The Countdown

When I was a kid, I used to have what might be called annual birthday freakouts. If you were being nice. I think that somehow my streak of sentimentality combined with my love of order and numbers and things being just so and my incredible talent for thinking entirely too much created this monster. This little girl monster who would get a little thrill each month on the 21st and count months on her fingers, and who would turn the weeks leading up to her birthday into a veritable countdown of extremely significant events.

“This is the last time I’ll ever ride my bike to town while I’m 11!”
“I won’t ever eat ice cream as a non-teenager again!”

While I have largely grown out of this annual birthday freaking out, milestone birthdays give me a little shiver all the same. I avoided it entirely on my 25th birthday, because two of my great friends got married the day after, so my birthday was spent running errands and eating meals and celebrating at a rehearsal dinner at which they actually sang to me which was so crazy sweet. I don’t really remember 20, but 21 was a big one, a big one that contained the distractions of everyone other than me being drunk and thus needing care.

But my birthday is coming around again, in a little more than a month and a half, and it has me thinking about the remaining items on my 28 To Do List. (Still achievable: baking cupcakes, spending time outside (and lying in the grass), working toward a rainbow of shoes, and finishing the list of 365 things that make me happy.) So I’m feeling pretty awesome about that, and starting to gather materials to work on the book to document the list.

I’m not sure, though, what to do about a list of things to do while I’m 29. Will that bring on a “holy crap I’m turning 30 and what have I done with my life” birthday freakout? Will it give me 29 reasons to FIGHT the birthday freakout that is so damn cliched that it annoys me to even think about it? Am I totally jumping the gun seeing as how I’m not even 29 yet? Does the fact that my boyfriend’s birthday is a few days before mine, and he’s enough years older than me to be hitting his own milestone age mean that my birthday freakouts are even more totally ridiculous?

I don’t know. But I have a few ideas for next year’s list brewing, so maybe I’ll keep at it. Not having a list after two years of having one might give me hives anyway.

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Organizing Makes Me Kind of Happy

During that last crazy snowstorm, I spent a lot of time bouncing off the walls of my apartment. I had a Wednesday evening to myself, then all of Thursday and most of Friday off thanks to the snow. The problem was that I ran out of things to do. I’m not currently working on any crafts, I painted my nails the first night, and my dvr was mostly empty by Thursday. So Thursday evening I sat and stared at my craft bookcase and pondered how I could organize it more efficiently. I mean, it wasn’t necessary to reinvent the wheel, but organizing soothes me in a way that I couldn’t possibly explain without sounding like a nutcase.

March 9, 2010

After collecting the boxes and baskets and organizey things from Target, Staples, and the Container Store, I finally have it all set up exactly how I imagined. And I’m pretty psyched about how it turned out. Here are the before and after shots:

Picnik collage

This is where it all started: the binder with clear protective sheets. Each sheet holds either scraps of paper organized by color or sheets of labels. Geeky? Perhaps. More efficient than a giant pile of mismatched paper? Totally.

sorted by color, just the way I like it

I wanted a better way to organize the notecard sets, index cards, old daytimer pages, and other similarly-sized stacks of blank paper I’ve been stockpiling. So I got a photo box and then some 5×8 index card divider tabs. Of course, if I had gone to Staples first I might have bought an index card box and then I wouldn’t have needed to cut those 5×8 dividers to fit into the photo box, but I stand by my choice because I doubt the index card box would have been hot pink. I also put my shipping tags and the deck of cards I use for crafts in the back to keep the box orderly.

man, I love organizing things

My full-sized 12×12 scrapbook paper posed one of the bigger dilemmas as I took on this project, because I really wanted a nice box to store it all. I used to just keep it in a giant pile on one of the shelves. The Container Store sells these boxes meant for legal sized documents, and the short side is 12 1/4″ wide. Which fits most scrapbook paper but not all, because some of the sheets have this little strip for the barcode and brand information. But it’s good enough. My nitpicking has a limit, people. So this box stores the bigger sheets of paper, my clipboard, some stray felt, my graph paper pad, and the box of transparency sheets I took from the library because they were going to throw it away.

close enough

This plastic bin holds the supplies that don’t fit the other categories: paint, binder rings, safety pins, and a couple extra things I’ve bought for crafts that I still haven’t gotten to. These would be really good to buy in bulk, because of how nicely they stack. And how crazy cheap they were compared to most of the bins and boxes at the Container Store.

paints and such

Last of all, I wanted a smaller box that would hold the supplies I use most frequently: the tape, glue, glue sticks, stamps, and punches and corner-rounders. And I wanted it to be prettier than that clear plastic bin. I originally ordered one from the Container Store, but my inability to visualize measurements backfired, because that original bin was GIGANTIC. So I sent it back and found this one at Target, which I somehow missed on the previous trip. It’s perfect.

the last piece of the puzzle

All in all, this was a really satisfying project on a small enough scale that I could tackle it very easily. Just don’t ask what my closets look like, and instead enjoy my overly organized ridiculousness for now.

