you recycle. now what?

you recycle. now what?

you’re a good steward of the earth: you recycle what you can and send it on its way when the truck comes round to pick it up. but then what happens?

well, first, let’s look at what the recycling center actually takes versus what is marked as recyclable content, and what those numbers actually mean.

aluminum, glass, tin, and paper all get recycled as is. there’s nothing weird about them, unless there is plastic involved (like your to-go paper cups for hot beverages; they are no recyclable).

as for plastic, let’s have a look.

1: polyethylene terephthalate. this is your common drink bottles and food packaging. this is generally recycled into bottles and poly fibers. this is the easiest to recycle!

2: high density polyethylene. this is the heavier duty bottles, like laundry soap bottles, shampoo bottles, etc. this is also easily recycled.

3: polyvinyl chloride, also known as PVC. this is what toys, piping, furniture, etc. is all made of. it’s hard to recycle and turnes out PVC is a huge environmental and health threat! 33 million tons is produced every year and it keeps going up. it’s made from oil and chlorine, both of which aren’t necessarily green, and PVC is not easily recyclable because heavy metals are added to it, like lead and cadmium. less than 1% of PVC is recycled, and the dang things aren’t biodegradable at all. plus, when you want some flexibility, phthalates are added to it, which may cause cancer and kidney, and reproductive damage. (think about how many plastic toys go into your kids’ mouths.) ps: this really shouldn’t even have a recycle triangle on it. just a skull and crossbones with a 3 next to it.

(i think i’ll propose this to the EPA.)

4: low-density polyethylene. this is your sandwich bags, grocery bags that float in the wind and catch on trees, plastic wrapping. these can generally be recycled into more of the same.

5: polypropylene. this is your clothes. yep, your tri-blend tshirts or your poly running shorts are just plastic. also, some bottles, tubs, and the plasticky ropes. these can be recycled into fibers.

6: polystyrene. styrofoam! this is difficult to recycle because it’s lightweight so not a lot to reclaim (the transport of styrofoam to recycle it would probably cause more pollution). it can be reused, though!

your recycling company probably very easily takes 1 & 2 plastics to recycle. there are several 4 places to recycle that are generally in places of business (when i lived in st. charles, they took plastic bags in the single-sort curbside bin). everything else on the plastic side? a pain in the butt.

farewell, recycle bin! off to never-never land where i don’t have to think about you again!

but wait! let’s see what happens.

according to the minnesota pollution agency, here’s what happens to your recyclables:

  • paper and cardboard: half of the paper recycled in MN goes to st. paul, where it’s made into liner board. liberty paper in becker recycles cardboard boxes into new paper. and a duluth company uses recycled paper fiber to make new educational books and business documents. how wholesome! make sure to recycle your paper! (but also make sure that there is no cross-contamination from your bottle of oil you just threw in the bin. wash your oil bottle so it doesn’t get your comingled items a mess!)
  • plastic bottles (1 & 2): they get chipped, shredded, and cleand and then sent to a manufacturer. (hmm….. more to this, methinks.) so your #1 plastic gets sent to rogers where it’s made into food and consumer packaging. your #2 bottles get made into composite decking, lawn and garden furniture, and plastic lumber (all #3 plastic, i do believe). so, something that has stuck with me since my hippie environmental class during a J-term at st. ben’s was that plastic is not a pure recyclable. it always has to get made into something a little worse, unlike aluminum cans or glass bottles, which can be recycled over and over into aluminum cans or glass bottles. and remember, #4 plastic – PVC – is awful and can never break down. it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces that fish and birds and even humans eat and can’t digest.
  • cars, cans, appliances: aluminum is smelted and turned into ingots for a bunch of stuf like new cans, cars, and signs. aluminum is a very nice recyclable, and it’s lightweight. i’m not sure why more companies don’t use aluminum packaging.
  • glass: guess what! more glass. over the past 20 years, i’ve noticed more and more food manufacturers moving to plastic over glass (mayonnaise jars, peanut butter jars, etc.). glass is heavy, so i get that they want to save money on transport, but is it worth the tradeoff? maybe we need to move to the old model of returning your pop bottles to the grocery store to get a deposit back.

(i have fond memories of glass bottle returns at the red owl in austin!)

a few months ago china said “hey, we’re done taking your recyclables.” which got me wondering – are we REALLY recycling our stuff? or are we sending our garbage to china, where it sits in another landfill?

well, actually, china said “hey no thanks; we don’t want your dirty recyclables” because they were all contaminated. there’s a documentary about it that i want to watch called “plastic china.” people pick through huge amounts of waste coming from us and europe, shredding and melting plastic they can find and then burning the rest into the open air. ugh. it’s on amazon prime, so i’m planning on watching that VERY soon.

plastic recyclable prices have plummeted. it’s not even worth recycling. and they can’t even give away paper recyclables. what’s going on? can’t we take that paper and cardboard and create better packaging for mailers, instead of those awful plastic bubble wrap things that have to go in the trash? so now, countries have these recyclables piling up because china isn’t taking them – but was it even worth it then? if they were just burning it anyway?

what’s a person to do? of all the plastic produced, only 9% has been recycled. about this time, we’re sitting about about 20% recycled each year (for this point in time). this is not good news. because plastic is made from oil, which is a finite product. (and if you really are concerned about gas prices and oil prices, maybe you should be taking a good hard look at HOW MUCH plastic is sitting on the shelves at your local grocery store. It’s mind boggling. and the food giants seem to keep converting more and more packaging to … plastic.)

and the recycling itself isn’t necessarily environmentally friendly, when it DOES happen. it needs to be shipped, it needs to be sorted, it needs to be washed, it needs to be chopped up, it needs to be melted, and then it needs to be manufactured into something else. that process isn’t carbon-free these days.

