Learning

The 30 Day Shred Awards

My antagonistic relationship with physical fitness began at the tender age of 5 when I attempted to play softball for the first time and was promptly knocked unconscious by a stray pitch. In 2nd grade gym, I dangled, mortified, before the the eyes of my classmates, unable to lift my chin beyond the pull-up bar and inwardly deciding that I would die as I was born: without upper body strength. In college, I was the kind of jogger who took occasional half mile runs to 7/11 then strolled back to the dorm eating a pint of double fudge ice cream. I’ve never said no to a glass of wine with dinner.  I’ve never met a carb I didn’t love. I’ve never worked out for longer than a month consecutively.

And I’ve always wondered why I’m often too exhausted at the end of the day to do anything other than crash on the couch with my DVR.

I’m tackling 20 health goals this year, not because I’m especially interested in health, but because I’m interested in so many other things – things that require me to drag myself out of my apartment after work on a regular basis, or at the very least, sit at my desk with some modicum of focus. And so, in search of the energy to finally tackle my long neglected list of more interesting endeavors, I find myself writing about a topic that has historically made my eyes roll and then glaze over: working out. Or rather, my new mission to find a sustainable form of nutrition/exercise that doesn’t feel like punishment.

But first, just to establish a baseline of what  punishment really feels like, I kicked off the year with the dreaded 30 Day Shred. This workout was once recommended to me by a co-worker, at which time I tried it for exactly 6 days before deciding that my co-worker was trying to kill me. But what better way to make the rest of this year feel like a cake-walk than launching it with infamous hard-ass Jillian Michaels? I am almost amazed to report that, as of yesterday, I have completed all 30 days. And, with this achievement,  I feel fully qualified to present the following 30 Day Shred awards for …

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Learning

Top 10 Recipes of #50NewRecipesIn2014

Much as I love to cook, I’ve always been pretty lazy about it. Since college, I’ve known how to make 10-15 meals. I’ve rarely ventured outside my recipe box.  If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, right?

But last year was about fixing things that I may not have realized were broken. It was about eliminating all excuses not to be happy. It was about taking writing workshops and meditation classes and spontaneous road-trips; joining a gym and starting a new job and volunteering to cuddle with kittens at the Anti-Cruelty Society; attending philosophy lectures and off Broadway musicals and indie film festivals and outdoor concerts. And it was about cooking.

I set a goal to finally open up all those untouched cookbooks on my bookshelf and make 50 new recipes. And, almost to my own amazement, I did it.  I remembered how happy cooking makes me. I made 50 new recipes last year. And I’ve chosen my top 10 favorites to share with you here.

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Thinking

Serial and the Myth of Objectivity

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“Do you think he did it?”

It’s a question I’ve heard more times than I can count in the weeks that Serial has dominated water-cooler chit chat in my office and dinner party debates with my friends.

The answers are fascinating, not for what they reveal about the fifteen-year-old murder trial of Adnan Syed, but for what they reveal about the speaker. They reveal that there are those who want to believe Adnan is innocent and are determined to disarm every piece of damning evidence, weaving it into a story of tragically bad luck. Likewise, there are those who want to believe that Adnan is guilty and are determined reinterpret every piece of exculpatory evidence, appropriating it into a story of a premeditated murder.

Confirmation bias. We believe what we already believe and reject what we already reject. If your temperament, life experience, and beliefs lead you to view Adnan as trustworthy or untrustworthy from Episode 1, your subconscious likely filtered the facts that followed accordingly. You already had your narrative. And new facts alone were unlikely to shift your position.

Serial is interesting precisely because it recognizes this reality.

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Thinking

Love According to Rainer Maria Rilke

Beauty is only the first touch of terror, he quoted during one of our first conversations.

I had recently finished a required course in Romanticism and was stumbling through an inarticulate explanation of my interest in the idea of the sublime. His response left me speechless, dizzy with the rare thrill of feeling implicitly understood. I knew his words were borrowed, but it was all mixed up together in the months that followed – a whirlwind of handwritten letters and a borrowed copy of the Duino Elegies and professions of love.  I had never read Rilke before and so I was in awe at the way his beautiful words seemed to expand inside me, making room for new thoughts and carving out places for new feelings.

When the dust settled, I wondered if maybe I hadn’t been so much in love with a boy from my college as with a long dead Austrian poet and his idea of what love should be.  The college romance might be a distant memory, but I still hold to Rilke’s  exquisite vision of love:

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Writing

The Living Room

I avoided the living room when I could, pristine white carpet stretching under straight-back furniture, breakable family heirlooms in every direction – the pocket watch my Great-Grandpa brought over from Switzerland and the faded black-and-white picture taken before my Great-Grandma left Austria – she and her parents and her nine siblings, all in their Sunday best, not a single smile in the bunch.

But for thirty minutes every evening, I was held hostage, shackled to the centerpiece of the living room, the antique upright piano my parents had seen advertised in the newspaper and purchased with the doomed hope that I might turn out to be a protégée concert pianist. I hated that beautiful piano, intricate floral carvings and real ivory keys, piled with the sheet music my fingers refused to learn, and topped with a taskmaster metronome.

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Writing

All Wrong

His mouth was all wrong. 

Everything was wrong . Sallow skin and sunken cheeks.  Over-slicked hair and the box he was lying in. But nothing was more wrong than his mouth, which had always, always greeted me with a grin, now severe and unforgiving, forever set by the mortician in a hard, unnatural line. 

The funeral director was asking if we wanted him buried with his wedding ring – and did we want to donate his glasses?  The slideshow was playing for the third time through and my most treasured childhood memories were on display, bizarrely accompanied by violins and kitchy lyrics. Visitors were telling me that I looked just like my mom and they were sorry for my loss. I would feel better in a month or so and we would see him again in heaven and 90 years is plenty long enough to have lived on earth, anyway.

“The things people say,” hissed my cousin, scowling beside me in the reception line.  “Death makes people stupid.”

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