Thursday, February 27, 2014

House-Sitting in Wintertime

The weather is stupid. It does not like me and is therefore trying to thwart me in many ways, by making it nearly impossible to go outside for any length of time while I am attempting to care for many chickens. Chickens who all seem to have the expectation of non-frozen water, scratch to eat, and a warm dwelling. I go outside to care for the chickens and wheeze in the winter air, then I walk the inside dog and wheeze, and then I take care of the outside dog, all while wheezing.

And did I mention that Oreo, the outside dog, is living in the mud room? Because she is there now, since it is too brutally cold and windy for her to be outside in her doghouse. And Lilly, the inside dog, is about the size of my forearm and cannot abide the cold. She has devised ways of balancing on one paw while outside, even when going to the bathroom, so to speak. It is both sad and hilarious.

The animals are miserable, and they look at me as if to say, "You are not our person. Our person would fix this. You do not have power over the weather. You are insufficient."

They are right. If I had power over the weather, it would be a balmy 75 degrees all year long, and mostly sunny. All rain would take place at night, and we would never get enough to flood the roads. We would have one annual snowfall, on Christmas Eve, resulting in a white Christmas, but the snow would quickly melt on December 26th. Snow would never stick to the roads, drift, or compact into ice.

In short, we would be living in paradise instead of a subzero arctic hellscape. No records for snowfall would be broken this year (yes, that's happening), and we would never HAVE to wear a coat, unless we wanted to for fashion purposes.

Also, there would be cake. Not in the forecast, just on the table, waiting.

I have developed a sore throat. It is wearing on me, making me less willing to put up with the weather's crap. Stupid life-ruining weather, making me have to drive in snow, making me have to shiver. Creating and then worsening a cold I would otherwise have been immune to, due to overexposure from many coughing library children.

I have decided to make a choice for the family I'm house-sitting for. The whole house, chickens, outbuildings, and dogs are going to be picked up, loaded on to many trucks, and driven down south to a warmer climate. We will return when spring arrives.

It will make things more convenient for them, I think. They'll have a shorter drive home.

Also the chickens will need sunglasses.

That is all.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Life Lessons From the Past 24 Hours

1. I cannot travel light. There are too many medicines for that, so I have left the world of jumping on a plane with only a carry-on behind me forever, because there are just too many pills for that. I look like a drug dealer when I pack, because one person under 80 cannot possibly be on so many medications, right? Wrong. Because I am on all of those medicines and somehow I managed to grow in such a way that I need them to survive. How many allergy medicines can one person take? I'm not even going to tell you. (A lot.)

2. Chickens poop on their eggs after laying them, sometimes. I don't think this is intentional, but knowing it makes the whole washing-eggs-before-you-crack-them thing make way more sense. Suddenly, the reasoning is clear. Eggs can never be clean enough. Irradiate the eggs. IRRADIATE THEM.

3. I'm not good at stairs. This isn't news, really. But I rediscovered it.

4. Cable television--or satellite--is hard to learn (and I cannot live without the internet). Setting aside the fact that Comcast is basically run by the devil in a button down shirt, the actual use of television that isn't on an antenna requires a certain amount of learning I seem to be unwilling to put into it. So I turned to the internet, but using my phone because no WiFi, and I have to say, it's hard to be internet-less.

5. I am too tall for some elliptical machines. I nearly knocked myself unconscious while running on the elliptical machine last night, because I am a giant or because the ceiling was too low or because the elliptical machine was too far off the ground to start with.  It's also possible that I hit my head not one time but four times, but we're not going to dwell on that right now.

Monday, February 24, 2014

I Am Not a Beauty Blogger, and It Shows.

This week I am responsible for chickens.*

I spent the weekend realizing that the eye cream I was using was not moisturizing my skin enough, or at all. Who can tell when it is so dry at my house and out in the world? Right now moisturizing my skin is like dumping a bottle of water on the desert sand. The water is absorbed into the sand or the cracked soil, and then it is gone as if you'd never been there with your water bottle and good intentions. I went to Ulta and came back with this:

© 2014 Benefit Cosmetics, LLC

This is It's Potent! Eye Cream from Benefit. It came highly recommended by Kate on The Small Things Blog. And I trust Kate. So, I splurged.

