Thursday Things

1. I do not like this time of year at work. Is it a ~thing~ that work is always bonkers in January in the corporate world? I thought this was just something that happened at my previous job, because I always had a major project due in mid-February, but it happened last year at my current job and it’s happening again this year. Everything’s breaking, everyone needs something, four million things still outstanding from 2018 need wrapping up. Good thing I planned to blog about my half marathon training so I only have to come up with something else to write once a week 😛

2. In my ongoing quest to do ALL OF THE CHICAGO THINGS before moving to the suburbs later this year, I went to ZooLights last weekend.

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I’ve gone to ZooLights some time during December almost every winter I’ve lived here, and what a mistake that was! Going in January was so much more pleasant! Sure, it felt a little weird to do something clearly Christmas-y after December 25, but it was way less crowded.

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This was also the first time I’ve gone to ZooLights and see all the ice sculptures fully sculpted, rather than in the process of being sculpted. The penguin, obviously, was my favorite ❤

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3. I’ve sung the praises of the Libby app plenty of times since I downloaded it last summer. It’s made reading so much easier and convenient for me, and thanks to it, I read more in 2018 than I had read in who knows how long.

Right now, I’m reading Native Son by Richard Wright, which somehow I was never required to read at any point in my education. I’m not all that far into it yet, but it’s been impactful, to put it mildly. Anyway, I’m not here to offer up my thoughts on Native Son right now. Instead, I would like to offer up my thoughts on Libby’s time-to-finish estimator.

When I first discovered this tool in Libby (where it tracks how long you’ve been reading and estimates how long it’ll take you to finish based on how long it’s been since you initially downloaded the book), I thought it was awesome! I’ve never kept track of how much time I spend reading, so that seemed cool, and having an estimate for how long it would take me to finish was both helpful and challenging. It’s helpful, because I can gauge whether or not I’ll finish the book before it’s due when I have an estimate for how long it’ll take me to finish reading it, and it’s challenging, because it makes me want to read faster than Libby thinks I can.

For Native Son, however, it hasn’t been particularly useful.

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Cool.

The major flaw in Libby’s time-to-finish estimator is that it bases its estimate off how long it’s been since you first downloaded the book. The problem with that is that if you have a book on hold, it’ll automatically download (if you’re on WiFi) to your device as soon as it becomes available, whether you’re ready for it or not. I placed a hold on Native Son when I first downloaded the app on August 8, and it became available on Sept. 28. I was reading another book at the time and didn’t finish it in time to start (and finish) Native Son before it was due, and on Oct. 19, the book automatically returned. I put another hold on it on Nov. 11, and on Dec. 25, I got it back (though I was reading Look Alive Out There at the time, so once I again, I didn’t start it right away). I didn’t actually start reading it until last week. But because I first downloaded the book 13 weeks ago and have only been reading for a few hours, Libby thinks it’s going to take me nearly a year to finish. I sure hope not! The book’s due in five days, so I really need to buckle down and find 11 spare hours to read (less than that now, fortunately, since this screenshot is from Tuesday afternoon), unless I want to lose the book and wait another six to seven weeks to get it back! (I don’t.)

Thursday Things

1. How was everyone’s Christmas/end of the year? Mine was terrible! Yay!

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I suppose my Christmas itself, as in the 25th of December, was just fine–nice, even. We had 100 percent family attendance at Grandma’s house for the first time since 2013! But the trip home that constituted “Christmas” in my mind was not, courtesy of a bug that swept through my family, taking no survivors. My parents had been sick the week before Christmas but felt better 48 hours or so before my siblings and I started to arrive home and Lysoled the place from floor to ceiling to make sure none of us got what they had. Despite their admirable efforts, all three of us got sick: first, my sister the morning of Christmas Eve, followed by my brother the day after Christmas, followed by me on the 28th. At least it was moderately predictable?

It took me for.ev.er. to recover. I was supposed to come back to Chicago on Friday but cancelled my train trip home due to my unwillingness to get out of bed that morning. I made it back Saturday and posted up on the couch for the remainder of that day. I stayed in bed all day Sunday (I slept for 11 hours on Sunday O.O) as well, and finally woke up fever-free and feeling moderately human on New Year’s Eve. I definitely didn’t feel good enough to go to the party I had planned to attend at some friends’ house in the suburbs (or run the three miles I wanted to run that day, boo 😦 ), though. I rang in 2019 on–where else?–the couch, with a very exciting glass of ginger ale. I felt fully human again on New Year’s Day and did incredible feats of strength like not blowing my nose every .2 seconds and eating food other than toast and saltines (because this joy of an illness impacted both my stomach and my sinuses. What a gem!).

