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Archive for the ‘Moods’ Category

A full year has come and gone since Hannah and I started Ditch the Umbrella. In that time we’ve reflected, mulled, and written about our emotional calendars, and, hopefully, gained a deeper understanding of what boosts our moods and where our emotional hotspots lurk. But now that we’ve completed a full seasonal cycle, we’ve completed our original mission, and so we will be concluding our little experiment. This will be my last blog post, and Hannah’s final reflection will be coming soon.

I, at least, have made changes to the way I live because of these little revelations: last winter, my worst season by far, I had such a bad case of cabin fever that I resorted to a frenetic and uncoordinated evening playing my roommate’s DDR (Dance Dance Revolution). This year, in an effort to prevent bad dancing, I’ve joined a gym so I can have an outlet for my energy when the days are short, the nights frigid, and the sidewalks nearly unwalkable.

The DDR incident, as I’ve come to think of it, taught me that I need to find ways to enjoy the winter sun, even if my face becomes an icicle. So this year, I plan on returning to cross country skiing, and may even try some winter hiking. (But only if I can start a snowball fight somewhere along the way.)

And I’ve started cooking, and cooking seasonally — enjoying fruits and vegetables when they’re naturally fresh (though I’ll still eat winter tomatoes, even if they’re nothing like the tomatoes Hannah rushed back to the States for) — and synching myself with the cycles of New England in that way.

But most importantly, I’m aware of my hotspots. Of the energy I feel in the fall that propels me to go-go-go, and to have an adventure. Of my weather obsession, which I no doubt inherited from the women in my family. Of my need to travel in the summer, or feel like I’m missing out on something. Of the amount of sleep I need to feel well rested and ready to go, especially when the hours of daylight are limited. Of the joy the holidays bring me with their carols, gingerbread, pine, and good cheer. Of the frustration I feel in the middle of winter, when I just can’t think about slipping on ice yet again. And of the things I can do to make the most of these experiences, and to revel in the joys each year brings.

Thanks for reading.

Late afternoon on the rails, Peru

Weather: Cloudy and unseasonably warm. Over 60 degrees in Cambridge.

Mood:

Anna: 6 out of 10. Energized, but slightly sad to be saying goodbye to DTU. A bit nostalgic.

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Bikers in Austin. I am almost this cool.

You are not going to believe what is happening in Austin today. I am sitting in the library by the window, my hands wrapped around a warm cup of coffee, and I am watching the rain drops fall from the trees.

That’s right. It’s been raining for two days now and the world could not be a better place. Life in Austin is looking up.

It’s true that the rain was a bit inconvenient. For example: last night was national “look at the moon night” and when I dragged some new friends over to the lake, we discovered that for the first time in two months, it was cloudy. For the first time in two months, I should say, there was no moon.

And it’s true that I showed up to several important meetings with mud sprayed up my back and my clothes dripping wet, something that used to be standard fare but that hasn’t happened in a long time now. Today was the first opportunity in months for me to perform my “superwoman” transformation, from mud-splattered bicyclist to professional young adult.

(The texans, I should say, were impressed.)

But what the rain lacks in convenience it makes up for in general good will. Biking to campus yesterday, I started thinking that my soul responds to rain just the way a plant does. The grim is washed away, and I can stand up straight again.

I know you’ve been flooded for weeks in New England, and I know that excessive rain leads to mildew and disaffection. But after two months of sun, I’m embracing this chance to curl up in an armchair with a hot beverage and a good book.

Because by next week, it’s sure to be back in the 90s again.

Weather:
70 degrees and cloudy in Austin. 75 degrees and clear in Somerville.

Mood:
Hannah: 8 out of 10. If I wasn’t so overloaded with work I’d probably be jumping with joy.

*Photo credit to rkphoto.com

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We haven’t had particularly good weather luck here in Massachusetts this summer. Sure there have been warm, breezy, sunny days, but in the span of the past few months we’ve also experienced tornadoes and an earthquake. Now, here comes Hurricane Irene.

Last night I bought more non-perishable food and 3 jugs of water from the grocery store. In the check-out line there were mixed reactions. While chatting with the customer ahead of me, the cashier observed, “There have been people stocking up on water and food all day long! I think this is all over-blown. What happens, happens, but I’m not going to worry about it. I think they’re the ones overreacting.” I looked down guiltily at my stacks of soup, crackers, and trail mix, and wondered if I could hide a jug of water under the counter.

I’ve been tracking the hurricane all day and reading up on storm prep.  (After all, I am my mother’s daughter.) Apparently, you’re supposed to buy one gallon of water per person per day of potential captivity; a 3-day supply is listed as the minimum. A 7-day supply is the preferred quantity. Whoa, hold up — do I even have room in my apartment for that much water?! And how could I possibly drink that much in the course of a day? But after reading that, I’m concerned I won’t have enough, so I’ll be stopping at the grocery store again tonight. This time I’ll avoid the criticism and find another check-out line.

