Thursday Things

1. I visited the Chicago Flower and Garden Show for the third year on Friday, but this time came armed with my fancy camera!


I look forward to the flower show every year, but I won’t lie: this year was a letdown. For one thing, the show was a lot shorter than in years past (historically, it’s taken place over two weekends and the interceding week; this year, it only lasted five days), which made it trickier to find time to go, particularly when you consider that one of those weekend days was St. Patrick’s Day. The idea of tackling Navy Pier on St. Patrick’s Day was not appealing, eliminating Saturday as a possible day to visit the show.


So I went on Friday. Maybe going on Friday instead of a Saturday like usual made a difference, but the show felt empty. It seemed like there was next to no one there, which wasn’t very encouraging. On top of that, I felt like there were WAY fewer gardens–and the gardens that were there felt way smaller–than when I attended the show in 2016 and 2017.


I was really bummed that Mariano’s wasn’t there with a flower market, and I didn’t see Proven Winners anywhere either: another garden I always enjoy. The only positive thing I have to say about the show, really, was that the tablescapes, usually my least favorite part of the entire show, hit it out of the park with the “Flowertales” theme. All of them were clearly inspired by some story or book, and naturally the English major in me appreciated that.


Although they did have free craft beer tastings this year, which seemed pretty unrelated to flowers but was still a nice touch.


I’ll probably go to the show again next year to see what it’s like, but my expectations are pretty low. If it’s not good next year, my Chicago and Flower Garden Show attending days might be over.

2. Speaking of things that I’m curious about, I am SO CURIOUS to see how the Shamrock Shuffle shapes up on Sunday.

As I documented briefly in my recap of last year’s race and expanded upon about six weeks ago, it is no secret to anyone who keeps an eye on race results that the number of Shamrock Shuffle finishers has TANKED over the past five years or so:

2017: 20,005–apparently, the race gained 10 extra finishers from when I looked up my results for my recap last year and this week, which just so happens to push the total into the 20,000 range. I’m trying hard to not view this as suspicious.
2016: 23,459
2015: 22,884 (This was the year the race was yellow flagged due to high winds)
2014: 30,122.
2013: 33,257

The race has gone from being one that sold out to being one that is absolutely marketed to death–oh my gosh, I have received SO. MANY. EMAILS. begging me to sign up for the race over the past several months. Heck, they were pushing the race DURING the Chicago Marathon last year! The advertising, the newly(ish)-scaled price structure, the extra swag: all of this, combined with the race results, indicates to me that the race is desperate for more finishers and a return to the race’s glory days.

However, the St. Patrick’s Day/Shamrock Shuffle-themed email that Fleet Feet sent out for its weekly newsletter on March 10 claims that “the race [is gearing] up for one of its largest fields in recent memory.” What do we think, peanut gallery?? Do you think that’s true? I’m kind of inclined to think it’s true, since Fleet Feet partners with the race. It would be a stupid thing to lie about, given how easy it is to find finisher numbers from past years. Then again, BibRave apparently partners with the Shamrock Shuffle too, and its ambassadors’ posts shilling the race claimed that the race gets over 30,000 finishers each year, which is flat-out not true (see above), so who knows?

Anyway, because I am far too interested in wildly unimportant things about Bank of America races (you should’ve seen my post about my suspicions about the size of last year’s Chicago Marathon field: a post I had the sense to delete while still a draft to avoid coming off as a conspiracy theorist) I think I’m more curious to see how many people finish this race on Sunday than I am to see how I do.

3. I planned to use this space to brag about my best-performing bracket (88.8th percentile on ESPN, heyyyyyyy), which is fortunately also the bracket I entered into my family pool, but I have something MUCH bigger to muse about today:

*flails forever*

If you are unfamiliar with my Broadway obsession, hello, welcome to my blog, I’ve barely listened to anything but show soundtracks for over a year. I’m particularly fond of Hamilton (who isn’t?), and last year took a trip to New York exclusively to see Dear Evan Hansen with (most of) the original cast. Unsurprisingly, when Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted a picture of Ben Platt last Wednesday with the caption, “I’m really excited/nervous about Monday’s March #Hamildrop, cuz it’s for you kids…” I lost my mind. (Hamildrops are Hamilton-related new music that comes out every month in 2018.) I’ve continued to lose my mind even more since the Hamildrop came out on Monday, since it’s a collaboration between Lin-Manuel Miranda (HAMILTON HIMSELF) and Ben Platt (EVAN HANSEN HIMSELF), with a mashup of a song from Hamilton and a song from Dear Evan Hansen written to support March for Their Lives.

*continues flailing forever*

In the words of another Pasek & Paul song, “It’s everything you ever waaaaant! It’s everything you ever neeeeeed! And it’s here right in front of youuuuuu!” I’m ob.sessed., and think you should be, too 😛

Who’s running the Shamrock Shuffle on Sunday?


Thursday Things

1. My SGAD (Seasonal Gardening Antsiness Disorder – obviously a DSM-verified condition :P) has returned with a VENGEANCE. Behold, the saddest garden of all time.