I don’t know what on earth we all had, but it was unpleasant, to say the least. What was far more unpleasant, though, was how much it impacted the family time I had really looked forward to enjoying during the week I was home. I expected a solid week of quality time with my parents and siblings all together, and instead got a whopping one dinner of it. It left me feeling very homesick and missing all of them a lot as soon as I got home. I wish we could all have a do-over on the entire week. Since the five of us now live in four different states, Christmas is really the only time we’re all physically together, and it was a huge bummer to not have that pan out the way I hoped it would this year.

2. On a more upbeat note, I got a surprise Christmas present that will likely live on in Bethany lore as one of the best presents ever.

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Those, dear readers, are wooden shoe shaped, Dutch orange, Mizuno slippers. *all of the heart-eyed emojis*

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In October, my aunt, uncle, cousin, and cousin-in-law traveled to our ancestral homeland, the Netherlands, for the Amsterdam Marathon, which my uncle, cousin, and cousin-in-law all ran. While at the expo, they discovered that Mizuno was giving away these slippers with the purchase of a pair of shoes, but would also sell you the slippers on their own if you didn’t buy any Mizunos. Now, I am admittedly a ride-or-die Asics girl, but I’m more than happy to abandon my shoe brand loyalties for the sake of WOODEN SHOE SLIPPERS *more heart-eyed emojis* They check off an impressive number of Bethany’s Interests boxes for being but a humble piece of footwear (Dutch themed: check. Running themed: check. Tendency to ask for slippers for Christmas: check.), and I’ve worn them almost nonstop since Christmas. Obsessed. High five to you, Mizuno, and an even higher five to my family for thinking of me when they saw them and getting them for me.

3. Frustrated with myself by what I felt was an overconsumption of social media, I decided that I would abstain entirely from Facebook and Twitter from the time I left my apartment for Christmas until I returned to Chicago on Friday. I ended up breaking that when I stayed home an extra day, but I found the experience to be eye-opening in multiple ways.

For one thing, I was shocked by how easy it was to give up Twitter. I actually haven’t spent any “meaningful” (by which I really mean time-wasting) time on Twitter since I left for Christmas. I’ve only checked it to make sure I knew how the CTA was behaving before leaving for work, in case I’d need to alter my plans accordingly. Facebook has proved to be a harder cord to cut, but I haven’t even been tempted to scroll through Twitter, which blows my mind. I guess I’m not even half as invested in it as I thought I was.

For another thing, I was surprised to find how…boring, honestly…my phone became when I no longer allowed myself to get on Facebook and Twitter. I’d check my email, check the news, and then be like, “…well, now what can I do on here?” I think I read more of the Washington Post over Christmas than I have at any time since I started subscribing, haha. It became clear to me how much time I waste on my phone when I didn’t have access to my primary ways of wasting time. It also made it much easier to read my most recent library book (Look Alive Out There, a collection of essays by Sloane Crosley. 10/10, would recommend. It had me crying-on-the-train laughing on the way back to Chicago.)!

Based on that experience, one of my 2019 resolutions is to only use Facebook and Twitter on the weekends, unless I have a valid reason to be on there on a weekday (“valid reason” being along the lines of “a crisis is unfolding that I need to stay updated about for my own safety and well-being.” “I’m commuting” or “I’m sitting on the couch” is not a valid reason 😛 ). I’ve tried to be a lot more thoughtful about how I spend/consume things recently, and this seems to fit well into my overarching goal to be less wasteful and more conscientious.

How was your Christmas?
Did you make any resolutions for 2019?

Thursday Things

1. I’d heard plenty about Little Fires Everywhere over the past year or so, but reading Kim’s review of it last month (in combination with my renewed love affair with the library, courtesy of Libby) finally convinced me to get around to reading it.

HO.LY. COW. What a book!

I started reading the book on my commute Tuesday afternoon and by the time I finished up biking at the gym on Thursday afternoon, I was already 72 percent of the way done with it. I finally finished it Saturday morning, but had I had more free time on Friday, I’m sure I would’ve finished it then. My reading has, admittedly, tapered off a bit since I changed jobs in March 2016, but even considering all the reading I did when I had my old job, I haven’t devoured a book like this since I read The Hunger Games right after I graduated from college (throwback to my first EVER Thursday Things post! “I make no promises of this being a regular thing.” Ha, good joke, 2012 Bethany. Here we are, 275 (!) Thursday Things later. I think it’s safe to say Thursday Things are the most (only?) regular thing about my blog, aside from Chicago Marathon training recaps on Mondays for 18 weeks from June through October.). I could not put it down. I couldn’t stop talking about it, either. It BLEW ME AWAY.

