2019: Week 8 assessment

55 days into 2019 and I’m already playing fast and loose with the goals I set for myself in January. The first to bite the dust – running. Damn, I hate running. No matter how I frame it or what bullshit lie I try to feed myself, I can’t get past the fact that running just plain sucks. On a positive, my overall fitness is improving. I had my first match of the season last weekend. A three set win. So in a sense, I feel vindicated in my failure. My coach will likely take umbrage with that statement and threaten to make me run laps in retaliation.

I’ve also had a hard time balancing work, tennis, domestic obligations and writing. A strange dichotomy when you consider the fact that I have fewer commitments this year than last. I suppose it’s more a matter of priorities. A common theme in my life. Writing always gets shuffled to the bottom of the to-do pile. For the sake of my writing, it may be necessary to delegate all of the cooking and cleaning to the other able bodies living in my house. It will be a sacrifice, but one I’m willing to make. For my writing.

And if we are tallying up all things I have failed at thus far, I should be forthcoming and admit that I still haven’t pulled the trigger and joined that writing group yet, either. I’ve thought about it. I really have. Even had a couple conversations about it. Fear is at play here. Nothing more; nothing less. I’m not ready to share with strangers. I’ll get there.

So, we know what I haven’t accomplished in the first two months of 2019. Let’s talk about something I have – contact lenses.

Aging is cruel. I used to have better than 20/20 vision. Then I hit my forties and it all went to shit. Over the last few years, I’ve gone from just needing glasses to drive at night, to needing them to drive in general, to needing them to read small print, to needing them read any print at all. I’ve even had to start wearing them to play tennis.

And that, my friends, is where I drew a red line the sand. I had a long heart to heart with my eye doctor and it was decided that contacts were just the thing to solve all my problems. Monovision for everyday and recreational distance only for tennis. Of course, that’s the easy part. Learning to put those little fuckers in and take them out is a whole other ballgame.

On the day of the exam, my doctor’s nurse – (are they called nurses at the optometrist’s office??) – helped me find the right lenses then “trained” me in putting them in and taking them out on my own. I use that word loosely because it was nothing more than a meeting of the most basic criteria. Get one out and put it back in without going blind. Two minutes from beginning to end, while she stood over my shoulder.

I left their office in the monovisions – one for distance/one for reading. A little weird but nothing dramatic. I headed home feeling confident in my life choices.

Such confidence was grossly misguided.

It was a Thursday. Thursdays are a tennis day for me – a lesson followed by team drills. Playing tennis in monovision lenses is not recommended. Especially for those like me who lack grace and natural coordination. I got halfway home before it dawned on me that I would have to make the switch before I hit the court. Okay. No big deal. I’ve just been trained. Right?

Wrong.

It took twenty minutes of digging around in my left eye (I only need to change the left) with no success before I got frustrated and cut off all my beautiful salon pampered fingernails. By this time, my eye looked liked I had taken 40 grit sandpaper to it. It took me another ten minutes to finally get the damn thing out. I had started to believe that I would never get it out, and that I had made the worse mistake of my life because I was obviously not smart enough to wear contacts. After a dozen or so failed attempts and string of my favorite four letter words, I was finally able to get a contact back in my eye.

Needless to say I was late for tennis. When I finally stumbled my way onto the court, I was a right hot mess and looked like I was just coming off a four day bender. If it hadn’t been so wonderful to play unburdened by glasses, I may have returned them and filed the whole experience under “never fucking again.”

It’s been a little over a week. I can finally get them in and out with little fuss. I don’t look like I’ve been up for three days straight drinking vodka right out of the bottle anymore. That’s a step forward. I will even go out on a limb and say that I like them. They are liberating in many ways, even with the added routine.

So what have we learned 55 days into 2019?

  • Running still sucks
  • I need to hire a cook and a maid
  • Contact lenses – worth the price of admission

Lessons learned: a reminder

I am a pessimist by nature. Left to my own devises, I will wallow away in a seething swamp of negativity. Of all my personality flaws – and there are many – this is the one that plagues me most. I like to think that it goes hand in hand with my introversion and tendency to turn inward. Of course, that could just be a total bullshit lie that I tell myself in order to roll out of bed every morning. I choose not to peer too deep into the abyss, just in case.

