Favorite Things : March 24 – 29, 2018

favorite things, Uncategorized

A day early due to Good Friday tomorrow. I’m not running this week (more on that next Monday), so this weekend will be hopefully finishing this third chapter and other things I wanted to get done for April. We go to Philadelphia next weekend and will spend a few days in Connecticut visiting Bruno’s parents, so this upcoming week will hopefully be spent checking off to-do’s.

And without further ado, this week’s favorite things.

All the best philosophers walked, especially my beloved Rousseau. I’ve been thinking about adding an after-dinner walk with Bruno to the schedule instead of the usual plopping on the couch and reading/Netflixing.

On my every day damn day list: an hour of reading, ten minutes legs up the wall, and an hour and a half of writing. No matter what.

A funny article on the benefits of early rising. I definitely agree with the point about “me time” in the evenings. I’m usually too tired, so it usually works out for me much better in the mornings.

Important: Media diet pyramid. Get your information from more books, people!

With all my on-going stomach problems, I’ve been thinking about starting to brew my own kombucha. This brew-your-own kit would look a lot nicer than a jar sitting on the counter-top.

I’m the worst trip-planner ever, but I think it worked out for me when we spent five days in Paris during our honeymoon. We never took a taxi (except from the airport to our airbnb and then when we left to the train station) and the only thing I had to do was go to the Pantheon (to see Rousseau, of course). And while we did do some touristy things, mostly we walked around, stopped at cafes or gardens and read. Apparently that is how you should do it.

Nobody finished the Barkley Marathons this year.

Back in the day, my high school friends and I would watch Super Troopers all the time, probably almost every weekend before going out or when there was nothing to do. I even once had my ringer for my cellphone (an LG EnV!) as the song from the scene with the Germans…yeah, you know the one. Proving that I never developed a more sophisticated sense of humor, I have watched the Super Troopers 2 trailer over and over and crack up. I initially was not expecting much, but April 20 can come any day meow.

I run on Dunkin’ Donuts. And now I want these running shoes so I can literally run on Dunkin’.

And last, but not least, if you read anything today, make sure it is this article.

Have a great weekend and Happy Easter!

xo, Ali

Some Thoughts On Food


There have been some leftover Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips in the fridge from the pots du chocolat I made on Saturday night. As a human being, I love chocolate chips. The other day, while grabbing a glass of water in the kitchen, I opened the fridge and grabbed a handful.

“What are you doing?” my husband turned food-Gestapo asked me.

“Eating some chocolate chips,” I said sheepishly in between chews.

I had been caught, chocolate-handed. You see, there’s a new regime in the house. The days of what I liked to refer to as healthy well-balanced eating are over. Even though I have another two weeks until the endoscopy, the bloodwork doesn’t lie. Something is wrong and I’ve been put on the dietary restrictions to fix it.

Here’s something you have to understand about me. Nothing makes me roll my eyes harder than the word cleanse (Isn’t that what your liver is for?). I went gluten-free once in college because I thought it would fix my migraines, but by gluten-free I mean gluten-free except for Bud Light and Papa John’s. I eat healthy insofar as I have a green smoothie for breakfast and have never met a vegetable I didn’t love — but restriction is not in my vocabulary. Sundays are for ice cream and Tuesdays are for cheeseburgers. Those are the rules. Or were the rules.

So me and this list of eight things that the doctor oh-so-kindly handed to me last week Wednesday with the advice of “lots of fruits and vegetables,” have started up this week. This list includes: gluten, dairy, soy, fish, shellfish, nuts, peanuts, and eggs.

