Me & My Ocelot

The other day when I was blogging about National Poetry Month Ellyn commented that the kids at her school celebrated with "Poem in My Pocket" week. Each student carried a personally selected poem in their pocket and could go up to each other and ask to hear each other's poems. It made me wonder which poem each of us would carry in our pockets. What poem for me? What verse might typify my sister? Jason?

I have never seen the movie The Golden Compass (although I started to wish I had plugged in the armrest headphones and watched it on a recent plane ride.) One of the premises I found most intriguing is the idea that every character in the movie has a animal spirit companion, or daemon, that represents their soul. Throughout the movie each character is shadowed by their animal spirit: Nicole Kidman is followed by a monkey; other characters are partnered with dogs, ferrets or mice. Like my curiosity about the poems in our pockets, I wondered what each of our animal spirits might be.
And sure enough, the movie marketers cleverly anticipated I'd think about that: I discovered that you can go to the movie's website and find out your own animal spirit.
I took the quiz and it turns out my animal spirit is an ocelot (a wildcat) because I am "modest, competitive, sociable and inquisitive."
My daemon's name is Thaleron, which sounds a little goth weird. Do you think he'd mind if I just call him Thad? It's a little interesting to imagine him walking to the train with me, lounging at my feet in meetings, and following me around the kitchen... oh wait, that last one is my real cat.

The Golden Compass was just released on DVD, so maybe I'll add it to my Netflix list.
And in the meantime, you should take the daemon quiz and tell me who your animal soul is too!

Dwindling Number of Excuses

It's spring (sort of, since it's 40 degrees and rainy today) and with one friend on a tremendous self-improvement drive and another about to kick into her wedding weight loss plan, it's hard to be the one slug in the group.
The fourth of our friend team was musing aloud the other day how she wants to run another marathon, and do I want to train with her? When I finished choking with incredulous laughter, she endearingly persisted by saying, "I'll show you the training plan, you could do it."
After running that 5k the other week, I realized that I have room for improvement, and a need for new running shoes. Saturday I addressed the shoes by picking up a new pair at the Nike store. (And helped the planet by donating the old pair to Nike's Reuse a Shoe program. The soles are recycled to make surfaces for basketball court and tracks.) I wanted a SUNNY yellow pair, but they only had blue in my size. Oh well.
To add to the dwindling list of excuses to not get out there and run, my new running shorts arrived in the mail the other day too.
And it's now a bearable temperature outside somedays, with the sun out. (Haven't seen that fella in six months!)
Jason's even been more outgoing, although we are still figuring out a compatible pace. He favors fast (hare) and I prefer a slow but steady approach (tortoise.) He's a little bossy about the route too. "Why can't we run by the lake? Why can't we run by the lake?!" I whine as I burdensomely slow his ambitious pace down. I might sign up for another 5k at the Lincoln Park Zoo, where I can run by my pace-mates, the Tortoises.

Chicago and other surprising events

There are sometimes when I struck with the surprise that I live in Chicago. One of those Talking Heads 'Once in a Lifetime' moments:

"And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful Wife
And you may ask yourself - did I get here?"

I had those same moments when I lived in Columbus too.
Or when I remembered that I was barely past 21 and both of my parents were gone. Or when I realize that they are both already gone for over ten years.
Mom for 15 this year; how is that possible?

Sometimes these epiphanies are energizing, and sometimes they are profoundly sad and redefining.

Gratefully, Chicago falls into the energizing category. And it makes me wonder how 7 pm on a Friday has arrived without making any plans for the weekend. And how did my TimeOut Chicago subscription expire? (See what a little warm weather can do for me?)

Moving away from home takes courage, and as you're rocketing forward on that trajectory you can feel just as bewildered as that little bear on the Kanye West album cover. (Congrats to Abby & David, for launching themselves across the country to Portland!)

This new Kanye West video can remind me what I like about Chicago:

HOMECOMING from kwest on Vimeo.

Plans for the weekend so far:
- Movie with friend tonight
- Pulling the tarp of the deck furniture and visiting the local greenhouse for flowers for the deck

Brainstorm with Little Direction: Bathrooms

Why can't we have these in America?
Heated towel racks. They're all over Europe, and who doesn't like a nice warm towel?
I'll have to add this to the list of things I want in the home that we someday buy. (We saw one potential home that had heated floor tiles in the bathroom. My toes ache for that. The cheapest substitute is snuggling my toes into the bathroom rug just after I pull it out of the dryer.)

