Post-Christmas winter funk

Several times this past extended weekend, I had to go to battle with my depression demon. I don’t know what my problem is lately, but pretty much after Christmas, I was in a big funk. Friday I didn’t want to do anything with anyone all day. I exercised for an hour on my trainer, which should have got my endorphins flowing and thus defeating Depression heartily. However, it didn’t work as planned. I wanted to just sit on the couch and watch all the episodes of Battlestar Galactica season 1 that I’d gotten for Christmas. Fortunately, I forced myself to go out with Michael to Steak on a Stone, a new restaurant in Montrose where they bring out your steak on a lava stone and you cook it to your desired level, which for me was basically flipping each of a piece on the stone for a second or two because I love my steak very rare (the longer you cook it, the more flavor you lose!).

Of course, eating gratuitously and indulging on a few glasses of wine did not make me feel better in the long run; all night I obsessed about being fat and gaining so much weight. However, before I got to that point, Michael and I had made a trip to Borders after our dinner where I used $35 of gift cards I had to buy the re-release on DVD of U2’s Under a Blood Red Sky: Live from Red Rocks release–the legendary concert that launched U2 to super-stardom back in 1983. I’ve been salivating over the remastered DVD and CD set since it came out earlier this year. I was too young to attend the U2 concert in 1983 (and was really only a light fan by fan standards, being that I was only 8), but I’ve been to shows at Red Rocks when I lived in Colorado and there’s just a spirit there no matter what band you go there to watch. Being a huge U2 fan these days, I get all emotional watching that concert–even on the VHS I rented earlier this year. I guess you can say that when I watch it, I’m there, at that legendary moment, in spirit.

Of course, you can’t be in Borders without indulging on a few extra impulse buys, especially when you know the first item you’re purchasing is covered by a gift card. I always spend more money than my gift card covers when I go there. I think that’s how they get you. Anyway, I found a book I’ve been wanting to read, Axis–the sequel to Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin–in the $5.99 bargain bin. And then, just as I was getting into line to pay for my U2 kitsch and my $6 book, a rack of Beatles CDs for $9.99 called to me and I ended up buying Revolver, one of my favorites. Needless to say, I left there actually paying $20. I guess I should be happy that I got my U2 DVD and CD for free.

Saturday, Diane, her husband Jeff, and I had our Christmas gift exchange. Diane gave me the Judybats‘ release, Pain Makes You Beautiful. I know, I’m over 15 years behind on the music scene, having only recently discovered and fallen in love with the Judybats. I think I liked them all these years–heard a lot of their songs on the old WENZ, when The End was a cool station with real alternative rock–and I just didn’t know who they were. I remember their songs “Ugly on the Outside” and “Being Simple” from those days. In fact, “Ugly on the Outside” is one of my favorite songs.

Diane and Jeff also bought me some animal crackers from the Cleveland Zoo and $20 in zoo gift certificates so that I can visit there for free this coming summer. I love the zoo. A lot of people don’t know this about me, but I’m really an animal lover. In fact, most days, I like animals better than people. I love to go to the zoo and spend an hour by the seals and sea lions’ area–these little buggers are like dogs with fins. They crack me up and make me feel five again.

After exchanging gifts (which, I must say, was quite successful… I’m so proud of the KISS cycling jersey I bought Jeff, the KISS fanatic), the four of us, Michael included, went down to Lock 3 to enjoy the Chriskindl market and attempt to ice skate. Since it was 60 degrees on Saturday, the ice was really melty and I didn’t feel too aggressive with my ice skating because I didn’t want to fall and get wet. I’m a sucky ice skater anyway–it’s pretty hard! Ironically, we ran into my friend Ruth, her two kids, and her boyfriend while I was hugging the wall on the 3 or 4 loops I made around the ring.

Of course, we indulged on the obligatory sauerkraut and bratwurst. Yum. I must really be German because I loooooooove sauerkraut! We washed down our meal with gluhwein–a spiced mulled wine that I look forward to having each year at Chriskindl. For dessert, I had sugar roasted almonds, warm right at the moment of purchase. Naturally, this indulgence did not help me feel any less fat, so I spent the rest of the evening obsessing again, even as we later sat at Riverside wine bar.

Sunday I was in another one of my foul moods, even after the really uplifting service at church. It was our annual service that tributes those who have passed away in the last year–famous and personal–and I’d submitted my grandma H’s name with a few sentences about what she’d meant to me to be read aloud before the congregation. I felt a bit numb to the emotions thoughts of my grandma usually stir. Depression seems to do that. I felt a little disappointed with my reaction to the service, especially since I’d been so moved at our candlelight Christmas Eve service. Maybe I’m just churched out right now.

So I just wanted to sleep when I got home, even though I’d gone to the second service which starts at 11:15. It seems to be my weekly Sunday ritual to take a nap when I come home from church, but I didn’t do that this time, I just watched two more episodes of Battlestar Galactica season 1 while moping about being fat and depressed and unmotivated to do anything other than lie on the couch.

Eventually, around 3pm, Michael called and convinced me to go for a hike with him at the Sand Run metropark. We took the Dogwood trail loop, which starts “Colorado style”–immediately up a pretty stiff hill–and is 1.8 miles. My blood got going and I felt better just hanging around someone. Unfortunately, of course, we went to dinner after the hike. I ate a salad but drank two Dortmunder Golds, so, you know this refrain: I felt fat all evening at home.

I did wake up this morning to exercise, but only on the Total Gym. I figured I should give my cycling legs a rest as I did an hour on my trainer both Friday and Saturday. I plan to make myself go for a walk tonight for cardio–must have cardio–and again try to use the trainer tomorrow. At least I know the end of the week will be filled with four and a half days of (hopefully) arduous skiing so I shouldn’t worry too much about being fat even though I know I’ll probably wash my dinner down each night with wine (hey, it’s vacation). Okay, I love wine. That’s probably where all the fat is coming from, I know.

