Pandemic Epiphanies

We’ve been sheltering in place for 25 days, and I have some thoughts.

Basically everything is canceled.  I recently got a new work computer (a laptop), so I have spent a non-trivial amount of time refining my home office set up.  I had a desk, but it had a smaller shelf on it that I put all kinds of shit on… books, bucket of pens, etc.  Since I planned to still have data projects and teaching and whatnot, I resurected my dual monitor setup, that I had shutdown when we moved into the new place, because I didn’t have room for it.  At the time, I was also thinking a lot about where work should be done…like work should be at work, right?


Anyway, my set up is pretty sweet now.  I finally got all the right cords and connections and dongles and such.  We have settled into a decent routine.  I was able to borrow a rower from my gym, so I have been rowing for 45-60 min almost every day.  It can’t possibly keep up with all the food I am eating.  For some reason, this pandemic has me really craving sweets.  And its pre-easter, so Cadbury eggs are everywhere.  And also, I have somehow become obsessed with Willy Wonka Bottle Caps.  *no explanation*.  Seriously, I bought two boxes earlier this week, and I have already eaten both, with plans to walk to my dealer (Walgreens) later today to get more.

This week has been especially nice, because Nico has been on spring break.  The overwhelming guilt that I am not spending every spare moment getting him to do crafts and art and physical activity (from previous weeks) is also on spring break, because spring break is the time to be a lazy slob on Playstation with his friends.  Of course, maybe a better way to think about it is that the other things that he really loves (soccer, baseball, and judo) are all canceled and he *should* get more time on Playstation.

The days are long though.  Like most parents, I don’t get long stretches of time to work.  I work in 20-30 minute blocks of time, from about 9-3.  During non-spring break weeks, we have a rule that Nico can’t get on Playstation until his work is done or 3pm.  Since he takes a break every 20 minutes, I can work during this breaks.  My best hours of work have been from 3 to 7/8, when he is entertaining himself and his school work is done.  I have been able to get some work done.  It helps that faculty are all leaning into getting their courses online, so I have the research I am contributing to and proposals I am working on.  And I have teaching stuff… always teaching stuff.  So I am staying busy.

But I realized something last night.  While the days are long, they feel productive. My house is rarely cleaner than it is right now.  I have swept and mopped multiple rooms.  The kitchen gets cleaned almost every day.  The fridge is full of food, as is the pantry.  I’ve been on top of the laundry.  I realized that in non-pandemic times, I spend a lot of time transitioning to do stuff.   Getting ready for work.  Getting Nico ready for school.  Unpacking my bag and getting ready to work, packing my back and getting ready to leave.  Giving myself extra time on public transit to get to practice, getting my shit together to go to the gym, packing my bag for soccer, getting to soccer early so I can warm up.  And since everything is canceled- I am not transitioning to do stuff… like this mornigng I rowed through 2.5 episodes of Brooklyn 99, ate some breakfast and came to sit at my desk.  I’ll take a shower at some point today, but literally it doesn’t matter when.

So here is to keeping my ass in one place for a while and cutting out all the time I spend getting my shit together to go to the next thing.

The One Where I Explain Everything

There have been moments since about 2009 when I have thought, “you know what would be an awesome job? Blogger.  That would be amazing.  Work from WHERE EVER, WHENEVER.  That would be the life.”

But I was always nervous about it.  Like, it just feels weird to write personal stuff in a public space.  Like, about anxiety and family problems issues problems.  Fears.  You know, the big stuff that effects us to the core.  So much more than the super cool mug that we got from Etsy that with the word “BAE” on it. To me, it felt inauthentic to have a cheery blog with pretty pictures on it, dealing with heavy shit.  But also, I didn’t want to put my heavy shit out there.  Because, no one wants to read Debbie Downer’s blog.

AND- there was this other feeling of inauthenticity; what you have to do to have a very “successful” blog- which is stuff I definitely do not want in my life.  I do not want to do sponsored posts where I tell all my readers about my favorite wrap that definitely does work, is definitely not hockum.  I also never wanted to do some type of post that was me talking into a camera holding some product next to my face.

