Saturday, December 20, 2008
However, we still love to eat, drink and be merry... and so we had a thought. What if we, a large group of women, took the money we would otherwise have collectively spent on ornaments or cheesy gifts and put it to better use.
And so it was born, our annual tradition. One part cookie exchange, one part raffle, one part cocktail party and one part fundraiser.
When you walk into the party you immediately contribute whatever cash you're comfortable contributing to "the bucket". You also put your name in for the fabulous door prize drawing which happens later in the evening. We busy ourselves with cocktails and catching up and eventually we get cookies... in a very serious process that's taken years to perfect (read: minimize cat fights over the most beautifully packaged cookies). The door prizes are given away and then, finally, a name is drawn for the charity bucket. She whose name is drawn gets to decide to which charity the evening's proceeds will be donated.
This year, in a year where money is tight for everyone, the cash bucket seemed noticeably fuller. That's just the kind of women my friends are, though, they know where charity really begins.
The evening was as lovely as ever this year, right up until the charity bucket moment, that is. A name was drawn and a winner announced. She was over the moon, as if she'd won the lottery and the money was hers to keep. "SR," she gasped, naming the local children's hospital, "I choose SR!" As quickly as the words left her mouth, our other friend emerged from the crowd with tears in her eyes and hugged our winner saying thank you repeatedly... our friend who came so close to losing her child two months ago that the doctors themselves have called it a miracle... our friend whose son is alive today because of those doctors and that hospital. A friend who has used her son's story to help the hospital raise much needed funds. And so, you see, the evening instantly became lovelier than ever before because we were suddenly, painfully, yet also joyfully, reminded not only of how powerful it is to give but also that charity does, indeed, begin at home.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Exhibit B is bright and athletic. He's been multiplying since he was four, knows everything there is to know about most animal species and can run a sub-6:00 mile. He can kick a ball and shoot hoops like nobody's business, but at the end of the day, he's an introvert and I am not sure whether he enjoys the sports themselves or simply the time spent with his dad, coach extraordinaire. It doesn't much matter, really.
I admit it. I forced him to take piano lessons. I knew in my heart of hearts he would love it... but he's a kid for whom change is tough... and a weekly piano lesson and piano practice meant an anxiety inducing change in the routine.
On the day of the first lesson, Piano Man (PM) arrived and I was a little taken aback. He was polite, but obviously shy. He had little to say to me, though he was immediately drawn to my baby grand, which he looked over and listened to intently. When Exhibit B walked into the room, PM's demeanor changed. He is one of those people that has an instant connection with kids, and B was no exception. Smiling, I listened from the kitchen throughout those first 30 minutes and heard B open up with happy chatter. I knew it was going to be a perfect match.
Nowadays PM's arrival each week is highly anticipated. I never have to remind B to practice, and listening to the two of them joke around and play piano continues to be music to my ears, both literally and figuratively. They sometimes get silly... like renaming all the Christmas carols (I Sawed Three Ships in Half) which sends B into fits of giggles... and everyone knows that children giggling is the most joyful noise there is.
One evening PM and B got to talking and I overheard PM saying how nervous he was about his upcoming senior recital, a requirement for graduation. PM is a young husband and father who pays the bills via piano lessons while finishing his degree in music education. I was incredibly appreciative of PM's candor with B, as I know B could relate to that nervousness on many levels. B asked him more about the recital and PM started to play a few notes of some of the songs he was going to play. At the very end of the lesson, he played Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring and simply stated, "this isn't in my recital, I just like the way it flows."
I pulled PM aside that night and told him what a positive influence he was on B and thanked him for it. I also mentioned how beautifully he played and that Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring is one of my favorite pieces of classical music. There are many reasons to love that song, and I gave him a few examples of moments in my life in which I remember it as background music. I also shared with him that on days when the illness takes hold I often listen to classical music for its calming effect. We chatted about the power of music and how musical minds work.
After that night, at the end of each lesson, PM played Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. It became a routine I started to look forward to... my own personal concert at 6:25 every Thursday, and our after-lesson chats started increasing in length and depth.
Today was PM's senior recital. I got the details about it from the University and B and I showed up to sit front and center to share this important moment in PM's life. I wanted to be there to support and encourage him and allow B to see him shine despite having expressed some anxiety about the process.
As he took the stage, he was visibly nervous. All dressed up under the spotlight, just PM and a black Steinway grand. He bowed, gave some acknowledging smiles and nods, and then he began to play. The notes filled the hall with an amazing richness. He closed his eyes and let the music carry him. He was, in fact, brilliant.
He played four pieces. Between each piece he took a tentative bow, and twice he left the stage. He was doing everything in his power to keep the butterflies away from his fingers and was succeeding. He finished out the performance with a stunning rendition of Beethoven's Sonata in C minor. A look of relief rushed over his entire body as he took a final bow to a standing ovation. PM began to exit the stage but then paused at the door and turned back. This time he was calm and collected. Without even the slightest hint of nervousness he said, quite simply, "I'd like to play one more, if you don't mind."
No one minded, especially me.
Thank you for my joyful song today, PM. It was the best you've ever played it.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
These girls have seen this costume, this hair, this make-up, and yes, even these eyelashes countless times... not just on Exhibit A, but on the girls that have danced this role in years past. However, they still get excited to watch the transformation. Someday, they will be expected to do all of this on their own. They watch. They process. They learn. As I continue to work, they literally move around so they can see what I'm doing from all different angles. They do so in silence and without invading my space or Exhibit A's. It almost feels choreographed. When I'm done, they spontaneously clap and then complimented my effort as though I've just performed the role myself.
This is their passion and this seemingly mundane ritual is a part of their art. It is, indeed, a privilege to watch kids for whom something so simple brings so much joy.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
One of the things I like to do during this week is focus on the many behind the scenes moments that just kinda make your heart sing... you know, if you have a heart that's not encrusted in ice like mine.
