What’s 12 hours roundtrip between friends?

Two years ago this past April, an acquaintance who worked at a bakery that I frequented commented that she, a self-described life-long non-athlete, “could never do a triathlon.” I disagreed and said that it was simply a matter of deciding to do it and then putting in the work, piece by piece, day after day. If I could learn to swim when the mere thought of water gave me hives, she a comfortable swimmer could complete a triathlon. After a few more back and forth comments on the topic, I said that if she really wanted to do one I would train with her. But only if she was serious about it and was willing to commit to the work.

Long story short, she committed and she completed an Olympic length triathlon by the end of that summer. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t always enjoyable – for either of us. We trained in the heat, the cold, the rain and even some snow. There were tears and more than a few ‘I hate this’ moments. We learned that she has exercise-induced panic attacks when her heart rate exceeds 175 bpm while running. So we got her a heart rate monitor and she learned to plan for and work around this condition. But she did it. She met her self-stated goal of running “every step of that fucking 10k”. In addition, she finished her first 1/2 marathon with me two months after the triathlon.

Over that summer, she introduced me to Ragbrai, talked me through my own panic attacks in the water, and on one (particularly ridiculous and awe-inspiring) weekend, we ran her first 10 miler on Saturday and rode my first century ride (100 mile) the very next day. And we became very good friends.

Last year, she moved away to pursue her dream career and I’ve missed her ever since. I especially miss training with her. I miss her determination and the way she shouted “Hell yeah!” after reaching a new milestone. I miss her goofiness and spontaneous laughter. I miss her loud running outfits, headband obsession, and enthusiastic “Let’s do it!” to life in general.

Last Friday on the phone, we lamented that we didn’t get to ride together anymore. So she called me back later and said, “I’m coming out on Tuesday, we’re riding on Wednesday, and I’m heading home again on Thursday so I can get to class on Friday. Think Shan will let me borrow her bike?” And that’s how it went down. She arrived last night after 6 hours on the Mega bus, we put in a solid 45 miles on one of our favorite trails in picture perfect weather today (but alas, no pictures were taken), we had dinner this evening with Jeff (an excellent vegan chili as she likes her food HOT), and she’s leaving tomorrow. Shan is meeting us for breakfast after she gets off work so she can get her own hugs and hellos in before heading off to bed for her ‘night’.

One of the things I’d forgotten about riding with Jess is how well we ride together. That’s a rare and beautiful thing. Our pacing is synchronized, we anticipate each other’s movements, and the conversation and silences are comfortably organic. We just flow. Something I’ve learned is that no matter how much I enjoy cycling by myself – and I enjoy it a lot – I enjoy cycling with her more. I am lucky to have many people I can ride with locally, but those hours and hours and hours we spent training together that first summer gelled something special between us and I’m grateful to have experienced it. May she and I ride again together soon.

Nourishment

A week ago I got back from a trip to the Pacific Northwest to help my closest friend move into a new apartment. It is, for the record, wonderful. Near the water, the view – especially at night – is enchanting, overlooking a large twinkling metropolis of glass and steel. Her bedroom and the book-filled guest room are separated by a sun-drenched living room. The cheery kitchen, dining and storage area holds more spectacular wine than I’ll likely drink in a lifetime. It was hard to leave the sunny patio during the perfect spring days we had.

The night before I came home though, something odd happened. I still don’t know how to make sense of it except to know that my mind was trying very hard to tell me something and it was determined to be listened to. As I was falling asleep, the word Nourishment kept bubbling up into my thoughts for no reason that I could put my thumb on.

Like the good counselors we were trained to be, relationships fascinate my friend and me. It’s who we are. It’s what we do. So we often talked during that week about relationships, taking care of ourselves, when (and when not) and how (and how not) to care for others, protecting our emotional and mental selves from situations outside of our control, what we needed and what we needed to avoid, how and when to step back, and seeing situations for what they are as opposed to how we wanted them to be or how they had once been. I loved having so much time to talk uninterrupted with her. It felt like our grad school days again when everything was new and terrifying and wondrous and bursting with potential.

On the seven hours of plane rides home, Nourishment kept popping up unbidden as I looked out the window, reclined with an audiobook, rested. Anytime my conscious mind began to wander, Nourishment, and sometimes its partners in confusion Nourish or Malnourished, would pop up like a reminder – only, like Neville in the first Harry Potter book, I had no idea what it was I was forgetting. This was my auditory Rememberall.

