Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Itzhak and Me

DISCLAIMER: I read this lengthy, wordy, wandering blog post to Sean who suggested I maybe split it up into two parts or make some edits of some kind. I agreed that it does need some editing but I also know that I'm pretty lazy and unsure of how to go about it. So in the meantime I'm just going to publish it so at least it's out there. I'm never afraid to go back and edit blog posts from yesteryear. But staying put as a draft just doesn't seem right. 

So i recently shared a bit of my muffin making experience while listening to a podcast with Itzhak Perlman.  This is the kind of day that makes me real happy. First, i make good muffins that turn out really well. Second, brain food brain food brain food. The podcast, I mean. And probably the muffins. They are magic.  But it zeroes in on and revives the very soul of me and makes me feel so good. It's emotional, it's invigorating, I feel alive and creative even if I'm not actually creating (even though I totally am--the muffins).  It's wonderful. Click here to read back.

I wanted to expand on this listening experience that I felt like overlapped and cross-referenced several other experiences I'd been having lately and I hope I can remember them all and connect them in a way that makes a tiny amount of readable sense for you.

But let's go back a bit. I recently returned from a trip to New York that I'm still riding on a high from and it's been about 4 weeks since I've been home to the moment I'm writing this and I'm still reeling a little bit.  I'm debating whether I could attempt to blog about it or if it's even meant for the blog. I've already journaled about it and included journaling snippets I took while there. For now, let's summarize it by saying it was an emotional reckoning and reconciliation, a joyous reunion, rejuvenating and redeeming. It was just what I needed. It was perfect.

On the plane home I watched a documentary on film scores and I loved the whole thing. They interviewed various composers, some I know well and some not at all.  They took turns describing what the process looks like for them, what it takes, what goes into it, why they do what they do and how they feel about it.  I loved so much about it but one composer-- i can't even remember who--said something like, "this may sound arrogant but I have to write music that gives me the chills. If I don't feel the chills, then how can I expect others to?"  I considered this and it resonated. I've been writing music lately, just a little here and there, and it feels really good. It helps me to remember who I am, which definitely always feels good. But I am always pondering what about a song do I like? What makes it good, in my opinion? And I've always held to the idea that you have to love it yourself if you want others to.

Fast forward to a few days later when we received our December Reader's Digest in the mail with one of the article headlines reading, "Why Men Don't Cry."  And add this to reason #3 I feel like I'm succeeding as a parent when Julian read it and exclaimed, "What?? This makes no sense! Of COURSE men cry!" Which is exactly right, and it would be preposterous to think otherwise, Reader's Digest. (Those italics mean I'm chiding, not merely identifying a publication, just to be clear)  Julian is an emotional creature and I herald this. I try to help him bridle it but we definitely allow the emotions their due, their place. Crying is a complicated procedure. When is it beneficial. When must you call it good. How would you ever try to make another person cry at something beautiful?

Itzhak said he receives lots of questions on how to make someone cry. How do you evoke emotion. He said, "you cannot make someone or teach someone how to make someone cry; it's something you were born with." He mentioned there were many variables at play.  Is the audience open to being moved? Are they "listening"?  Are they going through something in their life that might make them particularly vulnerable? (I'm mega-paraphrasing here)  Do they recognize elements at hand that they can translate into emotion for themselves?

Which makes sense. I mean, if there were a formula that would sound utterly bizarre and just mechanical and wrong. It's never my goal to musically make someone cry, the thought is absurd.  But now that he mentioned it, and watching that documentary, I was desperately interested in what actually is required to make someone feel a thing, to tears even.  One of the composers from the film sat at a mixing/sound table (?? console) in a studio and fiddled with the volume of a recording. He showed us the melodic line and then to draw our attention to it, brought in a deeper, underlying harmony that made the music richer and balanced. The melodies are nothing without the harmonies, something I strongly believe in.

"To be a musician," Itzhak began, "it's not normal. It's abnormal. Anything that you do as a child that's special, which requires practicing, what's natural about that?"

I loved this. I thought about me, I thought about Julian and taking lessons and experiencing witnessing his brain learn an entirely new and complicated language.  I've never felt normal, not necessarily because I'm a "musician," but just because. And I've always loved it., embraced it. So listening to Itzhak felt like a i was listening to a brother. A smart and quirky brother who knows a thing or two about what he's saying, and whose language felt very familiar to me.

He said that if you want to explain it scientifically, what it is about music that makes a person cry, he said he supposed, "it's probably a thing about the harmonies. The harmonies affect you in a certain way. It's a harmonic reaction."  And then he gave the example of Puccini, and the opera La Boheme, which Sean and I saw once upon a time and loved. And I may have actually yelled, "YES! THE HARMONIES."  I felt like I was hearing all of my privately and long-held theories and it was so validating and helped me feel a little less isolated. Fortunately I have a best friend artist at my fingertips where art chats happen on the reg, but with music specifically, i felt a little vindicated, if to no one but myself. See? Itzhak agrees!  I'd love for such a thing to be scientifically explained and if harmonies is it, I'll buy that. Our brains crave the blend, the cooperation, the teaming up, the balancing out, the weaving in and out of supporting or dominating or even conflicting lines of music, the dissonant resolve into harmony.

