A Good/Bad Race: Point to LaPointe 2019

A few months ago I decided to sign up for the Point to LaPointe race again. I’ve done this 2.1 open mile swim race a few times before (and here when I was pregnant and didn’t know it yet) and have always thought that the race was really well organized. The quality of the race plus any chance to get to the lovely lakeside town of Bayfield is worth taking. I was definitely interested in going to Bayfield as our summer family trip — we’re still here and I’m currently sitting in our condo, watching a thunderstorm roll over Lake Superior, and my heart is happy — but I also felt like I still had unfinished business with the race. I’ve done it three times but have never felt like I was as well trained as I could be. I’ve always hit the finish line wishing I had done a little better.

Sidenote: I’m always proud of myself for finishing and I recognize that this is a race that attracts A LOT of fast swimmers and plenty of people using this as a tune-up race before doing Ironmans in the fall. People may casually sign up for a running/walking a 5K, but nobody who isn’t a pretty confident swimmer is likely to sign up for a swim this long, in water this potentially cold. So, I’ve more than made my peace with the fact that I’m never going to win this race or win my age group. The best I’ve ever done is coming in 322nd (out of about 400).

In addition to wanting to do the work needed to feel more confident at the starting line, I also know that I’m a person who FOR SURE exercises more regularly when I have something to train for. So I started to train this spring and found myself swimming more regularly than I had in years. And it was good. I mean, it was hard and uncomfortable at first. I used to swim competitively as a kid and in high school and sometimes I am all to acutely aware of how slow I am compared to how I used to be. I’m also 40 now and seem to have the middle age combo pack of physical complaints. I’ve got carpal tunnel syndrome that I keep making worse by new phone game obsessions (hello, Wizards United). I get joint pain off and on. I wake up with numb hands and sore shoulders sometimes from sleeping funny. Yes, I’m now at the age where I can potentially injury myself in bed and not in any sort of fun, sexy way.

But I did the work. I’ve swam over 40 miles this spring and made it to the pool 2-4 times per week for most of the summer. I dealt with my frustrations about how limited the options are for plus-sized gear and got a wetsuit, even though I hate wetsuits, because the race requires them and Lake Superior can be so very cold. I only wore my wetsuit once to train in because the lake near my house got too warm. But that swim went well enough and I was hoping that I the fact that I had a sleeveless wetsuit would prevent me from feeling claustrophobic, which was an issue the first time I did the race.

Spoiler alert: this wetsuit stuff becomes important.

In the lead up to the race this year, I was the least nervous I’ve ever been. I felt good about the fact that I’d done more open water swimming practice than ever before. I did multiple swims of about 1.5 miles. I felt even more relaxed when I got to Lake Superior a few days before the race and found that the water was about as perfect a temperature as Lake Superior gets. Cold still, but not take your breath away cold. I was still a little nervous, because I always am, but I was also hopeful. Maybe I’d hit some of my more ambitious goals (finish in under one hour, 30 minutes, finish in the top 60-75% of racers, beat my best time of 1:21).

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(See that land in the distance? That’s where we swim to)

The morning of the race was basically postcard perfect. The lake was flat and there was no wind and the gentlest of currents. My friend who was also doing the race and I got there in plenty of time and watched as the beach slowly filled with racers (over 500 people were signed up but just over 400 actually started). I wrestled myself into my wetsuit and noticed that there were a handful of people not wearing wetsuits. I’d done the race once without a suit and felt a bit jealous of the non-wetsuit wearers. But I didn’t take my wetsuit off because the race rules were clear that you needed to request written permission in advance to swim without a wetsuit, a rule that makes total sense from a safety perspective. I also decided not to warm up before the race. Given that I was planning to swim for at least an hour and a half, I figured I could just take the first 10 minutes or so to warm up. In hindsight, this is one of the dumber racing ideas that I keep having.

