Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008: Rewind




So, just a few days from a new year and as usual, I am excited about that shiny, glitter-laden (at least in my mind), January 1.

In last year's 'end of the year post' I wrote this:

If I am able to avoid the e-bay bankruptcy, I have trips with friends, more intense dog training, the start of competing with my own dog, family weddings, and just maybe another marathon in the works. If I'm really lucky I'll get to meet some new people and make some new friends along the way - there's a Bruce Springsteen fan in Austin I'm dying to meet, and a chance I'll be in Austin next fall. And then there's the best part - there's stuff I don't have any idea about that's coming.

I was indeed able to avoid e-bay bankruptcy, albeit barely.

The trip to Hatteras was all I hoped it would be and more. The picture on this post is from our very last day there. I can only tell you that 7 days like that, with those folks could never be enough. Plus, Hatteras was awesome from start to finish.

As for 'more intense dog training' check, and more to come... and oh hell yes, a shiny (first) and new title for the Mojo-dog and I (picture of trial day above!).

I didn't make it to the wedding - my niece had to throw it together very quickly (No, shotguns involved, people, please) her husband was heading off to training - he was an ROTC graduate and they had about 6 weeks from graduation to him being shipped to somewhere, and her needing to be in base housing in ALABAMA. The timing was bad for me, as I had already planned another of those trips with friends.

No marathon this year, but '08 did bring me the return of truly regular running, an introduction and hard and fast love-affair with speedwork, and the loss of 47 lbs. (Thank you Weight Watchers). I'll be looking for 26.2 in '09 because running is so much easier with those lbs behind me (or maybe, no longer BEHIND me -- heh).

I didn't get to Austin, this time it was money that kept me home. While I'm not one of the many dealing with a job loss my purse string grew tight and remain that way. I'll be looking for ways to end that in '09 as well. Cuz, damn., this sucks.

The stuff I didn't see coming.
The biggest, bestest one one has to be the horses. Thanks to a new friend I started riding again after a 17 year hiatus, and taking lessons and jumping, and jumping and jumping. I'm still at it eight months later, and I only know I want more time to do it, more money to spend on it and yes, Santa, a horse for Christmas would be awesome. I've met some wonderful people at the farm, and I have learned so much about myself it's embarassing. When I started riding there I told people it was the only place I didn't think about the problems in my life.
When this wasn't the truth, the horses told me. The horse you are sitting on knows when you are lying, and will show you whether or not you are tense or tired or distracted. These animals respond to the clenching of a buttock, the pressure of a calf, the tightening of a finger on a rein. They know if you're having an off day and will show you what it gets you.
Be here right now, is the lesson. Every time.
It has been an amazing ride, it every sense of the word.

My dad co-wrote a book this year, about the little coal-mining town he grew up in. I can't fully describe how wonderful it was to see this part of Pennsylvania through his eyes. It is likely this book changed something in me. My dad knew from a very young age he never wanted to go into the coal mines, and he worked very hard to get away. To write about this place with such love, and not a hint of bitterness for the father he lost, or the fathers of his friends lost in the mines, to only remember the good people, the good places, it is the definition of peace. I am proud of him.

The not-so-good stuff.
My dad had quadruple bypass surgery this year. The surgery was fine and went as planned, his recovery was really rocky and had prolonged complications that I could have done without.
My mom had a scare as well with anemia and kidney function.
Listen to me universe. It is not okay to screw with both my parents in the same year. BACK UP OFF 'EM.

I lost my friend Dennis this year. I have yet to fully deal with this. I can't erase his phone number from my cell phone. I go to his Police officer memorial page. I think of him randomly. I got a text message from a friend telling me they caught the guys. It helped.

In 2009, I hope to have more of the good, less of the bad, and just plain old hope for the unexpected.

I'd be a fool to hope for a quick cure to the economic trouble the country is facing or for peace in the middle east, for not one more solider to die, or the end to hunger and poverty, a cure for aids, and MS, but I'm going to hope for it anyway.

Happy New Year to all of you.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Don't be an egg-faker

Lately, it seems 'doing' has been much higher on my priority list than reflecting and writing. Typically, I find time for both, and I've been beating myself up a little for not doing it. I decided today, that I was saving it up for one big end-of-the-year post. No, I don't actually have that planned, I think it's just another way to procrastinate.

I haven't really been any busier than usual but I have been more tired and I'm blaming that on the stupid lack of daylight. Can I just say that I STILL hate this time of year? I do NOT understand the need for dark at 5pm. How exactly does this help ANYthing/ANYone. It doesn't. Anyone who says different is a liar AND they just plain suck.

I still have not gotten around to baking (or even deciding what I am going to bake for her - leave your suggestions in the comments please!) for the delightful Ms. Kaply and that makes me very sad. I have not finished my Christmas present for my mom, and if I did Christmas cards I'd be really far behind. I do have a christmas light adorned palm tree that sings and dances to rocking around the christmas tree when you press her hand/frond. It is the most awesome christmas tree ever.

I'm training for my marathon, competing my dog and horseback riding. I am busy. And inordinately happy. At christmastime and every other time, that is decidely, enough.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

If you aren't going to bake me a cake at least do this for me.....


That's right people, today is my birthday.

When I was in grade school mom used to let me stay home on birthday, she'd take me out to baskin robbins for mint chocolate chip ice cream cones and to the roller skating rink off Franconia Road. I got whatever I wanted for dinner and most everyone in the family was nice to me. (Being the youngest in a large family, this was the biggest deal of all).

Starting in high school, my oldest brother Mark was the first person on my birthday to call me. Usually by or before 6 am. The call would start with Mark asking me how old I was, I'd tell him, he'd spend 3 to 5 minutes telling me how OLD I was. Then he'd share a memory of little Cravey with me, usually the one where when I would get to crying mom would make him peddle around the court with me perched on his knee until I stopped crying, this frequently took a LONG time. I'd laugh with him, and remind him that however OLD I was, he was still 14 years OLDER. He'd tell me he loved me, and usually we made plans to get together for Mongolian barbecue.

The first year after Mark died, I couldn't answer the phone when it rang the morning of December 2nd. I wanted it to be him, knew it wasn't and wanted to believe I could make it all go away if I just didn't answer the phone.

Yesterday when I was thinking about my birthday and Mark, I decided I wanted to ask you people, my imaginary internet friends and those of you aren't so imaginary, for a gift.

If you're a brother or a sister, younger or older, call your sibling today (only children, you are not off the hook, call someone, a friend, a parent, whatever). Tell 'em you love them, make fun of them, share a laugh with them, something.
Just do it.

It'll make me feel better, and since I have a cold (which sucks, by the way), and it is my birthday (and you people aren't making me a cake) call your siblings. I miss him more than words can describe, every damn day and if I can't have him call me, I'm going to take some credit for making other people feel the way he made me feel every year.
Special, loved, and remembered.

Happy Birthday to me.

Friday, November 28, 2008

No turkey here

It’s been a few years since I’ve done the traditional turkey and fixings style Thanksgiving. To be honest, as far as traditional Thanksgiving food goes, the only thing I really love is the pies. I like my sweet potatoes plain, stove top stuffing is just fine with me, don’t understand the canned cranberry thing (sorry Dr. Err), could go the rest of my life without eating another mashed potato, and turkey is just okay.

And yes, I get that the holiday is about more than the food, but my family, we’re all over the place, and honestly, my family is the kind that celebrates our differences and different choices every bit as much, if not more, than the need to sit around the table once a year and eat until we’re all considering bulimia.

Wednesday, I decided to look for a local turkey trot, and found an 8k in a neighboring town. After a long visit to the farm Wednesday afternoon, I drove over to the sports store hosting it and stood in a very long line to register.

It was 29 degrees when I rolled out of bed this morning to eat and prep for the race. After picking up my chip and making my final running wardrobe decisions I walked to the start. There was a 1 mile fun run before the 8k, mostly little kids, running their guts out, and frequently crying at the finish. At least at a distance, this is adorable.

Although they had chip timing at this race, they had no clock at the start/finish so I have only the roughest of ideas on how long it took me to run 4.97 miles this morning. What I do know is that I had a great run. I felt really strong through every bit of it, and discovered that my hill workouts are paying off. My climbing is strong. I consistently gained ground on hills instead of losing or just maintaining.

For wallflowers race starts are excellent people watching. In most every other environment ladies win the most outrageous outfit contest – not at race starts, here, the men have it. Yes, I’m talking about the over 50 year old man wearing bright blue spandex pants with pink and white “waves” splashed down the side, and his matching, but opposing colors spandex long sleeved shirt. People, if this guy had worn a cape, I couldn’t have been any more amused.

I had enough gas in the tank to kick it to the finish line, grabbed my water bottle and fig newton, walked around a little in the crowd, stripped the chip off my shoe, and headed for my truck. Realizing just how cold I really was revised my plan to head to the farm for a ride and I became quickly convinced that a cup of hot chocolate and an even hotter shower was the only real choice I had.

