Treading water

The results are in, and the Modern Love Machine didn’t just tear an ACL. He tore the ACL and both meniscuses (meniscii?) in his right knee, which means four weeks of physical therapy, surgery and crutches ’til sometime in June. Go big or go home, I told him. He alternates between declaring his knee is improving and breaking down in serious pain, so it’s going to be a frustrating two months, I have a feeling. I love him, and it’s hard to see him hurting, but I realize the best I can is try to make everything else a little easier on him.

Our social calendar continues to be full, which is a blessing and a curse. I will never complain about having more social opportunities than I have free time, but I am struggling to fully enjoy everything. Between working hard during the day and playing hard at night, my energy is totally sapped. I’ve done nothing tonight outside of cooking (and eating) dinner and typing this blog post, and I fully intend on being in bed before 10 p.m. I’m saying no to anything and everything social tomorrow, and then we hit the road for what should be a crazy day in Lexington, Ky., with an old pal who will be in town. There will be booze and horses and good weather. Judging by the 10-day forecast, today may have been the last day we see a sub-50-degree high temperature until October. I know I will be sad about that come July, but I’m ok with it right now.

the neighbors’ tree demands your attention

The contractor comes again tomorrow, after which we will have a plan of attack on repair and construction projects for the house. We’ll have a little less money than we thought to throw at those things after paying for the MLM’s medical adventures, so that process is probably going to get drawn out a bit longer than I’d hoped. We’ll see how that goes.

The posting will continue to be light for the coming weeks as I try to keep my head above water. I’m keeping a list of more thoughtful posts I want to write but for now just want the Modern Mom and the handful of other interested parties to know I’m alive, albeit not much more than that.

Posted in life, personal experience | Comments Off on Treading water

Friday Flashback: Today was a Good Friday

The Modern Love Machine asked me the other day why this particular Friday is Good with a capital G, so I launched into the whole Jesus dying to save us from our sins explanation. I’m not totally sure that’s what he was looking for. Perhaps Ice Cube’s definition is better?

(I don’t have to tell you that there is language in this that is inappropriate for work/children/delicate ears, do I? Seriously, if you are offended by that which was called Gangsta Rap in the ’90s, do not listen to Ice Cube.)

I love that a couple of guys dedicated to the betterment of the world, or at least the Internet, have done their due diligence in trying to figure out exactly what day was Ice’s good day. Of course it’s in vain — it was all just a dream, after all.

Am I going to hell for invoking the word of Ice Cube on Good Friday? Let’s hope for just a few extra days in Purgatory. And really, deep down below that icy, cube-like exterior is an intelligent guy who’s written and produced films and who once studied architectural drafting …

(This one is completely safe for work and has nothing to do with Gangsta Rap.)

Enjoy your weekend. May you not have to use your AK.

Posted in art, music | Comments Off on Friday Flashback: Today was a Good Friday

A week in the life of an exhausted adult-like person

Because I don’t have time to break down each of these bits into separate, thoughtful posts, some stream-of-consciousness:

Monday night, the Modern Love Machine and I joined a few of my co-workers for my boss’s Passover seder, which surprisingly was my first. With a bunch of Jewish childhood friends, I attended my share of Bat and Bar Mitzvahs, and my Catholic youth group would occasionally attend Shabbat services. It was a mix of people I don’t necessarily hang out with much at work, but with a little Haggadah education and a lot of red wine, we were facetiously psychoanalyzing our own religions while laughing at ourselves. (We sat down to eat around 7, but didn’t actually get through the Haggadah until about 9, which was our own faults and not that of the Haggadah’s.) One of the things I love so much about being Catholic is the devotion to ritual and liturgy as well as the emphasis on gathering as a group, and those are the same reason I love being exposed to Judaism. I had a great time, and I will probably demand a seat at the Passover table every year. I did not take a photo of my meal because this.

