Thursday, March 31, 2011

Once a Runner

A lot of people hate running. I’m one of them. The only thing different about me and a lot of people is that I’ve run a few marathons. Full ones, not those wussy half ones.

It’s amazing that I thrice ran 26.2 miles and spent a collective one year of my life training and running almost every single day to do so. I might run once a month now. Actually, that’s a lie. Once every two months. Okay, every three.

What I do like about marathon training is feeling fit. Not just looking it, but also feeling healthier and stronger and more badassier in general. Yet I decided about a year and a half ago that I was done with marathons (although watch. I bet I do a few more). So I had to seek fitness elsewhere.

That wasn’t so easy. Since all I ever did was run, pretty consistently from age 14 to about 23, I didn’t know what else I enjoyed doing. I knew what I didn’t like. I hate machines — elliptical, treadmill, stairmaster and the like — because they make me feel like a robot and anything I can do while watching TV feels like fake exercise to me. I hate group exercise classes — cardio salsa, body pump, things like that — because they make me feel like I’m at cheerleading tryouts. I hate lifting weights; so so so so boring. Also, I hate running.

It’s taken a long time for me to figure out what I actually like. I decided I enjoy things that move me from point A to point B; I now bike to work, to run errands, and sometimes to restaurants and bars if there aren’t going to be too many drinks involved. I like things that don’t involve equipment or special gear (one reason why I did commit to running for as long as I did. It’s a pretty cheap sport); I swim twice a week usually. And I like things that challenge me in ways that I have never challenged myself before; I try to make it to a yoga class twice a week. As someone who has been referred to as hunchback and Splinter (from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, cuz he was hunched over I guess), I’ve never had the strength to even really stand up straight for more than a few minutes at a time. Ever single yoga class challenges me to improve my posture.

So now, I’ve settled into a nice and varied routine of biking, swimming and yoga each week. I am not terribly good at any of those things, but I’m better than, say, someone who never bikes, swims or does yoga. And it’s not about being better than anyone really. It’s about feeling healthier, stronger and morebadassier in general. Which I think I am, depending on the day.

Friday, March 25, 2011

One Hour Later

When I took my bike in for a Spring tune-up last week, I though it’d take a few days. Instead, it was going to take more like 6 or 7. I painfully accepted the facts, and reserved myself to taking the bus to and from work for a week.

I hate taking the bus. I hate standing around and waiting for it, or if I track it, I hate stressing over only having 3 MINUTES to run out the door and catch it. Also, I frequently forget things — my phone, my thermos, my yoga pants — and about once a week I have to turn around to pick something up. When the bus is going to be at the corner in 2 MINUTES, there isn’t time for that running back business. I accustomed to used to to leaving the house when I want, biking my merry little way, and not having to touch any grimy poles or stand squinched between people on my commute. I like the fresh air and the using of my muscles as I get ready to start my work day.

After four days of riding the bus to work, I was done. Finished. Sick and tired of being sick and tired of the bus. So today I walked. It’s 3 miles I think. It was great.

I didn’t really wear the right shoes for walking such a long way (I didn’t want to wear athletic shoes, then carry shoes for work, too heavy), so I might have a tender toe or two. I also stopped on the way to get a bagel, but in the effort avoiding the avalanche of cream cheese they pile on, I ordered the cream cheese on the side. I must say, trying to walk while trying to smear cream cheese on a bagel while not dropping the bag or the lid to the little cream cheese container or the knife or the napkins is not an easy feat. But I survived. Too bad the bagel wasn’t that great.

I took me a little less than an hour to walk to work, but it didn’t feel that long. I had some Moth story hour podcasts to catch up on and observed a few things along the way that I had not noticed before on my bike or bus commute; this bridge I pass under has these gigantic and amazing icicles hanging underneath it! Tons and tons! It was totally wild.

I won’t be walking home (I would, but I got a party tonight and I need time to look my finest!), and I don’t intend to be walking my commute from now on. I get my bike back today, so no more bus worries. But in the future, if I have the choice between bus and walking and I have an extra half hour in my day, I think I shall take the scenic, non-germy, and less irritating route.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Coupon.. er.. Rush?

It’s no secret that I love coupons, and I love saving money. It’s not even like I’m broke or anything. But why would I pay $3 for toothpaste when I can pay nothing?

I have a list of coupon blogs to thank for a lot of the deals I get. These women do the work so I don’t have to. But they get a little ridiculous at times. One recently posted about the “rush” she gets when she checks out with her coupons:

As I walk up to the register, my hands start to tremble and my heart starts to beat. My eyes are moving around quickly …. As the coupons keep getting scanned, I can feel the tension build up behind me. Finally, I hear her high heels tapping the ground with force … I stand there with pride as I look up and down that magnificently long piece of paper. Life is good! As I leave the store, I know beyond any reasonable doubt that every part of getting to the moment of victory is so worth it in the end. And now I can head home with my head held high and brag to anyone who will listen.