Yesterday's moment: It's intermission during a school show. Audience is filled with little tiny humans as well as a buncha seniors from area nursing homes. We don't let any of them out of their seats during intermission (no mass chaos in the bathrooms, no wandering off, etc.), so instead we entertain them. They do some stretching, they watch the snow get cleaned off the stage by the North Pole helpers who have to rush the snow back to Santa before it melts, and then Rudolph himself makes an appearance. One of the company members leads them in singing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and a few other songs that fill the time so we can do the scenery change.
Backstage, the audio is piped into the dressing rooms so everyone can hear their cues. It's cute to hear all the kidlets and the blue hairs singing away out in the theater. But today was different. Out of nowhere, all of the girls in the dressing room stopped what they were doing and started singing along to We wish you a Merry Christmas. It was like time stood still and the crazy hustle and bustle of costume changes, hair spraying and Timeless Ruby lipstick application was forgotten and the spirit of the season took over. In that moment there was a sense of "this is what it's all about". They were there this morning to give back to their community... to reach out simultaneously to the youngest and oldest members of it and share their collective passion with each other and their audience.
The song ended and it was back to business as usual.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Today I'm having difficulty leaving my kitchen. It's warm and smells cinnamony good. It's safe here with no one to face but myself, though I am arguably my toughest critic. It's one of those days where my body refuses to cooperate. I feel I've little to offer to others right now, I can't crawl out of this time and space, and that there's not much to which I can look forward.
Sometimes a little glimmer is all I need, but it's simply not there today. However, if I look long and hard out my window the sunlight will undoubtedly catch one of those leaves in just the right way, glimmering, shimmering hope in the corner of my eye, and I'll suddenly remember how good it feels to feel good.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
This is Att. In regards to double billed minutes it shows you wasn't double billed.
Seriously? This is the best AT&T can do?
If you're going to allow your practically illiterate employees to communicate with your customers via text message, you might want to consider helping them with the ampersand characater and adding grammar and spell check features. As a side note, I'd appreciate that tremendously so I can stop sending text messages to my boss asking her to "dmail" me things.
The Cranky Princess
Senior year of high school meant a semester of creative writing. We journaled, and from those journal entries created amazing works that we shared with one another and learned the art of constructive literary feedback. We had to write one short story a week, though my story count was far more than the teacher's requirement. I couldn't seem to stop writing, and I still have those stories in some buried treasure box in the basement. Many snippets from those stories are permanently etched in my mind. It was a rough year for me personally, and I realized that writing was only rather therapeutic and that the best literature is written from a place of knowledge. It's so simple, really: you write best about that with which you are most familiar.
In my freshman year of college I had the coolest ever writing professor. Her name was Anne... she was funky and fun and understood the importance of authentic tasks and meaningful subject matter. She pulled me aside one day and said "you have a gift and it begins with just one word, just one emotion". I'd been told by many teachers along the way that my writing was "good". I could write one helluva 3.5 essay, but this was the first time anyone ever told me that she'd connected to my writing on a deeper level, and I literally felt drunk with power, because words, I knew, were powerful things. I later had her mother as a professor for a course on Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature. I didn't realize it was her mother until after I got back my first paper, and at the top was written, "Anne was right... you write like an angel."
The realization that we are good at something is important, so too, is positive and specific feedback along the way from people for whom we have respect. I feel blessed that my gift touches hearts and has the ability to pull forth emotion, even from people who aren't so very emotional. I'm glad to have a creative outlet, for my reality is that someday, my body might decide it's had enough, but, hopefully, my mind will remain in tact and my words will continue to flow.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I love kids.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
It will pass, and I've lived it long enough to understand that. I know what needs doing but I'm having such difficulty finding the energy and means to get it all done. I've lost myself and maybe others along the way.
On the plus side, I know exactly who my real friends are at this very moment. It's a small circle of incredible people and I thank them for all that they are and the strength they share with me. They've never run a mile in my Asics, yet there is a quiet understanding, a solidarity among us, and a collective sass factor of off the chain.
So on this veterans' day, I am thankful not only for all of our veterans, but also for the work that my stepdad does to ensure that we continue to take care of those men and women that put their lives on the line for us.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Generally speaking, it is best not to get onto the floor and do supine pelvic thrusts during any portion of the interview process.
The Cranky Princess
Yeah, uhhhh, that really happened yesterday. And yet people wonder why I want to bang my head against the wall (without denting my tiara, of course)??
Dear Other Job Applicant,
When writing a post-interview thank you note to your potential employers, it is best to refrain from making disparaging remarks about the current employees in an effort to explain how much better you are than they. This is especially true when those employees in question are internationally known for what it is they do. You might also consider not stating that you won't take no for an answer and will continue to apply for the position should you not be selected *cough*stalker*cough*. Instead, you should just leave it at "Thank you so much for the opportunity, I look forward to hearing from you."
The Cranky Princess
Saturday, November 8, 2008
In keeping with my non-conformist badself, I don't like to hang out with all the other hens in the subdivision. I enjoy socializing, but I don't really like to go to parties where I'm expected to buy things like candles, pottery, baskets, jewelry or purses. I also don't really have the patience to listen to them complain about the men they've chosen to suck the life out of. I mean that in the nicest way.
Now when I first moved here and knew not a soul, I confess, I was happy to be included in each and every social activity... from Bunko to Pottery Painting to Patty Cakes parties and more. It's just that I've evolved since then. I think that means I'm getting old, but I'm not exactly sure.
Every single time I watch this, it makes me laugh. It's remarkably spot on. It reminds me of who I was when I first arrived on this scene and who I am now, seven years later... and it reminds me that no matter how old I get, I gotta keep it real, not get all gangsta with my parking, enjoy some Corona Lights with lime (well, in my case, it's Blue Moon with orange), and, every once in awhile, enjoy visiting with an old friend or two or thirty.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
I didn't particularly care for either of the candidates running for president this year. While the realization of the importance of this election weighed heavily on me, I found it hard to feel passionate about one or the other. I saw the good and bad in both of them and found myself somewhat apathetic towards them, but not towards the political process.