At 7:20, the first horn sounded and the men’s heat got started. A few minutes later, the horn blew again and it was my turn. I hit the start button on my watch timer and started to swim. All around me were bubbles and legs and nice midwestern women trying not to kick each other. At first, I felt great. The water was cool, I didn’t get kicked in the face, and I was to the first buoy in about 7 minutes, which was ahead of the schedule I’d set for myself. Between the first and second buoy was about 1/4 to 1/3 of a mile of open water. I tried to get myself into a rhythm of swimming 10 strokes and then popping my head out of the water to make sure I was staying on course (the visibility this year was great and I always felt like I knew exactly where I was swimming toward). I’d picked out Tegan and Sara’s song Closer as my race song and tried to get it running through my head, but I started to think about how heavy my wetsuit felt and then I couldn’t stop thinking about how heavy my wetsuit felt. My thinking turned rather quickly into feeling panicky. I was only 10 minutes in to the race and I started freaking out. I tried to get myself just to swim 10 strokes and I’d make it five before having to stop and get my whole head out of the water to breathe. I’m pretty buoyant anyways and the wetsuit made it so I couldn’t really sink, so I wasn’t worried that I would drown, but I just felt trapped and my heart started to race in away that had nothing to do with the exercise I was doing. I started doing a side stroke and watched as what felt like dozens of women swam around and past me. I finally gave up and raised my arm into the air to signal to one of the race kayaks that I needed help. 

As I waited for someone to notice me (it felt like it took awhile, but I don’t really have a sense of how much time actually passed) I started to think about what was going to happen next. If I got pulled out of the race, I’d get sent back to the starting shore. My husband and kids would be waiting for me at the finish line and the thought of not getting to look up and see them as I finished made me so sad. I wanted to keep going but I also knew that I needed to do something because the finish line felt so far away and I felt so trapped.

A man in a white kayak finally noticed me and paddled over. He told me to grab the side of his kayak but at first I hesitated. I wasn’t sure if I’d be disqualified if I touched the boat. He asked me if I was okay and I blurted out that I was kind of panicking and that I felt like my wetsuit was filling with water and pulling me down (I did have a small hole in my wetsuit but I’m very confident that the problem was me and not the suit). As I watched more people pass me, I knew that I didn’t want to quit and that I didn’t want to keep wearing the damn wetsuit.

What happened next was not a well thought out plan.

I asked the kayaker if he could take my wetsuit. He hesitated and said he wasn’t sure if the rules allowed it. At that point, I really, really didn’t care if I got DQed at the end of the race. I knew that I wasn’t going to get to the end of the race if I didn’t get out of the wetsuit, like right now. He then pointed out the other obvious problem: how was I going to get out of the wetsuit and not lose my timing chip (which was strapped around my ankle) while floating in the lake? Sensing that he was wavering on his hesitation (which, I should note, I totally get. I’m guessing they don’t cover racers wanting to ditch their wetsuits in mid-race in the pre-race briefing), I pulled the timing chip bracelet off my ankle and held it in between my teeth. Thankfully, my wetsuit has a zipper in front and not back like most suits, so I unzipped it and started to shimmy out of it. I’ve never been more grateful for the fact that I’m a floater and not a sinker. I had to tug to get it off my ankles and then I was free. I swam it over to him, told him my name was Wendy and said I’d try to find him after the race to get the suit back. I put my goggles back on and started swimming again.

At that moment, I didn’t really have a plan for how and where I’d find my wetsuit at the end of the race. I didn’t know if I’d be DQed at the finish line. I was still trying to breathe away some of the panic. I wish I had checked my watch to see how much time I lost, but I wasn’t thinking clearly enough to do that. I just started swimming again, feeling so grateful to feel light and unencumbered. If the wetsuit hadn’t cost over $100 and been worn only twice before this, I wouldn’t have cared if I ever saw it again.

Eventually I calmed down enough to think again. I started looking for the next buoy. I caught and passed a few people. I felt fairly strong. I looked at my watch and felt like I was moving at a good pace and that maybe I was actually somehow ahead of my time expectations (I wasn’t, I was basing my calculations on the idea that all the buoys were equidistant apart and I really, really don’t think they were). I passed another person or two. I refused to let myself stop and look to see if how many people were behind me. I felt good about my pace and even a little proud of myself for getting through my freak out and figuring out what I needed to to move forward.

After I passed what I thought was the halfway point, I felt like a time of under an hour and a half was still possible. I started to even think about getting a PR. But then the second half of the race seemed to take forever. I looked down at my watch and I was at 1:24 and I knew I wouldn’t get a PR. I saw the giant rubber duck that marks the finish line and tried to pick up my pace. But then I saw 1:30 go past.. and then 1:35….

