Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Freaking Out

I am freaking out. Next week I'm traveling to Texas for a conference. It will be 95 degrees there. I need to dress business casual. Business casual? What the heck is that? Will it be cold in the conference center? Will I boil when I leave? Tomorrow I'm shopping for clothes I never wear and probably won't wear again; the bridesmaid outfit of conferences.

And then there's the list. Clean the house because Grandparents are coming to watch the children. Find and pack cell phone plus charger. Camera plus charger. Computer plus cord. Can I carry all these things on? How badly am I going to hold up the security line? Note to self - remove all knitting paraphernalia from purse; it's not allowed on the plane. Because, of course, knitters and terrorists are closely aligned.

How hard will it be to catch a cab from the airport? I hope I remember to have some cash on hand. Oh and a book for the plane.

And did you know I went mountain biking on Monday? Thirteen miles on a hybrid. A hybrid is not a mountain bike. That's probably why I fell. Will the huge bruise on my upper thigh and the new one over my knee, the one that appeared overnight, two days after said accident, preclude me from wearing shorts? I plan to swim tomorrow irregardless. It'll just add to the locker room fun.

I'm glad I've been doing yoga. I created a new pose - wrap your leg in your handle bars as your bike falls to the ground. Trust me - you'll get a really good stretch.

Those bruises will also be neat to explain to my doctor tomorrow as I arrive for my annual gynecological exam with four-year-old in tow. Yes, that is going to be lovely in so many ways. I'm really looking forward to it. Really.

So, yes, I'm spending a bit of time freaking out. Probably for nothing. 'Twill be fine when all is said and done. For now my bruises and I are going to write more lists and research business casual. After that we are going for Zen. We will sit still and we will breathe, in and out, in and out. 'Twill all be fine.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cultivating Joy

I was surfing and came across this blog with the subtitle "cultivating joy." And that got me thinking ...

Most of us expect Joy to happen: no action or effort required. We wade through life wondering when and where Joy will appear; wondering why she has yet to arrive.

When she doesn’t show we drown ourselves in excess: food, alcohol, shopping, career. We hope to coax her out of her den, to lure her with a new pair of shoes. But Joy is shrewd. She doesn’t buy it. She remains in the darkness her wide yellow eyes aglow, a faint hint of glitter sparkling through sable.

And you are afraid. Can you handle her? She’s wild, carnal. She lurks in the periphery then suddenly pounces. You’re her springboard; she strikes then flits away. Flat on your ass and grasping for something no longer there you wonder what hit you. You wonder if you’ll ever see her again.

And how often does Joy wait around the corner, giggling, and shifting from one foot to the next, eagerly anticipating your arrival? When was the last time she crawled under the table and tickled your toes? How long ago did she pick you up and swing you around the room, your feet off the ground in dizzying ecstasy? It all depends on how well you’ve cultivated Joy.

For, you see, Joy is a living vibrant being: a child, a plant, an animal; Joy comes in many forms. But no matter the form she needs to be cultivated, to be fed and watered. She requires constant attention. She likes flowers.

You may spend days sitting at the entrance to her cave, talking, coaxing yet never seeing her. You have to persist. You must lay down the foundation for a solid relationship. Each day bring her an offering: a clean house, a new plant for the garden, a walk in the park, a hot bubbly bath. Journal and record your efforts.

Soon she'll peak out and take a morsel from your hand. But she’s shy. She’ll retreat. Yet day after day she’ll show herself more. Until, finally, at the sight of you, she’ll bound from her den. Purring and rubbing against you she’ll claim you as her own.

With proper care and feeding Joy will remain. She’ll be there, gently purring alongside you, even when life tries to shoo her away. Your relationship will be such that she may grow quiet, she may be subdued but she will never leave you. You will have cultivated Joy.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Just Like Riding a Bike

The most difficult thing about triathlon training is fitting workouts into my schedule. Yesterday was a swimming day. I was also supposed to bike but that’s a different story. I squeezed my swim into the 1.5 hours of my daughter’s dance lesson. She has dance at the athletic club. The club has a pool. Easy, right? Wrong. We are not members of the club - we just take dance lessons there. So I dropped her off and hauled myself across town to the city fitness facility (which I dare say is nicer than the $200.00 a month club).

