A case of the blahs

It cannot be denied… I have a major case of the blahs. And now I’m going to briefly complain about it:

There’s a tyrant in the White House. His cronies are as bad or, in some cases, worse than him. Everything just feels very dark right now…

I’m doing a particularly horrible job balancing Life Things. Work…around the house items…social life…hobbies…I just can’t seem to strike a healthy balance right now, which leads me to feel overwhelmed approximately 99% of the time. (I’m working on it, though!)

The winter has been warmer than normal, which would be fine except for the fact that the warmer temperatures = SO MUCH RAIN and not much snow. Everything is just gray and mushy.

My reading game is a bit off. I usually charge into January plowing through books, but I haven’t hit my stride yet. My reading game being off = I feel off.

I keep getting little colds. One cold will clear up, I’ll feel good for a few days, and then another settles in. Come on, immune system!

There are, thankfully, a few rays of sun peeking out from the clouds:

As of TODAY all 7 seasons of The Golden Girls are on hulu. Granted, I have all 7 seasons on DVD, but that’s beside the point. Now, I can seamlessly hop between seasons based on what kind of hairstyle I feel like seeing on Dorothy. Amazing!

Yoga is still good! I’m going 1-2 times each week and I always walk out of class feeling calmer and less tense.

Also, I hopped on my bike 3 times last week. I didn’t want to believe Josh when he told me something so small as my slightly more than 1 mile commute to work would make a difference in how I’m feeling, but he was right. At this point I really should know: biking makes life better.

Most weekends Josh and I are able to hike or do some kind of outdoor activity, and that’s always one of my brightest spots of the week.

Citrus. Is this lame to include? It’s citrus season, and I’m eating all the grapefruits and blood oranges. So delicious!

Well… that about covers it. I’m just gonna keep on keepin’ on (and I hope you do, too!).

A case of the blahs

Why I march

Donald Trump is now President of the United States. I was never a fan of him as a celebrity figure; I never really gave him a passing thought. He seemed to be a man made of fluff, extravagance, and very little substance — a man built of soundbites who thrived on attention. I, like many, rolled my eyes at his tweets and shook my head when he lead the birther movement against President Obama.

Thats why, when Trump took a ride down that escalator to announce that he was throwing his hat in the presidential ring, I didn’t take his bid seriously. I continued doing what I always did: I worked. I rode my bike. I read my books. I spent time with friends and family.

The more Trump talked, the more convinced I was that he would soon be out of the running. Surely, at the very least, decency and common sense would prevail. Right?

June 2015 – Trump said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

July 2015 – Despite never serving in the Vietnam War, thanks to several deferments said of Senator John McCain, “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

August 2015 – Angered by Fox journalist Megyn Kelly’s question asking him during a debate to weigh in on the misogynist things he’s said, Trump later responded, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her — wherever.”

September 2015 – During an interview with Rolling Stone Trump said of GOP hopeful Carly Fiorina, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?! … I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?” In the same interview, he said of his daughter Ivanka, “Yeah, she’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married and, ya know, her father . . . ”

November 2015 – Soon after the attacks in Paris, Trump was asked if the U.S. should instate a Muslim registry. Trump gave a non-answer by saying, “I would certainly implement that. Absolutely. There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases. We should have a lot of systems.” When pressed by a reporter if Muslims in the United States would be required to register, Trump said, “They have to be — they have to be.” Trump later said he misunderstood the question and thought the report was referring to Syrian refugees, but then he added that a Muslim registry is “something we should start thinking about.”

Oh, and then in December 2015, Trump read aloud an email statement he sent to the press (referring to himself in third person) and said, “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” In the same month he also praise Russian President Putin, saying, “He’s running his country and at least he’s a leader,” Trump said. “You know, unlike what we have in this country.”

I could go on. I could mention that Trump claimed he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue in NYC, shoot someone, and not lose any voters. Or I could share that he claimed that as President, he would bring back worse torture than waterboarding. We could talk about how Trump frequently insulted those who protested his rallies and, at least one time, said he would like to punch the protestor in the face. There’s also all his talk of the dishonest media, which is basically any journalist or media outlet that reports on something that makes Trump look bad. Meanwhile, Trump does nothing but benefit from the extensive media coverage. Remember when politician and former KKK leader David Duke endorsed Trump? Instead of taking a stand against white supremacy, Trump simply played ignorant saying he didn’t know David Duke. Didn’t even know anything about him. Didn’t know anything about white supremacy.