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I swam as hard as I could, passing two more people in the final 100 yards and finally made it to the finish line at the dock at 1:43: 25, which is my second slowest race time for this race. I looked up and swam my kids waving at me and I was just so glad to see and them and so glad to be done.

I got out of the water and found them waiting for me, along with my husband who was like “wait, what? You took your wetsuit off DURING THE RACE?” and stood watching as our friend finished a few minutes after me. At that point I was just tired and happy and glad to be out of the water. I eventually found the race director, who found my wetsuit, and stuck around to watch the final racers finish. Then it was a beautiful ferry ride back to the shore at Bayfield and a stop in town for a pre-nap ice cream cone.

All afternoon, I refreshed my phone to see if the race results had posted, but they hadn’t. I started thinking about the goals I had set pre-race. I had finished the race (check) but I hadn’t met any of my time goals. I was certain that I hadn’t improved on how high I had finished, but I was hoping I had maybe not finished last in my age group. The more the time passed from the relief and endorphins of the finish line, the more down I started to feel about things. Why had I panicked about swimming a race I’ve done three times before? Why hadn’t I practiced more in the wetsuit? Why hadn’t I trained more? Why was I so slow? When the race results posted, I saw that I finished behind 91% of all the racers, which made me feel so disappointed.

(It’s a funny thing, I have no feelings that anyone else should be disappointed for being in the back of the pack. I don’t think I should feel disappointed either. The whole point is just to do the thing and to do the work to get ready for the thing, but my emotions don’t really care about that part)

I felt down about the whole thing yesterday. I felt mad at my body for not being the fast in the water body I wish it was. I felt made at myself for feeling unkind toward my body. I ate too much ice cream and my stomach hurt and I wondered why I even sign up for things that I’m not good at anymore.

But I’m trying to rally and to think about how to do this differently next time — which is a sign that the post-race amnesia is starting to kick in because oh my god why do I want to do this whole mess again?

But I probably do. Because I don’t want to feel like I’m not doing it again because I’m scared or feel slow or ashamed that I’m not the sleek swimmer I once was.

I’m going to go for a swim now. My kids and husband are waiting on the beach for me and they don’t care that 91% of racers were faster than me. We’ll get ice cream later and enjoy our last day on the lake. And tomorrow I’ll start over.

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Smart Girls for Elizabeth Warren

In 2004, I was teaching a class on critical thinking at a community college. During the class, I showed a documentary about the history of the credit card. One of the experts they featured was a Harvard Law professor named Elizabeth Warren who struck me as incredibly smart and well-informed. I went to the store that weekend and bought one of her books on personal finances and it changed how I thought about budgets and still influences how my husband and I talk about financial decisions we make.

In the years since 2004, every time I’ve seen Elizabeth Warren I’ve thought about how damn smart she is. I cheered for her to become a senator. I’m now donating to her campaign for president and I don’t know that I’ve wanted someone to win more than I want her to win. I wanted Obama to win and wept when he did, but the idea of President Warren makes me catch my breath.

Allow me a little digression. A few years ago there was a meme going around Twitter where you chose the top three fictional character that represented you. I wanted to play and the first choice was obvious and fairly common. Apparently a lot of us think we are a Leslie Knope. My very patient husband would assure you that I am FOR SURE a Leslie Knope, only with more blank writing notebooks than binders.

For my second choice, I was going to choose another popular choice: Hermione Granger. My inner and untamed teacher’s pet feels her every time she frantically raises her hand in class, desperate to share the right answer. But as I started to list her, I got shy. One of Hermione’s defining characteristics is the fact that she’s the brains of the story. I’m currently reading Harry Potter to my 7 year old daughter and she’s already marveled that “Hermione is A LOT smarter than Ron”.

It was just a silly meme but I couldn’t do it. Couldn’t put it out there that I think I’m smart.

The thing is that I love when other people call me smart. It is one of my favorite compliments. When I was in school, I loved getting grades. I always wanted proof that I was smart. I felt like smart was a status that someone else had to give you. I’ve always wanted the A and the gold star. I’m embarrassed to admit that getting told I’m smart by a male boss or professor gave me a special little frisson of joy. Somehow that felt more real? Socialization: the struggle is real.