I read an article recently about Paula Radcliffe it said she had a sign taped to her bathroom mirror that said “there will come a day when I can no longer do this.Today, is not that day”.

Today, among all the other really good things in my life, I’m grateful that today wasn't that day for me either.

However you celebrate and demonstrate gratitude in your life, do it well.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Random Crap

I wanted and actually have tried to write eloquently about what's happening in my life right now, but I can't. I either dissolve into tears or start throwing things. Neither are really acceptable, and the last attempt was around 1am and I quickly found myself scrubbing my kitchen floor, like with a scrub brush, wearing knee pads getting a wicked headache from the smell of pine sol and bleach.

So instead of trying that, I'm going to just say a few things unrelated to anything, because that is all I can do right now.

1. Why the hell didn't someone tell me how good dried apricots are? Cuz, damn.

2. It snowed in North Carolina today. For like 10 minutes. It was pretty and then it was gone. I am just as happy it's gone as I was to see little snowflakes piling up on my dog who was laying on the deck as it came down.

3. I have completely forgotten how to dress for cold weather. This is not good when I have dog training, outside, and it's 38 degrees with 20 mph wind.

4. I think Allison Sweeney is one of the single most annoying human beings on the planet. Why did anyone think she was a good host for a two hour long TV show?

5. I'm going to buy or make a pecan pie for Thanksgving, and eat the whole damn thing. No, you can't have any.

6. I miss my brother.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Angry, Angry Angry.

Disclaimer: I wrote what's below over a year ago., I stumbled on it tonight when I was stewing over something that happened to me to today. I couldn't say it any better today than I said I on June 4, 2007, so I wasn't going to try and improve it.
It says all I can stand to say about it.




I live with what I know.
I even live with the dark things that belong in closed off rooms on floors no one lives on, back in the attics and crawl spaces, I live with those things just fine.
I pick them up by the sharpest sides and turn them around once in awhile just to remind myself that I am capable of feeling and causing great pain. I am capable of great hate, great hostility, great compassion, and yes, Pollyanna, great love. That fucker, the ability to love, it creeps around the dark things and laughs at them. It laughs at my desire to shut it out like sunlight on a hungover Sunday.
It seeps in anyway, and Pollyanna, she dances in it.

I'll tell you what I will do.
I'll feel as much, every last bit, of what this heart will allow.
I'll take it in just like I take in air.
I'll take it in slowly like warm rain in August sometimes, and others, I'll let it wash over me like an angry waterfall.
I'll let it fill me.
I'll break it open and look at the pretty pieces.
I'll put it back together.
I'll take care of it.
I'll give to it and I'll take from it what and when I need to.
I'll walk with it and I'll run with it.
I'll laugh at it, and sooner or later I will cry with it.
I will not apologize for any of it.

And that will have to be enough for me. Because that it is all I have.

We can stack up the disappointments like dominoes, kick them over and watch them fall. It will be no surprise to me to discover that all I have isn't enough.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Yesterday I drove to Chapel Hill for a latte at some little kiosk called 'Southern Mudd'.

I was supposed to be going to Chapel Hill for a certification trial for my dog trainer. However, there is apparently a Farrington Road in Durham and a Farrington Road in Chapel Hill, and you guessed it, they don't actually meet. By the time I figured out where I was, and had roughly 43 phone calls between my trainer and I, I ended up going the hell home, 84 miles for a stupid latte.

I found a field along the way, and trained/exercised my very patient dog, then swung by the local Petsmart to help a friend pick out a puppy from a local adoption agency. Nothing to take the tarnish off the spoon like wiggly puppies. They chose a little lab-looking girl puppy that the foster mom found in a trash pile with her two siblings. I love it that there are people that will pick three puppies out of the trash and keep them until they are lucky enough to find happy homes. I hate it that there are far fewer people like that, than people that will look away, and try not to see them.

This morning I helped my riding instructor feed the horses at the farm. How anyone can not like horses is beyond me. Standing in a nearby field watching a herd takes the tension right out of me. This farm, is the only place in my life where everything else just slips away. It's a little like magic. After feeding and turning the horses out, I had my riding lesson. At the end of the lesson, we were talking about canter leads, and my riding instructor was promising me that soon enough, I would just know, I would feel it and soon after that I wouldn't have to think about what came next, it would just come. Riding is new enough to me that I always come away from it trying to make it 'fit' into something else I am familiar with and good at. Today it was running. When I run, I adjust, to accomodate the distance ahead, the cramp in my left hamstring I often get when I run uphill, or the unexpected cramp in my right upper ribcage.

Learning new "tricks" at a rapidly approaching 40 years has been humbling. Many have questioned the smartness and sensibility of me learning how to ride a 1500 lb animal and make it jump over stuff at a high rate of speed at this point in my life. I'll freely admit that I have often felt like a sack of loosely tied potatoes perched on a moving vehicle with a mind and fears of its own. I have learned that running and riding use different muscles, and there are even more muscles in my legs I didn't know existed. I have learned that just when I begin to feel confident a more experienced rider will show me how much I have to learn, and that the ground is very hard and comes up to meet you quickly when you aren't fully engaged.

Probably most importantly I have learned, that laughing at myself is still great fun.

Sunny November weekends where I accomplish nothing real trump looking sensible and smart anyday.

I recommend it highly.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's more than just a hippy thing


I smiled tonight as I slipped my key into the front door lock.
I knew what would be behind the door.
My beautiful, hardwood floors were covered in muddy dog paw prints. My white kitchen floor, even worse. My backyard after a solid day of rain yesterday, would be a muddy and unkempt looking, and the holes the puppy I've been fostering had dug would be mud holes. None of this would not stop me from taking my dogs out to play. The sun was out again, and the temperature a perfect 58-ish degrees.

As the youngest child of a large family, I was rarely ever alone. Someone was always taking me somewhere, picking me up from somewhere, watching me, in charge of me, or just plain with me. My mom tells me that I used to be really good at giving friends in the cul desac the slip, and slipping into the house and retreat to my room. Once there, I'd bury myself in a book. I still remember that room in the house on Bing Court, the little room at the top of the stairs with the pink rose wallpaper (this was not my choice, blame my sister, Karen). I'd curl up on my twin bed with one of the Chronicles of Narnia and read..and nap. On many occasions my friends and family would be in an outright panic, trying to locate me once the street lights came on (the get your butt home alarm in my family) and only my mom would think to check my room. It seems even in grade school I was looking for my little space in the world. The one without noise or drama, and apparently, other people.

My first place on my own was an efficiency apartment-thing on a horse farm. It was one room and a bathroom, one closet, one sink, one microwave, and a two burner stove. I was deliriously happy there. It was there I learned that phones are a convenience I pay for, not you the caller, me, the callee. (hush). Here I answered the phone when I was okay with being interrupted. This place was far enough out in the country that there was no such thing as unexpected, drop in visitors.

This expanded when I moved to a condo. In condominiums everyone comes to your door, neighbors from up or downstairs, across the hall, or across the street, kids selling cookies, or kites, or titanium screws, mail and package carriers, Jehovah's witnesses, people looking for "spanish speaking members of the household", you name it. This exacerbated my behavior to include, "if I wasn't expecting you, I didn't answer the door" even if you saw me in my house, through the giant sliding glass door before you knocked on my door. Ever.

The people in my life that love me, they get it. A few told me they couldn't possibly sit through the ringing of their phone and not get it., but they understood enough to know I wouldn't if I was reading, or talking to a friend or watching a good movie. I always return calls.

All these years later, I am much the same, with very few exceptions, I answer the door and phone when it suits me to do so. I return calls when I know I have the time and attention to dedicate to the caller that they would want me to.

I love to lay on my bed in my self painted yellow bedroom on a sunny day and listen to whatever I can hear. Controlling the external static in my home gives me great comfort and yes, peace. I know it's a temporary state. I know sooner or later I will have to deal with all of the things I am putting off, and I will. Just not now.

Right now, I will revel in the peace that I create.

Wherever you find peace in your own life or whatever you have to do to create it, for yourself and for your loved ones, tend it well, never take it for granted, one glance at any internatoinal headline will tell you how blessed you are. Anyone who has survived a home filled with domestic violence can tell you how lucky you are to have a space to feel safe in and everyone, everyone deserves a little more Peace.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Junk drawers

Today, I came up close with my junk drawer. The real one in my kitchen, and the one in my head.

To be honest, I have way more than 1 junk drawer in my kitchen, but I TRY to keep one full of all the cords and chargers for the electronic crap I own. Thankfully the good people that make all those cords put the name of the device on the charger making it easy for me to identify what cord goes to what small metal object I can't live without. Otherwise, I'm fairly certain I would have blown up/burned out all of these little electronic things I own.

Rifling through one of them today, I ran across my Garmin. I bought this when I first moved to NC, HAD to have it...and I did use it, for about 3 months. It has a setting where you can tell the garmin how fast you want to run, and it will yell at you in electronic fashion, when you are going too fast, or too slow. I *thought* I would like that, I did NOT. It did keep track of my pace, and my miles per week. I also found, in my drawer, two stop watches and two heart rate monitors.