If anyone needs help with under-eye circles, puffiness, swelling, redness, purple-ness, SWELLING, and other unpleasant things, It's me. Also my family, but I don't take care of their under-eye circles. I only take care of mine. And believe me when I tell you, I spend most of my mornings trying to use massive amounts of concealer to hide the under-eye circles, which cannot be concealed at all because concealer hides color, but it does not hide topography.

Sometimes I wake up and think, "Was I punched in the face?" And then I realize that's just the way my skin looks.

I had been using eye serum by Simple, which is a company from the UK that I absolutely love. Jennifer introduced me to them. Their eye serum is scentless, moisturizing, and fast-absorbing, but it is not enough. Nothing is enough. I'm still using it during the daytime under makeup (yes, under makeup, Essie Button says it is okay.), but I switched it out for the Benefit at night.

So far, I'm liking the Benefit cream. Nothing hurts, I have had not spontaneous hives or chemical burns.** Its not greasy or overly fragrant, it absorbs into the skin well. It's actually providing my skin with enough moisture, too. That's a nice change. Meanwhile, I'm going to keep staring at myself in the mirror to see if it's actually decreased any puffiness or if this is just my face. This is probably just my face. But at least my skin won't be so itchy and dry anymore!

Think of me and the chickens this week, and hope with me that this cream will help me convince people that I really feel okay, and yes, I did get a good night's sleep.***

* No, really. I'm really responsible for chickens. Also two dogs. I'm sure there will be more on this later. At the very least, chicken pictures on Twitter and maybe Facebook.

** Note that hives and chemical burns HAVE occurred when using other skincare products and are the cause of my obsession with products designed for sensitive skin.

*** Lots of times, people try to convince me I'm not feeling well or that I'm not sleeping well. This is because of paleness and the under-eye circles. But really, this is just my face.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Current Obsession

Folks, have you been listening to Welcome to Night Vale?

I started listening to it ages back, but became busy and drifted off into other, more grant-related pursuits. I got behind on the episodes. It was wrong. But now I am back, listening to all of the episodes from the beginning, as I go about my daily life, exercising and blogging and driving around the slightly-less sucky state of Indiana*'s great. It's wonderful to be back to not thinking about or acknowledging the existence of the dog park.

If you haven't listened to Welcome to Night Vale at all, there is something deeply wrong with you, and the city council's secret police will soon take you to the abandoned mine shaft** for reeducation. It is free, after all. You could be enjoying Night Vale right now, and all it would cost is a minimum of calories, as you use your finger to navigate on your phone, tablet, or other device and click to download the episodes. And who doesn't want to burn calories. Maybe communists. Download Night Vale, or the communists win.

In all seriousness, if you enjoy anything Lovecraftian, if you liked reading The Rook (which you should read if you haven't), if you love John Dies at the End or This Book Is Full of Spiders, you will love Welcome to Night Vale. If you don't know what any of those things are, you will love Welcome to Night Vale, and will afterward seek all of those books out and read them.

Listening to Welcome to Night Vale again has made the plank challenge slightly less miserable, since today I managed a two-minute plank while listening to an episode. I feel as though I was punched in the stomach repeatedly. Maybe I was.

And now, some fan art.

* Since HJR-3 will NOT be on the ballot.

** Now featuring HBO On-Demand, king sized beds, and occasional torture!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

New Kinds of Suffering

I have decided to move on from the squat challenge to the 30 Day Plank Challenge. Today was the fourth day. A 30 second plank really isn't all that bad. I suspect I'll find a five minute plank less pleasant.