A colleague told me the other day that they had told someone “Wow, Wendy is really smart. Like really smart.” I ate up the compliment, even as a part of me was trying to decide if there was a note of surprise in his voice.

For most of my life, I’ve thought of myself as a grinder, someone who may not have a lot of natural talent but who is willing to work hard. (Did I spend time in therapy discussing the number of times I’ve heard people in my family say some variation on “Your sister is smarter than you, but you work harder”? Yes. Yes I did. Also? On a related note? THAT IS A TERRIBLE AND DESTRUCTIVE THING TO SAY TO A GIRL. Don’t do that shit.).

There’s definitely truth to the fact that I work hard but now that I’m 40 I’m trying to get more comfortable with pushing back on that idea and believing I’m smart, even if nobody else tells me so.

This is perhaps a long winded way of getting to my point, which is that part of what makes Senator Warren so exciting to me is that she is so clearly one of the (if not THE) smartest people in the field and she isn’t afraid to show it. She isn’t waiting for other people to ask her opinion. She isn’t playing small. She wants to be president and she’s willing to do the work to win it.

There is nothing apologetic about her desire to lead. She’s okay with being the smartest person in the room and she is absolutely fine pointing out when she knows more about things than whatever random old white guy is trying to bullshit her.

I am so ready for a woman to be president. That we could get that in a woman who is a combination of Leslie Knope, Julia Sugerbaker, and Hermione Granger? Hot. Damn.

(I’m so afraid I’m going to get my heart broken)

(America, can we please agree that “smart” should be a minimum qualification for President?)

I want to be a bad ass smart lady leader. I think Elizabeth Warren has a plan for that.

Training

When I first started this blog almost 10 (!) years ago, I was reading A LOT of blogs by triathletes and hoped that eventually I would be one of of those super fit people regularly posting race reports and just being generally awesome and sportsy. And there have been some race reports on this blog, but honestly I’ve spent the last 10 years mostly doing non-athletic things. They are good things — having and raising babies, getting my PhD, moving multiple times, growing my career — but I’m clearly not the person right now that 30 year old me was hoping I’d be, in terms of the athletic pursuits. In the last two years, I’ve done exactly one race — a pitifully slow 5K that I literally limped my way through thanks to a nasty case of plantar fasciitis.

I know that I am 100% more likely to try to make time for exercise if I’m training for something, so I’ve got a race on the books for the summer. I’m in training for an open water swim race again, something I haven’t done in nearly four years. The race is in 2.5 months and I just don’t know how ready I am going to be. I’ve been trying to get to the pool at least three times a week, but the race is 2.1 miles and my longest swim so far has been about 1.25 miles and I definitely didn’t end that swim wishing I could do another mile.

I’ve done it three times before but I can’t seem to find any records that I kept about how I actually trained for it, so I can’t remember how my training was going at this point last time. I know that I’ve never started that race feeling like I had done enough training, but I’ve been able to finish 3/3 times, so that’s encouraging.

I should probably go to the pool.

Things I Want But Do Not Buy

I’ve been trying to be more thoughtful about spending money lately. My current student loan debt has been bugging me more than usual and I’ve been wanting to try to throw more money at that problem and not doing as much online shopping seems to be a good way to make that happen.

(Side note – I have zero regret about my student loans. I wouldn’t have my current job without having gone to grad school. I’m just sort of exhausted by the fact that I’ve been paying them for what feels like forever and I’m currently scheduled to make my last loan payment the April that my son graduates from high school. That timing is…. not ideal).

Mostly trying not to shop so much is going fine. There really isn’t a lot that I actually need. But I can’t stop looking at these things, so I’m going to share them with you and maybe that will scratch the itch a bit:

This backpack: I do not need a new backpack. I have a perfectly good backpack. But this one is so pretty and I love the pattern so much (I would also like that for a tile backsplash in my fictional dream home). I keep imagining myself wearing this while I ride my bike to a coffee shop this summer. In this vision, I also have really cute denim short overalls on because apparently it is 1994.

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These shoes: Ugh. I love this color so much and the cheerful little stripe on the back. And my friend’s who have Rothy’s rave about them. But they are so pricey and I have wide and picky feet so I’m so hesitant to pull the trigger. Yes, they can be returned if they don’t fit but I don’t need that kind of hassle in my life.