We all have an internal monologue. Well, if we are to be honest, it’s more akin to conversation than soliloquy. At least for me. My head is filled with warring voices that do their best to dictate my narrative. I refer to them as my rebellious-self, my realistic-self, my narcissistic-self, my prideful-self, my fearful-self, my obsessive-self, my naive-self, my are-you-kidding-me-with-this-shit-right-now-self. They’re like squabbling siblings – always at odds and constantly vying for my attention. It takes a great deal of effort to find an enduring balance and avoid being swallowed whole by all their noise. Sometimes I succeed; sometimes I don’t. And sometimes I think I’ve won the battle only to find out I couldn’t be more wrong.

I wrote in a previous post about my struggle to let go and move on from my booster board position. It took a long time to come to terms with the fact that I was no longer a relevant party. Again, I am well aware of how that sounds and I make no apology for it. For my own sanity, and in an effort to hinder my proclivity for obsession over things which I have no control, I distanced myself from the entire program. I choose the “ignorance is bliss” route and proceeded to stick my head in the sand.

Seems like a solid plan, right? Totally rational. Completely reasonable. The only problem – I failed to take into consideration my evolving resentment. The end of my tenure was fraught with conflict. I felt marginalized and discounted. It’s never easy to sit on the sidelines and watch everything you worked so hard to achieve burn to the ground on the whim of others. I was pretty pissed off about it.

The negative voice in my head is like that bully on the playground – big-mouthed and obnoxious. A real dick. I try not to feed into his rhetoric, but in moments of weakness it’s easy to fall prey. And that’s exactly what happened here. I gave rise to my anger and resentment, and in doing so, allowed that negativity to define my experience.

A couple of weeks ago, I was standing in line at a local burrito shop when a a little voice said, “Hi, Mrs. Isaacs.” I looked up and on the other side of the counter was the sweet face of one my band kids. I was surprised to see her; thrilled to see her. We chatted for a few minutes, catching up a bit before she took my order: burrito bowl, brown rice, extra veggies, no beans with steak. I watched her meticulously go through the motions. When we got to the steak, she portion out the allotted amount, paused, then looked up at me with a shy smile. She said, “because I love you, Mrs. Isaacs,” and scooped out a little bit extra.

A simple gesture, but one that afforded me a flash of profound clarity. It brought tears to my eyes and a rush of warmth to my heart. In that moment, I realized that my negativity was a product of a damaged ego and wounded pride; and, by no means, representative of my true feelings. I gave four years of my life to the band program and I have a lot to show for it – great friends, beautiful memories, a new appreciation for “team building” and drinking establishments that stay open late.

But most of all, I have a full heart. I was blessed with the privilege of serving a fantastic group of kids for four years. The impact they have had on my life is beyond measure and something that I will always treasure. In my need to nurse my wounded pride, I forgot why I said yes in the first place; and why I kept saying yes – year after year.

I have been reminded.

2019: Goals

I have always disliked the notion of the New Year’s resolution. I understand the concept and the intent, but feel it’s a failed sentiment. For me, it is a matter of scale. By design, New Year’s resolutions tend to be broad and undefined with no clear path to fulfillment. While I do consider myself a big picture thinker in many ways, to succeed at anything, I find I must break a challenge down into digestible bits. Then move through the elements step by step, in an orderly fashion from A to Z. It’s a very linear method and it’s how I approach most aspects of my life – personal and work alike. As such, this way of thinking is generally not conducive to seeing broad based resolutions to fruition. I can’t just say “I’m going to lose weight in 2019” then boom, lose weight in 2019. I have to plan it out, do a little research, set small achievable goals for myself – A leads to B leads to C leads to D…and so on.

I was diagnosed with cancer in January 2017. Anyone who has been dealt this hand will tell you what follows is a roller coaster ride over which you have zero control. None. Zilch. Nada. It dominates your life and you spend an enormous amount of time barreling from one thing to the next – tests, surgeries, treatment. It seems endless. Given my inability to work farther ahead than what is right in front of me, the whole experience left me in a weird stagnant state.

