Well Read

Sometime in December a blurb about the Popsugar Reading Challenge came across my internet, and I thought that might be a fun thing to do. I started looking at the prompts for 2019…and then realized that I have dozens and dozens of books in my very own home that I picked up because I wanted to read them and have never gotten around to.

So I decided instead of doing the Popsugar challenge, I would create my own 2019 reading list. I decided on 50 books, because it’s a nice round number and even though it’s mostly a book a week, there’s a little wiggle room there so I don’t feel quite so pressured to absolutely beyond a doubt finish a book per week. Since I almost always have at least three books going at once (one in the car that I read at lunch, one on my nightstand to read before bed, and one on the couch to read whenever), trying to finish one per week doesn’t really fit with my reading style, but I can see myself trying to conform to that deadline and being miserable about it.

It was really, really hard to pick just 50, and I’m still second guessing myself on a couple. I probably have enough left to do another 50 in 2020, and that’s not counting the books I will inevitably pick up during the year (I’m only buying one book for this list, and it’s a book I’d already decided to buy before I knew I was going to be doing this). You can see what I ended up with at the bottom of this post.

I’m tracking everything with a modified version of this spreadsheet from BookRiot, which allows me to pretty easily drill down and get some fun data. For instance, even though I did not plan it this way at all and just grabbed the books I most wanted to read, the list is split right down the middle into fiction and non-fiction. I’m planning to read 16612 pages this year. The shortest book I’m planning to read is 128 pages (Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 2), and the longest is 901 pages (The Crimson Petal and the White). Eventually I’ll be able to see what my pages per day average is and cool stuff like that (okay, maybe it’s only “cool” if you’re a data geek like me, but I’m loving it).

And here are my guidelines, such as they are. I very much do not want this to be a source of stress for me, so there aren’t many:

  • Read books in any order.
  • Books that I don’t want to finish for whatever reason must be replaced if I’m less than halfway done, and may be replaced if I’m more than halfway done.
  • Finally, this is not a race. There is no punishment for not finishing all of the books. They will still be there for me to read if I don’t get to all of them this year.

Happy reading, everyone!

 

Lola’s 2019 Reading List

 

goodreads.com

 

Countdown to Pretty

[You guys! Remember how I could never use the WP app on my phone because it was constantly breaking my site??? Now, through the magic of Jetpack, I can upload media directly from my phone AND write posts!!! This is so exciting!!]

Assortment of silk bags
Little silken bags of joy!

Back in November, one of my favorite crafters (I legit do not remember if it was Space Cadet or Kim Werker, but they’re both awesome so go check them out) included some information in a newsletter about a yarny advent calendar. I got all excited about doing it, but then realized that I have a ridiculous amount of yarn already. So, instead of buying a new one, I bought some little silk bags from Amazon and bagged up a bunch of little balls of yarn. I picked out a simple-but-not-boring shawl pattern (Fuss Free Festival Shawl) and eagerly awaited Dec. 1.

Ball of ombre blue yarn
First color! Note that the color does not match the bag. I did that on purpose to make sure I’m surprised every time. No cheating on this project!

The idea was that I would pull a bag each day and knit up the yarn, just like a traditional advent calendar. Easy, right? Except…I’m really slow. Really good, but really slow. Plus, I have about 5 gajillion other projects crying out for my attention. Also plus, I don’t have a huge amount of time to commit to knitting every night these days. It pretty quickly became apparent that the advent thing was just not going to be feasible (not to worry — I also had a unicorn advent calendar that met my daily opening needs just fine). So I’ve decided that this is going to instead be a random draw shawl. I’ll finish one ball, then draw the next and continue. But no time pressure. I’ll get to it when I get to it. And it will be beautiful when it’s done.

Lemon Poppy Seed Loaves: A Tragical Tale of Hunger and Woe

A while back, my beloved husband starting using a new scent of deodorant that smells just like lemon muffins. I am a huge fan of this, except that it makes me hungry for lemon muffins, which I have not had the opportunity to obtain of late. So today I had some spare time, and also had (in anticipation of just such an occasion) ordered some poppy seeds and lemon powder from Penzey’s (<3 them!). Aha!, I thought, Finally, it is time to satisfy my craving!

I pulled out a bowl and whisked together two cups of sugar, a cup and a half of milk, some lemon juice, three eggs, a cup of vegetable oil, and a splash of vanilla. Then I added in three cups of flour, and grabbed the salt out of the cabinet. Except it was stuck. See, our spice cabinet is a tad full these days (thanks to the aforementioned Penzey’s) (still <3 them!) so the salt somehow got relegated to the top shelf, where it not only needed to be tilted a particular way to get it out, but also it was kind of wedged in between some other things. So I yanked on it, and it finally popped out…and slipped out of my hand.