As I thoroughly documented last summer, I took my gardening to new metaphorical heights last year with the addition of my oh-so accidentally hipster gardening bed, “my” (by which I mean my landlord’s) beloved old claw-foot bathtub. The benefit of this bathtub–aside, of course, from being able to tell people I was growing tomatoes in a bathtub–is that it’s obviously much larger than any pot I could possibly buy at Home Depot or any gardening store, and consequentially gives me the opportunity to kind of ish garden in the ground, rather than in a container. There’s more space to work with, more space for my plants to grow, and a significantly lower risk of squirrel-induced death to the container itself.



Believing that I had myself a “real” (i.e.: in the ground) garden, I spent a substantial portion of last summer dreaming of what kind of spring bulbs I could plant in the tub come fall (since you have to plant bulbs just before the ground freezes in order for them to come up in the spring). Visions of a tub full of tulips and daffodils danced in my head, and on a Monday evening in November, I carted $90 worth of bulbs out to my bathtub for a planting party for one.


Into the garden went dozens of tulip and daffodil bulbs, plus some surprise crocus bulbs the company from which I bought the bulbs included with my order. It turned out to be way more of a task than I anticipated, since you have to bury bulbs really deep in the ground, but I finished the night filled with excitement over what March would bring.

Spoiler alert: so far, March has brought NOTHING. 😡

I started to get worried three weeks ago, when I saw a bunch of daffodils sprouting up next to a house on my walk to therapy. I figured maybe those daffodils were just different than my daffodils, and since I didn’t see anything else anywhere anyway, I figured it was a fluke. The following week, it seemed like every house along my way to therapy had spring bulbs sprouting up – the aforementioned daffodils had even already budded. I checked on my bathtub garden, and still nothing. I consoled myself with the reminder that 1) it was still very early in March and there was no reason why my bulbs had to be coming up yet and 2) my therapist’s office’s neighborhood is far away from my neighborhood, and I hadn’t noticed any spring bulbs sprouting in my neighborhood, so maybe I was just imposing unrealistic timelines on my side of town.

Well, on Saturday I was walking down my block and passed a house with a garden full of sprouted, budded, and blooming crocuses, while my bathtub continues to show no signs of any growth whatsoever. Boo 😦

I’ve consulted with my mother twice about this now, whose main reassurance has been that, “if they don’t sprout, you can dig them up and use them next year!” Not helpful. I want tulips NOW. Well, maybe not tulips specifically, but evidence that they are at least growing NOW. I especially want tulips NOW because my landlord, the over-eager gardening assistant, footed a major part of the bulb-buying bill as penance for digging up my tomato plant and throwing it away WHILE IT STILL HAD TOMATOES ON IT last fall. Even though the money was just to make up for the destruction he had wrought upon my poor vegetable and herb garden all summer long, I still feel obligated to have tulips back there since he paid for well over half of them. My mom also consulted with one of her friends, who suggested that perhaps because the entirety of the bathtub is exposed (as opposed to real ground, where only the top is exposed), maybe the ground is staying frozen longer, thus preventing my bulbs from sprouting. I’m sure the fact that it’s only getting direct sunlight for like two hours a day isn’t helping in that department, either. I, however, am worried I didn’t bury them deep enough in the first place, and they all froze and died over the winter 😦

Anyway, this is a source of unending angst for me lately. I know tulip season will last for another two months or so, so there’s really no reason to completely give up hope quite yet. But when I’m seeing the beginnings of tulips (and well developed daffodils and crocuses) coming up in everyone else’s gardens, it’s certainly hard to remain optimistic :/

2. In more positive news in the signs-of-spring-I-have-absolutely-no-control-over department, I’m so excited about the birds I’ve seen lately!

The beginnings of spring migration season are upon us, and while the glut of visiting birdies won’t arrive until the first couple of weeks in May, I’ve noticed a few signs of impending spring in the avian world. A little less than a month ago, I heard my first cardinal song of 2018, and two weeks ago on my run, I saw my first red-winged blackbird for the year along the Lakefront Trail!

Not my video, but so you know what I mean by a cardinal song, as opposed to a cardinal call, which is more of just a peep rather than a song.

I don’t know exactly why cardinals sing, because the internet has told me they sing to attract a mate and that they sing to mark their territory, so I don’t know which reason is true (or if they’re both true). What I do know is that cardinals don’t sing in the winter, so hearing this sound once a week or so on my morning commutes has been quite the treat! Male cardinals are also known for their tendency to defend their territory against their own reflections in windows when their mating hormones are especially raging, and I observed that behavior under the most ridiculous of circumstances last week. My commute takes me past a building where I’ve seen cardinals many, many times (though usually just one at a time). I saw one male fighting his reflection in the window of that building last week, which wasn’t particularly notable in and of itself, but became much more notable when I continued walking past the building and saw, less than 30 feet away, another male cardinal also fighting his reflection in another window of the same building. Guys. You have an actual threat to your territory within easy flying distance, and you’re wasting all of your time fighting yourself?! I was extremely amused.