I am not saying that this possible reality was even a imminent possibility.  I am saying that I felt like this was the type of person I was going to have to be.  A person who would resort to doing shit like this in order to have a “successful” blog (whatever that means).

And let’s just say, that my blogging mantra was much better suited for 2008 blogging, which is to say, I just wanted to write, throw on the blog some cute pictures of my kid or my dog or my family or some cool shots  I took of my recent travels.  Interest in learning SEO? NONE.  Interest in hustling to make “blogger” friends to do guest posts on each other’s blogs?  ZERO.  Interest in spending inordinate amounts of time trouble shooting HTML code and other boring tasks?  DONT MAKE ME.

And then there was the constant feeling like I needed either do it (blogging- for real) or  not.   And if I was doing it (blogging for real) what would happen to my personal/family blog?  Like, for about the first 7 years of Nico’s life, I kept a pretty regular blog about family life, his milestones, etc.  And then I just stopped…

Partially, this was because Facebook and Instagram became a thing.  Like a real thing.  And so much of what went on with Nico I described and posted about on Facebook and Instagram- because it was easy-like, a couple of taps, done.  And all the likes.  And all the comments.  It felt redundant to also post to the blog- because who even reads blogs anymore?  WHO?

Also, I had a little bit of an epiphany in the past 6 months.  It started when I listened to Cal Newport’s book, “Deep Work”.  Basically, long story short, social media is bad for everyone- but particularly for people whose jobs count on them thinking (spoiler alert: that is me- I have to think with my job.  A lot).  But even  worse, social media is bad for people who need sustained periods of effort and concentration (spoiler: that is also me). So here I was, dialed into Facebook and Instagram, spending way too much time posting there, scrolling, not even reading, but scrolling through posts.  Let’s not even mention the feelings of “Holy shit- what?” that I had when all the Cambridge Analytica stuff came out (truth: the Cambridge Analytica stuff didn’t really impact me all that much- its not like I changed my vote from Hillary to Trump over some bullshit fake news I had been reading about HillaryemailsPizzaGateBenghazi, put into my feed by Russian hacker trolls.  But I had some unease, because I like the shit out of Facebook quizzes- Like, “What kind of dog would you be?  Take this Quiz and Find out!!”. Yes, I will do that).

And that is just dealing with the easy shit.  It is easy because you can keep scrolling past the obvious click bait.  I mean, you can’t do anything about a racist/homophobic/misogynistic relative, so there is nothing to worry about there- just “unfollow” that noise.  And I am blessed because most of my relatives are not on Facebook, so I don’t have to learn more than I want to know about their terrible belief systems.

But what do you do about friends?  People you genuinely like, or want to like?  How can you still be friends with people who express on Facebook their strong support of Donald  Trump and that “all you libtard snowflakes should take your butthurt snowflake asses to Canada?”  Maybe it’s just that the nature of friendship has changed.  Maybe these attitudes have always existed, but in many cases, it wasn’t the main thing we knew about people.  We knew so much more- before we ever got into personal belief systems.  We learned that guy from our senior year of high school was a fantastic athlete who got good grades and who liked to party before we recognized that he could be a bit of a prick.  Before social media, we’d go most of the rest of our lives not thinking about what a prick that guy was- only remembering that he was a smart jock who liked to party.  But now, we don’t see the the rest, but we’re certain that that one thing remains: the guy is a giant prick.

I concede that I am probably a bad person- because I don’t know how to be friends with people who hold the above opinions.  Technically, I am “friends” with some (I mean, you know, Facebook friends).  I think part of it is that I want to be friends with so few people that I am always a little surprised when a person I want to be friends with turns out to have such diametrically different attitudes on stuff.

Cal Newport has been advocating for something called slow media- basically a return to more deliberate consumption of media on the social internet.  This jives really well with what I originally liked about blogging: documenting my life somewhere convenient-ish so that people who care (mom, mother in law, sister, brother *sometimes*) could tune in.  Doing this away from Facebook allows me to do without having an existential  crisis every time I log into Facebook to see that Donald Trump continues to be a national embarrassment and that for 34 of my friends, his message resonated enough with them that they “like” him.   You know  what I am saying.