On this NY trip I fluctuated back and forth from feeling like a tourist and a resident. It was a surreal experience. It had been two years since i'd been and i had begun to forget it, much to my fear and sadness. This place i am now is so extremely different in almost every single way and the old life just felt so far away. I was beginning to think it wasn't real, that it had all been a dream.

And then when I arrived, a flood of emotions, and stirred-up memories from multiple phases of living there were overwhelming to all my senses.  I spent the first day being a little nervous, too, at being in the "big city" which was so beyond ridiculous. I scolded myself, "get your city legs on, Jen!" and I felt myself feeling like a tourist, but had this past life I was struggling to remember.  It's like, there's the New York people see on TV or in movies and then the one I experienced, and I know how it feels to view both.  Plus I stayed in a hotel in midtown which was extremely touristy of me. But I knew my way around a bit, had frequented many locations nearby, and just found myself knowing things I couldn't possibly know as a tourist.  Like how to walk (fast, and intentional). How to move and position my body in this context, within hundreds of constant other bodies around me.  How to weave around people, how to cross the street. There are subtleties there that you learn only from lots of practice.

When I finally decided to take the train (because I had some trepidation--???? WHY? as only a tourist would!) I went down with my suitcase, bought my metro card, swiped and then walked further down the platform to wait, because I knew that's what you do.  And I got on the train, found a seat, and straddled my suitcase as out of the way as I could because somehow I knew that's what you do. I texted Sean all of my feelings throughout the whole trip and on the train (because you can get a signal on the train now[!!]) I told him I felt like I was experiencing the strangest sensation of muscle memory. It was all muscle memory. Like my body knew what to do, I just didn't know how I knew! I could do all of these things but how?? And he sagely replied, "Like Jason Bourne. You're Jason Bourne!" and I replied, "I AM  Jason Bourne!"   It was so strange, and funny. But straaaange.

On the subway I had the most idyllic subway-riding experience I could have ever conceived of having. The whole trip had me swimming in this heightened sense of nostalgia and it was so potent. Eeeevery little thing struck a little chord with me but I recognize that that is just the New York magic, casting its little spell. I knew the feeling while living there of course, but wow, the feeling was intense this time around.  At one point, on the train, a man near me was struggling to clean his phone. I dug into my backpack and found an alcohol lens wipe and told him i thought they were pretty handy for such tasks. He graciously accepted and then that of course broke the stranger barrier and though I was happy to resume silent solo passenger'ing, I could tell he felt like he should chat with me now and then.

At one of the stops a woman got on, sat by me, and voiced her frustration with the local train across the track that never came. She hoped the express train we were on (which ordinarily skips stops) would take over and make local stops which would benefit her greatly.  A few stops in, sure enough, an announcement was made that this express train was now making local stops and she cheered and exclaimed, "I called it, didn't i!" And I agreed she did, and she concluded her celebration by saying God works in mysterious ways. I told her it was her lucky day because usually He works the other way, which I later realized sounded much more pessimistic than I intended, but really, the train rarely works in your favor. I mean she'd already been waiting for who knows how long for a ghost train never to appear. But I was really, really happy for her.

A little while later, a musician got on, a man with a guitar, and played the most beautiful rendition of something or other. I can't even remember what it was but it was lovely, so much so that my phone-cleaning friend and I exchanged a look like, whoa, this guy! And as I continued on the ride, we passed one of my old stops near my house and ALL OF THE FEELINGS punched me in the face and heart (as New York feelings do) and the whole experienced reached a pinnacle of dangerous portions and I let myself weep a little. Just let the ol' eyes well up. My friend looked at me (we were sitting perpendicular) and I wondered what he must have been thinking. Probably not much, as public crying isn't so weird there, and I let it happen because I couldn't not. Also, having broken that initial ice, there was a shared experience there that went largely unspoken, merely by being so close to humanity. We exited and he thanked me for the wipe and I said he was welcome and he walked on and that was the only time I let myself actually cry on this trip, because the brink and threat of an enormous emotional eruption remained the ENTIRE TIME I WAS THERE, and that just wouldn't have done.  (not sure if I can use that in the past tense-- "just won't do")

Itzhak said that his job was not to make anyone feel anything, but to effectively communicate to the audience what he was trying to say.  There's memorization and recitation, but what exactly are you trying to communicate? It had to be new and intentional for him every time, no matter how many times he'd played a piece. Otherwise it would fall flat, and would not translate.  And I jotted down on my notepad there, "maybe being a great musician means being a great communicator?"

