on leaving

April 13.  If you hadn’t noticed, that was the date of my last blog post (which, in blogger land, probably means you died before April 20).  I’ve already come clean with you about my poor journaling habits, so hopefully you weren’t too worried.

The last two months have been some of the most unnerving, anxiety-filled months of my life.  Since April 13, my husband and I have made a series of exciting and terrifying decisions, revolving around our choice to move to Texas.

The decision wasn’t as random as it may seem.  Jason has been applying to grad schools for a while, and learned back in March that he was accepted to the University of Texas at Arlington.  At first, we considered it our backup plan’s backup plan.  But even after getting into some pretty prestigious schools (University of Madison Wisconsin and Ohio State among them!  I have such a smart husband!), Texas always emerged as the better fit for Jason.  Ultimately, we chose Texas for the quality of the graduate program, but also for the exciting, urban atmosphere, the robust job market, and the close friends already living in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.  But it is the LAST place we ever thought we’d live.

Why, you ask?  Number one, because Texas is HOT.  People shouldn’t live in places where a string of 97• days in June is considered a “cool down.”  Secondly, because Texas seems to be “pro-” on everything we’re “anti-.”  The death penalty.  Big oil.  Gun control.  We’d fit in much better in New Jersey, where recycling is mandatory and you’re not allowed to have a gun assembled in your car, let alone in a college classroom.  Finally, we love seasons.  You should see how giddy I am on the first cool day of September.  Jason came home from work and the house was chock full of decorative gourds and pumpkin desserts.  I have to restrain myself from playing Christmas music after the first snowfall.  Of course I hate scraping my windshield, wearing nothing but snow boots, and being cold ALL the time.  But nothing can replace the view of a soft snowfall out your bedroom window, or the vibrant drives through the country in mid-October.  And it is these things that Texas, for all its low taxes and early springs, will never be able to offer.

The entire process—from tediously applying for jobs to poring over apartment websites—has taken a considerable amount of our time and energy.  It has gone from the main thing we talk about to the ONLY thing we talk about.  It keeps us up at nights, induces sporadic stomach aches, and prompts the rare sob-fest.  But we’re forging ahead for now, thanks to fistfuls of Tums and frequent prayer.  For some unknown reason, it appears that God is leading us to the Lonestar State.  I just hope He doesn’t want me to start saying “y’all.”

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no more excuses

Differing expectations are one of the most entertaining and maddening parts of marriage.  I’m not talking about the big things—money, sex, children, etc.  I’m talking about those moments you THOUGHT you knew your spouse completely, and then he up and tells you he doesn’t like pork (which you’d been cooking for the last six months).

Take the following exchange, which happened moments after my previous post on running.  I was sitting excitedly in our living room, decked out in my recently-acquired running gear, expecting Jason’s eyes to light up joyfully when he walked through the door.  After all those longing glances at other couples running together, we could finally be that couple!  I had mentally played out the scenario to include approving nods, a big kiss, possibly applause.  Instead he looked at me as if an alien had swapped bodies with his wife.

“Why are you wearing that?”

“Didn’t you read my blog?  I posted it on your Facebook wall?  I’m going to start running!”

Then he gave me a look that said “I think you’re crazy but I also might want to fool around later, so I’m not going to give you the ginormous eye-roll I almost did.”  And then he walked into our bedroom.  Turns out, I had forgotten one factor as I fabricated this moment in my mind.  Jason knows me really well.

When it comes to running (and exercising in general) I am the master of excuses.  Here’s a top 10 list:

10. I’m exhausted from work.

9. I didn’t sleep well last night.

8. I have a million other things to do.

7. It’s too hot.

6. It’s too cold.

5. It’s too humid.

4. My allergies are acting up.

3. I don’t have good shoes. (No longer valid.)

2. I’d rather spend time with you.

1. I don’t want to.

One of out ten was not going to be enough to get me out the door—and Jason knew this.  Even after reading my blog post, he looked at me genuinely and said “I just don’t think you’ll actually do it.”  However, the planets were aligning in a way that would surprise us both….

