November Favorites!

I love sunshine the most, but I’m fond of occasional days like today, too. It’s a moody day, damp, chilly, and gray.

We’ve reached the penumbra of Christmas, and I, for one, am actually feeling calm and ready for it. The high point of Black Friday/Cyber Week for me was scoring a space heater for my parents on a ridiculous sale at Home Depot. You know you’re a grandma at heart when your proudest consumer extravaganza moment is a space heater. It was such a good deal, and we really needed it!

Hopefully this will be the last time we’ll have to think about heating my parents’ room when they visit in the winter, since the A/C guy is coming next month to address the ventilation issue.

Anyway, let’s get right into some of my favorite Little Things from November!

 

1). Book: Past Tense (the new Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child)

 

Past Tense (2018 Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child).

 

Okay, Lee Child’s 2018 Reacher might be one of my favorite Reachers ever. I just really enjoyed this novel. I found it to be deliciously taut, intriguing, and twisted, and I loved the Sumo comparison Child wrote into one of the bad guys!

Incidentally, I’m as thrilled as any Reacher fan that Lee Child is planning a Jack Reacher streaming series… and that Tom Cruise will not be cast as Reacher! It also came to my attention that Child is open to suggestions for Reacher actors! I’m going to dedicate next week Tuesday’s post to my ideas for this.

 

2). Homecoming (Amazon Prime Video)

 

 

In case you didn’t know: Amazon Prime Video released this original series called Homecoming, and it would be well worth your while to check it out if you’re into intrigue, military themes, and Julia Roberts.

 

3). Bodyguard (Netflix)

 

 

Speaking of Reacher, this guy! Richard Madden! A few of his scenes in Bodyguard made me shout “HE IS REACHER.” Not fight scenes, mind you. It was more these little, transitional moments in which the character would reply to someone, move between places, or stand and allow a certain mood to arrange his features in a Reacher-like fashion. It was about attitude and the air about him, I guess… subtle and important qualities. There’s more to Reacher than 6′,5″ and and 220 lbs. Spoiler alert for Tuesday’s TALC post: Madden didn’t make my short list of potential Reacher actors (no pun intended). Dommage.

But I wildly digress. I was going to say that the Netflix series Bodyguard is brilliant, in my opinion, and quite a ride. I’m posting this here with my highest recommendations!

 

4). Get Shorty (Netflix)

 

 

We discovered the series Get Shorty by accident, and what a pleasant, hilarious accident it was. Callaghan and I both prefer this series to the film (1995). The infuriating thing is that we know there’s a season 2 out there, but we can’t figure out how/where to watch it!! Netflix doesn’t have it yet. How’s that for a so-called first world problem? At any rate, you may love this series, too.

 

5). Sprouts Organic Creamy Peanut Butter.

 

Spouts Organic Creamy Peanut Butter

 

I don’t know how any natural (i.e. stir-it-yourself) peanut butter could differ from Laura Scudder’s Old-Fashioned creamy peanut butter, but somehow, Sprouts came up with one that does. Laura Scudder’s brand is good, but Sprouts’ is sublime. It has one ingredient: organic peanuts. Laura Scudder’s brand has peanuts and “less than 1% salt.” Close enough, right? But Sprouts’ creamy pb is easier to mix, its consistency is more indulgent, and its flavor is just perfection. Sorry, Laura Scudder’s. As long as Sprouts is making theirs, I’m never going back.

 

6). Pacific Organic Roasted Garlic Mushroom Lentil Soup.

 

Pacific Organic Roasted Garlic Mushroom Lentil Soup

 

I’ve been sick since November 6 (yes, still sick, as it turns out), so I ate a lot of soup in November. I just wanted it, you know? Most of the time, when I want soup, I’m also not in the mood to make my own. My go-to, ready-made soup is Amy’s lentil or lentil vegetable. My new favorite soup, though, is this one by Pacific. This organic roasted garlic mushroom lentil soup is divine. I don’t think I would’ve discovered it had I not gotten sick, so thank you, forces of the universe.

 

7). Pumpkin Pie Larabar.

 

Pumpkin Pie Larabar

 

Dates, cashews, apples, almonds, pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger. These are the ingredients mashed together to make Larabar’s pumpkin pie bars. The recipe works. These bars were perfect for November… for anytime, but especially for November. Love these!

 

8). Van’s Gluten-Free Original Waffles.

 

Van’s Gluten-Free Original Waffles

 

I discovered that Van’s gluten-free original waffles eaten hot with only butter (Earth Balance, in my case) taste like biscuits! These are wonderful. They’re crispy on the outside, and the inside melts in your mouth. Consider this post to be a Public Service Announcement.

 

9). Bigelow Green Tea Classic.

