There's nothing like moving across the country to completely disrupt your diet and exercise routine.
Since Len and I didn't have any of our dishes when we got here (it took about a week for the moving company to arrive with our stuff) we tended to eat out most nights. We live in Wisconsin now, the land of cheese and brats. After about a week and a half of being here, we both noticed that we felt bloated, loagy, and...well, kind of squishy. We reflected on our diet and realized that since arriving in the state we hadn't had a meal that didn't consist almost entirely of cheese, sausage, and fried things. In fact, most of the things actually were fried cheese and sausage.
I also foolishly didn't keep unpacked my yoga mat, strap, blocks, and zafu cushion. I used a bath towel and realized very quickly that cold feet (it's about 40 degrees here these days) slip quite quickly when not on a sticky yoga mat. My body was very surprised one morning when it attempted to do prasarita pattodanasa (standing wide-legged forward bend) and ended up very quickly doing a split instead. I'm sure there's a yoga name for that pose, but the name I chose to give it was OUCH. So consequently my usual yoga routine was cut short for about a week and a half until our stuff arrived.
Once we finally realized what was happening to our bodies we stocked up on salad fixings and vegetables and vowed to be a little kinder to ourselves. I also had to completely revamp my yoga schedule. As an independent contractor in California I was able to do my routine when I wanted, which was late in the afternoon. I don't have that luxury now, so I had to pick a new time. Since I'm a morning person I chose to do it before work.
I like to work early and be at work no later than 8:30 am. The yoga routine I like to do generally lasts an hour start to finish. I also don't like to be rushed in the morning, so I decided to start getting up at 6 am to do yoga and then get ready for the day.
The first week was a little rough to get used to. As much as I'm a morning person, I don't generally like to get up any earlier than 6 am or I feel sluggish, so this was somewhat pushing it. Combined with the new winter climate -- resulting in a house that's a tad cool in the mornings, heat or no -- my joints and muscles are definitely complaining. I thought about switching to doing yoga at night, but I don't like that option. I tend to go to bed by 10:30 and I get home just after 6. If I take an hour out of that, that doesn't leave much husband time. I'd rather just get up early while he's sleeping.
Now that I'm getting used to it, I think I like it and I'm even considering getting up at 5:45 am in order to extend my routine a bit. I find that unlike before, I stick to doing my yoga every day much better than I did (busy afternoon? I'll do yoga tomorrow...). And I'm definitely awake once I start getting ready for work. And it's very quiet at that time of day. It's a good way to start the morning.
Getting myself back on a better diet is another matter all together. I've been taking salads and drinking more water again, but it's tough sticking to that when everyone at work goes to the local fried-cheese-and-sausage places for lunch and asks you to come along. No thanks, I'll have my salad. Again. Have a fried cheese stick for me.
I've been unpacking the boxes marked "office" today. It's a challenge since that was always our junk room. But I did unpack a box today that made me smile - I unpacked The Letters.
The Letters are comprised of seven shoeboxes, each dated with a month/year span starting from 1985 and ending in 1994. The boxes contain letters from Cinda, who I've been best friends with since we were nine. Each of the letters runs at minimum of about ten pages, and at maximum of about 40 pages. I think that Cinda still has her own shoeboxes with letters from me that are the counterparts to these.
The Letters started when I went to live with my dad in 1985. He lived an hour away from my mother, so that put me in a completely new school and far away from Cinda. An hour away seemed like it might have been another country when you're a pre-teen and you have to rely on your parents for transportation everywhere. At some point, one of us -- probably Cinda, as she was always much better about something like this than I was -- started The Index Letter, and the Letter Writing SOP began.
While I was waiting to get her letter, I would begin a letter to her. The mail took a while, so each day I'd just add to the letter, marking each day with a new header. I'd keep adding to the letter like this, talking about my day, what was going on, what I was thinking, until I got her letter. At that point, I read hers and then continued my own letter, responding to everything in hers in logical progression. By the end the letter would be several pages, and that was writing front and back on single-spaced college-ruled notebook paper.
Once she'd sent her letter off, she'd start a new one, just like I did. She would add to hers, just like me, until she got my letter, at which point she'd respond to mine in hers and then send it off.
It was a strict, clockwork process -- neither of us would dare to ruin the rhythm by sending off a letter too early and then mucking up the entire process. You had to wait until you got the other's letter and then responded to it until you mailed yours off. Our families would move (mine more than hers), our lives would turn over, we would be flightly teenagers and yet we stuck to that letter writing ritual religiously.
Cinda and I -- probably her more than me -- were voluminous writers. Combined with the drama of being teenagers, you can imagine what these letters were like. We were (are) best friends, and so as we would write each day in our letters to each other they became a diary of sorts. The most common page count for our letters was about 20 pages each. At some points, they reached 40. I still remember the first time my stepmother had to pay the mail carrier extra change to cover the postage due for Cinda's letter. After that, our parents would each give us rolls of 100 stamps for our birthdays and Christmas and we would have to put at least two on each letter to cover the postage.
