Friday, January 19, 2018

#452 She's So Cold

You would think I’d be used to it by now.  I’ve lived most of my life in the state of Indiana, yet I am always amazed by how much people complain about the weather.  Maybe it’s standard procedure to make weather small talk in the office.  It’s wearing thin. 

Being that it’s January and we have experienced sub-zero temperatures the past couple of weeks, this practice has ramped up.  Since I love to play devil’s advocate anyway, I have resorted to my own standard procedure of replying to any weather remark with, “It’s not that bad.”  And really, it’s not. 

Most people have an attached garage (mine is detached and I am currently skating to my car and I don't even mind doing that).  You walk from a heated house into a maybe 40 to 50-degree garage/car.  You turn on the heat.  You park and walk outside for a few minutes to a heated building.  If you’re lucky, you don’t have to go anywhere over your lunch hour.  At the end of the day, you walk outside a few minutes to a cold car, which heats up (hopefully) fairly quickly.  How hard is that?  We don’t live on the prairie, people.  We have heated houses, cars, water, blankets. 
We have coats and hats. 

Let me stop here and say that there are some people who legitimately have problems in the winter.  Those with illness or disabilities.  The elderly.  Those who may not be able to afford to heat their home, or who do not have a home or even a warm coat.  My heart goes out to them and this complaint does not apply. 

For the rest of you, can you imagine how cold you would be if you were Laura Ingalls?  If you had to heat your water for a bath (and then share it with the rest of your family)?  If you had to constantly stoke a fire to cook (after going outside to chop wood)?  If you had to ride for an hour in a horse-drawn buggy? 

Yes, it’s cold.  It’s called winter.  We live in Indiana.  It may be just another thing to say (like “I’m so happy it’s Friday!” – you can read my thought on this in Post #416).  Just like you are so over the cold, I am so over your complaining about it.  If you detest the cold so much, move to Florida (although even that wouldn’t help this year.  An Orlando friend texted me last night saying, “How do you stand that bitter cold all winter.  It’s two nights in a row here below 30!”) 

Even though summer is my favorite season, I like the winter.  I like getting a break from working in my yard.  I like being cozy on my couch with a blanket.  I love how quiet the woods are in the winter.  You can see so many different things when the trees are bare.  I love how the neighborhood becomes illuminated at night after a snowfall.  I love how the snow glitters like a million diamonds.  I love sledding.  I love the winter accessories – coats, scarves, boots, sweaters. 

Maybe I play the mental game better than most.  I tell myself that I just have to get through four months of cold.  The first two months are full of activity and seem to fly by.  So January and February are the “worst”.  And at this point, it’s down to a month-and-a-half.  We’re almost there! 

Cheer up folks.  You can do it.  And don’t worry, in a few more months when the heat and humidity hits, you will have that to complain about.  

Friday, January 12, 2018

#451 Tight Fittin' Jeans

Is it just me, or does it seem that most women these days wear incredibly tight jeans?  This is coming from someone who grew up in the 80s and remembers Brooke Shields, who famously asked, “You wanna know what comes between me and my Calvins?  Nothing.”  

And it’s not just jeans.  It’s all pants.  (Don’t even get me started on yoga pants.  Or leggings.  Neither of which are pants.)

When skinny jeans became more popular a few years ago I swore I wouldn’t wear them.  I do now, but it was gradual.  I first bought them to wear with riding boots. 

Being a very tall and thin woman, finding jeans has always been a struggle.  As a teenager, I wore men’s Levi’s because they were the only jeans I could find with a 36” inseam.  Try finding jeans with a 28” waist and 36” inseam.  That’s one skinny dude!  And even though they were long enough, the waist never fit right, so I had to take in the back waistband to get rid of the gap. 

Later I was able to find extra-long jeans online from Banana Republic/Gap/Old Navy.  Still a 36” inseam, and a better fit, but I still had issues with the butt getting baggy.  They fit in the store, but after wearing a few times, bagginess.  Part of it was that jeans used to be 100 percent cotton.  Most all jeans now have spandex in them, so that helps them spring back into shape. 