This morning, at precisely 4:18 a.m., I woke up with what would become the worst headache I’ve had in my entire life.  It felt like a dozen tiny children in wooden shoes were trying to punch their way out of my temples.  I tried to go back to sleep, using my hands as a vise and squeezing pillows against my head as hard as I could.  Then I took two extra-strength Tylenol.  An hour later, the children traded their wooden shoes for baseball cleats.  The pain made me nauseous.  I moved to the couch, hoping a change of scenery could help me doze off.  At 6 a.m., I took another pill and covered my forehead with a cold washcloth.  Still, no relief.  At 7:03, I decided it was time to call in sick.

(SIDEBAR: I hate calling in sick.  I hate the fact that I am inconveniencing other people as much as I am inconvenienced when they call in sick.  I know it involves phone calls to sleeping staff members, shuffling of schedules, possibly asking someone to work on their day off.  Even if I’m feeling mildly sick, I’ll just come in because the guilt feels worse.  I also assume that everyone thinks I’m faking it—probably because that’s what I assume about everyone else.  Which compounds the whole guilt thing.  But given the fact that I could not stand up without feeling like I might vomit, I felt I met all the criteria for a guilt-free sick day.)

I eventually slept off the sharpest of the pain, and the rest dulled after my second cup of coffee.  Which left me with a rare day to myself.  Cross off excuses 10, 8 and 2.  Despite my horrendous headache, I actually felt well-rested—eliminating excuse #9.  And it turns out that my sick day had fallen on one of the nicest afternoons of the spring—sunny, mid-60’s, and not much of a breeze.  Cross off 5, 6, and 7.  I was hoping the allergy thing would save me, but apparently the unknown plant that leaves me with 2 weeks of misery has not yet bloomed.  That left only one excuse: I don’t want to. And strangely, I kind of did.

So I laced up my brand new shoes, borrowed Jason’s iPod, and headed out the door.  (Then I vaguely remembered something about stretching first, so I went back inside and tried to imitate the poses I’ve seen in various movies or TV shows.)  Hoping for the best, I headed out again.

I will spare you the details, but I can tell you that I did not bleed or throw up.  I ran 1.5 miles (don’t make fun) and then walked back.  A total of 3 miles in about 45 minutes.  Yes, there were times I felt that familiar stitch in my side, or felt self-conscious about the way I was moving my arms (should my hands be in fists?  how far should they swing?)  But overall—are you ready for this?—it felt great.  I’d do it again. Maybe even tomorrow.

I guess sometimes you can even surprise yourself.

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i. hate. running. (but i’m going to try it anyway)

Hate was the “H” word in my family growing up.  While not as condemned as the “S” words (“shut-up” and “stupid”), my mother strongly discouraged its use.  So I was fully aware of its weight when I told her once, “I hate three things: green bean casserole, meatloaf, and the Devil—in that order.”  The list hasn’t changed in 20 years, save one addition: “running.”

I was lucky enough to marry a man who shared three out of four aversions.  Unfortunately, he loves running as much as I loathe it.  He looks wistfully at couples jogging past our window as we sit on the couch watching TV or reading. “That could be us,” he sighs.  Then I remind him of the two times I’ve tried it.

“That time we looked like planets”

It was sophomore year and I was nursing a huge crush on Jason.  I couldn’t tell yet whether he liked me back, but I wasn’t going to turn down ANY opportunity to be around him.  So when he asked our group of friends if anyone wanted to go jogging, I immediately piped up.  I strapped on the $12 cross-trainers I got on clearance at Target, borrowed a friend’s running shorts, and acted like I knew exactly what I was doing.  After all, how hard could it be?

We began down the jogging path at what I considered an ambitious pace.  So much for sharing our deepest thoughts and feelings with each other; I could barely catch my breath.  After what felt like 30 minutes but was probably 2, Jason asked “are you warmed up yet?” You want me to go ^&$#*@ faster?!?! was my unverbalized response.  But I tried.  Hard.  Jason, meanwhile, was trying EQUALLY hard to slow down enough for me.  When it became too much, he concocted the brilliant solution to run around me in circles as I panted ahead.  We looked like an interpretive dance of the solar system.  It was tortuous.

