January 28, 2009

My Precious

I've decided that since I have a new camera will all kinds of manual settings that I should probably learn how to use said manual settings. A few weekends ago, I took out my camera and played around with it for about two hours. I spent that time trying to understand how exciting things like aperture, ISO speeds and exposure combine to form balanced images. I learned these things a long time ago when I took photography in college, but I've certainly had to restart that portion of my brain. I've lost a lot. But after my two hour photo session it all started making sense again.

The photo above is of my violin. I love this photo because it shows off two of my favorite things about this violin. First, the rose. When I first saw my violin, I was a 10-year-old girl. To a 10-year-old girl a pretty little rose was all it took to make me fall in love with my violin. Secondly, I love that some of it's scratches are visible. Most people probably think its imperfections are unsightly, but I love each and every scratch. They are reminders of how much history belongs to this violin. And as for how its history fits in with my family's, I'm still working on that.

January 27, 2009

The Ups and Downs of My Day

Today was a mixed bag of sorts. I had high moments and one very low moment.

Let's start with the lows: I missed my run this morning. I got up in time to go but didn't have an MP3 player or headphones, so I convinced myself that there was no way I could run 2.5 miles at the gym without any noise distraction. I went back to bed and instead caught an earlier train to work. I was at the office and ready to work by 9 a.m., having left home at 8 a.m. I didn't get home until 7 p.m. tonight and I've still got work to do. Yuck. I've got a lot of work these days.

Speaking of work, the lowest low point of my day came at about 11 a.m. this morning. I was on my way to the printer when I paused for a moment just outside my office door, then turned on my heel and fell to the ground. And it wasn't a slow, graceful fall where something caught me on my way down and slowed my descent. It was an epic fall - a fall where I stumbled, slammed into the printer, said "oh my goodness!" on the way down and then proceeded to land on my hip and scatter the stack of paper I had been holding in my hand. I shudder to think of how cartoonish the whole thing must have looked. Thankfully I don't think anyone saw me, but they certainly heard me. People came out of their offices to see if I was OK. I'm OK, minus a bruised forearm and right hip.

What exactly caused my fall you ask? I'm not that clumsy, so this fall can officially be categorized as a wardrobe malfunction. It was the combo of black pants and shoes I was wearing. The black pants have a cuff that is just the right height to catch the heel of the shoes I was wearing. I've stumbled before while wearing this pant/shoe combo, but I always managed to catch myself. Today I did not, and as a result spent the rest of the day walking around with as wide a stance as possible while doing some modified high-footed Clydesdale step. I must have looked like an idiot, but at least I didn't fall again. And my lesson has been learned. I will not be wearing those pants with those shoes again.

And now to the good. My day may have started void of an MP3 player but I ended it with an iPod. I lost (really left) my iPod in a Macy's earlier this month. The timing was unfortunate because I lost it less than a week into my Shamrock Shuffle training. Not being able to justify the purchase of a new iPod, I purchased a gently used one off eBay. I unfortunately sent it back to the seller five days later when I realized it was never going to accept or keep a charge. I received confirmation that the seller received my iPod. I then waited to hear when I was going to receive a new one or a refund. I waited. And I waited. And I waited. In the meantime, I used Mike's MP3 player. Thank goodness for it, but his and my music selections vary. While my running mixes consist of a lot of top 40 and girly pop, generally things I like to dance to, Mike exercises to what I refer to as loud, hard, angry music. Luckily, we meet somewhere in the middle at Weezer.

I checked the shipping confirmation on my iPod today and began to get worried. USPS said it was delivered yesterday. Funny, I did not see it in my mailbox yesterday. Thankfully it was waiting by my front door when I got home from work. I can't wait to load my music and make the most ridiculous Top 40, girly pop running mix I can.

I've already decided tomorrow will be a better day than today. I plan to start tomorrow by getting my morning run in and hopefully (fingers crossed) not falling at any point during my work day.

January 25, 2009

Learning Some New Moves

I was practicing my violin today and once again was working on my vibrato. As part of my New Year's goals, I began doing exercises to develop my vibrato a few weeks ago. It's not easy. If anything, it's made me realize I have some really weak wrists.

The vibrato is a quick wrist movement that turns a dull, flat note into a sweet, undulating sound. And, if I do say so myself, it makes slow, melodic music (the kind a person might play at, say, a wedding) sound much better.

