Getting Back to Bike Commuting

Since my new job is closer to home, I will get to go back to bike commuting.  Which means figuring out a solution that lets me ride my hybrid bike and still get my kid to school.

My hybrid bike is a Canondale Quick 3 WSD which is lightweight with a carbon fiber fork. Which means no putting our Yepp Mini on the front handlebars.  And I still wanted to use my Ortlieb Racktime bag on my rear rack, which is just about impossible with most rear babyseats.

We have a Topeak Babyseat for my husband’s bike, but a new rack was going to cost $50, plus I would need to buy a handlebar bag or basket, plus I would have to take the Babyseat off every day at daycare and leave it there and my spouse would need to get it, which would mean that if one of us drove one day, we would have a problem.  I didn’t want to schlep an entire babyseat to and from work everyday, because they are pretty heavy.

BikeShare has also come to our neighborhood, but the electric bikes that make up half the fleet are almost never available and my new commute involves two very steep uphills that are hard on a 7 speed Bikeshare Bike.  So walking to daycare and then picking up a BikeShare bike is only really a possibility if there are more electric bikes available.

I posted on a local women & bicycling facebook group looking for ideas and a woman suggested a TykeToter. It seemed so flimsy, but also so simple and elegant. I felt like it couldn’t possibly work. Then I read the reviews. All positive and none colored by being provided one for free to review or anything like that.  I was on the verge of ordering one. And then, then! one came up on our local listserv for half the new price!  I snapped it up and we test rode it last weekend.

So far, I only have one problem with it. Which is my kid loves it so much she won’t get off of it.  Yesterday we went to the splash park and then the pool and all she wanted to do when we got someplace was get back on the bicycle.

She is 32 months and I was worried she might be a bit too limit-testing for the freeform nature of the TykeToter – it has no straps, and you have to instruct your kid to keep their feet on the foot pegs at all times.  So far, she has done a great job of following instructions. She loves the handlebars and says, “it has handlebars just for me!” She still does get a bit distractable and take one hand off the handlebars to point out Jeeps, but she has been very good about keeping her feet in place while she’s on the TykeToter.

My legs bow out a bit while riding with her, but not worse than with the Yepp Mini, and riding with it without her seems to be perfectly fine, though I haven’t done it for long distances. She was also getting too tall for the Yepp and I couldn’t see over her, so this is also a good solution to that problem because she is comfortably below my chin.


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New is always better.

A month ago I made a big decision, and I took a new job.  Change is always scary, especially the kind of change that takes you far away from what you know and will challenge you in all kinds of ways.  I’m…leaving legal services.  I’m leaving direct client services. I’m leaving nonprofit life.

I’m going to the government.  People who don’t know legal services act like going to the government is the same. Government/public interest attorneys are lumped together by bar associations and BigLaw attorneys. I don’t know if they think we’re all the same because we make less money or because we have regular hours or what.  But public interest attorneys don’t think that government attorneys are the same as us.  So to myself, and my colleagues, I’m making a big career change.

But then I read articles like this. And I think, “that’s why I’m done.”  Because my opposing counsels, while sometimes lovely, are sometimes people that make me think, “Our disagreement is not merely political, but a fundamental divide on what it means to live in a society, how to be a good person, and why any of that matters.” Some apartment managers want to bankrupt people over a $400 carpet replacement. Some debt collectors want a confessed judgment when a client was 3 days short of sending their lease termination notice and the lease automatically renewed.  I am so tired of explaining to rich lawyers why poor people need a break. I am so tired of hearing story after story of property managers who just want to wield power over people in public housing.  This work burns you out not because you are emptying an ocean with a teacup, but because you lose your faith in humanity.  Because the people in this who look like you, were raised like you, went to law school to do good, stand there in court and argue with you that because your client was hospitalized and didn’t earn money for a month, they should be evicted.

I don’t know whether I’ll come back to direct service. I don’t know if I’ll find more humanity in government work. But hope springs eternal, and new is always better.  And if new isn’t always better, the new job is also about 28 miles closer to my house. Which is, for sure, always better.