Whatever it is, I benefit so much from it. From the collaboration of great musicians, and the music all around me.  In New York, I felt, a lot, and I marveled that it did not subside once, not while I was there, not even after I landed back in UT. From my conversations with strangers, to culturally edifying experiences. Reconnections with old friends, (human and non-human). The rediscovery of all these existing but forgotten layers to my current and past self. Elements I brought back with me to my life now, with the people I'm with, the experiences I'm having or trying to have now, the music I'm trying to create now.  I marvel, but with so many magnificent harmonies playing off each other, scientifically, it really shouldn't come as a surprise.

Friday, January 05, 2018

New Year News

Well, it's the new year... again.    I just happened upon a gem of a t-shirt website where I want ALL the stuff and one of the shirts has a print of a digital clock reading 6:00AM and the words "Well it's Groundhog Day...again."  I want it. In fact, here, just go see.

Anyway, another new year another dollar. We had such a great Christmas break. I feel like we finally achieved maximum Christmas break actualization-- Christmas break as it should be.  Which = going nowhere and doing nothing.  We tried to do things, at first.  But Julian, ever the resistor, broke us down and we eventually succumbed to the comfortable and happy existence of lounge wear and daytime movies. Forgetting what day it is. I had forgotten Christmas break like this, how it used to be when i was in high school, for instance. Man, is it nice.  I usually can't stand to be in all day but somehow we found our lazy groove and it was so dreamy. Plus having Sean around without pressure to do specific things was pure bliss. Daytime movies mostly consisted of he and I watching while Julian was off who knows where.  Again, best ever.

But that ended and the new year began and I'd like to report a few things taking place since then:

1. Like the rest of the planet, we got an Echo Dot and are enjoying chatting her up, seeing what she knows, or in Julian's case, berating her just because. He's sure fun.

2. I got the flu, real bad.  Just me, so far, which is highly bizarre.  I never get sick and when I do, someone is usually down with me--hardly ever Sean.  But I remembered I got Julian the flu shot and didn't get one myself so, foot shot.  Highlights from being sick were expelling fluids from every orifice, and I do mean every. I'll allow you to imagine the logistics of that little nightmare for a moment.   Sean helpfully mentioned that if I could squeeze out a tear, then I'd get them all covered. Little does he know I may have wept in the night because it was the worrrrst. I decided I finally understood what a toilet feels like. When you puke so much you have to rehydrate just to keep it going.  Like, it was just like flushing a toilet where you have to manually dump water to get rid of the waste.  I'd puke, then gag down a ton of water so as to give my stomach the necessary lubrication to flush out another bout of poison during yet another round. Then just sit up and work it out, over and over.  What I want to know is, who crapped in me. Who. And why.

3. Sean and I started and bailed on a clean eating cleanse.  It was to last a week and we bought sooo much food for every single meal and snack listed for two people for 7 days. Protein and fruits and veggies. Almond milk and a little bit of cheese. No gluten.   And then I got sick or, you might say, got on a fast track cleanse, and it sort of went out the window. We learned some new interesting tricks and tasty food combos but we both decided we just don't like being told what to do. Plus we eat pretty cleanly already so it was kind of like, why.  Clean eating + the occasional baguette and ice cream = already the happiest, best lived life. 

4. Sean up and bought a cable box. I was like, what???  He explained it was for the olympics, and award shows. Ha ha! We take these events dead seriously. But really, i'm excited about that. I don't imagine we'll watch regular TV as it is terrible.  Do you have cable? If you don't, have you gone to someone's house who does? It is awful! The flipping, the commercials (or flipping commercials) UGH, i don't miss it. But I do miss having access to certain things. So olympics here we come (and award shows parties...)

5. This conversation tonight that cracked me up and I felt should be recorded.  I was bemoaning my questionable hunger mixed with fear of food that might hurt me again and he suggested he whip up a chicken soup with all the chicken I couldn't eat from the cleanse plus herbs and vegetables jam packed into our fridge since our cleanse was 90% vegetables.  And wow, what a soup! He's such a wizard. I marvel that he can just make something, no recipe.  He says he hates cooking with a recipe. I do not understand this thinking.  We are different.  But he used old timey noodles that look homemade but aren't and it was like, insanely good.  All of us were What About Bob'ing over it-- "Mmmm mmm MMMM!"  Anyway, that's a sidenote. Here's the conversation.

Julian started it by saying if everyone on the planet were gone except us and our friends (i'm surprised and happy he thought to include them), he'd go over to the Walmart and go to the hot wheels aisle and just start tearing them all open. 

I replied saying it would be fun to just go wild in Walmart.  I then said, "I saw a movie once about a girl who lived in Walmart."

Sean jumped in somewhat excitedly, "When, recently?"

I said, "No..."

Sean replied, still eager, "I remember it, Where the Heart Is."

