Cold turkey

>> 1.29.2009

I don't eat much meat anymore, so the turkey reference isn't overly appropriate. But I've realized that over the past year, two seemingly unrelated items have disappeared from my daily routine: soda and a watch.

Those who know me understand that I am a creature of habit. So every morning when I got dressed, I fastened my watch on my right wrist, since I'm sort of left handed. This routine probably dates back to when I received my first watch: It had a white band and Lucy from Charlie Brown on the face. Lucy's hands pointed at the numbers.

Last week I was shocked to realize that I haven't worn a watch in months. I even had to think hard about which wrist I put it on. I believe this change stems from two things: a lack of meetings requiring my attendance during a period of transition at work, and the fact that I now carry a cell phone most of the time (since I'm an emergency contact for the child, who started school full time last fall). I rarely use the cell phone, but I always can unearth it to look at the time, if need be.

Abandoning my daily can or two of soda was a conscious decision in February 2008. It went along with giving up high-fructose corn syrup and a few other unhealthy food items, plus the aforementioned decrease in meat consumption. I tried a Mountain Dew a month later and couldn't stand the taste, and I haven't looked back. My beverages of choice are natural iced tea and water, plus the requisite iced coffee. Yes, I still enjoy/need a little caffeine.

Given my dedication to consistency and routines, I'm pleasantly surprised at how painless these lifestyle alterations have been. See, I am capable of change. I just wish I still had my Lucy watch.


Picture this

>> 1.18.2009

I spent part of my afternoon the following way:

Wearing flip-flops and shorts, breathing in warm air laced with humidity, I walked along the water's edge as waves splashed just inches from my toes.

Nice image, isn't it?

Reality: I was walking next to the YMCA's swimming pool with the child, inhaling chlorine fumes. Screams pierced my tropical fantasy, as kids who have cooped up for a week splashed and played in the water.

But for five seconds, I was living my tropical dream.



>> 1.17.2009

To a model railroader, "undecorated" is seen as an opportunity. It may be a plain gray locomotive that the modeler can paint in the scheme of his or her choice, or perhaps it's a piece of rolling stock waiting to be decorated for a certain railroad, in a certain era, with a certain number. (Please don't ask why I know enough to have written that last sentence.)

But to me, sitting in my living room a few long weeks after Christmas, "undecorated" means a bare mantel, an empty banister, and a gaping hole where the tree once stood in all its illuminated glory. It means that the holidays are over and the long remainder of winter lies before us.

Undecorated also means chaos (see above) that needs to be repacked into plastic bins until next Thanksgiving. Ooo, at least I get to organize things for a while, which makes me happy.

Well, that's done, and the bins are back in the basement. Excuse me while I check airfares to Florida.


Lessons learned

>> 1.05.2009

Subtitle: Things I've pondered during my ten months on Facebook.

Caveat: I originally joined Facebook for work purposes, so I could be an admin on my employer's site.

The benefits:

1. I communicate far more regularly (even daily) with my siblings. A quick wall post or comment is easier than an email at times, for all of us. When my mom gets concerned that she hasn't heard from my brother in a while, I can reassure her that he just posted a status update, so he is alive and probably well.

2. Along the same lines, within the past few months, several far-flung college friends have become Facebook regulars. By reading status updates and looking at posted photos and videos, I feel closer to their everyday lives without relying on Christmas letters and infrequent emails for updates.

3. After "friending" a few cousins on Facebook, I found that we could skip the banal conversation about work and family at Christmas because we knew what everyone had been up to. We had far more in-depth chats, such as about which meats we had given up and why (and discovered that we're following remarkably similar paths).

The drawbacks:

1. It can be addictive, and it takes time to follow and respond. Facebook is another thing to stay on top of, in addition to a LinkedIn profile, two blogs, and those old-fashioned email in-boxes. All five of them.

2. You lose one-on-one (private) communication with some people. Of course, if it's a wall post or nothing, I'll take a wall post to stay in touch.

3. You can unintentionally offend several friends (or relatives) at once, with a misinterpreted status update. Word them carefully.

Just a bit of advice: Even if "bracing for an onslaught of relatives" accurately reflects your feelings as you await the arrival of 22 in-laws to town for a week at Christmas, don't post it. Sensitive teenagers who call you "aunt" may take offense.

The "not sure yet":
1. Here's one I can't come to grips with: 80 members from my high school class (of about 300 people) have joined a "Class of 19xx" group for our high school. Everyone just found one another without any publicity. And we're quickly becoming "friends."

Here's the issue: I haven't stayed in touch with anyone from high school. I recognize several of the names (if I played soccer with you, I'll accept your friend request without hesitation), but others I looked up in the yearbook and would swear I've never met.

What is to be gained from these re-connections? Do I have anything in common with my classmates beyond a year of graduation? Why did I feel left out (high school flashback) when several of them met over Christmas break, near my house, and I only learned about it by seeing the photos posted to Facebook?

It's fun to "see" old friends and find out what they've been doing (five kids and living in Colorado) and who married whom. But what else is there, beyond pure curiosity?

I haven't come up with a good answer.


Sparks fly

>> 1.01.2009

Happy 2009 to my faithful readers (you two know who you are).

Stop number one in this new year: Milwaukee's lakefront. For the annual polar bear plunge, you may ask? It's at a beach; I will give you that. But you should know that my dislike of the cold trumps my love of the beach. My bare toes do not v
isit sand and fresh water outside of the happy months (June through September). They may visit salt water during the other months.

No, we watched kites and their humans participate in the kite festival at Veteran's Park... from the comfort of the car for the most part.

The day's other stop: Discovery World, to see sparks fly at Tesla Lives, a live theater show that gave us an enlightening refresher course on the development of electric power. Nikola Tesla's A/C power rocks because Edison's D/C power wouldn't roll far enough (sorry, couldn't resist). Oh, man. Moving on.

At home, due to a lack of water in the air (despite the sump pump staying out of hibernation), we've unwittingly been conducting our own demonstrations of static electricity. Fleece blanket plus fleece jacket plus laptop equals, um, let's be careful out there. Then the child discovered that flannel sheets plus fuzzy pajamas equals a lightning show of her very own, using mom as the ground for a shocking grand finale.

As we start the new year, I raise my mug of hot chocolate to warm memories of beach vacations taken during 2008, with many more to come (both warm memories and beach vacations, that is). Cheers.


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