I had my last surgery in November and have spent the couple of months since feeling lighter, liberated from the burden of my disease. If ever there was a year to make resolutions, it is this one. Of course, I am who I am and thus, in lieu of resolutions, I have made a series goals.

Here are a few:

Run a 5k. Okay. On it’s face, this does appears to be a broad resolution. I’ll give you that.  But I have a reason – and a plan. I shared in my last post a few words of wisdom from my tennis coach: “One does not get in shape playing tennis, one must get in shape to play tennis.” In order to do that, he wants me to run. I hate to run so that poses a challenge. I am finding that merely telling me to run for the sake of tennis is no real motivator. I need to be able to break it down, reason it out and formulate a plan of action.

The solution to my problem – the Couch to 5k (C25K) app. This provides the goal and workable plan to get from point A to point B. The app breaks it down into weekly workouts (walking/running combos) that builds from easy to hard as your stamina improves. It charts your progress and provides a bit of verbal motivation as you run. I picked the drill sergeant to cue me when it’s time to change up the pace. I find it fitting.

So the goal is to train myself to run a 5k in 9 weeks. In doing so, I will have improved my overall fitness which, in turn, will improve my tennis game. Just in time for the spring season. Two birds. One stone. A to B to C.

Nurture the good, eliminate the bad. This is a goal that follows me year to year. There are those in my life who will tell you I am not prone to sugarcoating things. I call it how I see it. I suffer no fools and take no bullshit. Generally speaking, that’s a pretty accurate assessment. But I find that when it comes to certain interpersonal relationships, I struggle to make good on this goal. It’s a constant work in progress for me.

I do feel I have made improvements. A cancer diagnosis has a clarifying effect. For me, it put a lot of things into perspective and forced me to take stock. In 2017, I cleaned house and eliminated a lot of negativity from my life. I took to heart the notion that people treat you how you allow them to treat you. Once I accepted that, what followed was easy.

Of course, when you take a scorched earth approach, the result is an altered landscape. It can be stark and isolating at first, but what sprouts up out of the ashes is something much hardier and meaningful. However, it is important to remember that what grows must be tended and nurtured if it is to survive. Relationships are nothing more than flowers in a garden to be watered and fed. Right now, I have a garden full of beautiful flowers and it’s my goal for 2019 to continue down this positive path, weeding out the negativity as I go.

Write. Write. Write. No post on goals would be complete without addressing the elephant in the room. Writing. I have not written much the last few years. I have a combination of reasons and I could waste your time ticking them off one by one, but I won’t. In truth, the biggest reason I haven’t written is because I have lacked desire.

Part of me wants to blame this drought on an absence of words – I didn’t write because I had nothing to say. That’s a lie. I have plenty to say. And plenty of words. Lots and lots of words. They tumble around in my head, a constant buzz in my ears pulling me inward, competing for my attention, keeping me up at night. I just couldn’t bring myself to put forth the effort to write them down, to put them out there for all to see.

I think fear plays a role. Probably more than I would care to admit. It’s never easy putting pen to paper and giving life to the things you’ve never said aloud. When something scares us, our first instinct is to run away. I have let my fear get the better of me for far too long. It’s past time for me to face this challenge head-on and that is what I plan to do in 2019.

This blog was a first step in that direction. I have plans to begin a collaborative work with a dear friend – a creative non-fiction piece that is thirty years in the making. I have also started working on a project that I have toyed with for a while, but never really committed much effort to fleshing out. I feel inspired by it. I have also been invited to rejoin a writing critique group. With strangers. I am still working this one out in my head. The introvert in me is screaming in protest, but writing groups are always great source of motivation.

I feel good about 2019. Of course, I felt good about 2017, too. It only took about two weeks for it all to go to shit. The universe has a funny way of reminding us of who’s really in charge. Even still, I am looking forward to what the new year will bring, and have faith that it will be as wonderful as I hope.

Happy New Year!