The Modern Love Machine is on the disabled list at the moment. He was playing in the faculty/student basketball game at his school on Friday, went up for a layup and hit the floor after his knee gave out. The doctor is thinking it’s an ACL tear, and an MRI on Friday will either confirm or deny that. He’s been hobbling around on crutches for the past few days when he’s not been planted on the couch, and I know he’s in a lot of pain. By the end of the seder, he ended up in a chair in the living room upside down in an effort to elevate his knee. Fortunately this week is spring break, so he doesn’t have to worry about teaching on it until Tuesday. It also means most of the chores around the house fall to me, which I certainly don’t mind. I love being domestic and I’m happy to take care of the MLM.

That said, I’m realizing I have to be more cautious about not wearing myself out. I’m already on the verge after overcommitting myself a bit too much: a party on Saturday, the seder on Monday, happy hour with the gals on Tuesday, the entire Holy Week lineup at church plus the cooking and grocery shopping that usually falls to the MLM is a recipe for exhaustion. I’ve passed the f out several nights, had a hard time getting out of bed and have still needed multiple doses of caffeine during the day. (Did I mention I gave up sleeping in past 6:30 for Lent? Yeah.) Not to mention the awesome workout habit I had going on for a few weeks is gone. I would take a vacation day or two from work, but we’re in the throes of trying to launch not one, not two, not three but FOUR!!! new apps, so taking vacation right now seems like a bad idea.

Also in the ‘We’re Getting Old’ category: the Modern Household now has a contractor. I feel this is as much of a rite of passage as First Communion, voting for the first time, turning 21 and purchasing a house. Like, we’re old enough to not tolerate the holes in the ceiling and mature enough to know we can’t fix them (or their cause) ourselves without possibly doing more damage. He’s helping us come up with a plan on how we can tackle everything we want to change or fix around the house, and then I get to do one of those other adult things: figure out how the hell to pay for it.

I’m hoping to get back to regularly scheduled life within a week or two. I know it’s going to require a lot more use of the word ‘no.’ And maybe some more sleep.

Posted in health and exercise, home, life, religion and faith | 1 Comment

Friday Flashback: I (kinda) second that emotion

Last season, The Office** had an episode with a cold open in which the gag was Ryan mistakenly thinking Smokey Robinson had died. Everyone was sad about his (not real) death, but no one could remember what he sang. I chuckled at it, because Smokey Robinson does fit that bill of being well-known without standing out. And yet, I can still list an album’s worth of songs by him that I love because I am that nerd.

I was reminded of this today when Modern Gal Councilmember Mindy Kaling tweeted the following:

So I’m guessing it was Mindy behind that gag, although a quick search of the Google tells me she didn’t write that episode.

While I wouldn’t necessarily agree with Mindy on this one, it’s not totally out of line to want to praise Smokey Robinson for his catalogue of talents. And that is why I have put together an entire Spotify playlist of songs I love from Smokey Robinson. He had more hits as frontman for the Miracles, but I especially love “Just to See Her” and “One Heartbeat” from his ’80s solo days.

Random fact I just learned from looking up “One Heartbeat” on Wikipedia: it was co-written by the keyboardist for Tommy Tutone, the band responsible for us knowing we can reach Jenny at 867-5309. Weird facts like that make my day.

Anyway, enjoy some sweet, Smokey, velvety tunes:

**I gave up on The Office for this season. The Modern Love Machine has been updating me weekly on the latest in the Jim/Pam drama, which is all I care about anymore.

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Modern friendship

Jigsha is the first friend who I claimed as my own after moving back to Knoxville and ultimately breaking up with my then-boyfriend of five years. Crappy work schedules as they are, I had little opportunity to develop friendships with people who had no allegiance to my ex, but Jigsha’s schedule often mirrored my own, and we found ourselves hanging out quite a bit in late 2008/early 2009. Knowing my taste for silly ’80s dance music, she got me into hanging out at the neighborhood dive bar/dance hub that would ultimately serve as the breeding ground of my relationship with the Modern Love Machine.

