Taking Stock: February 2019

Making: I am in the mood to make a mess of bath bombs.  A mess of them.
Cooking: Thinking about Ina Garten’s engagement roast chicken.  Only because I think winter calls for Roasted chicken.
Drinking: I discovered a new type of green tea that also has chai and vanilla in it.  It is not bad.  Actually quite enjoyable.
Reading: So many books.  So far, I have a physical copy of a productivity book going.  Along with that, I have also started to listen to The Prince of Tides, which I don’t love.  Mostly because I am not a fan of the guy who is reading it.  Also, after like 4 months, I finally got a copy of The Chemist audiobook.  I was intrigued by the premise, even if I am slightly underwhelmed by the author. Also listening to The Finkler Question, but I hate it.  It seems like I have been listening to it forever… but here I am, still with 2938473984 hours left to listen.  It is a Booker Man Winner and is just not my speed.  My mother would roll her eyes at me continuing to read a book I hate because it is a Booker prize book.  But I am who I am.
Next read: I don’t know.  So many.  When I finished China Rich Girlfriend last week, GoodReads told me that I was ahead of schedule on my goal to read 52 books this year.  In an effort to read more physical books, I have a stack just waiting for me.  But then my holds for audiobooks come through.  The next book I am going to start though, I think is “Deskbound”.  It is about how bad sitting is.  And strategies to stand up more.
Wanting: To try all the travel friendly backpacks out there. So I clicked on a couple of ads in Instagram featuring the perfect do it all bags. And I keep getting more in my feed. It’s not bad. I just wish that I could buy every one and have them all match up against each other in a fight to the death.
Deciding: I decided to read the works on the Lemonade Syllabus.  Basically it is a syllabus of essential work to understand and ponder the themes of Beyonce’s Lemonade album. So, a lot of works by black feminists.  It is a lot of works (200).  But no one says I have to do it all TODAY.  This is mostly because I have inner monologue/conversations with myself about inter-sectional feminism that just aren’t very productive at this stage.
Enjoying: Despite completing a cider challenge last year (wherein I focused on drinking ciders), I am still choosing interesting ciders when I get the chance.  This past Friday, the craft brew place across the street had Made Marion by 2Towns Cider House  and I gave it a go.  Easily my new favorite cider.


Waiting: For Game of Thrones.  I think its going to be bad, I’m going to experience a lot of hurt over who is going to die.  But I am ready.
Wearing: A chunky cardigan that used to be my mom’s, mostly to bed. It doesn’t smell like her. But it reminds me of her.
Following: Handwriting and calligraphy accounts on Instagram.  So mesmerizing.
Noticing: The continued development of my traps and shoulders.  I attribute it to benching and shoulder pressing regularly.  Yeah, that is like cool, but could my triceps, biceps, and abs stop being so absolutely worthless?
Sorting: My books.  I am completely out of control.  I can’t stop buying them.  And I can’t stop requesting holds from the library.  Just how much time do you think you have m’am?
Coveting: An actual vacation.  On a beach.  With the sea and the sun.  This is how you can tell that we are currently in the season of the Long Winter.
Disliking: A book I am reading right now. It is about productivity.  The author contends that people tend to over estimate how much they actually work and that if you are willing to be flexible with how you arrange it, it is possible to get a lot of work done and spend a lot of time with your family.  She lost me when she mentioned having to make a decision between buckling down for work or drifting around the house aimlessly cleaning and such before the nanny came.  Now everytime I pick up the book, I have to say as I open it, “This bitch…”
Feeling: Not tired. Sometimes it is the case that I have a hard time sleeping on Sunday nights.  Generally, this is not the case throughout the week. But it seems like a combination of adderall+preworkout for my games on Sunday sometimes produces this result.  Like tonight, I was in bed at 915, because I wanted to get up at 445.  I wokeup at 1230 and couldn’t go back to sleep.  So I just got up and am awake now.  I guess I’ll just go to the gym?
Snacking:on Sumo oranges, because it is sumo season, mother fuckers.

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Hard Words

My mom died.

It’s weird to type that.  Even though I knew at some point that it would happen, I really didn’t think that I would ever type that specific sentence.  My mom died.

I think I am handling it well.  Or maybe I’m not. I haven’t started doing drugs.  I haven’t started drinking more than I used to.  I have been able to get out of bed to go to work. I haven’t started to engage in risky behaviors and I don’t think I am “flying off the handle” any more or any less than I did when she was alive.