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Staying in the Frame

I took a break from culling my family Easter photos to read this article. I loved it. My husband has many good qualities but he often seems to forget that we don’t need to worry about the cost of film these days, and will take a single photo of me and not bother to check if it’s in focus and at all decent/flattering. I was heartbroken after our UK trip when the one photo I had asked him to take, he had taken a single one and it was blurry. We had nowhere to go, and there was no reason that he couldn’t have checked the d*mn viewfinder to make sure our kid and I were in focus. I got pretty mad about it and after much complaining from me, he has improved dramatically, but we still have some of these issues.

Worse is my Dad, who is obsessed with documenting photos but takes terrible and unflattering photos that I don’t want to look at or share.  The complaints of my female friends whose spouses or other family members consistently cut off their heads or don’t focus the camera properly in their zeal to get photos, and never take a moment to look at the back of the camera and see if they got something usable, are numerous.

I’m not a photographer, but a few tips, especially if like a lot of people, you bought a DSLR when you had a baby but never actually use it. First of all, leave your camera out and accessible when you are doing a fun activity so that your spouse remembers to take photos. Secondly, if you are out hiking or playing and bring a camera, make sure to trade off. Nothing reminds the other person to take a few photos like having a heavy camera around their neck. Third of all, if possible, remind them/remember that downward angles are the most flattering, and sometimes, it is okay to interrupt a moment and worry about preserving it by telling a person their hair is in their face (read the room on this one though). Don’t take photos of people while you are sitting and they are standing. If possible, just stand up. Fourth, don’t ever imply somebody is vain because they want a photo of themselves or their kid. Fifth, hire a professional for a family shoot every once in awhile.  Six, keep some of the unflattering photos even if you hate them. Seven, buy clothes you like that you look good in and wear them for special occasions where you know somebody will take a photo. Eight, buy clothes you like that you look good in for family vacation so you don’t hate the way you look in a photo of you with your awkward hiking pants and your stained performance wear shirt that hits you in all the wrong places.

My childhood was well documented on film, but my Dad has been going through slides lately and lamenting how few non-posed photos there are of my mother and her sister, and especially of her mother.  My favorite photos of my mother lately have been ones like this:

Printed February 1984

It is not the most flattering photo, or the best in the world, but tell me you don’t look at that and feel the sheer exhaustion of a new mother. I look at this and I feel the sheer weight of everything that hit my mom that year, the loss of her mother, finally getting the baby she wanted so badly, and she doesn’t know it here but I know she’ll be pregnant again 9 months after having this baby. This picture makes me know my mom better.

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Could it be this easy?

I have been battling knee pain for just about a year.  Basically, as I was recovering from my ankle injury last year, I babied my right ankle and wound up messing up my left knee somewhere in my crash-training-for-a-half thing.  I tried resting it, I tried doing more squats and lunges, and inevitably I would tweak it doing something at home.  Something dumb like mountain climbers.  I’ve run two 5ks since my half last May, and I keep meaning to get around to going to see a doctor or a PT or something.  I did a free injury clinic and the guy was like, “come by my office and I will dry needle you for free!” and I did not because 1.) my follow up isn’t great and 2.) I have no time.

So when one of my best friends asked me about my knee again at Stroller Strides, and I complained that it still is busted, she told me to come over so she could dry needle me (she’s a PT, not a weirdo who just has a house full of needles.)  I said sure, then promptly did not do it.  She bugged me again about it last week, and I was off on Monday and daycare was closed and I really want to do another half this year, so off I went.

She poked at me and then told me to foam roll a LOT more than my current amount of none, and so I did, and then my knee didn’t hurt after our run on Monday and it didn’t hurt after Body Back on Thursday night when we did a lot of running, and it didn’t hurt after Stroller Strides on Saturday.  She made me come over again on Saturday night and recommended I keep foam rollering and told me to come back in a week.

Here I was, convinced that I had some kind of crazy runner’s knee situation and I would need 6-8 weeks of PT and many many clamshell exercises and lunges and squats and other things that are good for your knees.  And it turns out it really is as simple as foam rollering a ridiculous amount and also following through on the dry needling thing.  I’m sure I can also benefit from PT, and I will go if this doesn’t turn out to be a long term solution.