As I stood in line for 2 hours to cast my ballot, I did what I typically do in situations like this: people watching. There was the kid behind me who had just recently turned 18. He was about to burst with excitement. I told him how lucky he was that this was his first election, for it was likely to be quite a historical one. There was the 78 year old man who, despite the fact that he was eligible to go to the front of the line, opted not to, stating that his ability to vote was worth the wait. There was the couple in front of me who were reading to each other from a newspaper article detailing each candidate's views on different issues. When not people watching, I stood with my iPod blaring tunes and reading an AEA manual. I am sure I was bopping around a little bit... and that somewhere, someone, right now is writing a blog that says "and there was this girl in brown leather boots dancing in the polling place...". The wait didn't bother me. I can not ever remember having to wait long to cast my ballot and having to do so yesterday, at least to me, meant that people were doing what they should have been doing all along. Perhaps, now, they realize that it does, indeed, take not just a village, but a country.
I stayed up late to watch the election returns, even though it meant I'd be seriously sleep deprived today, and I am happy I did. I thought McCain was incredibly gracious in his concession speech, and, for what it's worth, I felt connected to it and like it was heartfelt. Maybe it's because I know each of us, presumably John McCain included, looks around our country right now and realizes there is work to be done and that the only way to get there is to move forward.
As it turns out, we elected my president last night. The thing is, I didn't really know he was my president and that I'd embrace him as such until his acceptance speech which, actually, moved me to tears. It wasn't so much what he said, though what he said was quietly strong and optimistic without being over the top, and I admired that. Instead, it was what he stands for and the hope that he brings to so many people in need of a glimmer. I'm not naive enough to believe that the fate of the world lies on the shoulders of one man, but I do believe that the sea will shift and, eventually, the tide will turn, because the people will demand it... and he will have to be an agent of change.
I was also struck by the language with which he is comfortable. He said gay in that speech and he damn skippy didn't mean happy. I don't believe there's ever been a president elect in history to use the kind of language in an acceptance speech Obama used last night. As he continued on and reached out to the American people, I sat up and took notice and began to connect with a man for whom, up until that point, I'd really had a rather neutral attitude.
His election brought communities together. There was dancing in the streets of my town... a town where MLK was a preacher, a town with strong roots in the Civil Rights movement and a town with racial struggles. He filled hearts with hope on many different levels. It is undeniably a moment in history that anyone old enough to appreciate it will remember forever. In my lifetime, thus far, there are two defining historical moments: 9-11-2001 and 11-4-2008.
And so it goes... we have a new president elect. He will be the president... but it appears that he will also be my president.
Monday, November 3, 2008
One of the neatest kids I ever taught was Danny. When I received the articulation card from his previous teacher it said, simply, "no redeeming qualities". He had the best sense of humor and was incredibly smart. An amazing kid. Too bad that teacher missed out on the joy he brought to a classroom.
There was Robbie, whose mother was dying of breast cancer, and who had spent most of his school career in trouble because he was very busy "inventing" things during class. His desk was ridiculously cluttered. He had some contraption for holding pencils onto his desk and some other stuff inside his desk for keeping track of erasers, paperclips, coins, Pogs and other treasures. He was bright and always got his work done. I didn't care if he was inventing, as long as he was learning. I used to have the kids read biographies and create a puppet in the likeness of their subject then put on a puppet show about the person, inviting the kindergarten and first graders to attend. Robbie sat in the back of the room near me and I remember vividly the look of appreciation he gave me when the Walt Disney puppet that was "on stage" at the front of the room complained about his horrible school experience because his teachers squashed his creativity. His mother died that year, and so did George's (a whole different throw-away kid that I loved story... his mother died of, ummm... "liver problems" and then his father sent him away to military school in the years following). I took them both to the "family picnic" at the end of the year. They each wrote me thank you notes that were, by far, the best teacher gifts I ever received.
There were countless others along the way... someday I'll have to tell you about Diego the Bomb Builder, or Darrell who witnessed his mother's murder. But the one that got me thinking about all this was Wesley. Wesley came to me as a fifth grader hardly reading a word. He had no support at home and a sketchy attendance record. However, he showed up at school every day of fifth grade with a smile on his face and worked hard. Wesley's mother never bothered coming to anything at school, be it a class party, field trip, class performance or parent teacher conference, yet he always looked out into the audience or down the hallway... thinking that maybe, just maybe, this would be the day.
The amazing thing about my classroom is that there was this sense of positive interdependence among the kids and so they really became his support system and helped him be successful (they even took to making sure he had all of his materials that mom didn't send or replenish and helped him with homework afterschool when he was home alone). When I taught, Halloween parties were still legal in public schools and so Halloween came and Wesley, a tough, street-smart kid, came to me privately and in tears. He had no Halloween costume. I smiled at him and told him that, though it wasn't really a disguise because it happened to be true, that he did, in fact, have a costume. Using some construction paper, a crown (see, it always pays to have one handy), and other props from my classroom, Wesley led our class Halloween parade in arguably the best costume ever. He went as my favorite student.
So what's the point of all this? The point is that the message "I will not give up on you" is a powerful one and does not apply only to children who might otherwise fall through the cracks. It applies to us, as adults, who still thrive on positive feedback and a sense of accomplishment. In fact, I would argue that it also applies to us as we look at ourselves as athletes... overcoming adversity to train and race... healing from injuries, battling illnesses, finding balance with busy families, careers and tri training. Perhaps the ultimate definition of endurance is not only having the physical and mental capacity to handle imposed athletic demand but also having the ability to not give up on oneself, to find strength from within, even when your circumstances are less than perfect.
