Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Inside Out

Did you ever have one of these days?

About midway through a 12-hour marathon at the office, I realized my underpants were on inside out.

Hell Week

I'm finding meditative comfort in the Susan B. Anthony quote at the top of my blog page. I found it while sniffing around the web for a quote to share with a friend - a historian with specific expertise in the field of the second wave of feminism and the American women's rights movement - on the occasion of her birthday.

It is a Hell Week at work - I have evening obligations every night this week, and am launching two new programs at the office. I also have two fairly high profile grants I need to start working on, including one for the Microsoft Partners in Learning program. Oh! And I'm trying to jump start a viral marketing campaign related to another grant floating out there in the universe.

I tend to work fairly hard, but not long, hours. I am smart and quick, and am therefore able to get enormous amounts of thoughtful work done in a short period of time. I would guess I normally work an average of 45 hours per week. Having evening obligations every night means that I will work closer to 55 hours - a steady 12-14 hours each day. This means I have less time for exercise, healthy eating, relaxing, and myriad other things I do to keep myself balanced. I don't yet have good coping mechanisms for these long weeks, as I do them so rarely.

Which brings me back to Susan B. Anthony and her inspiration.

How will I handle the rest of this week?

Imagining life as measured by the ordinary moments, will I fly off the handle when someone tosses an unexpected project in my lap when I feel like I don't have space to add one more thing? Will I martyr myself, sigh, and say, "Of course I can get this done. Not a problem." Or, will I say, "Thanks, but my plate is full this week. I hope this can wait until next week?" When I'm hungry because I haven't made the time eat, will I run into the kitchen and snarf cookies? Or, will I give myself permission to walk away from my desk and find something healthy to eat? I understand that the hardships I describe are irrelevant compared to the hardships faced by many. (Keeping life in perspective is also important when the danger is that I'll get caught up in the anxiety, pressure, and excitement of the week.)

If I am to make it through the week fully myself, I want to be able to greet that stray dog who ambles through my life with an open heart and an open hand. How will I do that?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

B & E

I learned yesterday that I can easily break into my apartment using my Chase Visa card. Neither the Starbucks card, nor the Mastercard, worked.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Raising Fun

Just got my city Census forms in the mail. On it, my occupation is listed as "fun raiser." Not a bad occupation, says me.

Here's the question. Do I correct it on the form? Or leave it as is?

Play-Doh Make -n- Display

I've recently had to cancel two trips to Central NY to visit my family. The first cancellation came LAST weekend after bad weather hit the area. I missed mom's birthday. The second cancellation came THIS weekend, when I informed my sister that I needed to stay home to wait for furniture delivery (see futon post earlier this week).

In the course of our conversation, my sister told me that there was a surprise waiting for me a her house, a gift made for me by my niece, the precocious C. Being the smart aunt I am, I guessed exactly what it is: a Play-Doh Make n- Display uh, thing. I cannot wait to receive it! Last time I played Play-Doh with C and her little sister (M1), she methodically made a tableful of small green peas out of the moist sculpting clay. I learned she also has used the colorful putty, apparently originally invented as a wallpaper cleaner, to make purple and pink friendship bullets for her friendship gun, a tool she uses it to shoot people and make them her friend.

I love this kid!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


My Girls' Group meets tomorrow night. Five of us (I'm mentally counting, one, two three...yeah five of us) meet twice a month to discuss issues of spiritual reflection. We generally take time to check in with one another - on the ordinary aspects of our lives, as well as our connection with our own spirituality. And, those of us who aren't actively trying to get pregnant drink too much wine, and we all eat too many cookies. We're all affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist church, and it seems just perfect that our body and blood of Christ is cheap Trader Joe's red table wine and Pepperidge Farms cookies.

On the occasion of Fat Tuesday, BMG and I were reflecting on the topic of Lent. What is the purpose of giving up a vice for 40 days and 40 nights? According to a link from the Catholic Education Resource Center, provided by Bowl of Cheese.com, the purpose of deprivation is to give oneself time to reflect on the liturgy of the church and to devote more time to prayer.


So giving up smoking for 40 days is like fasting for Hindus? Only, Catholics and Protestants can't bring themselves to actually give up food, so they give up buying new shoes for a month or drinking top shelf whiskey. How close to god does that bring you? When I was a child, I thought Lent was like an extra shot at a New Year's Resolution - the point was to see if you could actually give something up that you thought was important to you.

Ahhh. Now this is interesting.