She said something really interesting last night though, which is that for each decade of life that you have, you should do that x10 minutes of stretching, foam roller-ing, or general work to prepare your body to like, be functional. I mean, I don’t have 30 minutes a day to stretch right now, but I think I’m going to try for at least 10.  And it made sense, because I’ve been feeling generally stiffer and less flexible, and I thought it was just a not-going-to-yoga thing, but I do think it’s also an age thing.

So yeah, stretch and like, go see a doctor.  I highly recommend it.  Sometimes things have a simple fix.


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Books I Have Read This Year

I set my reading goal for 2016 within what I hoped was a reachable limit – 12 books.  One a month.  Which felt like a lot at the time that I set it, because I was tired and my baby still didn’t sleep through the night and I wasn’t totally sure that I had read 12 books in 2015, but also I think 12 books is the bare minimum that any English major should read in a year.

So how am I doing? It’s October (sidenote: it’s OCTOBER?)  If I include audiobooks, which everyone tells me I can, I have totally met my goal. I have listened to:

  1. The Cuckoo’s Calling (Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling)
  2. The Silkworm (Robert Galbraith)
  3. Career of Evil (Robert Galbraith)
  4. The Death Cure (James Dashner – I think I also read the Scorch Trials this year, but that may have been last year)
  5. Is it just me? (Miranda Hart)
  6. The Night Circus
  7. Shrill (Lindy West)
  8. One More Thing (B.J. Novak)

Actual Books I have Read:

  1. Here Be Dragons (Sharon Kay Penman)
  2. The Welsh Girl (Peter Ho Davies)
  3. Bel Canto (Ann Pratchett)
  4. The English Girl (Daniel Silva)

Parenting Books I have sort of read parts of:

  1. No Bad Kids
  2. No Drama Discipline
  3. Oh Crap! Potty training book
  4. 1,2,3 Magic!

Overall, I’m pretty pleased that I seem to have more patience for long, drawn out audiobooks than I did last year, which means that I’ve been able to spend more of my commute engrossed in fascinating works of fiction and not just hilarious memoirs read by my favorite female comics.  It’s nice to feel like my commute is working for me and not just a total waste of everyone’s time and a way for me to contribute to global warming.

Right now I’m listening to Samantha Bee’s book and I would like to finish No Drama Discipline by the end of the year.  I’ve decided that No Bad Kids and 1,2,3 Magic are both methods that don’t really speak to me.

How are you doing on your reading goals for the year?



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Last Sunday, my freshman college hallmate died.  And I rocked my baby to sleep that night and cried and thought about her. Thought about how it was her who introduced me to my husband, who arranged for outings with me and him so that I could spend time with him, who arranged for him to come over to our dorm when he wanted nothing to do with me, and invited me to hang out with them.  She was absolutely delighted when we got together and she got me through some really difficult times.  We drifted apart and hadn’t seen each other in a long time, but I thought about her sometimes and hoped she was happy.

There are a lot of things about losing somebody suddenly like this that are absolutely gutting.  There is the sheer suddenness of it all.  There is the feeling like perhaps you should have seen this person more.  But the thing I was utterly unprepared for is how absolutely horrible it is, as a parent, to consider the possibility of losing a child.  I can’t read things about toddlers who die anymore, it just wrecks me.  But there are no words for the horror of thinking about a parent having to take their child off life support and letting them go.  I’ve been rocking my daughter to sleep at night all week because right now I can’t even bear to have her cry.

In times of grief, I find myself rereading The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion.  It is a study in grief, written after she lost her husband and while her daughter was suffering from serious illness.  And she phrases well what I have learned about grief.

“Grief is different. Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life.”

I have days, even now, where I feel the loss of my chosen godfather, a surrogate parent, a man who embodied everything I knew to be good, so fiercely, so harshly, that I simply need to take a minute. And he died five years ago.  I have days where I still think to myself that we simply must have him and his wife over for dinner.  And it stops me in my tracks.