Lessons learned: 2018

The holidays have never been my favorite time of the year. I could go on and on about the decorations, the expectations, the obligations, the assholes at the mall…but I won’t.

Oddly, I don’t feel quite so scrooge-like this year. Maybe it’s all the wine. I’ve consumed more than my fair share over the past week. Pretty sure my liver is completely pickled at this point. I have switched to lemon water in an effort to flush the system and reset. I even hefted my ass to the gym on Christmas Day. Never hurts to get a jump start on those pesky new year’s resolutions.

I won’t go so far as to say that I am feeling festive. That’s a stretch even in the most optimistic of times, but as I sit here in my pjs staring at the rapidly disintegrating evergreen wreath over my mantel, I am reflective.

While 2017 was a year straight out of Dante’s Inferno, 2018 wasn’t too bad. Here are a few things I learned this year:

Doctors inevitably insist that it takes six weeks to recovery from surgery. Any surgery. Big or small. Doesn’t matter. I’ve mentioned before that I had a bout with a little cancer. Breast cancer. Lost a boob. Had a little radiation. Got a new boob. Five surgeries in all. Every time – six weeks. No more. No less. Of course, I am who I am, and therefore the proverbial thorn in my doctor’s side. I do believe my medical chart comes with a black box warning indicating my penchant for noncompliance. I’m not programmed to sit around doing nothing when I could be doing something. During the last visit with my doctor, two weeks after my final surgery, I asked when I could return to the tennis court. He crossed his legs, leaned back in his chair and gave his nurse a bit of side eye. He knew what was coming.

“Four more weeks,” he said.

“No,” I said giving him my best resting bitch face. “Too long.”

My doctor is a kind man; intelligent; a respected leader in his specialty field. I’ve been his patient for two years. In that moment, he looked resigned, beaten down. He let out a long breath.

“When are you thinking?”

“Today.”

“Today?”

“Yes. This afternoon.”

He scrubbed a hand over his face and began to go through a long list of reasons why I should limit my activity for the remaining four weeks of my six week recovery. It’s a list I can recite from memory.

“Are you telling me no?” I asked, cutting him off mid-sentence. I can be blunt to the point of rudeness. It’s part of my charm.

“No, I would never tell you no, but…”

“Good. When’s my next follow up?”

“Three months.”

“Very good.”

By sundown, I was on the tennis court drilling with my team and I haven’t looked back. Fuck your six week rule.

“One does not get in shape playing tennis; one must get in shape to play tennis.” These words of wisdom were bestowed upon me just last week by my tennis coach. I love my coach. He’s an older gentleman, north of seventy with the patience of a saint and a brutal honesty that never lets me get too full of myself. As I’ve said, I have had five surgeries over the last 2 years and it goes without saying that it has taken a toll on my overall fitness. For every week off the court, I feel that I take two steps backwards in my progress towards becoming a better player.

I’ve never been a marathon runner….or a 5k runner…or a runner at all. In fact, I really hate running. Seriously. Hate it. A glaring contradiction for a tennis player who is looking to improve and win matches. My coach knows and understands this about me. He’s also not afraid to tell me I need to get my shit together. Last week, as he sat next to me on a bench while I tried to catch my breath, he gave me an assignment. He told me to run. Not just run. Run fast. Sprint. As fast as I can for a quarter length of track. Then rest. Then run as fast as I can again – repeating this pattern over and over and over.

I started on Christmas Day. I hated it and thought bad things about my coach the whole time. But he’s right. He’s always right. I want to win matches. I want to win and so I must run. I don’t have to like it, I just have to do it.

It’s okay to be selfish with my time. I think this is a plight shared by mothers and wives alike. We give so much of ourselves to those in our charge that we forget to save time for ourselves. And should we be blessed with a bit of alone time, we are plagued by guilt. Always – the guilt.  My daughter graduated six months ago and my life as a band mom came to an abrupt end.  I suddenly found myself in possession of a rare commodity – time.  Precious time.  Me time.  Time to do what I wanted, when I wanted and with whomever I wanted.  