I'm a little confused about the recent "evaluation" you performed on my client's child. It is my understanding that despite the extensive assessment that a very reputable SLP did over a 6-week period, and despite both the anecdotal and testing data I provided based on having worked with this child for in excess of one year, you spent a sum total of 2 hours with her and drew some unique conclusions. I understand that you invited the parents into the room during the evaluation. *Golf Clap* well done!!! I am sure that this didn't raise the child's level of concern at all. Oh, and ya know... I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but that testing you did doesn't resemble any formal evaluations with which I'm familiar. I particularly liked that you did a read aloud comprehension story with a kid with an identified auditory processing problem. You then informed the child's parents that their daughter simply has ADD, needs to be medicated and that these meds will magically solve the significant auditory processing deficits that showed up during her SLP eval... you know, the formal kind that's both valid and reliable.
I'd like to personally congratulate you for turning a mother's world upside down to the tune of 2500 wasted dollars... which will likely now turn into $5K as she seeks a second opinion. However, given that I am going to be short on cash soon, I sure do appreciate the opportunity you've afforded me for extensive consultation with my client.
The Cranky Princess
Friday, October 31, 2008
Halloween night is drawing near...
Spooky happenings fill you with fear.
I love this day (since my heart is so cold)...
It's fun for everyone, young and old.
Gnarled trees, a creaking door,
Witches, goblins, ghosts and more
Whispering to you "a trick or a treat!"
Hoping you'll give them something sweet.
Today I'll teach a scary spin class
They'll whine and moan as I kick some ass
Lunch with a good friend who's got an evil streak, too
Will happen someplace fabulous that serves witches' brew
Exhibit A has dance class 'cause that's her thing
(If it weren't for that, I'd have more bike bling).
I'll stay home and get ready for the evening's fun
And make sure all the costumes and decorations are done.
I've got one scary skeleton and a zombie princess, too.
Exhibit C is Darth Vader but that's "Lego Starwars" to you.
He's pretty excited for "trick-or-treakin" he's said
So he'll hang with his siblings until it's time for bed
Be safe, be scary, have lots of good fun
(keep the costume on til the night is done).
Have a hauntingly good time, and whatever you do...
I hope there's something spooktacular in store for you!
Saturday, October 11, 2008
It's not to say I'm not proactive. I am, or at least I try to be, but at the end of the day, there are things over which we have little control and we therefore must take it on faith, take it to the heart and there is no doubt that for me, right now, the waiting is the hardest part.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
I started feeling bad on Wednesday. The telltale signs of an impending flare were there. By Thursday I was increasing meds and trying to manage each new symptom that cropped up. On Friday I simply wasn't sure I was going to be able to ride and I was having trouble putting thoughts together in terms of the various distance options.
Friday night... made it to packet pick-up with moments to spare. Got my bike inspected and headed to the hotel for what would prove to be a not very restful night. Back in the day, I am quite certain said hotel was THE place to be but, uhhhhh, not so much anymore. When I'm not feeling well, I like my space. Five folks in a room built for maybe two very tiny people wasn't working well for me. Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep.
Saturday... up at 5:30 to shower. Why do I shower before such things? So I can French braid my hair better. DUH! Realized in the shower that I felt horrible. My muscles ached and my head hurt. Waves of nausea were washing through me and I had a nosebleed. None of this seemed to be setting me up for a successful day. Crawled back into bed and began the final internal struggle of whether or not I should be there at all. I can honestly say I don't have many moments of self-doubt... and this was not about that. I knew I would be able to ride whatever distance I opted for but that some choices might be better than others. The concern I have in these times is not about the actual event but, rather, the fallout from the choices I make. What will happen after the fact? How will my body respond? Who will pick up the pieces for me in each of the arenas of my life? Will I regret it if I don't do it? The answers to these questions never get any clearer. Perhaps if it was just me... if there were no small humans involved or friends or family members that love me in spite of my crankiness... perhaps then only the final question would matter. However, the reality is that I feel an obligation to be true to myself while still being fair to them, and because of that, I struggle.
Eventually, I pulled up my big girl panties (yeah, OK, just bike shorts but work with my metaphor here), threw on a team jersey and headed out the door. I had very little time to spare. I wasn't hungry but knew I needed to eat. Sweet talked a boy into doing my tires while I grabbed a banana and a yummalicious Caribou coffee cold vanilla latte thing. I don't think that's the actual name of it but it sure does sum it up. Managed to get everything down plus a bottle of water. I could hear the announcer calling for the team to line up. We're big sponsors so we get to go to the head of the class and start first, but for whatever reason, I just needed to hang back and wait. As I was making my way over to the start I realized I didn't have my sunglasses. I'll spare the details of the quest for the shades but suffice it to say, it took some time since he who had the car keys was also he whose cell phone was turned off. Finally made my way over to the start and just quietly waited until I could feed into the mass of riders.
And then? I started to ride... one pedal stroke at a time. I had no idea how long I'd ride, I just knew right then, it's where I belonged, and that mile by mile it would become clear what I was capable of. My goal was simple... ride my ride and make sure my heart rate stayed as low as possible. Meds and the flare were making my heart beat in a squirrelly kind of way and I knew the heat was not going to help. My mantra became "it's not a race".
Yeah, OK, it wasn't a race but "on your left" was all I said for awhile as I tried to escape the mass of people at the beginning of the course. I don't really enjoy big group rides. For me, personally, it defeats my purpose. I see riding as almost a mind/body experience and having to focus on so many other cyclists takes away from that. I did settle into a really good paceline for awhile, right behind a pair of very nice calf muscles... the right one of which had a small M-dot tatt smack in the middle. There were 5 of us and we worked well together, but when we hit the next mass of people and traffic got wiggy, well, that put an end to that.
It was incredibly inspiring, as always, to see riders of all shapes and sizes out there on every kind of bike imaginable. Because of the nature of the event, there were quite a few people living with the disease out there riding. It was touching to hear their stories, especially given my own connection to the disease having grown up with an aunt who suffered, and she did, indeed suffer, from MS.