Together, Jigsha and I have nurtured our desires to not just live life and grow but to Live Life and Grow. We talk of our dreams over tea and snacks, we outline our goals at the beginning of each year, we challenge each other to do the hard stuff and remind one another to be still and take it all in from time to time. By nature, she’s a hostess — always planning social gatherings and trying to introduce people she thinks would get along famously — and because of that she’s often the center of my social universe.

Jigsha stayed at the Modern Abode last night because her house was empty of furniture. She’s moving to Florida this week for a new job, an advancement in her career. In sharing the news on her Facebook page a few weeks back, she said, “My boss once told me, ‘Make ready come to you.’ Ready is here.”

It’s the very definition of bittersweet. To be thrilled for your friend who isn’t too scared of change to make a big one but absolutely devastated that one of your very dearest friends will no longer be a three-minute drive away or the center of your social universe. I’m proud of her for stepping outside her comfort zone but scared of what it means for my own comfort zone.

with Jigsha during one of the many festive birthday celebrations


Even before Jigsha indicated she’d be leaving, I’d thought plenty about how our generation is far more transient than the generations that preceded and what impact that has on our friendships. Our grandparents tended to make roots where or close to where they grew up (well, I guess my grandfather’s involvement with the Air Force is an exception in that). My parents’ generation seemed to wander a bit for college but hardly wandered any further. My closest friends and I have been all over, and I’m not sure any of us are totally settled.

We have Facebook and e-mail and cheap cell phone plans and Twitter and blogs, all of which make it easy to keep track of one another. But the most fulfilling moments of friendship come not over a text message, but in time spent face-to-face. I can count on one hand the number of people in my life who I trust and love enough that I can say anything to without fear of judgment and with expectation of an honest reaction; they are my council. And by tomorrow, the only one of them who will live in the same city as I is my husband.

There are benefits to having friends spread out around the country. I always have interesting places to visit, and I don’t have to spring for a hotel room. The variety of their achievements and successes remind me to keep working at my own dreams and goals. And the random texts, e-mails and Facebook messages can be a turning point in an otherwise bad day.

The thing I wonder about is the long-term effect of it all. Are we all going to wake up one day and realize our chance at having deep-rooted communities is gone? Is our definition of community a much less physical one, and will that suffice as we age? Will we all be more open to new friendships as we grow older because of our smaller, less-rooted physical communities? What do you think?

I’ll ponder it some more on my flight to Florida later this summer.

Posted in friendship, life | 3 Comments

Friday Flashback: Sunshine

So today I’m kicking off something that I think will be a semi-regular if not weekly feature here. I spend a lot of time on Spotify looking for new music to listen to, and while I enjoy discovering new music, I need to be honest. I really spend time digging up new music so that my music taste doesn’t get fully stuck in its default rut, which is music from about 1963-2004.

Thanks to my parents’ musical tastes and a lack of a sibling to expose me to more current stuff, I grew up listening to ’60s, ’70s and ’80s music. I was coming of age in time to really latch on to ’90s alternative, hip-hop and rap. Really what it means is that if you’re entering a trivia contest and the likelihood of questions about the British Invasion, Singer and Songwriter movement, ’80s New Wave and ’90s alternative/hip-hop/rap are high, I am your gal.

New music is hip, but there are some amazing gems from the old days that I think everyone should know and love. That’s what Friday Flashback is all about. (Plus, it’s Friday. Who wants to spend a lot of effort on anything?)

Today is all about sunshine. The weather in Knoxville has been especially obnoxious this week, which isn’t totally unusual in March. On Monday we got an inch and a half of rain. Yesterday it was 35 degrees and lunchtime. But today, today it is in the mid-60s and the sun is beating down. After lunch my coworkers and I were peering outside our office window to the pond on our company’s campus, and there were dudes playing with remote-control speedboats. And then, the will to work was gone.

I Can See Clearly Now by Johnny Cash reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1972, and I don’t remember the first time I heard it because it’s pretty much been in my rotation for my entire life. Jimmy Cliff covered the song in 1993 for Cool Runnings, which is, of course, a great movie.