And I’m bitter about it. I’m bitter because I still do not feel well and am not sleeping well. That’s enough to make anyone cranky. I’m also bitter because instead of the delicious weekly ice cream treat from the local ice cream parlor this past Sunday, I had some coconut ice cream instead. People, it is not the same. I’m bitter because bacon cheeseburgers with fries are my favorite meals and even though it has been only two days, I feel like everything I love food-wise has been taken from me. I’m basically in mourning.*

But I’m also bitter, because I really do not want to be that person that says “oh, I can’t eat that,” launching into some lengthy explanation. I pride myself on not being that person. I pride myself for caring about what I eat just enough, but not too much (insert quote here from Allan Bloom about people caring too much about having the perfect body, and not at all about the perfect soul). But until I know what is going on, I actually have to be that person. Not because I care about having the “perfect body” but because if I don’t, I’ll be sick and not be able to work on my dissertation. I won’t be able to go anywhere in public because I’ll be too afraid of getting sick. I’ll have to cancel things because even though I felt fine two hours ago, suddenly I’m sick (all things that have actually happened in the past week).

I know that this is the new normal and that within a month or two (if I keep having to do this) I’ll be fine, used to it. I mean I once went five months between 2016-17 without drinking and craft beer is on par with cheeseburgers, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Bob Dylan as one of my all-time favorite things. And it was fine. So fine that for me, not drinking for Lent (and probably now onwards until we know what is up) has been a piece of (gluten-free, dairy-free) cake.

And so that I can hopefully function as a normal human being for the month of April, we decided to start with sans-gluten and dairy. The no-gluten is so far going better than the no-dairy. I mean, those chocolate chips, so delicious, right? But I ate them all before Bruno could stop me, a service to myself, and so I’ll start the no-dairy for real this time. Onward.

*Once, years ago, my sister said to my mom, “On my way home I saw a dead possum on the side of the road. It looked about as dramatic as Ali acts.”

Intellectual Humility and Lazy Dogmatism

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, political musings

This post is a bit long, but stick with me…

Generalized political smears are a great irritation of mine. Not only do I think they are not helpful, but I also think they represent lazy and dogmatic thinking. As in, “All NRA Members Are Terrorists,” “Republicans are Racists,” “Democrats Are Politically Correct Snowflakes,” “Muslims are Terrorists,” or “Christians only care about life when it is in the womb” or really, pick your poison on whatever cardboard sign you see people, on whatever political divide, holding attacking the other side, usually with some contemptuous generalized over-statement. In full disclosure, whenever I see someone express these opinions, as an argument or protest, I usually do not think that person is thoughtful, regardless of whatever policy decisions they support.

As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn puts in in the Gulag Archipelago, “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

That is, making a broad judgment on people based on what their religious, political, or policy opinions, is not only an absurd over-simplification, but also is a relinquishing of our responsibility to see and address our own individual intellectual short-comings.

In response to these broad judgments, I try to make a call for intellectual humility. Honestly, and truly, how many books have you read or research have you done on any particular topic on any particular policy proposal? And I mean more than just read a few articles. And I mean even more than read a few books that support your side. Most of us, myself included, have not done much. Maybe we have pet policies that we care about, like gun control, abortion, or immigration policy or maybe we are an expert in a particular field. Most of us, though, probably take things on authority or at the very least, take some things on authority. And honestly, I think we fail to appreciate how much that authority and the opinions we hold (especially if we stick to only reading and discussing only what agrees with those opinions) is based on pure chance — as in what our parents thought, where we grew up, the schools we went to, and the people we met along the way.

This is a problem that there is not really much we can do about. We don’t have time to read and research and compare everything (as much as I wish I did). Everyone has to take things on authority as a matter of practicality. No matter what, we are going to have opinions and ideals, as pure skepticism is an impossible state for the mind and for politics. Take immigration for example. I take George Borjas as my authority, because I trust, as a Harvard economist, he has done his research and read all the books on the topic (and interestingly, probably because he has done the research is more moderate than either side) and because, what he writes seems to match up with a lot of the political theory I read. But I would never claim to be an expert, because I myself have not spent a great amount of time reading dozens and dozens of books, articles, statistics on immigration, because well, my time is taken up with Rousseau and my dissertation and 18th century France. And while I vote and discuss my opinions in a way that one could probably tell Borjas is my authority, I absolute keep the fact that I have not done my own research in mind when talking with my friends who may have different opinions, or rather, different authorities. I think in our own rhetoric, while holding to our opinions and ideals, we should probably keep in mind our own lack of knowledge and be humble.