BUT, that all needs to happen with glass and aluminum/metal, too, doesn’t it? you bet. extracting the raw material for aluminum is not very kind to the earth. glass is pretty easy to make but has a heavier footprint for transport (and they break). but think about it though: glass, aluminum, and metal are all 100% recyclable back into their original forms. plastic is not; it’s the most difficult to recycle AND it’s the least recycled product.

let me insert here that i KNOW plastic has a place, especially in health care [even though we somehow lived without it for a while] and i KNOW that we won’t get rid of it overnight. but let’s try to figure this out – no one wants to live in a dump. no one can say they think landfills full of garbage and animals eating plastic and plastic floating around in the ocean and people picking through our waste in a burning dump are good things.

so what can be done?

  1. contact big offenders: food companies are huge single-use plastic offenders. i signed this petition. you should too. or find a different petition to sign. i’m also going to work on contacting the big ones (coke, pepsi, nestle, etc.) directly, too.
  2. buy food items that don’t come in plastic. i’m awful at this because it’s incredibly difficult. buy in bulk using your own containers or visit a farmers market and refuse the bag. even if you go to the food co-op, if you don’t buy in bulk, chances are the item is going to come in plastic. but, sometimes there are choices on the shelf. if you see a glass or tin or aluminum option, buy that instead. and then clean it and RECYCLE IT!
  3. push amazon to continue to use cardboard and paper packaging vs. plastic. we get a lot of items in the good ol’ cardboard amazon box, but sometimes the packaging inside is plastic bubble wrap. contact them and tell them you want them to use paper-only packing.
  4. maybe it’s time to check your convenience. i like convenience. you like convenience. the less work people have to do, the happier we are. i get it. but maybe we don’t need to have a stockpile of styrofoam plates in the cupboard because you don’t want to do dishes. just a thought.
  5. invest in reusables. instead of taking the plastic set of silverware, keep a set with you to reuse. try out some silicon bag-like containers. get some beeswax compostable wrap instead of plastic wrap. there are options.
  6. remember your reusable bags that you keep leaving in the backseat when you go to the grocery store!!!!


PVC plastic’s environmental impact

Beverage Container Showdown: Plastic vs. Glass vs. Aluminum

Recycling plastics – what the numbers mean + cheat sheet


two topics for today

two topics for today

i have two topics to touch on today! (alliteration for the win.)

first topic: environmental junk

one of my goals for the year was to be a little more conscientious when it came to the environment, and i’m hoping i’ve already sort of started down the path. i still buy a lot of plastic, but i do recycle it. (on a related note, one of the things i want to research in the very near future is what exactly happens with our recycling?) but, the first two items in the three Rs are reduce and reuse, so i think it’s time to do that. i am going to try to buy more bulk items, items in better-recyclable or reusable packaging (aka NOT plastic), or buy from companies that are more eco-conscious.

today i ordered some dishwasher pods from dropps (don’t worry – both environmentally and septic safe!). the pod itself is made from polyvinyl alcohol which film dissolves in the washer and enters the water stream as micro-organisms (including bacteria, yeasts, and fungi) that commonly exist in water treatment plants are capable of breaking down polyvinyl alcohol to water and carbon dioxide. they’ve got quite a mission. so i’m hoping they work well – a 4 months’ supply was $17.

as i was thinking about what else i could do, i realized there are some things that i just. won’t. compromise. like my running gear. i’m always going to through a couple pairs of shoes a year and they will always be asics. i will buy headbands and wear shorts that are comfortable (though two of my pair are from tasc, which is bamboo fabric); i will buy single-use energy gel packs that are pretty wasteful; my socks and underwear will always be some sort of poly blend.*

which brings me to point two! i start half marathon training in a couple weeks, and the plan i’m trying out this year really ramps up the mileage compared to my last four halfs. i know in the past i’ve sort of blogged about training and all that, but i’m wondering if my readers would like to see more in depth running posts – maybe even some video? i could be one of those annoying runner youtubers, but only on my blog, and, unlike the other vloggers, i won’t be racing at unattainable speeds and looking like a graceful gazelle on camera. instead, i’ll be plugging along at 5 mph and gallumping over the pavement like a super sweaty rhino on a mission. i could review the stuff i wear and use. maybe someone will pay me to wear their stuff HAHAHAHA.

here’s a link to the video. can confirm: look like a gallumping sweaty rhino. (liz looks like a graceful gazelle.)