I was totally busting by then because if you know this movie you know it is a random chick flick from 90's yesteryear and just sometimes the things that come out of Sean's mouth make me laugh in surprise.  And how his eyes like, lit up.  Laughing, I had begun walking around the table to grab a piece of paper to write all of this down when he said, "now, the thing about that is..."  and i had to tell him to wait so i could write down the first stuff first.  He never initially understands why I see any of what just transpired as funny or worth writing down.  I have to point it out to him. 

We then had a conversation about Natalie Portman and her career and finding the right roles.  I then said, "You know what? I tried to watch the new Jack Reacher, blah blah movie today and I couldn't do it, I had to turn it off! It was so terrible!"

Sean said, "why? was it the same story line?"

I said, "It's just more Tom being Tom in his Tom'ness.  I am so tired of the same old Tom crap!"

Julian interjected:  "You said 'crap!' You owe me ten cents!" 

I replied, "I said, Tom GRAP... His name is Tom Grap"  And Sean laughed and referred to him as Tom Grap for the rest of the conversation and we both had laughs over it and it was just a funny dinner and the moral of ALL of this is DON'T SEE JACK REACHER BLAH BLAH (whatever it is) because Tom Grap needs to stop, just STOP.  I even begged the universe (google), "Why does Tom Cruise keep making the movies he does"  and there were so many links to relevant opinion pieces that helped answer my question.

And that, friends, has been my New Year's and that's news to me.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Santa Bowser

One time, some days ago, Julian brought home a drawing he'd done in school. It was hard to tell, but he told me it was Bowser. Julian plays a few variations of mario games and has become familiar and, naturally, is inclined toward Bowser the bad guy.  Except there's one game he plays where he always chooses to be Peach and it makes me soooo happy.  Still hanging onto the belief that women and men are actually equals, and that men aren't the standard default in everything, something that is taught in nearly all aspects of life.

But anyway, the drawing was out on the table, and Sean happened upon it, and when that happens, well you know something's going to happen. First, Sean inquired about Julian's interesting Santa picture. Julian corrected him saying it was NOT Santa, but Bowser. Refusing to accept this, Sean insisted he saw Santa and set out to make it into Santa, darnit. 

I wish I'd taken a before picture but here's the after and it's sooo funny and strange.  I love it, quite a bit.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Miracle Card

I looove Christmas cards. Who doesn't? Receiving them and sending them.  I don't consider myself terribly traditional but this is one thing I insist on every year. It's a must. I love it. I'd be super sad if it somehow failed to happen. I'm loving all of the cards we've received but something I'm noticing is there's a bit of a lack of the old traditional Christmas cards. Like, foldover cards.  I appreciate seeing people's updated families but there's something about a card with a nice Christmas scene that I'm kind of missing.  

Once upon a time 1.5 months ago, I went to New York. I visited the MoMA and saw great stuff. Afterward, I helped myself over to the MoMA store and if you're familiar at all, you know why. It has the coolest stuff. Art + design + function + innovation. It always feels like the gift shop of the future.  I love it. And in there, I saw a shelf of the besssst holiday cards. I'm always a sucker for the pop-up and all of these were pop-ups.  One in particular gave me major heart eyes and covetousness.  But I somehow couldn't justify getting it, and then I proceeded to forget all about it.

Fast forward to today after Sean opened up some work mail. The company mail has lately been changed so that it forwards to him which = super lame for us because it's a ton of junk in our mailbox that is never for us.  However, though most of it is garbage but some, like the Christmas catalogues, I love.  And another thing I love is the Christmas cards. I don't even care that it's not addressed to us personally, I will totally take that card and keep it as my own. Apparently I don't have very high Christmas card standards.  And today Sean came out and said,"look at this card," sent to the company with a very impersonal message from another company. And it took me a minute but I said, "wait... is that from the MoMA store??"  And he looked and indeed it was! and it was like a Christmas card miracle! like it had truly been meant for me all along and had found me at long last (in a very roundabout way).   {insert twinkling stars/miracle emoji}

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Boys and Boats and Cookies

I hosted the book club this month and demanded it be a cookie swap. I love Christmas cookies. I can hardly eat them but man, I love them.  They are the perfect embodiment of everything I love about Christmas: the nostalgia, the jam, swirls, interesting flavors. They're so crazy festive. I love it.

The book we read for it was The Boys in the Boat + even more title, about the 1936 Olympic rowing team who, against many odds, took gold and shoved it in Hitler's face.  The book was  almost 500 pages long and I started it about a week before and had to blaze through.  It always takes me a little bit to get into a new book but as soon as I do, if it's good, I looove a good reading blitz where I fill all free time racing against the clock to get it done.  And this book was excellent.  The historical context, the detail of the specific time period-- the depression, prohibition, post-great war, pre-new war, the political climate and then ignorance of Hitler's plans.  So fascinating.  And not to mention the in-depth detail of the magic of rowing. I've always had crew dreams and this book gave me greater insight into why, exactly.  There's something amazing about the giving oneself entirely to the crew, the rhythm and cooperation, the balance of all the personalities and strengths and weaknesses of the teammates.  The add the coxswain, the small person who sits up front and shouts instruction. The stroke, who sits up front and sets the pace, guided by the coxswain. I love it all! It was fantastic, an emotional read, and I was so freaking inspired. I felt like I really got to know all the boys who came from mostly rough backgrounds, struggling in every way, and how rowing comes into play for them in their lives, what they bring to it and what it does for them. Yay.  Go read it today.