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This Lego set: We have so many Legos. SO. MANY. LEGOS. And I have many Harry Potter Lego sets. So we really don’t need a $400 (!) set. But my heart wants it. It would make my Harry Potter Lego collection complete. But $400 actual human dollars is A LOT.

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This dress: After a deep closet purge last weekend, I still have at least 10 sleeveless dresses. So, again, I don’t need more. Plus, I worry that there would be a cleavage situation in this dress (I don’t do cleavage at work). But this is so summery and cute.

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Snacks: I was having to order some snacks at work and came across these snack variety boxes on Amazon. They now follow me around the internet. I 100% want these because my childhood self would have found the idea of 50 snacks coming through the mail to be the absolute height of luxury.

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(Final note: there are no affiliate links here. I get nothing if you click on anything. But if you buy that dress, please tell me how adorable you look in it, okay?)

The Drops

I’m training for an open water swim race this summer (2.1 miles in Lake Superior, which means it can be real cold). I am in the phase where I can both see that I’ve made progress in my swimming and where I have moments when I’m really nervous that I’m not going to be ready when race day comes. 2.1 miles is a lot of miles when the average temperature of the water is 40 degrees (warmer in the summer, but still!)

Tonight I was scheduled to go for a swim after work and when the time came to actually go to the pool I developed a very bad case of the “don’t wannas”. It was cold outside. And rainy. And I was hungry. And the whole process of getting to the pool, getting on my boring swimsuit (Does anyone need me to rant about the absolute dead zone of style that is plus size athletic swimwear again? No?), and making the cold walk from the locker room to the pool just seemed like Too Much.

But then I got a pep talk via text from my husband and re-read Swistle’s “In the Bucket. IN!” post (which is perhaps the most useful blog post I’ve ever read) and I went to the pool. Did I have an amazing swim? No. Did I put some drops in the damn bucket? YES ma’am.

And, of course, both my husband and Swistle were right: I was glad that I did it and doing something was better than doing nothing. And then I went to Target and was starving  so, long story short, my children were REALLY pleased with the snack to responsibility vegetables ratio that resulted. In my defense, the ice cream sandwiches were on clearance.

I have three months left to train. Lots of drops left to put in the bucket.

Lighter Load

One of my goals for this weekend was to tempt the Minnesotan fates by putting my winter clothes away and to clean out my closet for the spring and summer. Due to my clearance shopping habit and the fact that I’ve been at least four different sizes in the last five years, I have A LOT of clothes. My closet was crammed and I knew there were a lot of things that I haven’t worn in at least a year. In the past I’ve sometimes had a hard time letting go of clothes due to some combination of hope (maybe I’ll be a size 16 again some day?), Calvinist guilt (some of those clothes still have tags on them, quantifiable evidence of money wasted), and an overactive imagination that allows me to imagine scenarios where I might, maybe, someday wear that denim blazer.

But in the last year, I’ve started to find it easier to get rid of things. I’m not sure if it is due to being 40, aka the “fuck it” decade, according to my friend’s who are further ahead into this decade than I am. Maybe it’s because we’ve been in this 1400 square foot house for almost five years and I’m quite aware of how quickly that space fills. But I think a bigger part of it is that I’m feeling more at peace at some basic level with myself.

I ended up filling five garbage bags with clothes, including a deep purge of the clothes that I’ve been hanging onto in the hopes that I’ll be smaller someday. I felt almost instantly lighter afterwards.

It feels a little cheesy to say it, but I think I’m maybe just getting better overall at letting things go. I had a realization the other day that a pretty significant family member just … well, doesn’t like me very much. Maybe they love me, whatever that means to them, but they don’t actually like me. And, honestly, it makes sense. We don’t share the same values, we don’t have any common interests, and we don’t actually have much in the way of a relationship at this point. As someone who has spent literal years (plus thousands of dollars in therapy) to learning to come to terms with the fact that not everyone is going to like me all the time, the fact that I feel at peace about not being liked by someone who shares my DNA feels pretty significant.

I don’t have to be for everyone. I don’t have to keep pants that don’t fit.

Maybe the 40’s really are the fuck it decade.