This is all to say, that I am using this space to talk about my life; my projects, my crafts, my goals, my adventures, my misadventures, all of it.  This is no longer a foray into being a blogger-blogger, you know the kind with the sponsored posts, holding some type of product next to her face. This blog is about my life.  As such, I have merged it with my old Nico blog- so the further back you go, you can see more about the evolution of our family.

Also, I am a listmaker.  I make lists, it is what I do.  I have a list of stuff I want to do in my life, so I am keeping track of that here.  Since I am keeping track of stuff, you’ll see me tracking stuff I read and other things here too.  So, if you get a weird vibe, “Like is this a mommy blog or a life style blog  or a diary or what, JBR?” that is what is going on here.  If you like it, cool.  If you don’t, feel free to NEVER come back.

I hope to post more often now that I have my thoughts and intentions sorted out.  I also need to go back through my old Nico Blog posts to make sure that I don’t talk an embarrassing amount of shit about anything or anyone.  I mean, except for haters.  Come at me bro.  So, until I do that, I am going to keep this blog private.  Its only like 400+blog posts.  Won’t take any time at all.

Welcome to my world.

The Photog Game

We are settling into the rhythm of Fall.  This week was the first week that Nico’s soccer team was on “winter break”, so we had LITERALLY nothing we had to do.  These kinds of weekends make me equal parts anxious and excited… anxious because I feel like there are things I am supposed to be doing.  Excited because I have so many things I am going to get done.

For example, this weekend, I made apple sauce from the apples we picked and blueberry muffins (from the blueberries we picked during the summer).  I also made Shepherd’s pie for dinner tonight and a kick ass slow cooker shredded pork dish for dinner last night.  I made a serious dent in the laundry and caught a nap on both days.  Of course, there is all the teaching stuff that I had planned to do, but somehow didnt have the time for it.  🙂

In other news,  I have been booked for two weddings.  As a photographer.  Wait, what?  What am I even talking about?  I have been trying to breathe life into JBR Photography, whenever I am not teaching and doing the 23498723498 things it seems like we have to do.  Back in the Spring and the Summer, I was bidding on smaller, one off jobs: someone needing photos for med school applications, someone needing photos of products for a website.

To be honest, I’ve been weary about shooting weddings.  Mostly because the stakes are so high and I get nervous.  An old friend from Tallahassee recently got engaged and was looking a photographer so I submitted a bid.  One of my gym girlfriends also got engaged over the summer and was interested in whether I would be interested in shooting her wedding- but that is not till 2016.  So I have time.

In an effort to take my photog game to the next level, I purchased a new Canon camera.

I thought about going with a Nikon- as it seems like a lot of the photographers that I know shoot with Nikons.  However, I wanted to be able to use my current lenses.  I’d been keeping my eye open for the Canon I got on eBay and Amazon.  It is the lower end of the professional grade cameras- but I love it so far.  I am definitely looking forward to shooting more when the quarter is over.

The Bishop-Royses go to Royse City

 We had a really fun Thanksgiving Holiday.

The Friday night before we left, I scooped up Nico and got him out of the house so we could run some errands.  This entailed dinner down in Lincoln Park.  We were headed towards the train when we stopped by the DePaul Athletic Center and caught a DePaul volleyball game against Butler.  Nico and I watched for about 30 minutes.  He seemed to be pretty into it.

A new development, which will get it’s own post probably next week, is that Nico has just taken off with the reading and the writing.  It’s pretty amazing.  He has filled up a composition book at school with “work” and he brought it home before Thanksgiving.  And he is just so smart.  It’s fantastic.  He is reading street signs and signs at the store and everything.  It’s awesome.
For Thanksgiving, we drove down to Texas to see Nico’s cousins.  They had an absolute blast.  Nico was so excited to have other kids to play with (NOT AT SCHOOL), that he showed his tail a bit.  He was totally over stimulated and off his schedule, so I guess I can cut him a little slack.  Plus, Nicole and Cody’s house is amazing.  Seriously- they have a zipline: 
I know, right?
We stayed with Nicole and Cody Monday-Saturday and had a good time hanging out.  I got in a little shopping and had so much fun.  The weekend before we headed out, we got Nico a couple of new pair of shoes (blue adidias with flourescent orange stripes and blue pumas).  Whenever Nico was not wearing the shoes and becks found them, he would bring them to a grown up and ask for the shoes to be put on his fit.  What does it say about an 18 month old’s feet when they can fit in his 4 year old cousin’s shoes?  Yeah.  Big honkin feet.  

