Way, way back in 2012, a very dear friend gave me a “just because” gift of a gorgeous Paper Source wall art calendar for 2013. Each month features a whimsical or elegant design in vibrant colors. It might be very un-romantic to put it in such terms, but I freakin’ love this calendar.
On the back of each page are several templates so one can reuse the calendar for other purposes: as a file folder, or a notecard, or a gift tag, or a pillow box, or a book mark.
With yesterday’s close of 2013, I dug out my scissors, paper slicer, and a few black frames I had kicking around, and set about cutting out each template. Some designs are coming to a gift box near you, but some of my favorites—the peacock in particular—will adorn my home. The peacock and daisies for the living room; the jars of beans and onions for the kitchen; the macaroons for the dining room; the bees and the leaves for nooks-to-be-determined.
The gift that keeps on giving!

Way, way back in 2012, a very dear friend gave me a “just because” gift of a gorgeous Paper Source wall art calendar for 2013. Each month features a whimsical or elegant design in vibrant colors. It might be very un-romantic to put it in such terms, but I freakin’ love this calendar.

On the back of each page are several templates so one can reuse the calendar for other purposes: as a file folder, or a notecard, or a gift tag, or a pillow box, or a book mark.

With yesterday’s close of 2013, I dug out my scissors, paper slicer, and a few black frames I had kicking around, and set about cutting out each template. Some designs are coming to a gift box near you, but some of my favorites—the peacock in particular—will adorn my home. The peacock and daisies for the living room; the jars of beans and onions for the kitchen; the macaroons for the dining room; the bees and the leaves for nooks-to-be-determined.

The gift that keeps on giving!

Insert Quote from Finding Nemo Here

It is 102 days until the Big T and about time I started swimmin’ some laps.

I spent about a half-hour beforehand mentally preparing myself. Do I wear the one-piece or the two-piece? I went back and forth, but ultimately decided to bring both. For good measure, I spent about 30 seconds googling swim tips for triathletes before my Tri-Buddy/Cheerleader arrived.

When we got to the natatorium, the swim team was wrapping up their practice. No pressure or anything, right? They were all wearing one-pieces. When in Rome

Tri-Buddy/Cheerleader whips out the swim cap and goggles. I’m thinking, You need all that for the doggie paddle?

Here’s how I imagined our swim date: doggie paddling for 20 laps (1000 meters), while we gab about careers/nuclear nonproliferation/nail polish.

Here’s how our swim date went: TB/C was off like a dirty shirt. Whatever she was doing involved some fancy arm stuff and her face in the water and breathing. Meanwhile, I’ll just be back here, dragging my lead weight body, realizing why people always die during the swim portion of the triathlon, thanking whatever gods may be that I wore the one-piece, and avoiding eye contact with the lifeguard who looks very concerned.

Related: Do you ever think about how you would fare in a moment of crisis requiring physical exertion? I think I established tonight that I would most certainly be eaten by the shark. 

I was feeling a bit dejected, but TB/C gave me a little pep talk. I didn’t do those 20 laps, but I did do 10…which, she helpfully pointed out, is precisely the distance I need to do for the Big T.

You guys, I have so got this.

It Just Got Real

When we last left off, it was 5 days ‘til my first 5K. Everyone’s getting tired of hearing this, but just so it’s documented here for posterity’s sake: 33:47. 77 out of 109 overall, 6 out of 9 in my age division. And I won a bird for the Thanksgiving table (called it!). Who knew that personal victory tastes like turkey?

Today is another big day: I registered for my first solo triathlon, which is 190 days from now. 600 yard swim. 14 mile bike. 3.1 mile run.

Biking is my thing. Running is increasingly becoming my thing (especially since I’ve discovered it’s magical body mass melting properties…Hello, Size 6, haven’t seen you  since high school). Swimming…not so much, but I’m hitting the pool after the new year.

5 Days to 5K

It’s T-minus 5 days and counting until my first 5K. You guys, I’ve got this. I have so got this.

You know how they say humans are born to run? And, if you’re not a runner or hate running, you’re like HOGWASH.

Well, in the last mile of this morning’s run, I started to feel it. The stars of pacing, breathing, and blood sugar aligned and I felt like I could just keep running for many more miles. And I would have, were it not for this lovely little thing called my job.