I quickly changed and hit the pool. I had to share a lane but was the faster of the two (that’s a good feeling!). I swam the first 500 yards as a freestyle warm-up without stopping. Hooray! 500 yards is nearly half the distance I’ll need to swim in July and this is only my third pool workout. Looks like swimming is akin to riding a bike, you never quite forget. I finished my workout with just enough time to take a shower - the ultimate reward. The shower was warm and oh so relaxing. I could have stayed there forever. But I didn’t have a lot of time and cut it short. I took off my suit, wrung it out and covered myself in a towel. This is where things started to go south.

I try my best to be comfortable in the locker room. We are all women. All naked in various stages of bodily decline. What I really want to do is look around, wide-eyed, and survey the various body types. At the same time I’d rather not be surveyed and figure others feel the same. So, with eyes averted, I began to dress.

I did not pack a standard bra. Instead I wore a tank top with built in bra. The bra portion is a slightly darker peach than the overlying top and both the bra and top have spaghetti straps; it’s made to look as if you are wearing two tanks instead of one. Yes, I am just that hip. I turned the top inside out, arranged the bra and top appropriately, stuck my arms through the holes and pulled it over my head. But I was still sopping wet. The top was lycra. It curled up into a tangled mess and refused to go any further. Like a dog reluctant to go to the vet; all brakes were on. I was standing there, my arms stuck over my head, boobs exposed, belly hanging out and nothing but a towel around my waist. I couldn’t get the thing to go up or down. I performed a gyrating dance but the top still wouldn’t budge. I didn’t want people looking at me and there I was in a spectacular locker room performance. One, Two, Eyes on You! All I needed was tassels to complete the effect (and no my body doesn't look like that - perhaps if it did I would've earned some extra cash).

I began to pray. I vowed to sign up for additional yoga classes to improve my flexibility and subsequent ability to dress. Please God just help me get dressed! That's all I ask!

I also began to debate whether or not I should ask the stranger next to me for help. Hello, we’ve never met but could you, um, pull my bra down over my boobs? My towel was about to fall off exposing not only the full glory of my nakedness but also the lovely bruise on my upper thigh that looks just like a melanoma. I could see how this stranger might be reluctant to touch me. I could see her calling the fire department to extricate me from my clothing. That was definitely not the way I imagined that strapping young fireman removing my undergarments. Definitely not. I elected to continue writhing in my own private agony and finally caught the elastic with my fingers. Bra pulled down I finished dressing and mortified I raced off to get my daughter.

Swimming may be like riding a bike but dressing is not. I don’t care if you call me a hippie - next time I’m skipping the bra.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Toilets and Terrific Kids

Thirty days ago I purchased a toilet repair kit. For the past month this kit sat in our bathroom nestled next to the toilet. Because, you know, the kit and toilet had to get to know one another. They had to date. I didn’t want to pressure them lest they contest their arranged marriage. And I certainly did not want the toilet to elope with the repair kit next door. I also harbored clandestine fantasies that the hub, in a manly state of affairs, would replace the sticky float valve. But apparently he too was concerned about pushing too far too fast and also postponed the porcelain nuptials.

Thus the toilet remained in a state of disrepair; the only way to fill the tank was to lift the lid and tap the float arm. We tried other remedies; excessive shaking of the handle, kicking the bowl, cursing. Nothing worked. Please don’t report us for toilet abuse. We love our toilet and have no desire to revert to outhouse usage. We do nice things with our toilet too. We read with it daily: Nobokov, Kidd, Lamott, Colbert. A wide range of literary options are readily available within arm’s reach.

But back to the nuptials. Today I’d had enough. It was time. Wrench in hand I presided over the ceremony. After a mere twenty minutes two became one. It was very touching - a match made in heaven (well China actually, that's practically the same right?).

My only regret? That we didn’t get them together sooner. Now I can rip up the “How to Use Our Toilet” instructions.

Oh, hello! Welcome to my home! The restroom? Sure but take these
instructions with you. It explains how to use our toilet. What? No,
I’m not trying to insult you. Wait! Where are you going?

Perhaps now people won't be seen running from our house - fleeing the odd people within. Then again maybe not.


Most of you are aware Sunday was Mother’s Day. I had to work eight to eight leaving little time to see the kids. My workday was slow with few emergencies. We had two hospitalized patients, a dog bit by a rattlesnake and a dog with dysfunctional adrenal glands. Around 6 o’clock I opened my big mouth, “If things stay like this I’ll actually get home on time.”

Stupid, stupid, stupid! (read with accompanying banging of head on wall). Everyone knows this type of talk invites karmic revenge. The world does not want things to work out properly, easily - no. What would be the fun in that?