*check out my awesome segue

a not-so-short summary of what happened in iran

a not-so-short summary of what happened in iran

today on “kate researches a topic and distills it into mass amounts of genX cynicism with slight millennial optimism”: what the heck happened with iran?

i feel like for 3 days the US who followed the news was on tenterhooks with iran and then whoosh, it just sort of fizzled out. so what the heck happened?

first, iran and US relations are not the greatest. in may 2018, DT pulled out of an international agreement for the iran nuclear deal (it was between the US, UK, france, china, russia, and germany and limited what iran could do with its nuclear program). the reason the program was going to be put in place was because the restrictions were really punishing ordinary people in iran (you know, the pleebs like you and me) and raising the cost of living immensely. after the US pulled out, more of the strict rules were put back in place and oil exports were affected.

but, a brief history of iranian rule will help. since 1979, when the islamic revolution took place, the country has been under theocratic rule – an islamic republic that governs according to the laws of islam. the supreme leader has control over everything pretty much, so no checks and balances. there is a president, too, who is elected, but he is the 2nd most important person. the supreme leader is leader for life, so the current SL has been in power for 30 years. 30 years!!! the current president, however, has only been in power since 2013, but he’s been working on a better economy and better worldwide relations. you might remember him beating mr. ahmadinejad (I’m a dinner jacket – remember that?) in 2013. i believe this was a part of the arab spring (don’t quote me on that).

so the new prez worked on the iranian nuclear deal in 2015, working with the above countries to create a better relationship with them (they thought iran was working on a nuclear weapon and were scared [really, they should be more scared of the US’s nuclear arsenal. good grief]). part of the previous sanctions imposed were specifically designed to damage its economy – stop selling oil and natural gas to certain countries – and this really damaged the economy, as the cost of food and fuel became super expensive for the pleebs. in 2015, the new prez agreed to the iranian deal that would lift the sanctions in exchange for iran cutting back on nuclear activities (can we all agree that perhaps some nuclear activities include NOT bombs? like nuclear energy? for what it’s worth, iran had said that its nuclear activities were peaceful. although who knows what they are doing.) it was hoped that iran’s economy would get better and the country, pleebs especially, would get back on its feet.

this deal is what the US (DT) pulled out of in 2018.

then, in 2019, four US oil tankers were damaged off the cost of the UAE, and we (well, probably DT) blamed iran but didn’t provide evidence. iran denied it. after that, a US surveillance drone was shot down by iran, who said it was in their airspace (that’s reasonable if its in their airspace). (at this point, DT tweeted BIG MISTAKE and said he was 10 mins away from an airstrike before pulling back. meanwhile, the US had been designing rules and restrictions to stop other nationals from buying iranian oil.

so there’s some background; if you want to know more about what happened in 1979, i’d suggest watching the movie “argo.”

now, some background on this suleimani dude. i’m gonna call him S because i don’t want to type his name every time.

S joined the iranian revolution guards in 1979 after the revolution and rose in the ranks pretty quickly.

  1. he fought against the opium trade from afghanistan to turkey/europe
  2. in 1999, he told the iran president to crush a student revolt otherwise the military would launch a coup
  3. he was set to start collaborating to destry the taliban, but hended after GW said iran was a part of an axis of evil
  4. he strengthened a relationship with hezbollah and sent operatives to they could retake southern lebanon
  5. he is described as the single most powerful operative in the middle easy and combats western influence to promote the expansion of siite and iran’s influence in the middle east.
  6. he coordinated attacks and other stuff during the syrian civil war – he was a strong supporter of bashar al-assad and thousands of the iranian military force were spread out across syria. al-assad said that S deserved most of the credit in repeling the rebels and recapturing cities and towns.
  7. conspired with russia for al-assad’s syria and tried to get russian military on board to reshape the war.
  8. worked to get rid of ISIL in iraq. (ISIL is probably the more accurate term for ISIS.) [i feel like this…might be good?]

some other items of note:

  1. he was on a list of iranians who were targeted with sanctions by the UN. he, along with bashar al-assad was sanctioned for providing material support to the syrian government.
  2. the US put him on a list that forbade US citizens form doing business with him.
  3. he was a popular national figure in iran – more for the conservative side of things i’d imagine. he was considered more popular than the president (but not as popular as the supreme leader)

not the best guy.

so, S was killed on jan. 3 by a US drone strike near the baghdad airport, ordered by DT. the reasons:

  1. he had been involved in the killing of americans
  2. there was an attack on the american embassy in baghdad
  3. there was an attack on a k-1 air base
  4. an iraqi-american contractor was killed by a rocket attack

at first, DT had wanted to strike the shia militia, but chose the most extreme (proposed) option instead. a little contradiction at this point, given that the above list was used as “justification” while DT said he was preventing imminent attacks on americans. DT told fox news that four embassies had been targeted for future attacks while secretary of state pompeo said there were no known attacks forthcoming, so WHO TO BELIEVE, WHO TO BELIEVE.

[also, this whole thing where DT was telling people at maralago about the strikes before they happened and NOT telling congress? and then telling the details at a private fundraiser?? how is that not a violation of state secrets? i’m sorry; that’s ineptitude at its greatest. what an iDioT.)

congress did NOT authorize the attack, and since the attack was done in iraqi airspace, there was also some controversy over not getting consent from iraq. hmmm.

so, what was the reaction?

