Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A look inside my email...

Email chain between me and Brandon this morning:

EG: Lalalalalalalaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! I am going to win a grammy

BG: I'm not quite sure if you're eligible.


BG: Not to say that you aren't talented, but you haven't even released an album


BG: When did you film said movie? Was it a documentary? If you haven't started filming yet, am I cast as the husband because I'd be perfect for the part?

EG: Oh, we are ALREADY making the movie. There is an elf who follows me around. I do testimonials/interviews on my lunch break. And stuff.

BG: Sounds very legit. Almost scientific.

EG: Well. You know.

BG: Is the elf the cameraman? Because that could lead to a lot of low angles which could make you look a little domineering. You might want to have him stand on a stool or something.

EG: You are way over thinking this. Obviously.

It's Wednesday. Lighten up people.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Current obsession: breakfast

I have never been a big breakfast person. For many years I skipped breakfast or had a banana and coffee. I was on an instant oatmeal kick for several months until I found some sort of worm/bug inside and decided I was not that desperate for protein.

But recently I have been craving breakfast. I am not talking about a bowl of cereal. I am talking about a great heaping portion of pancakes, waffles, french toast, potaoes, bacon or biscuits and gravy. I am talking about the kind of breakfast that makes your house smell for the rest of the day or leaves your clothes with a lingering smell of syrup. Maybe it is because I have seen a few breakfast blogs lately or perhaps because I work less than a mile from the legendary Katrina's where breakfast portions are served for people who can eat like Kobayashi.

I am one of those confused breakfasts eaters. I usually crave the savory foods like potatoes and bacon, yet can't resist the idea of a sweet breakfast food. I never waste my time on any egg product, because I know I could make that at home.

On Sunday I began my 28th year (actually, is it technically the 29th year? Since you complete a year before you count it? Whatever.) I was visiting my grandparents in the Bay Area and they took me to birthday breakfast at Stacks in Burlingame. I had coconut pancakes (with bananas and macadamia nuts) and a side of bacon. It was like heaven.

On my way home I made an impromptu visit to see my sister who was eating at Sweetwater in Downtown Sacramento where they have all you can drink mimosas during Sunday brunch for $9.95. Um, yes please? While I did partake in the mimosas, I didn't eat there this time because two breakfasts would have just been unnecessary. But you can bet I will be going back there.

For now I will try to be content with my homemade breakfast creation. My sister (who has a degree in nutrition) thought it might help me to control my eating if I had a bigger breakfast. So one day I used what was in the fridge to come up with my turkey pepperoni, pepper jack cheese, egg and English muffin creation. It has just a little bite to it and it is very filling. It comes in at just about 300 calories.

But even now (at 1:15 in the afternoon) I am dreaming of waffles and home fries, sourdough toast and orange juice, and dreaming of my next change to go to breakfast.

Suggestions in the Sacramento area?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Time is made up

On a recent family trip my brother opened the airline magazine and was flipping through the pages when I heard him say “Who made the time zones? They must have been really drunk.”

If you have spent any time examining the time zones yourself you would probably agree. They are arbitrary lines drawn on a map. My puny human mind has a difficult enough time thinking about the fact that it is tomorrow in Australia, but then add something like Daylight Savings and I am REALLY confused. That random Saturday in the fall is not actually longer and the day in spring is not shorter. You can’t make time disappear, you can only call it something different. On that point, it is not actually tomorrow in Australia. It is actually the same exact time there as it is here, right? Or are they in the future? No wonder people are confused about time travel. We can’t even agree on being in the same present moment.

For part of the year Arizona is the same time as California. For the rest of the year, it’s not. You can leave the Chicago area and drive east for 15 minutes and you will have lost an hour. We went on a cruise last Christmas and when we landed in Puerto Vallarta they told us that Puerto Vallarta was in a different time zone than the ship was observing. So please ignore the time on shore and use your preset watch to be on ship time. Is that even legal?

Then there is television. When I was younger I never understood why TV shows were advertised as “8pm, 7pm Central.” I always felt sorry for those people in the Central time zone that had to watch their shows at the wrong time. Then I met a friend from Iowa and we got into a debate about what was television “prime time.” Those poor central people have been tricked their whole lives into thinking that prime time starts at 7 when the rest of us who are not land locked know that it really starts at 8.