On the way back to Chicago, we ran through Royse City, Texas. A town founded by Dave’s people.  It’s pretty non-desript.  The depot has a sign that was clearly spelled Royce City, but that someone had to fix, which I found very funny.  
We got back on Sunday- and have been back on the grind since.  While we were gone, someone stole the catalytic converter off of Dave’s 4Runner- which is annoying.  Have you ever driven a vehicle without a catalytic converter?  So annoying. It’s loud.  Not like, man- that is a souped up engine loud.  But rather, who doesn’t have a muffler on their vehicle loud.  Normally its a $2200 repair job, but luckily, we had comprehensive coverage on the 4Runner… so Progressive is handling it- and all we have to pay is our $500 deductible.  It’s always something… but it could have been a lot worse. 
All for now.  

I’m baaaaaaaaaack….

Well hello there!!  It’s good to see you.
As promised, I have returned from the hiatus- with a mixed record as to what I did with my time.  Before Thanksgiving, I had gotten down to within 5 lbs. of pre-nico weight, but I undid a bit of that when we were in Texas over the holiday.  I went to the doctor (to get some meds reupped) and was weighed on his “official” (read: bullshit) scale.  He confirmed that since August 7th, I had lost 18 lbs.  This works out to be about a pound per week.  The upside to this that my left knee is feeling great- which is a departure from what it usually feels like.

Moreover, I am getting so strong.  Case in point: we do a lot of pull-ups in CrossFit.  I have never been able to do a pull-up and have always had to use the black band (think of a very large rubber band that you loop over the bar and put your feet in.  Then you step off the box and your weight is somewhat supported by the band).  In order of support, the colors are: purple, black, green, blue.  Since I started CF, I have been on the black band, and have tried a couple of times to go down to the green, but could not get the pull-up.  But the black band has felt really easy the last couple of weeks… like not even a workout.  This week, just for grins, I gave it a go and was able to get a couple of pull-ups.  It was fantastic.  I’m not sure I could do a whole workout with just the green band (yet), but it’s nice to have that as a measure.

Last night I went to an Olympic lifting class for the first time.  I am starting to really like a couple of the movements (power cleans and power snatches), but my technique is a hot mess.  So I went to the class to do a little work and just get in a lot of reps.  It’s totally like goalkeeping… where sometimes the only way to improve is to do 100 punches over the crossbar.  It is what it is.

So that is great.  The trade off is that I am sore all the time these days.  And I have a lot more muscle… so clothes just do not fit.  Not only the ones that I already have but most the ones I’m looking at when I go shopping.  But I guess that is a good problem to have, right?

In other news, I am looking (on my desk) at a complete second draft of a paper that I have been working on.  Today I will be sending it to my old boss at the FSU COM, for his comments and remarks before we submit it for publication later this month.  Which is fantastic.  I don’t know if I mentioned it or not, but I got another publication last month (November).  Back in the spring, I helped one of the FSU COM students with a paper he wanted to submit for a patient safety award.  Well, as I left, he was working on getting it published.  Back in October our old boss (the third author) sent me a note that it had been published.  So, make that two publications since I have been in Chicago.  Isn’t that cool?

I have about a third of the lectures for my Winter Quarter class edited.  I still need to record and post them, but I like the progress so far.  I am experimenting with “flipping the classroom”, where I record my lectures and my students view them on their own time.  Then they come to class and we work on problems together.  For statistics??  I think it could be really good.

More later.

Haters Should Hate

I think it would be hard to like me.

I don’t know if I have haters, but assure me, I probably deserve it.

I have a fantastic life: an adorably funny and smart son; a superhot husband who does laundry and cooks (almost as well as I do). I have a job that I LOVE. I live in a cool ass city and I am getting some time to do things I have wanted to do for a long time (photography and fitness… A LOT OF BOTH). Nobody’s life should be allowed to be that awesome, right??

Speaking of awesome, take a look at this kid:

So that is how the cookie crumbles.