Speaking of which, gotta run!

Mirabile Cursu

An amazing thing happened this morning. For the first time in the history of never, I woke up and thought, “I want to go for a run!” And I did!

Last weekend, I purchased a pair of the Brooks PureConnect and set out on my first run on Tuesday. Wednesday was relatively pain free, but a head-to-toe ache seized my body on Thursday. I struggled and whimpered through 2.91 miles. The pain lessened by Friday night and was non-existent for my 2.5 miles on Saturday and 2.76 today. With each successive run, I feel myself becoming faster and better able to conquer those hills. I think I finally understand why people enjoy running so much.

My first solo triathlon is still 8 months away, but today I signed up for the 36th Annual Turkey Trot and Gobble Wobble on Nov. 18. I’m in it to win it…a free turkey, at least!

I Am Here to Come in Not Last

In this heated election cycle, I would like to announce my candidacy as a 2013 solo triathlete. Those who have followed my career closely know that I competed as one half of the MiddMAINEiacs ticket in July. With only 24 hours of training (as in, I rode the course the day before, at 1 pm, in 95 degrees of merciless sunshine), we emerged semi-victorious, placing second in our division with a time of 1:36.

Blood, Sweat, Tears, and Magic Marker

Some of my critics have observed that there were only two, maybe three teams in our division. Others have questioned my label of “triathlete,” noting that I only participated in the 14-mile cycling portion of the competition. I am quick to remind such naysayers that mine happened to be the longest section. Also: Free kittens! More dances! And vending machines in the cafeteria!

This time around, I’m embarking as a solo sprinter, which is really hilarious because 1) I’m as buoyant as a lead weight and 2) I HATE RUNNING. But the will is there. And where there’s a will, there’s a way and other such irritating platitudes.

Here’s to a winter of Nike jiujitsu and not drowning!

Happy Father’s Day

I’ve been thinking about my dad a lot lately.

In the weeks leading up to Father’s Day, I have received a number of emails from assorted stores advertising their wares for good ol’ dad. I’m fairly certain their number is greater than those I received for Mother’s Day. Not that my dad would really want any of the things featured in these emails. As one of those men who seemed to have everything, he’d much rather have me make him poached eggs on French toast or replenish his rum supply or frame a nice photo of his grandchildren.

Last week, I attended a two-day forum on social entrepreneurship whose organizers used our stories of self to scaffold our discussions. I cannot construct my story of self without my dad.

He was a plumber for 50 years, and most people take this to mean he didn’t value education. To the contrary. I have a BA from one of the most prestigious liberal arts institutions in the country, and his knowledge of English and American literatures far surpasses mine. (He attended school back in the day when earning a high school diploma meant something.) He also push, push, pushed me through school. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother? Please. “A-minus? A-minus? You can do better than that!” And when I brought home A’s from aforementioned liberal arts institution: “A? A? You can do better than that!” (I had to explain to him that there’s no such thing as an A+ in college, so please keep the tuition payments coming.)

But his pushing stopped there. Being an intelligent human being with a work ethic to make a Protestant blush isn’t such a bad thing. Beyond that, my dad has left the rest of my life up to me. When I was in school, and my classmates moaned, “My parents won’t let me major in x, or do y," I offered to have my dad adopt them because he would let them do or be whatever they wanted. Case in point: When I was about three years old—AM I REALLY ADMITTING THIS ON THE INTERNET?—I declared that I wanted to be a belly dancer. And dad was okay with that. He was also okay when I then said I wanted to be a grocery store cashier and then a teacher and then an astronaut and then a librarian and then a lawyer and, finally, a college administrator. Honestly, to this day, the only reason I am not a belly dancer is because there is one thing my father could not give me: the genes for a decent set of abdominal muscles.

He may have worked nearly every day for 50 years, pausing only when he came down with a serious case of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, but he had a lot of fun, too. He was a gifted story teller and had a vast repertoire of dirty jokes (three white horses fell in the mud, among his favorites). There are maybe three photos of him in which he is not sticking out his tongue. When guests departed our house, he would remind them to “come back again when you can’t stay so long.” He could play a mean air guitar. He would reliably and unabashedly cry during that scene in Ghost with the pottery wheel. He was incredibly mischievous. How many kids can say that their shenanigans actually make their father proud?

