motivation is such a fickle thing.

This post hasn’t been well thought-out or anything.  I’ve just been frustrated a lot lately and felt like ranting a bit.  I don’t think I’m alone, especially with the winter season here now.

I officially moved into my new place in September.  Around that time, I had a TON of unpacking to do and also a lot of planning.  I had just decided I would be flying to Hong Kong in 2 months and I had $2,000 to raise.  Needless to say, I was using my time to scramble.  I had to finish painting so I could at least push my furniture against the wall, then I had to sort through boxes and unpack.  And I’ve lived alone since 2011 so I have quite a lot of things to unpack.

Well, with the trip coming up, my fundraising prioritized slightly.  I was going through my boxes of books and selling things online, setting up an Amazon account and having to deal with issues with my bank to make the thing work out alright.  I went to a few events and raised funds there.  Also, I was planning a trip to Orlando for National Conference (AISES) – and we’re not talking like it was last year when I flew to Denver and just did whatever.  I was just a volunteer that year.  No, this year I was a volunteer, a judge, a presenter, a chapter member, a student chaperone/assistant, and a networker.  Plus, I drove.  And so that also took money, which meant all September and October I was working overtime, then November I was traveling.

So my place is still at least 5 to 10% unpacked.

My kitchen cabinets are 70% finished and have sat like that since September.

And then I put things up and they come back down.  Like my curtains.  I took the time to hang them and my cats took the time to rip them back down again.  Twice.  Or the Christmas tree that was eaten twice before I finally established a “NO!!!” basis with the cats…but that still hasn’t managed to uncover my lost star tree-topper, or the cat collar that somehow vanished in the chasing process…

Oh, and the excellent caretakers….like the ones who drove the plow truck into my garden units and smashed my boards to pieces.  Or the idiots who did a repair to my gutters (which still, by the way, don’t work) and so now my basement still floods and my back porch got smashed by a backhoe.

The people who came to replace a pipeline in my yard, tore up my grass and gardens, and made a mucky mess out of the sidewalk.  Which is now solid ice because someone thought plowing it a little and letting the snow melt in the sun was a good idea.  So I nearly wiped out 10 times last night.

The mailman who doesn’t mail my rent checks, so I find them 10 days later in my mailbox.

Well, at least I finally have heat.  It doesn’t seem to work right, but my place is generally around 60 and I’ve stopped showering at LA Fitness because I actually have hot water now.

All of these little things going on and it’s so hard to come home from a 10-hour work day, walk into a semi-warm house, and say “I’m gonna clean this ALL UP right NOW!”  It just doesn’t happen.  I might sit down on the couch and suddenly find myself waking up, it’s 2am, and I haven’t eaten dinner.  So what about my workout schedule?  Well, that’s been pretty terrible, too.  I used to run all the time and it felt good, but suddenly I was feeling like running was a burden.  I don’t like running on the streets with cars passing or guys whistling or something stupid, so I’ve felt trapped.  I’ll go to the gym at 5:30am, but with hockey most nights now I can’t possibly get home at 1am and expect to be working out in a few hours.

I’ve been lucky lately because I’ve forced myself to try a new thing: Nike Plus “Coach”.  I went for a 3.6 mile run last Sunday while the weather was still decent.  I realized I needed to get back into this running.  5Ks used to be so easy – even 10Ks.  I want to run a full marathon someday and realize I had been close to running it when I did my last 1/2 marathon, so why slack off now?  It’ll be harder to catch up later.

My Coach function allowed me to choose “Marathon” as my training goal.  I’m not saying I’m gonna go through the whole thing and actually run that Marathon when it says I will, but I’m going to stick to it as much as I can for as long as I can.  Partly, I want to do this because it will bring me through this cruddy months when I usually drop my mileage anyway.  I hate treadmills, I hate running indoors unless I’m sprinting on a track.  That’s just by the nature of the sports I did: Fall XC and Indoor/Outdoor Track.  And I always trip on treadmills.  It’s pretty uncoordinated and bad.