At first, it’s a little overwhelming.  You aren’t quite sure what do with it, this golden egg that has dropped into your lap, seemingly out of thin air.  You look around to see if anyone sees what you see; to see if anyone steps into reclaim it.  When no one comes, you take it in your hand, wrap your fingers around it and hold it close to your breast.  

“Mine.”

The word lingers on your lips, a mere whisper at first, as soft and sweet as a baby’s breath.  

“Mine,” you say again.  

The word comes louder this time, with gusto.  Your confidence builds.  You scramble to your feet, still clutching the golden egg tight against your chest.  With the sound of your heart pounding in your ears, you take one last look around, just to be sure no one is watching.   Then slither off into the shadows, to the place where your secrets are kept. With a gentle hand, born out of the fear that the egg will dissolve into dust right before your very eyes, you tuck it away.  Nestling it safely among all the things you treasure most in life.  All the while, repeating a single word. 

“Mine…mine…mine…”     


On lessons learned: an epiphany

They say to have a successful blog, you need to have a theme, continuity, some sort of consistent content.  My rebellious-self thinks such a rule is complete bullshit.   Who says I have to follow a formula?  It’s my blog.  Not yours.  Mine.  My realistic-self knows and understands there is some merit to this.  If only to give clarity and the illusion, however fleeting, of forward momentum.  In an effort to keep things moving, I’m going to fall back on a founding principle.  I started this site as a means of discovery.  Every experience in life, be it profound or trivial, is an opportunity to learn.   To learn is to grow; to grow is to live.  

And with that, here we go:

As I mentioned in my last post, my daughter recently graduated high school.  In this day and age, most kids are involved in extracurricular activities that dominate not only their own time, but also that of their parents.  Her activity of choice – marching band. 

I never used to be a joiner.  Even now, I have to really want to do something to get involved.  I’m not sure how it happened, or exactly when it happened, but somehow I found myself sucked down what I like to call the “booster club rabbit hole.”  In the blink of an eye, I went from casual volunteer to all in – up to my eyeballs in booster business.   I lived and breathed band for four years.  It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

It was also one of the most exhausting – both physically and mentally.  In the run up to graduation and the end of my tenure, I was conflicted.  I was tired and more than ready to turn over the keys to the castle to the next generation of band moms; but at my core, I am a control freak.   Change is hard.  Letting go is harder.   In the final days, I cried.  A lot.  I just couldn’t imagine my life without band.   I also couldn’t fathom how band would survive without me.  

Yes.  I know.  The arrogance of that statement is not lost on me.  It’s just that at some point, I let the role I played as “band mom” solely identify my existence.  I was a band mom.  Nothing more; nothing less.  I wouldn’t allow myself to accept the idea of life after band.   For them or me.

I’m not much for spontaneity.  I don’t make quick, unfettered decisions.  I mull things over, weigh my options, consider the repercussions of every action I take, and plan accordingly.  As such, I had an exit plan in place for leaving my booster position.  I knew exactly what needed to be done, how it should be done and when.  The only problem – everyone else.  I fought it for a while, agonized over it, wrote a few blistering emails, cried a lot of tears.  Then one bright sunny Saturday morning in June, I had an epiphany.  I’d had enough.  I was done.  Totally over the whole fucking thing.  By the afternoon, the handover to my successor was complete.  The baton officially passed.

I was free.

One week later, I was sitting on a sandy beach in the Caribbean with my family and my old friend Bacardi, doing absolutely nothing.  It was wonderful.  In the six months since, I’ve read a lot of books, binged a lot of television, and played a lot of tennis.   I have moved on from band; and band has moved on from me.  

Life goes on.

  

On graduation, moving on, and NaNoWriMo

<tap, tap, tap>

Is this thing on?  Are you still out there?

Yeah.  It’s been a while.

Okay, six months.  But really, who’s counting?

Look, I’m not going to insult your intelligence by throwing out some half-baked excuse. The truth is: I haven’t been in the mood to blog.  I offer no apology.  It is what it is.