I've been doing a series of exercises to help me develop this playing technique. My old violin workbooks from sixth grade have come in handy in recent weeks. I practice by waving at myself, then waving with violin in hand, then placing a finger on a string and moving my hand in a polishing the string, wrist waving motion. I've progressed to where I have the correct movement, but I just can't do it fast enough. I play the note and then the note just above it, sliding back and forth between the two as quickly as possible. Because I am slow, instead of the notes sounding beautiful and melodic my vibrato produces a sound akin to a drunk, mooing cow. "MOO-moo-MOO-moo-MOO-moo..." You get it. If you don't get it, trust me you don't want me to post video of my developing vibrato.

Since I have the technique down, what I'm realizing I need to do is strengthen my wrists so I can move them faster. They are so weak. And I've noticed their lack of strength in other areas as well, like when doing Pilate's or yoga. Any position that involves resting the majority of my weight on one or both hands for more than 5 seconds immediately becomes a challenging move.

It's been kind of a weird realization that I have weak wrists. I've never noticed it until now, but now that I have, I'm almost as concerned with strengthening my wrists as I am my legs or arms or stomach muscles.

I've never looked into strengthening my wrists but was not surprised to learn that Google provided many answers to my problem. This Web site has the most doable exercises, so these are the exercises I will be doing. While I strengthen my legs and lungs with my running routine, I also will be strengthening my wrists with the following exercises (in case any of you have weak wrists as well):

One, Two, Three Finger Exercises
- For the best hand function, you should be able to touch the tips of your fingers to the palm and straighten the fingers completely. Use the one-two- three approach to stretch and strengthen fingers.
- To bend fingers:
--(1) Begin bending the joint closest to the tip of the finger
--(2) Bend the middle joint
--(3) When your fingertips are touching the palm, or are as close as possible, bend the knuckle joint.
- To straighten your fingers, just do the movements in reverse. You can exercise your fingers individually or together, using your other hand to help if necessary.

Thumb Walk
Holding your wrist straight, form the letter "O" by lightly touching your thumb to each fingertip. After each "O" straighten and spread your fingers. Use the other hand to help if needed.

Hi and Bye
- To strengthen and limber your wrist, rest your forearm on a table with your hand over the edge. Keep fingers relaxed and bend your wrist up and down.
- To strengthen the small muscles of the hand, slide your arm back until your fingers hang over with your knuckles at the table edge. Keeping your fingers straight and together and your palm flat, move your fingers up and down.

Door Opener
This exercise stretches the muscles and ligaments that rotate the forearm, letting you turn doorknobs, use a screwdriver, of put your hand in your back pocket.
- Start with your forearm resting on a table, palm down.
- Keeping your little finger on the table, turn your hand so the palm faces up.
- If you use your other hand to help, grip your forearm, not the wrist or hand

January 24, 2009

Family Jewels

I talked to my mom on the phone yesterday, and she informed me that a big chunk of my inheritance was gone. My mind immediately went to one of the many motorized vehicles in the garage. I thought my dad might have crashed his '73 Corvette or that maybe one of the four motorcycles they own was stolen. But I was wrong. It was something much smaller and much more valuable.

The diamond in my mom's wedding ring is gone.

It is an understatement to say my mom is upset about losing this. The diamond is valuable not only for its monetary worth, but also its sentiment and history. It is the diamond my mom has worn on her left hand for 34 years as the symbol of her and my dad's love for one another. It's also a family heirloom. It is half of a larger diamond that belonged to my dad's grandmother.

Once my mom realized it was gone, she was able to narrow down the time she lost it to a 15 minute window. The problem is her activities during those 15 minutes included throwing laundry in the wash, feeding the birds in our backyard and rummaging through the storage area she and my dad have in the basement. My mom has looked in all these places over and over. She's shifted the snow in the back yard and even flushed the lines of the washing machine before it hit the spin cycle. One night, unable to sleep, she headed outside with flashlight in hand hoping the glint of diamond would be caught by the light.

It pains me that she hasn't been able to find this. For my inheritance sake, I could care less. The diamond's worth lies in the significance it holds to my parents. To me, and I am sure them, it is a symbol of their marriage which has weathered for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and during the good times and the bad. I hope this diamond does turn up, not because I want my inheritance to grow, but because I want this symbol of their love to last as long as they both shall live.

January 20, 2009

And By Live You Meant Exactly What?

Are you kidding me MSNBC.com? How is it that I was watching your "Live Coverage" of the inauguration and ended up missing President Obama being sworn in as well as his entire speech? What part of live coverage do you not understand? If you are in fact "live" you think you'd show what was actually happening - not what I now realize were clips from earlier this morning while your pundents talked about the historic significance of this moment. How about actually showing this historic moment, you deceiving SOBs!