I closed the drawer without removing any of it, and drove to a neighboring town for my run. I couldn't find my running schedule, but I thought I was down for 4, maybe 5. I ran 6. It was one of the best runs I've had in a long while. The night before I had read an article about negative self talk - the article was about weight loss and self-sabotage, not running, but it applies to running, plenty of people tell me they don't run, because the "can't". I've always wondered where that comes from.

As I started tonight, unfettered by worry about heart rates or splits or even just pacing, I wondered if I had negative self talk ahead, so I let the thoughts roll through.
I always think of Al D. when I run. He was a friend of my brothers and a multiple IRONMAN, Al used to tell me to 'just keep putting one foot in front of the other', as I came up a small hill, my head jumped to 'this ain't no E. Maple Avenue', my predawn running days in Sterling at Chrismas with all those gigantic blow up grinches and santas and the like, the first time I ran 10 miles by myself, crossing the bridge over route 28 and listening to Eye of the Tiger, I thought about my dogs, my family, my potential Thanksgiving plans, realized my tennis shoes matched my shirt and shoes, felt like a dork for matching, saw a cairn terrier on the trail and wondered when Wizard of Oz would be on TV again, wondered how I was going to discreetly dislodge my running shorts wedgie, and realized I left wet laundry in the washer.

I'm no Rebecca of Sunnybrook farm, and I'm fairly certain I've run into negativity when running before. I just can't remember it very clearly. One of my running coaches told me during marathon training to check myself. Lungs ok? Legs ok? Are you hurt? Or is this just hard? Those four little checks are all I've needed. That last one, it's the kicker. Running is sometimes hard, but I *can* do hard things. Hard is not impossible.

I had new music for my run, because there are some electronic devices I can't give up., some of it made me laugh, I believe Pink's "leave me alone tonight" is very possibly my new theme song (that is, if I had an old one, this would replace it) and some of it made me sad, some of it pushed up the hill and to run hard for the last .25 miles. Train like you'll race, Cravey.

There's been a lot of JUNK in my life lately. I've been stressed out, angry, frustrated, tearful, regretful, over-tired, scared, restless, losing sleep, and downright cranky. I am sick of it. I do not now how to deal with most of the things that are working me over like a loser in the UFC octagon. Most of it is unchartered territory for me. I am angry that I am letting myself be so affected by all of this STUFF.I am disappointed that I can't look at the rest of my life, at all of the great, wonderful, fantastic, things and people I have surrounded myself with and AM truly grateful for.

Running usually clears my head and helps me better prioritize my junk drawer, I don't know yet, if that happened tonight, I just know I desperately want to close the damn drawer and walk away from it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

My Beach Ball*


This is the chair I took from my brother's house when he died.
I don't know where he got it, or why. I know it sat just to the left of his fireplace directly across from the big chair Mark always sat in. When I would come to visit, or to drop off the dog; this is the chair I always chose to sit in to visit with Mark and anyone else who happened to be there. It's more comfortable than it appears and I always liked the creaky sounds it made when you shifted your position.

I took home to my condo in Sterling, and moved it from room to room, I used it to stand on to reach high places when I was painting. There are still paint spots of institutional white on the lowest rung. I moved it to North Carolina with me where once when I was cleaning I moved it out onto the deck and forgot it about it and it got rained on. It's a bit worse for wear these days. Yet, I cannot throw it out. These days, this chair holds pillows, mail, magazines and sometimes my feet, but I never sit in it like I did when it was in my brothers house.

I am not much of a 'things' person. I don't care if you spill things on my couch, or my clothes, or if your dog vomits in my car. These things will all clean up, for the most part, and what stains remain are just remnants of life being lived around these things. I can't quite bring myself to let go of this chair, though. I don't know if I just see him more clearly as time goes by when I look at the chair, or if I'm just being overly sentimental. Bottom line is, I don't care. It's staying. I can't/don't sit in it anymore, but I did just move it out of the corner of my living room, and I'd be happy to offer it to a friend stopping by for a visit.


*For all but one of you, the title won't make sense, for the one that does - thanks for sharing that story with me.

Monday, September 22, 2008

For Wordsmiths



She found the place by accident, needing to sit somewhere, and even though the place was deserted, it looked warm; something she was not. She scoffed quietly to herself when she read the name. The only heroes in this world were sandwiches. The ones she saw on the worn pages of the crumpled, dusty, comic books she found when cleaning out the attic in her parents house didn’t count.
They were her brothers’ old comic books, boxes of them. Next to the boxes of his clothes, school papers, trophies, and all those damn pictures.
If you didn’t know the family, you’d think he was an only child.
She may as well not exist.
She was the one left, the one who took care of the final arrangements for her father last week, saw to it that the bills were paid, cleaned out the attic, and the rest of the house, and finally, today, turned the keys over to the realtor.
After staring stupidly at the blurred words on the laminated menu, the gum-cracking, saddle shoe tapping waitress took her order for ‘just coffee, please.’ She didn’t even drink coffee but it seemed the only way to make the waitress and her scent-shroud of menthol cigarettes and hairspray go away.
The coffee came and she mindlessly dropped a sugar cube in to the cup, stirred.
She watched the street hoping for something to happen.
Something that might tell her what to do next.
She thought about the little pistol. It was weird, discovering her father owned a gun. Why did he have a gun? It wasn’t old, clearly not an heirloom of any kind. Yet, there it was, clean and well protected in its little case.
She took it home the day she found it. The pistol and its pretty little bullets.
Since then, she’d caught herself day dreaming about it. In her mind, the steel glowed, almost too bright to look at, like the face of watch caught in the sunlight.
She could sell it. She should turn it in to the police station. One of those amnesty things. It would be less trouble that way. No questions. No explanations. No admitting that she really might not have known her dad.

She wiped a stray tear away.

She heard someone come in and sit order coffee, like her. She glanced over her shoulder and their eyes met. He smiled, then nodded at her. She tried to return the smile and turned back to her cold coffee.

The waitress returned; asked if anything was wrong with her coffee. She shook her head, and ducked her gaze, as the waitress tucked her bill under the saucer.

She rose to leave, glancing at the newcomer. She avoided his eyes as she passed, but felt him graze her sleeve with his fingertips,
“Young lady? His life is over. Not yours. Get rid of that thing”

His gentle words propelled her out to the street and the tears came.



Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Finally, a quiz that "gets" me!

Your result for Reincarnation Placement Exam...

Reclusive Artist


We think we've found a place for you.



Your answers indicate that you're very fond of the fruits of civilization... for example, education and technology. But, in some twist of irony, you're not too fond of the pressures of civilization... you know, human beings and crowds and working together. We found you a place where you could enjoy an erudite existence, live a life that's intriguing and not entirely secure -- but far from the madding crowd.



Removed from civilization and humanity, yet educated and sophisticated, you'll make the perfect reclusive artist... An eccentric that produces irresistibly attractive masterpieces. Your art will make people swoon, and yet you will despise your audience. Your audience will probably dislike you as well, though they will go on admiring your work. So it all balances out, and your patrons will leave you alone to shape beauty in the wild, dangerous parts of the world where people won't pester you so much. Probably, you will write under a pseudonym, and mutter a lot when a rare admirer comes calling. If you feel really adventurous, you can pursue the role of a political dissident.



As you age, you will grow into the role of an incorrigible curmudgeon.



You artists, you're all the same.

Take Reincarnation Placement Exam at HelloQuizzy

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A guy walks into a bar*


On July 4th 2004 I quit smoking. On July 5th, 2004 I started running.
The first thing was a simple decision to not die before my mother. I simply did not want to put her through the act of burying another child.
Yeah, that's really why I quit.

The running thing was more complicated, one part distraction from grief, one part the not dying before my mom thing, and two parts wanting to do something that was HARD and a little bit like punishment.
I'm currently still saving for the therapy I probably need to sort that last bit out.

I've been struggling with my running since I moved to North Carolina in Spring 2005. I've had one injury after another, struggled with finding a gym I didn't hate, and had a horrible time sticking to any kind of training program. I promised myself this year to get my act together and train for an event.

My life finally feels like my own here. I'm not sure what took so long, the complete career change, the leaving the life/place/friends I've had for 20 plus years behind and moving somewhere I knew absolutely no one. Nothing in that to make me feel little off-kilter, right?
There is no way I can train to run 26.2 miles when my kilter is crooked.

Just after the first of the year I started planning, and I started with the need to lose some weight that had found me. It's funny how when you stop running 30-35 miles a week and don't stop eating like you're still running 30-35 miles/week - the weight just finds you and hangs around.
Literally, around.

This summer I had an annual physical, and yes, for the person that said "don't you think you should be over that by now" four years after losing my brother I get all choked up when I have to talk to a medical professional about my family history. The nurse practitioner I saw said great things about my health, my blood work, my body weight and actually asked if she could record my heart for teaching purposes (Ohhellzyeahyoucan) I'm approaching "a certain age" and so I heard a lot of sentences that started with "a woman your age should..." I'll be unhappy about this another time, currently I still feel too good about the visit to get all weird about growing older.