I also can't wait to have a 'forever home' so that I can buy expensive bathroom towels, the best I can find. (Hopefully 'the best' are not the most expensive, or maybe not expensive at all.) What I really want is fluffy, soft, and absorbent.

And to further my bathroom brainstorm: If we buy our current place, this wallpaper might be cute, since we have boring square white tiles, with black trim. They remind me of the old school tiles we had in our house growing up (of course those were an odd mix of seafoam green and maroon... so it could be worse.)
It's fun to search flickr to see what other people have done with their black and white tile bathrooms. I suggested big black and white stripes and Jason looked at me like I was batty. (That happens at least 2x everyday.)

I love this delicate grey bathroom too, it looks so clean, airy and serene.

The Month I Appreciate Poetry

As I believe I blogged last April (maybe) this month is National Poetry Month and for thirty days Random House sends me a daily poem.
I like this because if I went off in search of poetry myself I'm not sure that I'd find the good stuff. Instead, I'd probably find the obtuse, medieval, thirty-stanza stuff that seems faraway and unintelligible.
But this poem shows me that poetry can also be casual, loving and like it maybe aptly should be, a shorthand of life:

by Michael Ondaatje

Griffin calls to come and kiss him goodnight
I yell ok. Finish something I'm doing,
then something else, walk slowly round
the corner to my son's room.
He is standing arms outstretched
waiting for a bearhug. Grinning.

Why do I give my emotion an animal's name,
give it that dark squeeze of death?
This is the hug which collects
all his small bones and his warm neck against me.
The thin tough body under the pyjamas
locks me like a magnet of blood.

How long was he standing there
like that, before I came?

Maybe this is what that Barnes & Noble gift card I got for Christmas has been waiting for.

Signs of the Apocolypse?

This was a weird week, and it wasn't just the cold medicine that made things seems like they were going awry all over. (I still have a cough.)

So first there was the cougar. In Chicago. The city's police department handled the situation with their usual level of sensitivity: they shot it. It's hard not to feel sorry for the cat, especially since there were photos of it curled up on the cement much like our little innocent cat (although the cougar was dead.) But I guess cougars can be aggressive. Mayor Daley busted out with an equally sensitive comment about how they had to shoot it or else the city would be sued. I was a little relieved that it wasn't our neighborhood gaining notoriety for this weird news event, but it did happen a block and a half away from my boss's house, and Jason pointed out that since there was an earlier cougar sighting north of us, and then cat was killed south of us, he must have passed through our neighborhood at some point.

Early Friday morning I woke up thinking that Jason had rolled over very violently because our bed was shaking. But I turned and saw that he was still and fast asleep like a babe... and the bed was still shaking. Earthquake! It lasted no more than twenty seconds and then I fell right back asleep. Whatever.
It was amusing to share stories with coworkers about how everyone's unexpectedly roused brain chose to interpret the event: an early morning construction job, a truck driving by, or aggressive burglars. Because the last thing you think of in Chicago is that there will be an earthquake bouncing you out of bed early in the morning.
But when I stood on the train platform chatting with a fellow commuter she was nonchalant, "Oh, it must be the Madrid fault line."
What? Arriving at the office, googling this information was my first task. Who knew that we just moved ourselves closer to the a large fault line? I thought of the Midwest as safe and insular. (Except for tornadoes, of course, which was one of my worst childhood fears.)
You might be surprised at your proximity to disaster, "The geological survey has designated 26 urban areas in the United States as earthquake risk areas; that list includes New York, Boston, Memphis, Chattanooga, Tenn., and Evansville, Ind." The end may be nigh.

My Blog is Boring

My blog is boring because the cough I mentioned this weekend is still visiting.
It's one of those dilemmas where I am not so sick that I'm felled, feet up on the couch, snuggled into a blanket with no other choice but to rest. Instead my throat just feels like it's on fire, my head hurts and I feel pangs of guilt at the possibility of being Typhoid Mary* at the office. Potentially sharing my germs with whomever will take them.

And if I were to stay home I imagine I'd look just as bored and perturbed as Mary did.

*Nova did a v. good documentary on Typhoid Mary. Now that I really know who she was, I feel like I can reference her authoritatively.
Maybe I'll just go to bed now and hope it will help a little.

I Sang and I Ran Somewhere

Last week I was here:
{sigh} Scottsdale, Arizona for a week no less. Now I'm back in Chicago, and it's supposed to snow and I have a cough.

The national annual sales meeting is always full of rah-rah-rah type activities planned to get us enthusiastic and socializing. I sometimes find these meetings overwhelming because they're just so much smiling and hugging and greeting. This year's meeting even had me doing two distinctly unusual things for Claire, but both activities being things I wish I could do better: singing and running. (Not at the same time.)