And you can’t mention sunshine without mentioning one of my favorite Beatles songs, Here Comes the Sun, from the Abbey Road album.

What sunshine song should we add?

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How to cook: an introduction

Thanks to all of y’all who voted in my little exploratory poll from the other week. I really do appreciate getting a sense of what y’all are interested in reading about. I’m especially excited that there were a lot of votes for food, since I probably spend more of my waking hours thinking about food than any of those other topics combined. Plus, I’ve had ambitions of recounting my journey from someone who didn’t particularly like (or know how) to cook to someone who smugly appreciates when someone calls her a foodie.

Bacon-topped meatloaf by The Modern Gal
the meatloaf referenced in this post, in progress

I know quite a few of my Modern Friends are well acquainted with how to cook well, so maybe it’s an exercise in futility. I still occasionally have a conversation with someone who confesses to not know how to cook or claims to not enjoy it. Now I know not everyone will enjoy cooking, but “not enjoying it” is often just a code word for not knowing how to do it correctly without getting overly frustrated as was the case for me for several years.

Which is why I want to chronicle the journey of my love affair with food — specifically food not cooked by a professional chef (with perhaps the occasional exception). Some of it will come in the form of how-to posts, while other posts will just be a word vomit of thoughts about cooking. And because food is such a mutual enjoyment of the Modern Love Machine and mine, maybe just maybe the MLM will feel compelled to write or at least comment on the blog (because he does lurk here). I cannot promise the fabulous photography that other food writers are so good at because my “good” camera is slow and fussy, but I will do my best to make good use of the fantastic natural lighting in our kitchen. Or I will use my iPhone because it’s easier.

I’m going to create a page in my table of contents bar where all the posts can be easily found for all of posterity to enjoy. If you have any specific topics you’d like me to cover, lemme know in a comment or by e-mail at themoderngal(at)gmail(dot)com. Otherwise, thanks again for being a friend.

Posted in food and drink | 2 Comments

Two steps forward … or not at all

As a sportswriter, I often had to write about athletes getting injured and their recoveries. Injuries to the legs, knees, ankles and feet usually were the worst, because of their significance in everyday movement (at least for those of us who are used to relying on them every day.) More often than not, an athlete has to rest for a dedicated amount of time and then very slowly ease back into physical activity before they can even think about jumping back into their sport.

When the orthopedic doctor grounded me for the stress fracture, I certainly did not think of myself in terms of those athletes I used to write about.** I wasn’t nearly as active or accomplished, and all I did was overdo it on a running routine. All this to say, I’ve been surprised at how difficult it’s been to fully recover from my injury, although I probably shouldn’t have been.

I wore the boot all of December, through Christmas and New Years and went back to the doctor a day and a half before I left for India. He told me I could be the one to decide whether or not I left the boot at home during my trip, but with the caveat, “If it hurts even a little bit you should take it with you.” Of course I was not going to take it with me — that was a foregone conclusion. My leg had hurt very little the week before the appointment, but who in their right mind would want to wear a boot during 18 hours of flying (times two), 16 hours of Germany layovering and a week and a half in a country that is not particularly accessible? Only crazy people, that’s who.

To my satisfaction, my leg did not hurt once during the trip, and we did just enough walking around to test it. In the wake of returning home and shaking the jet lag, I felt sluggish and unhealthy and was determined to get back into a serious workout plan — I had an aggressive schedule of swimming, fitness classes at the Y and the rehab walk/run plan from the doctor to tackle.

And almost immediately my leg began to hurt. The pain wasn’t necessarily in the same spot — it moved, it grew, it diminished, it moved again, rinse, lather, repeat. Scared of reaggravating the injury, I stopped for a few days until it stopped hurting. Then I started working out again, and it started to hurt again.