Somewhere between that and the weight loss meetings I've been attending, I've been doing some significant thinking about my health.
I think it started with my mom, she'll be 76 this year, still drives from south Florida to North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania and/or New Jersey and Massachusetts about three times a year. She walks about 5 miles a day, and runs around after her two youngest granddaughters almost daily. My mom, she is no slacker. My dad is about a year older, and my last email from him said he had just finished his first book (to be released at the end of September), and is going antelope hunting in Montana and deer hunting in western Nebraska later this fall. My dad, not a slouch.

Both sets of my grandparents were dead and gone before I was out of grade school. Two, I never met, were dead years before I was born.

I have no intention of lecturing anyone on taking better care of their health. None. I smoked for years, and have been known to eat a tub of cool whip for dinner. In college I lived on free donuts the cops brought us, coke, stale coffee, Ramen noodles and Hormel chili for more years than I can to remember.

I do want to say this though, just about an hour ago, my sister Karen called me, to tell me she is a grandma. Her son, Matthew and his wife Erin welcomed their first baby girl, Jodi, into the world tonight. My mom is a great grandma. That little baby doesn't have any way of understanding how many people already love her, but I'm grateful to be a part of a family that loved themselves and us enough to take care of themselves so they could be here long enough to meet her.

For all it's warts, and age spots, this life is not so bad, and I'll take the warts to hear the happy in my moms voice when she tells me about her first great-grandbaby.



*I am tired of trying to title posts - I am using the first phrase that pops into my head when I put the blinky cursor in the title box. Deal with it.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Stolen from Mojo...

I've started three blog posts today, and not finished one. So yeah, this is all I have for you.
I hope none of you are laboring on labor day.



You Are a Pistachio
You are funky, freaky, and a total character.
You're very different than anyone you know.
There's no way you're changing the way you are...
Which is good, because no one wants you to change.
a href="a href="What'>http://www.blogthings.com/whatnutareyouquiz/">What Nut Are You?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Balance

I never would have made it as a gymnast. I can’t get the balance right. In any thing never mind on 4” of wood suspended 4 feet in the air.

Lately, it’s all I’ve been thinking about. The need for better balance in my life.

I get busy at work and I can’t turn it off - I come home at night and can only sometimes manage to stay away from my laptop, even if I don’t actually work. I have to log in look at it. Review it. Read and email. Something.

I get wrapped up in fixing something in dog training and I do it to death. Training four-five times a day., until it’s fixed, or at least better. Same thing with horseback riding, I start something and I’m relentless, until it’s better, I’m better, until I reach some level of acceptable that I can only identify when I arrive there. Its.. infuriating.

This problem, is getting worse, not better. I am currently stressing about my job, about showing my dog, jumping “my” horse, money issues/the IRS, and some other personal issues I don’t care so much to hash out here. (This is my happy place. It is so. Shut up.)

I am tired until about noon each day, by 9pm I’m exhausted and can’t wait for bed, I get to bed and I’m awake until 1am, on a good night - I sleep til 6. Most nights? 4 am.

I am tired of the Ferris wheel in my head. It’s not even moving fast enough to be exciting, it’s just relentlessly spinning. And someone tell me why I’m stressed about my hobbies. I love these things, why am I letting them bother me?

This is NEW and I do NOT like it, at all. Like brussel sprouts.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Some things don't deserve a title

Today, while working in my living room, on a project that’s been plaguing me since April of last year; I had to refer to a document written by a company I worked for about 12 years ago. There on page 2 was the name of a woman I once thought of as my nemesis because she, She had HIM.

I was fresh out of college at that job, still living in my tiny college apartment, and by tiny I mean by comparison, an efficiency would have been palatial. The whole space – max, was probably 10’ x 12’ BUT it was on a horse farm, and it was cheap, and my dog was welcome there.

He was the very good friend of my assigned mentor. They used to smoke Marlboro reds on the front steps of the building, cracking jokes, telling hunting stories, talking to everyone and sometimes about them, as they came in the laboratory doors. They were always together, so I got to know him. He made me laugh a lot, and one day he paid me the most amazing compliment I had every received up to that point in my life. I was speechless and instantly, totally and utterly infatuated.

I used to hang out at the company softball games just to be near him, to listen to his accent, his laugh. I used to imagine him watching me as I walked over to the security area to use the bathroom. I was never sure if he did, but I hoped.

It’s weird, because I remember those things, but I can’t tell you how it happened the first time. The first time we crossed the line, the first time we made plans to see each other outside of work or work-social environments. But we did. And we ended up together, and it was amazing, and fun, and dizzying, and so, unbelievably wrong.

I know it lasted quite awhile, because I moved into my condo while we were still seeing each other. I was crazy, crazy, crazy, mad, wild, sick for him.

I remember one day, being with him in the late afternoon, talking in my bedroom, and he was just sitting there, on the edge of my bed, smoking.

And just like that, I knew.
As clearly as if he had taped a banner to my bedroom wall.
He was going to leave her. And their kid.
For me.

I walked him out to his truck that day. Said goodbye, waved to him in the mirror, and then sat on the steps in front of my building and sobbed.

I called in sick for the next two days, didn’t answer the phone, didn’t answer my door.

I ended it the very next time I saw him. I told him the biggest lie I could think of.

The truth was I couldn’t be that girl. The one he left for, and oh I wanted to be. So badly. I wanted to be wanted that much. I wanted to be enough for him to give up so much.

He quit his job about a week later, said he couldn’t see me every day. That it was too hard. I quietly hoped he’d leave her for an embarrassingly long time after. I hoped he’d be there one day, at my door, in my parking lot, somewhere, someday.

I saw him one more time, just one of those things – in the parking lot at the fair. He ran back to his truck to get something and ran into me in the parking lot. He came over to me and told me he still drove by my place, hoping to catch me outside, not to talk to me - just to see me walking the dog or getting the mail. He made me cry, just a little. I don’t remember saying anything. I remember feeling raw and angry. I knew I had done the right thing, finally, but I also knew that at that moment, I was wishing I hadn’t. Or that he hadn’t.

Staring at that document today, her name was still his name. I remembered all of this in the time it took to read the paragraph of results I was looking for, then, I looked them up. Same addresses, same phone numbers.
He never made it back to Kentucky.

I still don’t know, after all these years, why I did it, or why I ran from it just when it became clear I was going to get what I thought I wanted. I don’t know if he told her, or she found out, or if she knew all along.

I don’t know why I needed such a grand, dramatic, heart-rending gesture to feel like I was ‘enough’ and I definitely don't know how long it will take me to feel like saying I’m sorry is ‘enough’.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Go World! and Thanks

I use my automatic timer on my coffee-pot as an alarm clock. This makes one of my not so favorite things (waking up in the morning) much more pleasant because it is one of my favorite noises (the coffee pot finishing its task) that usually jars me from my sleep.

The downside of this is that the buttons on my coffeepot are easily bumped, say when putting the pot back on the burner, cleaning it, or breathing in close proximity to them. This morning, I got out of bed, stumbled into the shower, brushed my teeth, dressed, etc, only to arrive in the kitchen to realize it was about 90 minutes before I even needed to be awake. The really bad part is that this is the second time this week it’s happened because I didn’t fix the damn clock the first time.

Normally, an hour wouldn’t make too much difference, because Granny Cravey, she is in bed (usually) between 930-1000pm but I cannot stop watching the Olympics and I am up late every night. I have watched Archery. And Waterpolo. Things I do not care about it. At All. However, if you throw a couple of flags up I am apparently, unable to turn away.

Oh, and NO I am not tired of watching Michael Phelps win, nor do I hate the women volleyball bikinis, because if I had Kerry Walsh’s ass I would wear nothing but bikini bottoms, EVERYWHERE. Corporate dress code be damned. I also don’t care why divers shower after diving, they are doing incredibly cool, twisty, turny things at the exact same time as the person next to them and I don’t care about much else (why do you?) I also do not know if the Chinese women’s gymnasts are 12 or 16, and either way, I don’t care. Have I cleared that up, co-workers? Excellent, now shut up and either love the Olympics like I do, or go back to your offices and whine to someone else just leave me out of it. I am in love with the Olympics and your bitterness will not taint me.

==============================================================

I want to thank everyone for their kind words about my friend Dennis..
I am frustrated to report that they still have not caught the dirt bag who took my friends life. I check every day and I hope, but so far.. nothing.

Thank you all again for caring about me and about him and the many other people he left behind. It matters to know this.

Friday, August 8, 2008

My friend Dennis

I met him early in my freshman year of high school. My sophomore year I liked him more, because he was never afraid of my brother. He was rarely serious, but knew even way back then that he was going to someday be in law enforcement, so he never took a single drink, had a cigarette, or did any of the more exciting illicit drugs so widely available. He was going to be able to answer those questions with a resounding and completely honest No.

