I almost never turn the TV on during the day. On Monday, though, I turned on the Today Show to have on in the background while I was doing my ankle exercises, and I watched a segment they did on taking selfies that focused on "aging women." The youngest woman in the group? Was forty. And as I am quickly coming up on my 42nd birthday, it shook me a little bit to realize that, at least as far as the media is concerned, I'm in the "aging women" group.
It made me look at myself quite critically in the mirror. What evidence of aging can I see? My hair is an obvious example: if I let it go too long between colors, it's not just the roots that show my age (right in front, my hair is completely white I think, under the color), but the length as well. It's not really grey, but it's not a rich, deep brown. It's a faded composite of brown and dark grey. Not very youthful at all.
The skin on my neck is starting to get chickeny.
My nasolabial folds (the line that runs from your nose to the corners of your mouth when you smile) continue to get deeper and deeper. Really: it's my inner Lady Elaine Fairchild, which insists on revealing itself more and more.
My eyelashes are getting sparse while my eyebrows sprout out long and unruly.
The flesh around my triceps gets bigger and bigger—this is a trait I'm 110% certain I inherited from my mom. It will be the doom of me because it doesn't seem to matter how many tricep exercises I do. That flab just keeps growing.
I am starting to get above-the-knee wrinkles.
The skin on my belly refuses to flatten and my above-the-bra-line back fat insists on growing.
I'm self-conscious about the backs of my hands, because they're sort of spotty.
And that's not even talking about the wrinkles on my eyes.
The thing that startled me the most, though, as I looked at myself in the mirror for evidence of aging, is the deep well of shame that gurgled over. I'm not young anymore. I don't look exceedingly old. But I don't look young, and it feels...it feels embarrassing.
Isn't that odd?
As I've thought about aging all this week, I've been able to label that feeling with more specificity. Even though I exercise, and use sunscreen, and drink lots of water—even though I do what I can to, if not exactly combat but at least keep at bay the forces of aging—I'm pretty sure there isn't a whole lot about the process I can control. And yet, it still feels like I have betrayed myself somehow. By growing older. That is why it feels shameful: because it feels like there should be something I should do, but I haven't, so the wrinkles and the flesh and the greyness feel like little failures. Like they are the results of slothfulness.
I have listened to my mom so many times complain about being overweight and looking old. It's made me sad, because here, look at her:
She's in her seventies and she is still beautiful. It makes me sad because I think wait. Isn't there ever a time when we can just be at peace with who we are? When the beautiful and lasting things we've made in our lives are bigger than our outward appearance? I wish she felt beautiful. I wish she knew that being here with us, spending time together and giving advice and making things and eating chocolate chip cookies: that matters more than smooth skin and a narrow waist.
Of course, I want her to know that, but I don't know how to also help myself know that. Except for knowing this: I want to try. I want to continue doing what I can to at least slow the process down. But I want to somehow find joy in it, too. Well, maybe not "joy." That batwing back-of-my-arm skin is never going to make me happy. But I want to learn how to look beyond what I look like, which is only going to continue sliding backwards, and focus more on what I have accomplished, which doesn't have to do anything but increase.
Yesterday at work, a teenage patron came up to my desk and told me about a project she was working on for school. She had a stack of papers and was asking people to write down one thing they loved about their bodies, and she asked me if I would help her. Write one thing I love about myself? That's a hard thing. It is so easy for me to go into that self-hatred place; I do it as a way of self-preservation because it feels like at least if I point out the fact that I have wrinkly knees and a chubby belly and some really ugly back fat, it won't surprise me if someone else does. It is so easy to point out what is wrong. So this girl's request to acknowledge something good really made me pause. Except, there were two other people needing help and the phone was probably going to ring any second, so I didn't really have any time to fuss or ponder or worry. So I wrote down that I love my legs because they take me where I want to go.
(Then I laughed a few minutes later, after it wasn't so busy, because me? Writing "I love my legs"? That is a little bit hilarious, as, well...you know my enormous-thighs issues.)