I’m not particularly eloquent (or particularly well-written for that matter), but I’ll conclude by turning to my friend Jean-Jacques Rousseau (who is exceedingly well-written) for what I am trying to say. That is how difficult not only is it to make knowledgeable (let alone true) judgments on people for different opinions, but also, what it takes to really understand and know certain arguments and theories. He refers to religion, but considering how much moral capital we ascribe to having the right political ideals today, I think it is currently applicable:

“Among so many diverse religions which mutually proscribe and exclude one another, a single one is the right one, if indeed there is a right now. In order to recognize it, it is not sufficient to examine one of them; they must all be examined, and in any matter whatsoever one must not condemn without hearing. The objections must be compared to the proofs; it must be known what each objects to in the others, and what it responds to their objections against itself. The more a sentiment appears to us to have been demonstrated, the more we ought to try to find out the basis for so many men’s not finding it so. One would have to be quite simple to believe that it suffices to hear the learned men of one’s own party to inform oneself of the arguments of the opposing party. Where are the theologians who pride themselves on good faith? Where are those who begin by weakening them? Each shines in his own party; but one who in the midst of his own people is proud of his proofs would cut a very foolish figure with these same proofs among people of another party…The absent party is always wrong, and poor arguments spoken with assurance easily efface good ones expounded with contempt…In order to judge a religion well, it is necessary not to study it in the books of its sectarians, but to go and learn it amongst them. That is very different. Each religion has its traditions, its views, its customs, and its prejudices which constitute the spirit of its belief and must also be considered for it to be judged.” (from the Profession of Faith, Emile).

Monday Miles : March 19 – 25, 2018

monday miles, running

This is the week I go back and repeat weeks 7-11 of the Hal Higdon Half-Marathon plan, finishing with week 12 at the end of April. And the most eventful difference I tried to make is to go up the mile stretch with the hills instead of going down it. Within one mile, it goes up 100 feet and it doesn’t really go down. It is just one long big hill.

Ok, this is small potatoes, right? But you have to understand something about me. I grew up in a pancake flat town where I once did a twenty mile run and I think the elevation changed only 12 feet. For twenty miles. When I moved here I thought my runs were so hard, because ah! hills! Now when I go home, my runs are guaranteed 30 – 60 seconds faster (per mile) than what they are here. So the big, scary, hilly road is a big deal. For me.

Also, if running up the same hill over and over again is good enough for Kaci Lickteig, then it is good enough for me.

So yes, the week of the hill. Mostly I felt good. I’ve done this before, so the confidence was there. I was not worried I would not be able to do the mileage. It felt so routine. And that feeling, that beautiful routine feeling, was exactly what I have been wanting to reach.

3 / 19 : You know the drill. MTV Pilates & MTV Yoga.

3 / 20 : 3 miles, easy. IT Band & Core. Clamshells, fire hydrants, a million bridges.

3 / 21 : 5 miles. This felt like such a good run. Plus, I went about a minute faster on my fifth mile than I did on my fourth mile, just because I felt that good. 9:18/mile average. Lifted weights after: 3 x 10 kettle bell swings @ 20 lbs., 3 x 10 single-leg Romanian dead-lifts — no weight, balance first; 3 x 10 assisted pull-ups (about 72 lbs. assistance?), 3 x 10 push-ups. IT Band & Core. .4 mile run back to the house.

3 / 22 : SICK

3 / 23 : SICK

3 / 24 : I was sick for like a good two hours for this run, but I still did it. I felt good actually. 9 miles. My only goal was to stay under 10 minute pace for the most part, and I did, averaging 9:52 pace. It felt like it went by quickly. Ain’t no thang. Only nine miles.