A magazine article revolutionized jeans for me – it suggested buying jeans one size smaller.  Why didn’t I think of that myself?  It worked!  That, combined with some spandex, and no more baggy behind. 

But back to the tightness.  I notice it a lot at work.  Some of the younger women wear only skin-tight pants/jeans.  (We can wear jeans on Fridays.)  They are so tight you can see every ripple.  They look incredibly uncomfortable.  I am all for pants that fit well, but I don’t need to see all your business.  What happened to trouser jeans?  Or a good straight-leg or boot-cut jean? 

A couple funny jean stories.  The first from my niece, Megan.  One of her college friends was in town earlier this year and they were getting ready to go out.  Anna told Megan, “You need to get a new pair of jeans.  Yours are getting saggy.”  I have never known Megan to wear saggy jeans.  And hers aren’t ultra-tight either.  Anyway, I went home and looked at my jeans and decided that Anna would probably tell me it’s time for new jeans.  Which prompted me to buy a newer pair of Old Navy skinny jeans. 

The second story is work-related.  I was at a work retreat and wanted to be comfortable, so I wore my thrift store Buckle jeans, which are somewhat flared at the bottom.  I always thought they fit me well.  During a break, a younger female co-worker came up to me and said, “I’m glad someone else wore baggy jeans today.  I just wanted to be comfortable.”  I smiled and nodded, stunned.  I wish I could’ve seen my face as I thought, “These are baggy jeans?!”

I wear different jeans for different occasions.  I rarely wear skinny jeans to work because the knee area is so tight they are uncomfortable to wear all day with my knees bent at my desk.  I also avoid them at sporting events for the same reason.  I usually wear them when my top is a little longer or looser fitting, to which the skinny jeans balance the outfit.  And I wear them with riding boots or my rain boots.  In contrast, I like to wear a tighter-fitting top with a “looser” fitting or flared-leg pant. 

For both skinny and straight, I have my “good butt” jeans that I save for wearing out on weekends.  I don’t want to stretch them out too much. 

Like Stacy and Clinton used to say on “What Not to Wear” – just because a store sells a certain piece of clothing doesn’t mean you have to buy it.  And just because seemingly everyone is wearing skinny jeans, doesn’t mean you have to.  Wear jeans that are most flattering for you and that you feel most comfortable in.  We don’t have to see all of your business. 

There is a difference between tight clothing and clothing that fits well.  I wish people knew the difference.  

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

#450 Fix You

I like to fix things.  Well, I like to think I can fix things.  Or at least I will try to fix things. 

We have turned into a disposable society.  Something breaks, we throw it away and buy another one.  Have a hole in your sock?  Most people let the hole get bigger and bigger, until the hole is so big they can’t mend it.  Unfortunately, when appliances break nowadays, it’s cheaper to buy a new one than to fix it.  Things aren’t made like they used to be.  They’re not made to last.

Today at work someone broke a single hole punch.  They brought the pieces over to me (I am the work room lady).  Now my goal is to fix it.  I think I can, but need to take it home to use some pliers on it. 

A few weeks ago I spent about 10 minutes in our workroom fixing a three-hole punch.  A tiny bolt-like piece had come off that held it together at one end.  I worked and worked, and even chipped a nail.  Finally, success!  I felt like MacGyver! 

And while we’re on the topic of mending, I must mention my grandmother, Emma Riedweg.  She was the queen of mending.  She in turn taught my mother, the princess of mending.  (I guess I am the duchess of mending?)  I once spent almost the entire final episode of The Bachelor mending random clothing items.  If I’m wasting my time watching a crazy show, I might as well do something constructive. 

I am still amazed that when the topic of mending/sewing comes up, most people say they can’t sew on a button or hem pants.  How does that happen?  Did home economics disappear from the classroom?  I see people all the time walking around with too-long pants, and the back hem is shredded from them walking on the material.  You are ruining your pants!  And it looks sloppy. 

I recently received a wood sewing cabinet that was my grandmothers.  It’s way cool and my brother Paul helped fix some of its broken pieces.  He’s a great fixer too!  I now have a great stash of thread, ready to mend anything (in most any color) that comes my way. 