Not migration-related, but I did have a new-to-me bird sighting while running along the lake last Saturday! I noticed some waterfowl that did not appear to be your standard Mallard Ducks and got closer to investigate. As I approached the lake, I realized I had lost the birds. I hadn’t noticed them fly away, so I was perplexed, until I saw them pop up from under the water! Diving birds! Awesome! I couldn’t get a good picture, but I noticed that one seemed to have a very shaggy haircut, so I used Merlin to try to identify my birds and knew immediately after seeing a picture of the Red-breasted Merganser that that was what I had seen. They’re apparently fans of Great Lakes diving for fish, hence the behavior I witnessed. It was all very exciting (for me, at least) and I hope I can add even more new-to-me birds to my life list as spring wears on 🙂

3. I’ve been a dreaming machine lately, and I’m super over it. I know everyone dreams every night, which of course means than I dream every night, too, but usually my dreams come and go without incident, totally unnoticed aside from my Fitbit registering REM sleep. I’m not spending much more time in REM these days than normal, but I’m waking up from dreams way more frequently over the past couple weeks and it’s driving me nuts. It’s particularly disruptive because I keep waking up from dreams that feel 100 percent like reality, meaning when I do wake up, I’m in this frantic state of trying to remember what’s real and not real in my life. I am not a fan and would like to submit a formal request to my brain that it knocks this nonsense off, please and thank you.

Have you ever grown spring bulbs? Please, give me some hope 😦
Do you usually remember your dreams?

Thursday Things

1. I engaged in the most cliche Target run possible on Saturday, where I went for two specific items and walked out with an additional item. I was on the hunt for a carbon monoxide detector (according to my lease, my apartment apparently has one, but I don’t know where it is, unless it’s built into the smoke detector? I know that combination smoke/CO detectors do exist, but since I didn’t know beyond an absolute shadow of a doubt that my smoke detector is a combination smoke/CO detector, I really wanted an actual, standalone CO detector for my own peace of mind. Plus, they’re like $20, so it was a pretty small expense.), which initially led me to the home goods department, where I encountered this precious little appliance:


and the rest is history.

I’ve actually had this teeny tiny waffle maker on my radar since late last year. I thought I was going to get one for Christmas, but I didn’t, and then mostly forgot about it until Saturday. It was only $10 at Target, and I just couldn’t say no. Is it the most efficient appliance in the world, making one Eggo-sized waffle at a time? Absolutely not. But it’s smaller and cheaper than a regular waffle maker, and since it makes small waffles, it eliminates my biggest gripe about waffles: that you usually only get one. I’m a quantity person when it comes to food–if you gave me the choice between a bag of M&Ms and a Hershey bar, I’d choose the bag of M&Ms every time–so I would absolutely, 100 percent rather have multiple small waffles than one big waffle. Even if the caloric content is identical, I feel much fuller and more satisfied when it takes me a long time to get through my meal. Plus, a small waffle maker is a lot easier to store than a regular Belgian waffle maker. This is, by the way, the same brand that made my magical egg cooker that I love so much, so clearly Dash has my heart in the kitchen appliance department.

2. While I was making my way out of Target, the card section caught my attention, and I found what is, hands down, the greatest Easter card I have ever seen:


The inside then had a comment about seeing the friends you haven’t seen since Christmas.

It is no secret to any regular church goer that the number of attendees on Christmas and Easter skyrockets, and not just because everyone decided to bring their families to church that day. My church here in Chicago gets like 35 people through the door on the very best of non-Easter Sundays, so when there are closer to 100 people there on Easter morning, it’s a pretty marked difference. I don’t know what any of the additional 70ish people who show up on Easter do any other Sunday of the year–maybe they go to a different church! Maybe they live out of town and are only around on Easter! Maybe they truly do only come to church on Christmas and Easter!–and it’s not my place or business to judge anyone else for how they choose to engage in their spiritual life (though I will admit that I wish this many people showed up every Sunday, as that likely would’ve kept us from getting into the financial mess we’re in right now in the first place.). Everyone’s at a different place, should be granted the respect to be in that place, and is welcome to come to my church if they feel comfortable or have interest in doing so, even if that’s only on Christmas or Easter. But regardless, it still tickled me to see a card at Target that was so on the nose for how Easter shapes up at my church.

3. I started my 90 billionth (actually, 31st, but it feels like 90 billionth) session of dance on Tuesday, with instructions from one of my friends who was also starting her 90 billionth session (approximately – I think she’s missed a couple more sessions than I have overall) to take good notes, as she’d be out of town. Even though it’s not my favorite thing ever to repeat choreography I’ve already learned, I secretly hoped we’d learn a repeat combo, since it’d be much easier to send her the video from the last time we did the performance than try to sneakily record us practicing in class. (There are etiquette rules about recording video during dance classes, and while my teacher permits it, I didn’t think it’d be the best way to start off the session. While I find class recordings to be helpful, particularly for complicated choreography, I know I also use them as a crutch: “Oh, I don’t need to practice. I can just watch the video 48 times and commit the moves to memory that way.” I didn’t want to run the risk of encouraging this behavior, especially since it benefits me to have the new students remember the choreography next week as much as it benefits them [if they remember the choreography, we can move on and learn new things instead of spending an entire additional session relearning what we did the previous week], so I figured it would be best to leave my phone alone and come up with some other way to get my friend the choreography)

