Thursday, December 29, 2011


Maybe tomorrow I'll take a better photo of the empty bottle (and thus remove this disclaimer).

But a nice bottle of champagne.
Shared with family, to celebrate my birthday.
A good end to a lovely visit.

Thankful that I get to spend this time with them.

Thankful that El Bandito takes long walks with me on these visits, and buys fancy sparkling wine to share.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

the lake in winter

My home.

Oh, not this lakeside town in particular, though I do love the pier here.

But this lake, and a winter sunset?

Part of my heart.

Part of who I am.


I visit it whenever I get the chance.
This year, it gifted me with a dramatic sunset and calm waters.

Some years, when El Bandito and I visit, this pier is coated in ice, impassable.

Some years, the snow and ice cover almost as far as the eye can see -- though those years are rare now.
I love this lake in summer.

And the crowds of people on the public sections of the shore.

The sand dunes.

The views of miles and seemingly endless miles of water and sky.

I love it in winter, frozen along the edges, treacherous and tempting.

I love it from the far southwestern edge, in the windy city.

From the sand dunes extending along its eastern edge.
Watching sunsets on a hot, humid summer night or a cold, cold winter aftenroon.

And for the deep, deep sense of home.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

moving pictures

El Bandito and I went to the movies last night. A little break from family, a little time together.
A lovely fable with beautiful effects. Hugo.

There's something about movies, the way they offer escapism and adventure and different world views... and sometimes, to be honest, just big damn explosions.

Stepping into another life -- as an observer.

Monday, December 26, 2011

the old neighborhood

 My parents still live in the house I grew up in -- a constant in my life, though I've been out-of-the-house more than half my life.

The streets are familiar.
Full of memories.

And full of so many changes, too. The neighborhood's improved.
There are now coffee-shops and bakeries within walking distance.

A new organic foods market that I suspect won't make it, but is nice to see there anyway.

Fancy new restaurants. A packed pub.

The historic houses shining with their paint jobs and repairs, even though the gardens don't show this time of year.

And still, a community. Where the neighbors mostly know each other. Where kids still play on the lawns.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

a list of random things which make think of friends

it's not just the big things that make friendships work. it's sometimes the shared things, big or small. On that note, a list of some of the random things that I'm grateful make me think of friends. 
(incomplete, certainly)

tiaras and parasols
hockey games
white russians
broken kneecaps (not mine, fortunately)
pushups (the exercise, not the ice cream treat -- or the bra)
inflatable platypus

simple things

today, or rather yesterday, since I was too tired last night to type this:

a nowhere-near comprehensive list of simple things I've appreciated this week.

the bathroom ceiling (you don't miss it until you don't have it)
the freshly repaved roads that make my bike commute less vibratory (worth the construction chaos)
a well-timed thank you note
chocolate showing up in my office.
El Bandito's magical coffee.
lunch-time runs.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

tuesday night workouts

On Tuesdays, I drive across the city for my workout.
I started doing this because working out with friends makes the torture a little less torturous.
And because I needed one more good, hard, structured workout in my week, to go with the runnning and the trapeze.
It's a circus-oriented conditioning class. Some acro, lots of core work, lots of functional strength and body weight exercise.

It kicks my butt. Sometimes literally.
But there's always a lot of laughter, and naming of exercises (benches of death, captain morgans).

The participants change a bit from week to week -- never more than 5 of us, so we get focused attention.

And awesome assisted stretching at the end.

I leave feeling like I could do it all over again,

Thankful for the company, the conditioning, and the endorphins.

Monday, December 19, 2011

older, wiser, and more bad-ass

For those of you who might have missed it, Jote started this "30 days of Gratitude" thing in 2009.

Jote's the kinda gal whose good ideas spread like wildfire. Last year, more than a handful of us picked up the idea, and I know that this year, the community of people looking at their lives and seeing all the amazing things to be grateful for has spread immensely. People acknowledging their siblings, their spouses, their kids, the right timing of a cup of coffee, their gyms, their running buddies.

We've all got a lot to be grateful for.

And many reasons to be grateful to Jote for inspiring this introspection.

I know that a number of the folks doing gratitude blogging in December are part of Jote's Austin community of mamas and friends.

And I'm loving seeing those people, and how they connect with Jote.