Because the 30 second plank was actually easy compared to Jillian Michaels' demands of me, I've modified the challenge to start with a one minute plank instead of the 20 and 30 seconds on the schedule. I figure I'll have an easier time working up to five minutes if I'm challenged early on. Right now, this is what happens if I try to go past one minute on the timer:

Workout Fail by basalt on deviantART

When I told people I was doing the squat challenge, the question I was asked most often was "WHY?" I thought a lot about it, and I've realized I actually do have an answer. It's to keep my workouts from being boring. I work out at home, alone, in a closed room. I hate the idea of sweating in front of anyone, so I'm not sad that I'm not exercising in a group...but there are no funny stories from the gym to share, no interesting people I meet, only Jillian Michaels yelling, "GO GO GO GO GO" at me as I attempt to do plank jacks without throwing up. Adding in a bit of exercise that doesn't involve Jillian at all is kind

If any of you want to join in on the plank challenge, there are loads of different versions of it. Just search Google for "30 Day Plank Challenge" and pick the one that suits you best. Mine works up to five minutes, but many work up to three minutes instead, and are therefore kinder and gentler and probably smarter.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

30 Day Squat Challenge: A Reflection on Suffering

Well, I did it. I finished the squat challenge. I made it all the way up to 250 squats and somehow didn't die.

As I've been doing all this, I searched for different versions of the challenge, the responses people have had, and the positive/negatives that fitness experts and bloggers are bringing up. It was enlightening.

Firstly, know that I would not encourage everyone to take on the 30 Day Squat Challenge. Squats can put a lot of strain on muscles that aren't used to it. They even put tons of strain on muscles that ARE used to it. That can lead to injury, or just pain. Not only that, hopping off the couch to do this challenge won't do all that much for you. It is a lot of work, and if you aren't already doing some kind of fitness regimen, it won't really help you the way the before and after pictures make you think it will. If you don't believe me, trust the Huffington Post.

I started out in good shape, so I had some hope that the squat challenge would do SOMETHING for me. My hope was that it would increase my endurance levels and give me an easier time, should I try running again after Indiana ceases to be a frozen hellscape. If it increased muscle definition or tone, all the better. I think it did all of those things. Believe me, I wish I could tell you it didn't do anything for me. But it really did.

Here is how I did the challenge. (Note that I'm no expert. I know only what works for my body. You'll have to see what works for you if you try this.)

1. I made sure I used good form. No one wants to explode perfectly good knees, and this sort of movement can really hurt you if you screw it up. It really, REALLY hurts if you do it wrong 250 times.

2. I did not do the squats all at once. This is because doing too many squats--or to many reps of any exercise--will make your muscles "burn"--and you don't always want that. Muscles release lactic acid when they get starved for oxygen or overused, and while a little is no big deal, a lot isn't great for you. Lactic acid is your body's way of saying, slow the frack down. For one, you won't be able to sit or stand without help. and moreover, you'll be in agony, and who wants that? I broke the number of squats I did down into manageable chunks I did throughout the day. It kept me from being overwhelmed, and I think it helped keep my muscles happy in the long run.

3. I mixed things up a bit. Here are some alternatives to the standard squat that keep this challenge from being as boring as all get out.

4. I kept working out in other ways. This is because a challenge like this doesn't stand in for exercise, it's designed to be added into a regular routine. I did not, however, do Jillian's Killer Buns and Thighs DVD. I did Six Week Six Pack and Ripped in 30. When Jillian had me do squats, I substituted another exercise or counted those squats toward my daily goal.

5. I obeyed the rest days. No. Really.

I hope that was of some help to someone. This challenge was way cheaper than a membership at the YMCA. It mixed things up and kept my workout from being dull, so I say it's a good thing. My next challenge is the 30 Day Plank Challenge. We'll see how that goes.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday Reads: The Monuments Men

This Friday, I'm indulging in some reading just for me (that means I'm reading something written for adults). I'm reading The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel. It is fantastic.

Here is the official description, courtesy of Goodreads:
At the same time Adolf Hitler was attempting to take over the western world, his armies were methodically seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe. The Fuehrer had begun cataloging the art he planned to collect as well as the art he would destroy: "degenerate" works he despised. 
In a race against time, behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others, called the Monuments Men, risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture. 
Focusing on the eleven-month period between D-Day and V-E Day, this fascinating account follows six Monuments Men and their impossible mission to save the world's great art from the Nazis.
Over the past few years, I've been trying to read narrative accounts of different events, wars, cultural upheavals, and so forth. It's an attempt to make history seem more real than it did when I studied it in textbooks throughout my education. Ideally, I'd pair this with visiting historical sights...but who has the money to do that?!