I was super intrigued by the plot, but what really impressed me was the writing. I legitimately don’t remember the last time I read such amazing, beautiful writing. The way Celeste Ng would seamlessly transition from third person limited (mostly, with occasional omniscience) in from one character’s perspective to third person limited (mostly, with occasional omniscience) in another character’s perspective…! *dies* Not only were the transitions from person to person so perfect and smooth, but the little bits of omniscience thrown in with a limited perspective were so perfect. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever read more perfectly executed narration. It was just incredible, like a master class in how to write in third person. I’ve already got a hold on Everything I Never Told You (which probably won’t come in for seven weeks. Womp.) because I want nothing more than to read Ng’s writing forever and ever and ever.

2. I had two other things I planned to include in this post, and now I can’t remember either of them. Figures. That’s what I get for not writing these things down as they come to mind! Well, instead I’ll tell you about how I saw multiple Red-breasted Nuthatches on a bird walk on Saturday!

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I’d read they were supposed to be much more common this year than some years due to food shortages in Canada, and based on eBird, that certainly seems to be the case. I had never seen a Red-breasted Nuthatch before my trip to the Grand Canyon last year (pictured above), but since September I’ve now seen no fewer than three in the Chicago area. I’ll have to bring my camera the next time I go on a bird walk to see if I can get a picture, since who knows when the next irruption will be.

3. That’s it from me before Christmas! I hope everyone who celebrates has a wonderful holiday with lots of love and happiness 🙂

Best of 2018

I’m a sucker for year-end nostalgia. Give me all the lists, all the song mashups, all the retrospectives. I LOVE IT.

I’ve barely ever done a non-running year-end recap on the blog, though. I guess in other Decembers I’ve had more to talk about than rehashing content from earlier in the year? Not this year, though! So, without further ado, a random collection of favorites from 2018!

Top Five Most Popular Blog Posts Written in 2018
1. Bank of America Chicago Marathon Race Recap

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Always a popular one. I’m glad people like reading about my marathons as much as I enjoy writing about them!

2. Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon Race Recap

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I’m somewhat surprised this is #2, mostly because I don’t consider this race to be A Big Deal, at least not on the same level as the marathon. That being said, it is a pretty large event, so I guess it makes sense that other people want to read about it.

3. Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K Race Recap

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Or maybe people just really like how the skyline looks from Columbus? I clearly like taking a picture of it 😛

4. Excellence El Carmen

excellence el carmen, punta cana, punta cana resorts, excellence resorts, dominican republic, all inclusive dominican republic, all inclusive dr, dominican republic beach, punta cana beach, uvero alto, uvero alto beach, excellence el carmen beach, palm trees, atlantic ocean, caribbean sea

I’d be lying if I said the main motivation I had for posting this wasn’t to drive more traffic to the blog, so high five, post, for doing exactly what I hoped you’d do. And for being the lone non-running post that lots of people had interest in reading!

5. St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Half Marathon Race Recap

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Oh look, another race recap! This one does genuinely surprise me, though. I’m curious why this race recap was so much more popular than my recap of Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego the week before. My recap of San Diego came in 12th out of all my posts this year, so it wasn’t even close. I understand why my Chicago race recaps are popular–I am a Chicago blogger, after all–but I wonder why more people wanted to read about Seattle than San Diego!

Top Five Favorite Blogged Pictures from 2018 (in order of posting)
1. Hermit Thrush on a birding walk, Aprilhermitthrush-1

2. Last Sunday at my church, April (miss you forever, church 😦 )
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3. Skyline from the Playpen, July
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4. Skyline from the Rose Garden in Grant Park, September
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5. Cardinal on Montrose Point, September
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Top Five Favorite Blogged About Memories
1. PRing at the Chicago Marathon (and all my subsequent thoughts on the marathon)
This was easily one of the biggest highlights of my year.

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2. Seeing the Old Post Office during Open House Chicago. That was more than worth the price of a Chicago Architecture Center membership.

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3. Traveling up the West Coast on the Coast Starlight train. While I do think this trip would’ve been a lot more fun without a stomach bug, it was still a really cool experience and something I’d do again in a heartbeat.