I have played soccer games and gone to the gym.  I have moved offices at work and donated books to the little free library in my neighborhood.  I have watched my kid play soccer.  I have taken naps.

I’m just a little sad.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, I am not a kid. Technically, I am not an orphan, so this shouldn’t be traumatic for me.  I mean, most of us are going to lose our parents.  Most of us will bury our parents, with our children and partners by our side (or not).  When parents die, mostly, we are grownups, capable of handling such an earth shattering event, dealing with it, and continue to put one foot in front of the other.

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“Ship in turbulent sea” by Franz Müller-Gossen

There is a lot about her death that I just flat out object to; things that I don’t feel were right or that I felt powerless to stop or effect.  I am only two weeks into this situation and I can promise you that I have an opinion about some stuff.  Feel free to hit me up for advice when the time comes.

But there are also some things that were good about it, if there really is such a thing as a “good” death.

She was a hard person to love. While she loved us kids fiercely and ferociously, she was from a different era, when spoiling your children was to ruin them, for certain.  She was harsh in the sense that she saw the floundering and failings of children as reflective of their parents.  In her book, there was very little that a person could do in life to make up for raising a terrible kid.  I think she honestly thought that she would be judged by how we turned out.  She wanted us to be capable of hard work, of discipline, and sacrifice.  The result was that while each of us kids has our different emotional baggage, we definitely did walk around like we were better than everyone else.

Spoiler Alert: We were.  We were smarter, better students, better athletes, harder working, and generally more agreeable to be around than all of our peers.  That is a fact.  Sorry haters.

However, there wasn’t a lot about our childhoods that was easy- there weren’t a lot of hugs and hearts and flowers in our house.  Some days it was easy to think that she didn’t love us. I remember days being dropped off at school in the morning and being so upset and angry and anxious that I was glad I was late so that I could calm the fuck down before walking into class.  And while we did walk around with an air of superiority (despite all available evidence to the contrary), she inflicted onto each us our anxieties.

But here is where the sword cuts both ways; while she is directly responsible for most of the emotional baggage that her kids carried with them as young adults (and maybe some of it that we carry to this day), she also gave us the things that we needed to leave.  Each of us was absolutely unafraid to go out into the world, to leave the nest, and have 100% confidence that before we hit the ground, we’d figure out how to fly. We knew how to work, to plan, to sacrifice, and to be disciplined.  We were fearless, each of us in our quest to make something of ourselves and to go out in the world away from SW Florida and do something. And while each of us are figuring out what this is, we haven’t let fear of leaving and the unknown stop any of us.

My mother was 20 when her mother died.  She’d already lost her father when she was a kid, so when my grandmother died, mom and her brothers were orphaned.  In addition to her older brother, there were also two younger brothers, one of whom was still  in high school.  But when her mother died, some of my mom’s dreams died, I think.  She’d set aside some of her goals and plans to work and keep her family together. Two years later, she’d be married and two years after that, she’d give birth (to me).  She seemed hell-bent on ensuring that we were comfortable outside of our comfort zone, so we wouldn’t be afraid to leave.

My grandmother’s death, was not a surprise, as she was ill for 6 months and spent the last month in hospital.  And while she would never have said it outright, I think Mom resented those last six months, having to keep the house together and being forced to be responsible for everyone else.  On many occasions, she made it clear that she didn’t want a long drawn out death.  She didn’t want to “ruin” multiple years of holidays with her impending death.  And in many ways, she died like she lived: quietly and without a lot of fuss.  In fact, if you told me that she invented the Irish Goodbye, I wouldn’t doubt it.  Not for one second.

Her death, while horrible and absolutely not in line with what I would have chosen for her, wasn’t really that bad.  It was quick- she was in hospice for less than a week.  Her brothers, my sister, brother and I all got to spend time with her in her final days- Nicole and I were there for the first few days, then Nicole and JJ traded.  We filled the room with talk about the old days and outrageous tales of when she and her brothers were younger.  Her room was quiet and dark and us kids kept the music going; Springsteen, Goo Good Dolls, Garth Brooks, and Counting Crows.

And it wasn’t a surprise when it happened. She just slipped away.

Even if the nurses hadn’t said so, I had a sense that it was close.  She had gone from being in a sort of agitated anxious state the first night, talking and responding to us to less agitation, less angst, smaller responses. Less.  She was still.

The last night, her brothers headed back to their hotel (after our dinner of pizza and Coke in the room).  Mom, while she wasn’t engaging, I think sensed we were there.  My dad headed back to the house.  JJ and I were settling in for the night (they let us stay with her in hospice).  A couple of our favorite nurses were like, “it won’t be long.”  I think Mom settled when the room quieted down and decided it was time.