The first 25 miles seemed to fly by. I had plenty of water and Accelerade with me, ate a pack of gel bursts at the 45 minute mark. I skipped break point #1 and stopped at #2 to refill water bottles. I was pleased to see that I had averaged just over 18 mph despite some hilly terrain. Little did I know, that wasn't going to last! Chatted with some friends, ran into a few people I didn't except to see there. One said, "I'm sure you're doing the hundred today". I was embarrassed to admit that I actually had absolutely no clue whether I was riding the century or taking the 62 mile option. I'm fairly certain I didn't sound like the sharpest knife in the drawer at that point. His parting words to me were "decide quickly... the turn off is in 4 miles".
Headed back out onto the course and immediately struck up a conversation with a man riding a hand cycle. I told him I couldn't even do a pull-up and here he was putting me to shame by climbing these badass hills with his arms. He told me he liked women with hill climbing legs... I think that was a nice way of saying, "my, what large thighs you have". The better to climb hills with, my dear. His own legs were small and atrophied and though I didn't ask and he didn't offer, I assumed he has MS. In the distance we could see the turn off signs for the different routes. I asked him how far he was going and he said he was doing the century. "And you?" he asked. "Me too," I said, looking around to see if someone else had actually said that.
So there it was. Decision made. Game on. One mile at a time, I was going to ride the century I'd been planning to ride, the one I'd been training for before my training was completely thrown off by the will of something over which I have no control. Again, I had no doubt I was capable of the distance, it was more about the current state of health and being able to manage my symptoms well enough to make it through the day and, of course, the possible after effects.
I spent quite a bit of the next 20 miles or so in quiet solitude, riding the way I like to ride. The hills started coming one after another with false flats or false tops or plateaus in between them. And I had this thought a few times: Where the hell are the downhills?
And suddenly, there it was... no, not a descent... it was that damn song I got stuck in my head on Friday. Over and over and over again climbing hill after hill and in my brain I'm singing: Born Helena Jane with a restless soul... she moved west to California... became a centerfold... blah blah blah... And there's never any rain... when you want it... a hollow little game... you've won it... looking for a thrill but you've done it alllllll. Soooooooooooooo long, put your blue jeans back on girl, remember Hollywood's not America...
NO NO NO! Make it get out of my head!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! UGGGGHHH!!! Are you kidding me? Of all the cheesy songs in the world... why this one?!!
But I digress. At some point in there the route crossed the Alabama line and I knew the Exhibits were gonna love hearing that I rode to Alabama and back. Even if I only rode a total of 100 feet, they would still think it was cool that I was in two states. Shortly thereafter was a break point and I was happy to see it. The volunteers acted as bike catchers and my bike, in all its sassitude, was quite a conversation piece. I needed water and an Endurolyte. I didn't feel hungry but figured I was behind on calories. Standing at that aid station I suddenly realized that it was hot. I mean really, really hot. Africa hot. Keep in mind that my demons are fueled by stress, fatigue and yes, in fact, the sun. I knew I needed to step up my game and stay on top of nutrition and hydration as well as find shade as often as possible. I grabbed a banana, drank some Powerade (uhhh, sponsored by Coke, no Accelerade or other such products once my concealed in a plain water bottle stash was gone!) and headed back out with a bunch of boys from the team. We rode together for a bit but eventually each settled into our own paces.
There came more hills (sing it with me now 'cause it was still in my head: And you can take the heat, will your heart grow coooolllllld????!!!). I'd planned on skipping the next break point but I couldn't help but stop. Mardi Gras theme? Church ladies cookin' up some stuff? Seriously, they were so cute I could hardly stand it. They had PB&J and all kinds of other food (chili dogs?) that didn't appeal to me in the least. Instead I had a pack of salted almonds in the shade of the covered front steps of a small Baptist church in rural Alabama. Best dam... er... darn nuts I ever had.
Ever onward and back to the hills. Sooooooooooooooooo long, put your blue jeans back on...
Skipped the next aid station. It was midday and the heat was brutal, I wanted to keep moving, get the miles in, one at a time, they clicked by. I was terrified of jacking up my heart rate which would likely have ended my ride, and so I stayed focused on keeping it low even on the worst climbs. I was able to get the song out of my head but now I was stuck in spin instructor hell. I was literally cueing myself up the hills "settle into a cadence you think you can maintain and gear through your hill". I might never, ever say that into a microphone again.
There were some rough roads along the way. The most notable rough road included a toothless man and two small children, one of whom came running into the middle of the road. I hope she didn't get squished by a car and, given that she actually ran to my bike and touched it and me, and therefore, I assume other riders, I sincerely hope that no cyclist strangled her. I do not think ol' toothless liked it when I told him that what she was doing was incredibly dangerous.
It felt good to get back to Georgia. Nothing personal, Alabama, 'cause south GA is what it is, but still, it was good to cross the line from a mental standpoint if nothing else. I can't actually remember when it was but one of the highlights of the route was crossing Lake West Point. Absolutely beautiful and a good reminder that your pace on a bike is often the very best one at which to watch the world go by.
Mile 75... stopped for lunch. Air conditioning. Real bathrooms. Oatmeal raisin cookies. Not sure why I needed to leave that little slice of heaven right there. A Troup County Sheriff came by and we had this conversation:
Him: How's it going out there?
Me: It's a tough course but I like it... and if it were easy, everyone would do it.
Him: Yep, that's a good point! The police officers at the intersections doing their jobs?
Me: Yes and we so appreciate not having to stop. Thank you.
Him: We enjoy it. It's a fun weekend for us. We also like when the Georgia Cup is here 'cause we do that, too.
Me: I guess it's a nice change of pace.
Him: Yep it is. The next 7 miles are kinda tough.
Me: Oh yeah? More hills?
