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.