On graduation…

So, as some of you may recall (or not…it has been a long time), I’ve been busy doing that whole college thing.  It dominated my life for a couple of years, but in May, I finished one leg of that journey.  I have to say, I was a little unimpressed with the whole graduation thing.  It was anti-climatic and…well…boring.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my accomplishment, but there is this sort of fizzling deflation to it all.  I spent a long time entrenched in projects and presentations, lectures and exams.  I endured the humiliation of “yoga for a grade”, suffered the frustration of group work, and survived a brief foray into historical geology. All of it accomplished without breaking a bone or committing a single felony.  Of course, in the spirit of full disclosure, I did spend two months in physical therapy for a blown hip-flexor after the whole yoga fiasco.  But thus far, I have succeeded in resisting the urge to run the instructor over with my car – hence the felony-free status.

Namaste, bitches.

I suppose it’s my own fault really (the graduation thing – not the yoga thing).  In my single-minded pursuit of that little piece of paper, I allowed myself to develop unreasonable expectations for what it inferred.  I elevated its celebratory value to an unattainable height, and summarily, set myself up for devastating disappointment.

The lesson learned here:  next time I will skip the commencement and opt for something a little more exciting like watching the Bourne trilogy on Blu-ray in my pajamas and mortarboard, eating take-out, and drinking a bottle of Costco’s finest store brand Cabernet.

Moving on…

My post-graduation summer was low-key – just how I like it.  I read a few books, dabbled in a bit of writing, staked out my favorite table at the local bagel shop.  I took it easy – a well-deserved break.  By contrast, fall has been a whirlwind.  My daughter is a high school freshman in the marching band.  That’s a blog for another day, but let me just say one thing on the subject: EGADS.  Fortunately, this Saturday marks the end of competitive marching season.

It’s also the beginning of NaNoWriMo.  Participant-2014-Twitter-Profile

A coincidence?

I think not.

I have participated in two Camp NaNo events – you now the one with the adjustable word count?  But I’ve never had the time come November to commit to NaNoWriMo.

Until now.

I’m excited for the new challenge, but a little intimidated.  My writing style – the physical act of writing – is slow and tedious.  I like to ponder an idea; try it on; strut it out in front of the mirror – really get a feel for it before I buy into it.  Definitely not an efficient way to write fiction and needless to say, my current word count reflects such.  That will have to change, of course.  Otherwise, I will be doomed to failure.  I think I’m up for it, though.  I’ve started a new project, fallen down the research rabbit hole, dusted off the old Scrivener, and fleshed out a workable plot – albeit rough.

I’m ready for this.

Bring it, NaNoWriMo.

Write on.

Summer reading

I usually spend the first few weeks of summer wrapped in the warm familiarity of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.  It’s an annual tradition born out of my desire to escape the drudgery of months entrenched in academic reading, and in an effort to recharge my wilted brain with something frivolous.  What could be more frivolous than hanging out poolside, the scent of chlorinated water and sunscreen wafting through the air, a margarita in one hand and a tattered copy of Pride & Prejudice in the other?

Not much, right? 

The prospect of frolicking through Georgian England with the Bennett clan should make me feel all warm and gooey inside.  Yet, this year, it doesn’t appeal to me at all.  It seems my rebellious self is protesting our journey down that well-worn literary path and is intent on lobbying for something new.  I suppose it’s to be expected.  Eventually, even the staunchest chocolate lovers crave a little lemon meringue. 

Of course, this leads to a troubling dilemma: 

What am I going to read poolside this summer?

I toiled with the answer to this question for quite some time.  My reading list usually consists of a gentle mix of historical non-fiction, contemporary (and/or Cold War era) spy novels, and familiar classics.  Occasionally, I will throw in a current commercial bestseller or a traditional whodunit to keep things interesting.   

Of late, I have spent a great deal of time enveloped within worlds created by a few of my favorite authors:  Daniel Silva, John le Carre, and Agatha Christie.  And to be completely honest, I’m a little burned out.  Sure, Silva has a new Allon novel dropping next week, and I pre-ordered a signed copy months ago, but I doubt I will dive into this latest installment anytime soon.