 

Bigelow Green Tea Classic

 

Another thing that happened in November as a direct result of my illness? I quit drinking coffee. That was a cold day in hell. It must have been. What happened was coffee started to upset my stomach to the point of I can’t do this anymore. Coffee’s never affected me like that! It only took two days of intense nausea and related trips to the bathroom. The first day it happened, I suspected that it was the coffee. The next day, it was obvious that it was the coffee. I started drinking green tea in the morning, instead, and now I’m hooked on early morning green tea.

 

Now for a lone product:

10). Pacifica Hot Vegan Probiotic & Spice Rehab Mask.

 

Pacifica Hot Vegan Probiotic & Spice Rehab Mask

 

I had no expectations when I picked up this daytime mask. Pacifica Hot Vegan Probiotic & Spice Rehab Mask kind of surprised me. I thought it might have a spicy sort of fragrance, but it does not. I thought that it would go on like a gel and feel like a gel, but it doesn’t… it glides over the skin, and it tightens up just a little bit. Just enough to remind you that you’re wearing it. It doesn’t dry into the aggressive, pulling second skin that many masks become the longer you wear them. I leave it on for five minutes longer than suggested, and the tightness of it doesn’t change. My skin glows after I rinse it off. I will be repurchasing this product!

So there we have it for November’s favorite Little Things. Until next time! Happy Friday Eve.

 

 

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Back at the gym again. (Fitness update!)

I worked out over the weekend! It was great. Our Saturday Body Pump instructor happened to choose one of the easier workout releases… one that was awesome to do after being out for a while.

My legs, though!

I expected to feel the workout after having done nothing for a month, but I didn’t expect to feel it only in my legs. I used my warm-up weight for the entire workout, too. Dropping my heaviest bar weight – legs – all the way down to 5 lbs should have benefited my lower body more than anything, but noooooo. (Channeling John Belushi in Saturday Night Live.)

On Sunday, I could hardly walk. Yesterday was the same. This morning, I got up and thought, geez, how could my legs forget completely after just one month of sedentary life?! My legs are acting like they’ve never lifted a thing in their lives. It’s like my legs spent a month chilling on a beach in Rio, and now they’re mad that I yanked them off their lounger and put them back in the gym.

I popped a handful of Advil for the pain before I went to the gym this morning, feeling hopeful because I was walking a little more normally than I had been in the last two days. I was ready for whatever our Tuesday/Thursday instructor would throw at us, which turned out to be release 106.

Then class got underway and I found that I didn’t just yank my legs off a beach lounger in Rio and put them back in the gym on Saturday. I also sent them to an overzealous grocery store butcher who just couldn’t wait to run my quads through their new meat tenderizer.

In class this morning, I could bend my knees slightly. That was it. Those were my squats. My range of motion was basically zero, and the pain was intense despite the Advil.

There was a pretty rad bright side, though: I put more weight on the bar for upper body when I realized that my legs were out of the picture. Doing clean and presses and power presses using only upper body strength revealed that my upper body is stronger than I’d thought it was. My thing about overhead shoulder presses with the bar really is psychosomatic. The back track in release 106 involves a lot of overhead shenanegans, and I had no problem doing it without lower body assistance using a heavier bar than I use for shoulders.

Also, I figured out my Saturday mistake right away: I’d gone as deep as I usually do in the leg track. This was apparently the wrong answer for my first time back.

As for my upper body after being out for a month? Nothing. I’ve felt nothing. As far as my upper body is concerned, it never left the gym. Weird, right?!

I’m so glad to be back.

November Favorites post coming on Thursday!

 

 

The question: The fight. (Mental wellness post.)

I recently got to thinking about the perception that fighting is equated to violence. What follows here is a train of thought coming from this.

On a few occasions in the past, I’d been taken to task for my verbiage. It’s damaging to be flippant with our word choices, I’d been reminded. This is true, absolutely. I know this, and I appreciate the reminder. At the same time, the expressions I’d used on those occasions… “to fight to the death.” “To slay.” … what do these sorts of expressions mean to me? To vanquish.

Fighting isn’t necessarily violent, but it’s always a struggle. The truth is that we’re always fighting.

We fight constantly in some way or sense, for something, or for someone… or maybe just for ourselves. Perhaps our fight involves grasping for meaning in our current state of being, or in our lives, in general. Even as we meditate in mindful serenity, we know that somewhere inside, we’re fighting our way through an existential crisis. In my opinion, this struggle is simply a part of the human condition.

I don’t know what you’re fighting for, but I know that you’re fighting for something, because you’re human, and you’re alive.

Being alive means that we’re in conflict. Poets and writers are keenly aware that there can be no story, no plot without a conflict. We’re writing for a human audience; being in conflict is an intrinsic fact of being human. Thus, we weave conflict into our stories in order to give them meaning.