She and I were college friends. Knew each other in those malleable years, while we were still figuring out who we were and what we wanted. Drinking White Russians, watching football, taking long walks through farmland and thinking we were prepared because we'd brought a small water bottle and a single powerbar between us. Bitching about boys -- we probably called them men, but really, we were all just kids then.  Dressing to the nines, and then spitting as we walked to a college dance, one each on W's arms, leading him to declare "You can dress 'em up, but you can't take 'em out".

Growing up, together and apart.

I went to graduate school. Jote fell in love (Hi, Matt!).
I missed her wedding, because I couldn't afford a ticket to Austin on my wimpy graduate student stipend. We talked on the phone. Intermittently.

But life happens, and when you're not in the same city, or the same community of people, it's easy to let things lapse more than they should.

I saw Jote when "The Teen" was a toddler; connecting with her when El Bandito and I were in Texas for another friend's wedding. By then, it had been 5 or 6 years, but it was still like catching up with an old friend.

More time passed, and the contact became more sporadic. An email bounced. We lost  the immediacy that forges bonds. I still think of her every July.

And then, I found her blog. I remember reading through it going, YES, JOTE. This is the girl I knew, turned into a woman I *want* to know. And being thrilled when she replied to an email. She's Jote. She's awesome. She's a rock star in her own inimitable way.

Sometime in the last year, I sent her an email telling her how glad I was she was part of my life again. She replied "it's like we're having the same conversation, only wiser and more bad-ass". Amen, lady, amen.

So, Jote, thank you for so much. For the reminder to be grateful. For your part in my freaking awesome life. For being older, wiser, and more bad-ass. For still touching a chord in my soul, all these years later. For being an awesome mother, for raising kids I'd love to know. For still sharing my love of coffee, tasty drinks, yeast on popcorn, and artichokes. For the tofu recipe that's become a staple in our household -- and known simply as "Jote's Tofu".  For taking gorgeous pictures and including me in your distant life.

I hope that some day, we can have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. A walk together. In the meantime...

Lady, you rock. I hope today, and every day, you're showered with the love, affection, and gratitude you deserve from all angles. Happy December, darlin' gal. Together and apart, we're older, wiser, and more bad-ass. You called it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

the right words

on my run today, just as I was hitting a low point (or a high point, since it was an uphill I didn't really want to be on), I saw graffiti* scrawled on a sidewalk.

Try Hard.
Do Well.

They were words I needed right then.

Or finding a poem (via a Poetry Friday link from another woman gratitude-blogging) that spoke to me.

I don't always have the right words, especially to offer in times of grief or sorrow, or in times of joy. But I love it when I find them.

Or when they find me.

Be kind.

Try Hard.
Do Well.

Thanks, random paint marker person.

*I actually suspect, from its location by a school, that this was sanctioned "graffiti"

Saturday, December 17, 2011


it's no secret I'm addicted to the trapeze.
to the challenges, and the athleticism, and slowly gaining artistry as well.

and I'm grateful for all that. I said it last year, and it still holds true.

but also, for watching circus. For seeing the incredible things people can do with their bodies and their art. For seeing the physical and emotional dedication.

for watching a friend perform her swinging trapeze act for the first time.

for watching the spectacle that a Cirque du Soleil show is.  A different level, and yet nearer than one might think.

for the creativity and energy and enthusiasm.

For the friends circus has brought me. For the casual acquaintances whose smiles still brighten my day. For this community. For the joy on a kid's face watching the clowns and the aerialists and the gasps of astonishment.

Friday, December 16, 2011

a friday night dinner with friends

drinking funny pink cocktails.
three people scooting around each other in a small kitchen, chopping mint and slicing mushrooms.
good wine.
sitting down to eat with stories and chatter.
leaving before the evening really ends, to go pick up another friend from the airport.

a good friday night.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Synonym Toast and Acrobats

Describing how grateful I am for my marriage, for El Bandito, for this sustaining relationship? Impossible. And yet important. Today is El Bandito's birthday, so a short list of gratitude that doesn't begin to cover it:

For 18 years of inside jokes, the title among them. Of finishing each other's sentences. Croutons. Interrupting Donut! and a ridiculous slew more.

For making me laugh so hard I can't breathe, even though almost every time that happens I say I hate you (I don't, really).