  1. the US said this violated international human rights law
  2. some compared it to the killing of archduke franz ferdinand (kind of full circle there, wouldn’t you say?)
  3. WWIII started trending on twitter
  4. the risk of iran retaliating with war…well that was definitely a real possibility
    1. iran launched ballistic missiles at two us bases in iraq (with no casualties, but some servicemembers were concussed)
    2. the US embassy told americans it would be best to leave iraq ASAP
    3. DT said that any retaliation would result in US targeting 52 iranian sites, including cultural sites, WHICH is pretty much a war crime as defined at the geneva convention
    4. US civil aviation operators are prohibted from flying over airspace in iraq, iran, and the persian gul and gulf of oman
    5. iraq wanted US troops to get out, but the DT administration refused
  5. DT imposed new sanctions, targeting the metals industry, construction, manufacturing, textiles, and mining sectors. 17 sanctions against the largest copper, steel, and iron manufacturers were also put in place.
  6. …and then

and then, it seemed to fizzle out after the ukraine flight crash. this was an international passenger flight from tehran to kiev. not long after it took off from tehran, it was shot down and 176 people on board were killed.

an iranian military operation shot it down, and it was attributed to human error. after some hemming and hawing by iran, they finally admitted they shot it down after mistaking it for a US cruise missile.

after that, mass protests broke out in iran, calling for the supreme leader to be removed because of the deception about the shooting down of the airline. they called soleimani a murderer, and chanted death to the dictator. riot police are trying to rein them in, even as the protesters chant “they are lying that our enemy is america; our enemy is right here.” at funerals of iranians who were on the flight, people shout anti-government slogans. (this was just days after protesters were out rallying behind their islamic leaders after S’s death – such a flip! i am speculating that there were probably different types of people in each type of protest.)

ukraine, canada, and the UK, all countries that had citizens on the flight, are demanding transparency and justice for families. justin trudeau partly blamed the US for the shootdown of the plane.

so what’s happening now? iraq is doing its best to get US troops out of there because of its parliament’s relationship with iran and what happened with S. operations against ISIS would come to a standstill, and if the US withdraws, there would be more room to resurge. iran would expand more power into iraq. so the strike on S turned out to mean iraq supporting iran and kicking out the US. currently, the government is an islamic, democratic, federal parliamentary republic with executive, legislative, and judicial branches. if iran spreads out, it could easily turn into a theocracy.


you made it this far. this was a lot of info, and good job on reading it all.

i’m tired of leaders pulling us into wars and altercations and not seeing the humanity in all humans, whether brown, cream, dark cappuccino, or freckled pale ivory. i read a tweet shortly after the killing of S and it said something to the effect that the average citizen in the US has more in common with the average citizen in iran than either one of them have in common with their leaders.

the average pleeb in iran does the same things you and i do: we go to work, we have a home, we cook our meals, we drive or walk or take the train to the store, we have pets, we have families, we care about the people we see, we get hungry and thirsty, we celebrate, we have hangnails, we clean out the catbox, we worry about the weather, we cheer on sports teams, we brush our hair in the morning, and we struggle to sleep at night sometimes. i by far have more in common with average iranian or iraqi or argentinian or canadian or yugoslavian or norwegian or sudanese or aussie person than i do with donald trump or his crony cabinet members.

i think that’s important to keep in mind. we’re more alike than we are different. and i don’t know about you, but wars and battles and plans to kill people aren’t what i call an everyday thought on my part. when it comes down to it, i think people would rather lead a satisfactory life and be with friends and family than wage war with someone on the other side of the planet. i don’t know why that’s so difficult for leaders to grasp.




not the barbie we want

not the barbie we want

let’s chat about the australian bushfires because it seems to be underplayed a lot. the current fires are bigger than both the california fires of a couple years ago and the amazon fires of last year.

so bushfire season is a relatively regular event in australia, and since 1851, they’ve accounted for 800 people dying and millions of animals.  the current fires are in southeast australia, where bushfire season stretches from december to march. yes, we’ve just begun.

so far, the fires have burned about 24,000 square miles. 2500 buildings have been destroyed, 1300 homes, and 25 people have died (6 still missing). half a billion animals have been impacted so far.

how did this start? in early november, a catastrophic fire danger was declared (this level was just introduced in 2009 – this was the first time using it). a total fire ban was put in place for seven regions, including sydney. remember: it’s mid-summer down there, and new south wales is reaching temperatures upwards of 110º and HIGHER. the heat, combined with recent drought made the area one big piece of kindling for any sort of arsonists, despite the fire ban. (a few people have been charged with arson).

in addition to the fires causing havoc on the area they’re burning, pushing people out of homes, and causing species to possibly go extinct, the fires are also billowing 250 million tonnes of CO2 into the air (as of jan. 2). new zealand, 1000 miles away, is getting smoke effects. glaciers in new zealand got a brown tint due to the smoke. two of the world’s worst air pollution days were during these fires. usually, new forest regrowth would absorb any CO2, but this amount would take decades, and experts aren’t even sure if forests are able to fully regrow due to the drought that’s been going on.

the government has gotten some severe pushback – the PM was in hawaii while the fires were happening and some firefighters died, and new south wales cut funding on fire services. 100,000 residents have been evacuated, and tourists were told to get out – access and supply routes could be cut off by fire. people are taking shelter and evacuating to beaches in areas where it is too late to leave. in victoria, people are evacuating to navy ships to sail toward melbourne. electricity and communications are down in several small towns along the coast.

today it rained in a couple locations, so that’s good news, but temps are set to rise later in the week. there are also two huge fires that could meet and create some sort of megablaze.


this is the part where i talk about climate change. about how it means extreme weather (while we’re getting a polar vortex in november, australia’s seeing record heat and super-drought conditions). about how all this smoke in the air is not good for anyone. about how extinct species is not cool. (well, unless it’s a jumping spider that can kill you with a look, like they have in australia.)

but you know all this.

so here’s how you can help:

NSW Rural Fire Service

Queensland Fire Service

Red Cross Disaster

WIRES Wildlife Rescue

i donated to WIRES just now. $1 AUD is about 70¢ USD.


2020 not impressed so far!