With my “Coach” telling me to get out and run, I have logged over 10 miles since Tuesday this week and am about to go to North Chagrin Reservation to log another 5.  Yeah, it’s been icy and in the 20s, but the Coach just wants to see you try.  It’s kind of nice to hear a voice say “Halfway there!’ and “Congratulations!  You finished your goal!”, followed by a recording of an actual star athlete complimenting your work.  And I’ve slowly come to realize that a 3 mile run is really only 20 minutes out of your day.  I could kill 20 minutes just looking at my Tumblr feed and, while Tumblr tends to be my source of “news” considering I follow a very trendy, outspoken friend, it’s not at all as useful as spending that time accomplishing something.

My Coach says I can run a Marathon by May 31st on the plan, so maybe I’ll look into running one this summer. If nothing else, sticking to the plan through the winter is the first inkling of motivation I’ve had for a long time, and just in time too.  These months are rough ones here in the Lake Effect Snow zone.  But I love snow, so I won’t complain.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; It is not arrogant.”
-1 Corinthians 13:4

My week has been rough, but this day was subtly amazing.

We made ligonberry Swedish crepes for breakfast. It was a communion day at church and I was hugged like family. The pastor quoted the same passage that I had recently shared with Jeff. We cleaned off 20 or 30 snowy cars as the people left. We had good conversations and baked soda bread and made stirfry vegetables. Then we met his brother and brother’s wife to cross-country ski and had a beer after. The weather was perfect and the sun was shining. We made pasta and ate banana pudding. We watched the Olympics and The Help. We talked about people and gossip and respect and how people treat each other.

And when I left, I had sweet goodbye and was thanked for my persistence in convincing Jeff to try something he didn’t think he wanted, to watch that movie. It sounds silly, but it spoke volumes. Gentle persistence. Comfort zones. That came up a lot today.

Taking the time to have fun and be patient to understand, that makes such a difference. Slowing down enough to enjoy the smallest things makes anything feel refreshing. The pastor quoted 1 Corinthians today, and I thought it was a good thing to remember.

And in other news, I’m back writing full swing for the Athenian – and illustrating, too.

The Little Things.

I “get through” my day after day after day i.e. life by looking forward to something. It’s so easy to be distracted by only the big things, but really it’s those little somethings that make up the journey in life. What is a trail anyway? It’s a line, and a line is endless infinitesimally small points along the way.

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Yesterday, my big thing was a little something full of lots of simple smiles. I got to spend an evening cooking with someone dear to me. Jeff and I of course have fun skiing or playing volleyball like we sometimes do, but it takes a special kind of person to still go outside to build snowmen and to spend a few hours preparing a meal from scratch – and have fun doing it.

From walking to Heinen’s, to slam-dunking food into the buggy, Jeff making fun of me standing on my toes to look over shelves, wandering aisles because he’s too stubborn to ask for help, walking home in the rain, stirring frogs eggs pudding, cutting up Jeff’s first star fruit, sipping wine while making our own broth, fixing up pretty plates of roasted asparagus and improvised homemade hollandaise sauce…we had a blast. We sat down the watch The Bachelor, but we didn’t need a TV show to keep us entertained. I think we could make scrubbing dishes fun.

And that’s when I thought, how many people do that? How many people can enjoy cooking a time-consuming dinner? How many people in their late 20s would build a snowman with me in snow that won’t even compact? How many people take the time to read a silly, three-paged letter with joking references to the Hunger Games trilogy? How many people can still appreciate the little things?

Maybe we are weird, but I like it. And I’m really glad I have someone like Jeff to make being weird less lonely.

Our menu from last night included: white wine, champagne, roasted asparagus, homemade hollandaise sauce with lime, basmati rice, chicken/seitan in white wine broth with sun-dried tomatoes and seasoned artichoke hearts, arugula-basil salad with fresh mozzarella and balsamic-basil vinaigrette, frogs eggs (tapioca pudding), and a sliced star fruit.

Taken for Granted.

ImageI’ve been reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  The story focuses on an extended family and surrounding people living rather isolated and somewhat primitive in Colombia.  The patriarch of the family is transfixed with the ideas of science and invention.  In fact, he founds his own village, Macondo, on an island so he can spend his life entertaining his curiosities.  What’s particularly interesting about this man and his village, though, is the fact that the both are so isolated in only the familiar and with little contact to the outside.  For example, some gypsies bring in a large piece of ice to the village as a “demonstration” – not of science, but of magic.  The man is transfixed by this enormous diamond and pays for him and his sons to touch it.  Because he sees things in one light and one light only.

