11- because we were really too old for most of the toys that were out there.  Computers and cellphones weren’t really widely used, bought, or sold.

But the weeks before we went back to school were a different story.  We tended to get every single item on our supply lists- and not the cheap versions.  We got the good crayons and colored pencils.  A box of bics?  GTFO with that nonsense!!  Please.

Both of our parents are stationery junkies.  My dad likes his index cards and legal pads, and mom her pens and steno pads.

So, my love of office supplies goes back far.  Luckily for me, office supplies are a thing now.  You can get just about any kind of pen you want.  Ball-point pens, gel pens, fountain pens, fine-liners, colored pens.  Same for notebooks.

But the thing that is truly a modern marvel is the post-it/sticky note.

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We had popcorn textured walls in our house, so I had no use for post-its/sticky notes as a kid.  But, man, I love them now.  With a planner?  FORGET ABOUT IT.

NoteShel has a post the highlights four uses of post-its for productivity:

1. Handwriting on such a small space forces you to choose smart, realistic goals.  

img_7616Because a post-it can only accommodate three or four items, you are forced to think about realistically about what you can get done.  The major benefit to this, is that by choosing only a few items for a to-do list, you generate momentum- the kind of momentum that comes from feeling like you’re kicking ass and taking names.  A day that you get all the things done feels like a win.  Even better are the days that you can get all the things done, without grinding yourself down to the bone.  I don’t know about you, but the days when my back is against the wall and I am trying to do all the things, just take it out of me.  And that isn’t even mentioning what happens when my to-do list looks too big (I have been known to shut it down at 10am because I can’t even with my list).

2.  Handwritten to-do list are more effective by allowing more effective prioritization.  

Research has shown that hand-writing items forces you to prioritize and plan.   I personally think that I handwriting also “makes it real”.  Also, something about the writing it down with my hand and a pen solidifies the connection in my brain.

3. Post-its Notes make a great wall planner.  

If you have a marker board, post-its are really nice.  Different colored post-its could allow you to track multiple projects.  This is perfect for people who have to track progress- where you might have multiple moving parts.  This is also a really great way to go if your system has a “process” component to it.  The “moveability” of post-its around the board from this section to that, can be really handy.

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Of post-it notes, I am a huge-huge-huge fan of the full stick post-it.  These things are awesome, particularly for including in a planner or moving around.  I like putting longer-term goals on them, so that I can move the note across weekly pages.   These items tend to be personal goals or big-picture items, the things I can’t work on every day.  Brightly colored, I am always reminded of what these longer term goals.  In the midst of crazy weeks and months, it is nice to be reminded of the of these things, which is nice.

Taking Stock-Volume 1

Both Pip and Maggie are taking stock this month.  I thought I would get in on the action.

Taking Stock Volume 1

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Making : I made bread for the first time in the bread maker this month.  I used an old bread mix, which had old yeast.  Because I had some new yeast, I just subbed that in for the old.  Of course, Genius McDumbass here didn’t bother to check if it was the right amount.  Guess what happened to my dough?  Overproofed itself out of the bread bin and burned on the bottom of the maker.

Also, it would be great if we could get a GBBO episode that had a challenge using bread makers.

Drinking : Strawberry Limeade from Sonic.  One of my favorite drinks.  Of all time.

Reading : OffShore by Penelope Fitzgerald.  It is slow.  It is a short book, but damn, it is slow.  I am hoping that all the Booker prize books are not this slow.  I hope that I didn’t make a bad decision to read them all.

Trawling : Next month we are going to drive to Texas for my family’s winter holiday trip.  I have been trying surprise Dave by having a couple of good books to listen to in the car. We might even have enough time for two.  After listening to NPR segments on it last year, we seemed to agree that The Emperor of All Maladies  might be a good place to start.  But then, I see that Audible has The Boys in the Boat and The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945both of which look like his speed.

Wanting : This planner/workbook: Your Best Year 2017: Productivity Workbook and Creative Business Planner by Lisa Jacobs.  Normally, the imposed structure of a workbook grates me the wrong way- like, don’t tell me how much space I need to write my goals and dreams!!  But then I started thinking about getting the digital file and basically just using it as prompts to write into a fancy notebook, which would allow me to practice hand lettering and penmanship.  Also, this would give me permission to buy a new fancy notebook.

Looking : At dress patterns.  I think I have decided to make a dress or two during winter break.  See, I appreciate and understand the usefulness of dresses (only one piece of clothing to concern oneself with for work), but my body is just too weird.  My arms are too long, by boobs are too big, my tummy isn’t all that flat, which wouldn’t be a problem, except I got that powerlifter booty (#teamsquatsfordays!).  So all clothing is hard to fit.  I had a really nice dark navy LL Bean shirtdress that I loved, but it faded under the arms (I guess from my super powerful and potent sweat?)  I am just nervous that I am going to spend a lot of time making a dress that I am going to hate because I am just a baby ninja sewer.