Him: Yep (keep in mind... south GA... yep, he said yep about 15 times). Some big hills coming up and it's hot out there. I reckon it's about 96 to 98 degrees. SAG vehicles are pulling people off the course in 4s and 5s.
Me: Yikes, that's not good.
Him: Yep. You be careful out there.
OK, so aside from Boss Hogg, the best part about lunch was the ICE. I put ice in my bottles of water and Powerade. The GSU basketball team was there volunteering and they were giving out GSU water bottles. Put some ice in one of those puppies and stuck it in my jersey pocket. Ahhhhhhh.
Just 25 miles to go. No.Prob.Lem.O. Found out there was one more aid station before the finish. WTF? Really? HA! Obviously I'd be skipping that one. I mean hell, who's gonna stop at mile 89?
Ummm, yeah, that would be me.
The hills were relentless after lunch. Constant climbing. Settle into a cadence you think you can maintain. Gear through your hill. Settle into a cadence you think you can maintain...
Physically, I thought I was doing fine. I was definitely hydrated. The joints in my ankles and knees started talking to me a little bit but nothing major and there had been no point at which my legs cramped or that I felt like I couldn't keep pedaling. Despite having started the morning with muscle aches from the flare, my legs were holding up remarkably well.
The cop was right. There were people dropping like flies out there. I stopped to help one guy who, as I passed started talking to me about 16 bottles of beer left on the wall and he was just resting. He was in bad shape. I mixed some electrolyte drink mix in his water and he drank it and told me he was ready to go. He could barely stand but was insistent. I didn't really know what else to do so I told him I was feeling a little tired and asked if he would mind waiting with me for just a moment. Fortunately, that worked. As if on cue, the rockin' motorcycle chick with the pink helmet was on the spot and I was on my way again.
The final rest stop was on a hill. Huh? Oh, right, that's because there were only hills there. I played with ice. Ice on my neck, ice on my back, ice in my bottles. Honestly, I am not so sure that I needed to stop at that point but the mental break was well worth it and I probably needed some shade. I could find nothing there I was interested in eating which concerned me slightly because I knew I needed something and I felt like my system might be shutting down a bit if nothing but nothing was appealing. I decided on a mint chocolate Gu from my fuel box. It made me think of Jonah... which will become relevant in a moment assuming you know that he was recently hit by a car, which you obviously now know (no worries, he's fine).
Ten miles to go. Just ten miles. I started doing mental math. If I could average 20 mph, I could be done in 30 minutes. Yeah, OK, probably not going to happen when it's eleventy billion degrees and I'm climbing 13,000 feet. Next! How about if I can average 18... scratch that... let's look at 17...
Car came by dangerously close before I could finish the math on that. New mantra? Thank you, Jonah: You must assume you are invisible to every car. Assume you are invisible. You are invisible. No car sees you because you are invisible. Every car, cloak of invisibility. Invisible Jet. Wonder Woman. Wonder Twin Powers... activate... form of: lots and lots of ice.
Big hill. Must.Keep.Heart.Rate.Down. Pedal through, don't blow up here. I looked down at my bike computer and saw several things that alarmed me all at once. How was it possible that in all the time that I thought had passed since being at the last stop I had only gone a mile and a half? And, uhhhh, was I pedaling backwards because my speed at that precise moment was 6 mph. Do the math on that with 9 miles to go! Seriously. I started looking around because I was sure I was being punked.
Ummmm... yeah, this was definitely my low point. I really gave serious thought to just calling it a day. Six mph. 6. As in greater than 5, less than 7. This is not a race. My heart rate was where I needed it and I still had the ability to move my legs. I suddenly became very appreciative of every single one of my bike's gears and, trust me, I used them all.
So there I was. A few more miles to go. I don't ride with gloves. I often take them with me on long rides but never wear them. When I have used them before, I always end up taking them off. I just don't like them. Well, it never even occurred to me to bring the gloves on this ride but at mile 92ish, I regretted not having them.
My hands became very sweaty towards the end and suddenly there was this major descent that ended with a bridge crossing. I wasn't so concerned about the descent itself but the bridge didn't look so smooth and there were signs stating that the road surface would change. I knew it would be wise to control the downhill momentum a bit. As I went to flutter the brakes the joints in my fingers, wrists and elbows seized. I can think of very few times in my life when I've been that scared. My arms were shaking and my fingers were useless. I couldn't grasp the brakes well because of the sweat and I certainly couldn't sqeeze them. For some reason I tucked tight. Not sure why, but I did. I put my hands in the drops and used my palms to apply pressure to the brakes as best I could. I used my whole body to control that bike and I got an immediate and lasting abs ache. Forty-eight hours later I am still feeling that descent in my core.
Now, a normal person with joints that have given up might call it a day. Maybe I should have, but I'm a wee bit stubborn and quitting makes me cranky (well, crankier than usual). No effing way was I gonna do that at this point. No sirree Bob. Now I was pissed off. You don't get to win, Thing. I seriously had this conversatation with myself: "What are the chances there will be another fast descent with a hazard at the bottom like that? If there is, even if I crash, it probably won't be a bad crash. If I can use the heel of my hands to shift gears and I can find some lateral movement in my wrists, I'll be totally fine!"
And I was. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't fast, but it was my Day 1 ride... a hundred miles, one mile at a time.
Friday, September 12, 2008
One day last summer when I walked into one of these offices, there was the cadre of usual suspects already there. It is often humbling and puts things into perspective in about one millisecond, always before the door even closes behind me. No one is there for a good reason. No one is there to simply have a check up and be told to come back in a year. We all sit and wait our turns to be told the course of treatment, the next step, the what ifs and the where tos, what fors and the so whats. For some reason, though, on that particular day something occurred to me that never has before: the specialist waiting room is the great equalizer. It doesn't matter how much money you have or don't have... whether you're a true southerner with the accent to prove it or a damn Yankee transplant, like me. It doesn't matter what you do for a living or what kind of car (or bike) you own or the color of your skin or the country of your birth. In those moments, we are all the same. We are full of frustration, hope, worry and a profound sense of love for our children and the acknowledgement that we are not alone in this journey. So there you have it. A moment of warmth came over my chilly little heart, but directed only at this particular group of people in this particular moment in time.