3 / 25 : Still not feeling the best, but feeling better. 3 miles. Here’s something weird about running. Double-digit miles can fly by. Three miles are my least favorite runs. They feel so slow. Like, I just want to get it done and out of the way. Come on three milers, we need to make peace. Related: Shauna Niequist on three mile runs and rough drafts.

Total : 20ish happy miles.

xo, Ali




Favorite Things : March 17 – 23, 2018

favorite things, health

A couple weeks ago I mentioned that I was pretty sick, as in, can barely keep down any food sick. I went to see a doctor, went to the hospital for an ultrasound, and some bloodwork. I’ve still been in a lot of pain, but it depends on the day. I had thought some probiotics and yogurt was making it better, but then yesterday, I had a pretty bad day again. Mainly just sick, in bed, researching symptoms, and watching Happy Endings on Hulu(why was this show cancelled?!). Except this time, I’m pretty sure it was a little bit self-induced.

I had a follow-up appointment with the doctor on Wednesday. Turns out my bloodwork showed a high amount of eosinophils, which is apparently a white blood cell connected with food allergies (I’m not a doctor, my authority is my lady doctor). The good news is, I feel like I have some evidence my pain is not in my head. The bad news is I was gifted with a list of eight foods to avoid (you know, dairy, gluten, soy, fish, eggs, etc.) and told to basically just work my way through them and see what is up. Then I was scheduled for an EGD (I’m not even going to type out the full name), but it’s one of those scans where they stick a camera down your throat and take pictures of your innards while you are looped up on a sedative. It’s in April, but I’m assuming, given how I’ve been feeling this last month, they will find a mess.

So I rewarded myself with a cheeseburger (completely rational, right?), the last cheeseburger (at least for now). And I was up at around 2:30 Thursday morning and have been sick ever since, munching on gluten free crackers and ginger tea.

And with that, I will end the health update.

Without further ado, this week’s favorite things:

How we spend our days and purpose and, of course, running.

I live in Michigan and had no idea about the Michigan Ice Festival.

Another great blog post from my friend Emily, with the always important reminder: act how you want to feel.

As long as I can remember my favorite genre of books have been memoirs. Then when I was in high school I read Smashed by Koren Zailckas approximately fifty million times and my favorite sub-set of memoir became the addiction memoir (I love human self-overcoming). I told the aforementioned Emily this week that I was becoming tired of memoirs and joking said I was losing my empathy, as in, “get your shit together.” Within ten minutes of the phone conversation though, I discovered a new memoir by Leslie Jamison, called The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath, which looks phenomenal and I think Bruno already pre-ordered for me. In a surprising twist, Jamison has been referred to as the “Queen of Empathy” for her previous collection essays called The Empathy Exams. Go figure and point taken, universe.

I have mixed feelings about Esther Perel, but I thought her advice on marriage after children worth booknoting.

The science of running breaks (not that I want to take one right now).

We have friends coming over for dinner tomorrow night. I’m thinking (as a last hoorah) some croque-monsieurs (made with homemade sourdough bread, of course), arugula salad with this vinaigrette, and finished off with some chocolate pots de crème.

xo, Ali


Throwback Thursday Tunes : Sing Me to Sleep

throw-back thursday tunes

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m still dealing with insomnia. Luckily, I’m not alone and there is plenty of music with which to commiserate or share the joys of sleeping.

The Beatles are the ultimate lullaby-song singers here. I was already familiar with plenty of Beatles sleep songs, not to mention the insomniac relatable line from “I’m So Tired“: You know I can’t sleep, I can’t stop my brain.

Then there is the soothing “Sleepwalking” by Johnny and Santo. No words, but it does feel relaxing, like sleep. This is the state that is desired, the peaceful sleep, but until then…

You have to get through the pains of waiting for the sleep to come, the manic heart-thumping, the tossing and turning. What better song than Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” to display the fear that one just might not be able to fall asleep?