On Friday, amidst my depression meanderings, I realized that one of the things that depresses me the most is the feeling that I’m just going through the motion of life. It’s not that I’m trying to, it’s just that sometimes I feel like I’m just doing things because you’re supposed to do them, and then I have trouble feeling excited about them because it’s just so overdone. For example, somewhere amidst all the baby showers I attended this year, each shower started to feel less special to me. It’s like, I don’t know, here we women are, sitting around eating unhealthy food, clucking around the main cluck–the pregnant woman–and all pretending to be happy as pie about the whole event, even though single gals like me have no clue at all what it feels like to be pregnant or to desire to be so. And, actually, the thought of being pregnant kind of grosses me out. Having kids seems like an entertaining venture, if you’re into that kind of thing, but I’m back to feeling like I’d just rather be a cool influence on some kid’s life instead of an actual mother.

I started to feel this about weddings, too. Right smack in the middle of a cousin’s wedding in October, I started to feel bland again. “Oh here we go again, the chicken dance,” I thought. “Oh and now is the moment when we toast/cut the cake/make speeches/clink our silverware to make the couple kiss.” I don’t know. I just feel bored with the whole mundane experience of “normal” life right now. I am not trying to offend anyone–you’ve all had lovely baby showers and weddings. I just suddenly have a desire to do everything different–to break the mold, to be different, to just break the cycle of repetitiveness. I feel like going down the same celebration paths that everyone else takes is inflicting something annoying and boring on everyone.

I force myself, sometimes, to be excited about things. I even felt a little forced at Christmas. Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to chase down a spiritual experience, force myself to feel a tingling of real joy in a way that I’ve never felt before (or felt for brief period of times when I was younger). I feel like I’m just biding my time waiting for the Big Something to happen and make me feel whole again. I’m sure this is all a sub-function of depression–first, the feeling that things you’re experiencing are not real, and then, second that feeling that you’re waiting around for something to happen that probably never will because you have to make your own happiness. The problem with this flavor of depression is an inability to really feel emotion for the people and things in your life that you do have. People don’t measure up to your strict standards and you expect so much more out of them that probably humanly possible. The past always looks better than the road you’re on and the road ahead–the one you can never find the on ramp to–is paved with gold. I keep telling myself I just have to lower my expectations with life and then I’ll be happy.

I couldn’t even find a sufficient book to read. I started one that I got from the library and, after about forty pages, I got too bored with it to complete it. I now have three books from Christmas to explore so I’m giving the other library book I got, The Conquistador by S.M. Stirling, a chance before turning to these others. (L. gave me The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas, which has real potential for interesting me.) I love it when I really get into a book and that hasn’t happened for me lately. It’s rare to find that all encompassing book–the one that is impossible to put down. Maybe I expect too much out of what I read as well, which causes all my disappointment in reading lately. I want to lose myself in the escapism of fiction right now. And try not to be jealous that I haven’t written–nor have ideas for–any good fiction story.

On the other hand, there are certain things that do get me excited without trying, like the anticipation I’m feeling to register for TOSRV and XOBA. Or the thought of going skiing in Colorado, if I feel like spending the money right now. Future trips to Europe or Australia, snorkeling in the Carribean, taking another cruise somewhere. I don’t know. I guess these are just distractions, though, to keep me from concentrating on making other aspects of my life better. I should be trying to write novels or short stories or finish my memoir, to find some other career path that interests me. Or maybe I don’t want to do any of those things. I don’t know. I feel like I’m not making good use of my time (such as watching the episodes of Battlestar Galactica season 1 and Roswell season 3 on DVD that I got for Christmas).

I know I’m just stuck in a winter funk due to lack of sunlight and its nourishing vitamin D. Not that I don’t grapple with Depression on a daily basis all year, but it’s sure a lot easier to avoid submitting to it during the summer when the sun is out and the atmosphere warm and I can roam freely about the world enjoying the day to its fullest. Or I’d even take the cold weather if the sun came along with it, as it was in my beloved Colorado. I just need to move about. This coming trip to NY for skiing is much welcomed by my soul. I need to burn muscle by sliding happily down some wondrous ski slopes. The only thing ruining my anticipation is the weather. We’ve had a warm flash which undoubtedly made the slope conditions less desirable. We have no snow here in NE Ohio, but the forecast for Ellicottville, NY this week is promising snow on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. I hope it happens–I want optimal east US skiing conditions this week. Talk about escapism–I’m longing for this little winter break to forget myself and my world for a little while. I hope it works.

At least it’s sunny today… for the time being…

Animal’s Christmas

Once again, I introduce my furry brothers and children as they experience Christmas Day.

Brother Kerbe attends the present-opening festivities. Poor guy walks with much discomfort these days. It’s painful to watch, but his tail is still a’wagin’ so we know he’s happy to be with us.

Brother Foster is tired out!! He had a long day because he rode with me all the way back to Stow in the afternoon, and then back to my parents’ house, because I’d left the Christmas gifts at home.

My cat children, Nicki and Cleo, enjoy a feast of “turkey and cheese” wet food when I finally return home for good for the evening.

Once upon a James Blvd.

I just finished watching The Man with One Red Shoe, a movie my brother bought me for Christmas. He selected it off the whole batch of 1980s movies I had listed on my wish list, but most importantly, he picked it because he had many memories of me “forcing him to watch” the movie over and over when we were kids. Looking at the back cover of the DVD case, I realized the movie was made in 1985; I was 10.