Time helps, but I know that I will never fully heal.  And that is okay, because I let the loss fuel me.  It drives me to prioritize making time to see my friends, to say what I feel and to thank people for the things they do for me, to apologize when I’m wrong and to work to not take people for granted.  I still do it a lot, but recognizing the importance of not letting things go unsaid, of, as Four says in Divergent, “let[ting] the guilt remind us to do better next time.”

The life that I have right now, with a kid who is really close to counting to ten and can speak in whole sentences and loves books and fishies and elevator buttons and revolving doors, and with a husband who is funny and charming and works hard and makes me want to be the partner he deserves, this whole life of mine is because of one person.  And I hadn’t thought about it in those terms until now and I never fully thanked her for it.

So yes, as you start off this week, think about the people who have made your life possible, or worth living, or who brought you where you are, and thank them. Kind gestures, kind words, or an afternoon visit in which you make time for them; these will not be things you regret.

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Old job, new job, red job, blue job.

I still think of my job as my “new” job. Even though I’ve been at this job almost as long as I was at my last job.  In nine months, I will have been at this job longer than I’ve been at any job ever.  And yet, I still think of it as my new job. I say things like, “my new job is really low litigation”. I say things like, “at my last job I did x” and I talk about it was yesterday and then I remember that was 2 years ago.

The thing about general practice is that you are constantly learning.  When I first started, I had a case and my coworker asked me if I had ever defended somebody in this kind of case and I said, “yeah, I mean, I think I’ve only done it ten times.” And she said, “I don’t think there is any kind of case I’ve done ten times.” And I have been there two years and I can see what she meant. I had three hearings this week.  They were each my first of each type of hearing. They were each different. One was state administrative, one was federal administrative, and one was landlord-tenant.

So, two years in, I continue to feel like the new kid.  Which is really great, because I love a challenge. I love learning new things and new areas and I love that part of my job. I am never bored.  I am often anxious, tired, stressed out, and hungry, but I am never bored.

I miss, frequently, the simplicity of my old job. I miss practicing in the same courthouse, in front of the same judges, who I knew, who respected the work I did.  I miss working in a coalition of people working towards common goals.  Ultimately this has been the right move for me, for now, but I think I would like to specialize again someday. I’m just not sure in what, and it’s hard to figure it out when you don’t do that many of any particular kind of case.  I think, ultimately, that I may be more interested in specializing in a specific type of lawyering than in a specific practice area.

When I first took this job, I told myself I would give it two years and reassess.  Did I want the same things? How would the commute wear on me? It took me an hour and eight minutes to get home today, so yes, it’s wearing on me. But at the same time, I was thinking last week what a relief it is to go to my neighborhood pool and not worry about clients seeing me in my bathing suit because my clients don’t live anywhere near where I work.  That distance has been surprisingly nice.  I did expect by the end of the first two years to know what I wanted to specialize in, but so far, I’m not significantly closer to figuring it out. I’ve managed to figure out what I don’t want to do, but there are a lot of practice areas and crossing one after another off a list isn’t really the most efficient way to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.  But I figure if I keep practicing and keep learning and keep enjoying the challenges, eventually the answer will find me.

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All I wanted to do was go to the pool.

Subtitled, a conversation with myself.

Listen, self. All I wanted to do was go to the pool, maybe get a few laps in because it was a gorgeous day.

I didn’t need you to start talking.

“Man, this is the easiest first long swim of the season that you’ve had in years. You’re not choking, you’re not clinging to the side, you haven’t had to do a resting stroke for a lap yet.”

Great. This will make that sprint triathlon I’m registered for a piece of cake.

“What is the swim for that, like, 300? You’ve done that already. See, you’re finishing up your tenth lap right now.”

Yeah, but my knee is totally messed up still whenever I try to run.

“That’s temporary...There is THREE MONTHS between now and October.”

Lalalalala I can’t hear you.

“You’re on your fifteenth lap right now! You’re going to do twenty like it’s nothing. You could definitely be ready for an October 1 race.”

The last international distance one was so much work and so exhausting.

“You were growing a whole other person. Think how easy it will be when you aren’t pregnant!”

I have a child. I don’t have time to train for a race that long.


Let’s just…let’s just see how the summer goes. If I’m comfortably swimming 30 laps by the end of the summer, we’ll talk about signing up.