Once I landed and had roughly unpacked my backpack into piles on the floor, and I lay down exhausted in bed, it began whispering again: nourish, nourishment, malnourished. Knowing I wanted to make sense of it but also that I was too tired to think clearly, I wrote up a quick tweet to the effect of – weird, but so this is happening – and slipped into oblivion knowing I could think better on it in the morning. It garnered no attention, because let’s be honest Why would it?, and I forgot about it too as the to-do’s and tasks of being home after a week away kicked into high gear. By Thursday though, I was thinking about it on and off, playing with it, watching for the things that popped into my head alone and when interacting with others.

So as I got started on what turned out to be a truly amazing dinner of pan-fried pork chops with brandied cherry sauce and oven-roasted cauliflower, I let myself mull things over. And things began to fall into place.

I thought about the frequent knot in my stomach after reading things on or after posting to social media, which has long been a source of stress but also sometimes of connection and keeping up with ideas and people far away. It was too easy to ignore though that often, social media with its daily outrage and sarcasm, its frequent disingenuousness and circle-jerk tendencies, its flavor of the day and pile-on justice, its preference for witticisms over wisdom and clamor over kindness, leave me feeling emptied and wary, in a word malnourished.

I again felt the force of a No unexpectedly snapped at me, instead of the Thanks, but no thanks, that I would have expected. My desire to offer (or in this case, re-re-offer) was not perceived/received as the affectionate gift of my skills and time that I had intended, but as a re-gifted and inedible fruitcake to be avoided. I admit that it feels good at this point in my life to be able to physically, financially, and logistically offer to help out when people I care about express stress over a situation. I can see the selfish side of that. But I guess it can feel – well, I don’t know exactly how it felt because it wasn’t said – cloying, mothering, suffocating, pompous, or maybe just fucking annoying sometimes. Instead of nourishing a friendship, my ill-conceived offer left me with stomach pain, a deep sense of shame at offering, and probably some resentment on their side.

I recognized the dangers of falling too far off my training schedule in the last couple months. The lack of regular and sustained movement, the not uncommon reduction from three times a week to two in the gym due to ‘circumstances’, some forced rest from shoulder, elbow and knee pain caught up with me. Yet it’s these very physical activities that not only keep my body strong, my immune system high, and my energy levels soaring, they are also part of the nourishment I need to sustain the emotional resiliency and mental clarity that I’ve grown used to. It’s time I got back to working out consistently again.

Many simple and some difficult things flooded my thoughts afterwards. Things that I saw I needed more (or less) of in life. Behaviors that could be eliminated or changed for the better. Things to nourish myself with as I pick my way along personally, relationally and career-wise. Beliefs that need to be re-evaluated. Things to fill-in my areas of self-neglect. Habits that should be supported or dropped. Things to push back the likelihood that simply hearing a song, let alone an entire album, by Julian Baker will cause tears to begin streaming unchecked down my face.

Because sometimes that’s just how it is

A pot of 5 hour spaghetti sauce is simmering away in the oven, some pasta for boiling is at the ready, a vat of homemade chicken broth is condensing on the stovetop, and I’m eating a bowl of Cheerios with 2% milk for dinner because it’s most perfect thing I can imagine right now. The pasta and sauce will make a nice batch of lunches for the rest of the week. The broth will get divided up and dropped into the freezer for as-needed use.

But this odd It’s golf league night for Jeff dinner? Sometimes that’s just how it is.

Confessions and a promise to myself

My to-do list began with arriving at 9am at a friend’s house to follow her to the auto repair shop. Easy, right? Well, it would have been if she’d remembered about the appointment and wasn’t still asleep when I arrived. Hitch: she has an infant. Much discussion and what-if’s later, we decided that getting both of them ready and swapping the carseat base into my Mini was going to take too much time, so I ended up babysitting and she got a ride back home in the courtesy van. Two hours of baby time was fine, but also plenty.

Confession: I don’t really enjoy other people’s children. They’re fine for short periods of time, but I’ve never been particularly kid-focused like some people naturally are.