Ah, the memories for myself, as I watched that movie, reveling in the theme music I remember so well. There was a warm feeling of familiarity–nostalgia–that overtook me as I watched it. For just about an hour and a half, I felt like I was 10 again. I can’t explain it. It’s hard to watch movies you loved from your youth without remembering what it felt to love the movie when you were a kid. I guess that’s why my wish list included movies such as The Never Ending Story, War Games, Tron, The Flight of the Navigator, The Last Star Fighter, and Enemy Mine. I already own Goonies, which I bought several years ago when I first got a DVD player. I can relive my childhood every day week if I eventually got all of these DVDs. I could relive my childhood whenever I want!

It’s ironic that I should be jolted into this nostalgia by the a favorite movie of the past when earlier today–before present opening, before my brother arrived at my parents’ house–I was thinking about my old buddy who lived down the street, Scott Timko. I always wondered what happened to him. We spent many of our childhood days playing Voltron, riding our bikes up and down the street to form Volton (I was always Princess Alura; he, Keith). He used to do a great impression of Prince Lotar. We would make fake radio shows with our tape records sometimes, interviewing our Voltron characters like a talk show. We wrote stories. He loved The Chronicles of Naria and told me all about them so I never really had to read them (and still haven’t until this day, but I know how it all turns out because he told me).

We stopped talking in high school. I guess I just was no longer cool enough for him. Previously, he’d attended St. Ambrose–the Catholic primary school in my home town–so the fact that I was grossly unpopular at public school did nothing to interfere with our relationship until we both attended public high school together. By then, though, all the sci-fi fantasies of our youth had faded, probably some time in middle school because simply hanging out as a boy and girl implied so much more than friends. We never went there and so I think we had to part when that became the fact of life.

In my memory of Scott, I always think of this picture I have of him in one of my photo albums somewhere. He’s posed in front of his blue bike like a model, his elbow resting on the seat and his head resting against his hand. He has a big smile on his face. I remember his plastic rimmed glasses and his black curly hair. He is frozen forever in that pose in my head. And whenever I think of my life in the 1980s, I think of him and that photo. He was probably my first best friend.

Today I was remembering how he told me his mother had died when he was very young, so young he didn’t even remember her. His brother, Rob, two years older always told me he had some memory of his mother, but they were vague. Scott and Rob where the first people in my life that I’d ever met who were missing a key member of their family. I probably knew their sad situation before I even knew of divorce. I didn’t think of it much back then, except thinking it was sad when Scott brought the topic up. I’m not sure what I thought of death back then. I just remember Scott and Rob saying that their dad had loved their mother very much. I can’t at this time even remember if she had a name.

So I was thinking today, as an adult, what it must have been like to be Mr. Timko–two young boys and a widower. It was a weird thing to contemplate and not something I’ve thought about at all for myself when remembering Scott. All these years, I have sympathized in my memory from the side of the child who was growing up without a mother. Now, I was looking back on this memory and thinking, all too knowingly, about Mr. Timko and wondering how he felt. It was like suddenly an adult in my head–Mr. Timko will always be an adult in my head because that’s what he was when I was a child–became more human. And I understood some level, sans children of course, what he might have gone through. It was a true eureka moment for me. I don’t even know why I was thinking about it at all. I guess Christmas just makes you think about things from your past.

Anyway, Mr. Timko died several years ago, back when my parents still lived on the same street. I think maybe I was in college when it happened. While that chapter of my life is closed, the details within my childhood memory are still quite clear. I often miss Scott. I’ve googled him and looked for him on Facebook, to no avail. I don’t think I’d email him or anything… what would I say? He probably wouldn’t even care to hear from me. I’m sure he’s much more important in my history than I am to him.

Nostalgic meanderings aside, I think I had a pretty nice Christmas. Nothing outrageous. I feel full and fat, so I’ve feasted enough. I got some pretty swank gifts–Battlestar Galactica (season 1); Roswell (season 3) to complete the series; a cool Louville Slugger souvenir bat with my name on it; U2 by U2, a huge book written by the band members about the band; some nice clothes; a bottle of Zin from Dry Creek Valley in California that I can’t open for a few years until it reaches its peak; a bunch of Theo chocolate bars (thanks, Sarah); and a bunch of nice smaller nick-knacks and candy. I know, it’s a miracle, nothing bike related!

I look forward to sleeping in tomorrow. Getting some exercise in. Unfortunately, we’re experiencing a warming trend in the weather and I’m afraid that my planned trip to NY might be ruined. So, again, I’m still hoping for that huge snow storm in upstate NY next week so that I might ski in a winter wonderland. If it doesn’t happen, I might have to cancel my much-awaited trip and make other last minute plans. I don’t really want to do this, but I don’t want to ski in slush either. Meanwhile, I believe Colorado’s mountains continue to get dumped on… *sigh*

Hope you all had a merry Christmas too… Let me know if you would like to see The Man with One Red Shoe since most of you out there have never seem to have heard of this movie. It’s still great to me after viewing as an adult. In ways, even better.

One for child services

My aunt Gabriella, Cousin Angy’s mom, just sent an email filled with pictures of my new “first cousin once removed” aka My Favorite Female Cousin’s New Son, Grayson Martin. Is this not a most blatant example of child abuse? Please tell me that if I ever have kids, I would not subject them to such torturous use of photography… Is it not bad enough that the clothes we consider “cool” right now will be outdated by the time our progeny grow up, causing them to voice disgust with how we dressed them (not unlike the brightly colored and grossly mismatched 1970s style clothes I’m wearing in many, many of my childhood pictures). I truly think this is why we rebel against our parents!

Can you see the shame in his eyes? He’s just screaming, “Mom, why did you put me in a little Santa suit? I’m helpless and can’t dress myself, and now look what you’ve done to me! Fodder for embarrassment when you show this to future girlfriends to whom I’m tried to present a ‘cool’ and ‘dignified’ image. Oh, the humanity of it!”