I read a brief description of The Monuments Men in a library newsletter highlighting books that were adapted into movies this year. Of all the many books, this was one I 1) had not read and 2) found very interesting. I love stories about everyday people who did extraordinary things during World War II--I blame Elizabeth Weir's outstanding books Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire for this. The book covers the path the Monuments Men took to become involved in the MFAA (Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives) subcomission and the different monuments, sculptures, paintings, and other culturally significant works they strove to protect and recover. I never knew that Rembrandt's The Night Watch spent the war underground in Holland, but it did. Now I know what it took to keep it safe and how it was repaired and returned to Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum after the war was over.

The Monuments Men is a great, engaging read. I highly recommend it. In fact, I'm planning on picking up the author's other books after I finish this one. Check this book out from your local library or pick it up at your favorite indie bookstore! You can also find it at Barnes and Noble or Amazon, if you'd prefer. You can also read more about the author, the Monuments Men, the movie, and the three books the author has written about the MFAA here on the official website.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


So, The Brother is painting his room, and that means things have to leave the room and go somewhere else so they aren't ruined.

His computer is in the dining room / TV room and his desk and bed are in the living room. His bed is parallel to the path we all take to walk across the house and the desk is at the end of the bed. I tried to make a picture:
It is an ugly picture, but I made it. Our floor is not really empty space, but I forgot to add the carpet. Also nothing is even close to scale, and I forgot some major things like the windows and doors. And I forgot to put in lamps. And I didn't draw The Brother because I couldn't remember how to make a circle using Microsoft Publisher. Basically I just filled text boxes with colors that weren't really all that close to the real colors of things, but you get the idea.

We have been navigating this room for several days with no problems.

But then Dad woke up this morning, got a glass of milk, and set off back to his bedroom so he could do his devotions, as he does every day. This happens very early. He retrieves his heart medicine, takes it with the milk, sits down in an armchair that creaks for no apparent reason, and reads, prays, and sometimes writes things down.

Here is what the living room looked like this morning when Dad got up:

This one was a lot easier to draw.

Dad walked through the room, caught his foot on the end of The Brother's bed, teetered around for a moment, and then went down. He fell forward, and luckily, he managed to hold out his face and stop his fall before he ended up totally on the ground.

Unfortunately, he caught his chin against The Brother's desk. His chin responded by bleeding a lot.

The Brother woke up to milk spraying everywhere. Milk and blood.

Dad was very concerned about cleaning up the milk. The Brother had to try to convince him that the milk was less important than all the bleeding Dad was doing on the carpet and kitchen floor.

The Brother said that if the police showed up, they would have been convinced there'd been a murder at our house, because of all the bleeding.

Dad dealt with this by going to work as normal, except the bleeding didn't really stop at all, so he gave in and went to the doctor, and that is how he ended up with three stitches. I told him stitches were plenty manly, and that all the other kids on the playground would think he was tough. I also told him it was lucky he hadn't broken his jaw, because that would have really stopped him preaching. He also would have had to stop eating food. Since preaching and eating are two of Dad's favorite things, it would have cramped his style.

I wonder if his face will swell up like a balloon.

If it does, I will take pictures.

Jumping the Gun

If you're following along at home, you'll see that once again writing blog posts ahead of time has come back to bite me, because not only was the post-30 Day Squat Challenge reflection not actually proofread, finished, or at all humorous (as I'd intended it to be), it also was not actually finished. And it posted itself anyway, using some kind of Blogger magic that took it from its happy life as a "draft" to a live post. I don't even understand how it managed that.


Today is Day 28, and it is a rest day. Tomorrow, I do 240 squats. Saturday, Day 30, features 250 squats and hopefully some kind of party that my friends and family have secretly planned for me, in which they will present me with the Olympic gold medal I have so clearly earned.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


It is now snowing, and if it weren't for my hatred of pain and desire to live, I would walk outside and light myself on fire in protest.