But it did, also, lift me up. It reminded me that while I might be aging, I'm not old yet. I'm not done. And it lessened—just a smidgeon—that I'm-getting-old embarrassment. Because I should always love my body. We all should, even with the pounds and the skin and the creases. It's the thing that lets us experience life. And I'm going to work on loving mine more.
A long time ago—maybe even 18 months ago, or two years even—my sister-in-law asked for my recipe for homemade macaroni and cheese. This is because, truth be told: I make a really, really good homemade macaroni and cheese.
Every time I make it I think, I should give this recipe to Cindy. But I haven’t. Not out of this-is-a-secret-recipe weirdness. Or laziness. But just because, mostly? I don’t really follow an exact recipe. Which means sometimes when I make it, I have a whole bunch of cheese sauce left over and not enough noodles. Or a whole bunch of leftover noodles. Or I have to hurry and grate more cheese. (Or even, yes...run to the store for more cheddar.)
But every time I make it, despite its deliciousness, I feel bad for not sharing.
So, I made it tonight, and I thought, OK. This time I’m going to really pay attention and get the measurements down on paper so I can share them with Cindy.
Except at the end I still had way too much cooked macaroni.
Anyway! Here is how you make really good macaroni and cheese. There are several secrets involved, which I shall divulge with abandon. Prepare yourself for deliciousness. But have a lot of cheese grated and ready to go. And don’t be surprised if you make too much sauce or boil too many noodles, OK?
Just go with it!
Macaroni & Cheese secret #1: All of your ingredients need to be room temperature. If not, the sauce will be grainy.
Macaroni & Cheese secret #2: You need mostly sharp cheddar, but different types of cheese are required. I always put blue cheese in mine, and then for the third cheese I’ll throw in whatever other kind I happen to have: Parmesan, Romano, Monterey jack, mozzarella. When I made it today, I’d bought some Gruyere to try; I’ve also used white cheddar, Muenster, and Colby.
(Can you tell I am a cheese fan? Mmmmm.)
About an hour before you want to start cooking, grate the cheese. I have no idea how much I use—several hunks off of the 5-lb block of cheddar that’s nearly always in my fridge. One and a half pounds maybe? A handful of blue. About 3/4 cup of the other cheese.
Spread the grated cheese on individual plates so it can all come to room temperature.
Then measure any combination of milk/half & half/cream that you think your arteries can stand. You want a total of
8 cups milk/cream combo
Then just let it sit for about 45 minutes. When you’re ready to start cooking, first, make a roux with:
6 T butter
8 T flour
In a very large saucepan, melt the butter, then sprinkle the flour on top of it. Stir with a whisk until smooth. Cook this for about five minutes, stirring constantly. I gather it all up in a puddle on the middle of the pan with a spatula, then whisk until it spreads out everywhere, then gather it again. You want it to be a crispy sort of golden brown—if you don’t cook it enough, the flour will give a sort of raw taste.
Start the water boiling for the macaroni. This time I used a 48-ounce bag and then I realized that, yeah...three pounds of elbow macaroni is way too much, even for my family of growing teenagers. Try two pounds.
Once the roux has cooked for awhile, start pouring in the milk. NOTE: Did you forget to set the milk out to bring it to room temperature? Put it in the microwave while you’re preparing the roux! I pour in about 1 ½ cups and whisk until smooth; then I pour in about two more cups and whisk until smooth, then add the rest. And (can you guess?) whisk until smooth!
Now start seasoning. Here’s another secret: to make a lovely, yellow macaroni & cheese, you need more yellow than the cheddar can provide. It’s only cheese, people! Its job is to add flavor (and yes, calories, but whatever). To make your dish yellow, you add turmeric. It adds only a very subtle turmeric flavor but a lovely bright yellow.
I definitely don’t measure the spices. Instead I add some and then I taste and then add more if it needs it. You can start with quite a bit, because you’re working with eight cups of milk. These are my guesses:
1/4 tsp nutmeg (which is another secret ingredient, but it can quickly overpower, so seriously: just dashes!)