Dennis was always laughing or working to make others laugh.
He took me to see the Freddy Kruger movies, and made a fake Freddy Kruger glove that after the movie he used to tap on bedroom window. Should have been terrifying, except he couldn't stop laughing. Dennis didn't laugh like Freddy Kruger. He laughed the way kids playing in sprinklers do.

We were always friends, through all the high school drama, and later, he refused to let go of our friendship even when his first wife tried to demand he cut off all ties with his female friends from back then. He'd just shrug it off, saying 'they are my friends'. We talked less, but he always made time for me when I called to catch up - both of us knowing full well the days of anger and bitterness he would endure from his jealous wife.

About the time I moved to NC I found out he was in South Carolina, remarried, and finally working towards becoming a police officer. That first time, we spoke for hours. There was much to catch up on and we made the time to do so. We laughed a lot on that phone call. Dennis wasn't a part of anything bad in my life. He was always just a a true friend. His mission was always the same, to make you laugh, and let you know he cared. We talked about getting together for our high school reunion, and then neither of us went. We talked about him driving to North Carolina to visit, and hadn't gotten around to that yet either.

Yesterday, I got a call, Dennis had been shot and killed while working late the night of August 6th. I hate the imagery of him dying alone in the front yard of some vacant house. I realize we all die alone - but I hate it anyway.

I read this morning that they haven't found the responsible party yet. I sincerely hope whatever they took from that vacant house was worth it, and I sincerely hope they find you and hang your sorry ass from the tallest tree in the state.

Even here at the beach this morning, the world is a little uglier without Dennis.
We had one of those jokes - that aren't really funny - and no one else really gets, about him telling me the indicator brake light in his car was a reading light - and I argued what the hell could you read by that little light? His answer - Brake.

I miss you Dennis.
Godspeed.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

For Seven Days........

I'll be here..

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=Sand+Road+Hatteras,+NC&sll=37.020098,-78.222656&sspn=64.160835,112.5&ie=UTF8&ll=35.299435,-75.60791&spn=2.107049,3.515625&t=h&z=8

I have been busting my tail this week so that I can leave my job and my house with a clear conscience, and I am happy to report that on Wednesday morning, I should be in great shape to do just that.

I am more excited about this trip than anyone has a right to be. I'm going with my snowboarding buddies, and their families, dogs too. I will likely be the first to arrive, my drive is only about 5 hours, the girls are traveling 8 and 11 hours. I've planned the cocktail menu - and I'm trying to think of something I can make when I get there, so there's something to eat when everyone else arrives., you know something besides peach sangria and beer.

I have no idea what to make. Suggestions are welcome.

There is talk of kayaking trips and hang gliding, Staci will not rest until we are all bruised and (preferably) bleeding. That's just how she rolls.

Although I' m not leaving until Saturday, I am not sure there will be a post before this trip. There will be posts after.. and maybe pictures, too - Staci is an incredible photographer (visit her web page on my sidebar for proof).

I hope you all have a fabulous week.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A lot of dogs and one less Wallflower




The friend I got my dog from has a big party every year at her farm in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. For three days people roll in from all over the country with their families and Eichenluft puppies (or just E-pups, as we call them) in tow.

Some stay in local hotels, some at RV camps some camp out at Molly's house. Wherever we go at night, during the hours of 7am and 10pm we are at her place, doing every dog related activity you can imagine. Herding instinct tests, Agility, Canine Good Citizen Testing, Therapy Dog Testing, Search and Rescue demonstrations, Advanced AKC Obedience Demonstrations, and of course my sport, Schutzhund. Molly opens her pool, and we take frequent swim breaks, dogs and people. Yes, in the same pool. Get over it.
A couple of the husbands man the grill for one giant meal a day - hot dogs, burgers, brats, bbq chicken, bbq pork, you name it. We supply the side dishes, water, soda, beer, champagne (yay!) and the obligatory GIANT cake.

It's three days of the best kind of dog party I've ever attended.

Last year, I let my inner hermit talk me out of going. As extroverted as I am with people who know me, drop me into a crowd of people I don't know, and I become the stereotypical wallflower. I won't do much, eat much or even just talk much. I usually am miserable and leave miserable wondering why I went in the first place. I've been that way as long as I can remember.

This year, I almost talked myself out of going because of the ever tightening grip gas prices has on my wallet, and I was sad. I actually wanted to go. I wanted Molly to see this dog she's trusted me with, but the pile of stuff that was going all pear-shaped in my life was getting bigger and the stuff that was going right, was rapidly shrinking. I wanted a get away. Well, really, I wanted to runaway, but thought "a getaway" would do.

At the last minute, a generous friend made it impossible to say no, and so Friday morning, I packed up and headed north. Traveling through Northern Virginia was strange, the area I grew up in and spent most of my life in, has now become simply a place I have to drive through to get where I want to be. Weird. Very Weird.

I got there mid-afternoon, just in time for a lunch I turned down. The wallflower was on display.

She stuck around right until Saturday morning. When I got there on Saturday morning the kitchen was humming, coffee, bacon, eggs, and just the few people that stay at Molly's were around. Molly mentioned needing to get to work - I offered to help - and she offered to let me muck stalls. This may not sound great to you - I understand that, but I am good at plain physical labor - it's easy, and I get to be near the horses, and people, I'm good at being with animals. So I mucked and I brought the horses in and fed them. I got to rub them and touch the foals soft little nose before he ran away and hid behind his mom. Payment received.
When I finished, the sheep herding guy had arrived, and I watched while he brought dog after dog out and 'showed them the ropes' it was fun watching how dogs reacted to the sheep and the sheep to the different dogs. I got a turn and Mojo did well, he was a little insecure, as you can see in the picture below, he took the challenge that wether offered him, but his hackles are up, he wasn't all that confident. He hung in there though, and I know if we do it again, he'll be much stronger.
The day was so full of events, and activities that the pool was looking very good to me, and I knew it had to be to Mojo. So we climbed the hill and I started trying to get him to swim. The dog will do just about anything for a ball, so in the pool the balls went. He circled and whined and carried on, and then I got in, fully clothed and then HE got in., and the fun began. People were outside the pool taking pictures, talking to me, laughing at Mojo and I. I took a break on the steps, waist deep in water, sunglasses perched on the top of my head. I was happy there, watching my dog swim in circles, chasing the ball, discovering the water jets. I was happy and the wallflower was fading, and then out of the blue........SHOVE... and into the water I went, arse over teakettle, sunglasses in the deep end. The 17 year old son of one of the party attendees thought I needed to go ALLLL the way in, so in I went. For just a second, just as long as I was under water, the wallflower was embarassed, horrified even, wondering what people were going to think. Then I surfaced. And just like that, I got the hell over it. In those minutes laughing with those that saw what happened, trying to find my sunglasses in the pool, I let it all go. I wasn't worried about what my hair would look like, or if I had make up running down my face, or if people were still going to like me.
They DID like me.
So did I.
Why has it taken me almost 40 years to get here? Why has it taken me this long to realize that in order to have fun, you have to take part in the fun?
I would have been more frustrated by this and analyzed it to death, but it just would have taken up too much of the precious time left I had at the party.
The wallflower, she is dead.
I had a great time the rest of the weekend and was sorry to see it end. I helped pick up water bottles and fold chairs and put away canopies just to hang out with those people a little longer.
I can't wait til next year.





Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What have I been doing? Let me show you....


Wanna guess who won this little show down?
Heh. That's MY Boy!
More to come.... did we have some fun..ohyeswedid

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The gift horse




I have been horseback riding almost every morning this week.

The farm is quiet at 7 am. Sometimes, I can hear the new horse in the far pasture scrapping with the mustang gelding who is none too happy that he has competition for the sweet chestnut mare he used to have all to himself. The mustang may be tiny next to the new thoroughbred but he is proving what anyone who ever saw The Outsiders learned from Ralph Macchio. "Mustangs, they're tough" (for the uninitiated).

I can always hear the guinea hens, raising their guinea racket. Often it seems they lie in wait for the right opportunity to jump out of a tree line and startle the herd as they wander around the pasture. Those little hens can start a mighty stampede.

Every once in awhile I can hear a dog in the distance, or John, the caretaker on his John Deere. Mornings like this, I can never tell where John is, the tractor sounds like it’s everywhere all at once. When I catch a glimpse of John through the trees, one-hand steering his way around the farm, I think of my brother on his lawn mower. Mark had stickers on the hood of his and once, he wrote a poem about it, the poem was so popular that he was photographed standing next to it for a possible book cover. There’s no similarity between John and my brother other than the mowers, but I like the reminder, the feeling that if I close my eyes, I can tell myself it’s Mark.