The weather this afternoon was sunny and what we’re calling warm (mid-50s) after a long, hard, cold winter so I cracked out the cool weather cycling gear for the 2nd time in a week and got out on the trails for an easy ride. The wind was gusting but that’s to be expected heading west and it made for a quick return. I’d been invited to ride the SOG hill loop with a few friends later in the evening, which would have been nice as Jeff is out of town for a few days on business, but I decided that a quiet solo ride at my own pace was a better fit today. It’s been one of those much-internal-pondering-going-on-in-my-head periods lately. It turned out to be an excellent way to spend an hour and a half.

These periods are often a result of too much clicking and scrolling, liking and commenting, wanting to check-in with friends but not wanting to be annoying, so I’ve decided that it’s Spring Break time for me. The distraction apps are off the phone for the time-being and my search engine’s history has been wiped clean (requiring me to log back in before using any distraction sites). So things here will be quiet for a week or so while I reset my attention and get back into the habit of focusing on things that don’t require passwords, thumbprints, power cords, or dongles.

Promise to myself: I will take some time to create for creativity’s sake, learn for knowledge’s sake, cook/exercise for health’s sake, and remember that my friends and family know how to reach me, too. As literature so often reminds us, While love is able to dwell within the heart of only one person, relationships require two. (And I need to let others embrace their part instead of always rushing in.)

Here’s to living intentionally. Take good care of you.

We’re not poor meal planners. We eat in courses.

Jeff reminded me, as I grumbled about my oven-roasted sweet potato fries needing another 10 minutes after he was done cooking his part of the meal, we paid a rather hefty sum of money on our last anniversary to get our dinner brought out to us as a series of small dishes, over the course of a few hours. So long live dining via courses because I don’t see us figuring out this “timing” thing anytime soon.

In my on-going effort to live a little lighter, make do with what I have, and reduce unnecessary expenses, I’ve gotten pretty serious about not bring any more books home – no, not even the $1 ones from the library book sale room – until I’ve read the books I already have. Since the year began, I admit I have borrowed a few library books (all photography- or cooking-related) and listened to a few books on tape via the Libby app while I run, but beyond that I’ve been sticking to it. This is my physical books pile from a month or two ago. I’ve read The Celts since then and I have at least two unfinished books stored on my Kindle. I think it’ll be enough to get me through the year.

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left and center left – Fiction, center right – Non-fiction, right – Dutch

On Monday, about an hour after I deactivated my Twitter account, I remembered that the book Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier was still on my Kindle and decided to give it another quick run through. It was very good timing. Really, I highly recommend it. I finished it today and will possibly finish Ogen van de Wolf tonight. After that, I’ll pick up where I left off with Boundaries (non-fiction and boring af) from my Kindle and re-start Harry Potter en de Vuurbeker (#4) since I set it aside quite a while ago.

Someone go check Hell because I happily ate mushrooms again

Before we go too far, let me ensure you that I still think raw mushrooms are one of the nastiest foods on earth. Nasty. Vile. Tiny rot-scented sponges in my salad? No. But cooked mushrooms, that’s become the newest member in my most-beloved-recipes category.

*Photo would go here if we hadn’t inhaled them too quickly*

Roasted Mushrooms – serves 2
super easy, rich and earthy, an almost meaty texture
Note: These things are going to look terrible while cooking. It’s ok, they’ll be fine in the end.

1 pound white button mushrooms: wash, cut off woody stem ends, quarter them
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and fresh black pepper
6-8 springs fresh thyme

  1. Set rack in oven to the middle, preheat oven to 400F
  2. Toss mushrooms with the olive oil in a large bowl and season with the salt & pepper
  3. Layout on rimmed baking sheet
  4. Scatter the thyme sprigs evenly over the top.
  5. Roast until the mushrooms have released all their liquid and the liquid has evaporated. The mushrooms will be quite brown, about 30-45 minutes depending on your oven.
  6. Discard the thyme and serve

(or eat most of them right off the pan while the rest of dinner is finishing up)

If we’d live differently after a windfall, why aren’t we living that way now?

About once a year Jeff goes behind my back and buys a lottery ticket. Occasionally this time of year I’ll find Cadbury Cream Eggs hiding out in his briefcase. Yes, that’s about as clandestine as he gets. Pretty lightweight in the dastardly deeds category. For about an hour, he dreams of how life would be different with that obscene pile of cash, but then reality kicks in. We have more than we need already. We live comfortably already. We travel a bit already. We enjoy our lives already. We’re happy with who and how and what and where we are already. So outside of being totally debt-free, having more ease in seeing friends and family, exercising at our convenience rather than after dinner with everyone else, and seeing a bit more of the world than we already have and do, it would probably become a massive game of charity whack-a-mole when all was said and done. And who needs that kind of hassle?