2020 not impressed so far!

happy…?…. new year!

so far 2020 has not impressed.

  1. australia’s burning. excellent.
  2. a top iranian military leader was killed in a US airstrike. i haven’t done a ton of research, so i don’t know if it was intentional or accidental that this specific dude died, but DT may have inadvertently started WWIII. excellent.
  3. as a result, twitter’s atwit about the FAFSA and its selective service question and the military’s recruiting efforts (poor are usually targeted to become national guard members, etc to help pay for college).  excellent.
  4. north korea has announced it’s no longer under a nuclear weapons testing moratorium. excellent.
  5. i have had a cold for the extent of 2020. excellent.

some good things!

  1. oregon banned single-use plastic bags starting with the new year. excellent!
  2. i bought my HARRY POTTER WORLD tix for march last night. excellent!
  3. caribou brought back the cabin bar (butterscotchish) flavor. excellent!

i wanted to start off my blogging with some good news about how i went to the food co-op and brought my reusables to reduce the plastic in the world, but instead i bring you this list and the knowledge that i went to costco last night and bought a bunch of stuff in plastic. *smh*

2020: just keep on keepin on!

2020: just keep on keepin on!

new year, some new stuff to think about over the year? no resolutions – just a to-do list or a list of things to keep in mind.

  1. so first on my list for years and years is take more photos. maybe instead of that as a goal, the goal should be to do something with the pics i take. like last year, an unexpected thing that happened was taking some wedding pics, but i don’t want to do that every year, yeesh. hmm. might have to think about this one.
  2. sit on my new couch. i’m sitting on it now. it’s glorious. this one will be easy.
  3. continue yoga every day. of all the things that i did in 2019, i think yoga every day was the best thing. i’ve got arm muscles, i look forward to spending at least 10 minutes on the mat, and it’s a great way to slow down, if even for 10 minutes. i highly recommend fightmaster yoga. lucky for you, she does a 30-day program at the first of the year every year, and this one is hatha yoga. check it out.
  4. travel! this has gotten easier, whether due to just more expendable cash or me just saying “olé losers” and going. luckily, my boss is super good about pushing professional development, so there’s a trip to florida in march for work. it might also be a black hills year, and i do want to go up the north shore again. it might also be a bwca year with my aunt rae and uncle greg!
  5. running goals? hmmm. earth day half is already registered for. i have a feeling we’re going to do ragnar again. and liz and i are already planning a DESTINATION RACE. destination races intrigue me to no end, so i finally sat down and looked at what destinations i would want to race at (no ultras or mountains for me, thanks). we settled on big sur in monterrey california (well, i settled on that – liz seemed to agree). the 2020 race was sold out by the time we checked it out, but we’re going to watch for registration for the 2021 11-miler, which should open in october. also, a sub-11-minute-mile 5k would be nice to hit this summer.
  6. do something interesting with nate! i actually like this one because something interesting with nate could be just a quick trip to the cities or it could be an excursion to who knows where. any time i get him out of the house means an interesting time with nate hahaha
  7. help out the earth. or rather, help out us humans who are seemingly hell bent on destructing our time on earth. like i’ve said before, is it wrong to want a clean earth, even if it DOESN’T stop climate change? seriously. so my goal this year is to really, diligently try to reduce my plastic use. that includes plastic bottles that are recyclable (plastic is a degradable recyclable, meaning it recycles into a lesser form of plastic, unlike glass or aluminum). (unfortunately, nate buys tons of drinks in plastic bottles; i don’t know if i should even try to get him to reduce his usage.) if i fail at reducing plastic, i will also try to reduce the amount of new items i buy (try to fix or buy used).
  8. perhaps in conjunction with #7, i will add on “write more” in #8. one of the things that helped me really get on the devils syrup bandwagon was to do research on it. if i research stuff about plastic use and a bunch of other keep a clean earth stuff, it would probably push me to do something about it. and while the whole “blog every day” resolution is nice, it just never works out like that. so i think just write is a better thing.
  9. be happy! i felt good about 40, and life is doing ok. let’s continue that trend!
2019: the big 4-0

2019: the big 4-0

let’s go year in review! it’s always fun to go over what i wanted to do in the prior year, not only to see what i accomplished but also to see what i thought was important to accomplish (and what didn’t happen). so, 2019, how did we fare? let’s take a look at the good ol’ to-do list:

  1. well, what would a new year’s to-do list be without “take more photos” as number 1? i mean, it’s almost expected at this point. so, take more photos.
  2. visit the state parks i want to visit. after last year’s whirlwind visits, now i know which parks i want to go back to. i’ve got an itasca trip already planned. i’d like to head up to grand portage and actually spend time there. i also wouldn’t mind camping at blue mounds.
  3. is this the summer i perhaps run TWO half marathons? maybe! we’ll see what happens. i’m already signed up for the earth day half, and training starts in 3 weeks for that. seeing training on the horizon gives me hope that winter will come to an end.
  4. put in new floors in my house. i’ve got flooring for the entryway, which is my test subject. if that goes well, we’ll give the kitchen a go and see what happens from there. this also means i’ve got to paint my cabinets.
  5. i signed up for a yoga program through fightmaster yoga and i hope it makes me more diligent in my yoga-ing. i do yoga pretty often, but it would be great to make it a daily thing.
  6. speaking of a daily thing, remember when i blogged EVERY DAY for a year? i don’t know if i should try that again or if i should just think about it and dismiss it.
  7. do something interesting with nate – i like that on my list because it makes me think about something interesting to do with him. 2018 was a good year for doing stuff; let’s make 2019 a good year too!
  8. I GUESS I’M TURNING 40. i hope something happens for it.