I let myself into the creaky, dusty tack room, pull out my equipment, brushes, fly spray, and treats, and then head for the pasture. Most days I have to stop myself from running, so happy I am to be there. I undo the chain that holds the gate closed, and just twenty feet inside the pasture there is a large patch of buttercups. I stop in the middle, think about twirling, with my head back and my arms out, reconsider, and instead put my hands up to my mouth and yell “HEY BOYS!!!!!!!!” “HEY BOYS!!!!!!” Usually just two times and I’ll see them, Taz in front, moving at a trot, coming right at me. Once I spot them, I usually turn my back, drop my head and wait. It’s hard not to peek, to check and see if they are still coming but patience pays off, and soon, I’ll hear their hoof beats, them blowing through their noses. The rhythm slows, and it will get quiet. Then I’ll feel it. Taz will approach alone, his nose at the level of my shoulder, he’ll rub on my cheek, and I’ll turn. There’s a spot on his neck, up high by his ears that he loves to be rubbed, but just for a minute, and then he starts looking for my right pocket. I never disappoint him. After a treat or two, he’ll lower his head for me, I’ll slip on the halter and we’ll head for the barn. Sometimes I’ll run and he’ll run by my side, in serpentines, straight lines, circles, and then I’ll stop, suddenly, and he’ll stop right with me. Already in sync.

Grooming Taz tells me what he’s been up to since I last saw him. I’ll find tender spots from kicks, bite marks, and fly bites. I’ll know if he rolled around in the pasture. Today there was yellow pollen all over his lower limbs, looks like Taz likes the buttercups too.

Groomed and shiny, saddle on, we head for the mounting block. I mount, and start a warm up. The saddle creaks when we pick up the pace. He stumbles a bit, we go over a small jump or two, and I ask him to pay attention to those feet. We push to the rail, out to the center, increase our pace and slow down. Each exercise is designed to ask him to pay attention to me, to all my cues. The requests are subtle. Pressure from both legs, or just one, then the other, more weight in one stirrup, me rising from the saddle or sitting firmly down. He’s a slow starter, so we take our time.
By the end of two hours, we’ve moved out to the pasture, gone over a few more jumps, turned our pace up; our circles have become figure eights. We’ve crossed water and walked the perimeter of the largest pasture at least three times. I hear the crunch of gravel under tires, horses nickering, it is breakfast time at the farm.

In two hours, I have not thought about money, boyfriends, lawns that need cutting, work deadlines, car repairs, unpainted walls, eating right, working out, or bad family relationships. I have been completely mindful only of myself and him as he gathers under me, fully aware of his strength and power, it's in every twitch, every stride. I know where every uneven spot is in the pasture, because he has shown me. I have not examined much beyond the greenery just past the tip of his ears. I have talked only to the horse this morning, and that is perfectly fine with me.
I always hose him down after a ride. He arches his back when the cold water hits it, moves into the spray. We walk down the road back to his field; it's shadier there then going across the pasture. We share an apple and I thank him again for the ride. He answers only by asking for another bite of the apple. We are not perfect together, but he keeps working as long as I keep asking.

When I return him to his field, his friends are often well out of sight. He’ll spend several minutes with me at the gate. We share a few more words and one more quick rub of the spot up high by his ears, and he’ll turn, listening for his herd, and when he’s heard what he needs to, he heads off, head and tail high, at a trot. Watching that, gives me goose bumps every time.
I don't know if there was something I should have done with my apparent affinity for animals - something I missed. I hope I have not wasted a gift. I am a better listener and a better communicator when it is an animal on the other end of the conversation. I have joked about this for many years. I am not complaining.
I am grateful.



Sunday, June 22, 2008

Snake Charmer


So when your neighbor rings your doorbell at noon on a Sunday afternoon, what are they looking for?

-- a cup of sugar?
-- someone to keep an eye on their house while they go on a weekend trip?
-- borrow some gas for the lawnmower?

'Round here, it's "hi, sorry about my attire (a blue mumu), but could you come catch the snake in my yard?"

Now, a reasonable woman would say, "um, no, but thanks for letting me know, I'll bring the dogs in."

Since there are no reasonable women here, I just spent the last 20 minutes or so with a couple of recycle bins cornering a snake behind her air conditioning unit, and eventually, shoo-ing him into a bin.

Once in the bin, with the lid securely on, I walked him around the corner and down the street to the woods at the end of my neighborhood. He slithered quickly and (I imagined) happily off into the woods once I pulled the lid off the recycle bin.

The good news is that catching him enabled me to get a good look at him - and he wasn't a copperhead. Those things scare me, not so much for me, but for my dogs, who love nothing more than to chase a slithery critter... and the veterinary expenses for treatment of a snakebite are wicked-high.

So at least I can let that worry go. However, it does occur to me that I should maybe have checked to see if he was of the venomous variety BEFORE chasing him around my neighbors yard.

Next time your neighbor stops by, and all they want is a garden-variety favor. Say Thank you.



Sunday, June 15, 2008

A little race, a lot of heart.

Race day.
I got up and went to meet my friend, the one I started on the Couch to 5k running program. Three months ago, she selected this day, this race, as her target for running and completing her first ever 5k. She wasn't completely finished with the program, hadn't yet run 30 minutes straight, but she was determined, and in running sometimes, that's all it takes.

She selected the Race for the Cure here in Raleigh. A race this year that registered 25,000 runners/walkers/run/walkers. The environment is wonderful at these races, lots of crowd support, runner support, and the survivors. Wow. If you can't get inspired here, you are a soul-less pit.

We watched the road fill with other runners behind us, for a full quarter mile, women lined up. B lost her mom five years ago to breast cancer. I knew she was battling more than nerves before a race, saw her eyes linger on mom-daughter pairs and couldn't think of one thing to say. I watched as women lined up all around us with names written on them, the names of women lost, women still fighting, women they hope will never have to fight.

Her plan was to run intervals, 10 minute runs, 2 minute walks. She wanted more, but she didn't want to disappoint herself so she set her goals low, and I knew, hoped she'd be able to run every step.

At 7:50, we started, dealt with the massive crowd and then broke out and ran. I knew we were running much faster than she had ever trained 2 minutes into it. I told her to set the pace, and I'd stay with her. She did. At 8 minutes I could feel her losing speed, her breathing getting labored. We walked at 10, about halfway up the first hill. She was winded and as I looked over to check on her, disappointed. We topped the hill, and saw our first mile marker, and our time. I didn't say anything, but mentally noted that were almost a full two minutes ahead of her 'average' pace. We ran again. More hills, and in 5 minutes and at the bottom of another hill, she needed a break. We walked up the hill, ran down it and more. We didn't make the full 10 minutes and I saw her disappointment in herself grow. She said "I didn't want to walk this much". I don't know what got her up again, words of encouragement, the kids with supersoakers shooting at us, the B52's blaring from someones porch, the wonderful volunteers at the water stops, or if she just found something down deep where those things live. Whatever it was, she picked up her head, and got to stepping again.

More hills, more struggle, not enough water, but she kept stepping.

At the last half mile mark, I wanted to cry, she had worked so hard, and I could see the emotion rise in her when she realized we were almost back to the start.

At the quarter mile mark, her tears came but she ran faster, and harder, finishing strong and a full 7 minutes faster than the girl had ever completed 3.1 before.

Here's to you, B, to a run you can be proud of, and for being the kind of woman that sets a goal, fights for it, even when it's hot and hard, and doesn't quite come out the way you had hoped.

Youur mom isn't the only person who's proud of you.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Enlisting help for a friend...

Ahem.

Tap. Tap.

This thing on?

Okay, so here it is. My friend over there (pointing to sidebar at right) Canesmojo wants to quit smoking. This is big. Huge. GINORMOUS.

Please would go there and support him in his quest to not die a horrible terrible disgusting death, encourage him to stick around to see his kids have kids and see those kids do cool stuff, like play soccer or football, or ride horses, or pottery, or whatever.

If you all have done this you know putting down the first cigarette is hard, but the next hour, 3 days, 3 months, is even harder, so please stop by regularly.

You have my thanks, and his too once he makes it to the end of this fight.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Summer, Summer, Summer

The other day after I cut my grass, in the scorching, all-of-a-sudden-north-carolina heat, I spent a minute or two standing by my mailbox, looking at my yard and was overwhelmed by the smell of summer. The just-cut grass, the melty smell of asphalt, sweat, a grill somewhere nearby, sunscreen.

I remembered the summer they repaved the main road by my house, the way the new asphalt stuck to/melted into the bottom of my flip flops, making me carry around pieces of Hayfield Road all summer.

Later that night I made a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner. Although not the wonder bread slathered in butter, Kraft singles laden sandwich of my youth (soy cheese and sprouted grain bread, thank you very much) I sat on the couch eating it, pulling it into pieces and stretching the cheese out, wrapping it around my fingers, just like Maureen Mulroy and I used to do on the curb in front of my house when were BFFs in grade school.

The pringles I had with my sandwich reminded me of a campground in Ladysmith, Virginia, my brother and I making duckbills out of pringles and seeing how many verses of "John Jacob Jingle-Heimer-Schmidt" we could get through before they broke. He always won.

My mom pulled a leech off my calf that summer. I caught my first fish at that campground. A bluegill.