If you give a Jamie some beet greens, she’s going to want some garlic to go with it

News flash: Social media is a weird world and I have a soul-deep, love-hate relationship with it. Twitter was sitting on my last nerve, for so many reasons; it had to go. Again. So that’s my personal news at the moment.

It was veggie pickup night. My bags of beet greens and baby kale looked so fresh and tender and alluring…

Greens Beforethat I simply had to sauté them (with four cloves of garlic) as part of tonight’s dinner.  I mean, look at them! Aren’t those deep purples and greens gorgeous? And they tasted even better. Luckily we still have the pound of spinach from tonight’s pickup to enjoy later in the week.

Greens After

Oh, weekly summer veg crate pickup, please hurry along. I miss your bountiful fresh veggie goodness.

Is it really apologizing if you’d do it all over again?

Man oh man, those were some tasty sticky buns. Jeff choose to leave the orange cheese-cream glaze/sauce off of his saying it was sweetness over-kill. Marc, Angela, Baby Lucy and I disagreed. I love the man but when he’s wrong, he’s just wrong. As of noon all but one of the gooey, pecan-y, look at those toffee-like ropes as you pull them apart buns were gone. And while we made noise about feeling bad for our hearts, arteries and digestive systems, not a one of us slowed our pace as we sidled up to the counter for a second (or in Jeff’s case, third) serving throughout the morning.

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When I was putting things together last night, I missed the ideal temperature when adding the liquids to the yeast so the dough didn’t rise nearly as high or as quickly as I’d have liked in the first rise or overnight in the refrigerator. That had me a bit worried. I haven’t baked bread in so long that I’d forgot about the picky nature of yeast. When I saw that the buns were very slightly raised but certainly not doubled, it looked like I might have killed the yeast off by having the melted butter too warm. Luckily it appears instead that the buttermilk had cooled things down too much and not all the yeast had been woken up. It’s easy to forget that yeast is a living organism with a small temperature range for activity. I’ve made a note to myself to use the baking thermometer next time.

That original ball of dough, so small and lonely in my big blue bowl, eventually rose enough to give us enough dough to roll out, fill with cinnamon sugar, and cut 12 rolls but they certainly didn’t fill out the 9×13 pan like expected. If you think I woke up a few times biting my nails to sneak a peek in the middle of the night, well, you’re wrong. I slept like the dead. It’s just flour and far, far, omg farrrr too much brown sugar and buttermilk. But I did pull them out and let them sit near the oven as it was pre-heating. And happily they did some puffing up before and during their time in the oven. Once they had rested a few minutes after baking, while I was cooking the orange sauce, Jeff inverted the pan onto a platter and all that caramel-pecan goodness was right there. Front and center. Oh my. Oh. my.

I’ll understand you if you and Gordon are just a wee bit jealous about the fact that we didn’t save any. Maybe next time.

Do you think Sting enjoys baked goods?

Every breath you take,
Every move you make,
Every bond you break,
Every step you take,

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I’ll be watching you.

The eternal stalker/orbiting anthem.

One of the things I like best about taking photographs more and more deliberately is that when I know I like something, I KNOW that I like it. The above is one that I adore even though its imperfections have been noted. Too busy, too much going on, too messy.  I think it’s great, it makes me happy every time I look at it. It’s my new desktop background. The bright red glasses looking out, the city in reflection, the mirrors inside showing the parking lot outside, the outline of the tree and clouds, the little spot of wood-orange on the left edge. Love it all.

The NCAA Midwest games are playing up the hill and in a few hours, Jeff and I will join some people from power cycling in the lower bowl to watch my two favorite teams play their 2nd rounds: Michigan State and whoever is playing against Michigan.

Go Green, Go White.

Afterwards, I’m going to make up the base dough for Pecan Sticky Buns, let it rise before/during Saturday Night Live, and then fill it, roll it up and slice it into rounds before letting it rise in the pan overnight in the refrigerator. Knowing that I only have to stir up the Orange Glaze Sauce and pop it in the oven tomorrow morning will feel like a gift. Fresh coffee, homemade sticky buns, good books, bed head and jammies. Not many Sundays have a better start, I think.