The Rest of the Weekend and Bonus Excitement

My poor old, old, old laptop shut down just as we were getting ready to leave The Cup. The screen suddenly went dark and a dire sentence: “Core temperature has reached 27° C: shutting down” appeared. Then Linux shut itself down. That seemed like a good time to pack up and head over to Old Chicago to watch our football games. We bumped into an ex-co-worker of mine, Alden, at the coffee shop, so I wasn’t relying on the computer for fun. It’s great that we’ve lived in and near Boulder long enough (seven years!) to occasionally bump into someone we know. Alden has two young twin daughters, so she caught us up on them—and how hard it is to find something fun for them to do inside on a weekend morning! As you may recall, it’s been freezing. Yesterday’s high was eighteen degrees, and I was cold ALL DAY. The Cup was freezing (although my computer still managed to overheat). Then we went to watch two miserable football games at Old Chicago, where I had to wear gloves and a hat inside. (The Browns and Steelers both lost.) Then off to the climbing gym, where I finally warmed up a little bit while I was climbing. Then to the bookstore to spend a couple of interim hours before heading over to Jen’s place for dinner. I took a short nap with my head on the table, my poor frigid body wrapped in my hat, coat, and gloves, plus Dave’s coat. Jen cooked us a delicious dinner of spinach salad with shaved almonds and craisins, rosemary biscuits, and Wisconsin soup (if I’m remembering correctly), a terrific creamed soup with plenty of fresh vegetables. For dessert we had a Frazer family Christmas tradition—bourbon balls. Yum! Elijah went over with us and we played a game called Ticket to Ride after dinner. Dave and I had never played it before, but it was fun. And long. We didn’t get home until about 11:30 p.m., by which time I was so utterly frozen I thought I’d never had a more uncomfortable day.

The Kindle must be amazing, it says so right on the picture!

Then I woke up throwing up, and spent the night dashing off to the bathroom. I seem to have a twenty-four-hour flu, or some such bug. Yuck. I stayed home sick from work today (Monday), and I’ve mostly been sleeping. Dave has been extremely kind—he built me a lovely fire and cooked me some chicken soup noodle for lunch. I feel kind of bad—I was supposed to be working, and he’s taking the whole week off. We were going to meet for a rare treat today—lunch together! Well, we did get to have lunch together anyway, although I look like someone who’s spent the day sleeping or in the bathroom. “In sickness and in health,” right?

Two very exciting things have happened in the past few days. Dave learned that his Christmas bonus from work this year is a Kindle! I’ve been generally longing for a Kindle since they debuted, but I actually got to interact with one at a publishing conference in Portland in November. Since then, I’ve been actively scheming to figure out how to justify such an expensive device to read books, when we have (as Dave constantly laments) hundreds of books at home. But it’s going to be so great for traveling, and the non-glowing screen is so cool and easy to look at, and it holds your place in each book, and you can make notes in the margins, and you can download books in two minutes for $9.99… I can’t wait to get ahold of this thing! Dave sighed when he heard the announcement at work, realizing that his Christmas bonus was actually my Christmas bonus this year. Lucky me!

Jess blogging in the living room.
Jess blogging in the living room.

The other cool thing is that I’m typing this entry using our new TV (our Christmas gift to each other) and a battered old desktop that I got from work a couple of years ago, when they were giving the old ones away. I’m sitting in the comfy living room, typing away on a keyboard on my lap. Yes, we’re terribly spoiled—there’s no reason I couldn’t go upstairs and use the computer up there. But Dave’s a techie and I’m sick, so it’s a true pleasure to play with his new device in the comfort of the living room. It will hopefully turn into Myth TV and allow us to digitally record TV shows we’re going to miss, but that function isn’t working yet. Still very cool.

Getting Ready for Christmas

It seems like we’ve been getting ready for the holiday since Thanksgiving! I don’t know how people with kids do it. I didn’t even bake cookies, which I think is de rigeur once you have little cookie gobblers running around. We bought and put up our tree last week on the coldest day of the year. We choose the first one we saw at King Soopers and tied it rapidly to the top of the car, just trying to get out of the cold. It turned out to be a cute little tree!