this wasn’t a bad list! here’s what happened:

  1. i don’t think i took more pics. i DID take photos at two weddings and for a large family this year, though. i guess that’s something! i take wedding pics about once every 4 years, and every time i remember why i don’t do it that often! the wedding pics were two weekends in a row, too, which was pretty insane. well, it happened, i did it, and now it’ll be another 4 years til another wedding.
  2. i did visit a few state parks this year! we went to itasca in early june and it was really fun to spend some time there. jane and i went up the north shore over labor day and camped at jay cooke and judge cr magney; we also checked out grand portage and drove up to canada while we were at it. on the way back or to somewhere, guess what i did? i picked up another state park passport. so i’m not a less-intense mission to visit them all once again.
  3. i did NOT run two half marathons. and that’s ok!
  4. i also did NOT put new floors in the kitchen. and that’s ok!
  5. i DID do yoga almost EVERY DAY this year. i bet there were maybe 20-30 days of non-yoga-ing due to vacations and other weird things, but overall i did a TON of yoga this year. you know what has benefited from this? MY ARMS. my arm muscles are glorious.

    (please ignore the goo on the mirror)
  6. i did NOT blog every day. i had trouble doing kablpomo this year. i blogged twice – TWICE – in february. i don’t know if there’s just not enough interesting things I can think of that deserve a whole blog post or what, but i feel like it’s hard to sit down and put 400 words to posterity. i don’t know.
  7. did i do something interesting with nate? we went up to duluth over new year’s 2019. he took a week off over thanksgiving and we drove to the cities and did some staycation stuff. we went to whole foods together (first and probably last time for both of us). we went to the state fair. is that interesting enough?
    1. on a side note, i did some traveling this year! while it wasn’t with nate, i feel like it should still be noted because looking back, i should have put it on my list. i went to san antonio for a conference in march, and in october, i went to mexico!
      1. on a side-side note, i GOT MY PASSPORT. i haven’t ever had a passport, and the last time i’d been out of the country had been in 1997. this past year i went to both canada and mexico, and now i can go to more countries! woo!
  8. yep, turned 40. it happened!
top ten of the ’10s

top ten of the ’10s

before i dive into my year in review, i thought it would be interesting to do a DECADE in review. that’s right; we’re throwing caution to the wind and counting the 0 year as part of a new decade (sorry, dad).

so i thought about the best times i had in the 2010s. some days were really easy to count as a top ten day, but toward the end of my top ten, i was having trouble figuring out which deserved a spot and which didn’t. there are, of course, a lot of trips that i could have counted, but ultimately, the day had to be something really outstanding, and there was really only one trip i went on that was really outstanding. i also counted days/moments of clarity that, while pretty boring to an outsider, changed my life going forward.

and i’m still not sure on what my #10 of the ’10s is quite yet. i’m going to write up the rest and see where it lands when i get there.