Now, I know you’re probably thinking it landed in that big bowl of almost-dough and things got a little messy…but you’re wrong. No, it did not land in the bowl. It smacked the edge of the bowl at just exactly the right angle to flip the bowl, depositing the not-yet mixed dough all over the counter, floor, and me.

🙁

And That’s How I Became a Zebracorn

For the past 3 years, I have been training to play roller derby. It hasn’t been easy — for a lot of reasons — but the one thing that has been easier than I imagined it ever could be was being a part of the Jerzey Derby Brigade family. On the track and off, I have never experienced anything but 100% support and encouragement from everyone in the league. And that’s the biggest part of why this is so difficult:

Last night, I made the decision to stop training as a player and switch entirely to reffing. I knew this would happen eventually, and have even been doing some training and reffing another ruleset, but I didn’t expect it to happen so soon. Early on in my training, I torqued my knee the wrong way and experienced some mild trauma. I went to the doctor, took the time off, did the physical therapy. It got better, but it never got back to 100% and a lot of the things we do in practice really exacerbate it.

Even before the original trauma, I was never going to be a great player. I’d’ve been lucky to be a good player. I’ve never been athletic…I have trouble getting my body to move where and how I want it to (you should see me dance sometime — it’s very Elaine Benes).

Image result for elaine from seinfeld dancing gif

But I did want to get good enough that I could at least support my team on the track. At the East Coast Derby Expo this year, I had the opportunity to take a clinic with one of the best jammers in the world, Miracle Whips, and I jumped at it. I knew going in I would likely be the low man on the totem pole in terms of skills, and I was absolutely right. But Whips is an amazing coach, and took the time to scale her instructions down to my level, so I was able to participate in all of the drills and exercises.

A lot of jammer skills involve quick changes of directions and moving your body at weird angles. While running on your toestops. And getting hit. For instance, like this, only with people trying to hit you:

We did things like that for four hours. I was supposed to skate as a ref at a scrimmage the next day, but my knee felt the worst it has felt since the original injury so I sat it out. Then we didn’t have practice for a couple of weeks, so I let it rest, until I went up to practice with the team I’ve already been reffing for (hi, Firestorm!), and we did a 15 minute work line. That is a looooong time to maintain derby stance (basically, a rolling squat), and I should have known better, especially since my knee still hadn’t gotten back to normal.

The next weekend, I reffed my first game for Firestorm, and my knee felt okay-ish. Not great, but not the intense, painful ache I’d been experiencing since the clinic, either. More like it usually felt after practice before the clinic (it hurts, but low-level ache and then I ice it when I get home and it’s fine). I made it to another couple of  practices and did some experimenting. Straight-up skating in circles (including crossovers): totally fine. Transitions and turn-around toestops: totally fine. Pretty much anything else: screaming knee.

So I’ve spent the past couple of weeks coming to terms with the knowledge that I physically cannot play roller derby without being in a pretty tremendous amount of pain. I’ve tried making deals with myself, like I’d make the switch after my first game, or at the end of the season, but the truth is, my knee won’t even make it through a full practice at this point, much less allow me to play a game. So, last night I let league management (and the refs and players who were at practice) know where I was at. And once again, I was met with so much kindness and support…this league, y’all. <3 <3 <3

I’m still really down about the switch…not that I don’t think I’ll both enjoy and be good at reffing, and not that I’m not already very fond of the ref crew (I totally am!)…but it’s a different dynamic. I’m not super fond of change, especially when I’m happy, and I have been super happy being part of the team at JDB. I mean, technically I’ll still be part of the league, but it won’t be the same, and I’m sad about that.

I’ve also spent the last three years feeling like a total badass…does switching to reffing make me lose some of that badass cred? I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and realized that as a ref, I will be in charge of disciplining the  badasses, so I think that actually maybe makes me more badass. Other positives:

  • there is a LOT of rainbow zebra and even zebracorn merch out there. I am going to own all of it. (For those not derby-adjacent, the refs really embrace the whole “zebra” thing.)
  • I get to keep my derby name.
  • I can be a bit more flexible about going to practice (although my plan is to keep attending as much as I can — at least every Wednesday at Firestorm and Friday at JDB)
  • Maybe, possibly, not overworking my knee every week (but still continuing to train and strengthen) will allow it to actually heal up and I will be able to return to playing in a year or two. I’m not super optimistic about this right now, but it is a tiny little beacon of hope (and huge thanks to Coach Jheri for pointing this out to me last night — it helped so much).