Okay, I admit that he is a cute little bugger. Maybe he won’t be too mad at his mom and grandma some day. But if he needs some solace from the shame, he can come to Aunt Mars Girl. I will understand.

In the glow of Christmas lights

I took a walk again last night. I was too lazy to get on my trainer and somehow putting on long johns and the warmest winter clothes I could find and venturing outside seemed to be the more welcoming alternative (that’s how much I hate indoor exercise!). I took my camera with me to get some shots of Christmas lights. I had it on “night mode” which keeps the shutter open longer to gather more light for the picture, but since human hands aren’t still enough, there’s a bit of scattery glow about all of them, making them blurry. I think they look kind of cool anyway, in a Munch, surrealistic sort of way so I’m posting them. Don’t look too close–it ruins the illusion they create. They are best viewed from afar.

This one is in the newer section of my neighborhood, which is a really pretty tree-lined section with newer houses and little old style lamp posts that give you the little town feel. There are no lamp posts in my section of the neighborhood. I live in the older part that was built in the 1970s. I think this section was built in the 1990s when they were trying to reinstate that small town look to new developments. I like it, though I suppose liking it makes me somewhat of a yuppie. So I feel guilty about liking it. (Remember: white picket fences and my strange attraction to the normalcy they represent.)

This is a really cool looking house in one of the other neighborhoods I walked in. I took one of my usual night walk routes that loops basically out of my neighborhood to hit the Stow Bikeway for a small portion of the walk. There are a lot of nicer neighborhoods and houses along this walk.

This house was in a blissfully lonely cul-de-sac in a development called Progress Park or something to that effect. The cul-de-sac was wooded and quiet and all the houses were really unique unto themselves. I felt strangely at home here. I could picture driving into one of the driveways every night, a dog and a husband to greet me at the door. The lots were wooded with no houses behind them.

Choo-choo! You’ve probably seen these lights before. The smoke from the train turns on and off to simulate movement. I thought it was cute. And the decorative little tree thing behind which is something a lot of people have but I still think they look nice despite the frequency at which I encounter them.

I thought this house’s decorations were pretty cool. I really have a fondness for icicle lights and tasteful lighted objects (such as the tree featured here).

Simple, but nice with all the different colors like that.

Along the Stow Bikeway. Dare I admit to a fondness for the deer-shaped lights too? I also love front porches and am depressed that my house can’t fit one with the way it is shaped.

Several houses along a street…

Great use of a corner lot. And notice the speed limit sign? I always miss those when I’m driving!

A house alight in green. Pretty cool!

I got a little bummed on my walk. It seems Christmas sometimes brings out the loneliness I feel and I get to missing my husband and other important people in my life. Sometimes I miss the concept of being a kid and what Christmas meant to me back then. I don’t want to have children just to–as everyone says you do–live Christmas through them. That doesn’t really work for me. I’ve watched children enjoying Christmas like I did when I was a kid and it doesn’t particularly rekindle the feeling I’ve lost. It’s like watching someone you barely know cry when they are upset–the feelings of what they are going through are completely disconnected with the emotions you’re experiencing. Sure, you can empathize, have an idea of what they are feeling through your experience of feeling something similar, but you’re not experiencing directly the emotions they are feeling at the moment, so it just kind of floats around you, missing your heart and mind.

It’s dumb to long for feelings and things that have longed passed you by. It’s even stupider for someone my age to wax melancholic like an old fool. Everyone older than me laughs when I refer to my youth. “What?!” they exclaim, “Why, you’re still in your youth.” Which is probably true. But I’ve driven down many roads and my shoes carry the dust of those travels. And I miss the scenes along some of those old ambling routes.

I suppose most holidays have a way of making single people feel lonely. Christmas hits me the worst. Since Mike died, I’ve felt a strange intertwining of loss and joy as I experience time with the friends and family who are still with me. I am both lonely and most unlonely (for lack of a better antonym). A walking contradiction, always.

I feel a change in the air. Remembering my experiences from childhood reminds me that traditions and situations only last so long, and then they are stuck forever like snow globes in your head–perfect and cheerful and beautiful always. It feels like some traditions might slowly be falling apart. I wonder what Christmas will be like for me in 20 years. Will I still see my cousins annually on Christmas Eve? Will it only be my immediate family on Christmas day? How will I feel when it all ends, when Christmas Eve is no longer the big H party, a tradition I’ve lived with since I first knew Christmas? How will I build my own traditions alone? Perhaps I will become one of those in denial this time of year, hustling purposefully off to some exciting destination just to busy myself out of feeling the loneliness.

For now, I just struggle to hang onto the rope as it starts to slip through my fingers. I’ll cherish each moment and, like I did when Mike died, deal with the situation when my fingers slide to the end of the rope and I tumble to the ground.

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

I still believe in you. Now here are the gifts I know that no one in my family will buy, so I’m letting you know what I would like to see under my tree come Christmas. Please remember my kitties, Nicki and Cleo. Nicki has been mostly good; Cleo is always good. They both deserve gifts.

Cleo needs one of those pet stairs sets so that she can get up into my bed. She can’t jump so high anymore and my big Nordic-sized giant person’s bed is too high for her. She wishes to snuggle at my feet all night and is jealous that Nicki can sleep with me on the bed while she cannot. Perhaps, too, Cleo needs some sort of kitty gym membership or diet pills. She’s getting too fat!!

Nicki would like anything editable. She’s not too picky. She even eats olives! But she prefers fresh seafood and raw chicken, if you please. Nothing is too good for Nicki to stick her nose into. She would also like you to buy something which she can use against Cleo in a fight, but I won’t permit that.