 

 

Almost Home

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After starting off relatively mild, our Minnesota winter became epic in February: -45 degree temperatures, blizzard warnings, and SO. MUCH. SNOW. We don’t usually travel for the kid’s spring breaks, but around inch number 35 of snow, the winter finally broke my spirt and I booked the kids and I tickets to Arizona.

It had been just about five years since we’d been back to Arizona, which is where I grew up and where my son was born. It’s still where my parents, siblings, and come very dear friends live so it felt like it was time to go back. The fact that it was in the upper 70’s/low 80’s for most of the trip and that the kids are now old enough to be easy to travel with didn’t hurt either.

(Side note: those of you who are in the life phase where you have to travel with infants, know this: IT GETS BETTER. My kids were 6 and 10 on this trip and can carry their own luggage, entertain themselves on the plane, and can even handle airplane bathrooms on their own. Magical.)

There were many parts of this trip that ended up being awesome. We loved the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, hiking in Sabino Canyon (something I’ve been doing since I was a kid and my Girl Scout troop lost me there for a very eventful 45 minutes or so), and doing some mildly terrifying (for me) rock climbing at Windy Point.

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We stayed for a few nights in Phoenix with one of my oldest friends and it was fun and slightly disconcerting seeing our kids play together. E. and I met when we were 22 and filled with big questions about our futures. Would we find love? Get married? Have babies? Have careers we loved? Now we are 40 and the answers to some of those questions were hanging out with each other in her backyard pool. Time goes so fast.

But it was the time in Tucson that felt the most surreal to me. Tucson is where I grew up and I’ve lived more years there than anywhere else. I lived there and then left for college but then returned. I once moved to South Korea when I was in my 20’s but still returned to Tucson. It felt like the place I could always come back to, but now it no longer feels like home. Driving around there were some things that hadn’t changed at all but I didn’t feel the emotional connection I thought I would. It felt familiar but I had no longing to live there again. I can’t actually see myself living there again, like ever.

Perhaps part of it is that I just like the version of myself I am now more than I liked who I was when I lived in Arizona. Arizona was familiar and was my childhood, but living there was hard sometimes. In the ten years since we moved from there, I’ve grown children and a career and into a version of myself I actually like. I miss the hiking and the spring sunshine felt good, but it just isn’t home anymore.

It snowed again this week but it was still good to be home.

Meditation on Six

Six almost seven is riding her bike down the alley behind our house, weaving around melting snow piles, but straight through the puddles that splash mud up from her boots to her neck. Six is the Harry Potter scar on her forehead, carefully drawn on with my lip liner. Six is jeans that are suddenly too short, tucked into hand-me-down boots. Six would rather wear an old shirt that belonged to her brother than anything new, especially if the new thing is too pretty. Six is chasing her friend down the street, braids bouncing, yelling to see if she wants to build Legos or play with her American Girl doll. Six would like to build a fort: in the snow or in the basement or in her room. Six wants to hide because she knows she’ll be found.

Six still climbs in your lap to watch TV and cries if you snap at her for not being pokey about getting her school clothes on. Six goes to bed with 20 stuffed animals in her bed and wonders why she can’t have 30. Six is wiggly teeth and mystery scratches and bruises from playing hard and not caring yet if she falls. Six loves her teacher and her brothers and her favorite cousins. Six will cheerfully tell you that you are number five on her list of favorite people, unbothered by the fact that you gave birth to her.

Six still believes: in Santa, in the tooth fairy,  in the idea that most people are nice and good.

 

2018 Year in Review

While New Years Eve is still a day away, I thought I’d use my quiet Saturday night to do my annual end of the year review.

(Side note, it was quiet because our children were both out of the house, playing with friends. I was making hot tea for my my husband and I and he noted that “this is what every Saturday night will be like in not too long” referring to the kids being out in the world without us. He’s right and it reminds me that the amount of time your kids are actually little and living with you is so short in the grand scheme of things. My son is 10 and if I really want to depress myself, I can think about the fact that his childhood is already half over. This can be a maudlin time of year.)

As in past years, I’ll be answering the template that used to be standard back when everyone was blogging. Now hardly anyone is blogging (though as long as Swistle blogs, I will be happy) but I still like to recap things. So here we go!