Locks of Love, Ponte Vecchio, 2003
For being there when I am "old and busted" and when I am "new hotness", though the casual observer might not know the difference.

For supporting me. In so many, many ways.  The early morning coffee. The patience when I schedule our lives around my workouts. For doing the dishes while I'm doing my shoulder exercises again,

For putting my shoes and coat away, even when I intend to grab 'em momentarily and get confused at their absence.

For documenting our lives in such an amazing way, the places we go, the people we're with. It's an overwhelming number of photos. But man, it's a wonderful collection (even if I have yet to figure out how to navigate them.)

For the weekends wandering new cities, or our own.  For stops for chocolate truffles and coffee. For being willing to adventure with me, no set destination. 

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)

Excerpted from e.e. cummings. Somewhere I have never travelled.

It's a start. Even though there's so much more. For tonight, Happy Birthday, El Bandito. You rock my world.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

a boy. his skateboard.

There's a boy who lives in the apartments at the corner.

Often, when I'm coming home from work, or heading out for my run (or sometimes, like tonight, on the return from my run, in the dark hours of the evening), he's outside.

With his skateboard. and the most improvised of obstacles and fake pipes.

He's getting better. He's out there almost every evening. A boy, his skateboard.

And when he lands a new trick, he's got a gorgeous grin.

Tonight, he wiped out just as I was approaching, on the cooldown from a really good run.  Picked himself up, grabbed his deck, and said "I thought I was going to get it this time".

Next time, kiddo.

I don't know what it is about kids and skateboards -- probably childhood nostalgia as much as anything -- but this kid makes me smile every damn time I see him. 

A boy. A skateboard. A shooting star. It was a good night for a run.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

public transit

It's not that I don't like driving.
Because actually I do, and always have.
But I hate parking. and looking for parking.
And so, in this city, without a designated parking space of our own, we tend to avoid driving.
I bike commute, because it's simplest, although it still requires more thought and planning than hopping in the car.
El Bandito bike commutes, although he's gotten bored with his route after a number of years. And so somedays he takes transit.

Today, I had errands to run that just weren't practical by bike.
I spent a lot of time on transit, but it was efficient and effective.
It's not always, in this city with its dysfunctional transit system.
Today, it was.  And every day, it moves thousands of people around... to jobs, for errands, taking people to places they want to go (and to places they don't, I suppose).

Simply grateful that today all the connections were simple and the timing was good.

Monday, December 12, 2011

My mother, on her 70th birthday.

I am grappling with the concept of my mother being 70. Which the calendar says is true today.

In my mind, she's the 40-year old who went back to work when I was in elementary school, setting off each morning in her walking shoes with her lunch and left-overs. Who swam at lunch. Who set an example of being a capable working woman who took care of herself and her family.

In my mind, she's the mid-40s breast cancer survivor.  Hard to believe that her mastectomy was more than 2 decades ago. Not that I ever actually believed she wasn't going to survive that. She was my mother. She *is* my mother.

In my mind, she's the computer programmer on call late at night.

In my mind, she's the woman who fell asleep on the chest freezer b/c she was so, so, tired and had been taking care of her injured and whining teenage daughter for too many nights running.

In my mind, she's the woman in her early 50s who asked me what I wanted for my 21st birthday and when I said "24 pink and green giraffes" she found a drawing of two giraffes, photocopied it a dozen times, and colored them in with pink and green highlighters.

In my mind, she's the woman who sent me little cards of encouragement through difficult grad school years. Who has knit me so many sweaters.

In my mind, she's in her mid-50s, making the food for my wedding. Baking the cake. Refitting the wedding dress she made me in last minute alterations.

In my mind, she's not *70*.  Nothing wrong with 70. I know fabulous, sharp-as-a-tack, spry and lively 70-year-olds. But my mother's not supposed to get "old". She's my mother. She will always be my mother. And my friend. And for that, I am so very thankful.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

books. libraries. book recommendations.

I come from a family of readers.
My sister once famously missed her entire 6th grade class leaving the (1-room) school library because she was reading.
And El Bandito has more than once had to repeat things I wasn't paying attention to because I was reading.

Sometimes I read for distraction.

Sometimes I read for entertainment.

Sometimes I read for education.

I also read really damn fast. For years, I just thought that was how everybody read. A novel would be a way to pass an hour, maybe two if it was serious. Sometimes 3.  I've read a lot.