We started the dance, and the first couple of moves felt familiar, mostly because I know I’ve struggled to keep which foot should be doing what when straight on that move. I’ve been in class long enough that I’m pretty familiar with my teacher’s move vocabulary, if you will–the moves that appear in multiple combos–so I figured that’s where I knew it from. The choreography continued to feel unfamiliar, in fact, until the moment he started playing the music (he usually teaches us the moves first, then puts them to music). I immediately recognized the song, and certainly not because I’ve heard it on the radio: in what I cannot possibly imagine would come as a surprise to anyone, I was not, as a five year old, allowed to listen to songs that are explicitly about sex (the song, for the curious, is LL Cool J’s “Doin’ It,” and there’s certainly no question as to what “it” is, haha). I recognized it because I had danced to it in class before. A (very) deep dive into my YouTube archives revealed that “before” was the September-October session of dance in 2013, so it’s definitely been a minute, but I had done it before.

Anyway, the point of that rambling intro was that it absolutely BLEW MY MIND how quickly I picked up the choreography after I realized I had learned it before. I haven’t even thought about this dance in nearly five years, but as soon as the music was on and I was already rolling along in the choreography, I could remember nearly all of it, even the parts my teacher hadn’t got to this time around. This happened once last year, too, when we did another dance I hadn’t thought about, much less done, since 2013, and my mind was equally blown then as well. I was involved in music long enough as a kid to be quite familiar with the phenomenon of muscle memory–all it takes is learning one piano song wrong and committing the wrong version to muscle memory to realize that it is most certainly a thing–but it feels very different to be able to say that I could still, without a thought, play the four most common scales (C, F, G, Bb) on my trumpet–something I did three to five times per week for 11 years–than it does to say that I could still bust out some choreography to Doin’ It, when I only practiced said choreography once per week for eight weeks four and a half years ago. It was a really cool experience!

Are you able to stick to the list at Target? Honestly, I feel like 99 percent of the time I can. The key for me is to avoid the dollar section. That’s where stick-to-the-list intentions go to die, in my experience.

Thursday Things

1. I had a flash of inspiration in regards to my half marathon training last week. It occurred to be that people frequently set race goals not related to time, and since I feel decently confident that my chances of PRing–particularly, my chances of running the sub-2:00 half marathon I hoped to run–are somewhere between “highly unlikely” and “downright impossible,” I, too, could set a non-time goal! So, I’m happy to announce my new goal for this spring’s half marathon: negative split the race.

I have 14 half marathons under my belt, and thought I certainly don’t remember the specifics of all of them, I can’t remember a time where I ever negative split the race. If I ever did, it was an accident. This time around, I’d like to intentionally negative split the race, running the last seven (and a little change) miles faster than I ran the first six. Assuming the race has timing mats at the same locations this year as they did last year, I’d like my 10 mile split to have a faster pace than my 10K split, and my 12.4-mile split to have a faster pace than my 10 mile and 10K splits (or at least the same pace as my 10 mile split).

I, admittedly, don’t know how exactly to train for this (I’m sure a quick Google search could answer that question, but I haven’t looked into it at all yet), so for the moment, I’m trying to make a point using most of my runs to practice this kind of pacing: going out slow so I still have something left to give at the end. This has never been my strong point in running, and while I haven’t been perfect in the whopping four times I’ve tried this technique thus far, I have finished all my runs faster than I started them. I’ve also finished them much faster than I realized I was capable of finishing a run, which has been a nice ego boost. We’ll see how all of this goes over the next couple of months, particularly as it gets warmer outside, but I’m looking forward to having an A goal–a for-real, A goal, not a I’m-saying-this-on-the-blog-because-it’s-the-right-thing-to-say A goal–that isn’t in any way related to time. (But for the record, my B goal is sub-2:10, my C goal is PR, and my D goal is sub-2:00. I had to have some time related goals, after all 😛 )

2. While we’re on the topic of running, I went to Fleet Feet on Sunday for my annual shoe buying extravaganza. It was PACKED, but fortunately I had a ton of time to kill. When it was finally my turn, I told the saleswoman I’ve been running in Asics Gel-Nimbus 18s (for the past two years – I ran in the 16s before that) and that I wanted to stick within that wheelhouse. To my EXTREME disappointment, she told me they were now on the 20s, and that she’d give me some other shoes to try on as well. Last year, when I went in in late February, Fleet Feet had both the 18s (the 2016 model) and the 19s (the 2017 model). Since they still had the old model in stock, I got them highly discounted. I was really hoping that would happen again this year with the 19s, but no such luck 😦


Meh. I know you can’t choose your running shoes based on color, and I didn’t, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like the color of the running shoes I got stuck with. My options were this or a way-too-Instagram-friendly light grey/Millennial pink combination, which I disliked even more than navy. This is, like, the stupidest thing I’ve ever been annoyed about when it comes to running, because honestly, it just does not matter how pretty or not pretty my shoes are. I loathed the color of my 16s, but I survived that year of running just fine. But I wasn’t crazy about the color of my shoes in 2017, either, so I was hoping this year I’d have shoes that fit my style – which I guess navy does better than Millennial pink, at least. I just got too lucky in 2016 with my pretty light blue/purple shoes, and everything since then has been a disappointment in the color department. Please feel free to deposit all of your deepest condolences over this incredibly huge problem for me, a person who runs almost exclusively (when it’s warm, at least) in old race shirts and the cheapest shorts she could find at Old Navy. My life is horribly difficult 😛