If you see that small hole in your sock, fix it right away instead of buying new socks.  If something breaks, consider fixing it if it’s worth it.  Or maybe it can have another use.  These days I stop and look at something I’m about to get rid of and ask myself, “What can I do with this?”  So far, I have repurposed egg cartons to organize jewelry and have used lots of shoe boxes to better organize my dresser drawers (no need for The Container Store).  Use your imagination!  

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

#449 Sing Me Away

At least once during every concert I attend I get a “chill bump moment”, where I hear a song that gives me a certain feeling.  I don’t know how to describe it.  Sometimes I do get chills.  Sometimes I feel euphoric.  Sometimes, inspired.  Sometimes, at peace. 

Last week I saw one of my favorite bands, Night Ranger, at the Old National Center (or Murat for you old-schoolers.)  I lost count of how many times I’ve seen them over the years.  At Rib America, at the Indiana State Fair (they last played there in 2016).  No number is too many times.  I know all their songs and they look like there are having a blast after 35 years, which is contagious. 

Early in the show they played “Sing Me Away”.  Not one of their most well-know songs, but one of my favorites.  I had battled a sinus infection for a week-and-a-half, and was also getting a cough.  As the concert night approached I thought, “Maybe I should stay home.  It’s a school night.  I’m running low on fumes.”  The ticket was only $20, but I do hate to just throw money away.  I sucked it up and went, partly because I like them and partly because Lita Ford was one of the opening bands.  (I had never seen her live, so that was enough to convince me to still go.)  Not to mention I wanted to hang with some friends. 

The song started, and I thought, “Aww, I love this song!”  I also started thinking how music can “sing me/you away” from negativity.  Sing me away from my sinus infection, my cough, my weariness.  As the show continued, I felt more energized.  Watching a bunch of 60-something guys bounce around on stage can do that do you as well. 

My feeling had nothing to do with the actual lyrics (which are very nice).  Songs can have as many different interpretations as there are listeners.  And the next time I hear the song, I may have an even different reaction.  That’s the beauty of music. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go sing myself away…from work with a concert replay on Spotify.  

Monday, December 4, 2017

#448 Auburn Trifecta

The one downside to going away to college is that it’s difficult to support their sports teams.  I try to go back to Auburn once a year for a football game and have been fairly successful in doing so.  I’ve hit a handful of women’s basketball games in Lexington over the years, which have been fun road trips with my niece.  Even though she didn’t participate in sports (well, nothing after T-ball), she was a high school manager for soccer and baseball, and is a huge Purdue basketball/football fan and appreciates sport in general. 

This past Wednesday I took a quick after-work road trip to Dayton to watch the Auburn men’s basketball team play the University of Dayton at the Dayton Arena.  My bike buddy Duane lives just outside Dayton, so I picked him up and headed to the game.  He was duly impressed with my behind-the-bench tickets.  That doesn’t always happen, so it was a nice surprise. 

Nice view!

Blurry selfie of Duane and me

Yeah, but ya'll lost to Auburn, so ...
The Auburn men have had some pre-season trials and it was nice to see them come together for a great victory over a solid Dayton team. 

Next up was Saturday’s SEC Championship football game, pitting Auburn against Georgia.  What a difference a week and some injuries make.  It was a long, frustrating game.  It didn’t help I was fighting a sinus infection.  My pep slowly drained as the game wound down.  Despite the loss, they had a great season and some crucial wins the past few weeks. 

I rounded out the weekend with a shorter road trip to Bloomington to watch the Auburn Lady Tigers play Indiana University.  Megan was happy to join me again, despite her being a Purdue graduate.  She bravely wore her Purdue sweatshirt over her Auburn T-shirt (we only heard one comment as we walked through Assembly Hall).  Again, we had great seats and enjoyed a victory – Megan and my first road win!  I can’t remember how many times we’ve traveled to Lexington to watch a lopsided loss.  Not fun. 

Pre-game excitement
I'm ready coach! 

Victory selfie outside Assembly Hall!  #wareagle #boilerup

That rounds out my Auburn trifecta.  Two in person games and one on TV in five days.  Not too shabby.  It’s great to be an Auburn Tiger!  War Eagle!    

