What I’m listening to – May 27

What I’m listening to – May 27

Another artist of my formative years passes, Gregg Allman. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Allman Brothers, but we do have “Eat a Peach” in our vinyl collection. We have a a friend sleepover going on, otherwise we’d be playing this now. I’ll pull it on tomorrow morning while peeling Sunday morning breakfast potatoes.

The social media scroll today was filled with tributes. One of my friends, who happens to be a fellow cheese head in addition to being a 20 year veteran of the Lehigh Valley music scene posted a picture of an altar and this reflection:

The Allmans just happened to be in town. One of the craziest concert experiences of my life ensued…they came out for the 2nd set and played in such a way that, stone cold sober as I was, they created some sort of frequencies, vibes, what-have-you, that I absolutely thought I was tripping…they literally were able to change the room through their music and take you to some completely different realm.

This got me thinking about the times I’ve found myself in this state. A higher lever of consciousness that you can’t look for, you just find yourself in it.

What are the conditions that encourage this mental state? Is it comfort? Hunger? Booze? Exhaustion? Deep knowledge? Variable of all the above?

If one were to ask me when I’ve been in this state myself, I can flash back to all of the details of the moment. My soul craves this place. Can you recall a time where you found yourself in this place?

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What I’m Watching – May 26

What I’m Watching – May 26

I’ve been wanting to see Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” since the previews last summer.

It’s time for a young African American to meet with his white girlfriend’s parents for a weekend in their secluded estate in the woods, but before long, the friendly and polite ambience will give way to a nightmare.

We watched the movie as a family. I held my jumps and screams in or I’d be watching the rest of the summer scary movies alone. The movie does have a few “gotchya” moments; more from the music than the directing. Stick around for the alternate ending after the credits. The director narrates it. I found this enlightening, like an artist’s statement.

Love Jordan Peel’s work with Keegan Key on their Comedy Central show. It’s a wonder what these guys are thinking about post Obama administration. I miss their humor pointing out the ridiculousness of our culture with topics of race and gender.

As I was researching the movie, I found a few sources left over from the Key & Peele series; like their Dictionary Hub. The site even has .gifs from some of my favorite sketches – like “Substitute Teacher.”

“Get Out”  is streaming for $5.99 HD on Amazon.

I’m curious to know what movies you might be watching.

Let the Memorial Day weekend begin…

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Bike to Work, the Wardrobe Edition – May 25

What to wear, what to wear….
The never ending saga of the relationship between a woman and her wardrobe. Industries have built empires on this conundrum. Clothing, fashion magazines, diets, workouts, activewear, eternal youth, gender roles, the Kardashians… [screams in horror.]

Society has cultural standards for clothing. What one chooses to wear brings status, stereotypes, shaming, and a whole lot of assumptions. For years, I’ve battled choices between clothes, diet, and exercise. I’m heavy set. At this time in my life, I don’t want my body to be something that makes me miserable.

Sure, I’d love killer abs in case I ever run into that old boyfriend so he can think, “Damn, I missed something.” But honestly, I’m three years away from eligibility to live in a retirement community. I’ve birthed twins. My stomach skin is stretched. I cook and eat what I cook. I’m not filthy rich. I don’t want to buy clothes made by slave labor, or poorly constructed. I’m growing more comfortable in my own skin because I wear clothes that don’t hurt my body or my feelings.

All of this background matters when I’m thinking about what I wear. Every. Day. And now with biking to work, there’s a few more things to think about.

My bike doesn’t have a “feminine mount.” I chose a “man frame” when Steve and I picked out our wedding bikes 25 years ago because I wanted the option to hang gear from the raised frame. As I searched Pinterest for fashion ideas, I had to grab a few images to point out what’s wrong with them.

  1. If I see anyone taking their dog out for a walk like this, I’m calling the ASPCA. This is not safe for the animal who could at any time, run ahead and get caught in the wheels. The dog could also suddenly pull away from the bicyclist, and if she’s only got one hand on the bars, the fall is inevitable. She’s also not wearing a helmet, and the wind is going to blow that dress to an “avert your eyes” level. Just hope she’s not riding commando.
  2. For a “male mounting” bike with a skirt and a kid on the back, I’m wondering how she’s getting on the bike without kicking the child in the head. The sandals and the dress are cute. I’m wondering how she’s going to manage her hair from blowing into her face as she’s riding. Again, she’s not wearing a helmet and neither is the kid. Shame on you, fashion photographer for not putting a warning on this idea.
  3. There’s really nothing wrong with this outfit for most people. But the heels? Just thinking of walking and standing in them all day makes my knees ache. Plus, I’m not sure heels on a bike would make me feel more confident as a rider. If it might mess with stopping and starting, it’s not an option. What I like about this outfit, is that the pants are not floating in the bike chain. And the shirt is loose enough to let air through through he skin on a hot ride. The bag is also a great idea. But do you see what I don’t see? Yep – another helmet-less fashion model sending the wrong message.
  4. Now this is what I’m talking about. Sensible, stylish clothes and shoes, gorgeous naturally gray hair, and plenty of balanced storage for front or back transportation. This lovely woman still needs a helmet. I’m going to imagine it’s tucked into her front basket. She’s just discreetly mounted her bike, and is about to strap in on before she heads off the sidewalk and into traffic. Good woman!

