The Adventures of PJ the Bear

A good friend recently gave me a little stuffed bear, a Corduroy bear. It’s a stressful time of year for me. The end of the semester. The holiday seasoning working retail. Family obligations. So when I received this bear, I got a little silly. I named him PJ and started taking photos of him. To my surprise, a lot of my friends started to look for his adventures.

My one friend says it’s because PJ is fun and non-political.

First thing PJ and I did was to go grocery shopping.

Then we came home and PJ took a nap.


When I went up to wake him, I discovered a very naughty bear.

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For more on his adventures, see his photo page:

https://angelackerman.com/photography/personal-photography/adventures-of-pj-the-bear/

 

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I gave up my Fitbit.

About three weeks or a month ago, I was standing in the kitchen at work and my bracelet broke. But, you see, it wasn’t merely a bracelet. It was one of the custom Fitbit bracelets my husband made me.

I slipped it into my pocket where the old Fitbit Flex could at least continue to track my steps and continued my day.

When I got home, I relayed the catastrophe to my husband. The next day, he fixed it. He fixed it while I was at work. My Fitbit broke on Saturday and I went to work Sunday without it.

Sunday is the first day of the week. This whole week would be “under” since I missed a day. I couldn’t “make up” those steps. I’d spend the whole week below my Fitbit friends in the rankings when I knew I had more steps than that.

So I challenged myself to take the week off.

It took until Thursday for someone to email and ask me if my Fitbit died. I’m really surprised that no one emailed or called my husband to see if I had died.

By the weekend, I didn’t miss it.

I’ve been wearing my Fitbit for more than two years. My Fitbit story is NOT the usual Fitbit story. I needed to lose ten pounds. I had some health issues that led to me gaining weight and I needed to lose about ten pounds. I was 39 and thought I had to do it now because the next decade historically is not kind to women in my family.

Well, when you walk a mile every hour at work, and suddenly cut carbohydrates, increase protein, remove junk food from your diet, give up alcohol and fancy coffee drinks… And decide to bike with your daughter, box in the garage and lift weights… Those ten pounds come off easily.

One month later, I had lost thirty pounds.

Oops.

I bought a Fitbit to make sure I ate enough for my increase in activity. And then when I understood how much food and what food my body needed, I kept wearing it because I liked the step goals. I loved seeing the charts and the impact. But then I started to know without looking. So, then my focus turned to my sleep habits. Now that I never mastered. My sleep habits stink. I’m a mom, after all.

I lost my drive for a lot of my activities. I used to roam the neighborhood for miles, do walks in new towns, even tried to run a 5K. I used to lift hard every day. I used to kick box and do yoga. But suddenly, my soul got tired.

Maybe it was stress.

I had regained about 15 pounds of that thirty lost, and it needed to return. It returned as muscle. I went from underweight and bony to muscular enough to toss forty pound boxes around in the freezer at work. I can carry a 35-pound of popcorn kernels on my shoulder across the entire store. I can do push-ups and chin-ups.

I have visible abs.

I don’t have wiggly arms.

So WHY did I stress myself out if I didn’t hit five miles a day? Why did I feel guilt if that number hovered around 10,000 steps? Why did I hate myself if I sat?

Even one “rest day” would drive me insane.

And the only time I watched a movie was if the battery died.

So, I’m glad I gave up my Fitbit.

Movement in the face of stillness

My mother taught me never to stand still. She wanted to teach me that I should always make my bed and I should never leave the house without doing all the dishes, but I failed in those lessons.

I spent much of my twenties doing exactly what I thought I was supposed to do: I embarked on a career, I bought a new car, I rented an apartment, I got married, I paid off my student loans.

In my thirties, my husband and I focused most of our energy on our daughter. My career as a journalist became more precarious. I went to work part-time as I earned a second bachelor’s in International Affairs.

By my late thirties, I started traveling with a friend. I realized maybe I didn’t want a traditional professional occupation, but I couldn’t label what I did want.

Now I’ve crossed 40. I am working on a master’s degree in world history at West Chester University. I’ve had a few small acceptances with some of my creative writing. I’m contemplating pursuing more paid freelance writing work.

And I also might take a semester off from my master’s work. My daughter is nearing 13 and I never realized how much she’d need me now.

These are the thoughts I was thinking this morning as I held my office hours as a graduate assistant in West Chester’s history department. I stumbled upon one new publication that may be a good fit for me as a journalist wanting to return to the trade and some of my more alternative leanings.

And while I sit quietly, alone, in this office, I ask what will I do with myself this winter with no schoolwork and only my tedious retail job? And I realize this time will be introspective and hopefully give me more stillness so that my true desires come into focus.

While I ponder these thoughts, which are not easy thoughts, I receive an email.

“Thank you for your revisions.” “We’ll contact you with a publication date.”

An essay I submitted to an online literary magazine a few weeks ago seems as if it has accepted my piece. The piece is about weather, Djibouti and broken bones. It’s a quirky publication too so this may be a sign…

I must keep writing.

The iPod saga

My daughter saved her money and asked her relatives for cash for her 12th birthday in June 23. She broke her first one dropping it on the sidewalk (more than once). 

She carried it through Paris, in its brand new puppy protective case I bought her last week. She snapped photos of IM Pei’s pyramids.

Six flights. Two different airlines. Four hotel rooms. Eight days. Multiple continents.

She filmed video of trees in Russia. She recorded herself in airports making silly faces under time lapse.

She played her video games recklessly and typed notes in the Pages app and listened to music.

And as Air France flight 0054 between CDG and IAD landed, I suggested she put it away. I didn’t want her to miss touch down of the huge A380. 

In the car, halfway to DC, she gasps, “Mom, I left my iPod.”