Friday, November 10, 2017

#447 The Trials of the Single Partygoer

This weekend I am going to a party.  Friends (a married couple) are having an open house to show off their newly-remodeled house.  Here is what goes through my head as a single person attending a party by myself. 

Steve and Susie are great biking friends of mine.  They are fun and I’m looking forward to seeing them and their new house.  However, I only know them and a couple of Steve’s bike friends, whom I’ve also occasionally ridden with.  I don’t know his friends’ wives.  I don’t know any of Steve and Susie’s other friends.  As a solo attendee, I feel awkward having to “work the room” making small talk.  I want a wing man!  There is the excitement of going, yet the dread of not knowing anyone.  As an intermittent extrovert, parties make me swing to the introvert spectrum. 

But then I think about if I actually had a wing man.  Yes, I would have someone to fall back on and talk to, but wouldn’t meet as many new people. I would also have to introduce him, which brings the panic of me being horrible at remembering names. 

Prior to one of my high school reunions, I had similar feelings of angst.  My high school friends I saw regularly refused to attend.  I was adamant to go.  As I walked into the venue, I prayed, “Lord, please help me to have a good time.”  I had a blast.  I was free to roam as I pleased.  At dinner I sat next to a volleyball teammate and her husband, and our legendary former janitor.  All was ok. 

This party is not on a reunion level, but I still feel some trepidation.  And for the record, I would still rather have a wing-man/partner in crime.  Until that happens, I’ll do what I always do - put my big girl pants on, hold my head high and say a silent prayer to have a good time.

Let’s get this party started.   

Monday, October 30, 2017

#446 The Hilly Hundred is 50!

This year the Hilly Hundred turned 50! Of those 50, I have ridden 20 or those years.  I did my first Hilly in 1995, skipped two years, and since 1998 have done it every year.  Let me tell you why I love it. 

I was clueless for my first Hilly.  A friend told me her husband Chris had ridden it and thought I would enjoy it.  I had done some low-mileage biking, and, despite the name, I wondered, “How hilly could it be?”  My “training” consisted of riding 20 miles a couple weekends prior.  I was in for a rude awakening.  I rode my 1983 Schwinn World Sport, which weighs about 20 pounds.  I wore an outfit that I would turn my nose up at now - running tights, a cotton sweatshirt, a large jacket that blew up like a balloon, cross-trainer shoes and a cotton bandana around my head to keep my ears warm.  Despite the freezing temperatures, I was a hot mess.  I walked up each major hill (maybe three each day, not including the many rollers).  Poor Chris waited for me at the top of every one of them, bless him. 

1995 - Chris and Linda before the ride.  Excited!

Beautiful colors!
Linda after the ride.

Chris and Linda post-ride.  Exhausted!
I did it!  

For my second Hilly, I actually trained, and I even rode in hilly Brown County a couple times during the summer.  I redeemed myself and made it up every hill in that Schwinn.  I will keep that bike forever.    

Even though I loved the Schwinn, it was way too heavy and difficult to shift, so I eventually bought a new bike the next summer.  And got a huge shock at bike prices.  I rode my new LeMond Tourmalet for the next 15 years.  A bit lighter.  Better shifting.  And it had a granny gear. 

In 2012, I purchased a carbon fiber Trek Madone.  I was concerned that it had compact gears and no granny.  I told Graham from Matthews, “If I don’t make it up Mt. Tabor on this bike, I am not going to be happy!”  Graham assured me I would, and I did.  (More on that monstrosity later.) 

Throughout these years I rode with different people.  Chris, who was exceedingly patient.  My brother Paul, who amazingly rode it on his mountain bike.  He and his friend Dave joined us a couple times.  Dave rode a hybrid with brakes that squealed.  We always knew where Dave was.  He resembled the Wicked Witch of the West with his upright riding posture and we “sang” the witch’s theme song when he rode by us.  My friends Julie and Krista rode a couple times.  Krista hates hills so go figure.  Kathy (Chris’ wife) even rode once.  My niece and nephew’s PE teacher Diane and her friends rode for several years.  Then it morphed to Greenwood Steve (I have about five bike friends named Steve, so I have to nickname them to differentiate) and his friends, Jan, a co-worker, and three fun guys from Ohio - Andy, Boris and Duane).  And I always run into people I know along the route or at the rest stops. 

