On account of the two weeks since I last wrote a post, I'm going to do a catch-up roundup. Here we go:
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In mid-July I wrote about sending my oldest off to World Youth Day. He spent twelve days there, and returned safely.
I didn't make it a secret that I wished I could have gone along (even if I didn't have small children to care for, the chaperone spots filled up rather quickly). "Text me and send me pics," I asked, "not because I'm trying to be a super helicoptery parent, but because I want to see the things." And... he did! I didn't expect him to send me so much, but he sent me pictures every day that he had access to wifi.
He told me about the deafening, constantly circling military helicopters, the grapefruit-flavored Oshee brand soda (so ubiquitous he was sure that Oshee was sponsoring the event), the crush of the crowd waiting for the Popemobile to pass by, the poutine he bought from a stand. He told me about the huge arena for English-speaking pilgrims, and how a few rogue groups of young people impulsively ran in circles around the arena with their big national flags, an unauthorized parade of nations, to pass the time while waiting for the start of catechesis. He told me that Filipino Cardinal Tagle gave a great talk and that NY Cardinal Dolan gave him a pat on the back while he was venerating the relics at the stadium. He told me about the food in the pilgrim package ("This stuff had the same dimensions and texture as bird food blocks. Tasted awful") and how a couple people in his group got heatstroke. He told me about how their group hashtag became #InDmitriWeTrust, Dmitri being their local escort employed by the tour service they had contracted with. He told me that when they got tired of singing hymns they walked along singing "Hotel California."
And he told me about the ambient noise of a million people sleeping in the field, of his surprise to find that the daily routine never got repetitive but was different every day, about how the park was sometimes loud and sometimes peaceful, about how the exuberant atmosphere almost changed instantly when Mass began.
I don't know if I've been able to express to him how appreciative I was and am that he took me along, so to speak. I was moved.
He asked to go out to a barbecue restaurant for his sixteenth birthday, just a few days after coming back, and we gladly obliged.
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I went to Chicago for a couple of days, the day after my son got back from Poland.
The occasion: my youngest child, at 2.5 years old, is now night weaned and sleeping all the way through the night. And I am not pregnant. So I took the opportunity to spend two nights in a row away from my entire family... for the first time in sixteen years.
I'm a little sheepish even writing that. Doesn't it seem like I should have managed to get away once in all that time? But, you know, we set up our family to work a certain way, and I haven't needed to for any reason, and there's nearly always been a nursling around. I've been away from home, yeah, but I've generally had a baby to tote with me.
So when I realized this was possible, a few months ago, I texted my good friend from high school, the one I used to hang out at the mall with when we were twelve, and asked what she thought of a Chicago getaway (Chicago is close to midway between where I live and where she lives), and -- bless her, may she live long and prosper -- she did not say "maybe" or "I'll check and see what's on my calendar" but immediately said YES and figured she would work out the details later, which she did. She reserved a hotel room, I bought a plane ticket, and off we went!
I know. It is not that big of a deal to buy a plane ticket and spend two days away from home. But it felt like a big deal.
Here's the thing. I could have done stuff like this at times over the past sixteen years if I had made it a priority. Generally I'm pretty good at giving myself the things I need, rather than letting the needs of the family always take precedence over mind. And the things I need, on a daily basis, to keep myself fed, are a steady diet of little things, which I've made space for by insisting on a few hours to myself every Saturday. Breakfast out by myself, a quiet coffee shop in which to knock out a few items on my to-do list in peace, time to shop for my own clothes or get my hair cut, a visit to a local museum, Mass on my own, a run around the lake. All that keeps me satisfied enough that I haven't felt the need to ask more of my family.
So it suddenly got to the point where it wasn't really asking too much to be gone for two whole days, and I took it.
It wasn't a complicated itinerary. We stayed at the Drake and had access to the executive lounge for the free fancy breakfast (thank you, friend's husband's Hilton points) with a view of the lake. We went out for nachos and margaritas close to our hotel the first night. The next day we walked up and down Michigan Avenue (she bought candy for her daughter; I bought a hat for myself) and spent 3 hours in the Art Institute.
Then we got gratuitously dressed up, and had dinner and drinks in the historic hotel restaurant. And the next morning she dropped me off at the airport, where I killed time happily browsing through bookstores and finding a tasty box lunch to take on the plane (sixteen years of only traveling with kids can make solo airport time not suck at all), and I flew back home and took the train back to our 'hood.
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I think my hip pain is getting better. After a frustrating few days of attempting to exercise carefully, and then hobbling around with pain for hours afterward, I settled on the following regimen:
- Assume, arguendo, that I have bursitis.
- Take sodium naproxen faithfully every twelve hours to reduce inflammation.
- Stop running. Switch to swimming and the occasional walk of no more than a couple of miles. Get full rest days after exercise.
- Stretch the IT band whenever I think about it.
- If it's not better in two months, go see the sports med doctor.
I'm kind of bummed that I'm missing the best time of the year to go running outside (well, if you're like me and don't get bitten by mosquitoes much, and like to get up early), but I'm already seeing some improvement. So maybe I self-diagnosed correctly after all. One piece of evidence: Taking the naproxen makes the pain go completely away for at least eight hours, which makes me think that all the pain is coming from inflammation and that I haven't actually torn or sprained anything.
A nice thing about IT band stretches, relative to other kinds of therapeutic stretches, is that they are very easy to work into your daily life. There are standing IT stretches, sitting IT stretches (I'm doing one now while I type!), and lying-down IT stretches that you can do in bed. So wherever you are, if you think of doing one, you can do one without interrupting your activity much. You don't need to take off a shoe or go find a towel or a yoga block or clear a space on the floor.
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That takes care of three old things. Now here's one new thing. I've recently discovered the webcomic (graphic serial?) Stand Still, Stay Silent by Minna Sundberg, a Swedish-Finnish artist who writes in English and paints in digital.
I encountered SSSS by accident via a link to a piece of her art, a language tree from the comic, reproduced below (link to full size at her site):
I'm a sucker for linguistics, and this really drew me into the SSSS world. Post-apocalyptic literature is fun enough on its own, of course, but this comic is especially fun if you are interested in languages, because linguistic and cultural differences between the characters drives a fair amount of the plot.
I would classify this as a near-future post-apocalyptic novel of the Zombie Plague type, although it isn't exactly zombies. The general background is that a worldwide plague has shrunk the size of the "known world" of the comic to Iceland and scattered parts of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland. (That's why the language family page only includes two families). Fantastic elements (e.g., some characters are mages) draw heavily on Nordic and Finnic mythology and traditional culture.
The world is well built and intricate. The art is beautiful: spare in its color scheme, eerie, and (though digital) resembles brushed watercolor. People and animals have wonderfully expressive faces. There's plenty of action scenes with monsters to chop up and buildings going boom, but the real drama is psychological and interpersonal so far. Another fun aspect of the website: the well-populated fan forums and comment sections, which include people from all over the world, sometimes offering fanfic and fan poetry, and helpfully translating text that appears in the background art for the benefit of non-Nordic, non-Finns.
Catching up on the nearly six hundred pages already posted was a weekend's leisure reading, and now I have to settle down and resign myself to reading updates just one day at a time.
Cats are extremely important, so if you are particularly fond of kitties, there are many drawings of them to enjoy.
To start reading SSSS from the beginning, go here.