And speaking of prime time, now we get to where this all started in my head—the Olympics. We complained that we had to watch tape delayed versions of the Beijing Olympics, but at least that made some sense. Now here I am, in the very same time zone as Vancouver, and I am watching the Olympics on tape delay. Yesterday I heard a radio news report at 5pm (PST in case you are wondering) announcing that Lindsay Vonn had won the gold medal for downhill racing. Immediately following that news report was an NBC advertisement for the race, posing the question “Can Vonn overcome her injury and win Olympic Gold? Find out tonight (when we show you the tape delayed and edited version of the Olympics, LIVE 3 hours ago).”

You east coast people get to watch anything tape delayed before the rest of us. But then live, nationally televised sporting events often favor the west coast. When games are on past 9 or 10 pm, I wonder if anyone on the east coast is even watching anymore.

Life was easier when the world was flat and we traveled only by land or sea. With travel that slow we didn’t have to think in terms of time zones. I am guessing that it never occurred to Columbus and his homies that the people at the other end of his flat earth were experiencing night time while he was enjoying lunch in the sun.

And if you have bothered to even get to this point in my long, convoluted rambling about why time, time zones and time travel confuse me, you now understand how tiring it is to spend 5 minutes in my head.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The pilgrim

Ever since I lived in Spain it has been my dream to walk the third most popular Christian pilgrimage in the world—the Road to Santiago. The Spaniards simply call it the “Camino.” The Camino starts in the Pyrenees in southern France and travels through northern Spain until arriving in the town of Santiago de Compostela. Travelers can begin anywhere on the path, but to earn the official certificate you must walk at least 100km or bike 200km.

Pilgrims wear a shell and carry a passport to mark their travels. Along the road they sleep in hostels and homes specially designated for pilgrims. At any time there are hundreds or thousands of people making this journey.

In 2003 I planned to walk to Santiago in time for an Easter arrival. Due to a family emergency my walking partner had to return to the United States and I spent my spring break instead in Fuengirola, enjoying the beach with great friends. But every year since then my longing to make this pilgrimage has grown greater. I have met many people who have made the journey and each time I am more inspired. I want to spend a week or a month living simply, praying, meeting people on a spiritual and literal journey, accepting the hospitality of others and sharing my love in return. I want to travel the same road that other Christians have traveled for over 1000 years and experience for myself what so many others have experienced.

I want to be a pilgrim.

I know that many life circumstances will keep me from completing the Camino for many years. But that does not have to prevent me from being a pilgrim. This is the first time in my life I have been so disconnected from Catholic life. For the first time in 27 years I am not attending CCD, Catholic school or university, working in a youth group or teaching in a Catholic school. This is the first Lent where there has been no structured Lenten theme laid out before me. To be honest, I miss it.

I am searching for greater faith in God and in myself. I am looking for deeper meaning and purpose. And so this Lent I am dedicating myself to being a pilgrim, right here in a suburb of Sacramento. I can embrace the same principals of simplicity, love, hospitality and prayer in my own life. I can make each day part of my spiritual journey.

In the tradition of pilgrims who could not make a “real” pilgrimage, I will choose the labyrinth as the symbol of my journey. The labyrinth, when done properly, can be a mimi-pilgrimage. Every time I experienced one has had a different impact on me.

For those of who observe Lent, I wish you a blessed journey. And for those who are tired of my more serious posts... the light hearted eringirl will return soon!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Boxcar kids

Behind my home is a wetland preserve. There is a body of water (larger than a creek, smaller than a river) that is home to birds, beavers and according to the kid next door, timberwolves. At dawn and dusk the birds sing and squawk and I am filled with a great peace at being so close to nature. Between our fence and this water there is a path that I walk with the dog and I feel lucky to have such a retreat literally outside my gate.

As I walked this path yesterday I was reminded of an experience I had only a few miles away in the creek behind my childhood home. My sister and brother and I and our neighbor friends packed our bags with snacks and treats and spent a whole summer day pretending to be orphaned children living in the woods. (I am fairly certain I drew my inspiration from the Boxcar Children, because those books were awesome!) We traversed the same 200 yards of creek over and over again, looking for a safe place to have lunch and set up camp. We imagined stories for ourselves and made rules for our little community...

The last four days in the Sacramento area have been glorious. While places like D.C. have been digging themselves out of snow piles, we have been enjoying temperatures in the upper 60s. (Don't say anything about global warming. We had snow in December for the first time in 30 years and there is an equal chance that next week we will be have a deep freeze or 2 inches of rain!) I have taken every opportunity possible to be outdoors, especially running with the dog or just to stand for a moment in the winter sun.