3. I don’t think I have more mixed feelings about any month than I have about March. On the one hand, I spend just about every moment of the beginning of the year waiting with bated breath for Daylight Savings Time to begin, not because I’m so antsy to lose an hour of sleep on a Sunday night, but because I cannot–CAN. NOT.–wait for the sun to come back. Granted, the sun has been coming back for awhile now–I’m no longer commuting in the dark each way–but I am so excited to have sunset happen during the 6:00 hour instead of the 5:00 hour (even though it means sacrificing sunlight in the morning. But that really only lasts for a couple weeks anyway.). I don’t know what my deal has been this winter in particular, but I’ve been down in the dumps more often than not since January, and I’m almost positive it’s all weather/light related. This isn’t a new phenomenon for me–I’ve been aware of this seasonal pattern to my mood since at least 2013, though I also remember similar feelings during at least parts of college–but it’s definitely been more intense this winter than it was last winter, which has not been enjoyable. Going to work on Tuesday in just a fleece, with birds singing in the trees and sunlight streaming from the sky, felt like I was crawling out of a cave of despair for the first time in months. I felt light and happy and hopeful and just generally pleasant, none of which are adjectives I would’ve assigned to my morning commute (my mood is almost always the worst in the morning) up to this point in 2018. It was remarkable how good I felt. I’ve been waiting for this literally all year, and I’m so happy to feel happy again.

On the other hand, there have also been multiple times in my life where the first weekend in March in particular, for whatever reason, has turned out to be spectacularly awful. I legitimately dread this weekend every year, because I just assume something terrible is going to happen since it has so many times. If it were up to me, we would just skip this coming weekend entirely, make the days vanish and go directly to next Monday. I’m sure going into the weekend with this attitude of, “What kind of horror awaits me this year?” doesn’t really do me any favors, but man, when it’s been so consistent, it’s hard to not worry! Because of that, I spend the first two months of the year both desperately longing for March and desperately hoping we can somehow skip right over it, or at least the first part of it. I’m very eager to get to this time next week.

Do you prefer time-based goals or less quantitative goals for running? I think in general I prefer time-based goals, because I like to have something concrete (i.e.: sub-2:00) to work towards. But this is a nice change of pace!

Thursday Things

1. I had a delightful time bird watching last weekend for the Great Backyard Bird Count! This was the first time I really participated in a widespread birding activity, so I feel like I’ve now ~officially~ achieved #birdnerd status – because, clearly, having a bird identifying app (Merlin) and the eBird app on my phone for easy bird watching checklist creation wasn’t enough to get me there *insert geek emoji here*

I’ve made a point to keep an eye out for birds in my neighborhood on my morning and evening commutes since the beginning of February, so I was pretty sure I had a good idea of what I’d encounter. I figured I’d see a lot of House Sparrows, probably some European Starlings, maybe some American Robins if they were feeling cooperative, and, if I was really lucky, my local Northern Cardinal friend. (It is perhaps worth noting that my friendship with said cardinal is probably a one-way affair, but I do say hello to him every time I see him, because apparently that’s the life I live these days.)

Boy was I wrong! I took an extended route home, swinging by a park where I’ve had good bird watching luck in the past. There was a guy flying his drone in the area where I usually see the best birds, so I figured there wouldn’t be any birds in the area and started to head home. As I approached the edge of the park, I heard quite the ruckus, and just about lost my mind when I saw TWO WOODPECKERS on a tree immediately outside the park.


I stood there like a crazy person for at least 15 minutes, taking pictures of the birds like my life depended on it while other unsuspecting pedestrians thought who knows what of me. Further review of my pictures shows that both the woodpeckers were male, so I think they must’ve been fighting over territory or something, because they kept chasing each other up and down the tree, and one had his tail splayed out like he was not particularly pleased with the other one. (Though to be fair, I know nothing about woodpecker behavior, so I could be totally off on my analysis here.)

While all of this was going on, I continued to hear another bird that sounded to be directly above me. I was sure it wasn’t either of the two birds I could see, since the sound was coming from the wrong direction, but I couldn’t find that other bird for the life of me. If you can accurately identify a bird’s call, you’re allowed to log it on your checklist on eBird, so I pulled up Merlin to listen to a Downy Woodpecker call (since I was pretty sure the woodpeckers on the tree were Downys, but I’m not very confident in my Downy vs. Hairy Woodpecker identification skills. They did seem too small to be Hairy Woodpeckers, though.). I had to turn the sound way up to hear it, since I was outside, and oh my gosh you guys, THE BIRD AT THE TOP OF THE TREE CALLED BACK. I could NOT believe it. What a way to start the Great Backyard Bird Count!

I went out for a real birding walk on Saturday and had almost instant success. A mere block from my house, I encountered a chickadee, another woodpecker, AND a House Finch all on the same tree. I was, once again, beside myself. Where had all these birds come from?! I keep an eye out for them every day and never see anything like this! Did they all know it was bird counting weekend and wanted to make sure they were noticed??