We fight all sorts of things: boredom, sleep, traffic, fear, temptation. We fight not to laugh. We fight to keep our mouths shut. We fight back tears. We fight to breathe. We fight for our rights, and we fight cancer.

When we discipline ourselves, it’s a fight. For instance, we discipline ourselves to abide by moderation, or to get ourselves to the gym. Disciplining ourselves to go to the gym is sometimes a fight so tedious, we benefit from arranging to meet with a comrade for mutual encouragement and motivation. It’s helpful and advisable to fight in pairs… to have a partner, a back-up.

We fight with ourselves when trying to start something. We fight with ourselves when trying to quit something.

We fight for our freedom. We fight for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

We fight injustices. We fight for those who don’t have a voice, or for those whose voices have been silenced.

We have so many fights, we can’t engage in them all. We have to pick the ones worthy of our attention, time, and energy. This is our personal judgement to make, which is, in itself, a fight.

It’s easy to forget that it’s not our place to pick others’ battles for them, and it’s a mistake to judge others for the fights they choose.

But it’s hard, isn’t it? When we feel strongly about something, it’s hard to say nothing when we see others expressing their own, strong feelings… feelings that oppose ours. Then we have to fight to remain civil. This fight within ourselves can be brutal. It’s fight on top of fight, and it’s harder when we know that losing is as easy as winning.

This is unavoidable, and it’s a part of the reason why I seriously contemplated leaving Facebook. All the fighting going on before my eyes over there gets exhausting. It’s not like I’m not also engaged in various fights of my own. Not one amongst us goes around free of conflict.

When combat sports athletes get tired during a fight, they get breaks. A bell rings, they disengage, and they retreat to their corners, where their corner-people are waiting to hydrate them, tend to their wounds, and prop up their morale with forceful yet encouraging words and directives. There’s a referee to stop the fight when things get out of hand… when the fighter can still walk away. It would be great if a bell could ring on social media every once in a while so we can go to our corners and compose ourselves.

A little kindness can go a long way in creating our corners of respite.

 

Growing in the dark

 

We can also breathe a little easier at night knowing that we survived another day. This is a victory. A vanquishing.

 

 

Is Black Friday compatible with minimalism? (Minimalism, post 13.)

November was a giant black hole in another dimension, and everything fell into it. This is the last week of the month; I thought I’d be back in the gym this week, but shenanigans have ensued since my last post, so I’m still here… until Saturday. I will go back to the gym on Saturday. THIS Saturday. December 1st. My last workout at the gym was on November 3rd. I missed a whole month. See? Black Hole.

Meanwhile, I found out that when Black Friday comes along in the midst of black hole induced cabin fever, one’s minimalism efforts face a challenge. At the height of my gift-shopping adventure, my minimalism efforts for myself were challenged… but not destroyed.

Replacing things rather than piling things onto existing things works. I’m donating more than I’m buying because getting rid of one thing motivates me to give away more. It doesn’t work the other way around – buying something doesn’t motivate me to buy more things. (I look for specific items rather than browse.) Despite my online Black Friday activities, I now own less than I did before Black Friday. Black Friday can be compatible with minimalism!

I just dig a bargain. Outrageous bargains give permission for seasonal recklessness, and I love some occasional recklessness. I love The Body Shop with its amazing vegan/cruelty-free fragrant bath and skincare products. What can I say? I didn’t ask to be a Capricorn with an Aries moon and Taurus rising.

Also, it’s not my fault that The Body Shop created not one, but three limited edition holiday scents this year. I have to try them all, right? So I can know which one(s) to stockpile for the coming year?

In other minimalism updates news, I’m still seriously thinking of doing the unthinkable: getting rid of books. Maybe not all of them, but many of them. A lot of them. I’m overrun with books. A significant pruning is in order. Considering letting go of my books has me thinking about asking Santa for a Kindle, and this is also unthinkable. Who am I anymore?!

Could this be my mid-life crisis? Swapping out paper books for a sliver of aluminum that will confine every book I read? The idea of it makes my blood run cold. You know how a part of the cigarette addiction is behavioral/physical… the need to hold a cigarette between your fingers? I still remember the torture of that from when I quit smoking 25 years ago. I can feel it coming back when I think about no longer physically turning pages when reading a book. The feel of the paper. The cracking of the spine. The dog-earing. The flipping through. The tossing aside when I hate the ending. I love books. I feel an anxiety attack coming on just writing this.

Nah. I probably won’t do it…

 

The Day of All-day Thanks has arrived.

In a shocking development, today is (American) Thanksgiving.

Why I found this startling, I’m not sure. Did I forget that I was in America? Did I forget that we did not, in fact, board a certain plane going to a certain T-Day destination? Did I forget to be outraged by the fictional and one-sided history around which we glorify the unfortunate beginnings of this holiday?

No, no, and no.

In any case, we’re grateful. We’re grateful, and we can love our loved ones from afar as well as we can up close and in person.