I have seen things about death and how much of an honor it is for someone to let you be in their presence when they die.  Some argue that a soul will hang on as long as necessary for the right time to depart.

Now, I don’t know about that.

But, when she passed, it was the way she would have chosen, slipping away quietly, without a lot of fuss.  Just JJ and I were there, listening to Springsteen’s Broadway Album.

Obviously, I’m still processing this.  But I am so incredibly thankful that I was able to be there with her in the end.  The one thing that I wanted when she got sick back in November was that she wouldn’t die alone.  And she didn’t.  In my book, that was good.

 

Resolutions are NAH, Bucket Lists are YAH!

So I guess New Year’s resolutions are out now.  Which is great, because I always kind of found them annoying.  Although, my friend Julia had a great way of dealing with them, which was to resolve to learn to spell one word that she always had a problem with (like inconvenience).  She told me that like 10 years ago and it has always stuck with me.  Like to this day, whenever I fall down on the job spelling inconvenience (which to be honest is a lot- like I have fucked it up two times in the last two sentences), I think about her and her resolution to be a better speller.

But also, resolutions were kind of a pain, because I always felt like they were attempts to change some aspect of yourself.  Like, “I resolve to be a kinder person.” And for some people, who already struggle with themselves as people the last thing we need is some bullshit annual reminder of all of our shortcomings.

So, this year, I said, “FUCK THAT” and decided to have a 2019 Bucket List instead.

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This is a list of stuff to do this year.  I like it better than a list of resolutions because a list of resolutions implies some type of improvement that will happen when the resolution is “done”.  And I am all in on check boxes, to be honest.

Also, I don’t like the vagueness of a resolution.  Like, “be kinder”.  Well, I paid for a person’s groceries at the store the other day (calm down, it was $6.45).  Did I do it?  Did I accomplish my resolution of “be kinder”?  On January 1, 2019?  Did the honk and angry curse I gave someone who wouldn’t let me merge on Fullerton near Lakeshore Drive yesterday do anything to damage said hypothetical “be kinder” resolution yesterday?  How do resolutions work?

So that is annoying.  And also, there are just somethings that have to get done this year.  Like, we need a new couch/sofa.  Nico is officially too big to lay on our crappy loveseat together.  But it feels dumb to resolve to get a new sofa/couch.  So… bucket list it is!!

Some of the things I put on my list this year:

  1. Write David Sedaris.  A letter.
  2. Walk to work one day.
  3. Certify DPU for student loan forgiveness program.
  4. Learn to poach an egg.
  5. Make beef wellingtons.
  6. Visit the Art Institute of Chicago.
  7. Read 1,000 articles on Pocket.
  8. Eat 27 different types of produce every week.
  9. Get a Dexa scan.
  10. Finish Nico’s baby book.
  11. Make Nico a craft nook for his room.
  12. Take a ceramics class.
  13. Lift weights 180 times.
  14. Journal.  ALL YEAR LONG.
  15. Improve my cholesterol numbers.

As of now, there are 102 items on my bucket list.  But instead of thinking about the world like, “Well, it’s July, I haven’t done all of these things yet, guess I am garbage and should try again next year,” I am approaching it as, “How many of these things can I get done?”

So, we’ll see.  I mean, its not all bad.  Like, Item 99: get 20 massages.  That is not a bad idea.  In fact… I think my Friday afternoon is looking good for this.

 

Books I Read in 2018

This year, I did the GoodReads Reading Challenge, setting out to read 25 books. In total, I finished 50 books. Some were really exceptional. Some, I was annoyed at having wasted time on them. The ones below that have a star next to them are some of my favorites.

Endurance*
The 2017 O. Henry Prize for Short Fiction
Lincoln in the Bardo
You Will Not Have My Hate
The Remains of the Day
Annihilation (Part of Southern Reach Trilogy)
Authority (Part of Southern Reach Trilogy)
Acceptance (Part of the Southern Reach Trilogy)
Born to Run*
Ready Player One
The Sun and Her Flowers
Decluttering Your Life at the Speed of of Life
Red Sparrow
438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea
Fahrenheit 451
Deep Work*
The Productivity Project
The Game from Where I Stand
A Brief History of Seven Killings
Quidditch Through the Ages
Dietland
Walking the Americas
Caroline: Little House, Revisited
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the the Culinary Underbelly*
Crazy Rich Asians
Everything is Awful: And Other Observations
Anne of Green Gables
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
Teammate: My Journey In Baseball and a World Series for the Ages
Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002
Gone Till November: A Journal of Riker’s Island
Calypso*
The White Tiger
Where Did You Go Bernadette?
The Last Black Unicorn
We Were Eight Years in Power*
Guts and Glory: World War II
Strangers in their Own Land*
Holidays on Ice
Fear: Inside the Trump White House
Little Fires Everywhere
The After Party
The Wife
AntiCancer: A New Way of Life
The Hate U Give
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do
Escape from Camp 14*
The American Plate: A Culinary History in 100 Bites
In Extremis: The Life and Death of Marie Colvin*
The Happiness Project