And then make these cookies and bask in Christmas jammy joy while you read:


I have always wanted to make linzer cookies and I finally did.  They were a bit of a pain but completely worth it.  Plus I made my OWN JAM out of BERRIES I PICKED THIS SUMMER--WHAAAT.  Stop. I know. But man they were light as lemony air and the jammy centers are my everything.
Also special thanks to the powdered sugar negatives. Again: yay.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Neighbor Gifts

So it's a week before Christmas and I have to say, I'm a little disappointed in our neighbor gifts.  I'm afraid someone read my blog and was miffed because I ridiculed their candy canes. I take it back! I take it baaaaack! I'll take anything you want to give me, even horrible candy caaaaaanes. 

So far we've received:

  • a roll of wrapping paper with two things of scotch tape (score!) 
  • a bag of potpourri to simmer on your stove (nice)
  • two boxes of cake mix, one with a spoon (+1)
  •  and a bag of white chocolate puff snacks which I call Christmas Crack and gives me immediate diabetes.   Ok, now that I'm making this list that seems like a pretty decent amount.  
Also I was going to apologize for still sounding like a Christmas Jerk about neighbor gifts but I think it's a persona I enjoy too much. Being, like, this super nit picky neighbor that acts all gracious and grateful and then shuts the door and quietly critiques and judges each one. Especially regarding something so unimportant, particularly to the season, but which I esteem of the utmost value to my Christmas celebrating experience.  C'mon, it's funny.  Anyway, there's a whole week left so anything could happen;  i'll let you know.  We took ours around this past week and I'm pretty pleased.  I only have one real rule when it comes to neighbor gifts, which I have arbitrarily come up with only recently. It is:  Must include a clever quip or Christmas pun or two.  A simple "Merry Christmas! We love you guys" will NOT suffice and I will mentally and emotionally reject such a gesture.  Step it up, people.
Anyway, here's ours this year:

Oh crap, now you know my last name! Also this sort of a rip-off of our Christmas card 10 years ago when Sean and I wore ugly sweaters we had to find on ebay because they were not yet a thing, and my hair was in a side ponytail and we were co-holding a cat mug.  Something about wishing you a warm and cozy Christmas.  Ahh, that was a good one.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Great Egg

Enjoying a festive boiled egg for breakfast, I noticed this on the bag and it made me smile.

Can be.

Also, great tasting. As if nobody knows what an egg tastes like. Though I love them dearly, I'm sure no one's ever said that when describing an egg.  "This egg tastes great!"

Friday, December 15, 2017

Light the Wall

This year I fell victim to the siren song of Groupon and purchased a string of lights. It was called a curtain, where it's several long strings dangling from the same horizontal string.  We didn't know where to put at it at first. Outside? Just by itself? inside behind the tree? We tried that but it didn't work so well.  So then Sean strung it up on a wall where it fit perfectly. There are several different modes to choose from, from a gentle fade in and out, to seizure-inducing flashing. It is the best. I asked Sean what his fave thing about Christmas was this year and he said the wall light.  Me, I said the together time we share every night at the tree, talking about important things. But when I heard his answer i wanted to change mine because he's right, it is the BEST.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Simple Joy

Yesterday I was driving in a new area and, unfamiliar, needed my GPS to guide me around. I always enjoy giving personalities to inanimate things and obviously Siri is an easy target. 

I had my Bing Crosby pandora station playing and at one point Siri was so confused as to where to direct me and while she struggled to find her way, the music also interfered and it made it sound like she was trying to tell me where to go but couldn't because the @#$% music kept interrupting her! And she got more and more flustered and annoyed.  Here's how it sounded:

MUSIC: O come all ye faithful...

SIRI: Turn left at---

MUSIC: JOYFUL and triumphant!

SIRI: Turn left--

MUSIC: O come, ye...

SIRI: Turn left at

MUSIC: O come ye...

SIRI: Turn left at the--

MUSIC: to Bethlehem...

This went on for quite a long time and had me lol'ing by the end.

It's the simple joys.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Tree

This year, it was that pretty much Julian singlehandedly decorated the Christmas tree.  It's a flocked one, and the flocking gets everywhere but it's so pretty and we like it.  Deep in my heart I wonder if I miss a real tree and I bet it'll make a reappearance one day but for now, this one is nice. Sean and I sat and watched the lad take charge of the whole experience and at first we cared, thought we might even be particular, but by the end realized we didn't, weren't, and he did a perfect job. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

And That's What Christmas Means to Me

The other day a woman in my neighborhood named Faye instructed me hold out my hand and close my eyes. It took me a minute but when I realized what was happening I got really excited and could never have guessed what surprise she had in store for me.  Which was this:

It's a scrubber wreath. For doing dishes. A HOLIDAY DISH SCRUBBER.  THAT SHE MADE. Are you kidding me? This woman knows how to make all sorts of things and gives them out to neighbors on a whim, like crocheted frisbees and paper boxes.  Apparently this one is made out of tulle and you can wash it by tossing it in the dishwasher.  WHAT.  Just, what??   

