Friday, August 31, 2007

i will follow you

For the past several weeks, a ton of cool people and I have taken advantage of a free swing dance class up at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. Boy, did we have fun. I now spend boring meetings at work going over swing moves in my head and whenever I get together with friends I try to figure out if we could make it into a dancing event. Yesterday I heard swing music at the Chocolate Cafe on my lunch break and could not help myself from grabbing my coworker Kelly, who fortunately has done some swing dancing herself. We danced quite well given the narrow space in between the tables and the chocolates.

During each of the three lessons, the instructors had us rotate partners every few minutes. So each night I danced with about fifteen different people. Which was more fun than I expected! But it also gave me a chance to observe some very different leading styles. The guys have a tough job ... as one of the instructors told us, "If the woman looks bad, it's the guy's fault. If the woman is uncomfortable, it's the guy's fault." So the poor guys really had to know what they were doing!

Some guys were terrific dancers but poor leaders. They'll swing a girl around 'til she's dizzy and they'll make it look great, but the girl has no idea what's going on or what's coming next. Other guys don't know the moves quite so well but they are courteous leaders - they will never make their partner uncomfortable. Sometimes it takes them a long moment of the step-step-rock-step basics to think of the next fancy move to do - but that's because they're trying to remember how to begin the move correctly so that they don't confuse the girl.

Some guys, of course, are the best of both worlds - good dancers and good leaders - but they are few and far between.

And for my part - the instructors also told us, "If the woman back-leads ... it's all her fault." I did have to restrain myself (and didn't always succeed in restraining myself) from leading my partner a bit when we'd missed a step or lost the beat. I also tried to keep from suggesting moves unless a partner was actually wondering out loud what to do next. It's quite an interesting job, being a follower. But a fun one :)

*please note - I do not mean for these thoughts on leading and following to be taken as my opinion on the roles of men and women in today's world ... it's just a dance class :)

Monday, August 27, 2007


Two years ago, my household took a trip to Weko beach. Jenny and I climbed the stairs up the dunes and I remember dragging my feet up the steps, reaching for more breath that just wasn't there ... not fun at all. So when I went to Weko with some friends yesterday, I was gearing up for quite a climb. I wanted to do it, because I'm in my can-do phase of life (I can play soccer and volleyball, I can swing dance, I can run ...), but I was not looking forward to huffing and puffing in front of all my friends. But we started climbing up the steps and wow, this isn't too hard yet, it must just be up near the top ... before I knew it we were at the top, gazing across the lake at Chicago, and sure I was a little winded, but -

I am stronger than I used to be.

I don't know how to put this into words for you. I didn't know that I could actually become stronger and more fit. Really! Of course I knew that exercise puts you in better shape. But I never imagined that I would actually be running twice a week and playing soccer every Sunday night - I never imagined that exercise would ever be a part of my life. That's just not who I was. And I'm not exactly Sporty Spice now either, but - I'm becoming different. I want to play soccer, and I want to run, and I'm open to new challenges.

(A friend who thought he knew me well enough said that he would only go out dancing with our group if I would run a 5K. "It's a deal," I told him. "Crap," he said.)

I've been amazed all along that after twenty-five years I have just up and changed my life in ways that are, to me, really big. How could I possibly be running? But in the midst of that amazement, I never really stopped to think that all this would actually make me healthier. So when I reached the top of the dunes at Weko, it was a revelation to me, and a gift from God:

I am stronger.

Friday, August 24, 2007


I've been listening to Jack Johnson all summer. Anyone who's been in my car knows that I will let his "In Between Dreams" album (borrowed from, renewed by, overdue at, returned to, borrowed from again, renewed by, overdue at, returned to the library) play two to three times in a row during long car trips. And yet I still don't know most of the words to his songs, I just kind of hum along and bob my head and drum my hands on the wheel, but it's the perfect music for driving to the beach. So Jack was mostly car music ...

Norah Jones will forever be my favorite dishwashing music.

Movie soundtracks tend to be good for Saturday morning chores. I used to do Return to Me every week and now I'm into the Parent Trap soundtrack, although the random mix my friend Chris made for my 22nd birthday is also good for cleaning. (The mix includes Billy Joel, Cake, Mandy Moore, CCR, Rich Mullins ...)