The whole post a bit dramatic. Yeah, it’s super exciting to pay $1.50 for some stuff that originally cost $30 — like I did last night! But my hands don’t tremble and my heart doesn’t start to beat faster when I approach the cash register. I actually dread checking out because I feel like I am inconveniencing the cashiers. They have better things to do than deal with my wad of coupons.

But the bragging part? Guilty. I love to brag about my deals. My roommates and friends are probably so sick of hearing about them. I think I need to be more conscious of that. Does anyone care that I got two boxes of Triscuits, some hair dye and organic blush for a just a couple dollars total? Probably not.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I'm Judging You, Mom on Bus

I’m on the bus this morning, sitting by a mom and her little girl. She’s brushing her daughter’s hair, ever so carefully. She holds a clump in her hand, then with her other hand timidly tries to brush out each individual tangle. It’s the most inefficient hair brushing technique I have ever seen. What you need to do is yank the brush through the whole clump of hair in one fell swoop, repeat maybe 3-5 times, and the tangles will disappear quickly. It’s how people have been brushing hair for centuries. Painful? Yeah. But not as painful as say cutting off a finger or breaking a leg. This type of pain is bearable and forgettable.

But this mom didn’t want to hurt her little girl in any way. So instead, she was going to take up 30 or 45 minutes of her own precious time, brushing each individual hair so the process produced no discomfort. I felt bad for her. What a waste of time. And I felt bad for her kid, who I (maybe unfairly) assumed is being raised to be overly pampered and will turn into a self-absorbed little wench because of it.

Kids are a lot more resilient than they tell us they are. So many little girls have suffered under the tough-as-nails and swift hair brushing of their mothers and have lived to forget about it. Little girls have also been told they can’t watch TV too late, can’t have those glittery jelly shoes or can’t buy that candy, and most have also turned out just fine.

While I was secretly being overly critical of this mom for not brushing her kid’s hair the way I thought she should, the girl goes “Ow mommy you’re hurting me.” I wanted to scream “LIAR! LIAR! YOU LIE LITTLE GIRL. YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT’S LIKE TO HAVE YOUR HAIR BRUSHED THE REAL WAY.” But I didn’t.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Checking in on What I’ve Resolved to Do This Year

1. Take more pictures
I’ve been doing well with this one. Except... I never load them onto my computer or Flickr or Facbeook, so no one would know. I tried a few times, but I can’t find my card reader. I think my cat hid it.

2. Wear more accessories
I am now the proud owner of more belts and rings. But I think my cat also hid half my rings.

3. Be more thrifty
Eh... I have made a few purchases at Goodwill. But I’ve also made more than a few purchases at Urban Outfitters, which is definitely not thrifty.

4. Stop buying meat from the grocery store (either it's local or nothing)
I don’t remember the last time I bought meat at the store, so I guess I’m following this one. Oh yeah, I tried to buy some wings for Super Bowl. Instead I bought whole things of chicken. Maybe this proves I don’t even know how to buy meat anymore?

5. Take a dance class
Haven’t followed up on this one yet.

6. Touch my toes
Most of the time in yoga class, I can touch just one toe. My right big toe. For like, five whole seconds.

7. Do a handstand
I feel as if I will never accomplish this, but I’m working on it. Even though I swim twice a week, I still have no upper body strength.

8. Not look like a fatty fatty two-by-four in Kari's wedding this spring
The wedding is at the end of April, so we’ll see. But I resisted eating leftover cold pizza for breakfast at work today, so go me.

9. Dye hair red

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Film Festivalin'

A couple weekends ago, I went down to Columbia, Mo., home of the Missouri Tigers aka my alma mater and the True/False documentary film festival. This isn’t my first time back there since I graduated a few years ago. I went back to Columbia for a football game last fall. It was okay, but the whole experience made me feel ancient. It was the same old, same old, same sorority girls celebrating their 21st birthdays in skimpy dresses and teetering stilettos, same wasted bros at the bars, etc. etc.

This time I was looking to be inspired and to come back home with something to think about.

Some documentaries can do that. Some can’t. Documentary is a very tough medium, me thinks. Sometimes it’s a good story, but not a good documentary; that was the case for most of the movies I saw. Sometimes it’s a good story, but just okay enough and pretty good, but not inspirational.

And sometimes, it’s not even freaking a documentary, as was the case with Troll Hunter. Awesome CGI, but definitely NOT a documentary. (Sorry if I ruined it for anyone...)

You’re lucky if you see one that really floors you, as this one did.

“In Chicago, an experimental program attempts to change the way we impact urban violence.”

First things first, this film was looooooong. But that’s because it covers a whole year of violence in Chicago, and that is a lot to cover. A lot of violence, and a lot of deaths; way too many deaths.

Of course it hit home because I live, love, breathe Chicago. I don’t live in this part of Chicago. But this is still my city, and every report of another death, especially when it’s a kid, hurts us. It hurts their families and their communities more. All we can ask ourselves is “why are parts of this city so violent?”