I’m still not feeling happy about this…I had planned to switch to reffing in a few years, but I did want to play some first. I’m kind of angry at my body right now for letting me down. But I’m going to try to make the best of it and do what I can still do. <3

Let’s hope I’m better at reffing than at selfies.

Oh My Stars and Stripes

Note: It is really hard to start blogging again when you’ve been on a hiatus, but I’m going to try. I’ve been meaning to post more for weeks now, but I keep getting stuck on what to post about. So I finally decided to just dive back in and post about whatever. That means at least the first few posts back will probably be all over the place, but I’m just going to go with it in the interest of getting back into the swing of adding content without getting bogged down in the details. ETA: Sigh. And then I forgot to give it a title

Pic of me wearing a red white and blue American flag-style scarf
Mine is quite a bit smaller than the original, but that’s by design.

I realized the other day that I hadn’t actually finished anything in awhile. I don’t actually know how many projects I have in progress right now, but it’s a lot. Like, more than 10. Maybe more than 20. And that’s just the ones that I know where they are and occasionally pick them up and work on them. So, I knew I had this Protest is Patriotic shawl from Craftivist on the needles, and I decided to go ahead and finish it up for 4th of July because I only had a few rows left to go.

Except…I didn’t get it finished for the 4th, but that turned out to be okay because it was so stupid hot here that there’s no way I could have worn it, even though it is both tiny and cotton. I finished up the knitting a couple of days later, and then I left it on the couch to stare balefully at me until I wove the ends in. Which I finally did last night, and now I have an adorable shawlette, as seen above. Who doesn’t love a happy ending?!

Icon-ic

[TW: body image, diet]

Update: Want to get some for your very own? Full disclosure, if you click there I get $10 off my next pair, so it’s like you’re getting something for yourself AND giving me a nice present. 🙂 <3

I have never had the “ideal” body. And by “ideal” I mean the body I thought I should have, could have if only I worked out enough, starved myself enough, took the right pill. I have, at various times in my life, been a competitive swimmer, a member of the armed forces, and even given myself scurvy. I have been a regular gym go-er, I’ve tried diet pills of varying efficacy and foul side effects, and I’ve tried to eat healthy. But even at the times I was most happy with my body’s appearance, it has never been good enough.

A little over three years ago, my doctor told me I need to be doing more in the way of exercise, so I joined a gym. After a few months of working out on the regular, I felt like I needed to do something with my newly rediscovered strength and endurance. I figured I was too old for roller derby, but thought I’d Google it anyhow, and it turns out 42 isn’t even close to “too old”. So I contacted a couple of leagues in my area and found an amazing team to call home (shout out to Jerzey Derby Brigade!).

I kept going to the gym, kept skating, got a little healthier with the eating…and was(am) still what I would describe as “chunky”. Or perhaps “plush”. I tried tracking my calories and found myself starting to slip into the same habits that put me on the road to scurvy (and also still not losing weight). But, my body is strong in the ways it needs to be strong for derby. I have muscles I can feel and flex and use to accomplish things I love to do. So about six months ago I made a conscious decision to focus on what my body can do instead of what it looks like. It’s hard, some days, especially days when I don’t fit into something I think I should fit into, but I think I’m doing okay at it.

Another thing about my body is that it is getting older. A fun thing that happens to a lot of women when we get older is that our pelvic floors stop being super reliable, and we sometimes leak a little. Some women find it happens when they sneeze, cough, or laugh. For me, it’s when I take a particularly solid hit on the derby track. But I found this great underwear that has built in absorbency and odor control, called Icon, so I can keep my pee to myself. I’ve been wearing them for about a year, and they are super comfortable, very attractive, and perform as advertised.

A couple of months ago, I got a newsletter from Icon that included a call for customers who might want to model for them. I thought about it, went and looked at how happy and comfortable the women in their current ads look, took a deep breath, remembered how amazing I felt about myself when I modeled my friend Lauren’s amazing lipstick last year, and put my name in the ring. After a bit of back and forth in email I was invited to their Manhattan offices (which are gorgeous!) for a chat, which I really enjoyed.