The rest of Saturday’s walk was fairly uneventful in the birding department. I did, however, get this picture of a male House Sparrow, which, oddly enough, is now officially my favorite bird picture that I’ve taken. I’m not all that fond of House Sparrows, but what do you know: even plain, common birds can make for good photos, apparently.


I decided to keep an eye out for birds on my way home from the gym on Sunday, and had just about given up when I thought I saw a cardinal on the other side of the street. I crossed to confirm, but the bird flew away by the time I got there. I decided to dawdle in the area for a few moments, and in the process encountered a GOLDFINCH, only the second confirmed goldfinch I had EVER seen in the entire City of Chicago, and on Great Backyard Bird Count weekend no less! I just could NOT believe my luck!

It was a very delightful birding weekend 🙂

2. I have the freedom and flexibility to work from home once a week if I so choose, but I rarely take advantage of that opportunity. My reasons for preferring to work in the office range from pathetic (my laptop is heavy and I don’t like carrying it around) to reasonable (I can plug into monitors at my desk at work, and that extra screen space makes a big difference), but since I do very much prefer to work in the office, that’s my regular process. On Tuesday, however, I decided to work from home just because (previously I’ve worked from home due to impending snowstorms or while under the weather), and WOW. What a difference!

I obviously enjoyed the flexibility to sleep in until 10 minutes before I needed to be “at work,” but just being at home, period, was what made the real difference. Remember how last week I complained about having all of these things to take care of at home that I just couldn’t bring myself to do when I got home because I was so tired from work? I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before, but when I work from home, I can take care of those things while I’m at work. When I need to take a two minute break to clear my head, instead of checking my email, I could clean the bathroom mirror! Instead of scrolling through BuzzFeed forever on my lunch break, I could tidy up my dresser! It was AMAZING and made me feel so much better about my productivity level/life in general. I’m definitely filing away that newfound information for future times of work/life balance stress.

3. I’m sad that the Olympics will be over soon! I’ve actually kept up with them this year (I didn’t pay much attention to Sochi or Rio), and it’s been a fun way to spend just about every night for the past two weeks. Although I have to say, NBC is killing me with their figure skating coverage! I don’t have cable, and therefore don’t have NBCSN, so my figure skating viewing has been limited to whenever NBC finally gets around to showing it on the nightly broadcast, which, in general, has been way too late for this old lady. (And by “way too late” I mean “like 9:45 p.m.” Haha.) But seriously! I’ve got to go to bed, man! These competitions are on school nights! I’m thankful I live in the Central time zone, because it’d obviously be even worse in the Eastern time zone, but I feel like the real solution to this problem is to just exclusively show figure skating on NBC, and show everything else on all the other channels. Never mind all the other athletes that have worked their entire lives to get to that point in their sport that is almost never, ever aired on broadcast TV – I want to see the pretty dresses and routines and get enough sleep! Is that so much to ask?? 😛 (I am joking, to be clear. The ACL-defying antics of the skiers and death-defying antics of all the sliders has been awesome to watch as well, even if there is a notable lack of sparkly outfits.)

Have you been watching the Olympics?


Thursday Things

1. When is spring break?

I’m just kidding–well, not really, because I could definitely use a spring break. I realize I’m a grown up now, working in Corporate America, where you don’t get a free week off just because you’ve had your nose to the grindstone for several weeks in a row. No spring break for me. But man, could I use one.

Work has been beating. me. up. lately. My workload increased substantially a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been leaving work with a stress-induced headache more days than not ever since. I realize this probably shouldn’t surprise me, but since I’m not used to enduring this much constant work-related stress, it’s been a huge surprise to me how much this has impacted every other aspect of my life. I’m cranky and have a short fuse when I get home. I’m so exhausted from all the work I’ve done at work that all the remaining non-income generating work I have to do at home with the whopping three-hours-on-the-best-days of free time I have after finishing my afternoon workout and needing to go to bed–soul-sucking tasks like vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, doing/folding my laundry, washing the dishes, making my lunches, keeping up with my finances–seems so unappealing that I’ve fallen behind on all of it, which only adds to my stress level when I see collections of rock salt littering my entryway, water stains rendering my bathroom mirror basically useless, and piles of tax-related documents stacked on top of my laptop. Nothing, technically, is stopping me from taking a personal day to catch up on all of those things, except for the knowing that just because I take a personal day doesn’t mean the rest of the office will take a personal day, meaning when I’d come back, I’d have TWO days of work to do in one day instead of one day’s worth of work, and the fact that I prefer to hoard my PTO like a squirrel burying nuts for winter, so I’ll have it available when I actually need it (because I’m sick) or because I actually want it (for a trip).

I think–hope, pray–that things will improve shortly. The project that caused me the most stress was due on Monday (it was originally due on March 30, and then unceremoniously got pushed up six weeks with 10 days notice. That might have had something to do with my bonkers work-related stress level.), so at least that’s done and over with now. But because that project became immediately important with no warning, everything else had to wait, including things with other immediate deadlines. It’s just never ending lately, and I really, really can’t wait to get back to my more manageable workload.