This weather, combined with my boxcar kid instinct, make me want to be a kid again, if only for an hour. One thing I regret about being an adult is that I have become a little too practical and a little too structured at times. I wish I could crawl through the grass without worrying if my pants will get dirty. I want to wade through the water without concern if I will have to buy new shoes. I want to enjoy the day without thinking about what chores I should be doing in the house. I want to experience the day, not just live through it. Children do this well--they live. Like my kid-neighbor, I want to believe in animals that do not exist here and have imagination and joy bursting from inside. I want to be inspired by the earth that has been gifted to me and truly experience every moment I have in it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why Starbucks is my third favorite company

I didn't think it could get much better than the Starbucks holiday cup--that beautiful red piece of art that serves up warm, holiday cheer from Thanksgiving to Christmas. I practically shrieked when I got my first one of the season. I swear it makes my drink more special. I didn't think it could get any better...

...and then this happened:

Part of my save money and calories plan was not to go to Starbucks anymore. But when I heard about this cup I HAD to go. Look at that thing of beauty! Who knew that taking away the green logo and replacing it with a heart would evoke such JOY in me?! THAT CUP IS CUTE AND I HAD TO HAVE IT.

I don't care if people accuse Starbucks of being a evil big business. I don't care if you think Peet's is better. I don't care if Peet's IS better. I love Starbucks because their cups make me happy and no one else makes me a Grande Nonfat Toffee Nut Latte is (by the way, I don't know what toffee nut is, I just know it is delicious).

Starbucks came out with those delicious breakfast sandwiches and now they have those beautiful cupcakes and donuts with the sparkly sprinkles. They sell the perfect mugs and cute seasonal stuffed animals. They have comfy couches and wi-fi and I recognize people when I go inside the store. Just going into Starbucks makes me happy!

Then why is Starbucks my third favorite company? Because as much as I love the holiday cup and now this adorable heart cup, Apple and Google are genius. The iPhone, the iPod and any Apple computer are pure beauty. I want to bow in their presence. And Google rivals their brilliance with every web-based program they introduce. I am obsessed with all things Google. So Starbucks is relegated to spot #3. But I am telling you now, if they release a Shamrock cup, they may just shoot to #1.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The water cooler

When I was a teacher one of my favorite parts of the day was the 20 minutes before school started when my teacher friends gathered around the coffee pots in our tiny little kitchen. We chatted about politics, sports, television shows and family life. It was sort of a transitional moment—not quite work, not quite play—as we waited for the school day to begin. The coffee pot was our water cooler, the place where we gathered to share friendships (and gossip).

This morning as I was making my single cup of coffee at my new job, I suddenly missed those moments. Maybe it is because a morning like today we would have been chatting about last night’s episode of “Lost.” Maybe it is because I saw friends from my old job yesterday. Maybe it is because enough time has passed that suddenly the happy memories that I was afraid would awaken sadness in me are now filling me with joy.

I realize how important the water cooler is. I never really understood that saying much before today, but I think I am starting to get a sense. Humans are social beings and we need community and camaraderie. While the proverbial “water cooler” may be actually be a coffee pot or outdoor smoking spot, the idea is that people need interaction with one another. I work in a building full of private offices or small offices with few people. But if you pay attention, there are often people yelling through open doors or milling about in public spaces. I would venture to guess that your work place is the same.

For as much as the boss would prefer that we were working (maybe that’s why we don’t have a water cooler here!?) there is value in a gathering place. We all have them in our public, professional and private lives. They are the places where we form friendships, nurture relationships, flush out theories about fictional television shows and—you know you do it too—talk, talk, talk about gossip.

Where is your water cooler?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Kindred spirits

For Christmas, my very thoughtful husband gifted me with "The Blythes are Quoted," the last manuscript of L.M. Montgomery. This is the ninth and final book in the "Anne of Green Gables" series, a book I first read when I was ten years old. "The Blythes are Quoted" was released last year only in Canada. Brandon tracked it down and gave it to me as a Christmas/Housewarming gift. He wrote a beautiful introduction inside the book, which of course, made me cry.

Because it has been nearly 20 years since I first read "Anne of Green Gables" I decided that it might be best if I reread the series before reading the final book. Last week I dug out my well loved copy that I have had saved since I was ten years old (I have always had this romantic idea that I would save my favorite books for a future daughter to read). The bookstore sticker on the back says it was purchased in 1992 and it cost $2.95! You can't even buy a magazine for that cheap these days!