I actually didn’t think I’d be picked…at our first chat, I really expected to have to take my clothes off so they’d be able to see what they were getting. So when that didn’t happen I figured they could tell even with my clothes on that I wasn’t what they were looking for (because that’s what my brain does…I’m never pretty enough, or thin enough, or shaped the right way. There is always something wrong with me, according to the jerk who lives in my brain.). I was kind of blown away that turned out not to be the case, and that just made me more enthusiastic about modeling for them. I was thrilled when they asked me to come back for the shoot.

It was really way more like what you see on TV and in movies than I expected (because nothing is ever quite like what they show on TV)…there was a gorgeous SoHo loft, a bunch of us models lounging around on our cell phones between shots, and a whole bunch of people from the company who spent a lot of time making us feel pretty and sexy all day. And you guys, modeling is hard. We didn’t even do any really difficult poses (they took pity on us poor amateurs), and I could barely lift my right arm for a couple of days because I used it to support my weight for one of the poses we were in for awhile.

I historically hate pictures of myself. Like, really, really hate them. I avoid being in front of the camera at gatherings, and in group shots I’m usually half hidden in the back (completely hidden if I can manage it). I spend a lot of time picking apart every little thing that’s wrong with me in every picture. So I decided before I did this that even if I hated these pictures in the usual way I hate pictures, I would love them as a symbol of how proud I am of my body and what it can do. It turns out, though, that I really actually love them all on their own.

I will never have a flat belly. I will always be at least a little “plush”. I pee a little when I take a hard hit. I have had a hard time accepting my body, much less loving it. But these pictures…I finally, finally have started loving my body. Thank you, Icon. You are more than a company that makes great pee-proof panties. You are a company that lets women be active, strong, and beautiful, and shows us how to love our bodies, flaws and all. <3

Some Days

Today wasn’t an awful day overall, but it had some real low points. It’s one of those days where between having to deal personally with people being racist (not to me, just in front of me, and yeah, I shut it down but it’s gross and awful, and mostly I hate that people who are not as privileged as I am have to deal with worse all the goddamn time) and the whole shitstorm the world generally is right now, I’m just exhausted. I know this sounds redundant, but I’m tired of being exhausted. And part of it is that I know I have a lot of friends who are dealing with a ton more serious shit than I am, and I don’t know how to help. I can only do what I can do, and days like today it just feels like it isn’t nearly enough. So, that’s where the inspiration for today’s #dailyartjournal came from.

I will not break. #dailyartjournal

I’m going to go knit some stitches now, and think about this weekend, which I will be spending watching some of the strongest, most bad-ass women in the world compete to find out who’s the best of the best in the roller derby world championships.

 

Werk(er)ing It

Journaling supplies

(This was pretty much ready to be posted last night but then I decided to try the WordPress app again because I forgot why I’d quit using it…right. It completely breaks the blog for an hour. Oops.)

This is going to meander a bit, but I promise, I have a destination in mind. A couple of summers ago, I had the opportunity to attend an amazing knitting convention/retreat/gathering in Kent, CT. I got to spend two days taking classes from a couple of my design heroes (that would be Amy Herzog and Norah Gaughan, both of whom I learned a tremendous from, but this is not a blog about that — you can read about that here). It was wonderful, but it was also exhausting, because I am an introvert extraordinaire. You know those personality tests with the sliding scales? I am consistently 0% extrovert. Everything else varies depending on my mood when I take the test, but that is a constant.

Make It Mighty Ugly coverSo instead of attending what I am sure was a lovely dinner in town with the instructors and other students, I holed up in my hotel room. And I pulled out this book, Make It Mighty Ugly, that I’d picked up kind of on a whim, based on this Twitter account that I follow and really like. I did the first chapter, or maybe two, that night, and really, really enjoyed it. It’s a little workbook-y, so there’s some interactive stuff to do, exercises to kind of get into your head and figure out what makes you you and how to use that to overcome your self-doubt about your own amazing creativity. I was so excited about it that I tweeted about it (I almost never tweet, you may have noticed) (of course, lately I almost never blog, either, so maybe you haven’t noticed so much).

Then after the retreat/conference/whatever I got home and put the book on top of my book pile, which is quite astounding in size and constantly being added to. It did not stay on top of the pile for long…more books were added, some were shuffled around, and it crept closer and closer to the bottom of the pile. It’s the kind of book I feel like I need to have some real good alone, sitting-with-myself kind of time for. I want to immerse myself  in it, to devour it with intensity and complete concentration. So I kept putting it off, waiting for The Perfect Moment to pick it back up again. TPM, of course, still has not come.