After resting, icing and wearing the boot for a few days, I started back at square one: swimming with a pull buoy, which was the one thing the doctor allowed me to do while wearing the boot full time. And I was pissed and frustrated beyond all get out: my month in the boot was up, my leg did not hurt when I was done with it, so why wasn’t I completely healthy and ready to work out again? Usually I have a problem with lack of motivation, but for once all I wanted to do was be physically active, but my body wouldn’t allow it. Not to mention the Olympic triathlon in May I’d had my heart set on was out. I would have had to start training at the end of February, but I couldn’t even run a few feet, let alone the 5k that is a standard prerequisite to starting a tri training program.

I kept swimming every other day, just to do something. My leg would hurt mildly during my swims, even without the kicking, but a little ice at the end usually made it go away. After about a week, the mild pain went away, so I tried mixing in a few sets of breast stroke with kicking. The mild pain returned, solved by icing and a day’s rest. And thus, a workout routine was born for February: swims every other day, mixing sets with and without the buoy, followed by 30 minutes of icing and, if necessary, a couple of hours in the boot. Two weeks ago I tried a random Zumba class and put on my walking boot before my leg even had a chance to start hurting. On Sunday I returned to the first step of the doctor’s rehab plan, an unimpressive five minutes of running mixed with 30 minutes of walking. It’s a far cry from the 6 milers that contributed to my injury back in October, but by God, I woke up Monday morning and my leg did not hurt. And that is already an improvement over the past four months.

There are o pledged at the end of the 2012 triathlon season to spend time this winter working on my swimming stroke. I wanted to be a confident freestyler so I wouldn’t necessarily have to rely on the breast stroke to get through an open-water swim. Swimming with a pull buoy forced my hand on that one. Since I couldn’t kick in the pool, I focused on every detail of my stroke and breathing to keep from getting bored and now my stroke is cleaner, my breathing is smoother and I’m faster. Would I trade those things to have not been injured at all? Probably so, but I guess I’ll be able to answer that better if and when I get back to tri training.

**This begs a more serious question: at one point does someone turn into an athlete? Did an Olympic triathlon make me one? Or does it take more? I certainly don’t feel comfortable calling myself an athlete, but I can’t put my finger on why.

Posted in health and exercise, personal experience, sports | 2 Comments

Saturday sounds

I used to be really, really awful at discovering new music, but the internet, Spotify and Sirius radio have made me less of a music n00b. There are some decent tunes out there right now, which is good because my playlist can only be stuck in the ’80s for so long before it starts looking a little dated. What, it’s looked dated for about 20 years, you say? I’m not buying that.

Y’all have heard Macklemore’s Thrift Shop by now, right? It’s just the sort of absurdity I love in my hip hop music. Well now I present to you, a literal MS Paint interpretation of Thrift Shop. There’s only one thing to say: This is f*cking awesome.** (Ok, two things to say … if you are unfamiliar with Thrift Shop, please note the lyrics/artwork are a touch profane.)

The Modern Love Machine’s big Christmas gift to me was a pair of apple green Beats by Dre. They’re beautiful with luxurious sound and they do a GREAT job of blocking out the jibber jabber that comes with working in an “open concept” office space. I’ve been building a Spotify playlist to go with those Beats at the office, which I now present to you. It’s mostly new stuff with a little bit of sentimental old stuff and is a little on the mellow side since I need to be able to think in complete sentences while listening. The songs are in no particular order other than the order in which I added them, so I recommend listening on shuffle if you have Spotify.*** And if you are reading this post through a blog reader, you’re going to have to click through to actually see the playlist.

Happy (mellow) Saturday!

**Shout outs to the Modern Love Machine and Gizmodo for finding this one.
***Shout outs to some of my Tweeps who suggested a few songs when my playlist needed lengthening. And I stole a couple of entries from Dooce’s new tunes posts, because she’s had some good ones lately.

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Taking on the Taj Mahal

A few folks I know who have also traveled to India felt underwhelmed at best by their Taj Mahal experience. I totally get it. There’s this thing of beauty that is supposedly so remarkable that it’s oft photographed and referenced making it completely familiar, even when it’s far away. And then when you’re there and it’s in front of you, it doesn’t quite offer the transformative experience that you expected. I hear this happens often with the Mona Lisa.