I read non-fiction if it's a topic that vaguely interests me.

And I'll read just about anything fiction-wise, although I'll gripe if it's poorly written or if I can't suspend my disbelief. As someone I know once said, this means I've read more really good books and more complete trash than most people will read in their lifetimes. 

So, I find it hard to choose books -- what will get me through the flight, what will make me laugh or cry? What won't fall into the category of "did I really spend an hour with that tripe"?

Every time I travel, I put out a call for book recommendations and garner suggestions from friends.
And my phone is full of photos from bookstores, with titles that looked interesting while browsing.
Some friends will hand me books, knowing that it's not that I have more time to read, but that the time I have is condensed, and so I'll get it back to them quickly.

Today, in another gratitude-blogger's post, I found a book recommendation. Which will hopefully arrive in the electronic edition from the library in time to get me through part of a long flight.

Grateful for all the ways to lose myself in another world...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

fresh from the oven

today's gratitude could be ...

... that running multiple errands this afternoon still involved tasty Vietnamese sandwiches...

or that the plumbing leak in the upstairs flat only caused the ceiling in our bath to buckle and drip, not collapse...

or that El Bandito threw together a delicious dinner despite playing phone tag with plumbers and landlords...

and yes, I am grateful for all of those things.

but also for the ability and time to throw together a batch of banana bread, 4 miniloaves.  it's a simple thing, but banana bread satisfies my desire to avoid waste, and to make something delicious for El Bandito (because realistically, his intake of baked goods is probably about 3 times mine).  and it was a good end to an ordinary weekend day.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


I've been feeling underutilized at work recently.
Hell, not recently. Throughout the last several years.
But this job pays the bills. Allows me to go to trapeze without guilt.
Helps us travel.
And to afford nice bottles of wine and the good coffee we love.
Lets me still think about science -- and that might be part of the problem.
My scientific training makes me cautious and conservative in data analysis and experiments. Clinical research is rarely that clean and well-designed.

Though I forget sometimes, some of the research I'm doing really does help people. Not abstractly, not in the "world of the future" but *now*.

That's kind of cool.

Today, I felt productive. No major project ticked off, no breakthroughs or finished papers or anything like that. Just a good, solid day's work, where I felt like I used my mind again.

Grateful for that feeling.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

quiet miles

I am, somewhat in spite of myself, "training" for a half-marathon at the beginning of February.
Training casually, trying to increase my weekly mileage and frequency, but without sacrificing trapeze time. Or, for that matter, time with El Bandito or friends or holidays or... yeah. So, it's not an optimal way to train for an athletic event, but it's a way to train around my life.
The miles have been accumulating.

I am grateful that El Bandito accommodates my exercise needs and desires. That he doesn't grumble when  I schedule events around my planned runs (or around my trapeze and circus conditioning).

Grateful that running gives me better stamina on the trapeze, even as it reduces my flexibility and makes me work harder.
That running gives my mind time to wander and work through things.
That sometimes, running comes down to my footfalls and my breathing and not very much else.

That sometimes, running is views and awe. And sometimes, running is the fog and not seeing more than 30 feet in front of me in the misty park.

Grateful for the miles these shoes have taken me, in the quiet late evenings and the few early mornings.
For the strength in my legs, the power in my heart that lets me do these things.
For the friends who have decided that perhaps this crazy running business isn't truly so crazy -- or, if it so crazy, they're willing to partake in the insanity with me.
For the solo runs.
For the camaraderie of the other runners on the roads and paths, the nods and smiles of acknowledgement.

I've grown to love running. I knew I missed it when I was told with the ankle injury in 2010 that I couldn't run. Missing it isn't the same as loving it. But as I start to run longer, farther, more often, I start to crave it.

I'm grateful for the ability to run. To, from, towards, away. For the quiet solo miles I've been logging on my early evening runs. For all that those miles give me.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

seeeeester mine

My sister and I? We have a quirky relationship. She's my sister, sharer of my genes, sharer of my childhood experiences, with just enough space between us that I was always trying to surpass her. (Isn't that part of siblings too?) She was the good kid, the bookworm. I was the boundary tester. Always. (Although also a bibliophile).

We're quick to ignite, pushing each other's buttons.  We snap quickly at each other. 