And now my Christmas is complete.  Thank you, Faye.  Best.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Mid-December Workout

This sounds like the worst blog post ever. And it may be, let's find out.

I just finished "working out" on my living floor, aka my home gym.  Gym culture is a little new to me and very much a thing around here.  I considered giving it a gander but realized for the tenth and probably final time that it just isn't who I am inside.  So I do what I can/want, which is lazy exercising. And I think I've found the perfect fit.  It's an app called 7-minute workout.  Seven minutes, you say? Tell me more!

Well, basically it's a video of a man silently doing 30-second exercises that target various parts of the body and you can choose each little exercise and customize your own workout. There is a pleasant Aussie voice explaining the exercise for you and giving tips but the man on the screen never speaks. For the workouts, you can opt for a warm up and warm down, choose 5 second or 10 second breaks between exercises, have a 7 minute workout, or repeat your workout. Right now I opt for a warm-up, and have customized a workout I do for 14 minutes with 5-second breaks in-between, with no cool down. 

Things I like about it:

  • lazy exercising, like I said.  A couple things require a chair, like the step-up and the triceps dip. Fortunately I have a big wooden chest full of blankets that does the job very well.
  • It's so basic. No frills, and so broken down. Simple and surprisingly effective in getting me to sweat. 
  • To expand on that, I'm learning more about this nature of exercise. Rapid change-up of movements and target areas. I do planks and reverse lunges already, separately (whilst watching TV, for instance) but the app only has me do them for 30 seconds which is super short; I can do them for much longer and at first feel like I should.  BUT, since I'm running around doing all these other things immediately before and after, I think it works.  This is probably not a new concept for many people but it's new for me. For example, I'll start with high-knees, then go down to a staggered push-up, then quickly to a reverse lunge, then down to a side plank, then have to bust over to the blank space of wall for the wall-sit (my favorite), etc.  It's a little frantic but effective, and also feels a little ridiculous and I want to make it into a game of sorts, like a relay game with a friend or something. I made Sean do it with me once and insisted we high five when we do the step-up. 
  • The exercises definitely vary in difficulty. I try to customize a workout that gives me challenges but isn't insanely difficult so that I'm hating life. For instance, today I swapped one out for the one-leg push up. Oof. I can do it but let's just say I don't cozy up to the floor so closely.   Still, it worrrrrks.
  • Sometimes, on the second go around, the voice-over guy (who explains the exercises and gives tips when you start out) will out of nowhere shout things like "STAY MOTIVATED!" or "KEEP GOING" and after some time of silence, it startles me and I do indeed, stay motivated, because he scared me into it. "Ahh! ok!"
  • After you've finished, you choose how you feel after the workout. Was it easy? Difficult? Moderately difficult? And it records the workout you did, when you did them, and how you felt afterward, so I have a log of sorts which I can look back on should I ever have a reason to do so. I think it's supposed to be for goal-making or something or other.
  • The other day I had some friends over and had my phone bluetoothed to the speaker in the main room for music.  Somehow, with the phone in my pocket,  the app had been triggered and a workout began and I suddenly heard my buddy shout out "shoulder rolls!" for the warm-up and everyone was confused and I was pleased. I'll see you soon, friend. See you real soon.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Breaking Apple

I didn't think he could do it.

He had a quiet confidence.

I expressed my doubt that it had ever been done, could ever be done.

He claimed it could because he had, before.

And so as I watched him try I said, well if you're going to struggle like that I'd at least better take some pics.

Just as I started taking pictures, just as I was in the midst of expressing my continual doubt,  snap! he did it.    I was amazed. Behold:

{applause applause applause!}

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Snowy Art

Once again, my fave thing to do is stroll the halls of the elementary school and look at all the artwork and then snap some pics and put my face on the "watch list" in the office.  But I can't help it, they're too good!

Here Julian's class (at least i was taking pics of my own kid's class... this time) made pictures of themselves sticking their tongues out catching snowflakes. It's a good lesson on perspective, kind of like that one I had drawing train tracks and sidewalks so very many years ago.

Here are a few I liked:

This next one tells us why you need to put a nose because this subtlety makes me think his eyes got taken off. 

 I liked the cool Lincoln beard on this one. Or Amish beard? Really what's the difference. 

And then I found Julian's and was like, yup.  That's a skeleton.
He made himself with an exposed vertebrae.   