I experience my father’s influence on my life everyday, and not just when I look in the mirror and see his stunning good looks reflected in my face. I feel it at the end of the day when I have the urge to have a cocktail and eat some cheese. I feel it when I tell my friends a story with just the right amount of suspense and comic timing. And, of course, I feel it when there is work (and still more work) to be done, and done well.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I miss you, but I know your hard working, mischievous spirit continues on in the lives of your children and grandchildren. Also, I’m sorry I got a little mushy there. I promise it won’t happen again.

Lucy, 2009-2011

For the second time this week, I get to write a eulogy for a chicken. And not just any chicken, but my favorite chicken…

Lucy

Lucy. Just look at those red feathers. She was a beautiful, loyal chicken. I will miss her following me around the yard. I will miss her eagerly hopping from chicken leg to chicken leg, trying to run as fast as she possibly could when I called her name. I will miss her blue eggs. I will miss her scratching. I will miss her scooching down and tucking her wings in so I could pick her up. She was one-in-a-million.

"After Class, Skimpy Equality"… and Baking Pies

First: If you’ve never read it, you should check out Lisa Belkin’s Motherlode, a New York Times blog about life, work, parenting, and families. I, like a fair number of Motherlode readers, am not a parent, but I find the issues she covers so darn intriguing and complex. This is isn’t the sort of blog where you read about the “12 Must-Haves for Pregnancy,” and item number one is Kraft Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese.

This week, Lisa blogs about her Sunday Styles column, “After Class, Skimpy Equality.” Her basic premise is this:

I’ve been puzzling over this since last year, when I returned to Princeton University to teach, more than two decades after I had graduated. The women I met were outspoken, self-confident and unapologetic about running rings around their male cohorts in the classroom. … What stunned me was what was happening outside class, where women seemed not to have budged in decades.  In social settings and in relationships, men set the pace, made the rules and acted as they had in the days when women were still “less than.” It might as well have been the 1950s, but with skimpier clothing, fewer inhibitions and better birth control.

Truth. There are few college campuses lacking parties exhorting women to wear some manner of sexy, naughty, or slutty clothing. It’s not that women can never dress attractively. One of the Motherlode commentators quotes Gloria Steinem:

And my question to the young woman who is dressing as you describe is: Is she doing it because she wants to? Is she body-proud? Is she sexuality-proud? Because then, I say, great. Is she doing it because she feels she has to? That she won’t be popular otherwise? Then, that’s wrong.

Every woman should feel that her clothing is a true expression of her identity. She should dress the way she dresses for herself, and not for the entertainment or pleasure of others. Women should own their clothing (and by own, I don’t just mean pay in cash). 

To this discussion of inequality outside of the classroom, I would like to add there is another ideal our female students are expected (or feel expected) to achieve: that of nurturer. It is perhaps at the other end of the spectrum as “woman as slut,” but it is no less problematic, especially when women feel obligated to meet it. It is harder to pinpoint—after all, there are no campus parties exhorting women to bake pies—but it is there if you look close enough.

Over the last few years, I have had the pleasure of meeting or working with great student leaders; all of them were brilliant, creative, and successful. The women stood out to me because, in addition to being superb leaders and intellectuals, they would run themselves ragged baking for, cleaning up after, and just generally taking care of others in the organization. If they didn’t feel like they were doing a good enough job of this—if the brownies came courtesy of Betty Crocker, for example—they would experience tremendous guilt that would often overpower any feelings of confidence they may have derived from spearheading a project. Why? Shouldn’t it be enough to be a fabulous leader who can juggle many working parts and see a project or event through to its wildly successful end? While these women are taking care of others, I wonder, who is taking care of them?

Eva, 2009-2011

Eva

How to begin a eulogy for a chicken?

O Chicken! My Chicken!

Eva. She may have shunned the affection that Lucy and Gloria so eagerly sought. She may have lacked that certain, hard-to-capture-in-words spunky quality of Queenie. But she was a good chicken. And she led a good life. Not overly boisterous. A bit of a wallflower. Her eggs, the color of coffee with too much half-and-half, rocked. May she enjoy that big backyard in the sky with the all-you-can-eat gooey caterpillar and crunchy cicada buffet for $9.99.