As such a boxer walked through the door at 7:15 pm; forty-five minutes before I was supposed to leave. Why was this boxer there? He had a belly ache. An x-ray revealed the cause - large rocks in the stomach; i.e. surgery. Four rocks and one blue plastic piece later I was finally able to go home. It was 10:20 pm. I called to let the family know I was on the way. The hub had given up and gone to bed (he had to work at six) but the kids were waiting up. Keep in mind - this was a school night.

As I walked in the door music started playing - Pink Moon by Nick Drake. I looked up and saw this:

The kids led me the couch:

They did their best impression of fanatical football fans:

Then they took off my shoes, rubbed my feet and told me how much they loved me. Finally we wandered upstairs, read “Are You My Mother?” and fell sound asleep. I couldn't have asked for a better Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A mound of luminous mulch rests in the road patiently awaiting relocation. She’s pulling weeds: grasses gone awry, seedlings from far away. She’s undoing the work of the earth and the dogs. She’s putting it back her way. Her biceps burn, as do her obliques - the toll of triathlon training.

Her friend arrives tomorrow, someone she hasn’t seen in eight years. Today she’s seeing her house through the eyes of another - an unkept garden, dirty floors, the filth muck of children and pets. It won’t all get done. She’s only one person. Her friend will see a snapshot of life instead of a pottery barn interior.

And yet she continues, pulling weeds, raking leaves, spreading mulch. She’s doing it for her friend, yes, but she’s also doing it for herself; to walk out on a crisp morning and inhale the aroma of mulched hemlock; the smell of decay and renewal, an organic reminder of the circle of life.

She inspects emerging perennials: hostas long thought dead sprouting from the depths of the earth, daffodils stretching towards the sun, bleeding hearts bursting from the soil in a fit of exuberance.

It occurs to her - she too is perennial: her aching musculature reaching for the surface like a bud from a bulb. So she continues; she keeps pulling, raking and spreading, running, biking and swimming. She continues knowing soon everything will be in bloom.


For the past week I’ve been serious about my triathlon training. I ran, biked, swam and did yoga. I’m sore to be sure but feel great. I’ve also been very cognizant of my diet - limiting caffeine, sugar and processed foods. In addition I’ve been taking vitamins daily - a multi-vitamin, a magnesium supplement and a fish oil capsule.

And here is the interesting part - my heart palpitations have all but diminished. When I rest I don’t feel my heart bursting from my chest. Perhaps exercise and a healthy diet is what I needed all along - go figure!


Today I'm loving my unkempt garden, my house full of messy children and my not yet fit body. What do you love?

Don' t forget to check out Love Thursday at Shutter Sisters!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Dear Unknown Caller:

I know you are calling me. I see you on caller ID. I will never ever answer the phone. If you don’t have the balls to show yourself I have no need to talk to you. If it were truly important you’d leave a message. That ring invades my day like a rabid alarm clock bent on attack. My heart leaps into my throat. Nothing good comes from the phone.

I should just turn the damn thing off. Only my children also call, from school, and show up with an unknown ID. The schools around here have a liberal phone policy; my children ring to ask about play dates or whether we can have cookies after school. Does the administration not understand? My children do not have cell phones for this very reason (well that and I have no desire to pay out the ying yang for said conversations). These matters can be discussed over breakfast or on the way home. I do not need to contemplate baked goods while scrubbing the kitchen floor. And yes, I do my own floors. Strangely I haven’t been able to find anyone willing to work for free and be verbally abused by one child or another. It is so hard to find good help these days.

But I digress. Should my child break a bone, erupt in full body hives or surreptitiously vomit on your new shoes - by all means call me. I’m happy to step in and play the parent. But otherwise - shouldn’t they be studying? Shouldn’t you be teaching them something?

And, ye unknown caller, he who shan’t be named - I know who you are. I know what you want. You want my money. You seem to be mistaken. I have not won the lottery. Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to win, what, 180 million dollars? Yes, that’d be quite lovely. However, I don’t play the lottery so my actual chances of winning are quite slim. Nor did I just receive an inheritance or any other large sum of cash.

I must admit, the most perturbing of these “unknown” stalkers is my alumni association. Do I want to donate to the program? Well, gee, let’s just consider that $90,000.00 student loan a donation, kay? I’ll be paying that off until I’m sixty-two. After that give me a buzz, perhaps I’ll feel like donating a bit more.

Don’t get me wrong. I may be frugal, I may be debt laden but I am not a miser. I do give. I give my time and, yes, I give money. But I prefer to be charitable on my own terms.