1 ½ tsp white pepper
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp turmeric
3/4 tsp dry mustard
tons & tons of freshly-ground black pepper
Keep the heat on medium low and keep stirring the milk sauce. It will start to thicken as it gets hotter. You don’t want to let it boil, or if it DOES start boiling, turn it down quickly, but not too low because you want it warm enough to melt the cheese. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
Now start adding the cheese. Sprinkle it in even handfuls across the top of the sauce, then whisk until smooth. Start with the blue cheese, then add the second flavor—about 3/4 cup of the second.
Then start adding the cheddar. But between each bit, whisk until smooth. And don’t add it in clumps, but just an even sprinkling. Start tasting when you’ve added about half of the cheddar. Remember that the flavor will mellow when you add the macaroni, so if it seems strong, that is OK. Continue adding cheese in small amounts until it tastes the way you like it.
Meanwhile, you’ve been cooking the macaroni in the biggest pot. Cook it just till al dente. Drain thoroughly. When the sauce is done, pour about half the macaroni back into the biggest pot. Pour about half the sauce in. Keep adding sauce and macaroni until it is as saucy as you like it. If you have too much sauce for your noodles, keep it in the fridge—it’s good on broccoli or on top of baked potatoes. If you have too many noodles, you’ll eat them tomorrow or the next day in tomato soup, right?
And if you have the exact amount of both, well, you are a better cook than I!
(NOTE: I make a great big batch so that everyone eats enough at dinner and then there are left overs. You can downside if you don't like left overs or you don't have teenage boys who can put away incredible amounts of food.)
Sherman Alexie (whose YA novels are astounding) says he writes for teenagers
“because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing everyday and epic dangers. I don’t write to protect them. It’s far too late for that. I write to give them weapons—in the form of words and ideas—that will help them fight their monsters. I write in blood because I remember what it felt like to bleed.”
I think that’s why I like reading YA novels: because I remember that ache so vividly. Even though I went through a lot of rough times as a teenager, sometimes I wish I could go back to those days, because while the ache was desperate and demanding, it was real. I don’t think there’s any other time in a human life when things—everything—felt so rich and strong and hard and real. And YA, or at least the good YA, reaquaints you with how that felt.
But I also come to YA novels as an adult reader. And sometimes I have to remind myself that these books aren’t written for me. Well, at least: most of them aren’t. There are some YA novels that feel like they are written for adult readers of teenage books, and while I respond to them, I have a hard time recommending them to teenage readers.
And then there are the rare YA books that really: an adult will love, a teenager will love.
Those are my favorite. Guitar Notes by Mary Amato is one I read recently that falls right into that rare category.
It tells the story of Tripp Brody, who’s used his guitar and song-writing skills to cope ever since his dad died. And Lyla Marks, who’s played cello her whole life...but even though it’s a connection to her dead mother, who also played the cello, she isn’t sure she loves it anymore. When he doesn’t finish the make-up work he was supposed to do over the summer, Tripp’s mom takes his guitar away, so he’s forced into playing the school’s guitar in the practice room on odd days. On even days, Lyla gets it. They start leaving each other notes—and a friendship starts to form.
The story covers a lot of what happens in high school. The way friendships that once seemed immutable dissolve. How sometimes all the pressure of getting good grades and looking a specific way and filling a specific role becomes unbearable. The process of figuring out who you are instead of who your parents, friends, or teachers think you are.
That thing, mostly, in fact. Remember how that felt? Maybe it was your mom, or your dad, or a sister or a friend. But there was something who thought you should be a certain thing. Someone important. But rising up within you was the knowledge that you were, most decidedly, not that certain thing. And the way that knowledge built up was so sharp, and painful, that keeping it in, even though you tried, even though you pretended as hard as you could—it was, eventually, too rough a thing to hide.
And you had to cut something open to let it out.
This book about music—guitar, and cello, but also writing songs and learning chords and a whole other language that I hardly understand—related to almost none of my adolescence. But it still managed to shove me into how those days felt, so in that sense, I loved it. I thoroughly enjoyed Tripp and Lyla’s relationship, the way that it developed (mostly, at the start, through notes to each other, and then through song lyrics and actual talking and being together) slowly. You know why they feel affection for each other. Their experiences together are sweet, but it isn’t all romance as you see what their parents’ deaths do to their lives. And, it has that thing—about figuring out who you are, and trying to know how to say it when it will change how other people think of you.