1. What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before?

Took a long trip by train with my family. It was such a great trip and it made me really appreciate having older kids who are really fun to travel with.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Last year I said: For 2018 I’ve got A LOT on my list of things I’d like to do. I’m turning 40 in August and I have a list of 40 things I’d like to accomplish before then. I’ve got maybe six of them done so far, so I’ve got plenty to accomplish. The biggest one is to finish the first draft of a novel I’ve been slowly working on for about two years.

I ended up doing about half of the things on my turning 40 list, which is about par for the course for me, I suppose. I got most of the things done that related to stuff with the kids and several of the money things but almost none of the ones that related to health and fitness. Sigh. I did not finish the draft of the novel and I bummed about that.

For 2019, I want to keep it simple. I want to write more days than I don’t write and I want to take better care of my health (I’m writing this while dealing with my second bout of bronchitis for the year and a sore back, which I managed to injure while coughing)

3. How will you be spending New Year’s Eve?

We’ll be home and cozy. I have to work during the day, which feels ridiculous since I imagine it will be awfully slow, and I’m hoping I feel better and that we can all play some games and have snacks.

4. Did anyone close to you die? Did anyone give birth?

I didn’t attend any funerals this year, so nobody very close to me died. A number of folks at work welcomed babies this year, so I got in some newborn snuggles, which is always nice.

5.What countries did you visit ? Did I travel this year?

We went to Canada! Montreal and Toronto were both excellent cities and we really enjoyed it. I also went to Florida twice – once for work and once to take Ev to Disney. I also went to Kansas for Thanksgiving, as always, and presented at a conference in Salt Lake City. I also went to Chicago for work and got to see Hamilton, which was everything I hoped it would be. This year had quite a bit of travel, including a week at family camp and a weekend in a cabin in Wisconsin for my birthday. While I loved all the trips, it was not the cheapest year, so this year will be a little more restrained. I’ll go to Los Angeles in March for a work conference and then we’ll do a little family vacation to Wisconsin in August, but we’ll be skipping family camp this year and I don’t see any other big trips on the horizon.

6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?

A different President (I’ll say this every year until there is a sane person back in the White House) and a better immune system.

7. What date from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

My 40th birthday was a pretty great day — I got taken out to dinner and given presents by some dear friends before going to see the Beyonce/Jay-Z concert. It was an awful lot of fun.

8. What was your biggest achievement(s) of the year?

I made it through a year at work that was REALLY challenging sometimes, including the transition to having a new boss (who is terrific so far). I also did some freelance writing that I’m proud of at The Billfold, which is a website I like a lot. I’m also starting 2019 feeling like my family/marriage situation is in a good place, which is always a good thing.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I feel like I didn’t do a great job of maintaining friendships this year. I didn’t do a lot of face-to-face time with people I like a lot. It is really easy to get sucked into the busyness of life at 40 and go months without connecting to people you really like.

I also continue to struggle with relaxing and giving myself enough down time. I’m a doer by nature and I think I would be healthier if I chilled out a little more (I hear the sound of my husband nodding vigorously whenever he reads this. Yes, honey, I know)

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Yes, the usual assortment of bugs and back pain. Nothing that required hospitalization, thankfully.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Tickets! Tickets to Beyonce, tickets to Hamilton, tickets to Florida for Ev and I… I really enjoyed experiences this year.

12. Where did most of your money go?

The usual culprits: the mortgage and student loans. One of my goals this year was to try to pay a little extra to both each month and I think I managed to pay just over $1000 extra to the mortgage and about $1300 to the student loans, which is a fairly big drop in the bucket. I owe just over $6000 less on my student loans at the end of the year than I did at the start, so I know I’m making some progress. The current goal is to have them paid off before Miles (age 10) graduates from high school.

One annoying expense this year was replacing our bikes after someone stole them out of our garage. I still feel very annoyed by that when I think of it.

13. What song will always remind you of 2018?

The last song of the Beyonce/Jay-Z concert was Apeshit and the crowd really does go Apeshit. This song was a banger.

I also really liked listening to Maggie Rogers and The Greatest Showman soundtrack, though I’ve still not seen the movie because PT Barnum was trash and I want to enjoy the music without having to connect it to him.