And we still haven’t touched on the video and audio that became available from 2005 or 2006 where Trump bragged about grabbing women’s pussies because he’s famous (his words, not mine).

The writing was on the wall. It was so clear. This is a man who does not respect the humanity of others (Latinos, Muslims, women). This is a man who doesn’t want you to know the truth or get answers to difficult questions, as evidenced by his treatment of journalists and media outlets such as New York Times. This is a man who suggested that we need to identify all Muslims in the U.S. and deny entry to Muslims who wanted to enter the U.S., which sounds so similar to what happened to Jews prior to the Holocaust.

And what did I do? Nothing, really. I talked about how much Trump bothered me. I talked about how he’d never make it to the White House. I voted for Hillary Clinton believing there was no way this man, who strikes me as being unhinged, was going to be my President.

I was part of the problem. I sat back. I let others in my community rally around the issues that matter. I watched segments from John Oliver and Samantha Bee. I threw a few dollars toward causes when I could. I voted. I was very passively involved, because I didn’t feel like anything more was necessary.

That is called privilege. 

And so I marched. I didn’t march to be anti-Trump. I did march to say that I’m listening to what he says and watching who he is appointing to his cabinet. I marched to show support.

I support people of color.

I support the environment and science.

I support women who need access to Planned Parenthood (which includes me).

I support Planned Parenthood.

I support access to quality healthcare for ALL.

I support marriage equality.

I support people who express their religious identity whether Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, etc.

I support those who are agnostic or atheist.

 

I support and acknowledge the great risk and dedication of police officers, while also standing in support of police reform. We cannot be blind to the fact that racial bias is present in our lives — even in the lives of police officers.

I support every child’s access to quality public education.

I support women who choose to be mothers. I support women who choose not to. I support women fighting to have access to the same salary as her male counterpart.

I support those living with disabilities.

I support the rights of others to express an idea, thought, or opinion that I may disagree with.

Not everyone feels like they have a voice. Not everyone feels like their voice will be heard. That was what the Women’s March was all about.

If we all raise our voices on the issues that matter and follow that up with ACTION, what will we accomplish together? We can’t leave the burden on other people’s shoulders any longer.

Sometimes knowing how to start is most difficult. I’m thankful that the Women’s March provided some steps we can take next. We can also call our representatives and share our views. We can read books by experts on something we want to learn more about. We can volunteer our time to causes and organizations we care about.

I’m fired up and ready to go!

 

Why I march

2017 Reading Goals!

2016 wasn’t a great year in a lot of respects. For one thing, I got hit by a car while riding my bike. Thankfully, it wasn’t serious, but I did struggle for a while to find my footing after the fact. Oh, and also. There was the whole election thing when Trump won and now it feels like we’re screeching toward a dark, deep oblivion where we’ll never know happiness again. Basically, Trump’s presidency = getting the kiss of death from a dementor.

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BUT!

There was one way the year did not let me down. It was my one big bright spot. It was always good. Always reassuring.

Reading.

My one real goal was to read more than 30 books, as I’d never been able to eclipse that number in year’s past. Other than that, my only other tangible goal was to track the books I read on a spreadsheet. Here’s a few of the outcomes:

Books read: 37 (I did it!)

Pages read: 10,837

Types of books read: 9 nonfiction books (my favorite was Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance), 28 fiction books (my favorites were Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout, and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami).

Average book rating (on a scale of 1-5): 4

female/male author breakdown: 30 female authors, 7 male authors

POC authors: 4

Number of Audiobooks: 1

I loved tracking all of this. It’s helped to show me my very clear reading preferences and trends. I gravitate toward female authors. Reading through my list also shows me that I also tend to be drawn to debut works by female authors. Oh, and most of the authors are white. There’s not a ton of author diversity there.

I’ve learned that the best nonfiction works for me are memoirs or essays. I’ve also learned that, though I LOVE the idea of audiobooks, for whatever reason listening to fiction is a struggle for me. The only audiobook I completed this year was Yes, Please by Amy Poehler. Nonfiction/memoir audiobooks work best, especially when read by the author.

Another trend I saw: the closer we got to the end of the calendar year, the less I read. This is something I remember from 2015 as well, but I wasn’t tracking it at that time. I’m not sure what it is about the late fall/early winter time of November and December, but I found it more difficult to sink into reading during those months. I read only 1 book in November and 2 in December. The most books I read in a month was 5 (May and October).