Dave setting up the tree.
Dave setting up the tree
Dave hanging ornaments.
Dave hanging ornaments.
All done!
All done!

That night, we put Taco in the garage. He only gets to be in there about twice a year, and it takes a fair amount of cramming to get him, Tatonka, and the five bikes (plus the saw, tables, shelves, storage cupboards, wood rack, etc.) all in.

Taco in the garage.
Taco in the garage.

No cookies, but I have done a fair amount of cooking—stay tuned for those results after Christmas. Speaking of cooking, I put a beef stew in the crock pot yesterday for dinner. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out all that well. The meat, potatoes, onions, and carrots were perfectly cooked, but it wasn’t thick enough. Not enough flour, maybe? The “broth” was kind of lumpy and greasy, but all in all it was tasty.

As I mentioned, it’s been just freezing here lately, which we Boulderites are not used to. Dave and I are sitting at The Cup, a coffee shop on Pearl Street, and my toes are numb. So I’ve been cooking winter comfort food—stuffed peppers, no peek chicken, stew. I’d love to make some chicken paprikash, but I made it for Dave once in college and he made fun of it (orange!), so I’ve never tried again.

Stew leftovers.
Stew leftovers.

We finally got our Christmas letters in the mail yesterday, after spending last week writing, printing, and stamping. I planned to use the paper folder at church to make that part a bit quicker, and I was already there for the Rainbow Child Care holiday program (just as cute as can be!), so I ran some scrap paper through to try it out. First I couldn’t figure out where to put the paper. Then I could only get it to make one fold. I booted up the laptop sitting in the office and Googled the Martin Yale paper folder. After a bit of digging around, I found a little video that was supposed to show me what to do. I watched that about six times, but could never figure out why I could only make one fold. I finally decided that it just must not work that way, and started running the sheets through a second time. It took another several minutes and tries to figure out how to get the “Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays” part on the outside. Finally I started sending the real Christmas letter through, but the paper folder was making a long wrinkle on most of the copies. I did about fifty and decided that it hadn’t been that much trouble to fold them by hand, especially since I was going to have to unfold them to write a message and then fold them back up. I left the rest alone. Whew!

We got the packages into the mail on Friday morning and spent Saturday morning at the coffee shop getting the letters ready to go. With a sinking heart, I realized that it would be better on the environment to send them out by e-mail, but who wants to get an e-mail PDF as a Christmas letter? The pleasure of keeping in touch in a more old-fashioned way is one of the charms of Christmas, so I let myself off the hook. Once the letters were safely at the post office, we headed over to church, where Dave needed to reinstall an operating system on the youth leader’s computer. I brought a book: God: Stories, which I bought at Powell’s Books in Portland. So far, the individual stories are gorgeously written but depressing as hell. I hope that at least one or two people will turn out to have been positively affected by faith! It’s true that sometimes the characters have been carried through difficult circumstances by it, but I’m looking for something transcendent, luminous—numinous.

When Dave was done with the computer, we thought about going to the movies, so we stopped to see what was playing and then ended up at the bookstore (worried that a movie would take too long and dinner would be overcooked). We stoked up the stove and slept in our sleeping bags on the living room floor for fun on Saturday night. Sunday morning I read the lessons at church and then we headed to The Cup. And now we’re back to the beginning of this post—me freezing my toes off while sipping a latte.

Camping in the living room.
Camping in the living room.