Tonight I went shopping for essentials (ice cream) and as I walked through the aisles, I saw marshmallow fluff. Another curbside sandwich shared with grade school friends. (We also "ate" powdered Kool-Aid, and no I don't know why).

I made my ice cream tonight and used caramel topping and that made me think of my dad., who used to eat Brach's caramels like they were going to stop making them (did they stop making them?) I remember the bags that had umpteen "regular" caramels and a smattering of "dark" caramels. He loved those the best. I remember I thought those were like black jellybeans, and I avoided them like the plague - something my father probably adored.

I remembered catching fireflies at night in the Brubakers front yard. The color of Chips t-shirt the night he tripped and broke his wrist - goldenrod yellow.

I can't figure out why these things stand out so clearly. I don't recall my dad ever grilling - not once - Maureen and I had a huge falling out later in life and aren't friends anymore, the jar of marshmallow fluff turns my stomach just looking at it, and why is it important to remember that my dad loved caramels that may or may not exist anymore. Chip Brubaker was the neighborhood kid that caught me smoking my first cigarette and told my parents - I was not a fan of his for a very long time after that.

I've had some incredible summers since I was 11. Really I have. I just don't remember them with the clarity I have of my childhood summers that bothers me.
What happens, exactly? Did I just stop paying attention to these little things as I got older? Is my brain so cluttered with gas prices, and bill paying, and stupid work projects, and did I unplug the flat iron, and am I going to be able to get my dog ready for the trial in the fall and, and and.... that I can't hold onto the memories that are happening right now?

I don't know the answer, but I do not like it. I want to remember the way my friends laugh, and the color of their t-shirts, and what we were eating when someone told that really bad joke. I want to remember the way the horse smells after a ride, and the way the top of his neck feels, the part just under his mane, the way a cold beer tastes sitting on a beach with my girlfriends and their dogs, and the bskillion little, insignificant things I haven't thought of yet -- things I won't be able to think of because I won't know what they are until they are happening.

These are the people and times I've created, they should be remembered with the reverence and wonder of an 11 year old with asphalt stuck in her flip flops catching fire flies in a yard on Bing court.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

No right-thinking person likes brussel sprouts, SHUT UP. I MEAN IT.

So, I am trying very hard this week to work on a project where they want me to discuss in detail that the complete blood count values were normal and within the standard reference ranges and (my favorite part) they want me to "be excited about it"... are you kidding me?
First the fact that they were normal pretty much means there aren't any details to discuss, and that IS pretty much the exciting part.
Yeah, I know, my stomach drops like I'm on a roller coaster too. I've been giving serious consideration to just changing all the periods in this section to exclamation points and returning it.
(Bet the results of that would be pretty exciting.)
So I hate that part of my life right now. It makes my brain hurty and honestly it makes me wish spitballs were an acceptable form of responding to these types of comments

Summer it has arrived in North Carolina as of this week. It is marvelous.

My Dad turned 77 a couple weeks ago, and father's day is just around the corner. Last year when I called him for one of those occasions (I can't remember which one) he responded with "aren't we done with that shit?", this year, I'm just sending cards.

As a kid, I hatedthe brussel sprouts, and spent many a night sitting at the kitchen table refusing to eat them. As an adult my dislike for them is often met with shock, apparently they are wonderful and delicious and good for you and cure acne and hangnails and maybe even mongolian body rot, such things of wonder they are. Soooo.. I tried again. I bought a little net bag full of fresh brussel sprouts and plopped them into a Ziploc steamer bag (if you haven't tried these - you are missing out) with some spices and 4 ish minutes later... blech. they still suck. Now all of you that have been nagging me? Shut up and Get off my back. Someone owes me 5 bucks and something else to eat for lunch.

Awhile ago, a co-worker/friend and I joined weight watchers at work, and I've been teaching her to run, using the Couch to 5k program I started with 4 years ago. Her target race is in two weeks, and I'm so hapy and proud of her, I cried the day she called me and told me she ran 15 minutes straight for the first time. We're doing the Komen Race for the Cure here in Raleigh and since her mom passed away 5 years ago from breast cancer it's especially important to her. Running with her has been great for me, as it's reminded me of all the lessons I learned, and all the mini-victories that I didn't celebrate enough. It's allowed me to recommit to my running and I've picked a target race for my next marathon and I am as excited about it as I was the first one. Although I'm not sure I knew it.. that is what I have been waiting for.










Sunday, June 1, 2008

Jaded


The flowers pictured here were planted on March 3 – what should have been my brother’s 52nd birthday. Mark was the person in my life who in both word and deed never allowed me to doubt his love. Losing that was indescribably painful and even though I thought it was special, I’m sure now, four years later, that I didn’t fully realize how rare that quality is.

I wonder what exactly it takes to be that kind of person. More specifically, I wonder whether I have what it takes to be that kind of person. It seems in my relationships, I get to a point where I’m straddling an imaginary line. On one side, is expressing my sincere affection and on the other, the knowledge of that affection being used to take advantage. I do remember one conversation with Mark about someone he felt was crossing the line, someone he’d known for some time. He summed up how he felt about letting them know he had reached his tolerance by saying “Shit J. If this is how they are going to be - I’ve got enough friends” – and maybe that’s all there is, when I get “that” feeling, remember that I do indeed have “enough friends.” It makes me sad, though…and it makes me wonder if it ever gets easier, and it brings clarity to the term jaded. I thought I didn’t want to be that.

Shit. at least Jade is pretty.















Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Tale of Two Horses

A new friend at work got me hooked up with a friend of hers who owns multiple horses and is always looking for people to ride them. So this fellow here, has been my 'other' time killer hobby for the last few weeks. His name is Taz and he' s quite lovely. He's well behaved on the ground and when I'm on his back and he's been a very generous and patient while I relearn how to ride properly. The last time I rode in an English saddle I was in 5th grade - circa 1979. Yeah, it's been awhile. There are something like 6,987 of unused horseback riding muscles in my legs and back and they all want me to know that for almost 30 years of non use, they plan to make me pay. Ow. Ow. Ow.

My senior year in high school, my friend Lace and I used to go out to one of those 'rent a horse' places in Brandywine, Maryland. We spent so much time there that eventually I/we got talked into buying a horse. We paid $600 for this nice quarter horse - Prince - board was $140.00/month. He was a western pleasure horse and worth ten times what we paid.

You might wonder how a 17 year old could afford a horse - I had this crazy job my senior year in high school. I worked for a title company and researched judgements. I got paid by the search, not by the hour. So, if I buckled down and worked hard I could clear 1000 bucks a week. That is mad cash for a 17 year old and what else would a 17 year old spend mad cash on? Lace and I shared him, and he was well loved and well taken care of.

Riding Taz lately has had me thinking about Prince a lot and laughing, first because who sells a horse to a 17 year old and second, we never told our parents. Lace and I owned a horse for a year, and no one knew. Lace and I had a lot of secrets, and while the horse may have been the biggest in size, there are others that will never make the page of this blog or any other.

I told my mom the truth just a few years ago - she was stunned, and after shaking her head a few times, she laughed - and said she guessed if I was going to keep secrets and hide "big" things from her she was just grateful it was a horse and not a cache of guns or a coke habit.
My mom, she's cool like that.

I keep reminding myself I can't really afford another expensive hobby right now but I am enjoying it so much that I have caught myself trying to do the math in my head, the 'figuring out if I can afford it math'. Fortunately, I suck at math, so until I start putting stuff down on paper (or in an Excel spreadsheet) it's all okay.

The day I sold Prince was heartbreaking. I will never forget the woman who bought him hugging me and telling me that "he would grow old with her" - I have always hoped that is exactly what happened.

This time, if I do buy a horse, I think I'll tell my mom.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Cravey Potpourri


I got a meeting reminder yesterday, the title of the meeting? US Regulatory Potpourri.
Because when you think of US Regulatory Guidelines, don’t you imagine dried flowers, cinnamon sticks and assorted twigs?
Yeah. Me neither.

However, the theme of things that do not necessarily go together is also the theme of this here post. Lately, I’ve been madly writing posts in my head, and they just never make it to my computer. Yes, I’ve been busier than usual lately, but I have never had the intention to disappear from the face of the blogosphere. Just last night, a friend popped in and made a request for a post, so since I heard a rumor that his birthday is this week, I’m going to throw some Cravey Potpourri on the stove, and leave your kitchen/living room/bathroom/library/whatever smelling all cinnamon-y or whatever that crap smells like (incidentally, I hope it’s not crap).

Saturday night, after a long, hot Saturday afternoon of dog training, and a late evening walk with the dogs, I was pulling for a little sleep-in on Sunday morning. I thought the late walk would be the kicker.