It reminded me, oddly enough, of something that happened during my gymnastics days. One of my best gymnastics friends, Laura, was learning how to do a front flip for her beam routine. Front flip=blind landing, which is sort of fairly terrifying on a 4" wide piece of wood, 4 feet off the ground. I did my back handspring, layout, layout sequence and I watched her practice that front flip, over and over, and I felt so damn lucky to not be her. She practiced, she fell, she eventually got it, she competed with it, she fell. Sometimes she landed it, sometimes she didn’t.
She hated that front flip I think.
And one day it was too much.
We weren’t in the same high school, but she told me what she did: she asked every boy she knew if he would punch her as hard as he could, right in her already-injured wrist. Just because she wanted a bruise. Because she wanted proof that she was tired, and scared, and frustrated. That she needed a break from being the gymnast with a front flip in her beam routine.
I still remember our beam coach’s astonishment when this story got back to her. Who would do that? But I wasn’t baffled. I understood. (Even though I couldn't have said why I understood. Or even what.) She didn’t have the language to say what she was feeling—to let out her terrified knowledge. So she cut it out—with all of those boys’ fists.
I think teenagers get to that desperate point quite often, when they wish for violence to happen, for something bad, because then things would change. On the other side of the car crash, or the really-really-drunk party, or the cutting, or the myriad other ways hurt can come, someone will be forced to notice.
This book does that: the main problem is solved—well, sort-of solved—with an accident. On the other side, Lyla and Tripp are both able to say what is necessary about what they know, but they can’t do it until the bad thing happens. That solution is, to me, an adolescent solution. And so in a sense it belongs exactly in a YA novel, because it is a solution that many teenagers wish for.
In another sense, though, it feels like an easy solution. In real life, there isn’t often a convenient, say, airplane crash that miraculously changes everything (plus: you survive). Part of growing up is, I think, learning how to speak that sharp knowledge of who you are without letting it damage you in the process. I would have liked this book even more if the characters had been able to say what they needed to without damage being a solution.
But that is me reading it as an adult reader. I think a teenage reader, reading this plot, would resonate with it because she hasn’t learned yet how to speak, and because she’s wished for something dramatic to change everything, and because the catharsis of change actually happening might teach her that she could speak without the damage.
That feeling of bleeding (even if it really isn’t blood) that Sherman Alexie writes from—that is what my favorite YA novels have. Guitar Notes has it. It offers up some weapons: creativity. Trust. Taking a chance. Hopefully it staunches something for some teenager out there; for me it simply reminded me to be more brave now that I know how to say who I am.
I hate romance novels.
Wait! Does that make me sound like a Valentine's Day grinch? Well...that's OK. Because I am.
I dislike them for the same reason, really, that I dislike Valentine's Day. It's manufactured reality. And while, yes, I get the escape value of reading, you know, escapey sort of books, to me it's not escaping. It's just frustrating to be led down a path of unrealistic people (men's chests just don't look like that! and they don't, usually, act like that either!) and experiences. Especially the I'm-a-virgin-except-I-didn't-know-I'm-really-a-ravishing-sex-kitten-until-your-hand-touched-me one.
That said, I do love a good love story. It doesn't even have to turn out happy. Just two people trying to figure stuff out. (Two people, generally. The love triangle is overdone and overwrought, in my opinion.) I like it when authors take you past that first-flush feeling (the one that lasts forever in Romance Novels) and show how to negotiate loving each other when that is gone, how it is hard and sometimes dreary but then the brilliant, rainbowish places are made even more luminous through the contrast. Or how some things change but other things don't. I like reading books where real stuff happens and people don't know what to do with what is happening, and it changes them and then they survive but they are someone different. Since that, in my experience, is how life goes.
So! For your Valentine's Day pleasure, although in light of my slightly grumpy-cat-esque take on live, the romance genre, and everything, I present my list (presented in no order except for how I thought of them) of
Books that are not Romances but Love Stories:
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneger
Because seriously. If you haven't read this I can't be your friend anymore until you do. Just kidding. Sort of. Yes: there is swearing. and sex scenes. But they do the thing that any scene in a book should, which is further the story. The story of Clare and Henry, who travels in time without any control.