Procrastination

I just read a Newsweek story about procrastination. I’m serious—I just read it, and here I am, responding! All jokes aside, it was interesting to me because I’m a procrastinator—I always have been. In college, we did an exercise to learn more about our working styles. We had to line up on a continuum, between signs that read “I can play whenever I want” and something like “I always study first, then play.” I say “something like” because I was so far away from that sign I could barely read it. In fact, I was directly under the “I can play whenever I want” sign, and they let me take it home afterward to hang in my room. Not because I’m irresponsible; I did well in school and really enjoyed it. But because I truly work best when it comes down to the wire. (I just looked that up: it has to do with winning a race by crossing the wire.) I was forever trying to convince my roommates, whom I considered too studious and hopelessly dedicated, to put off their work and come play with me. In fact, I think they just had different working styles—they worked well by handling tasks methodically and pacing them out evenly to fill the allotted time. I once had a week in which I had six papers due. (I have to let my editorial “we” butt in here and tell you that my eyeballs are twitching off to the side, looking for something to do in the middle of writing this post. There are so many options! Check my work e-mail. Check my personal e-mail. Wash out the Tupperware that held my lunch salad. I’m going to try to finish in one fell swoop…) (Which comes from Shakespeare and points to a hunting bird’s ruthless and deadly attack: “fell” is from the same root as “felon.”)

Oh, dear. I didn’t even realize, when I went to look that up..!

Anyway, I work best under pressure. Alternatively, you could say that I can’t force myself to work unless I’m under pressure. Let me get back to that story: I had six papers due in a week. One each day, except that I had two due one of the days. I didn’t start any of them until Sunday night, at which point I had doomed myself to writing one (or two) per night, all week. And I’m awful when I don’t get enough sleep. Poor roommates!

Not that I’m saying it’s a good idea to do that. But I’ve always noticed that more vocabulary comes to mind when I’m under pressure. So I’ve always liked tests. However, when kids like me grow up, they have to get jobs, and jobs like mine tend not to have very solid deadlines. How do I get any work done? Sometimes I find myself preparing for a meeting at the last minute and then not presenting myself all that well at the meeting. And I’m more likely to procrastinate on hard tasks, like turning down a book proposal. Luckily, at my new job I have Microsoft Outlook as an e-mail program. I’ve been entering “Tasks” and “Calendar” items since I started, and it really works well! If you don’t do a task on the day you assign to it, it turns red and taunts you daily until you can’t stand it anymore and do it. You can also set it to remind you to do stuff by flashing an annoying box over whatever you’re working on at a prescribed time. I’ve been really good about not leaving stuff on my desk too long since starting with Outlook. That directly agrees with the Newsweek article, which tells us that people tend to procrastinate more on vague, broad-ranging ideas than on specific actions. So assigning myself a date to make a decision turns a vague “yes or no” into a specific task.

I still put most tasks off till the last minute. I work on the church newsletter on Sunday night, right before it’s due for proofreading on Monday. I just finished writing our Christmas letter, which still needs to be printed, signed, folded, stamped, and mailed. (It’s December 17!) We haven’t sent our packages yet. (The post office, via the TV, tells us we have until Saturday, and it’s only Wednesday…)

Oh, did you notice that I said “we”? Dave used to ask me to wake him up in the middle of the night to do his homework, due the next day. It sounds like a joke: What happens when two procrastinators get married? Answer: nothing.

Here’s the Newsweek article, if you want to read it: http://www.newsweek.com/id/173335

Dinner Party

blue cheese ravioli leftovers
blue cheese ravioli leftovers

Dave and I had fun at our dinner party last night. Our guests were our caving friend Jen, our church friend Rob, and a co-worker of mine, Andrew, and his wife Maggie. The blue cheese rigatoni turned out to be delicious, although it got cold really fast. We had a spinach salad that was basically the same ingredients as the ravioli: spinach, red onion, tomatoes, and green peas. We played Trivial Pursuit and our two-editors-and-a-scientist team beat the two-lawyers-and-a-scientist team, although both teams had all their pie pieces at the end.

This morning Dave and I went over to church to normalize the Christmas tree in the sanctuary. Several of us YABSers (that’s young adult Bible study, although it’s more of a fellowship group) put the tree up on Thursday, along with the garland and bows on the windows, but at the end of the evening the event devolved a bit and the gentlemen started throwing the Christmas ornaments onto the very high tree. (Some of them actually stuck!) We called it a night and a few of us went over to Tandoori Grill for dinner. Yum. However, we thought it would be nice to make sure the Chrismons were more or less evenly distributed on the tree, so we went back today.