There are multiple websites and Pinterest boards loaded with ideas. On the Who What Wear website, a post “The 19 Piece You Need for a Stylish Ride,” [emphasis, mine] lists six non-clothing items (basket, watch, sunglasses, hat, necklace, and a bag), three bike items (helmet, floral bike seat, and a handle bar bell) and ten clothing items; a few I wouldn’t dare put on my body shape. Of the items, maybe five could work for me. It’s this kind of research that will take some time to sort through for inspiration that fits a particular criteria for my needs.

I’m also committed to keeping the wardrobe capsule mentality for any potential new items. I may be visiting some vintage shops in the Lehigh Valley soon. Or maybe dig out the sewing machine for a project or two.

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What I learned – May 24

Had a chance to meet with a graduating student for coffee today. The first time we met was fall 2013, in the Prelusion program I used to run called, “ArtsAlive.” The program was an opportunity for students of any major to come to campus a few days before the full orientation and experience activities in a particular theme.

This program focused on the arts district and lots of hands on making in music, dance, theatre and art. We explored the Southside venues, met local artists, and took a trip to Martin Guitar. It was a good program.

She told me she was glad she did that program because it helped her find a path during her time at Lehigh that would have been more difficult to find otherwise. As a female computer science major, she already had social challenges.

For some students, finding a social group where you can let your guard down, or feel connected is really hard. In a campus not particularly known for its social arts scene, it takes a bit of work.

This student is a listener, and she took in what I showed her, found other groups, and crafted her own way. But more than finding her way on campus, she is happy to continue to find her creative way post graduation. She’s made a big impact on me. I am so proud of her.

What I’ve learned from students like her, is that there are many who seek arts experiences, nurture their creative side, and want to know more about the world, even if they can’t fit in the humanities courses in a strict engineering program. These students will find what they seek.

In whatever way I can, I will keep inviting students to learn about the arts scene in Bethlehem. Because students like this are worth the effort.

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What I’m Eating – May 23

After yesterday’s heavy post, and the news from Manchester, I need to take a lighter reflection today. The lightness and the simplicity will give me a moment to focus on the good things in front of me.

Nothing makes me more grateful than the taste of food that I prepare in my own kitchen. From therapeutic vegetable chopping to meticulous measuring for a complicated cake, being able to make a dish from scratch is something that I really love to do and to share.

The weekly menus are usually adapted near the middle of the week when spontaneous changes to the schedule happen. Or somebody accidentally eats a key ingredient. Or there might be an item I tucked away in the cupboard, only to rediscover it weeks later completely unconnected to a plan. And now I have to figure out what to make with it.

It’s kind of like an episode of Chopped, but without having to deconstruct a Twinkie™.

Two ingredients I discovered in my kitchen this week, P’tit Basque and crystallized ginger. The first item is a sheep’s milk cheese from France. A mild flavor that pairs really well with Fuji apples (my favorite variety this month) and a piece of crusty bread. It’s the traditional Ploughman’s lunch that pack easily into my bike pack for a day at the office. I’d like to learn how to make my own pickles to add some flavor to the lunch. Might be a good experiment when the CSA cucumbers arrive in force. I have no idea why I bought this cheese.

The crystallized ginger was bought for a recipe, but I’ll be darned if I can remember what I was thinking. On it’s own, I could mix it with my daily ration of mid-day trail mix (unsalted roasted almonds, dried pineapple, banana chips and raisins). But this has a really strong bite after two pieces.

Pardon me while I search on a recipe website for a clue…

Found it! Ginger-Peach Jam. Last summer I was looking for more ideas for the peach bounty of the CSA. There are only so many peach pies my family will eat. I’ve yet to try making jam at home. This is definitely the summer for this adventure.

Thinking about food, learning new techniques are my jam! (pardon the pun)

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Thoughts & Feelings: The Commencement Edition

In the ongoing attempt to understand how to untangle the various negative thoughts in my head, I continue to blog and delete, and write and erase. I search phrases on the internet, hoping to come across someone else’s experience that sounds like mine; if only to find comfort in not feeling alone. Then type more words and hover my finger over the publish button. If my writing helps someone else in their grief, then my pain is not for nothing.