Interestingly, about 10% of the authors I read were Asian and 14% were black; which left about 76% white. I tended to read overwhelmingly the works by male authors (87%). About 24% of the books I read this year were by authors who were not US based (mainly coming from the UK and Canada). I read more non-fiction this year than fiction (54% versus 46%).

I would like to try to do a better job this year of reading more diverse authors. It is just that when my holds at the library come up, they come up. So, a book I might have been planning to read gets pushed back because of what is being pushed to my Libby app (the app for content with the Chicago Public Library).

Some books that I am planning to experience this year:
We Should All Be Feminists (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)- I love her voice and really want to listen to this.
Wolf Hall (Hillary Mantel)- This is part of that great idea I had to read all the Man Booker books. Its been VERY slow so far.
Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History (Keith O’Brien)- About women pilots? Yes, sign me up.
The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing’s Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living (Scott and Helen Nearing) My brother recommended.

2018 Was Interesting

I admit that I am basic.  This is part of my personality.  But there are limits to my basicness.  For example, like, with all the other people I know posting longer posts to Facebook and Instagram with their take on 2018.  They are always personal, but quite vague.  Like, there were ups.  AND DOWNS.  For a lot of these people, I know what the ups and downs are.  A new baby, a new marriage, a new job.  Or maybe breakups, divorces, job changes.

But some others, I don’t know.  I want to ask, but I don’t want to be nosy.  The person shared what they were comfortable with. If they wanted to say more they would have.  I have a friend who did not spend it with his “girlfriend”. He thanked friends for inviting him to spend NYE with them because it would be “uncomfortable”  otherwise.  Are they breaking up?  *Checks  social media feeds for both and cannot confirm nor deny this is the case.*  Of course, before I blaze  ahead with a “What’s going on?” DM, I remember, IT’S NONE OF MY FUCKING BUSINESS.

But, I just couldn’t bring myself to add to all of the Reflections on 2018 that are flooding social media right now.  Maybe it’s because to me, 2018 was hard. I didn’t lose my job, my family, or my home, but it was still hard as fuck.  When my mom was diagnosed with cancer in Fall 2018, it was the event that came to dominate the year for me, no doubt.  But honestly, it feel like it was par for the course in 2018.

Here is the thing: I am not going to add another generic, “Looking for grace and loving myself in 2019” post because as basic as I am, I am not THAT basic.  But, also, I am not going to post to Facebook or Instagram about how hard it was, because I know that there are people in my life who went through a lot worse.  Up until my mom’s diagnosis the hardest thing about 2018 was how stressful it was and how I acutely I felt the stress.  I concede that the stress is all my own making; essentially, I work three jobs and don’t have enough hours in the day to do the stuff that I know I need to in order to manage this stress.  And it’s not like the stress of losing a loved one or becoming homeless.  But its a stress that ground me down all year; 50 weeks of working 50+ hours a week took their toll.

But again, my hard is not your hard.  So, instead of doing that, I am going to wrap up 2018 by posting some numbers.

In 2018, I “read” 50 books (in Good Reads’ Reading Challenge).  I say “read” because while I read a decent portion of physical and ebooks, I also listened to many.  I had set the goal of 25 books, but during the summer, I surpassed this goal and kept it going.  My goal is to read 52 books this year, but am not confident that I am going to reach it because I have to finish some of the long Man Booker books I have started (looking at you “Wolf Hall” and “Luminaries”).

In 2018, I lifted about 60 times.  This is pathetic.  But, to be fair, I really needed to re-evaluate my attitude towards gym.  Basically I used to start the quarter strong working  out, and then 5 weeks in abandon ship because the quarter really starts to pick up.  And its not that I stop working out, I just slow it way down.  I go from 4-5 days a week to maybe 1.  But, my attitude has changed.  I need to workout to manage stress, because medicating with booze, sleep, and carbs is frowned upon in this establishment!!