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4. Accurately calling the outcome of the Final Four. I don’t care if it’s all luck – I’m very proud of myself for doing that 😛

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5. Cheering on my sister from afar as she ran her first half marathon. I’m still so proud of her for doing that!

What are your favorite memories from 2018?

Thursday Things

1. I really liked what strength training did for me during marathon season this past summer, so I decided to keep it up after the marathon. I took a few weeks off, then started back at the beginning of the strength training plan Erin generously put together for throughout marathon season.

I intended to keep up with strength training for the various benefits I reaped from it over the summer (increased strength, increased endurance, increased desire to brag about how good my legs look), but I’ll admit that I haven’t been nearly as strict about getting in three sessions per week since after the race. I’m not actively chasing any big goals (training for my sub-2:00 half marathon attempt doesn’t start for another month), so everything right now is more maintenance than anything. That makes it a lot easier for me to slack off.

But BOY is that a bad idea! I feel like I’m right back at the start of marathon season when I was sore all. the. time. for weeks on end. It wasn’t until the middle of marathon season or so that I stopped dreading getting out of bed in the morning for fear of discovering which muscles would scream at me that day. Since I stopped being so consistent, I’m back to being consistently sore, and I’m super over it. I just keep reminding myself that getting all of this out of the way now will make things a lot easier come January, when I hopefully won’t be hobbling around every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday thanks to the previous day’s workout.

2. I’m curious: what’s your stance on giving cash (or the equivalent of cash: a Visa gift card, or a check, for example, but not a store or service-specific gift card) as a gift? I ask because this has come up a couple times over the past year in my family, and it’s surprised me how adamant a few adults in my family are about not giving cash, even if it’s been earmarked for a certain purpose, even if it was specifically requested by the recipient.

It surprises me because I 1) would have absolutely no problem receiving cash as a gift–I’d prefer it in most cases, honestly–and 2) have absolutely no problem giving cash as a gift. But clearly everyone doesn’t feel that way!

3. I’ve been dreading this upcoming weekend for awhile, and my dread isn’t lessening at all the closer we get. I have a birthday party Friday, an all-afternoon/evening Christmas party on Saturday, and another all-evening Christmas party on Sunday. *screaming emoji* Don’t ask me when I’m going to get my grocery shopping done (or do: the answer is, “I’m not,”), never mind find time to, you know, breathe. I already spent an entire blog post complaining about how busy this time of year is, so I’ll try to refrain doing it again. I do wish it were more generally acceptable to celebrate Christmas during non-Christmas times, though. Like why can’t we have one “Christmas” party per month? Or per quarter? That would make December so much more tolerable!

Cash for gifts: yay or nay?

Thursday Things

1. Every December, most of the women on my mom’s side of the family (my grandma, my mom, her sisters, and sometimes my cousin-in-law) come to Chicago for a shopping trip. This year’s trip was on Tuesday, so I took most of the day off and hung out with them downtown and in Lincoln Park!

We started the day at Macy’s, per our tradition. I didn’t have any shopping to do on this trip, so I tagged along while everyone else debated the pros and cons of various ties and sweaters. Eventually we made our way up to the seventh floor to see the Christmas tree in the Walnut Room.

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Sigh. I’ve been to Macy’s a few times recently, but this was the first time I had been up to the seventh floor since early August. At the end of August, Macy’s sold the eighth through 14th floors of the building. Floors nine through 14 weren’t open to the public in the first place, so that’s not much of a loss, but the eighth floor was where they sold furniture–and, more relevantly for this particular post, where you could get the best view of the Christmas tree, in my opinion. But now that’s all closed 😦

It made me unnecessarily sad, as did all the consequential rearranging of the store: furniture is now on six, the home goods from six are now in the basement, and the whole Christmas section that used to be in a corner of six is now on seven (and WAY smaller than in years past). I took an absurd amount of pride in my ability to navigate Macy’s on State Street with ease, but now I’m not as sure where things are, and that contributes to my sadness. I also really liked the eighth floor. It was quiet and generally uncrowded, which made it a lot easier for me to imagine what it must’ve been like when the store opened 100+ years ago–not that I think it was quiet and generally uncrowded back then, but the wood floors and such made that easier to visualize than the carpet or tile and racks of modern clothes on other floors.

2. After Macy’s, we went to lunch. I made reservations at Remington’s on Michigan because it was nearby and a survey of the attendees said that Remington’s was the top pick. I assumed we’d get a table and that would be that. Boy was I wrong!

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Our table ended up being IN the wine room! It was incredible! There were doors on both sides, so we could close them and actually hear each other talk. The food was also delicious, so win-win. I think it’s safe to say that Remington’s will be our destination of choice for future December family shopping trips!