Deciding : A couple of weeks ago, the temperature gauge in my car spiked and the engine started steaming.  I thought I might need some new coolant, but didn’t fix the problem.  I know it sounds ridiculous to be thinking about junking an 11 year old vehicle.  But it is a beat to shit Kia.  It has been really good to me.  I have had,virtually no problems with it.  At 150K+ miles, it still has its original transmission.  Can you even believe that?  It is just that it feels unnecessary for Dave and me to both have cars, when we live across the street from a CTA station serviced by a train that drops me off next to my work.  So I have to decide what to do with my car.  Let it go to the junk yard in the sky or try to keep it going?

Waiting :  I am waiting (so patiently) for the notebook that I ordered from Cognitive Surplus to get here.  My current planner, an XL hardcover with gridded pages from Moleskine is almost full- which is a massive accomplishment.  Normally, I stick with a planner and a system for 4-5 months, tops, before flipping the script and going with a new planner/system.  In any case, we are headed to Miami to see my in-laws later this month, and I wanted to have my new planner to work on, because it is apparently frowned upon to sleep for 14 hours a night when you are not a toddler.

I am so nervous about this new notebook.  The pages are blank, which makes me skittish.  I have a hard time writing in a straight line.  But I am hoping that the freedom of not having lines will be enough for me to not worry about lines.

Liking : Since my trip to Paris in September, I have been slightly obsessed with Chocolate Croissants.  I have had several from Whole Foods, Starbucks, and Le Pain Quotidien.  The ones from Starbucks are the worst of the bunch, which is surprising, because generally, I like most of their food.  I wish I knew more about baking so I could put my finger on what it is that is different.  Maybe theirs are not made with real butter?

Wondering : If I can watch previous seasons of GBBO on the PBS Passport thing they have going on now.  Dave and I tried to watch an episode of Finding Your Routes a couple of weeks ago, but needed access to the Passport in order to do so.  I signed us up, but haven’t had a chance to see if back episodes of GBBO are on it.

Pondering : Watching the Great Gatsby.  I just finished listening to the audiobook (narrated by Jake Gyllenhal).  It was okay.  I can kinda see how the literary tools in the story made it stand apart from much of what had come before.  There was some elegance to the story- how a lie caused the death of a person who had built his life on a set of lies and misconceptions.  And the ironic sadness in amassing a fortune for one’s self, but dying alone, without the one thing that you wanted.  Like, yeah, I get it.  I just am not sure I would put it up there with the greatest books/stories I’ve ever experienced.

Regardless, the version that is on Netflix has Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.  Or I go to Amazon and watch the Leo DiCaprio one.  I don’t see me watching this movie twice, so I am going to have to pick one.  I am not saying that I think DiCaprio is a bad actor, but I feel about him like I feel about The Great Gatsby.  Like, it works, sometimes.  But he’s not my favorite.  But compared to a young Robert Redford?

Listening : I took off a couple of days in the middle of this week.  I wanted to use the days to recharge and refuel.  I know it’s awful to say this because, its not like I work in a factory on a line or in a mine or something.  I go to my office and sit on my ass for 7+ hours a day.  So it’s not hard work-but this is the second quarter since January that I have taught two classes on top of my usual work obligations, so I have been feeling run down.

Anyhoo, being “off” at home has meant that I am doing work stuff, but I am doing it in my pjs and listening to music I own on my laptop (rather than pandora at work).  Right now, I am listening to old Counting Crows (August and Everything After).

Considering : Voting early.  Basically if I am going to vote early, it has to happen today.  Tomorrow, Monday or Tuesday isn’t going to work as well.  But it would mean I might not get a nap today.

Buying : All the Christmas presents!!  I think I pretty much narrowed down for gifts for my nieces and nephews.  It’s tough, because with four kids, they have, at some point, had ALL THE TOYS.   It’s ridic.  I have settled on gifts for three of the 4. But damn, I don’t have the mental bandwidth.  Could I just do Cubs shirts?  Doesn’t EVERYONE want a Cubs shirt?

Marvelling : Grace Bonney of Design Sponge recently published a lovely looking new book called “In the Company of Women“.  All reports point to be it being beautiful.

Needing : This lovely cake slicer.  I need it.  So much.  I have always wanted to make a layer cake.  I have never done it because I felt like it wouldn’t be very stable.  I like my odds with this guy.