In the meantime, I have been continuing to follow the author, Kim Werker, and I still find her super inspirational (I’m pretty sure she’s the one who introduced me to bullet journaling, in fact). She has an art journal daily-ish mailing list thingie, and I’ve been wanting to do an art journal, so I subscribed. And in the intro email she said this:

“Actually, it doesn’t matter if you’re ready. The adventure is here! Time to embark upon it whether we’re ready or not.”

Now, she was talking about the art journaling thing, but holy crap did it hit me like a lightening bolt and make me determined to dig that book out and work all the way through it this time! The thing is, the way our various schedules are set up now, I really do have chunks of time that I can pretty easily carve out for spending some quality time with this. It had just been so long since it was on the top of my pile that it never occurred to me to grab it when those chunks of time are available. So. Back to the top of the pile it goes!

Journaling supplies
This is (most of) my kit. The notebook is one I found at IKEA months(years?) ago. The pouch holds a lot more stuff than it looks like it would (and look! There’s Make it Mighty Ugly so it doesn’t get lost in the pile again!)

But also, art journaling starts tonight. I am taking Kim’s words to heart and embarking on my adventure NOW! The idea is to do some art journaling every day. I know. I know, I always say I’m going to do these every-day-for-a-month/year/week things, and then I peter out. And I might this time as well. But I have also decided that I am okay with that. Because the point, for me, isn’t as much to make it to the end of the month. It’s to try it and see if I like it, if it’s a thing that is meaningful to me such that I want to do it pretty much daily. So I am committing to trying it, and that’s all.

I’m hoping to Insta-blog some or all of these art journal-y things. Those will be short little posts, probably, with pictures of my journal pages (or parts of them), because this thing is supposed to be a community thing — there’s a hashtag (#dailyartjournal) and everything! — so I’m going to try to dip my little introvert toes out into the pool of sharing. Interested in coming along on this journey? Head on over to Kim’s blog and sign yerself on up!

Nuns. No sense of humor. #dailyartjournal

Family Tradition

I never met my grandfather, but I heard stories of him from the time I was little. He was a war hero who had died long before I was born, testing new planes for the US Air Force. The first time I watched The Right Stuff with my dad, he pointed at Chuck Yeager and said, “That’s what your granddad did after the war.” He’s one of the reasons I joined the USAF when it was my turn to serve my country.

During WWII, he gained some notoriety for shooting down the 1000th plane over Malta. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross and later earned an additional bar for his DFC. He was apparently equal parts hotshot and hothead (think Maverick from Top Gun).

I knew that he had joined the war before the US entered the fray because he flew with the RAF’s Eagle Squadron, which was made up of American (and other non-British) pilots who were stepping up to the plate. What I didn’t know until I was an adult is that when he chose to do that, he was committing what was considered an act of treason.

At the time, you see, the US had some pretty stringent “neutrality laws.” These, among other things, prohibited American citizens from serving in the armed forces of other countries, no matter which side those other countries were on. The American pilots who joined the RAF did so at the very real risk of imprisonment and even losing their US citizenship. But my grandfather and the other men he served with joined because “the USA didn’t enter the war soon enough for [them].” He knew what was happening was wrong and horrible, and he signed up to fight Nazis at the risk of never being able to return home, or being thrown in jail if he did.

I don’t know what the future holds for this country. It looks pretty bleak right about now. If it is soon declared treasonous to act against Nazis and other white supremacist groups, I won’t be particularly surprised. But I tell you right now, I do not care. I will ALWAYS stand up to Nazis and their ilk, up to and including Donald J. Trump. Because I know what my grandfather knew: getting involved and standing up for the right thing is what you do, no matter what your government says. Fighting Nazis and those like them is always the right thing.

If you’d like to read more about my grandfather and the pilots he flew with, here are some links:

Cowboy Casserole

[Placeholder text because this isn’t a real post; I’m just getting the recipe up quick and dirty.]

Cowboy Casserole
Print Recipe
Prep Time
10-20 minutes
Cook Time
35-40 minutes
Prep Time
10-20 minutes
Cook Time
35-40 minutes
Cowboy Casserole
Print Recipe
Prep Time
10-20 minutes
Cook Time
35-40 minutes
Prep Time
10-20 minutes
Cook Time
35-40 minutes
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Place frozen tots in 9x13 pan.
  3. Beat together eggs, milk, and spices.
  4. Stir in cheese and any meat or veggies.
  5. Pour egg mixture over frozen tots.
  6. Bake in 350° oven for 35-40 minutes, until cheese is melted, tots are browned, and egg is solidified.
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