1998 -  Dave, Julie and Paul
2002- Diane (R) and friend.  I don't stick out at all...

2012 - Jan, me, Joe, Duane

2015 - Me with the Ohio boys - Ed, Boris, Andy
2017 - Ready to roll with Andy, Ed and Boris (missed Duane - he broke his wrists rollerblading)
My lodging has varied over the years as well.  I’ve driven back and forth and slept at home.  I stayed a couple times with my Aunt Esther and Uncle Ed, who lived in Marlin Hills, which is on the old Hilly route.  The past few years I have driven to Ellettsville Friday after work and slept in the Edgewood Middle School cafeteria.  I bring a mattress pad and some earplugs and sleep mask. 

Why do I ride the Hilly?  There are several reasons (in addition to this T-shirt). 

The hills!  They don’t call it the Hilly for nothing!  I always get a bit nervous, but certainly love the challenge.  Some years are “easier” than others.  If I do a week-long camping ride in September, that helps.  This past year my week-long ride was in June.  I rode all summer and then September came, and it was the Penrod Art Fair, Auburn football game, Purdue football game, rain, uh oh, the Hilly is in two weeks!  But I did ok.  And the hills have such great names - Water Tower Hill.  Bean Blossom.  Bear Wallow.  The Three Sisters.  And the coup de gras – Mt. Tabor.  Mt. Tabor is a .2-mile, 21 percent grade hill (if I remember correctly).  I tend to have hill amnesia.

My method of hill-conquering is to sit and slowly churn up the monster hills.  Except for Mt. Tabor, which is so steep it gets me up out of my saddle.  And not only do you have the hill itself to contend with, there is the car traffic (sometimes going both ways).  And riders often stop in front of you to start walking up the hill.  You have to be super alert and most times I’m riding on the “wrong” side of the road to go around people.  I am slow, but if I slow down any more I’ll fall over.  My best hill story is when I was climbing Mt. Tabor.  It was warm and my legs were bare.  I was about halfway up when I passed a guy and he yelled, “Nice legs!”  Being the polite person I am, I barely responded with “Thank you.”  That compliment gave me the burst of adrenaline I needed to push me up the hill. 

The scenery!  The Hilly moves around in October based on Indiana University home football games, so later in the month you see more of the fall foliage.  We ride on country roads and sometimes pass through Morgan-Monroe State Forest. 

The people!  I already mentioned all the people I usually ride with.  There are thousands who ride and it’s just plain fun to be out riding with other bike enthusiasts.  You see all ages and level of cyclist.  The occasional jean shorts sometimes make an appearance.  Ouch. 

The music!  A band plays at each rest stop, which makes for a festive atmosphere. 

The food!  There is FOOD at the rest stops.  Pumpkin donuts, chocolate chip muffins, apple cider, apples, bananas, trail mix, Scholars Inn granola bars.  And that’s just at the first and third stops.  At the second (lunch) stop, there is fried chicken, pasta salad, quinoa salad, carrot sticks, wavy potato chips, cookies and Schwan’s Ice Cream.  I ride to eat. 

The deals!  After a long day of riding, it’s fun to get back to the school and head to the vendor tent.  Cycling is a racket!  Items are marked up to 50 percent off.  It’s a great time to stock up on tubes, tires, arm warmers, and to look for other fun accessories. 

The challenge!  I love a good challenge.  I don’t race against anyone else but me.  Do these legs still have it?  Yes. 

2017 - Early-morning sunrise.  

2017 - This was a warning for walnuts on the road.  Or was it?  

2017 - At Sunday's first rest-stop.  
2017 - This I am NOT.  I just thought it was cool.  
2017 - We signed the HILLY letters for posterity!   
If you’ve never done the Hilly, give it a try.  They have shorter options each day if the mileage intimidates you.  And if the hills intimidate you?  They’re not that bad.  And there’s no shame in walking.  I should know.