Enjoy the rest of RSJ’s Throwback Thursday Tunes : Sing Me to Sleep playlist here.

Sweet dreams, Ali



The One-Step Over-Sleeping Plan

daily life

The insomnia blues were playing again this week. Late Sunday night, I gave into the Nyquil because I just wanted to sleep. Even though I slept (yay!), I ended up sleeping in late (boo!), and lo! the plan for Monday’s schedule was abandoned.

I suspect I am not the only person who deals with this, whether it is the insomnia or the oversleeping. Normally I am a 4am morning person, so waking up at 8am sets my teeth on edge, heart-racing, and the mind-spiral a-going. Totally rational, right?

This is a do as I say and a not as I do advice for when your sleep does not go as planned. Catastrophe planning at its finest, this plan aims to end your late-waking worries and fears of failure and thoughts of “I’m sure this never happens to ‘insert prominent scholar here’!” Moreover, it only has one step.

Do your normal morning routine. 

Now I admit, I live a pretty flexible life. There is nowhere I technically have to be, nowhere I absolutely have to show up. It is 11:10am as I write this and I am still rocking polka-dot pajama pants and a neon green marathon t-shirt.

But, what I think is especially important is not starting off the morning in that panic-stricken-I-have-so-much-to-do-I-just-lost-four-hours spiral that doing something normal, even if it is shortened, even if the best you can do is just sit with your coffee for ten minutes. Just do it.

Time is a luxury and sitting there, even if for a bit is a reminder that even if the day is starting late, even if it is not going the way you plan, you have it. As Bruno kept telling me, “You still have all the rest of the day.” Or even in the wise words of Alexandra Franzen, “Today is not over yet.”

I always find that if I do a full-dive into the day, without a little quiet time for myself, nothing I do (even if I do manage not to just write the day off) is done with much focus or even, with much enjoyment. The day feels off. The work feels off. Doing the standard morning routine makes things feel much better, or rather, just normal. Sure, less gets done, but at least I can be sure it gets done well.

xo, Ali



A “Winning” Mindset

dissertation, graduate school, running

When it has been awhile since I’ve turned anything in or when it has been awhile since I’ve gotten any “you’re on the right track” type of feedback, I start to get antsy. I mean, I’m always antsy and anxious, but even more so than usual. Maybe some irritability will crop up or dramatic exclamations of “I’m a failure!” What did I fail? To be determined. Usually around this time, I’ll start saying things to Bruno like: “I need a win.”

It does not matter how many times I have “won” (in whatever way that can mean in graduate school). Within a few days, I need another opportunity to “prove myself” because I’m still not sure, even though I’ve been here for five years, passed my classes, passed reading comprehension in ancient Greek and French, passed comps (it was brutally ugly, but I passed) and have had two chapters approved and I still do not think I’m intelligent enough for grad school. And I constantly have to work make sure someone “qualified” can let me know whether I am intelligent enough or whether I am not, because none of the above “proves” it once and for all.

Meanwhile, this is a total joy-sucker and a total sucker-punch to the idea that learning is good for its own sake. I mean, I truly believe it is the best way of life and I would rather be here than making six figures with health insurance elsewhere. What is the point of anything if I can’t spend all day with Rousseau, Plato, Hegel, Hobbes, and so on reading, thinking, writing, etc?

And yet, in my day to day life it becomes much less about learning for its own sake and more about getting that chapter approved because someday I need to finish this dissertation, so I can get those three little letters appended to my name, so that I can get a job, so that I can get health insurance, and blah, blah, blah. I understand the need to be pragmatic, but there are times where it can be crushing, where I forget it is only the means to the end. The day becomes less about what I learned and more about productivity. The word count basically my little star of approval when I can’t get it from anywhere else. You wrote a lot today. Today mattered. Or, you didn’t write a lot today. Today was a waste.