“That’s all I’m asking.”

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We picked up our CSA share yesterday, so summer hath officially begun.  Then we went and played in a baby pool at my sister’s house and went to the playground and hung out in the alley between our houses with our next door neighbors. (A couple with twins our daughter’s age moved in earlier this year and it’s been really great.)

I have harshed on summer in the past, because summer running is the worst. But summer workouts? At 7:30 with the light still going? Outdoor swimming? (Yes, the pool is finally open 7 days a week!) 9am free Barre workouts on the waterfront? Yes. Please.

I often feel like my seasonal affective disorder, which is self-diagnosed, is a bit of melodrama on my part. And then summer shows up and I’m like, “YES LET US DO ALL OF THE THINGS LIFE IS WORTH LIVING THERE IS A REASON TO GET UP IN THE MORNING.”

I’ve been trying to put together a summer to do list, a goal list. But I just keep landing on:

  1. Enjoy every minute.

Anyone else?



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Body Back

A few friends who follow me on Instagram requested I write a review of Body Back, a program I have been doing through my local Fit4Mom chapter.  It’s a boot camp and meal plan program that meets twice a week for classes and then there is a lot of support during the program. The best part for me is the meal journaling you can do, with instructor feedback.  It’s very helpful to me to know that somebody else is going to be reading what I’m recording, because it helps me make better choices.

It’s also helpful to me to know that somebody else is going to see whether I’m exercising.  Knowing that I need to either put something in the exercise block or leave it blank spurs me to actually do a DVD or a workout or go to a class or walk somewhere I might otherwise drive.

There is a meal plan that comes with the program, and the meal plans are a little bit dated – they recommend low fat cheese, etc. but the portion sizes and the meal suggestions are still pretty good.  It’s a tough program to do if you have to cook for an entire family, which is why the journaling support is so helpful – I don’t worry as much about adhering strictly to the meal plan if I just write down what I’m eating.

There is also a BodyBack DVD. As workout DVDs go, it’s annoying but tolerable and it’s 3 total body workouts and 3 abs workouts. The abs workouts are great and they are only 10 minutes. The total body workouts are also really good workouts and they are only 20ish minutes.  There are modifications on the DVDs as well so its good for a lot of levels.  They work well in a small space (I have about 5 feet by 8 feet in my living room) and you can modify the jumping if you live in an apartment.

You also get a resistance band, since most workouts just involve your band and a mat.  My class is also great – our instructors are fantastic women who are super creative and always come up with interesting workouts. Most classes are either a circuit, a traveling class (where we do four stations around the park), a stationary class with things like runs out from the setup spot, or a “novelty” style class like partner workouts or tabata.  Most of it is bodyweight exercises or it uses a resistance band.

In comparison to my old New Rules of Lifting for Women or Stronglifts 5×5 workouts, Body Back doesn’t feel like it focuses as much on strength training as say, doing squats with a 135 lb barbel.  But right now, where I am in my life and my exercising, this is what I need.  First of all, I need the core help.  My core was wrecked after having a baby.  Building it back up has been hard.  Secondly, I need the cardio.  When I was biking to work and running around the courthouse all day, I was good with just strength training at the gym. But my life now is so much more sedentary – 2 hours a day in the car, etc. so I really need the cadio aspects of these workouts, and the workouts do a great job of picking cardio exercises that are also strength or core exercises (burpees, plank jacks, push ups, etc.)  And most importantly, I need the exercise that I’m doing to be at a regularly scheduled time, walking distance from my house, with people that I like and want to see on a weekly basis.

I think the most important part of any exercise program is to be reminded that your body is so much more than how it looks.  That it is capable of doing amazing, awesome things, and that you should feed it good food that makes you feel good.  Which I really, really, really like about this program.  I didn’t lose as much weight on the last round as I had hoped for, but I developed new and better habits and I’m working towards getting myself to a happy place, both weight and exercise-wise, where I feel like I am strong, capable, and ready for any kind of challenge I want to embark on.

This review is unsolicited and uncompensated.  If you want to check out whether there is a Body Back program near you, you can go to their website for more info.

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