Today could have included a formal ceremony to mark the completion of my fourth graduate degree. I finished it the day before last year’s commencement. But since the final grades were recorded after the deadline for that ceremony, my name appeared in today’s program.

Blue and yellow colors are the University of Rochester. The pink hood is the doctorate of musical arts from the Eastman School of Music.

I wanted to process with the faculty, as I have done for ten years in the doctoral robes I earned in 1997. Each time I wore my robes, a few other faculty or administrators would do a double take seeing me wearing them. Yes Virginia, there are academics who choose a different career path because they see the most use of their talents and passions outside the traditional route.

I participate in the ceremony to honor the students. It’s important to have their accomplishment recognized. In the immortal words of Vice President Joe Biden, “It’s a big, f*cking deal.”

My idea to celebrate the Masters of Educational Leadership degree was to leave the faculty area when the college of education read the names of their graduates. I would cue up in line with my name card, hand it to the reader and walk across the stage, then return to my seat with the faculty. Since I had been balancing administrative duties with teaching AND earning a degree, why not continue the same balance in the ceremony? But the protocol rules of regalia required I rent a masters robe and sit with the other graduates to receive the honor of having my name read aloud.

I have only participated in one college commencement ceremony in which I was recognized as a graduate in front of family and friends; thirty years ago. Schedule, travel, or financial limitations got in the way of the other ceremonies.  I could have been there today… but…

Most days I feel like I’m over the grief of losing my administrative position. But today I would have had to face a few people who trigger feelings of anger. Even though I understand how the decision was made, I just wish they would say three simple words. The fact that they’ve not said anything to me at all is what hurts even more.

Scrolling through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram today was tough. I was happy to see my students celebrating. And frustrated with myself for not being totally over it yet. I missed another chance to honor myself. This was my last chance for that, too.

I found an article today that helped me reflect on these feelings. I know I have a toxic level of grudge; and it will take more time for me to move on. Until then, these are the pieces of ephemera to mark the achievement.

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What I’m Researching / Creating – May 21

After last week’s achievement of biking to work every day of national Bike to Work Week, I have built enough confidence and satisfaction to keep the momentum going. The week of participation also made me aware of what motivates me to keep biking to work, and what doesn’t.

There are a few barriers that keep me from going completely without a car: kid shuttling, groceries, weather, night time, and wardrobe.

Kid shuttling… School will be out in a couple of weeks. While I’ll still be shuttling them to lessons, many car miles will be removed from my carbon footprint. This summer they will learn that I won’t be the able to drive them to places they can ride or walk themselves. Let’s see how that motivates them to get on their own bikes.

Grocery shopping… Until I find a balance between meal planning, CSA pick up, meat and dairy products that need a cool ride, and the routes that won’t challenge my sense of safety, I’ll be using the car for hunting and gathering food for my clan. I’ll try the CSA pickup on my bike when that gets started. But the rest… I just don’t feel confident enough. And that’s OK.

Weather… some days I’m just going to suck it up and ride in the rain. I’ll keep a towel at the office. Unless it’s a downpour. Maybe then I’ll work from home. Or walk. Or bus. I don’t want to feel like a wimp because water is falling from the sky.

Night time…. I love living in Bethlehem. I feel safe biding my bike in daylight. But I’ve seen crazy drivers on the streets when the sun goes down. There aren’t enough lights, reflectors, or whistles to remind drivers to watch out for cyclists after dark. Kudos to the cyclists that are out there with all the right markings. It’s just not for me. Or my kids.

And finally, wardrobe… As flexible as the dress code at my office is, I still like a little style in my day. I’m no fashionista. And as much as I’d love a revenge body, at 52 years old I’m much happier with a “not for me” attitude, which is totally reflected in the clothes I wear. Call me old fashioned, but 24/7 active wear doesn’t suit my preferences toward casual work attire. I took two rides to work in a dress. Shoes were sensible walkers, or colorful Chucks. On the hotter days, I rode into work prepared for sweat, and came home to shower and change before evening performances.

Purchased from http://www.bikepretty.com/ Yes, this is a bike helmet.

I started a little research on women’s clothing for biking to work; NOT a bike workout or other active wear. (Thanks, Pinterest.)  I just bought a new bike helmet that will help motivate me for more rides. I have a feeling this summer project / adventure could turn into a category on this blog. Maybe I might venture some guest blogging for others, if they are interested.

Do you think other people would be interested in what a 50-something hefty woman who bikes to work wears?

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