“That time I ran in clogs”

Fast forward a few months.  Jason, for some reason, eventually asked me out.  He even invited me along on a 1200 mile road trip to visit his grandparents in New Jersey.  I loved every minute of that trip, especially getting to know Jack and Emily.  Nearing 80, they were every bit as spry as most 30-year-olds.  Active their whole lives, they still plan, tend, and run the country’s largest annual gardens (or so brags their sign).  Through the woods, up and down rickety stairs, over rows of beans and tomatoes Jack plants each year—these people’s bodies could navigate everything!  On the drive home, I decided I wanted to grow old like Jack and Emily.  The very next morning I woke up, put on the most athletic clothes I had, and hit the streets.  One problem.  These were my shoes:

Thing I learned once: running shoes should have a back

Cute?  I thought so at the time.  Conducive to running? Absolutely not.  I was still in sight of my house when the top of my foot started hurting.  Within a half mile, I noticed blood pooling at the top of my socks.  Not to be deterred, I shook it off and continued.  I had gone nary a mile when I realized I had been overzealous.  I could barely breathe.  It felt like someone was jabbing a broomstick into my side.  My socks were now crimson.  The humid August air was getting to my head.  I needed to go home.

I limped back through my neighborhood, stumbled down the hill to my house, mustered the strength to drag my body down our long driveway.  I opened the front door and collapsed on the stairs in a bleeding, hyperventilating pile of shame.  And then I threw up.

Back to our living room.

Usually these two stories (together with the scars on my feet that remain five years later) are enough to convince him that it is best for our marriage that I remain sedentary.  But lately, the urgings to turn me into the next Anna Pierce* have been incredibly strong.  In the middle of what he might as well declare a “household fiscal emergency” (a.k.a. paying our income taxes) he encouraged me to go shopping for a pair of proper running shoes to replace my sporty-looking clogs.  So tonight I took him up on the offer, returning with two dresses, a pair of shorts and—oh yeah—these.

For $40 at Kohls, a shoe with a proper back.

Because the hobby is so important to him, I’ve decided that I should give it a fair shot.  He doesn’t complain when my hobby leaves piles of greasy dishes stacked in our kitchen.  He just grabs some soap and, sometimes, asks for a back rub while he stands at the sink.  I might end up with Anna Pierce’s legs, or just a few good stories.  But for him, I’ll go the extra mile.

*American Olympian and middle-distance runner who married another Olympic track & field hopeful and will probably have outrageously fast babies.

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why i can’t spend less than $100 on groceries

I consider myself a frugal person.  My husband and I don’t have cable or cell phones.  We rarely eat out.  We buy clothes when we need them, but never head to the mall without a particular purpose.  We get our books from the library and borrow rarely-used items from friends.  But one area of our budget I cannot seem to master: grocery shopping.

I’ve decided my problem is two-pronged: I love food, and I love to celebrate.  I use the term “celebrate” lightly.  I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with Irish farmhouse cheddar and homemade soda bread.  I celebrated the first crisp week in October with assorted gourds, a gallon of apple cider, and all the ingredients for a bubbling apple crisp.  After running to the store on a frigid February night, I celebrated my cozy home with a carton of chai tea and a batch of oatmeal cookies.  When tulips reappeared in the floral department, I picked up a bouquet to celebrate the first sign of spring.

Tonight, my celebration was centered around the gorgeous sunny day we enjoyed here in central Ohio.  The first brave buds started peeking from our tree branches on Monday, and this morning they were boldly showing off their yellow-green sprigs for all to see.  Feeling equally daring, I wore a skirt without tights underneath for the first time in 2011.  So when I arrived at Kroger and noticed that blackberries were on sale, I decided I must celebrate with my favorite warm-weather drink: a blackberry mojito.  Into the cart went the blackberries, mint, and limes.  Grand total for my warm-weather jubilee: $6.38.

Then comes the problem of my love for food.  GOOD food.  I would rather not have any turkey than eat the slimy pre-packaged kind you get in the meat aisle.  Total cost of turkey snobbery: $3.99 for .44 lb.  Yes, I could buy pre-packaged, pre-flavored rice packets for less than a dollar each.  But who wants Riceroni when you could be eating creamy, savory risotto?  So into the cart goes $8 worth of rice, chicken broth, veggies and Parmesan cheese.  Granted, these ingredients will go much further than a single meal.  But they’re still twice the price per serving.