I woke up around 4 am because my puppy was whining. Irritated and still insistent that I get to sleep in (I only wanted 7 am!) I ignored him and went back to sleep. For an hour. The whining again. No! I shrieked in my head, rolled over and went back to sleep. Another hour, and this time the whining is panicked. Sent chills down my maternal-dog-spine. I shot out of bed, and couldn’t figure out where the whining was coming from. Then, in the dim light of the room, I saw brown paws, UNDER MY BED. My 80 pound pup was completely and decisively wedged under my bed. I could only imagine that while lying on his side, he somehow slid under the bed, and the righted himself onto his chest only to find he was stuck. His panic-o-meter was way too high at this point for me to coax him onto his side and slide him out, so I did what any other person would do. I bent over and picked up my queen sized, cherry bed and lifted it while calling “come, come, come, come!” realizing that my panic-o-meter was also well into the red partially due to the weight of the bed, and partially due to the realization that if I dropped it on him I’d probably kill him.

This is no way to wake yourself up on any morning.

He made it out, but hasn’t spent the night in the bedroom since. He may have been stupid to get stuck under there, but he’s smart enough to not let it happen again.

Good Boy.
Maybe I'll get that sleep in next Sunday.

Yesterday, I worked from home, to babysit the other dog, which while I was out riding horses on Sunday, broke into the kibble keeper and ate roughly 7 pounds of dry dog food.

Bastard.

He looked as though he had swallowed a fully inflated basketball, and was sick, sick, sick, sick for two days. A little after lunch, I ran out to vote. Made it to my little polling place and was elated to discover only a half dozen people in line ahead of me.

The first two people in line were an elderly couple; and when I say elderly, I mean older than electricity-old. Hair growing where no one ever intended it to on any man, that shuffling gait that will ever remind me of high dose of Thorazine, and the woman looked a bit too much like a shrinky dink for me to be comfortable trying to imagine her driving to the polling place.

The man appeared disgruntled. Almost as if to prove my point, as he passed me he shouted “Bullshit!”
I admit it. I giggled. I thought this was some senile turret’s syndrome outburst.
I turned my attention back to my place in line, as the old man made it back to the help desk, a few normal bits of conversation ended in the old man shouting
“I have to wait in line again because some idiot can’t read?!!”

I was no longer amused, I was actually a little concerned.

The help desk guy, the old man and his teeny wife cut in line to talk to the first volunteer apparently there was some confusion over the placement of an apostrophe in the old mans name. In the general direction of no one in particular he shouted
“I’ve had an apostrophe in my name since the day I was born!” (sidebar: roughly 1657)
to which the volunteer calmly replied
“Sir, how would I have known that?”
which was quickly responded to repeatedly with
“YOU JUST SHUT UP AND DO YOUR JOB!!!!”

My concern grew.

The third time the old man shouted that another elderly woman (was I at the polling place for retired cast members of Cocoon?) tottered into the community center wearing an apron with a button that proclaimed she was the “CHIEF JUDGE”..she approached the increasingly red faced old man and said
“hey now, let’s quiet down here”

I was almost hiding in the corner at this point envisioning what looked like a imminent rumble, I could almost smell the Ben-Gay, old people feet, and hear the crack of pelvic bones - but it worked - the Chief Judge/old gal pushed all the right buttons and the old man did indeed quiet down.

After all this excitement I could barely focus on the actual ballot. I make a pretty good effort to keep up with politics on the local and national level, but I admit that yesterday on my ballot? There were people running for offices that I knew nothing about. Zero. Had never seen or heard their name before. I handled this very badly. Somewhere our forefathers are spinning in their graves. I selected my candidates by their names. Fred? Oh yes, I have a great friend named Fred, he’s got to be the right choice! and Kristen?, yes she’s awesome, she sold my house in Virginia.

I know I know. I can barely walk around with all this shame.


Happy Birthday Mr. Turkey.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Homecoming


Five weeks ago, I went to Plant City, Florida to leave my young dog with this guy. If you go to the link you'll discover he's a multiple world champion competitor/dog trainer in my chosen dog sport.


One of my very favorite things about this sport, is how easy it is to "get to" the people you admire. Say, you or your child wants to be a professional baseball player. Can you just pick up the phone and call Barry Bonds, or Mark Maguire or Derek Jeter and say "hey can I come train/work with you?"

No? Well in my sport, you can, and I did. Just like that. Picked up the phone, said I wanted to come and bang. I was in. What's not to love about that?


So, I took Mojo to the seminar back in January, because even a novice handler like myself was seeing that at 10 months, Mojo was going to be a dog of the wholelotta variety. I worried that I was perhaps, in over my head.


If I tried to compare Mojo to my old, faithful (and first working german shepherd) Apache, I'd tell you they are night and day. Apache lives and loves 'the game', the dog will attempt to turn anything he can, a walk, a trip out to the mailbox, taking the trash out, into a game of some kind. He'll pick up bricks, logs, plastic bottles, and try to draw me into a game of fetch. He loves everyone and everything. He's weathered countless babysitting/visiting dogs, and somewhere around 2 dozen foster dogs traipsing through his home after Hurricane Katrina, he went to work with me when I worked in veterinary medicine, he was a blood donor, and a 'practice' dog for new techs learning to find pulses, veins, and muscles. He did every bit of it without complaint. He loves the sticky hands of the children in my neighborhood, and greets everyone with ears back and tail wagging, especially if he thinks you might be talked into a game of fetch. He is the very best sort of fellow.


Mojo, while no less affectionate or social, is a much more serious dog. He will be more of the stereotypical german shepherd dog. He is/will be more aloof with visitors and much more "my dog" not that he won't be nice, he just won't really care about other people. In work, Apache always looked for my approval, Mojo, on the other hand, barely knows that I'm still there when we're working. He is all business. It is not better or worse, really, it is just different. And different means, I will be learning a lot from this dog. He will make me a better dog trainer and he will likely make a fool of me on more than one occasion. There is nothing like dog sport to keep you humble.


I talked with Ivan last week, and after I processed everything he told me, I have reached the conclusion that I cannot wait.


I leave on Thursday, and will spend the weekend working with Ivan and my dog, and then I'll return home with my dog.


Over the last 5 weeks, I got my running program back on track, dropped 15 pounds, spent time with new friends (horseback riding - yay!), did yard work and organized closets.

It was time well spent, but now, I really do just want my dog back.


The schedule for training sessions will be one early, and then a long break during the hottest part of the day, and then an evening session. The hotel is nice, and I hope to spend some of that long break in the sun by the pool with a book a good friend (who was foolish enough to agree to come along). A mini vacation interrupted by dog training, and I won't even pretend that isn't my idea of perfect.








Monday, March 24, 2008

Creepy

Anything with this kind of accuracy just by typing your name in a box - Seriousy Creepy.





What Jenny Means
You are fair, honest, and logical. You are a natural leader, and people respect you.
You never give up, and you will succeed... even if it takes you a hundred tries.
You are rational enough to see every part of a problem. You are great at giving other people advice.

You are friendly, charming, and warm. You get along with almost everyone.
You work hard not to rock the boat. Your easy going attitude brings people together.
At times, you can be a little flaky and irresponsible. But for the important things, you pull it together.

You are very intuitive and wise. You understand the world better than most people.
You also have a very active imagination. You often get carried away with your thoughts.
You are prone to a little paranoia and jealousy. You sometimes go overboard in interpreting signals.



You are a free spirit, and you resent anyone who tries to fence you in.
You are unpredictable, adventurous, and always a little surprising.
You may miss out by not settling down, but you're too busy having fun to care.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Yardwork, a little religion and alot of nothing

As promised, yesterday I picked up rocks and sticks and pieces of macerated tree trunks, I got out my trusty leaf blower and a-blowin' I did go., I fired up my red-rider lawnmower, and mowed the lawn for the first time.


Last night, I accompanied a friend to a Good Friday church service. Things in his life are, at best, difficult right now, and he wanted to go, and I think, needed the company, although he didn't ask, he didn't turn me down when I offered to join him either.


I have not attended a church service in I don't know how long - 20 years? Very possibe. I've read the bible (and the Book or Mormon, for what it's worth), and went as a kid, so I know the story/history*, but some years ago, went the non-organized religion route. It's worked for me for all these years, but I'm not one to say no to a friend in need. The service was nice, if a bit bleak (I know, I know, Good Friday is not exactly a cheery occasion); the choir was amazing and accompanied by a very talented string quartet. Best of all, my friend greatly appreciated the company, we had a few laughs (no, not *during* the service, we're not animals) and hopefully today, he feels a tiny bit better. I, on the other hand have some very sore yardwork muscles, which I am loathe to complain about in light of last nights very descriptive sermon.

I am lost without my puppy. I've spent most of today reading blogs and thinking about what I can eat next. The puppy is away at puppy boot camp for another four weeks, and I'd completely forgotten how quiet my life was before him. I think my old dog and the one I'm babysitting for a friend staged a fight** just to see it they could get me off the couch to do more than go to the kitchen or bathroom. This can't continue. This must be why normal people without working dogs have hobbies. I've caught myself considering organizing closets not once but twice today. If next weekend I blog about organizing closets, send help. Please. Before I start washing baseboards.

*no disrespect intended
** no canine was hurt during this blog