But in all seriousness, the reports show this storm could inflict massive damage, and it’s better to be over-prepared than unprepared. Here’s what The Weather Channel suggests people gather:

Essential Items

During a hurricane, and possibly for days or even weeks afterward, electricity and other utilities might not be available. Debris and/or water might block the roads, preventing vehicles from getting in our out of your neighborhood. Help might not reach you for days after the hurricane, so you’ll need to be completely self-sufficient during that period.

Here are some of the most critical supplies to have on hand, well before a hurricane threatens:

    • At least a 3-day and preferably a 7-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day)
    • Non-perishable food
    • Formula, diapers, and other baby supplies
    • Manual can opener
    • First aid kit
    • Prescription and non-prescription medicines
    • Toiletries
    • Cell phones and battery-powered cell phone chargers
    • Battery-powered radios and flashlights
    • Plenty of batteries
    • Extra cash
    • Blankets, sleeping bags, books, and games (especially if evacuating)

Additionally, here are the steps The Weather Channel recommends people take when a hurricane threatens:

When a Hurricane Threatens

Depending on your location, you could be told to evacuate before a warning or even a watch is issued by the National Hurricane Center. Notify someone unaffected by the storm about your whereabouts.No later than when a watch is issued:

  • Fill vehicles with gas.
  • Get extra cash.
  • Fill prescriptions.
  • For mobile homes, secure tie-downs and prepare to evacuate when ordered.
  • Bring in loose objects from outside.
  • Prepare to secure all windows with shutters or plywood.

No later than when a warning is issued:

  • Secure all windows with shutters or plywood.
  • Place valuables and important papers in a waterproof container and store on highest floor
  • of home.

If you are told to evacuate:

  • Follow all instructions from local officials, and leave immediately when told to do so.
  • Bring emergency supplies listed above.
  • Bring copies of important papers such as insurance policies and list and photos of your home’s contents.
  • Bring blankets, sleeping bags, books, and games.
  • Unplug appliances, turn off electricity and main water valve.
  • Lock windows and doors of your home.
  • Go!

If you are not told to evacuate:

  • Stay at home! Leave the roads available for those who must evacuate.
  • Clean bathtub with bleach, fill with water for washing and flushing (not drinking).
  • Set fridge to maximum cold and keep closed.
  • Turn off utilities if told to do so by local officials.

During a Hurricane

  • Go to an interior room on the lowest level of the structure in which you’re taking shelter.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, even though they’re covered with shutters or
  • plywood.
  • During extremely strong winds, lie under something sturdy such as a stairwell or large piece of furniture.
  • Do not go outside, not even during passage of the eye. If the eye passes directly over you, the winds could become very weak, but only for a very short period. It will not be long before hurricane-force wind resume, blowing from the opposite direction as before the eye arrived.

After a Hurricane

  • Help might not come for up to a few days, and power could be out for days or even weeks.
  • Avoid driving on roads covered by water and/or debris. It is often difficult to determine the depth of water covering a road. Turn around, don’t drown.
  • Avoid downed power lines. Stay away from objects that are touching a downed power line, such as a fence or tree.
  • Do not touch anything electrical if you are wet. Stay out of water that could be touching anything electrical, such as in a basement with electrical appliances, or in flooded areas outside where there could be downed power lines.
  • Only use a generator in an outdoor, well-ventilated area, and closely follow manufacturer’s instructions. Many people have died in the aftermath of a hurricane from inhalation of poorly ventilated carbon monoxide from a generator.
  • Use flashlights instead of candles for light. Candles pose a serious fire hazard.

Stay safe, stay dry, and stay hydrated and nourished. Here’s to hoping all this preparation is needless after all.

Weather: 80 degrees. Blue skies, fluffy clouds, and sun.

Moods:

Anna – 7.5 out of 10. Ready to buy more supplies. Stay safe, my friends.
Hannah – 6 out of 10. Hoping everyone back home stays dry… and send some of that rain my way!

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There is a sign around the corner from my new house that says, “We were created. Evolution is a lie.”

Texas Longhorns

austin!

It is over 100 degrees in Austin today and I am hiding inside with the curtains down because my blood’s too thick for this kind of weather. (“Take an aspirin,” my roommate advises, “if you want your blood to thin faster.”) To think I used to believe thick blood was a metaphorical statement!

I arrived in Austin on Monday and drove back to the apartment with my new roommate. On the ride home Amy, who is from New York, told me about Austin. “You’re going to experience some culture shock,” she warned as we drove past a Cowboy Boot store and a trailer park which doubles as a restaurant. “It’s like being in a different country.”

So far, I’ve found it difficult to get a handle on just what kind of country I’m living in. Austin is home to Whole Foods and Rick Perry; the Texas Longhorns and South by Southwest. The UT campus features a confederate statue and a Gutenberg bible. And did I mention it’s over 100 degrees outside?