With all that said, I have one specific goal and several general goals for 2017. I want to read 40 books. I know that’s only 3 more than I read this year, but…baby steps. I want to diversify my reading a bit, too. For instance, I LOVE fiction. However, maybe I can break away from gravitating toward debut releases from white, female authors? There’s too many good books out there to continually be sucked in by buzzworthy books. I want to continue reading more nonfiction that excites me (more memoirs and essays). I also want to read books by authored by folks other than white Americans.

So there we have it… 2017 reading goals are listed. Time for 52 (well, 51-ish at this point) of dedicated reading!

2017 Reading Goals!

A story.

Reading the news about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which also includes defunding Planned Parenthood, is on my mind in a big way today.
When I was fresh out of college and working with elementary school students as an AmeriCorps volunteer nearly 10 years ago, I was pretty broke, but loving the work I was doing. There were few big downsides, though. The first was that since I’d never worked with kids before, I picked up ALL the kiddo germs (pink eye, so many terrible colds, multiple rounds of strep throat, the flu, etc.). Another downside: my health insurance wasn’t great and had a crazy high deductible.
No one ever wants to get sick, but it happens to all of us. What happens, though, when you get sick and don’t have enough money in your bank account to see a doctor? That’s stressful and demoralizing. As an AmeriCorps member, I made just enough money to live and pay expenses (and splurge on a weekly cinnamon bun at West End Bakery with my girlfriends). One time, upon leaving an urgent care with a really bad case of strep throat, I was told I needed to pay $214 — this was the cost of being seen by a grumpy physician’s assistant and getting a strep test to tell me what I already knew: I had strep and needed antibiotics. Well, I burst into tears. I did not have the money to pay. I know the folks working behind the desk were just doing their jobs, but they acted like I was a nuisance, when I was clearly sick and very upset. $214 was SO much money to me. Finally, I was told I could be put on a payment plan. And so I paid off my bill in $25 increments, which took around 8 months. Thankfully, I eventually learned of a low cost health clinic that made seeing a healthcare professional a lot less stressful for the most part; however, it was only open certain days of the week, so if you needed to see a doctor on a Wednesday, well, too bad.
But the point is… shouldn’t there be a better way? We all need health care. We all deserve access to health care so that we can get the help we need when we’re sick, as well as learn of preventative measures we can take to stay healthy. While not perfect, that is what the ACA is all about. It’s a start.
I also want to say that there was one thing that was never stressful for me during that time: routine gynecology visits and wellness checks. That’s because I went to Planned Parenthood where I was always, always, always treated with dignity, respect, and kindness. Going to Planned Parenthood was never stressful, and it never made me cry. I received great care and never had to worry about walking out with an empty bank account.
I don’t have much, but I can (and have) donated to Planned Parenthood.
And I have a voice to share my story. It’s one of many.
A story.

On holding on and letting go

 

This fall has knocked me down a few times. Has it been the same for you? I’m trying to do a bit better at taking care of myself, and part of that is listening to Inner Katie. Inner Katie tells Physical World Katie to do things like write, go for a walk in the woods, bake something new, read, and tuck yourself in early for a good night’s sleep. Physical World Katie has a tendency to go out of her way to numb herself to these good, heath-giving tips. So here I am, back at my digital creative corner, trying to reclaim a space I’ve been absent from for some months.

I sat down about a week ago to write something here. Many, many paragraphs into it, I stopped because I became very bored with myself and deleted the whole thing. No one, including me, needed eleventy-three paragraphs of the difficulties of this fall, starting with my bike accident and going up through the horror that is our most recent election.

So, instead, I have made the active choice to let all that shit go. Holding onto all the ways the world has let me down this fall was seriously sending me in to a dark place. Sometimes it’s been difficult, but I’m realizing I can take much better care of myself and be a happier, more productive person if I thoughtfully embrace things that fulfill me.

Here are a few things that have really been helping me the last few weeks:

  1. Being active. Sometimes this means a bike ride (though, admittedly, biking has fallen down a few notches since my bike accident). Other times, this means a simple walk around the neighborhood, to the coffee shop, or to and from work. Many times, it means going to one of my favorite places as of late: the woods. I’ve always loved hikes on trails through the woods, but lately walking through the woods has made me downright joyful, probably due to the combination of getting fresh air, moving my body, being around animals, and spending time quietly observing the world around me.
  2. This one should, technically, fall in line with #1, but I have a few things to say about it, so it gets to stand by itself: yoga. I’ve taken yoga classes before, and have even invested in several punchcards at one of my local studios. However, I was never gung-ho about yoga enough to attend all the classes my punchcard allowed for me before the (very generous) six month time limit expired. Clearly, I’ve always liked the IDEA of yoga more than the actual practice of yoga. A week and a half ago, my yoga studio offered a special deal on a 10 class punchcard, and I quickly purchased one. Since then, I’ve taken 3 classes…and I’ve gotten REAL emotional in all of them. This time around, yoga seems to be helping me tap into a lockbox of negativity and emotions I’ve been carrying around and wasn’t even aware of. While I’m thankful for all the physical benefits of yoga, this time I’m especially grateful to the way yoga is helping me work through some of the dark emotions I’ve been carting around.
  3. Reading. This year has been a really good reading year for me. I’ve just finished my 36th book of the year and have reached my goal of reading more than 30 books in 2016. My reading has been a bit up and down this fall. Reading helps me in a way I can’t really describe. It’s like good therapy for my mind and soul. That’s been such an important thing to remember this fall, as my reading took a little hit. I always feel better when I’m immersed in a book, so it’s always worth it to pick a book up and read it.

Life is full of peaks and valleys. Along with embracing and taking comfort in the meaningful relationships with friends and families, these are the things I’m choosing to embrace right now as I navigate my way out of this little valley.

Happy holidays…here’s a peaceful deer spotted on our wintry hike yesterday.

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On holding on and letting go

Lately

I’ve been letting this little space fall by the wayside, but in typical summer fashion that just means life has been busy and full in (mostly) all the best ways. Since my last post, we’ve enjoyed two back-to-back weekends of camping (first at Wilderness State Park and then at Interlochen State Park), we visited some friends who moved to Ann Arbor, I’ve been reading like a fiend, and bike commuting on the reg. All of that has been great, amazing, and wonderful (if not a bit tiring). This weekend we had nothing scheduled. Zilch. Nada. What a gift to sleep, relax, read, nap, bike, and sip lavender lattes.

Within the last few weeks I’ve read Modern Lovers by Emma Straub and… I just didn’t like it! I follow Emma on instagram and find her to be charming and sweet. Her book left me wondering if I was supposed to connect to her story or her characters in any real, meaningful way. The book itself is very readable. It’s light and fluffy. But there was very little redeeming ANYTHING about the story for me. So…there’s that.

I also read Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith. This one was…interesting. I think I liked it? At the very least there were some aspects I liked and connected with? Still sort of scratching my head on this one, to be honest. I guess it’s sort of an environmental thriller. The story follows Lucie Bowen as she returns to the island home of her youth. After a devastating earthquake and explosion of the oil refinery, which took her father’s life, she and her mother left the island 20 years earlier. The island is thought to be uninhabitable and dangerous as a result of all the chemicals from the explosion. She finally returns to check out her family home and reconnect with her best friend, Katie. Katie and a community are working to revive the island and land hippie-commune style…but things feel a bit sinister and not on the up-and-up. Lucie, a journalist, follows her curiosity to uncover the truth about the island, Katie, and the group she’s a part of. There were a lot of elements to this book that I liked, but ultimately I was left wanting more. The characters and plot felt a little flat to me.

Next I read The Girls, which seems to be THE BOOK of the summer. Also, the author, Emma Cline is in her mid-twenties. I mean… wow. Anyway, the book follows Evie Boyd, an insecure and lonely 14 year old as she befriends Suzanne, a member of a fictional Manson-like cult. I really, really enjoyed this book. You’d think the focus of this book would be her activity and life within the cult, but I think Cline uses Evie’s role in the cult to flesh out the difficulty and frustration of being a teenage girl. I found myself identifying so much with Evie, as middle school and my early foray into high school was…just so, so hard. I didn’t know who I was or how to be a person and I was desperate for inclusion. Cline gets it. Want proof? Here’s some quotes:

“That was part of being a girl–you were resigned to whatever feedback you’d get. If you got mad, you were crazy, and if you didn’t react, you were a bitch. The only thing you could do was smile from the corner they’d backed you into. Implicate yourself in the joke even if the joke was always on you.”

“All that time I had spent readying myself, the articles that taught me life was really just a waiting room until someone noticed you—the boys had spent that time becoming themselves. —”

“It was an age when I’d immediately scan and rank other girls, keeping up a constant tally of how I fell short.”

Currently I’m reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. I’m really loving it. The book focuses on the decedents of two half sisters, Effia and Esi, born in 18th century Ghana. Effia marries James, a well-to-do Englishman whose business centers on slave trade. Esi, meanwhile, is kidnapped, imprisoned, and sent to America to work on plantations as a slave. Chapter by chapter, I’m reading about a specific member of each sister’s family. It’s full and rich and devastating. Though only halfway through, I think this will be one of the books that really sticks with me long after I finish reading it.