Perhaps one of the more secular interpretations of Lent is that it provides the practitioner with the opportunity practice letting go of things that are important to me. Like Jesus (who they know they are about to lose to death). But the Easter story is one of faith and redemption. In fact, the message is that one is NOT supposed to let go. Those who let go of their belief in Jesus as "the messiah" were considered the traitors. I heard a piece on NPR tonight by a Jesuit priest who was reminding listeners that Easter is at its heart a celebration - of joy, of miracles, of faith. Frederica Matthewes-Green writes "(For the early church), repentance was the wellspring of joy and healing. As Jesus taught, the one who knows she has been forgiven much knows she is loved much, and can pour out love in return."

So I ask again, what is this tradition of giving things up for 40 days before Easter all about? Do we have to give up things we care about (or merely enjoy) in order to come to a place of appreciating them? Do we have to punish ourselves before we can celebrate? How does deprivation lead to forgiveness? Are we supposed to acknowledge and be reminded of our sins for 40 days in order to best appreciation the forgiveness afforded by god when he "takes his only begotten son" yada yada?

I think the Jews do this a little better, with their observation of Yom Kippur. You spend 24-hours fasting, reflecting on all the ways you screwed up during the year, asking for forgiveness, and promising to try and do better. And, you do it in the community of other congregants at your synagogue - so you are all acknowledging your fallibility together. Judaism also calls for the forgiveness of others during this period, which includes to resolution (or dissolution) of all feuds. Some people also choose to partake of a ceremonious casting of their sins into the water, called tashlikh. I love this ceremony, because of the symbolism of cleaning the slate. I head to a body of water with old bread or crackers. I find a spot with nice, clear access, and crouch down. As I toss the bread into the water, I name it. "Anger at my mother," "Irritation with stupid people driving their cars," "Getting a double feature for free at the movies." Then, I watch each piece of bread drift away, or become loaded down with water and sinking, or being snatched up by a hungry duck or sea gull. It is satisfying.

I still don't quite get Lent - or Easter for that matter. What I do know is that I'm going to make these questions the centerpiece of the Girls' Group discussion tomorrow night, when I ask the question, "Even if you aren't a believer in the resurrection or Jesus as messiah, what spiritual good - personal good - comes from cleansing oneself of one's vices? For an individual, a family, or a community?"

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Chinese Fire Drills

While relaxing in during a Law and Order: Criminal Intent commercial break, I found myself wondering about the origin of the phrase Chinese Fire Drill. And I wondered if it was considered an ethnic slur. Some things one might never consider to be an ethnic or cultural slur might indeed be one. (Ever suggest going "Dutch Treat"? Well, a former friend - who is Dutch - raised my awareness that this phrase implies the Dutch are cheap.)

Anyhow, Wikipedia saved the day. Click here for a quick read on the prank known as a Chinese fire drill.

PS: It may be considered an ethnic slur, because it apparently implies that the Chinese are known for unorganized or disorderly public maneuvers. The phrase has its origins at the start of the Cold War - perhaps an strategic effort to bad mouth the emerging Communist power?

Pet Peeves #1

Why do so many pet peeves have to do with transportation? Here are two that popped up for me while heading home after exercising this afternoon.
  1. People who wear bike helmets without fastening them. What's the point? If you get hit or fall, the helmet is going to roll off your head without protecting your noggin. So, why bother faking it? Your hair gets smooshed and your head gets sweaty for no useful purpose whatsoever.
  2. People who stop for pedestrians who are jaywalking, particularly those who are crossing the street within yards of an actual crosswalk. Gridlock is in part caused by people who (a) stop for pedestrians who aren't following pedestrian rules, and (b) by people who give left turning vehicles the right of way.
To all of you out there engaged in either of these forms of transportation silliness, I say stop it!

PS: If transportation pet peeves are high on your list, I hope you read Mac Daniel's "Starts and Stops" column in The Boston Globe. I'm a little embarrassed that I've read this for so many years, but I really enjoy reading questions and answers focused on making traffic move just a little more efficiently. Now, in my blogging hyperlink research I've found Mac has a Starts and Stops Blog too! A blog! It is now on my "favorite" list! Thanks Mac!