My roommate told me that Austin is great because everyone’s happy all the time. “It’s not like the northeast,” she said. “People don’t do cynicism.” This is scary to me, and I asked if she thought it was because Austin is always sunny. She says she thinks it’s because Texas has hardly any history, and its economy has always been great.

As for the heat, Amy says that summer in Texas is like winter in Boston. You stay inside all day long, and you suffer from all the accompanying madness. I didn’t believe that until I got up at seven this morning to go for a bike ride and discovered it was already 80 degrees.

Of course, the super-hot weather has some perks. In my new backyard is a vegetable garden. Right now, it’s totally dead. But by November, just as winter starts to set in back east, I’ll be looking forward to a second harvest. That’s something to be optimistic about.

Weather:
Austin: 93 degrees and sunny, with a high of 105
Somerville: 82 degrees and sunny, with a high of  82.

Moods:
Hannah: 8 out of 10 on the “can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. excited to be in a new place.

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The only thing I hated more than fire safety week in elementary school was having to watch “Night of the Twisters” in class. Both terrified me. I don’t remember whose idea it was to show the film, but I’m pretty sure it was supposed to be a treat (to be fair, Devon Sawa starred in it, and he was a hit). Instead, it caused me endless nightmares, despite the fact I lived in Massachusetts. Everybody knows that Massachusetts doesn’t have to worry about tornadoes. Except when we do. Like today.

Imagine my surprise today when I received a very serious sounding email from my mother, the weather maven, reading: “Be very, very careful about this weather situation. No joke.” Now imagine my terror when I read her follow-up email: “Tornado watch. Severe storms heading this way with major hail and winds, etc.” I spent the next hour debating whether I would be safer at home or at my office, until I finally took a deep breath and practically ran outside. The flash of lightning and clap of thunder that coincided with my exit didn’t help matters, nor did the too-dark-for-5pm skies.

I’m home now, tucked inside and listening to the news about western Massachusetts, especially Springfield. I’m hoping everyone emerges safely after the storms, although sadly, I’ve heard that one casualty has already been confirmed. The coverage is nonstop even though the tornado warnings have been lifted. Apparently we’re in store for severe thunderstorms and high winds here in Boston, but as of two minutes ago, it doesn’t sound like we’ll have our own night of the twisters tonight. Thankfully.

Springfield after the tornado, courtesy of @TheFalconsAHL

Springfield after the tornado, again courtesy of @TheFalconsAHL

Weather: Lightning, dark skies, wind…and soon enough, rain. Generally, tornadic weather.

Mood:

Anna – 5 out of 10. Happy to be inside, but nervous about funnel clouds.

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My decision making process: as represented by an engraving by Giovanni Battista Scultori, Italian, 1538.*

“You know, Hannah,” my friend David said to me once, “this may just be part of who you are.” David was referring to my tendency to fall into complete turmoil every time I am confronted with a major decision. I had just moved to my Somerville apartment after weeks of agonizing (Concord or Somerville? Central Square or Porter?) and I was disappointed that the decision had been so hard to make. I wanted my decisions to fall into numerical place, as if it really was just a matter of weighing pros and cons. Some people are capable of that. But, as David pointed out, it’s just not how my mind works.

My flight to Italy departs tomorrow night and this past week has been a plague of decision-making. There are tickets to buy, rooms to reserve, itineraries to arrange and re-arrange. Since I haven’t been working (I left Idea Platforms a week ago!), I have been faced with plenty of time to make the necessary arrangements. For better or worse. The truth is, I’ve been feeling a little bit crazy.

I’ve tried to keep David’s words in mind as I prepare to leave. My decision making process is ugly, but torturing myself over it just makes it worse. I’ve been trying, instead, to accept the chaos as part of the process. And to remember that as difficult as it seems now, it’s going to be worth it just as soon as I step on the plane. After all, the next time I post, I will be in Rome!

Weather: Chilly. Fifties and cloudy with a chance of rain.

Moods:
Hannah: 7 out of 1o on the “can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. Actually I’m feeling a little too overwhelmed to quantify.
Anna: 6.5.

*art from the met!

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The Emotional Calendar is not the only book to recommend tracking moods as a way of better understanding your life and improving your well meaning.

And now, Anna and my home town is tracking moods as well. Today the New York Times reports:

When they filled out the city’s census forms this spring, the people of Somerville got a new question. On a scale of 1 to 10, they were asked, “How happy do you feel right now?”

Sounds familiar! The city plans to use the data to determine whether happiness increases with improved public transport and green spaces. But as Anna and I can vouch for, 1-10 mood ratings are highly variable and depend on all sorts of factors.

“I’m glad they’re trying to use 21st-century tools to get a feel for what people want,” said Conor Brennan, the owner of P J Ryan’s, a pub in Teele Square. “Of course, any survey like this is going to depend on the mood of the person at that moment. If they filled it out in the middle of this last winter, that’s probably going to lower the score.”

Ah, winter. If only city planning officials could do something about that.

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