She searches her bag. I search her bag. M searches her bag.

We email Air France’s lost and found. It bounces. We try tweeting to Air France US. “My daughter left her iPod on 0054 between CDG and IAD 8/20. Email to lost and found bounced.”


My husband then tweets her ticket info. We also get the number for Dulles.

We make the child call. The voice menu suggests using the Internet and directs her to a different number if she wants to talk to a person. She doesn’t have a pen ready so she has to call again. 

She gets the number. She calls that. It’s an answering machine. She leaves a flustered message but she can’t remember her phone number. She gives mine rattling it off so quickly I can’t understand her.

I make her repeat it.

It will be a miracle if the iPod returns. But perhaps some good soul will find it. Perhaps someone will restore some of my faith in the human race. 

We found our Moscow joint

M and I are infamously cheap. We went for our morning constitutional and the weather was warmer then we anticipated. By the second mile, the need for water piqued. Last night we had a delightful dinner of shawarma at a street food vendor near our subway stop, Kunestky Moct. The meal of chicken c0st us about $7 American for all three of us and we were stuffed full.

Best part: A liter of water cost 50 rubles.

The man who served us was very patient with each of us depicting what we wanted on our “sandwiches.” Even scraping off cabbage from child’s sandwich and making sure every stitch was gone. He must have children.

So when we wanted water today in one of the pedestrian tunnels, and they wanted 80 rubles for a 16.9 ounce bottle of water, I said no. And we walked an extra mile for water.

The current exchange rate is 64 rubles per U.S. dollar.

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“Our Man” by Kunestky Moct

My daughter, magnificent traveler

In all fairness, my daughter may be a kid and an American but she is an amazing traveler. So here is a list of ways my daughter has impressed me:

  1. She has lived for a week out of a very small carry-on suitcase and her school backpack.
  2. She has dragged that baggage through airports, train stations, subway tunnels in two continents when she had never even been in an airport before.
  3. She has kept up with two active adults, walking 8 to 10 miles a day. Often dragging the suitcases.
  4. She has tried really really hard to eat new things and not react poorly to them.
  5. She has been so open-minded and suddenly understands that the world is small, the media is not always accurate, and that cultural difference can be lovely.
  6. She started the trip shy towards other language speakers and she’s opening up. She’s repeating phrases and trying to communicate. And I think she might be motivated to learn another language.
  7. She has not complained. Even when exhausted and hungry.IMG_4337.JPG

 

My daughter, the American

I am keenly aware of my quirks as an American. I can be giddy and boisterous. I am erratic and move too quickly. My table manners can be clumsy. My American accent is thick and my language skills, though I try, a jumble of words. Luckily, I’m cute. That rescues me on occasion.

Traveling with my 12-year-old daughter in Moscow has shown me the depth of my  daughter’s Americanisms. 

Some of these things are simply “kid-isms,” I suppose.

1. She has no concept of how loud she is. Ever.

2. Even when she tries, she still stabs her food, can’t properly use a knife and often talks with her mouth full.

3. She talks to strangers even when she doesn’t speak the language. Last night she tried to tell the Russian hostess in a Turkish restaurant in English that her dress was pretty. Poor woman thought we had a problem with the restaurant’s service. We eventually relayed the compliment.

4. My daughter has never dealt with real food. Now my daughter is a duck-in-orange-sauce, fancy meal girl. Not chicken nuggets and French fries. So imagine my surprise when she didn’t have the patience to pull the meat off a real fish or slice around the fat on a healthy portion of duck. Think about that: my daughter, raised as a foodie, has never dealt with real food. Bonus- she now adores fresh juice and real croissant.

5. She does not have the patience to remain at the table for a leisurely meal. She fidgets. She asks for hugs. She tried to put her head down. 

6. She points and screams “LOOK.”

7. In fear of making a mistake, she began this trip reluctant to engage with speakers of other languages and wouldn’t repeat phrases in foreign tongues.

8. She has classic American overconfidence. In our third and final airport of the trip, in Kazan, she tells me adamantly that she can meet us at the gate because she can read her boarding pass. Never mind that we are in a foreign country where she can neither read nor speak the language. Never mind that she is so adept at reading her ticket that she can’t figure out her row and seat on the plane.

9. Space. She’s not too bad with people in her space or how much space she occupies, but man oh man is she a disaster when it comes to realizing where her backpack is in relation to others and where her suitcase rolls behind her. And how to navigate on planes and trains without being a major disruption.

10. Math. She wanted slippers. First she read the wrong tag. Thought it was 800 rubles. It was 2500. I reminded her that the ATM was out of service (really, that isn’t mom code for “I am not your personal back”) and that I had 1100 rubles. So I told her to do the math. I know she has American money with her. And we keep explaining the exchange rate. And pointing out the sign outside the bank that lists the rate for the euro and the U.S. dollar.

I tell her if she wants to calculate the price in dollars she could give me dollars and I would get her rubles. She couldn’t determine the algebraic equation to calculate the cost. I told her to use 70 rubles for ease.
She wanted to divide 70 by 100. I told her that would allow her to figure out the pennies versus rubles rate. She wanted to then multiple that by 2500. I pointed out she was making this too complicated and suggested dividing 250 by 7. 

She didn’t get it. The logic. She could do the math, but not the thinking.

11. Ten minutes into dinner last night, she tried to sneak a game of Minecraft on her iPod under the table. That resulted in confiscation of the iPod (with us as camera and potential language assistant) and a stern, “I did not fly you 6,000 miles from home to sit on a Russian street and play Minecraft.”

“It was two seconds,” the child says.

“Because I caught you,” I retort. “The iPod is for pictures and in the hotel.”