Confessions Three

(Confessions One) (Confessions Two)

  • As a music fan, I feel like I am incorrect somehow because I don’t like Radiohead. Or Pink Floyd. (And don’t even get me started on the NJ superstars of music.)
  • My favorite pasta shape is rigatoni. Because I secretly love spaghetti best, but am embarrassed to eat it in public because I still cut my spaghetti.
  • I listen to AM news radio almost always in the car. As a twenty-something, this makes me feel like I’m rushing the aging process. But I like to know what the weather will be. Every ten minutes. Because sometimes I forget to listen the first time. (Sometimes I do listen to sports radio, but this is much less frequent during the baseball off-season.)
  • I strongly prefer meals that can be eaten out of bowls.
  • I’m still not interested in learning how to cook meat. Unless it can be mixed in with rice, chili, pasta or other such stew and I don’t have to touch it or do anything to it beyond stirring. And I can eat it out of a bowl.
  • Piles on desks and tables bring out my compulsive need to straighten said piles. In a department meeting last week I was strongly tempted to line my boss’s inbox tray to be parallel to the corner edges of her desk. I refrained. It was hard. I straighten piles in stores, often without realizing it until afterwards.
  • I drink too much diet coke. I don’t buy it for my apartment, thinking I’ll drink it less if I don’t have it, but that just leads to buying it in 20 ounce bottles when I’m out.
  • I still look at the pictures from my car accident sometimes. To remind me that I’m so lucky.
  • I spent a lot of time thinking philosophically about shoes. Like, if I were going to spend $300 on a perfect pair of Frye boots. which pair would I get? Or what my shoe “style” should be. Am I casual and funky? Brightly colored? Converse all the time? Should I transition to wearing cool heels with jeans and blazers now that I’m an “adult”?

A Much Bigger Mental Challenge Than I Expected

As I finished the last rows on the scarf I made for Dan for Christmas, I realized with a jolt that I haven’t made a scarf for MYSELF in a very, very long time. I used to crochet scarves a lot. Because crochet is so mindnumbingly relaxing. And because while I’m not the word’s best crocheter, I sure have mastered the long, narrow rectangle. Anyway. I looked back in the archives and discovered that I was right, and I haven’t made myself a scarf in four years. (Unless you count the only thing I ever made from the Happy Hooker book, which I don’t, not really.)

So it was past time to make myself a scarf. I decided it should be aqua and red, partly because it’s an awesome combination, and partly because I have a red winter coat and I have a brand new turquoise down vest waiting impatiently in my closet for the weather to get warmer and all this damn snow to melt. I’m nothing if not practical, people.

January 18, 2010

And as I polled the universe about how to arrange my stripes, a challenge emerged. My own mother dared me to crochet my scarf in a completely random pattern. I should toss my carefully randomized graph-paper rendering. And ignore mathematical sequences like Fibonacci numbers, or the random stripe generator. No, she dared me to just wing it. Because I think the thought of me struggling over what counts as really random made her giggle. Friends advised me to drink copiously while working. And I learned that I’m not the only one who feels a little creepy-crawly when thinking about a scarf whose ends don’t mirror each other.

Is my brain really that inherently ordered? (I’m of course thinking back to that fateful personality test we took at that librarian workshop. You know, the one where I was deemed to be the gold personality – the rule-following, order-loving, organized one. The geeky, stick-in-the-mud, no-fun-for-you one! Not the creative, emotional, sensitive one! Or the logical, questioning, scientific one! And surely not the outgoing, party-lovin’, loud one.)

random stripe scarf is ready for its closeup

Crocheting the scarf turned out to be quite the mental challenge. With each new stripe, my brain started whirring. “Okay, the red stripe you just finished was two rows. I did a blue stripe with two rows before that one. Am I putting in a pattern of two-row stripes here? Am I using red enough? Maybe I need a really, really big blue section here instead. And after that a short blue row with some longer red ones. No! Short red ones. No! One long red one and one short blue one and then a short red one and a short blue one. No! That’s a pattern!”

It was EXHAUSTING.

my brain horrifies even me sometimes

After I measured out to just past where I thought the middle should go, I decided it would be a good idea to count the rows of each color, just to make sure I wasn’t using way too much of one color or the other. So I counted the rows at the point where the above picture was taken.

And to my utter HORROR, there were EXACTLY 50 rows of red and 50 rows of aqua. And I DIDN’T DO IT ON PURPOSE. I was trying to be random! My brain IS that inherently organized?

I’m so embarrassed.