But our nearly weekly phone calls are part of the integral fabric of my life. We talk about nothing, we talk about everything. Topics from dinner to silliness to the serious. The inside jokes that come from shared lifetimes. 

El Bandito commented, years ago, that my sister and I have a better relationship over the phone than in person. He's correct, though I think much of the failing is in my quick temper.

It's unlikely she'll ever read this. But "Call your seeester day" never seems quite right without that contact, even though both of us are busy enough that Sunday mornings skip past unnoticed sometimes. This past weekend, they were traveling. The weekend before, we caught up only briefly. 

I'm sure, in a few weeks, when we're on shared familiar turf for the holidays, discombobulated by the return to childhood surroundings, we'll be sniping at each other as always.  So tonight, I'm taking a few minutes to be truly grateful that I have a loving sister. That our arguments and insults are truly trivial.  I'll get cranky soon enough! 

Monday, December 5, 2011

old friends and new media

I may bemoan the lack of old-fashioned letter-writing, or even email  correspondence.  The long missives that caught you up on what friends were doing, thinking, feeling.  Sometimes, I look at the short-attention-span and "public" nature of things like Facebook and cringe.

But other times, I realize it's given me a bit of a gift. Old friends, who'd fallen out of contact -- we lost the conveniences of catching up over coffee, easy phone conversations or long emails. Our lives got busier; we moved in and out of different time zones; we created new circles and new families.

But it's nice to know that M. is doing well pursuing his life-long theater dream, that E. is indeed "raising bright Texas children" with his best friend, that S. and M. are making wedding plans.  That A. has taken up speed-skating, that T. has taken to beautiful crafting. To reconnect, and catch up on a little of the daily minutia and re-establish bonds and conversations.  My life is very full.

So today's gratitude: modern communication and old, dear friends.  And the mix.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

meeep meep!

El Bandito and I have been sorting through vacation photos.

He announced: "there are series of photos of me making funny faces." (He's awesome at funny faces. Of course I take the opportunity to capture them!)

I looked at him, when he announced this, and he said: "Like Beaker face!"

and proceeded to "Meep Meep"

and make *more* funny Beaker faces!

I love that this is my life. I'm still giggling.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

rockstar parking

On a busy day, full of awesome, a convenient parking space might not seem like something important.

It's not that it saved us $20, though that's a plus.

But it saved us time, and gave us a chance to get a drink before the show. And it made us both smile.

We spent more of today than usual in the car, to-and-fro-ing from home to event to home to event, including having to navigate unexpectedly around a parade.

So, it's not a big thing. It's not a profound thing. But nonetheless, today, I'm grateful for my husband's parking luck.

Friday, December 2, 2011

a casual friday night

The last few months have been a whirlwind, as I've alluded to once or twice.
Mostly in completely awesome ways; I really can't complain about all the fabulous things we've done, the people we've spent time with, or the crazy workouts I've managed to squeeze in.

Some of those fabulous things will probably pop up more individually throughout the month.

However, it's been a little exhausting, and the holiday season promises to stay just as much of a cyclone.

Tonight, I came home from work, threw on the new running shoes I'm still undecided about, gave them a short but speedy test, and am now home for the evening, with El Bandito cooking a delicious dinner of braised greens, chickpeas, and couscous; a nice bottle of wine waiting for dinner to be ready; and no plans to leave the house until the morning.  Time for a quiet evening in. Together.  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

lunch with a friend

I actually took a lunch break today. Normally, I'm bad at doing that -- I'll take one to fit in a workout (or occasionally a walk with one of my friends) -- but generally, it's reheated leftovers grabbed at my desk.  

But today, I left the office, took the train a few stops, and grabbed soup and salad with a pal. It was nice to catch up on his life -- it's got more drama in it than mine, currently, as he's moved in with a girlfriend and his parents have decided he'd going to hell (apparently, being in his 30s and single was preferable to living in sin). A cup of coffee, some rambling conversation...

It was nice to take 45 minutes out of my day and reconnect. And to step away from the pile of work on my desk. I took a deep breath on my way back and thought, I should do this more often. (Next week, I'm having lunch with El Bandito himself. That's awesome too). 

Grateful for the conversation, the minor sense of "playing hooky" and the freedom to arrange my schedule to allow a calm Thursday lunch.