Now here is what Mommy would like in no particular order.

1. A laptop. I haven’t done the research on what kind I would like. Perhaps your elves are experts on this. Just make sure it has an internal wireless card.

2. If I get said laptop, I will require a wireless router so that I can broadcast my internet connection, allowing me to use my laptop in the warm living room as opposed to the cold office.

3. An i-Pod. I used to have a Nano, which I left on a plane in Italy and have sorely missed since. Now I would like one of the regular 120 GB one. I will also need an external hard drive for my computer so that I can keep the millions of songs I will be storing once I have an i-Pod without killing the hard drive space on my PC.

4. A Giant Defy Alliance. I know I already have a road bike, but this one is so hot! I think I would use it for those rides in which I need to be extra light and fast, like when I ride up in flat Toledo. I am not sure it would be very good on the hills of the Cuyahoga Valley with its two rings even though these are supposed to be that new technology that supposedly has the same gear range as a triple. I’m not entirely sold on this idea, which is probably why I’m going to demo this bike this spring. (For I am not so sure Santa will be this kind to me.) The key word is always the “almost”–the gear range is “almost” as wide as a triple. I’m thinking of the Fall N Leaf ride when I had to walk my current bike up one hill because I needed just one more gear lower and I’d already bottom out.

5. New cycling shoes. My current ones, though cute because they match my bike, have a problem where the material within the heel is lumping up and I can’t move it back up. Thus, they’ve become a little uncomfortable to ride in.

6. A Century Cycles gift certificate so that I can go by myself the winter pants I want (which I can also use for skiing!).

7. A massive snow storm in Ellicottville, NY so that my New Year’s trip to Holiday Valley and Holimont is like skiing in Colorado! (In other words, I want better than your average east skiing conditions!) I don’t know if you have the power to move the weather, but I thought perhaps you have a better connection than I do to someone in higher authority, what with you being a saint and all.

8. Electric feet warmers for my ski boots. I’ve noticed that my feet are getting much too cold in my boots. Last winter in Colorado, my toes froze so bad that when we stopped for lunch to thaw out, my feet hurt so much, I could barely walk, even with taking them out of my boots. I think that time my hiking group was on St. Mary’s Glacier during the blizzard in Colorado, I got frost bite on my feet. They say once you have frost bite, your feet get colder faster. You wouldn’t want that to effect my skiing any, now would you?

9. Steve Kilbey’s new solo CD, Painkiller, which seems to be having an extreme amount of difficulty getting ahold of. This is the lead singer of The Church, one of my favorite bands. I’m very depressed because the only website besides that is selling it is in Australia and I can’t procure it from there without paying $40 in shipping (as far as I understand).

10. A neeeeEEEEEw car! Something safe for driving in Ohio’s scary winter weather. I give up on trying to pick out the right one. I’m sure your elves have better product knowledge than I do. Make sure it’s gas efficient and not one of those guzzling SUVs. The cars I’ve been looking at lately have included: Honda Fit, Toyota Matrix, Subaru Impreza (4wd!!), Honda Element, Honda CRV, and the Scion. Please help me decide on the best car for both my sporting “on the go” lifestyle and winter driveability/safety.

I think that’s it. I hate to be materialist, but these are the things I’ve been wanting all year. I know, I make good money. Eventually I’ll get around to buying some of the items on the list. Perhaps I shall have to wait for tax season. I promise you that I’ve been good all year. A girl can dream, right? =) Besides, you know I’ll leave you a loaf of pumpkin bread and a bottle of wine…

The shortest, coldest day

It was sunny this morning when I woke up. Alas! Six days of Darkness and Gray, and on the Seventh Day there was sun. It was almost Biblical.

Except, it was 27 degrees out. And very windy. Ikes. Not my idea of a sunny day, but, maybe not so bad. I was still “in” for the ABC Christmas light ride. A little chillier than I like, but I could bundle up.

When I got home from church at 11:00, it was 17 degrees (according to the indicator on my computer). The news was all abuzz about the arctic front headed our way, promising temperatures below zero this evening. I think it was at about this time that I decided I wasn’t going to ride in the ABC Christmas light ride. Even though Don May, our fearless Thursday night ride leader, sent an email out this afternoon (by then, 12 degrees) to let us know the ride was still on. Huh.

Not for me. I don’t have clothes enough for that kind of weather. And the wind! Oh, it’s blustering out there. I went out once after church, around 4pm, to go pick some stuff up from the store. That was the last time I went out. Freeze baby that I am, I determined I’d be better off just riding indoors on the old trainer while dreaming of being outside on a nice summer’s day (perhaps XOBA, for which I anxiously await the registration for 2009 to go online).

Before using the trainer, I made sure I had purpose for exercising. I made up the double layer pumpkin pie with graham cracker crust (no bake!) that I’m bringing to my mom’s house for the big H Family Christmas Eve Bash. Ooooh, they are going to loooove this one. I can tell because I licked the bowls and beaters for both layers and I doubt it’s going to change much in taste while sitting in the refrigerator doing whatever it is that no-bake recipes do to complete themselves. (And, yeah, I know you were supposed to whisk the ingredients, but I only own one, sad, pathetic, tiny little whisk and it hardly worked for this, so I just used the mixer on the lowest setting, which I don’t think ruined the pie any, really.)

That done, I’m feeling quite like the little culinary dessert queen. Now I think I might make some pumpkin cookies, or another loaf of pumpkin bread, to take to the party as well. I know, I know–OD on pumpkin, right? Not me, but I suppose everyone else will become bored with pumpkin desserts. I don’t see how that is possible… Still, maybe I can save the pumpkin bread for Christmas at my parents’. It seemed to be a big hit at Thanksgiving, and frankly, I’m just proud that it turned out so well. Maybe I’m not so much the baking duntz anymore.