It passed almost immediately and as soon as I got back outside, just for fun, I pushed down a boyscout and tripped the old lady he was helping across the street.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
As such, this is a tough day for me. However, it has become a tradition for me to bake. Yes, bake. I take a bunch of yummy things to the fire station near my house. I had a rough night with my health demons screaming at me, I'm tired and I hurt and I don't feel much like baking today, but there are days when firefighters don't feel much like putting out fires, I suppose. So bake I will, and when my exhibits arrive home this afternoon, we'll rally and deliver... and we shall never forget to do so.
Honor those that put their lives on the line without hesitation every day, whether they are as close to home as a short walk or an ocean... a continent... a world away.
Monday, September 8, 2008
- Party started at 2:00 so at about 1:45 I decided to get ready. No rush, apparently.
- I thought it would be good to wrap the present at that point.
- I took my hair out of the ponytail to try to confuse them since they've only seen me with pigtails and a bandana and lots of sweat. I even put on lip gloss as an extra precautionary measure.
- I parked as close as possible to the site so if I needed to escape quickly I could.
- I shot gunned a Diet Coke so I'd have some extra energy going into it.
Children were directed into large playroom. Every action figure ever created, every children's movie ever produced plus 10,000 other toys were in there. The Party Director (PD) had done an outstanding job of alphabetizing by movie title and sorting the toys and placing them in bins with labels on them. The best was the empty bin labeled bugs and snakes. I am hopeful they were plastic. Within two minutes of the guests' arrival, every toy in the room was on the floor. Most excellent. I am sure the PD is sorting as I type and I sure hope she had a cocktail before she walked in that room because I'm just as compulsive and that would send me right over the edge.
The PD called all the children into the living room because she wanted to read them a story. This was not a particularly smooth transition as many children wanted to continue creating utter chaos in the playroom, but we finally got them all there. Kinda like herding cats.
The PD proceeded to read the story. A story she wrote. It was a blueprint for the party outlining everything they would be doing. It rhymed. Of course it did. Frankly, I can't really say anything about that because I've been known to write rhyming books for friends but they are generally full of sarcasm and ridicule and we read them aloud while we're drinking, but I digress.
I knew right away that the party plan needed to be successfully executed in order to complete the requied activities, cross the threshold and be back in my car by the cut off time. So we began to make crafts. Lots and lots of crafts. Every time one craft was finished, the PD brought printed name labels to stick on the back of it, and she had made a cloth bag for each child with his/her name painted on it. Security was tight. Obviously there was no way anyone was leaving with anyone else's craft.
Pinata. All I can say is thank goodness the PD had the wherewithal to use the kind with strings because the idea of 3 year olds swinging sticks/golf clubs/baseball bats/etc. scares the living daylights out of me. Not that I have any experience with this, mind you... yeah, OK, maybe Exhibit C's got a good arm. I can't help that he's clearly a gifted athlete.
Exhibit C got the most pinata stuff because he had the patience to sit with his bag and pick up the toys the longest. He filled up his little bag and then, obviously, the PD gave him a sticker with his name on it. Good thing because Lord knows when I throw away all that crap I wanna make sure it's his.
Cake. Nothing says fun like lots and lots of frosting and a bunch of preschoolers. This was perhaps the most challenging part of the day because trying to avoid having my jeans or tank top smeared with blue and white frosting required much focus and a reliance on my cat like reflexes. I came through it unscathed.
I had to catch Exhibit C at the cake finish and provide the following:
- Wet paper towels
- Balloon around the wrist
- Goody Bag ('cause apparently the crafts and pinata stuff weren't enough?! Holy Moses!)
What Limited Me?
Well, uhhh, I guess between the book and the crafts and the labels I started thinking there's a remote possibility I might not win mother of the year. Again. Damn. Last year it was that whole thing with Exhibit A calling tilapia tequila and now this...
The PD put on an impressive show. At no point did I feel the need to take a craft stick to my eye. This is high praise from me.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Back on the homefront, however...
1. Exhibit C had his first soccer game. Keep in mind he's tiny so his soccer shirt comes down to his ankles. In case you were wondering, no, in fact they do not make soccer socks small enough for his feet so instead he's using a pair of hand-me-down anklets from his big sister. They fit his feet and come up to his knees. I'm clever like that. I was able to find cleats and they're about the cutest things ever. Big kids took some great pics for me.... while I was out.
2. Exhibit B had his first soccer game of the season. After two undefeated years (both fall and spring leagues) they lost 2-0. Sounds like they played well but the other team was older so therefore more experienced with full field play. It was the first game in the new age division for our guys. It's eleven 8-year old boys and one girl who we shall call Bianca. The girl is, of course, the rockstar on the team and wasn't at the game yesterday. Their team name? Bianca and the Boys. Sounds more like a porn movie title than a kids' soccer team, n'est ce pas? Apparently, Exhibit B played a great game... while I was out.
3. Exhibit A, a.k.a. the Prima Ballerina, decided that dancing two roles in the Nutcracker just isn't enough, so she auditioned for Polichinelles. It's a role she's coveted throughout the years and, arguably, the most fun part in the production (though when she was the Arabian rug it was way cool, too). Survey says? She made it. This means she'll be cast in every show instead of just half of them. Lord help me. Her head exploded when she got the news... while I was out.
