Monday, July 30, 2012

End of an Era

Today, I quit my gym.  The last 8+ years has been a good run.  This gym saw me through my post-babies body reclamation project and recovery from two surgeries.  There are friendly folks I have enjoyed seeing a couple of times a week for years on end, even if I was not always sure of their names.  There are a couple of good teachers who manage to kick my ass once in a while.

But the time has come.  The circles I travel don't take me that way anymore and a destination gym doesn't fit well with my life for the next few years.  It took me a long time to decide this, I paid a bunch up front to have a forever cheap monthly rate and that has tied me to this gym, but even $21/month is too much if you find yourself struggling to get there even once a week.  And I've been cheating on my old gym by taking classes at a place in Ypsi for over a year...

I'm not giving up gym-ing, of course, but I'm throwing in with the local folk, putting some more money into my workouts and looking forward to the sweating more with friendly folks and actual friends in a hometown establishment.  Ypsi Studio, here I come!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Food Positive

At O's request, we all watched Food, Inc last night.  I know we are behind the times but as a vegetarian household that shops mostly at the coop, frequents the farmers market, grows a few things in our own yard, avoids fast food restaurants, and has a CSA, I wasn't really thinking that we needed this film.

The problem, of course, is that while my foodways/values are well-established and deeply held, my kids do encounter other people and have been rather exposed of late to the wider world of crappy food and manipulative advertising.  And they're kids.  O in particular is struggling against a mighty, mighty sweet tooth and low, low impulse control.  I think he knows this and that is part of why he asked to watch the film. 

Seeing a few of their junk food weakneses (Reeses and Pringles) show up on the GMO list and hearing how this food plays to evolutionary elements that are hard for us to resist seemed to strengthen both kids' resolve to eat 'real' food.  They also got a good understanding of why our household actually spends a fair amount on our food and why doing so is a good thing. 

I'm glad they know real food, but I've struggled a bit in the last year to make it happen.  What I need, what we need, is for them to help more.  I've been saying this to them for much of the last year, but with little effect.  I'm still the one who shops, plans, prepares, serves, and (I am embarassed to admit) cleans up.  When I have time, I don't mind these tasks, but getting them all to happen (and not eating dinner at 9:30pm) has been quite the challenge of late. 

So today begins a new attempt to loop the kids into the project of awesome food (some of which needs to be readily available for those who can't yet plan for when they will want it).  At the kids' request, we will drop by the farm where we have a CSA (okay, some of the motivation here is see the goats, but we will play with the veggies too).  And because we have some errands to do, we will likely eat our dinner out tonight, but we will discuss where we choose to spend our restaurant dollars and why that matters.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Hiking Adventures

My parent's cottage is on a truly lovely stretch of Lake Michigan in the Upper Peninsula, but the call of Lake Superior is strong. Adventure buddies and I headed out for hike along its amazing cliffs. With all the spur trails to scenic vistas and the exploring of sandstone rock ledges in the water, this nearly twelve mile hike took us seven hours. This is now my favorite Pictured Rocks adventure: Mosquito River/Falls, along Grand Portal, then back Chapel Falls trail.

The hike begins...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


My kids have a fairly loose relationship with time.  All are in agreement that we should go swimming on this hot ass late afternoon, but they are chilling in the AC doing this (Geometry) and that (pillow fort in the basement) and not pulling on swimsuits...  While they are engaged in worthy pursuits, the pool is only open at certain times and soon we will be at the point where it no longer makes sense to spend the money to go to the pool.  And, inevitably, that will be when they are ready to go.  And then they will be mad at me as if I somehow conspired to keep them from the water.  It is the same thing with dinner.  They aren't hungry, don't want dinner, want to be doing other things, then *poof* they are hungry and they're annoyed to find no food is ready to eat.  So.... I guess I will go get myself ready in the hopes that they will soon decide that on a 93 degree day, it is a good time to go for a dip.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Summer List - 2012

In no particular order, here are my goals for this summer:

-recover my home office

-get a password management system up and running

-get tap shoes and use them (for clogging)

-ride at least three 50+ mile road adventures

-tromp or ride in the woods once a week

-put a ceiling in the basement

-read books everyday

-put new edging around front beds

-grow out my hair or chop it all off (decide before Sept 4)

-draft 3 chapters of my book

-write 2-3 new urban history lectures

-sort all my teaching files

-ride to AA to work once a week (when not traveling)

-take kids on an overnight backpacking adventure

-donate or trash at least one bag/box of stuff for every week of Jun, July, and August

-paint Emma's door to look like the Tardis (I could use help with this)

-teach Emma to cook

-help Owen find a sporty activity he loves

-develop a workable chore schedule for the kiddos

-avoid all contact with poison ivy

Monday, April 23, 2012

My favorite time of the term

I love this time of the term -- the shift into finals really changes the culture. People are studying everywhere, but the whole pace of campus is slower and the sense of camaraderie is higher.