Love Walked In by Marisa de lost Santos
A love story about the difference between loving the Ideal and loving the Real, and how each one feels.
Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund
OK. This is only partly a love story. It's also historical. And a sort-of rewrite of Moby Dick, but in a structure you can actually manage to read. Not just manage. Fly through. Swooning.
Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen
Probably the closest to a Romance Novel on my list. Its inclusion speaks to my fondness for circus stories.
Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman
A retelling of Wuthering Heights, it has all the ickiness of the original but set in contemporary America. And by "icky" I mean...you know these characters are horrible, and they are making selfish choices that don't only influence their own lives, and how can they choose that? but you're still reading because it's so good it makes your teeth ache.
The Office of Mercy by Ariel Djanikian
A dystopian romance. I read a romance list yesterday that had Oryx and Crake as a dystopian romance. Hmmmmm. I never, ever, ever thought of it that way, but now I think about it...its, yeah, not really a romance. Or a love story, except for a teeny tiny part. Except for Jimmy's motivations, which doesn't say anything about this book except for: it's way more of a love story than Oryx and Crake. A dystopian love story, in fact!
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
True fact: Florence + The Machine's song "Never Let Me Go" just came up on my playlist while I was writing this. Seriously! Anyway. The book in question is about science in a way that's not immediately obvious. Science love story? Plus Ishiguro's flawless writing? OK!
Possession: A Romance by A. S. Byatt
Not everyone will love this. It's got Poetry, for one thing. And it's about literature professors who are in a race to figure out something about a long-dead poet that might not even be figure-out-able. But it does this thing that I love, wherein two stories (well, really four. Or five) are told that eventually connect in a way you didn't suspect. If you liked The Da Vinci Code except you wished it had far more substance, was more about literature and writing than the Holy Grail, and won the Booker, then this is the book for you.
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
One of my friends at work LOVES this book. Another one HATES it. Mostly the hate part comes from feeling like the author is showing off: look what I can do with words! and plot lines! I fall in the "LOVE IT" camp for this novel that is partly about WWII, and partly about New York and partly about South America, and the "love" isn't only of the romantic variety, and you have to follow different story lines. I love it because, holy cow! Look what she did with the plot! and with words!
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
The first time I read this I sort of stopped reading it after the first chapter or so, because Barbara Kingsolver writing sex scenes felt sort of weird to me. Then SDBBE made me read it and I fell in love. My favorite love story is the one between the old people.
The Kommandant’s Girl by Pam Jenoff
WWII love story that makes you think: what would you do to survive? And what does "survive" mean when the things you do to achieve survival change you utterly?
The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
Now, really. I am not one of those "Jane Austen is my hero" type of people. I mean...I love Jane Austen. (Except Emma. Oh. My. Gosh. I hate that book.) If I were a character in Regency England I would be Mr. Darcy—he is one of the world's literary creations I resonate most strongly with. I can discuss Mansfield Park if you like, and I've actually read Northanger Abbey. But I don't understand the fanatic attraction to Ms. Austen's works. (Like Shannon Hale's Austenland? Groan.) But this book isn't one of those I'm-addicted-to-Jane-Austen-in-a-creepy-way sort of things. I mean...it mentions Ursula K. Le Guin. How awful can it be? (Not awful at all.) (Really good, in fact.)
The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithian
A love story told through dictionary entries. I know! It sounds improbable at best. But it works. In fact, the structure forces the supplemental details to sort of be stripped away, so you piece the story together with your imagination and the things you know about love, and about love stories. Which aren't necessarily the things that I know about them, so in essence if you read it and I read it (I already did, why haven't you yet?) we would sort of not even read the same book.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
I really didn't think I'd like this, because it felt like it would be too Romance Novel for me. And it was, a little bit. But not too much, despite the happy ending, because when Alice wakes up in the hospital after conking her head during spin class and realizes she's lost the last decade or so of her memories---including the fact that she's got some kids and is getting a divorce---there isn't a quick, easy, magical fix. I like hard work in my love stories. And, well, I ALMOST like spin class.