In terms of biking, I’ve been commuting to work 2-3 days each week. Just this simple act of riding my bike 1.5(ish) miles to and from work each day has been so transformative. It’s the perfect, reflective way to start and end each day. I also love how my bike commute has helped me sort of reframe time. Though my ride to and from work isn’t long, it used to feel long, which made me dread riding. Now it just feels normal. It’s made me realize there are so many other areas of my life that feel a certain way, when really all I need to do is focus on reframing the reality — build different, better habits. Things like: Cleaning. And chores in general. Things you’d normally put off until you simply can’t ignore them any longer. Josh and I also went on a mega-ride yesterday to a brewery in Mason, MI. 17 miles there…17 miles back. I’m exhausted and my body just feels out of sorts today. This always happens when I do big rides. It’s a sign that I should do them more and train more! I think it’s also a sign that I might not do the best job of hydrating and eating the proper things before, during, and after my ride. Things to work on for the future!

To end this novel of a post… I can’t talk about all the good without also reflecting on the heaviness of this past week. Of Alton Sterling. Of Philando Castile. Of Dallas. Of Black Lives Matter. I feel like a lot of other white people: Speechless. Lost. Uncertain of what to do. My mantra for just about everything is Just Show Up. Show up feeling uncertain and speechless. Show up feeling lost. Just don’t hide. Don’t shift the focus away to something else. Don’t pretend that what’s happening isn’t happening. Show up. Acknowledge. Advocate. Be a friend. Be collaborative. Be ready to learn. And so that’s where I’m at.

Until next time…

Lately

On tracking read books and breaking in a new bike

After simply keeping a list of the books I read last year, I decided I wanted a slightly more detailed account of all the pages I was turning. So, I made a very simple spreadsheet to document the date I finished the book, name of book, number of pages of book, author of book, gender of author, author’s nationality, genre of book, and a rating on a scale of 1 to 5. Nothing earth shattering, but it’s been fun to keep up with and to look over and see my progress over the year. I’ve read 17 book thus far this year and there are some definite trends emerging: I barely read any male authors and I mostly read books by American authors. It’s interesting to see it all on one spreadsheet, calls attention to these trends, and pushes me to question why I stay in my comfort zone so much. One thing the spreadsheet has helped encourage me in thus far is diversifying the genre of book I read. Typically, I happily gravitate toward literary fiction and rarely stray from that. With my handy spreadsheet, though, I am now logging more nonfiction, gothic fiction, suspense/thriller, Scifi, graphic novel, etc.

In other book news, I’m loving my library as much as ever these days. For so long I was so persnickety about books. In my mind, if I didn’t get to put a book on my bookshelf after buying it or reading it, it wasn’t worth it. Well, that was shortsighted! I’ve changed my habits and, these days, I turn first to my library for books. In fact, 14 of my 17 books this year have been library books. [And now, a moment of appreciation for the particular library branch I frequent. Just over a mile from my house is a community center. And within that community center there is a room. And in that room there are shelves and several computers stuffed where ever there is space. It’s kind of a comical library branch. It feels old, a little musty, a bit dingy. At first glance, there’s nothing particularly magical about it, but I started using it because it was close and convenient. And, over time, I’ve really grown to love it. It may not be cozy or especially inviting at first sight, but the people that work there are truly wonderful and I always see a diverse group of users in there.]

ANYWHO…I just read The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon (not my normal jam, but FUN and kind of scary!) and now I’m moving on to Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar. I’ve got 7 more on hold for me, including a few big summer releases like Modern Lovers (Emma Straub), The Girls (Emma Cline), and Homegoing (Yaa Gyasi).

On the bike front: I’ve been having a blast on my new Trek 520. It’s sturdy and solid and I predict many happy riding years ahead. Thus far, I’ve been biking to work at least twice a week, have ran errands on the bike, taken it on lots of fun rides around town, and have gone on one longer 30ish mile ride. I actually, just this afternoon, sold my old Giant. It was kind of sad…that was the bike I fell in love with cycling on. BUT. It was just sitting in my garage and now it’s gone to a good home.

And while I’m chatting about my wheels, there’s another update from the Rosenberg family: we sold Josh’s car this week. That means we have one car and 4 bikes between the two of us. I think we’ll be just fine. 🙂

On tracking read books and breaking in a new bike