In 2018, I think I played in about 150 soccer games.  Between my two coed teams, my women’s teams, and the various teams I picked up for, I am overall, pretty pleased with this.  In 2019, I’d like to start playing in the field.  That would fix your wagon.

In 2018, I competed in six judo tournaments.  I am pleased with this number.  I’d like to compete in at least 6 tournaments in 2019.

Here is to hoping 2019 includes more of what I love and less of what I dislike.

 

 

Christmas 2018

My brother flew into ORD and rode with us down to Florida, which was fun. JJ moved to the pacific northwest to learn how to build boats a couple of years ago, so I don’t get to hang out with him a lot anymore.

We got into Ft. Myers in the afternoon of the 23rd and first up was taking the Bishop kids photo. This is a semi annual tradition in our family. Any time all three of us are together, we try to get a picture so it can be framed for my mom.

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My sister turned me on to a couple of presets (for use with Lightroom- which has an app for iOS), which are absolutely lovely.

Nico adores my sister’s kids. But I mean, what’s not to love? Cousins close in age and who love sports! Yeah- Nico is all in for that. They mostly just roughhouse and play sports.  Sometimes there is physical damage.  Like when he had a head to head collision with Emme’s teeth:

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And another time, when he stepped on something out in the back yard and cut his foot. I tell you what- you get that city kid out of the city and the next thing you know, he’s running around barefoot like a country kid.  

Christmas Eve consisted of some last minute shopping and Christmas movies. We also put up a tree with all of mom’s special ornaments, including all the antique ones that survived the Tree Disaster of 1986, where in JJ tried to climb the Christmas tree (spoiler: he failed and broke a bunch of ornaments that mom had from THE VICTORIAN ERA).

Christmas Eve night, I made egg fondue, one of our family Christmas traditions with my nieces. It’s not really fondue-more like an egg, sausage, and cheese casserole. Also, I grew up thinking it was some type of Bishop family tradition brought from the old country (even though the cheese that is included is Velveeta. I was kind of a dumb kid.)

Christmas morning was fantastic-per usual. The kids pretty much played all day. Including a game where they did diving catches (onto couch cushions).

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Mom was tired- so she napped a lot and let us wait on her. And I started to come down with some type of head cold, so I napped a bit. That’s always exciting. The good news, is that it appears to be settling into my chest- so I have that going for me.

The day after, we all headed off to our respective engagements; my sister’s family to a wedding in Texas, me to run the boys over to Miami, mom to her last radiation appointment. JJ and I hung around after for a couple of days to hang out with mom.

JJ and I snuck out to Matlacha for a late lunch one day and got some ice cream the next.  It was nice to be able to just drive and soak up some sun. 

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Then we swung through Miami to scoop up the boys and got under way to get home.  This took us through Louisville, where Dave showed us some of his old haunts.  

2nd Street Bridge over the Ohio River

We’re home now though.  It was good to get out of Chicago and drive out in the sunshine.  I drove back and forth across south Florida on Alligator Alley, which was nice.  

This was a weird Christmas. I’m still processing it. I think there was definitely a sense that this might be mom’s last Christmas. But it’s weird to think about, since her diagnosis is only about a month and a half old. I mean, she hasn’t even started chemo yet.  So that seems hasty.  Maybe also, because it was so short, which is different. Usually our visits are longer- we definitely get the chance to be on each other’s nerves- so we’re ready to go.  It wasn’t like that this time.  

Or maybe I’m just worn out. I feel like 2018 kicked the shit out of me. It would be great if 2019 took it down a notch.

Christmas Blah

I am having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year.  I don’t know what this funk is, but its there.  I can’t explain it.  It isn’t exactly tiredness or not liking Christmas- I mean, it is culmination of my favorite time of year Thanksgiving-Christmas.  

Maybe its because it just feels like a tough one.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am going to love being off of work.  And just for good measure, I am even taking Thursday off (work is closed starting Friday).  And I even have a couple of craft projects planned (bath bombs!) And I bought this cool cookie thing, where you use successively larger stars to cut out cookies and then you decorate and stack them on top of each other.  Like, honestly, if I don’t see a similar bake on GBBO next season, I will be having a word with Paul and Prue.  Its genius.  

Like, even I could be star baker with such a setup.  

So it is definitely not a matter of being ready for a break.  I am ready.  

But also, I think I am not ready for THIS Christmas.   

Its just that 2018 was just so shitty, I am also ready for it to be 2019.