Questioning : Why people are theorizing and questioning everything about Westworld.   Dudes, I am part of the GOT and TWD fandom.  I ugly-cried when Opie died in Sons of Anarchy.  I know only one thing when it comes to dramatic television: DO NOT GET ATTACHED TO ANYONE.  It will end in heartbreak.

Wearing : Wearing sweatpants.  It’s sweatpants weather and I am so glad its back.  Don’t judge me.

Noticing : Fall is happening.  The leaves are turning and falling.  It is my favorite time of the year.  My absolute favorite.img_9790

Admiring : Nate Silver.  I don’t know how he does what he does.  I kinda feel like the man deserves a vacation.

Bookmarking : StumbleUpon.  I am learning more about it.  Decided that until I can start blogging more the way I want to (when I have more time over Christmas and in the Spring), that I can at least figure out how promotion and influencing works on StumbleUpon.  This works out well for someone like me, how has a hard time staying focused on the task at hand.  I definitely needed another distraction in my life.  🙂

Disliking : Trump.  Always Trump.  Gotta say it now.  If he wins, I will get tossed in an internment camp for my hippie, liberal, socialist, pinko ways.

Feeling : Excited about going to Miami later this month for Thanksgiving.  I am hoping (desperately) to see a good friend from grad school who lives down there.  Aside from that, looking forward to slowing down a bit and doing some reading.

Helping : My son’s AYSO soccer season just wrapped up the fall session.  I volunteered by refereeing.  I hate it.  I absolutely hate refereeing.  There is so much to hate about it.  But it is one of those things that needs to be done.  Was thinking about whether or not I want to do it next year.  The organization always needs coaches and referees.  I am wondering, given my experience as a coach, if it would be better to coach.  Like, how much fun would it be to coach a bunch of little girls?

Hearing : Fireworks last night after the Cubs won.  Dave and I were super irresponsible and woke our seven year old up when they won.  The fireworks being set off across the street from our place definitely did not help us go to sleep.  

Celebrating : The Cubs won last night.  I cannot even. It is rare that things in real life work out the way they would if it was a movie.  Last night was an exception.  That was a movie ending for the Cubs, for David Ross.  It was just lovely.

Embracing : An awful haircut I got.  I probably shouldn’t be too pissed about it, because my original plan in being there was for her to fix my color (I may or may not have used a different dye that made me look more like Ryan Lochte than I would have preferred).  She did a brilliant job on my color.  But the cut has layers on top, instead of under.  The result is that my haircut is dangerously reminiscent of Michelle Akers’ from the early 90s.  Which would be okay if I were as badass as she was.  But I am not.

Five on Friday – Oct. 21, 2016

WOW.  This week.  I feel like I am sliding to home, running on fumes.  Oh wait.  That is just that feeling of the year- like 2016 is spinning out from under me faster and faster.  Yikes.

Some things that are taking up my bandwidth:

  1.  I don’t mind Facebook ads when they are relevant.  In fact, I probably click on more sponsored posts in my Facebook feed than anywhere else.  BTW- if you are trying to figure out what the inputs into that algorithm are, they are as follows:  anything fitness  related, anything bags related, anything planner related, anything productivity related, anything blog related, and anything craft/maker related.  That is how you get me to click on your post on Facebook.Anyhoo.  I came across Stitch People in Facebook.  I WANT IT.  I WANT IT ALL.  Seriously, how cute are they????

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They are so cute I wanna die!!!

2.  Am I the only person on the planet that is real annoyed with students in 2016?  Seriously, it isn’t enough that they have access to the internet, chat, spell-check, and zotero, but now they have bullet journals and study-themed Tumblr?

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What the dick, people?

I remember cheap vinyl binders with looseleaf paper.  The nicest my notes ever looked was when I was in grad-school and I came across some cheap fountain pens.  Before that tho: not pretty.  Not pretty at all.

I am half-considering going back to school so that I can get in on the pretty study notes action.  I appreciate how ridic this is for someone with a PhD.  Even more so as I type it.

3.  I was full-on 100% distracted today by Amazon Music Unlimited.  I signed in to buy some stuff with some birfday money my mum sent me.  Amazon showed me that they had Garth Brooks’ Ultimate Hits.  Don’t mind if I do.  If you have a Prime membership, you can get Music Unlimited for $7.99 a month- which is sweet.  I already pay $10 a month for itunes- so the catalogue would have to be fire in order to get me to switch.  Still looking around.  But am very happy to be listening to old Garth Brooks.  Honestly, you can take the girl out of the south, but you can’t take the south out of the girl.

For kids that grew up in the south in the 1990s- Garth Brooks was part of your childhood soundtrack.  It was inevitable.