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
I probably shouldn't have read this because whenever I'm writing anything I feel like someone is watching me write. So a story about a guy whose job is to read all of the email sent at his company, with the goal of making sure people aren't discussing private things in the company email system (and starts reading the private emails on the company email system two friends send each other, and then he accidentally falls in love with one of them, who doesn't even know that he exists because, you know, it's sort of a secret job), kind of freaked me out. Now when I'm writing something at work (and not even private stuff), I start feeling like my boss is reading it, and he's watching my writing process (which is a lot of furious fast typing, followed by backspacing all but seven words, and then nothing happening while I think, and then deleting six words and starting over) and thinking this girl is crazy, so before I can actually get down to writing I have to first write a note to him, something like "Dear Mike, please stop watching me write" or "Dear Mike, I know you are watching me write but I hope you know that despite all the backspacing I'll eventually get to the point."
The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw
I love this book so much. It is slender but sturdy. Strange and surreal but also full of things I can relate to. Especially the photography. And the image at the end, of the glass...well, I don't want to spoil it for you. Will everyone love it? Probably not. It's almost beyond strange and into the weird zone. Which is perfect for me at any rate.
More than You Know by Beth Gutcheon
A love story with a ghost. Perfect October reading! But you could read it now, too.
Helen Keller in Love by Rosie Sultan
I was slightly obsessed with Helen Keller as a child. I still think about her at random times. Is it strange to say she is always with me? OK, yes. Probably. Anyway, this imagines out a relationship she might've actually had. What I love about it is how it makes her less St. Helen Keller of All That is Good, Lovely, and Virtuous. She's not exactly dirty. But more earthy than her biographies suggest. Of course, it's Made Up Helen, but still.
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
More terrorists-have-a-entire-mansion-as-hostage. And there's music, which I sometimes don't relate to because of my musical illiteracy. But imbedded in that is a love story. "Imbedded" is a good thing for a love story to be. (No...not that kind of in bed. These are love stories, not romances!) Because that's how real love is, too. A part of all of your life. Entertwined. And sometimes surprising where it comes from.
So! Tell me! What love stories have you read recently?
So...I've been running.
Running very gingerly, and with my heart in my throat because I'm terrified of falling again. With a new, not-my-favorite mantra in my head, that goes something like "don't ever forget that you could fall right now, no, right now, no, right now" and mental images of ankles twisting and bloody knees.
Maybe, after seeing the PT, I now need to find a sports doctor for crazy people. Is there such a thing?
But, post-traumatic-Ragnar-disorder aside, I am running. And by "running" I mean: building up slowly.
So I go to the Rec center (because actual running in the outdoors is prevented by both air pollution and the fact that it's even more terrifying because what if I fall and I'm, like, ten miles from home?) and I run on the track. Which is the lamest track ever because it's in the dingy basement with tiny windows that give a lovely view of the roots of the ugly bushes outside the building. Plus there's the fact that you have to run 5 1/8 lap for a mile. How do you keep track of that? I don't, really. I round up: six laps is a mile. And to be safe, I run twenty laps for a total of, I don't even really know how far.
But three-ish miles.
And I don't even run the whole time. I started out with run a lap, walk a lap. Ten times. Now I do walk a lap, run a lap once, then run two laps, walk a lap six times. (That's twenty laps, right?)
Or I go to the other gym where I have a one-month-free membership and run on the treadmill there. I've worked my way up to running for four minutes, walking for two, until I do 3.25 miles or the battery on my music dies. I go there because that gym's treadmills are nicer than the rec center's, with the added bonus that every. single. person. I've ever seen use the treadmill there wipes it off with the cleaning wipes when he/she is finished.
At the rec center no one does. Which is disgusting.
I suppose what I am doing isn't really running yet, but "running," but it is giving me a reason to wear all of the new running clothes I bought when I wasn't even running with air quotes. When my only contribution to physical fitness was shopping. Buying new exercise clothes gave me hope that one day I would actually get to use them.