I missed this moment in history. It's over. I was sitting in my office alone watching your BS online coverage not knowing what I was missing. I could have easily walked down the hall to the cafe and watched this unprecedented moment live with several of my co-workers, but I didn't. You know why? Because I didn't know it was happening! Because you said you were live! But you were not!

I now need to find video the actual inauguration and watch the freakin' replay. And you know what, I will not be trying to find this video through your Web site because me and you, MSNBC.com, we are through.

January 14, 2009

Slide Rock

On the Arizona portion of my and Mike's trip out west this past October, we spent one day in Sedona. While there, we visited Slide Rock. It was really beautiful and had the water been warmer, I might have been inclined to slide down the rocks. As it was not, we walked around its bank until we got to the point where we couldn't go any further. The photo above is that point. It may have been a dead end but it made for a nice photo.

I picked this picture because it makes me think of Arizona and places much warmer than Chicago in January. It's also currently the wallpaper on my laptop. Wishful thinking, I guess.

Eff You, Old Man Winter

Here's something I just learned via WGN's 9 p.m. new cast. Temperatures in Chicago are going to drop below zero tonight and may possibly remain there through Friday morning "producing what could be a 39 consecutive-hour stretch of subzero temperatures over many parts of the area." And the crazy thing about these crazy cold temperatures is that they do not even factor in the wind chill.

For those of you reading from warmer locales such as Phoenix, California or Australia, let me just say a quick suck it. I kid. Can I come visit and stay through April?

Yeah, people, it's freaking cold here, but I haven't personally felt the painful, Chicago cold yet. I can remember days in past winters where I contemplated taking a cab one block just to escape the elements. I remember contemplating how I could fashion an electric blanket into a coat. I remember coming home and taking hot showers that were painful because my skin was so cold. I am not saying this frigid cold will not strike me at some point, but I think here in my fifth Chicago winter, I've learned a few tricks.

The first trick is dressing not to impress. I bought heavy duty snow boots recently. They go up to my knees, are rubber and have a warm lining. They also are arguably the best purchase I've made in months. I tuck my pants into these boots every day and stomp through the snow and the sludge to my train station. To walk to the train, I will wear my green ski coat with my burgundy bag with my black boots, hat and gloves with my white scarf with my brown pants spilling out from my boots. Not a thing on me matches. Last year during one cold spell I wore yoga pants under a dress just to cover my legs a little more. It will probably happen again this year. Let's face it, if it gets bad enough I may walk to the train wearing everything I own. I am not trendy in the least bit, but you know what? I'm warm. And when my train runs even two minutes behind schedule that little bit of extra warmth makes a world of difference.

The second thing I've learned: Don't leave home to catch the train more than three minutes before it's due to arrive. The trains usually run late if anything in the snow, and on cold days I'd rather have to run to catch it than wait an extra 30 seconds because I was too prompt.

The last and possibly most important thing I may have learned is to psych myself out. Every morning when I am about to step outside I tell myself that it's cold. Frigid. Miserable. It couldn't possibly be colder. It's so cold I may see a frozen polar bear on my way to the train station. It sounds crazy but it works because the second I step outside I say, 'Oh wait, it's not that bad." It's genius. And a little mental.

What can I say? It's winter in Chicago. There's only so much we can control. Us Chicagoans still have to go to work. We still have to walk to the train. We still have to catch buses and wait for the El. We still have to dig out our cars from snowy side streets and hope that they won't get encased in a wall of frozen snow by a plow truck. But gosh darn the summers here are amazing. They have to be in order to put up with 39 hours of subzero temperatures.

January 12, 2009

I'm It

My friend Kelsa tagged me and this little old blog o' mine. So I'll answer Kelsa's questions because she's Kelsa and she can run marathons and kick my ass on any given day (if she weren't so far away in Phoenix). So here goes:

Four favorite memories of 2008:
1. Jumping into the freezing Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Morocco with six other wild and crazy ladies by my side
2. Telling the first of many co-workers that I was dating Mike
3. Crossing the Muddy Buddy finish line with Jenny
4. Getting a raise

Four favorite movies of 2008:
1. Burn After Reading
2. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
3. Gone Baby Gone (came out in 2007, but I saw it this year)
4. Run Fat Boy, Run

(Alternately, can I just say the absolute WORST movie I saw this past year was The Love Guru. It was not rented, but rather given to Mike and I. We watched it. And I will never get any of those 87 minutes of my life back.)