I have not figured this out yet, how to separate the joy of learning with the practical need for affirmation, but moreover for the more pernicious need for affirmation. I have been trying to figure out how to remove that feeling for the last five years of graduate school and I’m not sure that I am any closer than I was today in 2018 than I was in 2013 when I first started.

Amelia Boone, 3x World Toughest Mudder Champion, had a great Instagram post the other day. She wrote, “I spent so many years – maybe most of my life so far – doing things out of fear (racing included). I thought that, somehow, enough awards and accolades and wins would make me happy. That, at some point, I’d be satisfied. But it was only when I accepted that these would *never* be enough did I finally start to feel full.”

I want to apply that mindset to graduate school, to the learning life, because it is true. No amount of A’s, passes, honorary societies, chapter approvals I get ever seems to be enough. I have not “arrived,” because I never will. And as much as I may say that I need a “win” there will never be one final “win” to end all wins, that fully declares “I’m smart enough to be here and certifiably not a moron.”

I’m not sure how someone goes about the acceptance Boone describes, but I am willing to give it a go.

xo, Ali



Monday Miles : March 12 – 18, 2018

lifting, running

I DID IT! I have completed the Hal Higdon novice 2 half-marathon training plan (well, every week except for the pre-half week). That means eleven weeks consistent training. This is, truly, as big a victory as I suspect finally running the half in late April will be. I am overjoyed. And while the dissertation feels like it is only trudging along, I’m glad that at least here things seem to be moving in a forward progress type direction.

My half is April 28, so I have another couple of weeks or so to run it. My plan is to repeat weeks 7-12 until that week. I thought about adding a couple more miles to the week, like 4 on Tuesday, 6 on Wednesday, maybe a few on Sunday — but I can tell that is my all-or-nothing-go-big-bigger-biggest mentality that would probably result in me not running the half, which would be a total bummer. So until then — I’ll hang out in the 20-23 miles per week area, until, of course, the next plan.

3 / 12 : MTV Pilates; MTV Yoga

3 / 13 : 3 miles; hips and IT band.

3 / 14 : 5 miles; 3 x 10 kettle-bell swings, 3 x 10 assisted pull-up, 3 x 10 hamstring things (I cannot remember what these are called, but I just know I did something for my hamstrings), 3 x 10 push-ups; hips and IT band.

3 / 15 : 3 miles; hips and IT band.

3 / 16 : Rest! Hour massage! Hips and IT Band.

3 / 17 : 12 mile run; 10:15/mile. This felt good. No complaints. I felt strong and consistent the whole run. I was wiped out afterwards, but wiped out in a good way.

3 / 18 : JasYoga Recovery boost.

xo, Ali

Favorite Things : March 10 – 16, 2018

dissertation, favorite things

Well. I’m caught up. I’ve started the third set of edits and hopefully will be well on my way to get this chapter turned in by the end of the month. I still feel anxious (what else is new?), but I’m hoping that as I get closer and closer to turning the chapter in that anxiety will eventually recede.

Not much on the docket for this weekend. I run twelve miles tomorrow and some fellow graduate students are having a St. Patrick’s Day party in the evening. Still not drinking, we bought some Q ginger beers (still kind of festive, get it…”ginger” beers…ok, I’m still twelve) and I’m making some cookies to bring.

And without further ado, here are this week’s favorite things:

Long, but poignant essay on privilege.

These pictures make me want a skateboard.

Not a vegan, but I was still interested in this list.

Also, not a fan of baseball, but this article on Ichiro Suzuki was fascinating.

Definitely worth reading and thinking about: submissive sex in the age of #metoo.

Usually I wake around 4am — an old article on why that is the most productive hour.

The always wonderful Ann Patchett on baking and retraining your shrinking attention span.

If you read anything on this list, read this one: life after cancer diagnosis.

Have a great weekend!

xo, Ali