My experience was different.

The Modern Gal at the Taj Mahalme, without glasses, doing the touristy thing

But first, a history, because I’m not sure the Taj Mahal’s story is quite as well-known as her appearance. Mughal emperor Shah Hahan was so grief-stricken when his third and favorite wife died during the birth of their 14th(!!) child. He expressed his grief and love for his wife by commissioning the Taj. Work begain in 1632, and the mausoleum — the big, white marble structure you’re familiar with — was completed in 1648. The other buildings that comprise the Taj were completed five years later.

No spitting? No funno spitting? no fun.

camel at the Taj Mahaldidn’t get the memo

The emperor’s wife is buried in the floor in the very center of the mausoleum, and Shah Jahan is buried somewhere inside too (I believe our guide said he was off to the side, a sort of diss made by one of his sons.) To the west of the mausoleum is the mosque, and because the emperor was obsessed with symmetry, a matching building was erected to the east side and presumably used as a guest house. The buildings and gardens are surrounded by walls, and there’s a gate that would be mighty impressive on its own grounds but pales in comparison to the mausoleum.

Gate to the Taj Mahal

impressive gate is impressive

Catching the first glimpse of the Taj Mahal through the gate gave me that weird out-of-body feeling that I get when I’m finally experiencing something that’s much anticipated. You know, like when you’re living your wedding day/graduation/other milestone — things Hollywood directors love to make movies about because they’re supposed to be so monumental — and you’re like, ‘Hey, this thing is actually happening RIGHT NOW and it’s … surreal? Mind-boggling? Not actually happening?’ That’s where I was when the Taj introduced herself.

First glimpse of the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal by @themoderngal

We had arrived in Agra mid-afternoon and were on our way to our lunch/supper meal (we seriously only ate twice a day every day) when our tour guide for the day told us we’d be heading to the Taj Mahal after eating. This was news to us — we had all been of the mindset that we’d get up early and go at sunrise the next day, but the tour guide was having none of it. As it turns out, that was a good thing. The palette of the sunset was a gorgeous backdrop to the Taj and intensified as we got closer to the building and the evening drew nearer. With the changing sky and the building growing ever larger in our viewfinders, there was a very subtle shift in the experience. It stopped seeming so surreal and familiar and started feeling like a far more profound thing.

Taj Mahal, up close by @themoderngal

What I think is most remarkable about the Taj — aside from its roots in a love story — is seeing its details up close. I had always been of the mind that the marble was etched just with some sort of black finish, but I was so, so, so wrong. It’s also encrusted with precious and semi-precious stones like lapis lazuli, carnelian and jade. The color of the white marble has a depth that isn’t evident in long-distance photography. And while perhaps the size is about what you would expect from photos or perhaps even smaller, there’s still something breathtaking about being close enough to touch it.

Up close to the Taj Mahal by @themoderngal

Detailed inlay of walls at the Taj Mahalobligatory ‘does not do it justice’ comment

The guest house at the Taj Mahalthe guest house, not to be confused with the mosque

Technical notes for if you ever decide to visit:

  • We had planned to get up super early and go at sunrise. During the summer this is a great idea (hardly any crowd, no lines, beautiful sky, easy photography). During the winter this is a bad idea as the overwhelming fog may make your visit to the Taj Mahal a disappointing one. You can get the same benefits of sunrise by going just a bit before it closes for the day. Also, it’s closed on Fridays so don’t go on a Friday.
  • Take your camera but not much else. By the time you get to Agra you’ll probably be used to this, but many things are banned at touristy locations for safety or religious purposes.
  • You’ll probably also be used to this, but you must still prepare yourself to walk past all the hawkers and beggars at the edge of the Taj property. They’re relentless.
  • The Taj was one of the two places that members of our group were asked to be in photos with Indians just because we were Westerners. Don’t be alarmed by this. It’s a curiosity thing rather than anything malicious.

the wall and the moonrise on the way out

Posted in history, travel | 9 Comments