February 17, 2010

But I kept going, and at the very end counted the rows again to make sure I’d end up with the same number of rows of each color. I suppose that’s against the spirit of the project, but even I have my limits.

ready for its closeup

In the end, I’m pretty happy with the result. Is it a little TOO overly long? Yes. Does it need some breaking in thanks to the cheap yarn? Yes, especially compared to the pashmina style scarves I’m used to. Am I totally psyched with the random-ness of the stripes? Hell yes. Will I embark on another “random” project soon? Probably not, no. And that’s okay with me.

obligitory

#13: Finish those damn cross stitches for my mom already!

For her birthday in 2006, I made my mom a small square cross stitch. It was an Elizabethan knot garden and I got it from a book of traditional cross stitch motifs that I bought when I first became obsessed with the immediacy of cross stitch as a hobby. Of course, that small cross stitch took significantly more time than I ever expected, but it turned out so cool and my mom was really happy with it.

Elizabethan Knot Garden, 2006

I surprised her in 2007 by making another Elizabethan knot garden and revealing that it would be a trilogy, and very soon.

Elizabethan Knot Garden, 2007

And then I sort of got tired of working on such intense, detailed stitching projects (compared to my usual fare!). But I wanted to finish the set, especially after my parents redecorated their bedroom and the colors worked perfectly with the little cross stitched gardens. So when I wrote my list of things to do while I was 27 in the summer of 2008, I made finishing (okay, starting and THEN finishing) the last garden #17.

And it just didn’t happen. My mom eventually stopped asking about it, and I felt bad.

So when I put the same task on my list of things to do while I’m 28 this past summer, I really meant it. I mean, cursing on my list? GASP. But secretly, I started working on it. And I finished it and succeeded in not taking or posting any photos of the finished project so as not to reveal the surprise.

Elizabethan Knot Garden, 2009

And my mom was surprised, and super happy, and she didn’t even make any comments about how it took three years to get all three. And now they live happily on her dresser, and even though they’re deceptively difficult to get a crisp photo of, they look pretty awesome if I do say so myself.

January 21, 2010

Goldilocks and the Three Camera Bags

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Elizabeth. She liked to take pictures and started collecting a surprising amount of gear. Pretty soon, she realized that she needed something to carry all of this crap around! So she bought a Crumpler 4 Million Dollar Home.

4 million dollar home

And that bag was really perfect for a really long time. It kept her camera safe. But then she started collecting even more cameras and lenses. “Now this bag is too small!” she said.

So Elizabeth decided that she needed a bigger camera bag, and was given a 6 Million Dollar Home for Christmas last year.

6 million dollar Home

This bag held so much stuff! Look at all of that stuff! That’s a big bag! Except it got so HEAVY with all of that stuff. “I hate to say it,” said Elizabeth, “but this bag is just TOO BIG!”

5 million dollar home

So she finally took the advice of her friends and ordered a 5 Million Dollar Home. It appeared on her doorstep a day and a half after she clicked “submit” which is just crazy talk. She opened the box and filled the new bag and declared, “This bag is just right!”

The End.

Third Time's the Charm

I just got back from the gym and I’m sweaty and my face is beet red in a decidedly unpretty way. But I’m full of all of those good vibes I always hear people talking about when it comes to exercise.  This morning’s run was my last run in week 9 of the Couch to 5k program. And week 9 is the last week. So that means I have now officially COMPLETED Couch to 5k. Well, sort of.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not entirely trying to knock this accomplishment, because for me, sticking with this for nine weeks is a big deal. This is not the first time I’ve attempted Couch to 5k. Well, frankly, it’s not the first time I’ve come up with a New! Perfect! Plan! for how I’m really going to get in shape for real this time! I swear! Let’s not mention my brief and wallet-destroying stint with that personal trainer last fall. Or when I was totally going to pull off that 30 Day Shred thing that the entire interweb was obsessed with. So I’m really freaking proud of myself that I started it, I stuck with it, even though I absolutely, 100% hate going to the gym and I hate how sweaty I get and I hate how my head is too enormously huge for any of those supposedly “no slip” headbands they sell for “active hairstyles!” and my bangs are always in my eyes, have I mentioned that I hate the gym? But! I have gone three times a week for NINE WHOLE WEEKS and I’m so impressed with myself.

Of course, the reason I’m qualifying my success here is that I run too slowly, so even though I have completed the nine week program and can now run for 30 minutes without stopping (even though it’s a bit of a colossal mental struggle every time, my body is completely capable of rising to the challenge), 30 minutes at the speed I’ve got the treadmill set is more like 2.6 or 2.75 miles, not 3.1. So that’s my next goal: either ratchet up the speed, or just run slowly but longer until I am really running three miles without stopping.

But still! Can you believe it? I can’t. The last time I was able to do this, I was 14 and miserable on the field hockey team. This is much, much better. Just be happy you’re not sitting next to me. Sweating is gross.