I'm on the hunt for a new road bike. Actually, I've never owned a road bike before. But, I love road biking. As I get more serious about my biking, I feel it i necessary to upgrade my bike. A trip to my neighborhood bike shop, and a couple of well-placed questions, helped me understand that riding a century (100 miles) on a hybrid is just bad form. On a hybrid one is sitting upright in the bike, as if one is sitting in a wing chair. As a result, instead of using one's glutes to help pedal, one is instead propelling the glutes - and the entire erect torso - forward against the wind. By shifting one's bike style to a more traditional road bike, one shifts one's posture so that the glutes now help generate power, rather than being lugs that get carried around as if they are the queen.

Armed (gluted?) with this knowledge, I have become more committed than ever to buying a road bike. But, which one?

Bicycling magazine has its 2007 buyers guide on the newsstands. And, I found a cool website with user reviews of road bikes. I have a list of bikes to research, and a list of criteria by which to judge them, including:
1. Maintenance records
2. Price
3. Component parts
4. Flexibility of stem and seat post (can they both be adjusted)?
5. Weight
What else should I be looking for?

On my hot list are:
  • Trek 1000
  • Giant OCR
  • Schwinn Fastback Sport.
And, BMG wants me to check out cyclocross bikes as a transition between my clunky hybrid and a road bike. I am certain the list will get longer before it gets shorter.

Some things I've already learned from reading on the web.
  1. The Trek 1000 is probably not such as great bike.
  2. The OCR2 is better than the OCR3 for only $150 more (average) retail).
  3. It is likely that, if I LOVE LOVE LOVE road biking on a real road bike that I'll want to upgrade significantly within two years.
  4. It is likely that, whatever bike I choose to buy, I'll need to switch out component parts to customize it to meet my needs.

My goal? To have a new bike by early April, when it will be snow and ice free outside, so I can start to train outdoors as well as indoors. I'm shooting to be ready for my first century ride on May 20th, when Charles River Wheelmen do their Spring Century.

Monday, February 19, 2007


In honor of Presidents' Day, I bought a new futon for 25% off the list price - $280 including the delivery fee. And, it is being delivered on Wednesday. No slogging on the ice with the unwieldy box hanging out of my sensible sedan (oh, the horror, the horror). On a less jubilant note, I have to call the store first thing tomorrow as the wrong wood finish is on my invoice. If I hadn't been blogging this I never would have known that I'm slated to receive java (aka black) and not the warm cherry.

Other notes in my fairly ordinary life:
1. I started my training to do three (bicycle) centuries this year. And I took a minute to thank the trainer who got me started at the Bally in Porter Square.
2. I'm actually reading a book, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Thanks to Coop for recommending it, and to Presidents George Washington and Abe Lincoln for (a) having birthdays in the same month, and (b) being such great Presidents that they both deserved national holidays so I could have the day off in which to read a book.
3. I made baked beans for the first time.
4. I had a lovely dinner with BMG (our six month anniversary) at Christopher's in Cambridge, plus a great cookie and some tea at Flour in the South End.

Whose head is this anyway?

BMG suggested I start a blog so I could record the witty things he says to me, and my reactions to them. We did online IQ tests today. Sadly, his is higher than mine (129 to 136). Both geniuses, to be sure. But, his seven-point lead on my IQ is something I may never live down. Sigh.

Perhaps influenced by BMG and perhaps influenced by my own desire to record my life, I've been thinking about starting a blog. Why? To give me a place to publish my thoughts about life so I can stay grounded, so I can remember all of the amazing things I've
had the privilege of experiencing. And, to keep track of the places I've been and the things I've done, in addition to those not yet tackled. I often tell friends on the phone that the milestones in my life feel hardly significant to retell; the excitement of returning a library book on time doesn't seem noteworthy. But, there are days when this feels really exciting. And there are times when I step back and realize significant portions of my life have gone by with myriad milestones in-between. I was dusting a framed print by the artist Milton Avery that is hanging in my bedroom. I realized I have owned this print for close to 10 years. 10 years!

I don't often look at the print. (10 years!) It is now a piece of the everyday fabric of my life. As I searched for the image in Google, I was reminded of what drew me to this print 10 years ago. It reminded me of my oldest sister and her consistent availability to me as a loving confidant. It reminded me to slow down and reflect on the everyday things that happened to me. I miss doing this.

So, why am I starting a blog? Is it for BMG - who inspires me and affectionately encourages me to be my genius best? Is it for Coop - who constantly reminds me that my life is unusual and I "really need to be writing these things down!" Or is it for me? Is this a way for me to stop and take note of my life - the everyday things that happen to me. The things that make me smile, that make me furrow my brow, that make me feel angry or proud?