So last week I opened the pages to read again of my childhood heroine. I breathed in the smell of weathered pages and relaxed into the familiarity of the stories of Anne. I am reliving her passion, her joy, her imagination, her perspective on life. She is a fictional character I wish I knew in real life, a young girl unwavering in her beliefs. I am reminded why this mischevious redhead captured my heart when I was a young girl, and now with four years of teaching behind me, I know that I would have loved to have had a student like her in my classroom.

I am 27 years old and I can remember details and stories about Anne more clearly than I can remember what I ate yesterday.

Isn't it strange the way that literature can move us so deeply? Perhaps this is why we keep reading. Although the internet and technology has changed the way we live dramatically, we continue to read as people have done for generations and generations. Some people have made the techy move to the Kindle, but I think most readers are traditionalists, preferring the comfort of a printed book.

Rereading "Anne of Green Gables" comforts me. It reconnects thoughts and feelings deep within me. I know that it is a book that I will read again later in my life. It is a simple book, written for those with a reading level much lower than my own, but in its simplicity I am happy, I remember youth, and I see life again through the eyes of youth, optimism and beauty.

What are the books that you have read over and over again? Who are the characters you love?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ramblings from a disconnected human being

I read (part of) a book about those who grew up with technology at their fingertips. The author (who I would love to mention right now if I could even remember the name of the book) called them (us?) "The Net Generation." Maybe he wasn't the one who invented the term, but he is the one I stole it from.

(I gave in and Googled it... the author is Don Tapscott and he wrote "GrownUp Digital" and "Wikinomics.")

(I am done with parenthetical comments. I will start this post over again for clarity.)

Don Tapscott of "GrownUp Digital" and "Wikinomics" calls us the Net Generation. We are the group who grew up with technology at our fingertips, never knowing what life was like before computers, internet and cell phones were part of everyday life.

I am on the older end of the Net Generation. I remember computers before the internet existed. During computer lab we used Mavis Beacon to learn how to type and we played Oregon Trail using the arrow keys. The first cellular phone I saw required a brief case. Then my mom had one installed in her car and it had a cord attached to it. We called them "car phones." When I turned 16 I got a cell phone "for emergencies only" and texting hadn't even been invented yet.

When I was in high school there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no MySpace. But we did have Yahoo chat rooms where hundreds of people just "talked" to each other. It reminded me of the telephone party lines that my mom used in the '70s and today chat rooms seems about as archaic as telephone party lines.

I was the first wave of the Net Generation, the adolescents who learned how to use and transform each new piece of technology that came to us. But why this blog today?

Because I left my iPhone at home.

I feel cut off. I feel lost. What if someone sends me a text? What if my mother calls? How will I read Facebook status updates? How many people are waiting for my move on Words with Friends? How I am supposed to keep track of my calories without an iPhone app?

I may be on the old end of the Net Generation, but boy have I embraced all that it stands for. I like to believe that I am beyond the obsession with all things technology, but the reality is, I am not.

[Insert dramatic voice here] So for today I am living a simpler life. I have only a landline telephone and superfast internet connection (with Facebook blocked) to get me through. I will try to survive using regular email and communicating with people however we did that before texting. And when I get home I will rush to my beloved iPhone and look for all the texts and missed calls, and alas, the irony is that likely the only thing on my screen will be a missed call from my office, when I called myself to find my phone...

Friday, February 5, 2010

erin vs. donut, part II

At 3:18pm I delivered my donut to its final resting place.

I did it. I beat the donut. Of course I came home and ate some tortilla chips, but after reducing calories today AND resisting that round piece of deliciousness, I don't even feel bad.
Before you get all preachy about me wasting food, please compliment me on my good decision making. Thanks.

erin vs. the donut

This morning I made myself a fabulous breakfast sandwich on English muffin with one egg, pepper jack cheese and pepperoni (strange I know, but I was using what was in the fridge). It was a delicious, 290-calorie breakfast.

I arrived at work to face the normal Friday morning challenges: bagels in the office and donuts in the lunch room. I can say no to the bagel fairly easily, but at 9am this morning I met this guy:

This donut is nothing special. Just a regular old donut. At 9am I promised myself that if I still wanted the donut at 10am I would eat it.

At 10am I passed.