My top ten Garth Brooks tracks (of all time):

  1. Two Pina Coladas
  2. Calling Baton Rouge
  3. To make You Feel My Love
  4. That Summer
  5. Unanswered Prayers
  6. Standing Outside the Fire
  7. The Beaches of Cheyenne
  8. Friends in Low Places
  9. The Thunder Rolls
  10. The Dance

Game over.  Seriously, when I hear of the zombie apocalypse starting, the very first thing I am going to do (obviously after securing the safety of my family) is get all of my music and e-book situation sorted out.  Can you even imagine how awful it would be, to suddenly have nothing but time on your hands (because it is the zombie apocalypse and der- no work) and not have access to decent books?  Or worse, to have to do all the chores associated with a zombie apocalypse without any music?  AWFUL.  JUST AWFUL.   So much so that I’d say that when evaluating potential safe zones, access to a library and/or internet is a characteristic I am looking for.

I can sense you laughing at me.  It’s okay.

4.  I caught my reflection in the window of the laundry room last night and couldn’t help but check myself out.  As always, my body is responding in its usual ways to my current strength cycle, which is to say, that my traps and shoulders are legit.

I like to imagine the conversation between my brain and my various muscle groups like this:

JBR Brain: Yo, guys!!!  Muscles!!  What’s up?  Hey, just wanted to let you know that we’re up for that meet in Feb- so we’re going to be hitting that starting strength cycle pretty good.  Hamstrings, you in?

Hamstrings: I got you fam!!!

JBR Brain:  That is great to hear- I’m looking to add maybe 20 lbs to our deadlift numbers.  We’re counting on you.  What about quads and glutes?  You guys down?

Quads and Glutes:  We’re on this, B!  Knees is a little janky, but  you know us!!  We about that life!!!

JBR Brain:  I knew I could count on you guys!  You’re wonderful.  What about The Core?  Core?  Are you ready for this?

Core: Yeah, don’t sign us up for that!

JBR Brain: See, Core, that is disappointing.  You know, if you just chipped in a little, it would make all of the rest of our-

Core: Like we said- bugger off.

JBR Brain: Well, that is insulting.  You’re worthless core.  Go.  Go on- we’ll do this the hard way.  Without you.  Again.  Thanks for being useless.  What about Traps and Shoulders?  What are your feelings on this?

Traps and Shoulders: YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!  WE GOING HAM, BITCHEZ!!!!!!!!!! LIFT ALL THE THINGS!!!!  LOOK AT US!!  SOMEONE GET US A BANDAID- CUZ WE ARE CUT!!!!

JBR Brain: Jesus, Traps and Shoulders… can you take it down a notch?  I mean, it is about to be winter and its already difficult getting you into jackets and-

Traps and Shoulders:  TOO LATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  WE’RE BRO’ED TO THE MAX BRO!  LET’S LIFT, BITCHES!!!

JBR Brain: I am not your bro.  Can you not?

Traps and Shoulders: TOO LATE- WE’RE AT THE MUSCLE PARTY!!  AND WE GOT ZERO CHILL!!

5.  I am with HER- buuuuuuuut I think we need to talk about a Jon Lester-David Ross campaign ticket.  Honestly, the Cubs were ridiculous last night.  Ridiculous.  I cannot even with them.

It’s funny, because I think I am starting to get a hang of the personalities of the players- since we’ve watched them so much this season.  For example, if I ever saw John Lackey in real life, I am going to pretend like I didn’t.  His intensity on the mound makes me think that he would not have time for my nonsense.  Javier Baez  though?  I bet I could get Javy to play a game of 4-square or Kick the Can in a parking lot.  He is cheeky and fun- but that is part of this thing.

However, I don’t really ever worry when Lester and Ross are starting.  I don’t want to say that I think it’s a done deal- but its reassuring when they’re up.  Like, there aren’t going to be ridiculous mistakes here- when they are up, things are going to be okay.  Lester and Ross are a great team.  Both seem to have a really great understanding of each other’s weaknesses and complement each other well.  For example- because he is a lefty, Lester can see when base runners are leading off far from first base. Do you know how much discipline it takes to be looking at a guy pretending he is going to steal and be like, “Nah- I got a game plan to execute.”  I wanna throw these guys out at first and I can’t throw for shit.  But, they have a game plan and it does not include Lester throwing out guys at first.  He can do that, because he has Ross- who routinely throws out guys trying to steal bases.

I love the elegance of that.  But I also love that THEY’RE ALL BUSINESS. I think that is what America needs right now.  Just a couple of guys who are going to do their absolute best and not make stupid mistakes.  And, I think that is all we can ask for.  Lester and Ross in the White House would Make America Great Again, most definitely.