  1. best black friday evah: i don’t have a blog post about this one because of the great blog migration failure of 2011, but BF 2010 was THE BEST black friday evah. i had scoped out a $500 fridge at sears and decided it was time to replace my top-freezer fridge. this was back in the old days (haha) of when black friday was actually on friday, so jane and i woke up at 3:30 a.m. to get to sears by 4 a.m., sat in the parking lot watching a movie on netflix until about 4:20, walked in, dodging the fanny-pack wearing, cruising old ladies, straight back to appliances, where i placed my order. we were out of there in 10 minutes and back in bed by 5 a.m. later that day, jane used an expired macy’s coupon (25% off!), and we won on scratch-off lottery tickets. i know there’s something else i’m missing about this day (i think jane had another expired coupon she used), but we STILL aspire for all black fridays to be like this one.
  2. Cali: everything about visiting california was AWESOME. it was WARM. sunny. the ocean. a couple days were standouts on this trip: the day jane and i went to HP world was just the coolest thing ever. you were IN hogwarts, just drinking butterbeer and trying on your house robes. of course, it’s all fun and games until you decide to go on a ride without your dramamine, but even the hour it took me to get over my motion sickness (while sitting in the three broomsticks) was still better than being at home. we also drove up the PCH to santa barbara (in our CONVERTIBLE) and ended that day at the santa monica pier, looking out across the pacific as the sun set. then the drive home, jane had a real-life video game moment when she realized she was driving the road from one of her racing games! the worst part of the day was that jane missed the turn to our hotel. but if that’s the worst part of the day, i’ll take it. #thankskim
  3. TED stalking: one day in 2013, jane and i decided to go to crypticon because ted raimi was going to be there. (my top three days all involve jane. liz, you gotta up your doing stuff with us game.) we knew it would be a little fun, but we didn’t realize it was going to be THAT fun. but first things first: that morning, we ran the big gay race in the cities, which was the start of the fun. after we got to crypticon, we found ted and had a picture taken with him, and he autographed my joxer picture. this was after we told him we sang the joxer song the night before in preparation (to which he looked a little scared and wondered if we were going to break into song right then). we went to a couple sessions, checked out the merch, watched a cosplay pageant, got a TWEETED REPLY FROM WIL WHEATON,
    tweettook a break and went to a halloween store at the moa, then came back to the bar where we got two glasses of free beer from the bartender. then we went to the halloween prom and watched as ted came in and danced with some chicas! then we decided to stalk him a lil bit (but not too much because we didn’t want to get kicked out). after the prom, we did a circuit of hotel room parties and drank way too much (well i did) and i ended the day barfing from all the drinking. excellent. also, jane knows that the doubletree is not physically by the hilton now.
  4. starting running: in 2011, i got on a scale and decided i was too close to 300 lbs for comfort. i also was uncomfortable in clothes, chairs, and other things. so i decided to start running. other than a brief stint in the summer of 1998, you wouldn’t find me running anywhere at any time. when they made you run the mile in high school, i was sure i could walk a mile faster than run it. but, one day in november of 2011, i made a conscious decision to just start doing it. i paid for a monthly fieldhouse membership at st. ben’s and printed out a couch to 5k schedule. and i stuck to it. the first  day i ran a whole mile nonstop? i felt so accomplished! one day i was scheduled to do a mostly run, little walk for 3 miles, but i decided to just run the whole 3 miles. somewhere along the way, i became someone who runs. i’m still not fast, but 8 years later, i still run regularly, and i run long. i’ve taken three or four breaks due to foot injuries, but other than that, i have run at LEAST once a week for 8 years. since then, i’ve run four half marathons, a bunch of 5ks and 10ks, 3-ish trail ragnars, and countless hours on my treadmill, pavement, trails, and in the woods. it’s never a wonderful experience. what’s wonderful is knowing i can do it and then doing it.
  5. first half marathon: in 2016, either liz or i (oh look! a liz moment!) decided to convince the other that a half marathon was a good idea. at this point, i’d been running regularly for 5 years, so why not? i trained, but not as much as i should have. the half marathon was ok, but at that point, anything more than 8 miles was just such a drag (i had lost some weight at this point, but i was still only about -50 at that point (-90 now – holy cow!)). so the end was really tough for me, but what the training and the half marathon did was tell me “hey, you can do this too! see if you can keep doing this.” since then, liz and i have done a half marathon every spring. my training has gotten tons better, and our time has gotten better each year too. i’m hoping for a sub-12 minute mile this spring.
  6. accepting the roch job: after working at merrill for 5 years during the recession, i was ready to do something that was a little more attuned to what i actually wanted to do (although working at merrill made me an extremely adept adobe-shortcut wizard). i found a relevant job in rochester and decided to apply for it. lo and behold, i actually got it and was ready to put in my two weeks’ notice. the day i put in my notice, i drove home in the gathering dusk (because i worked til stupid 10 p.m. but at least it was may) and felt so good about life in that moment. remember in jerry maguire when he’s in his pontiac trying to find a song to sing to and lands on “free fallin” and you can relate because we’ve all have similar moments? that was me, except it was nicki minaj’s “starships” and in a nissan altima.
  7. SC Tech interview day: my interview for my current job was the easiest interview of my life. i don’t know if it was because i finally felt like i knew what i was doing, or if it was because i knew i wanted that job because i wanted to get back to central mn so dang it, it was going to be great. but the thing that was good about this day, in addition to the interview, was that nate drove up with me and we stayed overnight in st. cloud. if he hadn’t come up that day with me to my interview, i don’t know if we would necessarily be back here. it was a very familiar, very grounded day for both of us, and i’m glad it worked out like it did.
  8. charlie’s alive: when charlie had his accident, they put him in a medically induced coma. we had no idea what he would be like afterward – they’d just taken out a racquetball-sized piece of brain and who knows if some of his motor skills or memories or brain functions would be lost. so when he came out of his coma, and he looked at aunt rae and looked confused, who then pointed and told him his mom was on his other side, and he turned to see her, then responded to questions by squeezing their hands, omg. aunt rae called us (liz, jane, and me – we were on our way to the hospital) and told us what happened, and we jumped up and down in a huddle in jane’s driveway. that was probably one of the best days of my life so far!
  9. corn syrup: in early 2010, i watched a doc that finally changed a life trajectory: king corn. it basically talked about the food industry and how corn is in a ton of our processed foods we eat, and then it dove into big ag subsidies and a how high fructose corn syrup is just, well, the devil. so i decided to try to not eat any corn syrup (not just hfcs) for a month. and i did it. and after a month, i realized that food made with real sugar was better tasting, and actually a little better for you than corn syrup (i did a lot of research while i was abstaining from corn-derived sugar). so, i continued to try to not eat corn syrup (or devil’s syrup as i like to refer to it now). since that 2010 experience, i’ve relaxed a wee bit (mostly in social situations), but the food industry has really turned around, too. items that i avoided in 2010 because of devil’s syrup now list sugar as the sweetener (and NOT corn sugar – that’s just a obfuscating term for DS). the organic/simple ingredients trend has really become more mainstream, and it’s easier to find food that’s fewer ingredients these days. i knew that my crusade had come full circle just in the past couple months when i went to buy ice cream (have to get the expensive stuff because DS is cheaper to make ice cream out of) and kemp’s – KEMP’S – had scrounds of “simply crafted” ice cream in the freezer made with sugar.
  10. where i get hung up: what is #10? there are a couple items i feel could fill out the top ten of the ’10s. it could be visiting all the mn state parks in 2018, but that was more than a moment. that was an ordeal (altho a very satisfying one!). it could be a couple of the trips nate and i took: when we did a southwest loop in 2018 or headed to utah in 2010 (my favorite part of that trip was the 2 overnights we spent in the black hills on the way back). memorable for sure, but outstanding? not sure. it could be wizardworld, but that was for sure not as fun as crypticon. it could also be getting up at the buttcrack of dawn to take photos of sunrise over the SE minnesota valley towns. it could be the day i submitted my passport paperwork: that’s a moment with future.