But I just finished my lunch and this donut has now "mysteriously" ended up on my desk. It is taking all my willpower to leave the donut on the napkin.

4 hours until I go home. Will the donut survive or will I give in?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Paranoia Activity

My husband married a nutcase.

I am paranoid.

Example 1. On Tuesday I drove home wearing only one boot.
I was wearing a skirt and tights with adorable black slouch boots. I had been wearing these boots for at least nine hours. As I was following a line of cars downhill through a stop sign I suddenly felt something underneath my small toe in my right boot. It was moving. It was touching me. My heart started pounding and I tried to pull off my boot but I didn’t have time before I needed to brake again.

All this time my brain was trying to understand the sensation next to my toe… obviously it is a spider with a large body. It may be partially smashed as it seems to have stopped moving… it will soon emerge from my boot, run up my leg and bite me on my stomach and I will cause an accident in westbound traffic during traffic hour. I waited as five more cars went through the intersection. When I finally made it on the freeway I yanked off my boot, shook my foot, and turned the boot upside down waiting for the horrendous creature to come out. There was nothing. But the seam at the toe of my tights was oddly near to where the damn bugger had been.

Example 2. Someone is always breaking into my house.
It doesn’t matter the time of day. Someone is breaking in. When I was taking a shower tonight I could hear my doors opening and closing. I heard someone talking to someone else. They were rummaging through my purse.

When I lay in bed at night I can rationalize any noise I hear into someone invading my home. I got used to the noises in my condo after four years, but we have been in this house for only six weeks and every noise is new and scary. I make Brandon keep a landline in the house in case we need to call 9-1-1. In addition when I am scared I practice saying my address in case I need to use my cell phone—I wouldn’t want them to delay in finding me because they can’t trace my call. And in case you are wondering, I am always safe if it is raining.

Example 3. My house will burn down as a result of me leaving my flat iron plugged in.
I am afraid of burning down the house when I leave. Part of my charm is that I will check that I have unplugged the straightener two, three or four times before I leave the house. On the first anniversary of my marriage this paranoia/OCD resulted in me and my husband being locked out of our condo at 10pm while it was still 85 degrees out. As you can imagine, my husband was less than pleased.

I think Rachel from Friends burned her apartment with her curling iron, but that was on TV. I am pretty sure that it is not even possible to burn down a house with my flat iron.

I am certain that life would be more comfortable if I could just be rational. Unfortunately if my track record holds strong, there will be examples four, five and six to follow this post any day now...

Monday, February 1, 2010

Fit February

I love alliteration. It is my favorite literary technique (don’t mock me for having a favorite literary technique. I am a dork, I know). As I watched our sales manager write up his alliteration this morning next to our sales goal (Fantastic February) I started to think about what my alliteration would be.

Easy. Fit February (I actually first typed Fit Rebruary which is neither a word nor an alliteration). I started this blog partially to share my road to a healthier lifestyle... I haven’t really done a good job with it. So here we go again. At least two blogs a week about my journey.

We had a gorgeous Northern California weekend. Yesterday I walked Molly along the greenbelt behind my house and then took her on a 3.3 mile run in my neighborhood. I felt like I could have run more, which is a great feeling. I am hoping that we will get a few more glorious days like yesterday so I can run outside instead of just running in the gym. Running always makes me feel good physically and mentally, but running outside nourishes me deeply. Especially after weeks of rain like we have had, to experience the sun and the trees and the grass reminds me of how beautiful our earth is and how much I enjoy being a part of it.

For the first time since maybe November I actually made it to swim practice on a Monday morning. For those of you who like to sleep, you will understand that getting up at 5am on a regular basis is like torture. If the sun would rise earlier or the temperature would make it comfortable to get out of bed, I would be much happier. But alas, I awake to a cold, dark room and get in my cold, dark car so that I can jump into mediocre water. This morning was a tough practice and I worked really hard, but I am glad I went. I started Fit February fantastically.

February is a great month. There is Valentine’s Day, followed by my birthday. Some of you (not me!) will get a few days off to celebrate the presidents. This February we also get the premiere of the final season of “LOST,” excellent snowboarding (anyone want to go with me on Super Bowl Sunday?!) and I love that every day the days get a little bit longer—a promise of the coming spring.

February goals:
Maximum 1 cup of coffee per day
Run 3 times per week
Swim at least 3 times per week
NO CANDY (even the delicious Valentine’s Day candy)
Be more aware of calorie goals

What are your goals for February?