But then later when I told him I saw it and asked him about it he said it was a zipper. I said, "but your jacket completely blends in with the background. I mean, it has snowflakes on it and everything. I thought it was vertebrae or something."  He laughed and liked this a lot so maybe he'll just switch his answer.  Merry Christmas! I'll try to take more pics the next time I go. Gotta get 'em while I'm still allowed in.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Favorites Updated

So once again I've been reading back in the ol' blog archives and came across this one about some favorites of mine in random categories.  I don't know from whence it came but I thought I'd give an updated answer to these very important questions. Since it's not terribly long, I think I'll just re-post the original and add my new answers for comparison.  I'll make my additions blue. This was originally published May 27, 2011, and here's the link if you just need the original for some reason.



Smell: lilacs. I really think it might be my most favorite smell of all the smells. I went to the botanic gardens recently and i rediscovered this drug of a scent. Lilacs are still up there.  These days I'm loving nature smells in general-- the rotting dying leaf smell--ah yeah.  A few weeks ago I was obsessed with anything minty or any kind of cleaning agent. I wasn't like, "sniffing" anything per se, but i may have been tempted. I told a friend this and she said she heard that was due to a hormone imbalance, so that's cool.  I'm not as obsessed these days, so maybe it's passed. -- you know, my hormones.

Pen: Pilot G-2.  Is there anything better? Seriously. Yes, there is, Past Jen.  And it is the 0.5 muji pen. .38 if I have some serious fine-writing needs.  They are my FAVE and I'm really excited for you to discover them in a few years. 

Recent lines on TV:    on Golden Girls last night:

"Eat dirt and drop dead, Trash!"   

I'm just waiting for an opportunity to use this on someone. Will it be you? Only time will tell. And you should be so lucky. [bonus point: who said it?] This is so funny. Good job watching GG, Jen.  By the by, in case you were waiting for the answer, it was Blanche.  I have a friend who is a GG expert. I saw her compete in a trivia competition and was super impressed.  I'm trying to think of good quotes of late...   Well, I was watching some random show when I fell down a Netflix rabbit hole one day. It was called Time After Time and it was not what I thought it would be. I hardly remember it but it starred Maggie Smith (Lady Grantham from Downton Abbey and Prof. McGonagall from HP) and she said something very smart and I jotted it down. It was this:

"Very few people realize they don't know what they feel until they're at least forty."
It's great, and also pretty sad.  And something I feel hopeful to say that will not be true for me. I'm kind of regretting this blue text. It looks like I'm just inserting huge fatty links.

Also, watching a BBC show, a young bullied but tough girl shoved her female classmate against the wall with her fists in the bully's face:  "See these? They smell like dead girls. Think on!"   Also waiting to use this one.. sort of.

Hand soap: Mrs. Meyer's.  I love her. She smells so good, in all her varieties. Guess what, everyone. Mrs. Meyer's is out and Seventh Generation is in. It's a dollar cheaper at Target and I love the scents. Also TJ's has a minty one (go peppermint!) that i'm in love with.
Shower soap: Dove Sensitive Skin.  Still Dove Sensitive Skin.  I tried Dove Regular which my skin immediately rejected because it apparently has harsh chemicals and broken glass(???) Why, skin. Why. Anyway, so I had to revert back, and now I know.

Song: basically any song Julian sings. He has a lovely singing voice but also, he often chooses his own lyrics which are: "bus."  That's all.  Like,  Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with just "bus."   Picture it. Sing it right now. So funny (and innovative).  This is so adorable, I can hardly stand it. Singing songs just using "bus."  -ha ha ha.  Let me think.  Well I don't know if this would count as a single song (it wouldn't) but I've been watching some Grantchester lately. It's British and takes place in the late 40's? And the main character, a pastor, loves Jazz and plays it to wind down and i was like, I'm into this. I'm going to find a pandora station. And I did and I LOVE IT.  It is the best kind of jazz (my station is called "Early jazz") and I pop it on all the time but also when I'm baking a thing and it's the best background music. So chill and calm and makes me feel all old timey and simple. Or like I live in a simpler time, rather, ha ha. 

Movie: Confessions of a Shopaholic. Yep, I just said that. Alright, obviously that's not my favorite of ALL TIME, but I do like it and it is a mega-guilty pleasure. It's just funny to me, alright? and it's been on TV a lot lately and i keep staying on it and watching it and I don't know why. I'm so ashamed. But at least i'm honest. Oh laws. So I hadn't seen this in a long time and I put it on a few weeks ago. Remembering enjoying it back then, I tried to enjoy it like I had and I couldn't! It was pretty lame. I thought Isla whatshername was funny'ish and Hugh Dancy is still nice to look at but honestly, all I could really connect with was the background, the set, which was the streets of NY, and I cried like a little girl.  On that homesick note, I watched the movie Brooklyn a few days later about a girl who moves to Brooklyn and feels homesick. It was a lovely movie and her experience really falling in love with the city hit some chords.

and on that note, Man celebrity:  Hugh Dancy.  He-LLO. Yeah. I don't know who I'd say now. I'll have to come back to this one.