I had my interim probationary review at work this week and my boss had some really nice things to say. One component of my job is to provide research consultation to faculty members. This might be anything from helping someone run some stats, to finding data sources for someone else. Earlier this week a faculty member that I helped a couple of months ago approached my boss and raved about me. Unsolicited. Yeah… that is pretty cool.

I really like the people I work with. While I appreciate that I have fairly low standards for work-place interactions, I believe that my current situation would be enviable to anyone. My boss is cool in that he tries to empower all of us to be in control of ourselves and our work. In fact, he hates us having to be dependent on him for stuff. Which works out great for me, because I hate being dependent on people for stuff.

My co-workers mostly leave me alone. We all have the things that we do and no one tries backstab or undercut each other. We all have the things that we bring to the table, so we don’t compete with each other. And here is a weird thing, that “bitchy-we’re-all-friends-but-we-aren’t” thing that happens in a lot of places? Not up in the SSRC. LOVE LOVE LOVE it.

Opportunity Knocks

So, in other exciting news, I have been offered a course for the winter quarter at DePaul.  I know, right?  Just when I think I am out, they pull me back in!!

Turns out that the senior research methodologist in the SSRC has taught classes in statistics and methods, prior to my arrival, so the teaching coordinator asked if I would be interested.  While I have never taught a statistics class, I have taught methods.  And I have had some pretty damn good training  in the art of teaching.  And also, I have won two teaching awards.  So it’s not really like this:


Of course, I am not sure how much of this the coordinator knew when she asked me to teach an undergraduate statistics course.  It’s probably a bit uncommon, for someone who is a good teacher to not move automatically and fully into the teaching track.  If I wasn’t in Chicago at DePaul, I would probably be at a teaching college, with my four courses a semester and no research activity.
The conversation I had with the coordinator was a great conversation and she said that she would send me the course list so that I might consider teaching some of the “fun” classes in demography and health.  Yeah.  How much fun will that be?
This development is actually quite fortuidous…Dave and I watched a thing on Sunday Morning a couple of weeks ago about the Khan Academy that has made me rethink how I would revamp my teaching style, if it ever came to that.
That said, I believe that I will make every effort to incorporate memes in this class, as well as pop culture references to Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and Keeping up with the Kardashians.
I think so.

The Illinois Railway Museum

I meant to post this earlier in the week, but forgot.  Last week was pretty awesome.  We wanted to have a bit of a low-key weekend, because we still had work to do on the house.  So much stuff to do, cleaning, organizing, cleaning.  You get it.  Friday night we stayed in and hung out.  Saturday morning, I got us Panera for breakfast and Nico said the funniest thing.  He had been eating a parfait and came over to where I was sitting in the living room, with yogurt all over his face.  He made the funniest motion with his hands and said, “Here comes a snuggle from yogurt face!”  Which was hilarious.  Later, Saturday Nico had his swimming lessons.  Still weird about jumping in and putting his face in the water, but I am hoping that wears off soon.

After, Nico and I headed out to Sonic in Franklin Park.  Turns out while I love most of everything about living in Chicago, the proximity to Sonic is thus far, unsatisfactory.  After snagging some lunch we tried to take a nap at the house.  But the 20 min nap in the car was basically a cat nap that served to power Nico up for the rest of the day.  We facetimed with his BFF from Tallahassee, which basically resulted in Graham and Nico making funny faces at each other and showing each other their favorite toys.  Which was great.

There was a festival in Lincolnwood (just up the road from us), complete with a carosel, ferris wheel and rides.  So, that is where we spent Saturday evening.  The festival had gyros and beer and street food, so you know Dave and I had a good time.  The weather was delicious and Nico had a blast.  He even recognized a friend from his new school.  It’s funny, because we bought the unlimited ride bracelet at the fair last year and ended up getting burned because Nico only went on like 5 rides.  This time we didnt do the bracelet, but there were like 5 rides that Nico could have ridden all night.  I guess we are there now.

Sunday, Dave and I had a soccer game.  We ended up being short 5 players, which is awesome when it’s only 8 a side (you do the math).  I got shelled, but made some good saves.  I also got megged.  And that is never good for business.  Dave had found out about the Illinois Railway Museum which is in Union, IL (about an hour drive from the city).  This weekend, they had an antique car day at the museum.  So we headed out, hoping to find antique firetrucks and police cars, after our soccer game.