    but what i think i’m going to choose is something a little mundane. nate and i were living in st. joe and i had just gotten back from an evening run – so this is narrowed down to 2012 summertime. i came in the house, poured myself a glass of iced tea, and headed out onto the deck where nate was standing with the cats for their supervised outside time. i plopped down on the deck and stretched out, chatting with nate about what was going on as the sun set on the other side of the house, casting a pinky purply bluey haze in the east across the short backyard, pond, small field, and copse of trees – trees forever in central mn. i don’t know why i still remember that evening. maybe it was because of the timing of nate on the deck when i came back from a run. maybe because it was just before i started commuting to roch/austin. maybe because of the time of year (sprrummer is the bomb, y’all). or a culmination of all put into one memorable moment that i just won’t forget.

rudolph then and now

rudolph then and now

one of my favorite “get ready for christmas” memories when i was little was waiting for rudolph to show up TV. there is something missing in today’s streaming world where we’d have to watch and schedule our tv-show watching because if we didn’t, we’d miss it.

so when rudolph was scheduled to be on tv, we’d make sure we marked it on our calendar, because it was an event. instead of eating supper that evening, we’d get a sneak peak of christmas eve fare (which for the wallace fam is like snack central). my parents would cut some cheese up, put out some crackers, open a can of smoked oysters (i don’t know how canned meats became a symbol of fanciness for us, but it did), and *gasp* let us eat in the living room! my sibs and i would fill out plates and then sit on the floor in front of the tv to watch santa berate rudolph and anything out of the norm until it’s useful.

of course, we didn’t know that at the time. watching rudolph now is so cringeworthy. donner wants to cover up rudolph’s nose, a bunch of his peers call him names, and santa is pretty awful. and then there’s a whole island of misfits! what a bunch of bullies. you have to admire hermie though; the guy left the elf shop to pursue his dream of being a dentist even though his fellow elves wanted to force elfdom on him.

sorry to ruin rudolph for you. but come on. the end would have you believe that all is well, but i doubt that. i’m glad i wasn’t this cynical when i was eating smoked oysters on the living room floor.

chasing christmas

chasing christmas

“I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.”

there is nothing that resonates at christmas quite as much as charlie brown when you’re an adult. even though he’s in the body of a child, his thoughts and attitude toward christmas are very much an adult ones. everything about a charlie brown christmas digs deep into your chest and sits there for a while. meanwhile, the music is fleeting; by the time you realize what vince guaraldi’s piano means, it’s too late to know that it’s meant for you. and no matter how much you try, no matter what you do, nothing – nothing – can make christmas quite what it was when you were a child.

most of the time, in my case anyway, i feel like i’m going through the motions: put up a tree, make cookies, watch the movies. and while i enjoy all those things, it’s still missing. the anticipation, the excitement, the hope, the “first time” ness of the christmas experience.

some of it may be that the season starts in october and stops abruptly the day after christmas. the calendar location of christmas is such that the celebration should start almost directly after our axial tilt starts to glean a little more light at the ends of our days, but instead, we are celebrating encroaching darkness. (i understand that this is hardly noticeable to the average person. but solstice-time celebrations are all about bringing the light back.) by the time christmas actually gets here, we are so christmassed out that we don’t feel like christmas is actually happening.

and i would bet most people suffer from the “i don’t feel the way i’m supposed to feel” that charlie brown feels.

there’s a great webcomic by the oatmeal about how to be perfectly unhappy. it posits that it’s ok to not be happy all the time. that happiness is a constant state that means you’ve gotten to the point of accomplishment. thinking about it, the majority of my time is not spent in a perpetual state of happiness. it’s more likely that most people exist in a state of okay-ness. maybe being an adult is realizing that a lot of the time we don’t feel the way we’re supposed to feel.

“christmastime is here. happiness and cheer. fun for all that children call their favorite time of year.” that this line in the song is set to one of the most melancholy tunes does not surprise me.

so perhaps it’s best to think in terms not of how we’re supposed to feel. maybe we should think in terms of how we do feel and go with it.  for a moment or two in october i remember that christmas is coming and i get excited. when i see rows of christmas decor for sale in october, i get irritated. i know the day i put up my christmas tree is going to be a lot of work but i like looking at the tree, so i’ve resigned myself to the work. if you think of christmas as a constant happy time, most of the time i don’t feel how i’m supposed to feel.

but then i see christmas lights on a lone tree in the distance. step outside on a cold night when snow is falling and hear a total, encompassing silence with the whiteness of the snow reflecting to light up the darkness. unwrap my favorite ornaments to hang on the tree. open the door to a pile of packages that just came in the mail. pull out the time-life records to play on christmas eve. watch “it’s a wonderful life”. take silly pics with the fam just to irritate my dad. listen to “o holy night” and its crystal clear high note.

it’s then i feel a little bit of christmas excitement that i feel was ever-present when younger. and it’s ok that it’s not ever-present now. it’s ok to be just ok. i think charlie brown represents what’s best about being an adult at christmastime: you might not feel how you’re supposed to feel, but, even though you may not meet expectations of those around you, you still chase moments of christmas. and if you’re lucky? you catch them.