I Can't Sing
To kick the meeting off our meeting planners organized a choir, and asked for volunteers. Finally, an on-stage singing part where I would not be cut in the audition phase! Singing is one talent I really wish I had. But I really don't. The only time I near singing on-tune is when it's acapella with my sister... who has the same voice as me. We can do a fairly good Madonna.
It helped that this was like karoke-choir, with vocals piped in behind us to fill in the cracks and gaps. Or maybe just drown us out. I could hardly hear myself singing so maybe that's why we got a standing ovation.

I Can't Run
Two nights later we put on matching t-shirts for a charity 5k fun run/walk. I could have made the choice to secure my dignity and plan on the walk, but I was going to give running a try. (I had already sang in front of every single one of my coworkers, so why not continue to live fearlessly?)
A friend of mine said she'd be doing a light jog, so I figured we'd set a fine sustainable pace. About 3/10's of a mile later I watched as she jogged right on ahead of me. This is when I remembered that she was an assistant coach in college, and on-again-off-again triathlon coach.
I favored an alternating run and walk - meeting the true description of the 5k. My finishing time was 40 minutes. I felt good being in the middle of our pack, but sad when a team of walking co-workers (one in very impractical sandals) crossed the finish line just 8 minutes later. I'd jogged probably about 2.5k's and it only gained me 8 minutes. I blame the assistant coach friend and the excitement of a race start which probably had me enthusiastically starting the race at a much faster pace than I should have.

On Friday, the first day back in the office, I commiserated with a fellow coworker about how running on concrete is vastly different than our usual elliptical machine routines. Feeling it particularly in our quads and lower shins.
Ouch, impact. Ouch, going down stairs. Ouch, trying to move my rolly chair across my office. Ouch, getting out of the chair. Ouch, walking.
My marathon-running boss queried as to whether I'd worn running shoes. Yes! I did! His follow-up question was illuminating, "How old are your running shoes?"
The answer was that I am now planning on buying new running shoes. And maybe some shorts that will be conducive to running a little more often.

I think with practice I can run better, with less pain. Practicing singing may be hopeless and just cause for increased auditory pain to others. I'll keep that practice in the sealed cabin of my car.

Still Hangin' Tough

I think it's mildly hilarious that the New Kids on the Block are back. Although they are now more the age of the Parents on the Block probably. (All pushing 40 years old.)
And the demographics are right, since I was about 14 at the height of their popularity that I was a NKOTB fan. Buying TigerBeat and BOP magazine at the US Navy base in London to learn that my favorite NKOTB, Joey McIntyre was a Capricorn. (Which meant, since I am a Virgo, that we would be compatible!*)
I was asked by a boy on the school bus what I was listening to on my Walkman one morning, when I replied, "New Kids," thinking that would be cool (if not also true.) What a mistake. I was persecuted for my allegiance for months later, when I saw the boy in the hallways of our high school, he and his friends would sing out the Hangin' Tough anthem, and bust out a few mock dance moves. Deeply embarrassing. Deeply.I don't think I'll be on the NKOTB bandwagon this time, as no doubt Jason would employ the same tactics to embarrass me out of its consideration. (Thank God we grow up.)

*In their unveiling on the TODAY show this week, Joey made a political joke. I knew we'd be perfect for each other!!!

Weather Update

The defining theme of this winter's blog has been regular weather updates, it's true.
Today I walked outside, with my puffy jacket* unzipped and thought, "It's warm! Gloriously warm! It must be 40 degrees!!!"

I was impressed with my growing sensitivity to degree changes towards warmth when I got in the car and the radio announcer provided the temperature as exactly 40 degrees.

It is lamentable that I've now come to define warm as 40 degrees, and the five minutes of sunshine today had my walk down the hallway leading me closer and closer to being pressed against the glass of the windows. How sad to have a day where you don't feel satisfyingly warm until you're at home in bed under the covers. (This may be my own fault though, since I've starting wearing some spring clothes in spite of the stubbornly low temperatures and grey skies.)

*Monday marked the fourth time in two months where I've been stuck soaking wet in my puffy coat. With or without umbrella. I feel the need to somehow refresh the puffy coat. It's surprisingly water resistant, perhaps like the geese that contributed their down to its making. Is there spring cleaning for puffy coats? Like me, the puffy coat has been de-puffed by this weather. Maybe a couple of tennis balls and a dryer sheet in a low-heat dryer? (A reasonable use for the tennis balls until I can actually play with them again in the spring.)

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