4. Exhibit B went to a friend's house. I'm thinking of asking said friend's father for some financial advice. Last time we went to the friend's house they lived in a very small townhouse on the other side of town. Yesterday they mentioned they'd moved over the summer. Ummmm... yeah... to a freakin mansion! I tried to play 20 questions with Exhibit B... "so, is it just them living there or do they have some extended family there, too?". I tried to avoid asking him who died and left the millions. Yeah, yeah, OK, millionaire next door and all but you have to admit it's a little odd squishing a large family into a tiny space if you could have afforded something still modest but slightly bigger and now this? O-D-D. So anyway, Exhibit B got to see the fancy new digs... while I was out.
5. The familyminusme went to hang out at a friend's house and were served some gourmet South African fare for dinner. Who knew lamb would be on the menu? Geeze, they could have at least served gazelle or something... while I was out.
So, other than that, it was pretty quiet around here yesterday... while I was out.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
I think it's really sweet that you all want to go out to breakfast and get to know each other and do playdates with your little ones, sing kumbayah and roast marshmallows together... but understand that I actually enrolled my third child in preschool so that I can do things like grocery shop, go to doctors appointments and pee all by myself. Someday you will learn.
Dear Elementary School Moms,
I work out. A lot. I don't always have a chance to shower before walking into the building. I don't have a southern accent, I don't call the grocery cart a buggy and I get my picture taken, not made. While you wear pearls, I wear Pearl Izumi. I own some sparkly jewelry but I rarely wear any of it during the day. Dressing up for me means wearing a sports bra that complements my top. My perfume is Eau de Sweat or, every once in awhile, Eau de Chlorine. I volunteer at school when I'm needed but I also find time for myself. I'm sassy like that.
Monday, September 1, 2008
So here's the current list of my egregious errors in domestic divadom:
- I don't have color-safe bleach in the house
- I don't have the corn shaped corn on the cob holder thingies
- The picture on the wall behind the table "competes" with the light fixture over the table
- My thermometer is substandard
- I don't buy cookies and ice cream at the grocery store
- I check my email too much and have too many work-related phone calls during the day... nevermind that I actually work from home
- Although she doesn't know how much I make, it's obvious that whatever it is, it's not enough for the amount of time I spend doing it. She might have a point there.
- Several of my candles currently have wicks that are more than 1/4" long
- My running shoes are in the laundry room instead of my closet
- Exhibit C, is, apparently, going to grow up to be a sociopath because I let him play Lego video games. Who knew?
And so it goes.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Today I rode my pretty bike a distance that might seem long to some folks but it's become about average for me. I like to ride my bike... sometimes even in triathlons, because I'm just sassy like that. I rode alone today which is not my usual M.O. since I have fabulous friends who also share my passion, but I thoroughly enjoyed the solitude of this ride. I saw five wild turkeys and some deer and lots and lots of hottt bikes. Funny, I used to actually notice the cyclists first but now it's the ride that catches my eye.
For whatever reason, I have found a mind body connection when I'm riding a bike that is akin to doing yoga for me. I really just get into a zone, it's like an escape. I love the feel of being out there for myself on my bike and the simplicity of it can't be understated. Whether it's a 60 minute ride or a 60 mile ride, in it, I find joy and the ability to be just a little less cranky.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
At 5:00 p.m. after close to 12 hours of feeling rotten, I started encouraging her to go to Urgent Care because it was clear she had become pretty ill. She wouldn't hear of it. At 7 I started getting more insistent but she fell asleep. At 8 I tried to get her to drink Gatorade and mentioned the Urgent Care idea again. Not interested. At 9:08 she decided she wanted to go. Well, that's just peachy 'cause it closes at 9. Sooooo... I tell her I'm taking her to the ER. Great. Too bad she can't stand up without fainting and, despite the fact that I've been getting my lift on a lot, I certainly can't carry her up the stairs. This means she must go to the hospital via ambulance.
The paramedics can't get the stretcher up the basement stairs... I already knew this from a prior unfortunate experience in a friend's basement... so they offer to carry her (she didn't want to sit in a chair for transport which was the suggested mode). Her response? "I'll crawl." Now, the funny thing is, the paremedics thought she was joking. The laugh was on them because she crawled up the effing stairs. It took a little longer than expected since she had to stop and dry heave several times along the way while the paramedics continued asking her if they could please carry her. Silly, silly boys.
Once at the hospital she complained the the bed was uncomfortable, she hated ERs, she'd rather be left for dead on a curb than be there and then she refused most of the tests the doctor ordered. The doctor started trying to bargain with her... "OK, no CT but will you let me do an an X-Ray?". Are you kidding me? I just can't see my own doctor negotiating with me. He'd have given me a "Drink the freakin' contrast and STFU" look. In typical fashion, when the doctor asked if she'd had a fever, her response was "I don't know, she doesn't have a thermometer" with a head tilt towards me (*sigh* yet another egregious error in domestic divadom... I do, in fact, have a thermometer but she doesn't like my thermometer and refused to use it).
They were waiting on lab results when I left at 2. The bloodwork and X-Rays were normal but after two abnormal EKGs they thought she needed to be admitted as there was some suspicion that this might be a precursor to a heart attack. She informed them that she was fine because all of her EKGs at her physicals are always normal. Right. That logic makes perfect sense. Anywho, she decided against being admitted but told the doctor "I'm very impressed by your credentials even though I disagree with your conservative approach". She followed that up with something about how the doctor was wasting her (as in the Queen's) time. It's her version of a compliment sandwich, only it's a wee bit backwards.
Needless to say, the Queen's husband is going to be in the doghouse for the next 12-18 months because he actually left my house and went out at 7 knowing she wasn't well (and after he himself tried to convince her to go to urgent care). He showed up at the hospital around 12:15 a.m. That should be a fun conversation for him.
They got back here at 4:00 and were chatty. Ummmm... can we table the chit chat until, say, noon? Not much sleep was had by any of us.
So she'll be fine. Not sure exactly what was up... likely some sort of nasty bacterial infection... but the meds, fluids and rest did her a world of good and she's back to her old, albeit feisty, self today. Phew.