14. What do you wish you’d done more of?

The usual suspects: writing, spending time with people I like, swimming or hiking, and reading.

15. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Stress eating candy while muttering “motherfucker” in my office. Like I said, it was a tough year at work.

16. What was your favorite new TV program?

Oh, this was a good year for TV. I finally watched Brooklyn 99 and I love it so much. The Good Place was at the top of my list last year and continues to be there this year. I self-soothed by watching a lot of the British Baking, often with my daughter, which was fun. I also really like Kim’s Convenience on Netflix. Nanette on Netflix took my breath away.

17. Do you love anyone now that you didn’t love this time last year?

Nope. No new editions to the love list, but no deletions either, so I think that is a win.

18. What was the best book you read?

I read 42 books this year and I rate each of them on a scale of 1-10. There were three 10 out of 10 books this year: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anna Fadiman. I tried to prioritize reading books by women and people of color this year and would also recommend Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng and All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung.

19. What was your greatest musical discovery? Let’s change this question to something that doesn’t assume I am trying to stay abreast of the latest in pop culture. How about what item of clothing did I wear the most?

I wore a lot of dresses this year, including some $17.99 ones from Target that are comfy enough to lounge around in at home but also nice enough to where to the store.

20. What was your favorite film of this year?

I really loved Black Panther and Widows. It was a good year for Daniel Kaluuya.

21.What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

See above! The day after I turned 40, we went to a our favorite cabin in Wisconsin and spend a perfect few days swimming in the lake and reading on the screened in porch. It was a good birthday week.

22. What kept you sane?

My family, some positive changes at work, texting with my friend E., carving out time to go to a cabin in the fall with 22 other women and relaxing in the woods.

23. Who did you miss?

My step-sons, always. We got to see both of them in 2018 and that was great. Hoping for a repeat of that in 2019. I miss face to face time with my friends.

24. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned.

Stop being surprised when an asshole acts like an asshole.

25. What pictures best represent 2018?

 

 

 

Vanity Fair

I recently renewed my subscription to the magazine Vanity Fair, despite the fact that I still have issues from four years ago that I never quite got around to reading. Vanity Fair is an interesting magazine to me in that I am so clearly not the target demographic for most of the advertisements and I don’t share their deep and on-going obsession with all things Kennedy family related. On the other hand, I do think they have some great long-form articles about topics that I didn’t know I was interested in until I was three paragraphs in. I also appreciate that they aren’t shy about noting what a massive wanker our current President is. I’m happy to support that kind of writing.

But, dudes, can we talk about how insane the advertisements targeted to people with a shit ton of money are? Let’s walk through the latest issue together.

First, a note about the cover. Natalie Portman is an undeniably gorgeous woman. But what is this facial expression? Does she need to very glamorously barf? Is she dead inside? Did she just wake up and get immediately stoned? I do not know.

NP

And then there is this ad. Because, sure. That is the logical answer to the question “What shoes do I wear to take my bird and ropes for a walk?”

NP 1

And then there is this very relatable image. She gazes to the heavens, where will her gas come from? She’d walk to get her own gas but it is taking all of her energy to keep holding her head up with those absolutely enormous sun glasses on.

NP 6

I don’t even understand these two ads. What does “Play it like Hermes” even mean? Hermes was the god of sleep, animal husbandry, and thieves, fertility, and travel (among other things), so I feel like there is a lot of ground that command could cover. As for the other one, I have questions? Is that an ad for watches or lipstick? Is it a watch that needs frequent adjustments? Or a lipstick that can be used in lieu of an appropriate screwdriver? Am I just too poor to understand?

Boss: “Why are you late to work?”

Me: “My very expensive watch says to not let numbers define me and I have no idea what time it is. Time is a construct for people without money”

NP 3

For when you have a job interview, ballet class, and a funeral all on the same afternoon:

NP2

I want two things in my bracelets: for them to be expensive and for them to remind me of  car tires. I’m in luck!

NP 9

She put on her glasses and gazed into the distance, the question never far from her mind… were the bangs a mistake?

(narrator voice: yes, yes they were)

NP 8

Her bangs look stupid, but I would truly like some information on her lipstick color.

On the plus side, there is an article about feuding Popes that looks promising. And, in the context of the ads in this magazine, their fancy robes and hats look super reasonable!