We got there a bit late (after the car show ended), but had a good time walking around checking out the old trains.  Nico wasn’t as interested in it as we would have hoped.  The really cool thing is that they have a track that they run the old trains on, out a couple of miles into the Illinois countryside and back.   We rode on the Zephyr, which apparently used to provide service between Chicago and Nebraska.  

We can’t wait for the cousins to come to town, because we think they would like it!!

Ice Cream

So, one of the best things about the new place is it’s proximity to a Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robins.  When I got home from work yesterday, Nico and I sent Dave to do some work at a coffee shop and we did some stuff around the house.  I tried to put the bed together- but failed because we are, apparently, missing a piece (don’t ask me how).  Then we had some dinner and walked to get ice cream.  Isn’t that awesome!!

I have biked to work two days this week.  It’s a nice ride… about 12.5-13 miles round trip.  Overwhelming though, because I see all these places where I want to go… this bar…this restaurant… this book store.  Its hard to keep my bike going.  It’s weird because I used to be so gunshy about riding my bike.  I would go out of my way to stay on bike paths.  And often I would end up lost.  I’ve finally just said, “to hell with it!” and just got out there with the cars.  I fully expect to get tagged some day… but since I am riding on crowded city streets,  I am banking on the offending driver only going about 20-30 mph when they hit me.  And since I am wearing a helmet, I think I will be okay.  I mean, obviously, it would hurt, which is why I am careful- defensive. When I have questions about other drivers being aware of me- I just hop off my bike and wait for them to go by.  No big deal.  
It’s cool. 
I also finished my work for the College of Medicine this weekend.  I had been working half time for the grant since I left in April… helping with presentations and posters and such.  Yesterday was the big annual meeting and I helped pull together the figures for it.  It was a bit unceremonious of an end for me.  The person who took over my position seemed grateful for my help, but my old boss seemed a bit ambivalent about my contribution.  Oh well.  Consider that a life lesson learned.  
All for now. 

In Chicago

We’ve made it safely to Chicago.  We are still unpacking- hence the no updating.  Nico is loving the crap out of the city.  He likes riding the train (no surprise).  I have been working while Dave and Nico are at home.  This has resulted in this thing where they go do fun stuff without me.  Nico and I have a new thing where I tell them not to have fun without me.  Then at the end of the day, Nico reports on all the fun things they did.

Nico seems to like our new house.  I am so relieved to be past that shitty part… past living apart from my boys, past packing up, past unloading the truck.  Now we are slowly putting together our house.  I have a girl cave.  This is a place for all my craft stuff.  I want to make it a craft space+photography studio+home office space.  Dave says the weird little room in the basement isn’t big enough.  I say challenge accepted!!

Our kitchen is tiny.  And apparently, I can’t say no to kitchen devices.  Seriously, I just can’t do it.  The result is that our painfully small kitchen is spilling out into the dining room.  So I took this island and made it a bar cart.  As soon as we get those plates off of there.   

Thursday I came home from work and scooped up Dave and Nico and went to a German place called Leshatt’s Inn.  Was one of the best meals we’ve had in a long time.  Of course, it’s not hard when you have a crazy beer selection.  Afterwards, we stopped for ice cream… which was completely off the chain.  Nico loved it of course.

I found out that four of my five favorite musical acts are touring this summer (Springsteen is touring, but it looks like mostly Europe for now:(  Counting Crows+Wallflowers and Goo Goo Dolls+Matchbox 20 will both be in Chicago this year.  I keep trying to convince my sister and mom to please come to Chicago so they can go with me.  To no avail. 
I think I might suffer from some type of mild manic depression, only with out the depression. Because I get on these whiriling, high energy “must do all the things now!” kicks.  The latest one has produced a new blog… that is separate from the Royse show.  It’s more about crafty mccrafterson stuff.  
Basically I just want to blog organization+food+crafty+diy+photography+awesome+memes+chicago stuff for moms who ain’t got time for that!!  Still trying to figure out a posting schedule.  But I am working on it.  Especially now that I have a girl cave.