So, with all the bowls and beaters dutifully licked (the reason I like baking so much), I pulled my trainer in front of the TV to watch a Christmas movie on Lifetime or Halmark or one of those other girly channels, and I proceeded to ride for about 50 minutes with five minutes of sprints at intervals of every other minute for ten minutes. It sucked, but I felt better about myself. It’s probably good, in retrospect, that I didn’t ride with ABC because I’m still getting over my cold; I was overtaken by ten minutes of coughing after I got off the trainer. I did some squats and lunges on the Total Gym to help get my legs ready for skiing next week. I threw in some sit ups to work on my never-shrinking abs. And then I called it good.

I must keep up my exercise through Christmas Eve so that I can eat guilt-free (well, it’s never guilt-free). Hopefully, I will get my butt up tomorrow, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I have to work Monday and Tuesday and half of Wednesday. And I have the rest of the week off.

I’m looking forward to skiing over New Year’s. Michael and I plan to leave town as soon as I get out of work on New Year’s Eve (another half day). If we get down there early enough, and we feel like it, we’re going to do some night skiing at Holiday Valley that night. Maybe hang out at the lodge to bring in the New Year or just drink the sparkling merlot I got from Myrrdin Winery this morning (via one of my fellow parishioners who owns the winery). Then, Thursday, we plan to ski at Holimont, which is the private resort where I learned to ski when I was 16–my friend Jennifer’s family owned a condo on the resort so I frequently got to go on weekend trips with them. Holimont is only open to the public on weekdays, so I rarely get to ski there anymore since it takes three and a half hours to get to Ellicotville (where both resorts are located). Friday and Saturday we plan to ski at Holiday Valley, which is my favorite resort in the east.

In other words, I’m praying for snow!! Lots and lots of snow! I suppose since it just needs to snow in upstate NY, the snow doesn’t have to bother us in NE Ohio… If I’m going to spend three days on the slopes out here, I need all the help I can get to get optimal conditions. It’s really hard to get nice powder out here.

Anyway, my weekend was nice. I learned a few things, such as:

– Hanging garland over your fireplace and then using your fireplace is a smelly combination that causes your fire alarm to go off. Garland melts pretty quickly!

– Pulling the lever to my fire place flue towards me actually opens the flue; pushing it away from me closes the flue. I had it backwards. In other words, I have had the flue open for a year. I closed it to turn on the fire place. It got quite hazy in the living room. Dar. (I should have, you know, actually looked up the chimney with the flue in each direction to determine the right configuration… but that would be too obvious for a Mars Girl.)

At the time of this writing, the temp is now 0 degrees. The wind is blowing and sitting here at my computer next to the window, my hands are cold and I’m generally chilly. New windows can’t even keep out this bitter chill. My heater seems to be on constantly so I think my gas bill is going to be over the mere $126 I just paid for last month. Hurrumph. I feel like I’m on the North Pole right now.

It’s time for me to end this entry so that I can move towards the center of the house where all the warmth is… and so I can tap my thermostat up a few degrees (it’s set at 65 right now). Brrrr!! It’s like that Twilight Zone episode where the Earth is drifting further and further away from the sun and the guy can’t get warm enough and he dreams that instead the Earth is getting closer and closer to the sun. (I’m dreaming of a warm ride in sunny July right now. Or laying on a beach in the Carribean reading a book as the sun warms my skin.)

Happy Winter Solstice, everyone! From here on in, the days grow longer again. And hopefully warmer!

Random Thoughts on Heroes volume 3

I finally got to finishing the season 3 of Heroes last night. It just kind of happened. I worked late yesterday because I’ve got a deadline rearing up at work (believe it or not) and I didn’t get home until 8. I made dinner because my Martian belly was rumbling and by the time I finished, there really was no point to exercising, so I just tucked myself in with the last three episodes of Heroes to be done with it all. That series is really hard to watch in bits, anyway, because it’s written like a comic book–it always ends right in the middle of some suspenseful scene. So if you have a queue full of episodes, as I did, it’s very easy to talk yourself into watching “just enough of the next episode to see how the last scene in previous episode turned out.” But by the time you get through that, you’re hooked into watching the rest of it out, no matter what.

The only problem that I discovered is that Heroes tends to run over its scheduled time by five minutes and, for some dumb-assed reason I will never understand, I had the episode set to tape for just an hour, which shouldn’t even be an option in this age of DVRs were the DVR kind of “knows” when the episode starts and ends. For example, I can start recording a show right in the middle and the DVR will pick up the entire show. I learned this a few times when my phone rang while I was watching a show that I wasn’t recording, and so I’d start recording it to continue watching when I got off the phone. When I’d go to view it, the whole episode is there, not just the part forward from where I started to record.

So, tell me, if the DVR can record an entire show even though I started recording it in the middle of its program, why can’t the damn thing just know to record the entire show I selected to record without me having to tell it to record 5 minutes on each end of its listed time so that I can get the whole show?

Anyway, I’m real pissed about this because you know that last cliff-hanging scene I was telling you about? Well, the recording was stopping at an hour, right in the middle of that scene. Ugh!!! So, actually, I was watching the next episode so that I could see the introduction sequence that showed you–sometimes–what happened in the last scene.

Well, don’t you worry, I fixed that little issue on the series recording options, but it’s not going to do me any good until sometime in January when Season 4 (Volume 4) starts. It’s too bad I didn’t know this was happening about ten episodes ago when I stopped watching the series live…

So, here are my random observations at the end of Volume 3. If you watch the show, you’ll know what I’m talking about; if you don’t, you’ll just skim or become bored with this entry. Oh well.