So, in conclusion, dear caller, don’t call me. I’ll call you.

Perturbed in the Pacific Northwest

Monday, May 5, 2008

Growing Up Mojave

I grew up in the Mojave Desert; Ridgecrest to be exact. For a while I've wanted to write about my experiences growing up in the California desert. I've come to realize my childhood was much different than most and I want to record those moments before they fade into nothingness.

And I visited this blog which listed seven random things. Well, there's one random thing about me - I grew up in the Mojave Desert, the Gateway to Death Valley, or as some call it the Gateway to Hell.

Here's another random thing - growing up we had pet tortoises. Today I decided to write a bit about our tortoises (all you never wanted to know). The first installation for my series "Growing Up Mojave." Enjoy!


Our first tortoises were boys, Tubby and Tiny Tim. You can sex an adult tortoise by the shape of his shell; in male tortoises the gular horn is enlongated and curved upward and the plastron or lower shell is concave. Females need room for eggs and therefore have a flatter plastron.

Tubby and Tiny Tim lived in the backyard behind the waterfall my dad built. They dug a burrow into the back of the waterfall and only God knows how many tunnels underneath the yard. My father always lived in fear the waterfall would collapse; it never did.

The waterfall was built out of lava rock collected from Little Lake which is not a lake at all but a spot of land that probably held water at some point. The lava rocks were extended as a short wall behind the waterfall to serve as the tortoise enclosure. Once, around five years of age, I slipped and fell on these rocks. The result was a mild scratch on my side which subsequently formed a scar that I still carry today - my tattoo in honor of the desert tortoise.

One day we found a female tortoise meandering through our cul-de-sac. She appeared to have a tag but it was worn and unreadable. Captive tortoises must have a permit and tag. It’s rather like a license plate sticker which is placed under the shell behind the back leg.

We tried to find the owner of this tortoise starting with our neighbors who had several of their own. Nope, not theirs. Next we contacted Leo Nowak - the local tortoise advocate. He allowed tortoises free roam of his house and they would wander about in various stages of repair. Many had been hit-by-cars or run over by four-wheelers. Some had wheels screwed into their shells as a substitute for rear limbs. Others had obvious malformations and injuries.

Long story short we never found the female’s owner and elected to keep her. She received a new permit and was christened Happy Star, yes, after the Carl’s Junior burger. Why? I have no idea. All I can say was I was a child. I liked Carl’s Junior. I had no intention, however, of turning this creature into an actual sandwich.

The introduction of a female tortoise created an entirely new dynamic between Tubby and Tiny Tim. They began to fight for her affection. They’d have epic battles running at each other at top tortoise speed and ram their gular horns together like bighorn sheep. We’d have to monitor them carefully because one or the other would get flipped upside down. When flipped they’d urinate and lose their water reserves. If left in this vulnerable position in the hot desert sun they’d die. So we’d make daily rounds flipping any tortoise in need.

Eventually Happy Star layed eggs. I could not say which male was the proud parent. When I moved North I brought two of the babies with me - Happy Hamburger and another whose name I can't remember. These little guys didn’t fare so well in the moist and cooler climate - even when housed indoors. So I sent them back to the desert to grow up where they belonged. After all there’s nothing wrong with growing up Mojave.


On a completely different subject. I started my triathlon training. I decided to keep an online journal for motivation. Here's a link for anyone interested in checking it out.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Love Thursday

She’s walking down the hill in tight black pants; you can see every curve, every dimple. She’s had three children and it shows. One child is nestled in the jogging stroller weighing it down. She loses her footing and skids on gravel then regains control. She continues towards the trail. She is going to start her training. She is going to run.

The child kicks her feet and waves her hands, a prepubescent coxon yelling “Run, Mommy Run!” Then, “Stop Mommy Stop! Are there bucks here? Will they get us?”

Mommy replies with a huff and a pant.

Baby pips back in “Run, Mommy, Run!” deer already forgotten.

And Mommy runs. She runs and runs until she can run no longer. Mommy walks then runs some more. Her ankle is sore. Her chin, an asthmatic indicator, begins to itch. Yet her heart is holding strong. Mommy has a long way to go.

Tomorrow Mommy plans to swim. How many laps can she do? She doesn’t know. Fifty is the magic number. Fifty consecutive laps and you’re golden. No sweat. How many was she swimming last summer?

And so begins the journey of this slow fat triathlete, doing what she wants in the body she has now.


Here’s to having a body that may be fat and may be slow but will take me where I need to go. Happy Love Thursday!