It’s not that I’m totally oblivious to cost.  I am a zealous supporter of store-brand products (with the exception of Kraft Mac & Cheese and Dannon yogurt) and I try to plan my menus around the weekly ads.  Unfortunately, Doritos and Pepsi go on sale far more often than fresh spinach or sun-dried tomatoes.

I rationalize my shopping habits to myself in several ways.  I justify that it’s better for our health that I shop from the perimeter of the store.  I remind myself that we rarely eat out, so enjoying good food at home (for a fraction of the price) is totally worth it.  I recall the fact that I work 40 hours a week, and simply do not have the time nor the energy to comparison shop at four different stores before making a purchase, or spend all my weekends scouring the internet for coupons.  But my heart still pounds a bit in the checkout line when I see the total nearing $80 and realize he hasn’t even scanned the wine.

Driving home with my $100.74 grocery bill, I felt defeated again.  Yes, the bulk toilet paper pushed the total up another $7.67.  Yes, I could have saved $1.99 by getting canned pineapple instead of fresh.  But as I sit in our dining room, refreshed by the cool breeze of an open window and sip my first blackberry smoothie of the season, I have decided it was worth every penny.  We may drive old cars, sit on hand-me-down furniture, wear the same three slacks to work every week, and wait until December to see every summer blockbuster.  But we have traveled the world on the tips of our tongues, savored the change of seasons with every swallow.  The mundane task of sustaining our bodies has been transformed into a series of flavorful memories—the orange chocolate mouse we licked out of the wine glasses, the hearty broccoli soup that warmed us during the ice storm.

Now if I could only have a similar revelation about this sink full of dishes.

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i’m still here

When my husband discovered I had started a blog, he looked me in the eye and said firmly, “Promise me this won’t take over your life.”

Oh, how little he needed to worry.

If you’ll notice the date of my last post, you’ll see it has been well over a month since I last ventured an entry.  If this were a paper journal, my usual practice would be to rip out the preceding pages and start over, with a freshly-forged commitment to write consistently.  (For this reason, all of my childhood diaries have a measly 5-10 entries… and a chunk of missing pages.)  But the idea of coming up with a new blog name stressed me out, so it looks like chelseycomelately will stay put.  Even if it’s more aptly called “chelseycomerarely.”

The blog may have been boring for the last month, but my life hasn’t been.  At the beginning of March, Jason and I visited friend in Dallas, Texas (which proved the perfect getaway from this sun-deprived northerner).  Quite possibly the highlight: visiting the AT&T headquarters and spitting on the sidewalks.  It was a threat we muttered under our breaths during our 2 month battle to get internet (which we lost), but neither of us thought we could ever follow through.  I would advise everyone try this with a company that has wronged them.  It’s incredibly cathartic.

Justice at last. Dallas, TX - 3/13/2011

Back at home, we celebrated Jason’s birthday with a cake from Elé (the only cake you have any business eating if you live in Dayton) and a weekend visit from some college friends.  It felt like we were still back at our campus coffee shop, with the same repartee we enjoyed for four years as students.  We did discover, however, that our grown-up bodies cannot handle staying up until 2 a.m.

yellow cake + lemon filling + buttercream icing = YUM

Then, it was a weekend in Indiana to celebrate Jason’s birthday with family and see his sister’s performance of Fiddler on the Roof (she was the Fiddler, and did a wonderful job!)  Finally, we planned a weekend to do NOTHING, which may have been the best weekend of all.

Anyway.  I have no particularly deep thoughts for this post, but wanted to assure you (all three of you) that I’m still here (though not in a creepy way like Joaquin Phoenix.)  Also, look under the “recipes” tab for some new favorites, including homemade soft pretzels that will make you feel like challenging Aunt Anne to a bake-off.

Finally, thanks to my friend K for some blog-spiration, and for her passion about the Vinturi Wine Aerator.  If she ever gives up her day job, she could totally sell those things door-to-door.  Check her out here!

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the daily dish: pier 1 “maribeth”

Yesterday I was writing a story about a Pier 1 candle recall, and went to their website to find more information.  Uh oh.  I’m usually a Crate and Barrel girl, but the bright spring colors were a bit intoxicating.  While “researching,” I checked out the dining section, and spotted these side plates for only $5!  (I don’t have any yellow plates yet….) And, unlike Crate and Barrel, there are not one, but two Pier 1’s within driving distance.  How dangerous convenient.