Daniel recently told me about Ben Lee and "Awake Is the New Sleep" which I've really enjoyed. Laura K. thinks his song "Catch My Disease" is kind of obnoxious but I get a kick out of it and I like to listen to it while I get ready to go out and/or blast it when I'm alone. The title track, though, is what gets stuck in my head. So wake up and do it, whatever it is, whatever it is ...

So tell me what you've been listening to ...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Zucchini is the blessing or affliction of the summer. What do you do when you have nine zucchini, some baseball-bat sized, and more growing in the garden? If you're like me and you love a cooking challenge, you design an entire meal around it. For any of you who have an overabundance of the stuff, here are some zucchini recipes, accompanied by pictures of the actual Zucchini Meal that I made for my household ...

Zucchini Bread from 101 Cookbooks: this awesome recipe includes curry powder and lemon zest. Outstanding.

Zucchini and Tomato Salad - don't actually have a recipe for this, but dill goes well with fresh zucchini.

Stuffed Zucchini from Allrecipes: tastes better than it looks.

Zucchini Chocolate Cake from Chocolate & Zucchini: tastes like chocolate, not zucchini.

Have fun with these! If you cook any of them, let me know how they turn out!

i ran a mile ...

... just not all at once.

After a year of hanging out with people who run, I started to get the vague idea that maybe I, too, could someday run. Or maybe jog. I can definitely speedwalk ...

So several weeks ago I started out for a walk around the river, not telling my household that I was going to put in some running too. I ran a bit, then walked, then ran, etc., doing five intervals of each before I started to feel seriously sick, at which point I walked the rest of the way home. A day or two later I caught something at work and REALLY got sick, so I didn't pick up "running" again til this weekend. I decided to try out the new Riverside trail, which is lovely (and flat). Saturday I did more walking than running, I think, but this morning I went a mile up the trail and a mile back. I was doing very short intervals - the distance between every second streetlamp - but I did the same intervals for walking and running so overall I actually ran a whole mile! Hooray for me.

My only problem is whenever I'm getting ready to go out I don't know what to call what I'm doing. "I'm going for a run" does not feel honest, but "I'm going to take a walk" isn't true either, so sometimes I say "I'm going to run slash walk" and today I said "I'm gonna go pretend to run." Maybe, eventually, the scale will tip to the running side so that I could honestly say I'm going running ...

... but don't hold your breath ;)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

haunted by these words

"Before this he had met life with a welcome - it had its trials, but none that a man could not face. But now, in the nighttime, when he lay tossing about, there would come stalking into his chamber a grisly phantom, the sight of which made his flesh curl and his hair to bristle up. It was like seeing the world fall away from underneath his feet; like plunging down into a bottomless abyss, into yawning caverns of despair. It might be true, then, after all, what others had told him about life, that the best powers of a man might not be equal to it!" -- Upton Sinclair, The Jungle

After sitting at the keyboard for a few minutes I've decided I can't explain yet all the things this book is making me think and feel. Maybe some other day, but for now I'll just leave you with that passage while I try to go to sleep.

Monday, August 6, 2007

no photo available

I had my camera with me the whole time.

I could have taken a dozen photos of us playing with baby Joshua during the hour and 15 minutes we spent at Sarah's figuring out our plan for the day. Justin feeding him Cheez-its, Sarah standing him up on the table, every photo would have been adorable.

And when we ended up at Rio's and Emily joined us and we called Evan and Peter in Minnesota and sang Happy Birthday to Peter on speakerphone - that could have been a good shot, the group of us in a semi-deserted restaurant midafternoon on a Sunday, disturbing the few other customers with our singing.

After we saw Ratatouille we had time to kill and we went to the park and to the East Race ... I definitely should have taken a picture of Daniel pointing out the "no boating" sign right next to the kayak route.

I've been meaning to take pictures at soccer for ages and since I wasn't feeling well and sat on the sidelines half the game anyway, last night would have been a perfect opportunity to get some sport shots, especially of the little boys who joined us - a shot of 6-yr-old Vinnie scoring a goal would have been perfect. And at DQ afterwards, I ought to have taken a picture of Emily and Emily together.

This is why I bought a digital camera, right? So I could capture all of those moments?

But why do I have to capture them? Can't I let them be free?

Free of the worry that I'll someday forget. Free of the need to show others how much fun my friends are. Maybe next time, I won't even blog about it. We can have a great day and I don't need to prove it to anyone or feel validated by seeing it in text or on film. I don't need to plan for twenty years from now and try to make sure I remember each fun time we had. I do hope I remember, but the important thing is just that I live it now.