War: WWII.   Lately I've been reading a lot of books and things set during WWII and I really love it. I love stories of hiding from and escaping the Nazis.  And about the way people thought during that time, people's individual, personal stories. I am just fascinated. It's almost surreal to me. Every time I spend some time reading, thinking and learning about it I wonder, how did that happen??  And stories of survival and people's will to live always inspire me.  In fact, I finished my book and am desperate for a new one. I think it's time for a little Man's Search for Meaning.  I still enjoy WWII, but guess what else is super interesting? The Cold War.  It's bananas.  All that paranoia and suspicion and stuff? Sean and I stumbled on a real gem of a series. It could still be on Netflix but I really don't know. It's called The Assets, based on a true story of bringing down an internal mole at the CIA who was selling the identity of US spies to Russia. It's gooood stuff and made me totally into that ol' Cold War. Also feeling uncomfortable and ominous feelings of a resurgence nowadays. 

Sandwich: Peanut butter and banana. An old classic. I like to mush up the banana inside the peel and then ooze it out and spread it on the slice.  It's preferable to use a mini-banana.   I also like to make it on these, and then slice it like a tiny pizza. The fun never ends in our house. Seriously, Jen? Since when? I vaguely remember this but would never have believed it was a favorite.  Well I haven't hit a peanut butter phase since who knows when.  So these days I think my favorite sandwich would be a stacked one. Turkey, cheese, tomato, lettuce, maybe a pickle, some mustard. I haven't had that in a while either but i always feel proud, like I've sculpted something really special when I go all out, sandwich-wise.   But I also enjoy a good tuna melt.  But now that I'm thinking about it, a good vietnamese sandwich might be the winner for me. Sweet meat + pickled veggies on that beautiful crusty bread. Ahh, t'is a thing of beauty.  

Well, these are my answers. This post turned like, significantly more boring than I had anticipated, but I won't let it get me down, and you shouldn't either! What do you say about these mildly interesting, totally arbitrary categories?  If i make you read my answers, I should have to read yours too (JK, it would be an honor).

Thursday, December 07, 2017


Last night I had a dream I was living in the world of Beverly Hills 90210.  For a while in the summer I was watching a lot of this as my fluffy binge watch and it was AWESOME.  Reasons why:

1. The fashion, probably first and foremost.  The style of the "cool kids" was cracking me up left and right. I generally abhor most things 90's but I have a right to because I lived them. I lived them. This means oversized jeans, sweaters, shirts--flannel shirts, jackets-- all oversized. Hairstyles that were trying to come down from the 80's but not sure where to go, etc.  But also there were overalls and general denim-ness, which I loved and still do. But for the most part the 90's were a hot fashion mess.
The show premiered in 1990, so carried over some 80's elements before things got really bad.    For example, to be watching a scene with "cool guy Dylan McKay" and then have him leave, strutting down the hall wearing overalls with ONE strap attached was just the best.  {squint eyes- big smile face}    Another example was watching Brenda, Kelly and Donna in school, all wearing like, business blazers. I'd grab screen shots and send them to my friends-- "Remember back in the day in high school when we used to walk down the halls wearing our BLAZERS."   Cracks me up.

2. The issues.  They tackled issues that were seriously scandalous at the time. Things like teen pregnancy and LGBTQ issues (And think then, it was probably just LGB) and while it was pretty risqué at the time (we had to sneak-watch the show when I was a kid and I wasn't the only one)  it would be so TV-tame today.  The dialogue is hilarious. But on the other hand, some of it was rather poignant and still quite relevant. I almost feel like some of these episodes could (and should) be shown in high school health class today. Ok, maybe Jr. High.   On the negative side, there are some insane episodes with such racially offensive dialogue, for instance, where they try and grossly fail to successfully approach certain subjects.

Anyway, I gave it up because it got a little weird- and maybe too updated for my taste. Or maybe Brenda just got on my nerves along with everyone else's.  But do yourself a fave and go watch the first couple seasons. You will die laughing at every episode.

So back to my dream-- oh no, I didn't forget.--   I was part of the gang. In fact, I could have been Brenda (Shannen Doherty) but I, as my dreaming self, had a spectator's view. It was as if the show (as I had known it to be) had become real life. Anyway, we were at the Peach Pit and I found I was more drawn to Nat, than anyone. I asked Nat how old he was "Forty-five," he said. Which confirmed things for me, and the remaining of the dream was me fixed on calling Dylan out on his ACTUAL age which was 32 instead of 17, and trying to make him admit it. Like, own it. It's ok to be old!   In real life I think he was like 29 or something when it premiered. It's weird to revisit a thing where back then you were like, these guys are goals, and then now to think, absolutely not. The dream didn't really go anywhere but my takeaway was that this show was eons ago,  I am OLD,  and maybe struggling to come to terms with that? I think I need to go put on some overalls.