I have absolutely no relevant photos to add to this post, so in honor of this weekend’s Great Backyard Bird Count (which I am SO EXCITED FOR!!!!!! *squeals forever*), please enjoy these recycled photos of some of my favorite bird encounters. This bluebird doing neck circles represents me doing neck circles in a futile attempt to relieve my stress-induced headaches.

2. Fortunately, this dramatic increase in workload happened to more or less coincide with my delayed but triumphant return to running post-wisdom teeth extraction!

In what has quickly become a recurring theme to this entire wisdom teeth ordeal, I vastly underestimated the amount of time it would take my mouth to heal to the point where I could run again. Honestly, I didn’t really consider that having two teeth yanked out of my skull would prevent me from running, but what do you know, it sure did! When I initially set up my training schedule for the first four months of 2018, I thought I’d be able to run 4-6 miles one week after the extraction. Since I was still barely taking in chewable calories at that point, that obviously wasn’t the case. I then tried to go for a run 11 days post-extraction, and that didn’t go well, either. My sockets ached every time my foot struck the ground–which, in retrospect, shouldn’t have been all that surprisingly. They also ached whenever my head hung down–any time I did an inversion during yoga, or stretching at dance, or anything along those lines. Regardless, it was surprising, and it was also extremely disappointing.

So I waited another week, watching more and more planned miles tick by on my training plan un-run, and headed out last Wednesday to see what would happen. Nothing! Nothing happened! Hooray! It was a totally uneventful, un-achy run! Woohoo! Of course, the fact that I can run now doesn’t make up for the fact that I couldn’t run any time before last Wednesday, nor does it make up for the fact that I’ve missed 10 percent of my intended training, but at least I can run now. I’ve learned that running doesn’t make me feel better if I’m upset, but it does help me feel less stressed (at least if running isn’t the source of stress to begin with–I’m looking at you, consecutive strings of hot and humid days during marathon season), so it’s been quite helpful lately.

That being said, I have all but given up on my dreams of a half marathon PR in April. I lost a LOT of fitness during my days of sitting on the couch and shoveling pudding and ice cream into my mouth (who would’ve guessed?), and I’m still not back to the diet I’d like to maintain (nuts and seeds, how I miss you so. Seriously, though, WHEN are these holes in the back of my mouth going to heal?! Google has told me anywhere between six weeks and eight months, which seems like a PRETTY big range.). I already knew PRing would be tough, given my schedule the week before the half marathon. Considering how out of shape I’ve become, in addition to the whole “you can’t outrun a bad diet” thing, I think hoping to even run a 2:15 in April is a bit of a pipe dream, never mind running the sub-2:00 I really wanted. There’s always next year, I suppose.


Seeing this migrating Common Yellowthroat was my favorite run-related bird encounter to date.

3. I’ve been a loyal wearer of Old Navy jeans for seven years now. I discovered that their Diva line of jeans fit me like a dream in 2011, and though they have since replaced the Diva with the similar but for some reason much longer (??) Original style, they’re still my go-to for jeans (despite the fact that they inevitably develop holes a year after purchase). I can buy them online and know they’ll fit, which is a good enough reason to stick with them as far as I’m concerned.

The Original comes in three washes that have official names, but boil down to light, medium, and dark washes. I like to have one pair of medium wash and one pair of dark wash on hand at all times and went to Old Navy a couple of weeks ago to restock my supply, as I had worn holes into both of my 2017 pairs. The store only carried medium wash, but since dark wash was available online, they ordered a pair for me and waived the shipping fee. Thanks, Old Navy!

Getting the jeans proved to be far more of an ordeal than it should’ve been–UPS refused to leave the package at my house, and instead of attempting another delivery or even leaving it at a nearby UPS store, they required that I retrieve it from the UPS Customer Center, which is tucked away in the middle of no man’s land–but eventually I got my jeans. I tried them on yesterday and was surprised at how difficult it was to pull them on. I checked the tag, which reported that these were, in fact, the same size and style I always wear. I figured I must just need to break them in or something, even though I hadn’t needed to “break in” the presumably identical pair of medium wash jeans I bought at the store. I made it through a whopping 10 minutes of wearing my new jeans before I deciding that there was no reason why I needed to suffer through too-tight jeans for a full day and changing into a different pair.

I just could not understand how two pairs of jeans from the same brand in the same size and the same style could fit THAT differently, so I busted out my measuring tape to see if I was going crazy. Turns out, the waist on the pair of dark wash jeans is THREE INCHES SMALLER than the waist on all my other jeans (again, all Old Navy Originals in the same size). No wonder they didn’t fit! I know there isn’t much standard to women’s pants sizing, but that’s got to be at LEAST two sizes smaller than what I normally wear, especially since I tried on a size smaller than my usual size at Old Navy in December and was at least able to button them without holding my breath, which certainly wasn’t the case with this pair shipped to me. Here’s hoping the pair I get when I exchange them is actually the size it claims to be!


These waddling Gentoo Penguins represent how I felt trying to get in and out of my too-small jeans. I do not expect to encounter any penguins while I bird during the Great Backyard Bird Count, though, given that they are flightless and live in the Southern Hemisphere.