Surfing the site also made me want to do some sewing.  I’m thinking our house needs some vibrant pillows like these… just not for $25 each.

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life lessons from producing

It’s been a really tough week at work.  I think I jinxed it when I saw the forecast and thought, “No snow!  Bet it will be an easy week!”  Apparently the Ikea coffee table I then knocked on was not real wood.

We were short-staffed nearly every day this week, due to illness and other unavoidable problems.  We were also plagued by technical difficulties, such as broken live trucks and crashing computers.  And then came the array of communication problems, which sometimes happen when 25-30 people try to pull off a massive group project in eight hours or less.

The culmination came last night, when the computer system that enables what I’ve written to actually be broadcast on television (a system called “Parkervision,” for you newsies)  crashed three minutes before we went live.  Usually you’re able to reboot and go on about your life, but this crash was different.  Then I learned that our breaking news live shot—involving a missing mom found dead in her own mother’s basement, and the manhunt for her mother’s boyfriend and a missing elderly couple (that is, pretty big stuff for Dayton)—was not going to make it in time.  Lets just say, I was ready for a big glass of wine by the time I got home.

As I mused about the horrible week later that night, I realized I’ve learned a lot about life from the control room:

1.  The best-laid plans can be wiped out in a moment. During my first year of producing, I was in charge of a 7 a.m. morning show on the station’s digital channel.  I left the newsroom at 6:50, and all was fine.  Then I went upstairs to the control room and discovered my show, which I’d been working on for the last 7 hours, was completely blank.  Turns out one of the producers accidentally hit “select all” in my rundown and then brushed a finger against the “delete” key.  A total accident.  But a bit unnerving when you go live in eight minutes. I think we re-racked the 6 a.m. show.  Regardless, we put something on the air.

2. Panicking helps no one. There are three phones in the control room, and when something goes wrong they all ring at once.  I frequently have a phone on each ear as I try to navigate my computer with one hand, while simultaneously remembering to tell my director about whatever I need to change.  It was REALLY overwhelming when I first started, and sometimes I would literally be unable to move or talk, because I simply didn’t know what I should do first.  A very kind director, Stuart, taught me that I just need to start making decisions, even if I realize later that I could have made a better one.  Even when a show is unraveling before my eyes, I’ve learned that a calm voice and steady instructions are more helpful than a string of profanities and a slamming phone.

3. What’s done is done. You can’t go back and re-do a newscast, no matter how badly you want to.  Whatever mistakes aired that night can’t be erased from viewer’s minds.  There’s an extreme pressure for excellence, which I appreciate and strive for.  But when occasionally you miss the mark, you can’t let it kill you.  Early in my career I was plagued with regret when I got home after a bad show.  Now, I realize you can only learn from your mistakes, and resolve to do better next time.

4. Count on the people around you. During a particularly scorching day one August, one of our anchors showed up for work not feeling that great.  She’d been working outside on a story most of the day, and the heat had really affected her.  A trooper, she drank a lot of water and kept right on working.  Until our first commercial break.  That’s when I looked up from my computer and saw her empty chair, and the panic-stricken face of her co-anchor; she had fainted on the set.  Keep in mind, the commercial break is only two minutes long… and it was obvious that neither anchor would be ready to go by then.  As we called 911, my weatherman did a VERY extended forecast (like, 6 minutes) until the EMTs arrived and we went to a commercial.  Then our nightside reporter jumped in front of the newsroom camera and did the rest of the show, without scripts.  For the record, our anchor recovered just fine.  I also learned how you must lean on others in a crisis.

5.  You can always improve. Once or twice a year we meet with a consultant, who watches our newscast and dozens of others, and gives suggestions for improvement.  A lot of news people hate consultants, but I LOVE them.  It makes me feel like I’m back in Dr. King’s news production classes.  This year, our new consultant provided some great (though sometimes harsh) feedback, and some very attainable ideas for enhancing our newscasts.  I’ve felt re-energized all week about the new ways I can communicate to my viewers, and the encouragement to simple be better

Despite the lessons, I’ll admit I am VERY excited to not work for the next 48 hours.  Has your job taught you any life lessons? What are they?

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