  • I am glad that my original instinct of never liking nor trusting Nathan Petrelli has paid off.
  • How did Peter Petrelli go from being cute into becoming some sort of self-important weenie? I’m annoyed with his character now.
  • Where did that speedy blonde chick come from? I must have missed a few episodes at the beginning of this series. But I like her! She’s cute and she’s a character you can empathize with.
  • Speedy Blonde Chick can’t have Matt Parkman! He’s mine! I’ve loved him since he appeared on Felicity. Okay, I mean, the actor, Greg Grunburg, was in Felicity. Why does Greg always play characters I find endearing? He’s not even really a hot guy, per se. It’s just the characters he plays.
  • I’m so glad Ando got some powers! Even though I usually find the scenes in Japanese with Hiro quite annoying.
  • LOVED what they did with Sylar (Zachary Quinto, soon to be young Spock in the new Star Trek movie)–the whole inner battle he has between wanting to be loved and having all these murderous desires. Very Darth Vader; that is, how Darth Vader’s fall should have been. Love it, love it, love it. Especially gruesome was the brief love interlude during the eclipse between him and Elle, and how once he got his powers back, the brutality returns and he kills her. Sylar’s arc was probably the best one this entire season!! (Why do we all love to hate the bad guys?)
  • Do you think Dad Petrelli is really dead? His fall seems too easy, but was, again, a great Sylar moment! (And equally weenie Peter Petrelli moment… boo!)
  • Jessica/Niki/Tracy is annoying in all her incarnations.
  • I think I missed the episodes where Mohinder Surresh turned himself into a monster, but that was vaguely interesting.
  • Does anyone still know what the heck is going on? I do love how unpredictable this series has been for me. What a relief! Very hard to stump an English major, you know. We’ve been around the classics quite a bit. We have heard it all, it seems.
  • I really enjoyed the shout-out salute to comic book geeks everywhere in the last two episodes of the season where Seth Green (another actor I’ve got a hot crush on), as a comic book shop employee, help the heroes figure out their next move based on his geeky knowledge of the comic book-inside-the show–almost better knowledge of the series than the actual characters within the series! Loved it, loved it, loved it!! Green’s character refers to “Heroes Origins #1”–cracked me up! I felt like I was sitting in a room with my cousin Gary and all his geeky comic book friends. It was the same familiar feeling I got watching Galaxy Quest where I got all the jokes because I’ve hung in that particular subculture. It was a beautiful moment. This series has great writers!

Great series, so I’m glad my illness at least got me caught up on one of my favorite television shows. And, to boot, I woke up this morning feeling much better than I have in days. Thank the gods of Olympus Mons! I think The Cold is clearing! To the bike on Sunday, I say! Ha-HA! (Now I only have cold weather to blame if I bail!)

Day Two in the Maelstrom of The Cold

This recent outbreak of The Cold has made me sufficiently tired enough that I desire to remain immobile for long periods of time in the evening, unlike my usual multi-tasking habit of watching TV and jumping up to do dishes, clean the kitchen from the havoc of making dinner, or check e-mail at the commercial breaks. Therefore, I am finally starting to catch up on the overflow of Heroes episodes in my DVR queue. I kind of got too busy to watch them when they are actually on, even though the show comes on immediately after Gossip Girl and I always find time to watch that. I guess I had temporarily lost interest in Heroes for a time there. I don’t know why; sometimes I just become bored with a TV show after the newness of it wears off.

Anyway, I’m starting to get back into the series, watching 2 or 3 at a pop in the evening as I just lay on my couch, sneezing and coughing everything out of my lungs. It’s weird, too, because usually even when I’m in front of the TV, I’d doing something else like writing a letter or looking through catalogs or mail. It’s a rare show that causes me to focus 100% of my attention on it (Battlestar Galactica being one of them). I managed to get myself all the way to the episode where an eclipse is taking place and all of the people with powers–heroes and villains alike–have lost their powers. If you watch the show avidly, and have actually been keeping up, then you know where I’m at, don’t spoil it for me, I still have a month of viewing to get through.

Speaking of being so far behind, it’s kind of funny as I fast-forward through all the commercials to see the campaign ads for the long-gone election now. We’ve moved on to the next thing, but my DVR has locked me in a time capsule. It is definitely nicer that I don’t have to listen to the commercials, which is a clear advantaged to not watching TV shows live. I know a lot of people don’t watch their shows live anymore and I understand why. Sometimes I feel depressed watching recordings instead of live TV, though, especially if I’m feeling lonely–I feel disconnected with the world. Not that much TV is truly “live” anymore.

I tried to finish writing a letter to Sarah last night, but I found that higher orders of thought, those required for writing anything interesting in a letter, were completely missing as I battled a war for solace with my running nose and achy head and hacking lungs. Once I decided that trying to think was fruitless, I dosed myself with NiQuil and thus faded into slumberland sometime around 9:30.

I woke up several times throughout the night, coughing like a machine gun. It’s so frustrating when you get caught up in one of these fits. As soon as it started, I was stuck in a vicious coughing loop because I kept getting that tickle in the back of my throat–the one that feels as though you just swallowed a mouthful of dust. My coughing made that annoying honking sound (much like Canadian geese) that my serious coughs always make. I was glad for once that I didn’t live with anyone who I’d be keeping up (and thus kicked out of bed to room into the solitary confinement of another room). My cat Nicki didn’t seemed too concerned by the noise as she took the opportunity of me being awake as a sign that it was now time for her to begin petting me. And she wasn’t taking no for an answer. She kept sitting on my head and returning moments later after I’d swattered her away.