Thursday Things

1. I have major moral qualms with the NFL and the sport of football as we, for reasons that seem to defy all common sense and scientific evidence, insist on continuing to play it, but despite my ethical misgivings, I still watched the Super Bowl. I’m not really sure how much longer I can keep up with that, though. I know taking my one set of eyeballs away from a game probably won’t be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, but doing anything to support an industry that willing puts people’s brains (and, by extension, lives) at risk for the sake of the almighty dollar feels…icky, to say the least. As far as I’m concerned, the commercials and half time show are the real highlights of the Super Bowl anyway (though I will concede that the Eagles’s trick play was also a highlight), and since those are all available online without having to watch the game, that seems like the better way to go about doing things.

Regardless, I watched the Super Bowl this year, primarily for the commercials and half time show, but secondarily (or maybe equally primarily, even though that doesn’t really make sense) for the all-important tradition of overindulging in junk food during the Super Bowl. I got together with a few friends, and we had ourselves a feast of processed, fatty, salty, sugary goodness. It was fabulous.

The highlight, though–and, frankly, the entire reason why I’m even noting my Super Bowl viewing in this post–was definitely this find:



I discovered that groundbreaking idea at Jewel on Saturday, and didn’t have to think twice about whether or not it’d be an appropriate thing to bring to my Super Bowl get together. A cookie tray with FROSTING DIP?! Why don’t they sell these year round??

2. I got my official Chicago Marathon results in the mail a couple of weeks ago, and almost immediately threw it away (well, recycled it, but whatever). It boggles my mind that the race puts together what essentially amounts to a magazine of the race’s complete results, especially in a day and age where all I had to do was open the race’s app on my phone while still stumbling through the finishing chute to get my results rather than waiting three and a half months to find out how I did. It can’t be a cost-effective endeavor and seems wildly unnecessary.

But regardless, I decided before I got rid of the results magazine, I’d at least look up my name, be proud of myself for the briefest of moments, and move on with my life. I’ve never really paid any sort of attention to where I finished overall in the field, because when it takes you more than five hours to finish in a race with 44,300ish finishers, your overall finishing place is pretty irrelevant. But I was delighted to discover that, apparently, I came in exactly 28,000th in last year’s race! How about that! According to the unofficial online results, I came in 28,003rd, but I like 28,000th better, and that’s what the printed results say, so I’m going with it.

So there you go: while it may not be necessary, I guess it’s still kind of cool to get printed results and all the other tidbits of information that come along with it.

3. Speaking of Bank of America-owned races, I have a hot take on the Shamrock Shuffle that I want to document here for the whole world to see right now:

The Bank of America should sell the Shamrock Shuffle to RAM Racing.

Hear me out: the race has not been doing well, at least from a finisher standpoint, for years. As I pointed out in my recap of last year’s event, there were 40 percent fewer finishers in 2017 compared to 2013. That’s a pretty massive drop in participation over not very much time, and it doesn’t take a marketing degree to see the many, many ways the race has tried to entice people to sign up, particularly over the past two or three years. There has been a marked increase in swag (they now give out medals, which have gotten nicer each year; one year they gave out branded Buffs in addition to the t-shirt; another year they gave out branded winter hats in addition to the t-shirt), there has been a marked change in pricing (from one flat rate to incremental pricing based on your date of registration), a marked uptick in pushing the charity angle (the 8K Charity entry, where you pay full price for the race, but part of your registration fee is donated to one of the race’s charities), a marked change in convenience (the ability to choose to have your packet mailed to you to avoid having to attend packet pick-up), and a marked change in event offerings, period (a 2 mile, untimed walk in addition to the timed 8K race). None of this happened in 2013, and my suspicion is that it didn’t happen because it didn’t need to happen. The race seemed to be a self-sustaining entity, until suddenly it wasn’t, and suddenly marketing became a lot more important.

I am hardly the biggest cheerleader for RAM Racing, but here’s the thing: gimmicky, themed events are absolutely RAM’s thing. Cinco de Miler? Hot Chocolate? And it’s not like RAM doesn’t have experience putting on events similar to Shamrock’s current size. Last year’s Hot Chocolate in Chicago had 25,000+ finishers between the 15K and 5K. The Shuffle was just five runners shy of 20,000 finishers. You want to tell me the Shamrock Shuffle wouldn’t fit perfectly into that kind of portfolio?

I think the smartest thing the Bank of America could do would be to unload themselves of the Shamrock Shuffle, focus all of their efforts on growing the marathon instead, either in terms of participants or in terms of prize purse offerings (bigger prize purse=better elite gets) or both, and let RAM take the reins of the Shuffle. The Shuffle already draws a way different crowd than the marathon–it’s much, MUCH easier to do a casual 8K than a casual marathon, after all–and I think the people you’d risk losing by selling the event to RAM would be more than offset by the people you’d gain by selling the event to RAM. I also think RAM would have naturally lower expectations for the event–if they’re used to staging 25,000-person events, it stings a lot less to have 19,995 finishers than if you’re used to staging 40,000-person events–and would be perfectly happy with the current field size.

If this ends up happening some time in the future, I want a cut of the deal, since it was clearly my idea 😛

Did you watch the Super Bowl?