And I am now!
Except this one pair of capris I bought at the Under Armor outlet is making me crazy. First off, remember that UA clothes, while awesome in the fabric department, tend to be cut for the smaller people among us. The ones who are, I guess, actually physically fit. Toss my crazy-big thighs into that mix and it's usually not pretty.
But these capris! I couldn't resist. Mostly because they were something ridiculous like six bucks. And the perfectly neutral shade of grey, which is my new black. (Not really. But sort of.) And the UA compression fabric? I just love it. It makes me feel like I don't jiggle.
When I actually run in these capris, however, something annoying happens. They fit just right on my thundery thighs. On my waist? Not so much. So as I run, the waistband starts sliding. Squinching down. Bunching up. Until, eventually, it moves lower than my shirt, so now I'm flashing buttcheek at all the middle-aged moms and the old men who use the track.
Just the top of the buttcheek, but still.
About every five minutes or so, I have to adjust. Tug the pants up on my thighs a little bit, then hitch the waistband back where it goes.
It's making me a little bit crazy.
On the bright side, though: my ankle is managing it. I'm stretching and balancing and making Kendell massage that tendon. I'm still terrified. But at least I'm moving. (Even if I am also, sometimes, flashing.)
(This blog post inspired by THIS ONE, wherein the writer details the bad things that happen when you're running, and while I meant to write my own list I got caught up in the drama of the saggy-waisted running capri, which is a phenomena I hope is not unique to me. If I HAD written that list, though, the worst thing that happens when you're running is falling!)
On Friday, I finished this layout:
And with it, I accomplished my January goal of scrapbooking all of my Christmas 2013 layouts. Toss in the fact that I also decided to do Christmas 2012, which I didn’t do last year (my usual custom being to scrapbook in January the Christmas photos from the just-passed December), and I confess: it was a pretty intense month of holiday revisiting.
I like doing this, though. A process I’ve come to think of as one-topic scrapbooking. It means I focus on just a single topic for a given length of time. (I did this back in October of 2011, when I finished years of Halloween scrapbooking in a month.) Working just with Christmas photos, writing (or revising) just about the holidays...little themes start to pop up. You see things in a different light. An added bonus: you use your stuff. A whole bunch of your stuff!
To set up a round of one-topic scrapbooking, here’s what I do:
1. Process and print a bunch of photos. As I process I start to pre-plan the layouts in the sense that I watch for great photos (or ones that have an important/memorable/sweet/insightful story) that I might want to highlight on a single-photo layout.
I also plan on two-page layouts by printing a mix of 4x6, 3x5, and 3x4 photos. (Two 3x4 photos fit on one 4x6 print, so that saves a bit of money, too!) This layout has a mix of all those sizes:
I get all of my photos printed at Persnickety Prints, which, I confess, I live about a mile away from so I don’t have to pay any shipping. But I think I’d have them print for me anyway. They do a great job.
2. Find any pre-written journaling. I try to write about what happened on a holiday fairly quickly after the holiday happens. That way, if it takes me a year (or...a decade, or longer!) to get to a set of photos, I still have details to work with. Sometimes I don’t get it done...but write something fast on Facebook, or maybe something longer here on my blog. I round up all that text so I know where to find it.
Kaleb was the only kid I whose journaling I wrote for 2012 in 2012. I used memory, my Christmas notebooks and planning spreadsheet, and even my checkbook to figure out more details for everyone else's!
3. Gather the holiday supplies I want to use. I put all of the embellishments together in a 12x12 bag and the papers in a pile, and then keep them accessible. (For me, this means that the box right under my scrapbook table that holds white, cream, grey, and black cardstock is also the repository of my one-topic supplies.) I first gathered up all of the new holiday stuff I’d bought in the fall when it first started showing up in stores, and then I went through my stash for other things. (Going through the stash also helped me to: A—destash a bit and B—reaquaint myself with some supplies I love but forgot.)