3. One of the biggest draws of this trip for my family in the past was the opportunity to go to Crate & Barrel on Michigan Ave. Since that no longer exists (because apparently nothing is sacred in the cold, unfeeling world of real estate and retail), my mom wondered if it’d be reasonable to go to the Crate & Barrel at North and Clybourn instead. But of course! So up to Lincoln Park we went, where I found the Crate & Barrel experience to be approximately 2983472 times more pleasant than it ever was on Michigan Ave. due to the dramatically smaller number of other humans in the store.

I think the real highlight for my family, though, was The Container Store across the parking lot from Crate & Barrel. There are exactly two Container Stores in Michigan, both of which are in the Detroit area. Since my family lives in West Michigan, most of them had never been to a Container Store before, and it was, as far as I could gather, utterly life changing. Not that I can say I blame them–The Container Store is a place where I think I could genuinely buy their entire inventory.

I had to head out early to get to my usual Tuesday evening obligations (therapy + dance), but it was really nice to spend some time with my family!

It’s the Most Busiest Time of the Year

(Yes, I realize “most busiest” is bad grammar. That was the point.)

I want to like the holiday season. I really do. Every year, I think, “THIS will somehow be the year where I do all of the things with none of the burnout! There will be nothing but cheer from now until New Year’s Day!” Yet here I am, a whole 12 days into the “official” (i.e.: post-Thanksgiving) holiday season, and I’m already finding work to be a nice reprieve from the insanity that will be every weekend from now until the beginning of January.

The season started off on the wrong foot, I suppose, with a totally packed Thanksgiving weekend. Instead of a relaxing couple of days off work, I had something going on from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to bed on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. It was a lot–too much, really–and I said that I couldn’t keep doing this to myself. If I was going to insist on doing ALL OF THE THINGS on weekends, I had to keep it to one day.

So, naturally, I did ALL OF THE THINGS every day this past weekend, too.

On Friday, I went to see Ralph Wrecks the Internet after work, which was just delightful. The story itself was great, but I was a particular fan of the seemingly endless Easter eggs throughout the movie. My hands-down favorite part, though, was whenever the Disney princesses were involved. There’s a scene towards the end of the movie that is accompanied by a song that combines big musical themes from each princess’s movie when she’s contributing to the action on screen (so when you see Pocahontas, for example, the soundtrack is Colors of the Wind) that I want to watch a million times in a row to catch all the references.

Ever since I started marathoning, I’ve had this intermittent knee soreness that usually flares up once or twice a year. It started bothering me last Sunday, but I really did a number on it at dance on Tuesday. Since I have a race that I care about coming up this weekend, I thought it’d be in my best interest to take it easy for a few days, so I bailed on my long run on Saturday. Couldn’t have picked a better day to do that! The weather was horrendous, and I was glad to not be outside. After the weather cleared up, I headed downtown to the Christkindlmarket, hoping the earlier rain (and continuing wind) had scared enough people away that it wouldn’t be a totally miserable experience.

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I don’t know that I’d say it was totally miserable, but I don’t know that I’d say it was totally pleasant, either 😛 I guess that’s the nature of the Christkindlmarket, though. It’s a cool thing you can only do for five weeks of the year, and obviously weekends are much easier for most people (including me!) to go visit than weekdays. I wanted to go only because I really like the mugs this year, so I at least it wasn’t a bust in that department.

On Saturday night, my company held its annual holiday party. My company throws two big parties per year: one in August just for employees, and one in December for employees and a guest. I’ve attended six of these parties thus far, and in my experience, one usually VASTLY outshines the other. One event (historically, the August event) is focused almost exclusively on eating and drinking, while the other (historically, the December event) is focused on eating, drinking, and cool things you can do while at the party. This year, however, the August event was one that I truly don’t think they’ll ever beat (I mean, we got to see the Cubs clubhouse, hang out in the 1914 Club at Wrigley Field, see the 2016 World Series trophy, and meet Ryan Dempster and Ryne Sandberg (and get their autographs on a baseball). I don’t think anything could possibly top that.). Because of that, the holiday party was a little more low-key than usual, similar to what I expect at the August party. The venue was pretty, though!

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All of that running around left me pretty tired (and, consequently, pretty cranky) by Sunday. Fortunately, this upcoming weekend will likely be moderately more low key (I don’t think I have anything going on Saturday after my race!) – but don’t even get me started on the weekend of the 14th-16th 😛