At some point -- somewhere in year three, I think -- we began decorating the envelopes. It actually started more simply than that: Cinda decided to be funny and send the letter addressed to "You" with my address and the return address as "Me", with her address. Then somehow we started inserted quotes into each others' names on the envelope. At first they were just something funny, like our nicknames (Caryn "Swenzie" Swensen, for instance -- Swensen is my maiden name, and around 7th grade Cinda had taken to calling me Swenzie or Swens. To this day she'll occasionally call me that, and people who never knew me in a pre-married life often wonder about it).
But pretty quickly we started making the quotes mean something. In fact, the quotes became very important somehow, and I think Cinda started it. Cinda was always clever beyond her age, and the quotes somehow began taking on a haiku kind of feel: for the quote in the other person's name, you had to sum up their last letter in just a few short words, and you had to sum up your current letter in a few short words for your name on the envelope. We would know instantly what the gist of the letter was by reading our addresses. The mail carrier must have been confused.
We kept the quotes from that point on, and at some point again -- and I think I started it this time -- we began decorating the backs of the envelopes. We would put little quotes or pictures that described something in the letter, maybe a frustration with a guy we were in-like with. Then we began saying hello to the mail carriers on the backs of the envelopes since we knew they had to be reading. The envelopes became as important as the letter inside and the quotes in our names. It was a whole tightly-woven system.
I remember that my family got to know our mail carrier because he decided to write "hello back!" on the envelopes. He apparently just loved our letters.
Back when I was a pre-teen, I read a series of books that featured a young girl in early-century times named Emily. The book series spanned her life from the pre-teen years to her teenage years and on into early adulthood when she got married. I remember being fascinated by the transformation, all in these three little books.
The Letters remind me of this. The span what was probably the most tumultuous years for the both of us, from our pre-teen years on into adulthood. They cover things that we would never tell another person, traumatic things for the both of us that many other people haven't experienced. I kept diaries during these years, and yet somehow the letters to Cinda were far more honest than my diaries. Years later when Len and I moved for the first time, I found the box of both my diaries and The Letters. I looked at both piles, and after some brief thought I chucked all seven diaries into the garbage and then kept all of Cinda's letters. I'd decided I couldn't bear to ever go back and read the melodrama of my own diaries because I knew that what I'd written in letters to Cinda were far more honest and free from the typical teenage theater. In some ways, knowing those letters are there gives me some sense of verification that I wasn't alone in what would turn out to be the most difficult period of my life. A diary was a solitary island, but The Letters are an anchor to another person.
Looking back, there is an amazing amount of depth in our letters for two teenagers. When we responded to the other person's letter and their current issues with friends or boys or, years later, more serious issues we would spend pages psychoanalyzing what was going on, writing out possible solutions or analogies.
When I took The Letters out of the box they were packed in, Len said, "ahh...there they are," and I smiled. "Are you ever going to scan those onto CDs or something?" He asked.
I told him I'd thought about it and I probably will, but I'll never get rid of the physical letters -- scanning would only be in case they were ever lost or damaged. As a genealogist, there is sometimes no greater feeling than the tactile nature of opening an old envelope and reading the handwriting on old paper from a letter written years or decades ago. I have such a strong physical memory of actually writing my letters to Cinda and reading these while lying on my bed or listening to music that I could never get rid of the physical product.
When we both got access to email in the '90's, the physical letters stopped. Now we write long emails to each other and we talk on IM, but we spread some time between our emails in order to have a lot to write about, since email is instantaneous and I think we both miss the diary-like nature of our letters.
I never take down the letters in the box and read them. I don't remember the last time I did that. I don't really have the desire to do it, but putting them up in the closet today made me smile knowing they're there, and it made me smile to open the lids of the boxes and just gently rifle through a few of the envelopes. It reminded me that in this day of instant communication, we all talk a whole lot more but it seems like we say so much less.
Here we are, our new home sweet home -- Madison, Wisconsin. We spent three and a half days in the pick-up truck with two cats driving across country, and it actually went really well. Sam and Pico were so good - we put the carriers in the back seat (it's a crew cab truck) and once we got out on the road we opened the carrier doors so they could walk out. I monitored them to be sure they didn't suddenly fly up into the front seat and attack Len, the driver, with white-hot feline fury. But I didn't have to -- after the initial thirty minutes or so of howling and complaining, they both settled down and took turns sleeping next to each other either in the carriers or on the seat between them. Each morning, though, it became progressively harder for them to settle down. They were clearly getting as antsy as we were to get this driving crap out of the way.
But now we're all settling into our new rented townhouse, as much as we can without our furniture, which arrives tomorrow. We've spent a week living like squatters in the place, and I'm sure the neighbors are beginning to wonder why they see cats and people in the windows but no things.
Work is great -- any nervousness I had about starting this new job has completely gone away. The people are fun and great to work with, and I'm enjoying what I'm doing. I'm especially enjoying the fact that I have a job with more concrete goals: "make this."
Pictures will come soon, as a few people have been asking me to take some of our new place. Also, apparently there may be snow tomorrow night. Brr.