Odds and ends revisited

I’ve been really busy lately, and when that happens writing is the first thing that gets dropped. I just focus on the basics at times like this: provisioning and feeding myself well, getting enough sleep, and fitting in a bit of down time.

Last weekend was the typical crazy mix of weather Chicago is known for. It was gray, wet, and chilly on Saturday, and some parts of the metropolitan area even got a bit of snow. I wasn’t too upset when I was told that my volunteer time wasn’t really needed last Saturday and I could stay inside where it was warm and dry instead.

A few weeks ago I took on a volunteer commitment for select Saturday mornings: being an escort at a family planning clinic in my neighborhood. I think free speech is a wonderful civil right, and that people should be able to get alternative viewpoints when making big decisions. I also think it’s reprehensible behavior to block folks from accessing a health care facility and shouting mean and spiteful things at them as they try to enter and leave. Really, if you’re going to be standing with a rosary in your hand, don’t you think you should be more Christ-like and not berate men for being cowards because they are walking with a woman volunteer escort to their car?

Since it was so miserable I did a lot of baking last weekend. I made a cake on Saturday afternoon with rhubarb and applesauce in it. It’s delicious and I think I’ll make another to bring to Easter dinner next weekend. Both the rhubarb and the applesauce were put up by me in the freezer last year, so I am continuing my freezer-purge challenge.

On Sunday morning I made a baked oatmeal recipe from the King Arther Flour Whole Grain Baking book. I’ve been wanting to try this recipe for a while, and my mother gave me the perfect excuse to do so. She’s in a rehabilitation center for a few days as she recovers from knee replacement surgery. That morning I phoned her to check some details before I drove out to visit her. One of the things she talked about is how she gets oatmeal every morning, but she can’t eat it because it is so slimy, even though she usually loves oatmeal. Since she also commented on a problem she was having that would be helped by a good dose of soluble fiber (oh, mom!), the idea to bring her some of this baked oatmeal popped into my head. (The “food is love” concept works just as well, child-to-parent as it does parent-to-child.)

I’m not sure if she’s been enjoying the servings of baked oatmeal I left for her since I haven’t had a chance to ask her, but I certainly have enjoyed it during this winter-like weather we’ve been having. When I got up yesterday morning there was snow on the ground!

Good thing I got the lawn cut before dark on Sunday. Even though it was cold here on Sunday it was dry and sunny and a perfect day for me to try my new reel lawnmower. I have a perfectly good gas lawn mower, but I’m going to sell or trade it. City lots aren’t that big and since I’ve eliminated all the grass in the front through native landscaping, I have only a small lawn in the back to cut. I love the mower and the company I ordered it from was awesome. They had the best price on this highly rated mower, charged no shipping fee, and I received the mower on Saturday morning after ordering it on Friday morning. Amazing!

Visiting my mom on Sunday involved an hour’s drive on the expressways. As I drove in my trusty nine year-old car, I thought about how much I liked it. My car is pretty swanky, actually. I have power windows, a power driver’s seat, heated side mirrors, cruise control, and automatic headlights.  A few years ago I had the standard radio replaced with one that allows me to plug in my iPod/iPhone so I can listen to podcasts and my own playlists instead of just the radio or a CD. It’s very comfortable and I’m glad that I didn’t buy that Prius.

The 40-mile drive to northwest Indiana didn’t use much gas and I topped off the tank for about 20 cents less per gallon than it costs in the city, too. Rising gas prices may hit me in other ways, but I drive so little that I’m sure to stick within the $30 a month I’ve budgeted for fuel even if I do take a few more drives down to visit my mom.

Now I have to get back to work. I’ve had a nice little break here as some issues behind the scenes got fixed, but I’ve been told everything should be working now. I’ve been doing a lot of system testing in the last few weeks. It’s very disruptive testing browser-based systems because whenever the slightest thing doesn’t work right the techies want you to clear your browser history and restart. I hate having my browser cookies blown away several times a day because it means I have to enter my name and password every time I check personal email, Google Reader, or even try to pay a bill. Ah, well. At least I don’t have to reboot every time.

Things I don’t like: driving

Welcome to a new feature: things I don’t like. Yeah, it doesn’t sound buoyantly positive, but let’s be honest, everyone has their likes and dislikes.

I just recently came to the realization that I don’t like driving. There are exceptions, of course. I don’t mind driving during vacation on a wide open expressway with a fun companion in my car, but how often does that happen? No, I really don’t like being in the driver’s seat of a car at all.

I grew up in the suburbs where it was essential that one have a car. Getting from home to a job, a movie theater, or a friend’s house, required a driver’s license and a car. In my mid-twenties I moved from the suburbs to the city and starting taking public transit to work every day, and taking care of most of my chores via walking. I loved it.

Considering the statistics about commuting via car in Chicago, I’m sure I’m not alone. One of my friends lives in the city but has to commute via car to her job in the suburbs. This reverse commute is pretty common in our area these days, but it’s also miserable.

Commuting is not the only hardship. Parking in Chicago can be very problematic and expensive. And then there are the red light cameras to contend with, too. It’s like driving has become a sport where it’s nearly impossible to win; it’s downright discouraging, to say the least.

So I take public transit a lot, and when the weather is good I ride my bike a lot, too. If I have to pick up a prescription, a library book, or a standard load of groceries, I prefer to do it by bike when the weather is favorable. If I had more flexibility in my schedule, I’d be happy to do many of these tasks just by walking. But for many months out of the year, that’s a challenge here in the cold north.

Even though I continue to live in the city, there are certainly times when it is useful to have a car. My parents and some of my friends still live in the suburbs and it would be hard to live without a car for that reason alone. When loading up on groceries and heavier essentials (such as laundry detergent and lots of food in cans), using a car is very convenient. So I do have a car and I do drive it. But it’s a dreaded chore.

One thing I am glad for is that my guy doesn’t seem to mind driving. So when there are chores that require driving, I’m happy to schedule those for times when he’s available to occupy the driver’s seat.

How do you feel about driving? Do you like it in general, or only under certain circumstances?