When I was at Agnes Scott, we could take our finals when we wanted to and many of the freshman raced through them as fast as possible in order to leave campus for the holidays. By the end of second term, however, we learned what the older students already knew and we took more time with the finals, concentrating our studying, pacing the test-taking, and taking all the time we could.

At Indiana, I remember having an exam in the last possible slot at the end of winter term my first year. It came long after my other courses were finished, affording me days of luxurious studying and, frankly, lounging. I don't remember anyone rushing... not like during the term, anyway. And then the dorm and campus became increasingly empty and peaceful, and it was lovely (and I aced the exam).

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Unfamiliar Feeling

It is only a little after 6pm on a Thursday and I am home, sitting on the couch with a cup of tea and nothing in particular to do. Oh, I have plenty I could do (grade papers, sign kids up for summer camp, get my finances in order, read many things, laundry, etc), but nothing scheduled to do.

I can't remember the last time this happened. Truth be told I'm a tad sick (mystery sore throat) and that is a large part of why I am without commitments. I purposefully did not schedule the usual meeting, dog walk, or beer with a friend that I usually would. It feels weird and certainly makes me realize how packed my days generally are. My calendar going forward is jam-packed with end-of-the-academic-year activities for the kids and me, so I know I should appreciate this quiet evening of nothing in particular. Since it is so unfamiliar, however, I wonder if I'll make it through. There is a better than even chance that I will be asleep before 9:00pm. I guess this is something I should work on...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Traveling Planning (er, fantasizing)

I'm pretty much ready to throw my hands up in disgust at this weird-ass winter (too warm and no real snow) we're having in Michigan this year. So, Adventure Buddy and I have pulled out the calendars and settled on some tentative dates for the long-delayed backpacking trip to the desert.

Hello, Canyonlands, make yourself pretty, we'll see you mid-May (hopefully).

Monday, January 16, 2012

"This is What Democracy Looks Like"

Hundreds of people showed up for today's protest against Governor Rick Snyder and his endorsement of the Emergency Manager Act (Public Act 4). Folks streamed out of Washtenaw Community College's parking lots as they arrived around 4pm, making an impressive line from the campus all the way across the Dixboro bridge and up to Geddes Rd.

Everyone met up at Parker Mill Park for chanting, hot chocolate, some hard-to-hear speeches, and regrouping (I gather a few of the buses from Detroit were late). From there, the real march up Geddes to the governor's house began.

We had the street and were led by a group of five or so African American men. Dressed in their long dark wool coats and singing and chanting in preacher-style voices, it was certainly reminiscent of civil rights marches from Dr. King's day. They pulled me in, so I ended up at the head of the 1/2 mile up the hill to the governor's gated community.

"No justice, no peace."

"No democracy, no peace."

"Hey, hey, ho, ho: emergency managers have got to go"

"What do we want?" "Democracy!" "When do we want it?" "Now!"

Once there, folks grouped up to make some more speeches. Here a few other groups, dominated by Detroiters, used the Occupy movement's "mic check" tactics to relay their speeches. We lit our candles and made the mile or so walk back. Buses had arrived to shuttle those who needed it back to WCC.

It was a fine group of folks. Veterans of Benton Harbor protests were there, as were people from the tri-cities. High school kids were there with their teachers. UM students made a good showing as well. All were peaceful and reasonable -- even when folks from the gated community showed up to gawk.

I took my kids (9 and 12). They were surprised when I was the only (loud!) voice to answer the first bull-horned call of "Tell me what democracy looks like" with "This is what democracy looks like." But then others joined in and my kids relaxed (realizing I was not a wacko, but rather just slightly more "in the know" than those around us). The kids quickly got into the chants and sang "We Shall Overcome" as loudly as I did by the time we reach Parker Mill. My 9 year old even jumped into the front line with me and 'preachers' for a while.

While I have no hard and fast objections to MLK day being a day of service, I feel we, as a society, have softened its potential meaning a bit too much with this association. This is the first time I've taken my kids to a protest instead of a service project on this day, but it fostered good discussions for us. King and the civil rights movement in general have become sanitized and stripped of their confrontational and political messages. I wanted my kids to see this side of the movement and feel the responsibility to challenge as well as serve. My kids go to schools in Ypsilanti, a struggling public school system that is vulnerable to the emergency manager legislation. Their stake in what this governor and this legislature does is potentially greater than mine. Today gave me an opportunity to say that to them fairly directly. And they sang. And the chanted. And they felt the power of the group.

My daughter's favorite sign (sorry I don't have a picture of it) read: This is Martin Luther King Jr Day, not King Snyder Day.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Arlington National Cemetary

Owen really wanted to go but then got a little shy once there. I'm not sure what it was... maybe thinking too much about the number of people buried there? I, however, found it to be far more peaceful and, frankly, interesting, than I had expected. We had some nice views of the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Capitol. We talked about war, assissinations, politics, and symbolism.