dishes from the dinner party
dishes from the dinner party

Dave and I also did a bunch of Christmas shopping today. The first rule of Christmas shopping is that you always find yourself something first, right? Last week we went out and I finally got some new underwear. (That’s how you know you’re a grown-up–when new underwear is really exciting.) Today we decided to get ourselves/each other a new TV. Our big old console TV, while very dear to my heart, has been slowly dying (the picture turns bright red at random). That, added to the necessity of deciding about a digital converter box, means that we’ve been thinking about a new TV for a while. We found a good deal and decided to go for it. We’ll save some money by building the stand ourselves, and I hope we’ll have this TV as long as the Gribble family had the console. (Since 1989. The TV cost $1937 with a 30% discount and weighs 140 lbs!) Never fear–we found some gifts for other people, too. We came home, had dinner, did the dishes, and went out to a Christmas party, thrown by Anna, an ex-co-worker of mine, and her husband Aaron.

In other exciting news, our good friends Kelli and Pete Bronski have brought their first child into the world! Marin Concetta Bronski was born on Friday. We’ll go meet her tomorrow and rejoice with our friends.

Food and Exercise

I’m here to talk about food. Food and exercise. This afternoon I pulled on my running shoes and went for a jog. The whole time, I was thinking about how much I hate jogging—I can’t breathe, I immediately get a stitch in my side, my ankle hurts, my knees ache. I was also trying to remind myself that I feel really good when I get enough exercise. Generally, the crankier I am, the likelier it is that I haven’t been outside or climbing in the gym in a while. Make no mistake—I HATE the idea of exercise. I love to ride my bike—especially mountain biking—but it’s exhausting. I love to climb in the gym, but I hate postponing dinner to head over there after a long day at work. I love to ice climb, but I hate being cold. I love caving, but I hate worrying about how scared I’ll be. I love running about with friends, but I hate the idea of spending an afternoon playing soccer. I love swimming, but I hate suiting up and sliding into cold water. I hate jogging. Yes, I just hate it. But the easiest exercise to get in the middle of day is pulling on stretchy clothes, pocketing my iPod, and lacing up my really cool Adidas (bought when I was laboring through triathlons a few summers ago). Then heading out to the bike path near work and going ten minutes in one direction until—thank goodness!—my watch beeps and I can turn back. Luckily, I inherited some of my dad’s desire for a regular schedule, which has made it easier to get in the habit of exercising. In college and grad school it was Abs of Steel, every other day, for years. I still do exercise videos that Dad taped from the TV back in the 80s—Denise Austin and Basic Training: The Workout with Ada Janklowitcz. I also did Buns of Steel for a while, until I realized that building muscle in your rear means building your rear.

Anyway, I hate jogging. And I hate the idea that I get a bunch of exercise and then I have to do it again! I should immediately look like a movie star. It’s all well and good to be healthy (as always, The Magic Mountain comes to mind), but I’m already fairly healthy. If I’m going to kill myself huffing and puffing up the path, I want to be gorgeous at the end of it, immediately!

I also exercise because I LOVE FOOD. I love it as much as I hate jogging (maybe more). Dinner is a beautiful reward for a workday. Breakfast soothes the pain of having to be awake. Lunch is probably my least favorite, but at work it gives me time to read for fun and enjoy some leftovers. I’ve always loved to eat, but I have no appetite. I’m never hungry. I think I have a terribly slow metabolism and I eat because it’s finally time, hooray! So I simply must exercise. I’ve struck a happy balance with my body. I eat more than I should, but I don’t worry about what I’m eating, and I live comfortably with the results.

I’ve recently discovered that I love to cook, and I’m also learning that I like to garden. I love to eat vegetables that taste like they’re supposed to, and that have to have the dirt washed off before I can eat them. I’d love to learn to can and learn how to freeze things in useable quantities—so I could pull out carrots in the middle of winter for a soup or a stew. (Advice welcome.) Since I’m talking about cooking, I’ll mention that we’re having a dinner party tomorrow. Dave suggested that I make either Indian food or stir-fry, but I decided on blue cheese rigatoni and spinach salad, with pineapple upside-down cake for dessert. If it turns out well, I’ll post the recipes.