Four favorite foods of 2008:
1. Mozzarella and arugula pizza from Pizza D.O.C
2. Chi Tea Trench Toast from Orange
3. Fillet Mignon from Ruth's Chris
4. Mike's mashed potatoes

Four favorite places in 2008:
1. Essouria, Morocco
2. Sedona, AZ
3. Wonewoc, WI
4. Westland, MI

Four events of 2008:
1. Moving in with Mike
2. My family's first weekend retreat in Union Pier, Michigan
3. My first U of M football game/brother-in-law's 30th birthday
4. Election Day

Four things I liked in 2008:
1. Traveling (CO, AZ, Morocco and the Midwest!)
2. Playing my violin
3. Finding a new gym
4. Skiing in Wisconsin

Four reasons I'm looking forward to 2009:
1. Being Maid of Honor in Jenny's wedding
2. Playing violin at Dorrie's wedding
3. Another Chicago summer
4. My and Mike's first full year of shackin' up together

Four people I tag:
No one! I'm bucking the rules here. If you read this and are inspired to tag yourself, let me know in my comments.

January 11, 2009

My Birthday, Part II

Remember back in Oct. 07 when I was so excited to have found this NPR program called Wait Wait Don't Tell Me? Well I didn't think you would, hence the link. I've been listening to this program ever since I located its airtime, and since then I've also found it online. This "oddly informative new quiz" program has become kind of a staple of my Saturday mornings or slow work days.

By far the greatest thing about this show is that it's taped in Chicago. Ever since I found that out, I've wanted to go. My birthday was the perfect excuse. I looked for other things to do in the city, such as attend the symphony or a concert but given the crappy timing of my birthday there were not many options. Honestly though, once I remembered Wait Wait Don't Tell Me I didn't want to do anything else.

The show is taped live on Thursdays and airs on the weekend. On Thursday night, Mike and I stayed downtown after work. We used one of the many gift certificates we have accumulated to eat dinner at Petterino's (a new restaurant for me). Then we walked down the street to the Chase auditorium and caught the show.

Heading into the auditorium, I was afraid that because they had the past two weeks off due to Christmas and New Years that the host and panelists would be a little rusty. I was so wrong. They were raring to go. The show as it airs is only 45 minutes. The taping, however, was two hours. I learned that a lot is said during the live show that cannot air. It is a shame though because it was some of the funniest stuff. There was small segment about the porn industry's request for a government bailout and the tangents that sprung from that were hilarious, but also not suitable to air. While not everything made it to the broadcast show, they had plenty of material to use. And the result is the funny, informative show I have come to love.

If you'd care to hear my laughter (mixed in with everyone else's) you can listen to the show here (no special downloads required). And for those of you wanting to follow like I do (probably not many) it's also available on iTunes as free podcast.

January 10, 2009

Torture Device

My Shamrock Shuffle training has officially begun. This week I managed to drag myself out of bed at 5:45 a.m. four out of five days to work out. In accordance with my training schedule, I did a Pilate's class on Monday, ran on Tuesday, ran and strength trained on Thursday and did this class called Hot Bod on Friday. If I run Sunday (which I will!) I will have completed my first week's training without missing a beat.

But let's back up to this Hot Bod class. I had taken it a few times before. It is a mix of cardio and strength training os it fits perfectly into my training schedule. And the few times I'd taken it, I really enjoyed it.

I had never taken this class on a Friday morning and at about 7 a.m., the mid-point of that class, I never wanted to again. We used the Bosu. It is a harmless looking device, but after an hour of using it in every way imaginable I hated it. And the instructor. We ran onto it, jumped on it, balanced on it while doing crunches, stood on it while doing free weight exercises, did various types of push ups on it and, my favorite, the modified down up. We would pick it up only to put it down, splay our legs behind us into a plank position and then pop to our feet, pick the Bosu up over our head and repeat. It was hard. I hated it. All 60 minutes of it.
I left the class trying to think of what else I could do on Friday mornings because at that point anything seemed better than attending Hot bod again. My calves were so overworked from standing on that freaking thing that I've been shuffling around my home like a cripple all morning.

But a strange thing happened. As the day went on I kept marinating on how hard I thought the class was but proportionally became increasingly proud that I did it. Even stranger still was my growing desire to do this class again and do it better. The strangest thing though, I think I will.