Because it’s a disease, the Interrupters say. They believe violence is learned behavior that needs to be intercepted like any other disease. Or, interrupted. This film follows them throughout a year as they try to do that. Most of the Interrupters are ex-gang leaders who have served hard time for drug possession and attempted murder. They return the communities where they were raised to try to turn things around. They reach out to anyone and everyone who is being affected by violence. Maybe someone’s son has been shot. Maybe they were shot. The Violence Interrupters offer support and try to stop revenge and vengeance for the violence and deaths that have already occurred. They aren’t police, and they don’t care about gang activity, as long as people aren’t killing each other.

It looks like the scariest, most dangerous job someone could have. The movie does show one Interrupter who is hospitalized because he was shot when he was trying to resolve a conflict. Jeez. What if your job put you in the middle of gang fire. Can you imagine?

All I can say is see this movie. If it’s coming to a festival near you, see it. Pick up the current issue of Chicago magazine and read about it (page 20). Or check it out on WTTW.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Deep Thoughts on Health Care

I had a pretty nasty sore throat a couple weeks ago that I couldn’t shake, no matter how many glasses of Emergen-C I drank or nasty mouthfuls of salt water I gargled. I worried it might be strep, so I headed to a non-urgent care doctor’s office by my work.

A short time in the waiting room, a throat swap, and blood pressure and ear-check later, the doctor determined that I did not have strep, just a “pretty bad sore throat.” She instructed me to take some ibuprofen and take it easy. On my way out, the receptionist said they would bill my insurance and send any leftover bills to my house.

Today I received a notice from my insurance that they had covered it. Thank goodness. Because that cost $290. All I could think was “$300 for what?” But that’s ‘America. Health care don’t come cheap.

I’m really fortunate to have made it this far with no major health problems. I really don’t get sick. I have a pretty good immune system I guess, and exercise pretty often enough, and eat vegetables almost every day. And even so, I’ve always had insurance to fall back on. I have only been uninsured for four months of my life. I’ve always had dental and vision, too.

This health care stuff just boggles my mind. It is so hard to wrap one’s mind around why if I were in, say, Canada or France, I could have gotten my throat checked out for $0, not $300. Although I pay for my health care with each pay check, and those folks do pay for their health care in their taxes. So what’s the difference?

The difference is I wish I had instead been able to use that $300 for a plane ticket somewhere fun instead of for paying to have a ginormous cotton swap stuck down my throat.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Reverb10: One Last Month

The monthly Reverb10 prompt: If March 2011 was your last month to live, how would you live it?:

When I first saw this prompt, I immediately knew my answer. I would take the month to travel all across the world and see all the glorious countries I’ve never visited, sample yummy foreign foods and take artsy fartsy photos of it all. But then I began to think about how much it would suck to spend the last month of one’s life alone. I’ve traveled alone before, and it’s okay. Sometimes it’s just nice to do whatever you want at your own pace. But sometimes it’s really, really lonely. You run out of things to think about and write about and end up taking a bunch of naps to pass the time.

So if I had one month to live, I would still travel. But I would travel to places where my friends are, to say goodbye and tell them one last time how much I cared for them and how happy them being in my life made me. To New York, to Wisconsin, to Missouri, to Louisiana, to Texas, to California, to Washington. To France, to Germany, to Croatia. To Australia, to New Zealand. And I guess after I have given every last friend a hug, I’d be ready to go.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

A Successful Sunday

A few months ago, my sister raved about the stuff she made out with at* a friend’s clothing exchange. I thought it would be fun to host one myself. I’ve been nagging my roommates about it since then, and they finally gave in. We picked a date, invited tons of people (I invited literally every female I know who lives in Chicago) and got to purging our closets.

Purging one’s closet is fun. At first, it’s difficult. ‘Maybe I will wear this…’ you think to yourself as you hold up the shirt you loved so hard three years ago. But then you remember that you haven’t worn it for three years. And it goes into the giveaway pile. Once the pile starts growing, you gain more and more confidence to get rid of more stuff. Soon you have a leaner closet, lighter shelves, roomier drawers and a happy heart. Getting rid of stuff, no matter what kind of stuff it is, feels so damn good.

My roomies and I piled everything up in our living room, and we did a mini exchange ourselves. I scored an AWESOME Mizzou sweatshirt (I wore it all day onwards) and a couple other things. Then our fellow clothing exchange guests started arriving, shoulders heavy with bags stuffed with clothes. I was super stoked by how many people were showing up and how much stuff they were bringing. Once everything had been put out, we simply got to it. Everyone started rummaging through everything. It didn’t take long for everyone to find some stuff they liked.

The thing is, adding something new to your wardrobe, regardless of it is technically new or not, is something that makes every girl giddy. Even if someone else is tired and sick of it, it’s new to YOU. I was surprised by how much some people walked away with. Even better, it was absolutely free!

After all was said and done, we packed the remaining clothes, shoes, accessories and hodge podge of stuff into bags and dropped it off at the Ark, a non-profit thrift shop that uses proceeds for social services. I’ll be perfectly honest that the clothing exchange was entirely selfish: to get rid of stuff and get new stuff. But the leftovers are doing a bit of good. Hooray!

*is a string of three prepositions even allowed?