Also, what with our last-minute change of plans and subsequent dearth of foodstuffs in our kitchen, we have decided that no cooking will happen in our house on this revered day of feasting. Our feast will come courtesy of a phone call to the cheap and excellent Thai restaurant down the street, and it will be glorious.

(Perk of living downtown and near the university: inexpensive and really good ethnic food of various cuisines in abundance all around.)

On that note, I wish you all (Americans who celebrate) a very Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Thanksgiving Eve’s moon-rise, moon-filtered on instagram.

 

 

 

Missed Connections Exquisite Corpse.

In recovery news: I’ve been good! Better. Normal life resumes in a week. We did have to cancel our travel plans for Thanksgiving, unfortunately, but the bright side is that there’s always next year.

The last time I went out was when I stopped by Target after going to the doctor that day I got my rest orders. It was funny… I had to ask a young Target employee a question and then apologize for my low and raspy voice when I realized that I was barely comprehensible. She replied, “That’s okay. Were you screaming at a concert last night?”

I was vaguely pleased that someone would think I’d been screaming at a concert rather than recovering my voice from laryngitis.

Anyway, I wanted to share a poem today, but something different.

I have an old and intermittent habit of browsing Craigslist’s Missed Connections section for its wonderful, quirky lines of poetry left by people who don’t realize that they’re poets. Just scanning the first lines down the entry list reminds me of the Exquisite Corpse exercises we did in my graduate creative writing program.

I thought it would be interesting to put together a little Exquisite Corpse poem authored by strangers who left these first lines on Craigslist. I copied a random line, pasted it in, then quickly scrolled to another line (without thinking of the previous line) and copied it to paste in after the first, and so on. I grouped the lines into couplets, but I changed nothing. I didn’t add or take away punctuation marks or caps. I left the wording alone. All I did was copy, paste, and group the lines in twos.

The result… a poem written by strangers:

Missed Connections Exquisite Corpse

The Cowboy
Tammy plus 20 years ago

I miss our connection
Remember me?

Cowboy in St. John’s…
Noticed each other driving, said what’s up

Guy 58
You were drunk, dressed like a unicorn and hopping on one leg

Spirit Halloween store Salvador Dali
Looking for the DJ from the Freakshow

AZ warrior
Neon on a Friday

At the airport…
back after long summer

The girl with the pink hair
queen creek blonde pink streaks

Looking for girl at Wild Horse Pass
Your car broke down. You used my phone.

 

 

Temporarily grounded. (Non-fitness updates.)

I titled this post “non-fitness updates” because there’s currently no fitness anything going on around here.

I’m not amused.

Long story short: I caught a virus, it hit me hard, I’m having a tough time shaking it, and bronchitis has joined the party. I’m at high risk for pneumonia. My last workout was last week Monday when I did that garage gym workout. My symptoms kicked in the next day, aka election day. I’ve been out-of-commission sick for nine days, and now my ass has to sit here not working out for another “maybe two and a half weeks” per doctor’s orders.

All of this is related to being medically immunosuppressed. I was blissfully pain-free on methotrexate, but here’s a part of the price! Haha!

Long story long (dry details for anyone interested): The doctor today said that there are several species of crud* ripping through my vicinity, and because of my plaquenil/methotrexate (immunosuppressant) autoimmune cocktail, I’m easy game for them… also, my body will have a hard time fighting any viruses that get into my system.

Yesterday, my rheumatologist put a temporary hold on the methotrexate until I get rid of this virus (while I continue with the plaquenil). Today, a primary care doctor prescribed antibiotics for the bronchitis I’ve developed. The meds should help with my coughing. I have my voice back, but just barely. I’ll take it, though… I was completely speechless with laryngitis on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

The doctor instructed me to “quarantine” myself for the duration of the illness, which could be up to two and a half weeks. “If you have to go out, you should wear a mask.”

(I’m sure you autoimmune readers can relate to all of this!)

Back to working out, though! I asked the doctor whether I could work out at home. In the parlance of the army, NO-GO. She said that I’m at high risk for pneumonia because of my autoimmune meds, so she doesn’t want me working out at all. She would prefer that I not leave the house. She would prefer that I remain on bed rest.

Is there a way to work out without working out? That’s the fitness question of the century, right? Enough innovators have tried to sell apparatuses that will “do the work for you.” I’m not supposed to get my heart-rate up. Maybe I can do this workout:

 

 

[Thanks for this, Caroline!]

So that’s the update! Stay aware and take all the precautions this winter, everyone! Callaghan caught my virus, of course. Poor guy. Luckily, he’s getting over it.

*”the crud”: 70’s throw-back slang, I guess. I never hear anyone say it anymore. Now we say “the plague,” which is more fun and more specific for infectious illnesses, anyway.