January 4, 2009

Birthday Update

Mike and I just got back from my birthday brunch. And because it's my birthday, I got a bloody orange mimosa. Nothing says birthday like champagne with breakfast. When I ordered my beverage the waiter carded me. Carded me! Twenty-eight-year old me. Happy Birthday indeed.

January 3, 2009


I took two days off work last week. After my extended Christmas weekend in Michigan, I took Monday and Tuesday off just to recoup and do whatever I wanted to do. I ran errands on Monday and did usual housekeeping stuff, but on Tuesday I ventured out. I went downtown with the hope that some of the holiday crowds had subsided. While shopping was on my mind, photography was too. I wanted to test out my new camera and see what images of Chicago I could capture.

One of the most photographed areas of the city these days is Millennium Park and The Bean. Everyone wants a photo of The Bean, but I have plenty (so I only got a few more). Instead, I focused for a little while on an equally photogenic subject in the park: the pavilion.

It's an oddly shaped, futuristic structure with hard Dr. Seuss angles. I took a few photos of the shell, but the one above ended up being my favorite. It is the roof of the shell that overhangs the pavilion seats as taken from the structure's western side. In editing when I got home I turned the photo black and white and blew out the fill light a little. The result the photo above.

But I don't know. I kind of like this one too. This is the inside of the pavilion.

A Day To Forget

Tomorrow is my birthday. It is a day which I have determined is one of the worst ever to celebrate a birthday. I won't go into detail about the many birthdays that have lead to the conclusion that a Jan. 4 birthday sucks, but let's just say not even me after surviving Thanksgiving, the Christmas season and New Year's is excited to celebrate my birthday. My lack of excitement means I don't really expect others to get too worked up about it either. My blasé attitude about my day combined with the fact that I'm turning a very uneventful 28 tomorrow means my birthday energy amounts to a resounding... meh.

(As bad as I think I have it, I do feel worse for Mike. Because on top of all the gift giving that is associated with the aforementioned celebrations, our anniversary is on New Years. Hence, I get awesome gifts like a swanky camera.)

Before I begin my 28th year, I feel the need to honor my 27th with a look back. I think given the nature of this blog, my best measurement of a successful year is in the lessons I have learned. So the question is, what have I learned during the past 365 days?

This past year was a year of hobbies and pursuing the things I once liked doing. I picked up the violin again and learned that not everything I had been taught during the eight years I played was lost. I also tried skiing after a decade's lapse and learned that I can still ski. I learned that my passion for photography is alive and well. If anything, I hope to take a lot more photos (and share them with you) over the coming year.

My exercise regimen has fluctuated over this past year, but I amazed myself when I learned I was still capable of running five miles on very sporadic training. I also learned that despite my intense fear of morning workouts, I can do just that. And in the biggest surprise possible, I have come to find I actually prefer it.

Twenty-seven, also was the year of new toys. I got a bike, a new phone, mini-helicopter, a kick ass massage chair and my fancy new camera. I subsequently learned how to use all these things, and managed to lose one of my favorite toys. I dropped my iPod in Macy's last week and as a result learned that I am not as responsible with my toys as I should be.

I also did a little of my favorite thing this past year: travel. I saw Morocco, Denver and Arizona, not to mention quite a few trips to Wisconsin and Michigan. A learned a little about myself in each of these places, like my love for a good treasure hunt and when love can make you do at 6 a.m.

This year was a pretty big one for Mike and I. We stopped pretending that we were just co-workers and as a result, I learned there is almost no greater feeling than being able to tell anyone I want that I have a boyfriend. I also moved in with Mike and learned that I love living with him (even though sometimes I can't sleep next to him). I think I will always look back on this past year as one that tested our relationship but also made me realize he is the man I wanted to muddle through all that honest-to-goodness, real relationship stuff with. And while sometimes I think I can do it all, I need him there by my side to help me physically and emotionally.

Seeing all this now, in black and white (with blue hyperlinks and accompanying photos) makes me feel pretty darn good about how I've spent my 27th year. I do feel very fortunate to be able to do the things I do and enjoy them with the people that are in my life. As a result, tomorrow now seems less significant. It is the day I was born, but that's it. It's a day. My birthday may not be a rocking celebration, but the 364 days that follow it will probably hold some pretty amazing memories. And in the light of that lesson, I have nothing to complain about.

I cannot end this post without saying this year also was the year I began to write a little more frequently and put more effort into this blog. It brings me a lot of joy to be able to share my life with those of you who read this blog. Your comments and emails make my day. Thanks for checking in, and I look forward to sharing the next year(s) of my life with you.