Needless to say, I did wake up to my alarm, but I switched it to radio, as is my habit, so that I could listen myself awake. Only that didn’t work and I ended up pulling myself out of a coma at 7:30am, which is way later than I sleep on week days, so I had to hustle. No morning workout. I arrived at work, in a dazed haze, at 9–about a half hour later than usual. I’ve been in the same dazed haze all morning, working in a slovenly manner on this document due Friday now that my boss has reviewed it.

I finally had sense enough to get one of boxes of tissue out of the storage closet and take it to my desk. Repeated trips to the one box in the kitchen was getting tiresome. (Especially since there was a tupperware container full of fudge and a cheesecake someone had specifically brought in for everyone. I had three finger-sized pieces of fudge–one chocolate, one butterscotch, and one peanut butter. Yum.)

I am going to try to be a little more mobile tonight. I’ve got some things I need to do around the house. The one errand I did manage to complete last night was running out to the Time Warner office in Akron to exchange my modem out. I was skeptical, but they technicians claimed the reason my internet kept going down was my modem. When I installed the new one at home, my internet went right up and it appears to have solved the problem (my internet had been down for two days at that point). So we’ll just have to wait and see if it stays up. It’s a good thing I was sick the last two days because I can’t stand not having my internet up. I use it quite frequently at home (during said commercial breaks as I have to check email or look up some website on a whim). I don’t know when I got so addicted to the internet, but I swear that if I had to give up one of my luxury utilities, cable service on the TV would go before I’d give up my fast internet connection, that’s for sure. I need information, I need it quickly, and I need my email!

It’s a good thing the weather isn’t gorgeous outside because all this laying around makes me feel less bad. I’d much rather have a cold during the winter when I can’t ride anyway. If you remember, the last time I had a cold in the summer (in July 2007), I made myself ride anyway. The cold I had before this was during the tail-end of the cycling season. During the last couple days of the cold, I did the Red Flannel Metric Century. I think it made me feel better to ride, actually. I’m not sure I could ride today, though, feeling like I do right now. My reaction time is slow and I just can’t imagine trying to pump the pedals of my bike on a road with the stimulus of cars to watch out for. The cold in my lungs wouldn’t feel too great either.

I have to say the gray day sure matches my mood. I think the last time I saw the sun was Saturday. This blog is going to become a way to record when the sun was last seen in Ohio. Instead of a cycling counter, I should have “____ Many Days Since the Sun Was Out.” I seriously wonder how long it could go on. Gray day followed by early dark. I can’t wait to pass Dec. 21–the shortest day–and just move over the big hump of winter into the days getting longer again. January and February in NE Ohio sucks. I don’t know how we indigenous people do it. It must be in our genes to take the suffering in stride. We’re all masochists living here.

I know, I know. I bitch too much. I should just shut up since I chose to move back. “Poop or get off the pot,” my fifth grade math teacher used to say. If I don’t like it here, I should leave; or if I stay, but quit bitching about it. I can think of every cliche: I made my bed so I will lie in it.

Nothing keeps a weight-obsessed girl down

Despite waking up with a sore throat, a brain-banging headache, runny nose, and phlemy throat, I dragged myself to do a light work out this morning on the trainer. And I mean light. I didn’t even push it. Something has to keep me from gaining weight from all these cough drops, eh? Just kidding, I got the sugar free kind.

I’m dying here. This is the second cold that’s hit me in a month and there’s no excuse for it. I have no kids. I haven’t run naked in the snow… lately… I keep up my health. I just don’t understand. Okay, so, I don’t take vitamins–that all seems like voodoo to me. I’m just skeptical of the whole natural cure thing. I used to take zinc when I had a cold because everyone was so convinced that it would dilute the effects of your cold, but it never worked for me. I really think it’s a placebo effect on everyone who takes them. If you believe you’re going to get better by taking a supplement, then you will.

So what do I do for a cold? I take Day-Quil every four hours until night at which time I suck down the NyQuil. I take Tylenol and use nasal spray and suck on cough drops. I think with a cold it’s all about making yourself as comfortable as you can while you’re miserable. Last night, I blew off my walk outside and just sat on the couch watching TV and writing a letter to Sarah all night (and I’m still working on it, Sarah, I swear!). I ate some tomato soup and drank warm tea. I spent the evening in PJs. I don’t know what else I can do but live out the course of this damn illness.

I’m not one to sit around. I hate doing nothing. So it killed me to not get my extra exercise in last night (the walk). Obviously because I got up this morning to ride the trainer. I’ve got stuff to do and this damn cold is getting in the way. The hacking cough is the worst! I panicked last night that I had bronchitis but I don’t think I do. Nor pneumonia. When I looked up both illnesses online, they talked about green “sputum” which I don’t think I’m having. Gross.

I’m hoping this goes away quickly. I was planning on doing a ride with the bike club on Sunday. Nothing hard, we’re just donning our bikes in Christmas decorations and riding around Silver Lake to look at light displays on people’s houses. But it sounded fun and I was willing to sport warm clothes to brave the cold, or whatever the weather will be like Sunday. The reports have been all over the board for the week–rain, snow, sleet, 20 degrees, 30 degrees, 49 degrees. I can’t keep track of it all. Sounds like Ohio is having a cold or perhaps suffering from the manic-depression all of its inhabitants endure in the winter.

Of course, I haven’t seen the sun in days… Saw it briefly on Saturday and was almost tempted to ride the Beast, but when I stepped outside it was barely 20 degrees so I came to my senses. Plus, it turned out to be kind of windy. Ick. I guess that might have sped my cold up and made it worse, in retrospect.

Right now, I just wish I could go home and sleep on my couch for a few hours. Good news is, I don’t have a fever. So I don’t have the flu, which is good since I bragged again liberally that I never take the flu shot and I never get the flu. That would have surely left me with egg on my face!