beka stays authentic : on losses and leaders

I’ve been uncharacteristically quiet about the Packers this season. This is mostly because watching an undefeated season unfold is kind of like holding your breath for a really long time and after awhile you’re just waiting and watching and turning blue and wondering how much longer it can last.

We answered that question yesterday. Well played, KC.

Now, I am not of the persuasion that a loss can be a “good” loss. When you only play 16 games in a season every game counts. I also don’t think that, as some have suggested, the loss was beneficial because it alleviated perceived pressure on the Packers to go undefeated. True to their roots, I don’t think the Packers are the type to cater to that kind of pressure in the first place, so losing the potential for the perfection doesn’t matter as much as losing in general. Also, as a fan, it was nice living in a dreamworld for almost an entire calendar year. It was a fragile place to live, but a nice one nonetheless.

However, lessons can still be learned from losses. While listening to post-game commentary I learned to further appreciate the leadership that has brought the Packers into such a successful run. Here are some quotes from Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s press conference, and some reasons why I think he’s so good at his job.

He knows what the big-picture looks like: “Really, what is disappointing to me is that we didn’t clinch home-field advantage. That was always the goal. I personally always viewed the undefeated season as, really, just gravy. The goal was to get the home-field advantage and win the Super Bowl.”

He doesn’t use injuries as excuses: “I don’t think anytime you have struggles you look to individuals that are not on the field. You look at the game. I’ll go back, I’ll look at the way it was called. We didn’t catch the ball like we normally catch the ball.”

He calls it like it is: “We talked about it being a spirited football game, and we didn’t answer the bell. We were beaten today. The Kansas City Chiefs outplayed us. We were beaten.”

He stays focused and consistent: “We’ve got our 15th game coming up. We’re fighting for home-field advantage. I say the same thing as every day. We need to improve as a football team, and we need to play our next game better against the Chicago Bears.”

Thanks, Coach, for being such a good leader. We really like you. We think you’re swell.

For documentation:

It should be noted the perfect season came to an abrupt halt in Week 15 by a deficit of 5 points. Sorry Pack, apparently 5’s still hate me.

It should also be noted that I will be leading the charge to get Mark Tauscher back on the frozen tundra. We need offensive linemen like whoa. We miss you, Mark!

beka stays in rochester : hitting the streets

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I love being outside. I always prefer outdoor seating at restaurants. I could walk around my neighborhood for hours without getting the slightest bit bored. Give me a camera to take along and the day is pretty much done. I’ll be out rolling around in the grass taking pictures of acorns until sunset.

But running outside? Yeah, I pretty much hate it.

This boggles my mind and frustrates me to no end. I enjoy running. I enjoy being outside. Therefore, one could logically conclude that A + B  = C. Except in my case A + B = I enjoy running inside and doing all other things outside.

I can think of three reasons for this conundrum. 1 – I like knowing the facts. I like knowing how far I ran, at what pace, for how long, and how many calories I shaved off in the process. This is highly control-freaky but I work best when I can see tangible results in all areas of life, workouts included. 2 – I like not having to worry about crossing streets/falling into potholes/tripping over trash…because we all know that lacking grace is one of my most developed spiritual gifts. The treadmill doesn’t throw anything unexpected in my way, and as someone prone to falling face first into the unexpected, I appreciate that. 3 – Let’s be honest. I can watch Sports Center and Giada at Home on the treadmill…and I appreciate that too.

So when the urge to throw on workout clothes and go for a run outside hit me last Sunday I took full advantage. I changed in the blink of an eye and headed out before I could change my mind. I listened to the Packers game until my phone decided it didn’t want to work and ran in silence the rest of the way. And then I remembered that I like running without audio distractions because I always end up praying. I ran in the dark sans phone/iPod almost every morning while working in Admissions and it was the best possible way to start every day. (A practice I was quick to forget once I left Admissions and selectively remembered only the waking up pre-dawn and running in the first 5 minutes of consciousness parts.)

On Sunday I ran down my street, turned onto East Ave, and went down to Main to see the flagpole-turned-Christmas-tree at the intersection before turning around and running back to my apartment.

It was just wonderful.

The sun was setting when I left and as daylight faded I got to see the city all aglow with Christmas decorations. I was so entertained by passing countless restaurants and stores and homes and people. And when I ran over the highway, with the sun sinking low and casting it’s last light over the city, I felt like I was in one of those scenes from a movie I’ve always wanted to be in. One with a girl living in a city who get a sudden burst of determination and goes out for a run against a breathtaking urban backdrop. Whenever I see a scene like that I always think, “I wish I could run in a place like that.”

Well it turns out I can! When I was running on Sunday I was (yet again) overwhelmed with gratitude for my little Rochester life. I’ve literally been given everything I wanted in a place to live and then some.

So with that in mind, along with incorporating more running back into my life (seriously, there’s a running revolution going on over here…quick calculation: I think I ran well over 25 miles this week – 8 on Friday alone!), I’m going to make a conscious effort to get off the treadmill and onto the street more often. It’s a good decision in all respects.

beka stays healthy : wild rice stuffed acorn squash

Sometimes when I’m not eating sushi and nutella (I still stand by this decision) or Aladdin’s fatoush salad (oh my word…SO good…it’s dangerous that I live two blocks away) for dinner, I actually – wait for it – make something!