I’m still reading the book, but that was the gist of what I’ve gotten from summaries of it and what I’ve read so far.  But what really stuck out to me was that ice scenario.  I started thinking about the life that family had, isolated in one of the last regions to be explored.  In fact, Colombia is still heavily avoided, perhaps due more to violence than environmental concern such as the Amazon in Brazil.

But…ice.

I see ice every morning during this time of year.  There’s ice on my windows, ice hanging from my eaves, and ice on the sidewalks.  We go to the restaurant and we’re served water with ice.  We buy bags of ice for coolers to pack samples in the lab.  We have ice for injuries whenever we need it.

But, ice.

There are people in this world who have lived their whole lives without ever seeing, feeling, tasting, knowing ice.  They might know steam and not recognize it as water.  If they saw ice, they surely wouldn’t first guess water, would they?  Could they say ‘diamonds’ if they knew diamonds?  And how could you ever explain that feeling of such coldness?  So cold, it seems boiling hot if you have only ever known boiling hot.

I’m not just thinking about the materialistic things we take for granted in our daily lives, like heat and air-conditioning.  I’m not just talking about the people we take for granted in our daily lives, like friends and family.  I’m talking about the science we have come to know and how it has changed our lives as we’ve learned to manipulate it.

Medication.  Transportation.  Entertainment.  Those are some of the big ones.

But even something as simple as ice.  Phase change.  Think of how many things we have that rely on phase change: cooking, engines, pumps,…a lot of little things that make up much bigger things.  Science, knowledge….the ability to share that information – it can so easily be taken for granted.

How different would your life be if you lived in a place where no one knew ice?

Festive or Infective?

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With the holidays cranking out since November’s American Thanksgiving, I can’t help but feel perpetual bitterness fueled by the generalized attitude of the public.  Shop shop shop shop shop, eat eat eat eat eat.  Whatever happened to the holidays being a time of togetherness and thankfulness?  No, of course not.  Now it’s just a constant competition to get the best deals, cook (or take-out!) way too much food, have a prettier tablescape, decorate your house better than the guy next to you, cut down a bigger tree (that took as much as 15 years to grow!), and complete forget what this time is about.  I don’t celebrate any holiday, but aren’t these supposed to be religious times, too?  Who even goes to Christmas Mass anymore?  When did Christmas become all about Santa?  And what about the other holidays?  (I got so many “Merry Christmas” goodbyes as I left work this week that I began to think…what about Chanukah?  Kwanza?  Winter Solstice??)

And what I really can’t get over is this: Christmas trees!  Dude, that’s a PAGAN tradition!  PAGAN.  For all of you Christian/Bible-reading superlatives out there.  And that’s fine.  But just remember it’s not some holy, Christian-only enterprise.  (I’m sick of people asking why my family puts up a tree.  Why run your car if you don’t believe in Global Warming?  You’re still partaking.)

So let’s all just have an enjoyable winter and not feel pressured to waste money buying gifts that you and others don’t need, cook too much food that will go to waste, and stay inside instead of enjoying all of the outdoor opportunities that are peaked in the colder areas this time of year and just as available as always to the warmer ones.

Nothing Like The Snow

I don’t know why, but there is nothing like the snow. I am absolutely obsessed. From the way it falls to the way it magically makes the world warmer and happier, I just feel so relaxed when it snows. When I was little, I used to climb into trees in the dead of winter and sit until I could no longer feel anything. I’d watch the blue jays eats red berries and the rabbits periodically run past. Even though it was so cold, hunting in the snow was pure pleasure. I didn’t need to see a deer. Just watching the snow flakes and the birds was enough for me. And nothing compares to the silence of a wooded snowfall. My favorite time for a run? Moonlit nights in the snow. Throw on snow boots and I’m gone for an hour, the world completely lit up by the moon. Nothing makes me happier than the snow.