For this layout, I used the new Timbergrove line, mostly, with a few other papers tossed in for the hearts:
Then I just got busy! All told, I made 21 layouts in January. Which is a lot for me—and, honestly, isn’t a pace I can continue, but that’s OK. I wanted to do this all January, and I did! I did three more Christmas layouts this month to get all of 2012 and 2013 scrapped, so since not all of the layouts I’ve made this year are Christmas layouts—some were for other assignments, I made a total of 17 holiday layouts. Nine single-page layouts and eight two-page spreads.
I’m so happy to have all of those memories down!
I don't make December Daily albums like many scrapbookers do. I'm just too overwhelmed during December to even consider scrapbooking. Instead I just make layouts for each of my kids. I always do a two-page spread about Christmas. Sometimes I'll also do a Christmas Eve layout, or one that expounds a smaller story that would otherwise get lost on the two page spread. I reuse several of the same pictures on each layout, but the journaling is completely different because the kids' stories are all different. I know this isn't an approach everyone takes (making a layout for each kid about the same holiday), but for me, it works.
Some take-aways from this round of one-topic scrapbooking:
1. Ideas for other layouts I need to make. Especially since I went back a year, to 2012, there were ideas sparked from just working with the Christmas photos. (Like how much Kaleb loved his Star Wars hat last year.)
2. On Christmas morning, Jake (who HATES having his photo taken) said “Mom, will you not take pictures of everything this year?” and while I have never taken pictures of everything, ever, I did take fewer photos. Partly because of his request, partly because of an article I read somewhere about a study that showed people who take pictures of experiences remember the experiences less (oddly enough!). For most of the present-opening I took almost no pictures, and I found I was OK with what I did take, but there are a few photos I want to make sure to take next Christmas:
*The weather on Christmas day. I did this in 2013 and I want to make it a new tradition.
*All four of my kids with my mom.
*A picture of me and Kendell together.
*More, in fact, of myself in the action. I’m there on Christmas too, yes?
*One really good representative photo of each kid. (I didn't get a great one of Nathan this year.)
*The moments between opening presents and dinner at my mom's house. Like...I don't think I've ever photographed Christmas morning breakfast! Or the kids actually playing with/using their new stuff.
3. I’m drawn to non-traditional colors quite a bit. I found myself digging through my regular color drawers as often as I got into my Christmas drawer. (I need to remember this when I am tempted by 2014's new Christmas pretties!) Both of Haley's Christmas-day layouts, in fact, are with non-traditional colors. This one is one I loved putting together because I had some quiet introspection about my sister Michelle and the process of forgiveness while I was drawing in those gold swirls (plus, you know...gold swirls! The secret to making it extra-lovely is a mix of two different gold pens):
4. I really like using my Silhouette. I used it on nine of my Christmas layouts, so more than half! I have some new techniques I figured out that I will likely blog about soon. In this layout, I cut out all of the title, and the big scalloped border pieces:
5. When you do a bunch of layouts using the same pile of stash, you push yourself to use the same supply in different ways. I think people who buy scrapbooking kits already know this, but it was sort of an ah-ha moment for me. (I don’t subscribe to any kits, although with Archiver’s closing soon, I might.)
6. I fell in love again with multiple-photo layouts and two-page spreads. Especially the two pagers. I’m not exactly sure when I stopped making as many two-page layouts, but I love the room they provide for plenty of images, lots of journaling, and embellishments.
7. No matter what I tried, Studio Calico alphabet stickers are just not sticky enough. I ended up sewing them down on the three layouts I used them on. (All were from different lines.) As this is one of my scrapbooking pet peeves—make a sticky sticker or why bother???—I shall remember this upon shopping again. The red script stickers in this layout, for example. LOVE the script. DON'T LOVE having to stitch them down:
8. This is a take-away from photographing all of those layouts (which is something I HATE HATE HATE doing and another reason I am soooo sad over the Archiver’s closing, because now I can’t just take in a pile and have the girls there scan them for me). First of all...it is HARD to get a photo perfectly square. I'm thinking I might get a level for my camera. In real life, my lines are straight and my layouts are square, even though they kind of sort of don't really look like that in the images. And second: I need to take my camera in to the repair shop. It is NOT taking sharp photos, and it doesn’t get the color balance correct, either. That is on my to-do list for next week!