Will wonders never cease?

This is one of my favorites for this time of year: roasted acorn squash stuffed with wild rice, dried cherries, and walnuts. I’m a fan for the following reasons:

1 – There are exactly two steps, so it’s the opposite of labor intensive.

2 – There are exactly 5 ingredients (plus seasonings), so it’s the opposite of pantry-depleting.

3 – The seeds from the squash can be roasted with maple syrup and spices for a snack the next day. Two birds, one stone.

4 – It’s basically an edible bowl filled with warmth and comfort, and who doesn’t like that?

Here’s how you can make the magic happen in your very own kitchen!

Wild Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash

Serves: 2

Total Time: About an Hour

Step 1:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Then, hack into the acorn squash. I’ve yet to find a reliable method of splitting the squash in half that does not involve hacking (and fearing a looming trip to the ER), but it works, and bonus: doubles as a stress reliever. Again with the birds and the stones! Once split in half, scoop out the seeds and reserve for later use. Coat the squash with a teaspoon of olive oil and season with course ground salt, pepper, and just a little cinnamon. Pop into the oven for 35 minutes.

Step 2:

Prepare the rice mixture. Feel free to actually cook your own rice…but I’m a fan of using these rice mixes. Mix 1/2 cup of cooked rice with one tablespoon of dried cherries, one tablespoon of chopped walnuts, and a teaspoon of olive oil. After 35 minutes take the squash out of the oven, split the rice mixture between the two squash halves, and bake for an additional 10 minutes.Let it sit for about 5 minutes afterward to cool, then dig in!

Winter dinner is served! Probably a better bet than nutella…or at least a more respectable one.

beka stays authentic : you will still sleep tonight if you don’t read this

Things you probably don’t need to know but I’m going to tell you about anyway because I’m plum out of blog fodder:

1. Last night I was craving something warm and comforting for dinner. Something like meatloaf or chicken parmesan or chili. I came home with citrus tofu sushi and nutella (which I did not eat simultaneously). I’d say I missed the mark, but it was so good that I didn’t mind it being the antithesis of my original dinner plan.

2. Yesterday morning I went to Dunkin Donuts to order coffee from the drive thru. I proceeded to drive not thru, but directly past the pickup window, which led to driving around the establishment in a Circle of Shame. I was hoping I could just go straight through to the pickup window and avoid explaining myself but as fate would have it 3 cars decided to jump in line in the short amount of time it took me to drive around the building. Which meant this conversation loomed in my future:

“Welcome to Dunkin Donuts! How can I help you?”

“I’ve actually already placed my order.”

“I’m sorry?”

“I drove through about a minute ago and ordered a large coffee…”

“Oh. So. (Long pause to figure out what could have possibly prevented me from obtaining said coffee.)”

“I’m just a moron. I drove past the window. It’s why I need the coffee.”

“Oh! Don’t worry about it. Happens all the time.”

Really? Does it? I’m pretty sure it does not, as most people can successfully navigate driving from one window to another in a straight line. But thank you, Dunkin Donuts employee, for trying to make me feel better about life.

3. Sadly, my month of CrossFit from Living Social ended and so did my trial membership at a fancy gym, and since it’s not in the budget to spend more on gym memberships per week than I do on groceries and/or gas I’m back at good old $10 per month Planet Fitness. And you know what? I love it there. Especially the one that I’m going to now in Victor. It’s big and bright, FULLY stocked with tons of (working) equipment, and has a woodsy/mountainy feel to it thanks to locker rooms decked out in wooden lockers and stone walls. And let’s be honest, anywhere that allows me full access to ESPN and the Food Network while pounding out the miles is already a great place in my book, Ralph Lauren ambiance or not. But now I get the best of both worlds…and for less than I spend on coffee every week month!  Life is good.

4. This blog post made me laugh.

5. So did this one.

6. I’ve come to terms with the fact that the Christmas presents I’m making are ugly. So I’m working to make them less so, or it will be a Blue Christmas for the recipients.

7. Right now, it’s a Green Christmas. Not in the environmentally friendly way. And while I recognize that it’s hypocritical to complain about the lack of snow when come April I will be singing a much different tune about the length of winter in Rochester, I’m still dreaming of a White Christmas.

8. When a four year old feel compelled to break into song on a regular basis, this is what happens:

“Some daddies are big and tall! Some daddies are short and small! Some daddies are not named Jeff! Some daddies are Christmas trees!”

Another favorite from yesterday: “Hellooooooooo. Hello I am a girl! And I have three husbands and three wives!”

We might start hitting the Veggie Tales CD a little harder. But I hope this musical stage never ends…cracks me up.

If I can fix my ugly Christmas presents time permits, tomorrow’s post will be an easy, hearty dinner that is not composed of sushi and nutella.

But then again, you never know.