After barely surviving Dan Brown’s Inferno, and given my disinterest in Pride & Prejudice, I was beginning to fear that summer would come and go, leaving me wanting.  Then on a recent lazy Saturday, the answer to my reading dilemma came to me in a burst of unfettered brilliance.  It was one of those scorching days, too hot to venture outdoors before sunset.  My daughter and I were doing what we usually do to beat the heat – watching a Netflix marathon, camped out on the couch, noshing junk food.  

Our poison of choice – Sherlock Holmes. 

We started with the BBC’s Sherlock, meandered through CBS’s alternative take, and ended with Guy Ritchie’s quirky blockbusters.  As I watched, I was struck by the complexity of these two characters (Holmes and Watson) portrayed in vastly different settings and time periods, yet seemingly interchangeable.  I wondered what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have thought of our modern take on his iconic hero and sidekick; how would they stack up to their literary counterparts;  would I even like Conan Doyle’s Holmes and Watson after growing accustomed to the contemporary screen – big and small – versions?

I decided to find out.

Summer reading dilemma solved.

“Excellent!”…

“Elementary.”

Things I learned…recently

It’s been a while since I have taken the time to sit down and write one of these blog posts.  It’s not that I haven’t learned anything, it’s just that I have a case of the lazies.

It happens.

So, what have I learned?

I learned…

…that field geology is not my thing.

This past semester I took a historical geology class to fulfill a science requirement.  It was an interesting class, challenging and time-consuming.  I learned a lot and that’s always a good thing.  The course was geared toward geology majors, and I was a little apprehensive about that at first, but my fear proved unfounded.

I rocked that class.

<see what I did there>

However, one of the things my professor required for course completion was a bit of field work.  He believes that he cannot allow his students to walk away from historical geology without at least one day in the field – mud covered rock hammer in one hand, chunk of fossil-filled platy limestone in the other.

Okay.  No big deal.  I can do that.  Dig around in the dirt for an afternoon, maybe find a fossil or two, identify an unconformity or a fault, take a strike-dip measurement.  Not my favorite things, but whatever.

I did a little research on the site where we were to do our field work.  It’s a place on the North Sulphur River known to contain Cretaceous period fossils.  According to a few maps, the site boasts a park of sorts with an outbuilding and concrete stairs leading down the steep river embankment.  Okay, no big deal.  I can do that.

The day of the excursion was rainy, a chance of severe weather loomed, but we went anyway.  We are geologist, a little thing like a tornado watch isn’t going to scare us – or so our professor told us.  The site was in the backwoods of nowhere, down an overgrown two lane farm to market road – and not where we thought it was.  There was no outbuilding, and there were no stairs, but there was a trail – or so our professor told us.

Now, I have to tell you, my professor is an older man – late sixties, almost seventy, but he is the most energetic person I’ve ever met.  If Indiana Jones were a geologist, he would be my professor.  He is also a dirty rotten liar.  There was no trail, only a runoff path that spilled down a sixty degree drop through overgrown brush and misshapen trees into the river bed thirty feet below.

Sixty degree drop; thirty feet below. 

Oh.  Did I mention it was raining?  Yeah, so the ground had turned to slick as snot clay mud.   You know that stuff, right?  It might as well have been a sheet of ice.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am not an outdoorsy person, and the whole scenario was so far out of my comfort zone, I felt like I might drown in my own anxiety.  That nagging voice of reason in my head was doing his best Lost in Space impression, “Danger, Will Robinson.  Danger.”  But I ignored him.  After all, I have expanded my horizons in recent years, ventured into uncharted territory, overcome a few of my more benign phobias.  I could do it.  

Right?

Right.  So, I took a deep breath, sat down on my butt and did the crab crawl –  inch by inch, down into that fucking river bed.   I spent two hours trudging through mud so thick it stuck the bottom of my shoes (I grew two inches) and caked the hem of my jeans.   I foraged for fossils, took a strike-dip measurement, almost dropped my compass into a mud puddle, and suffered the indignity of a really bad hair day.

Then I clawed my way back out, up thirty feet (at a staggering sixty degree incline) inch by fucking agonizing inch.

Success!

And it only took three weeks for all the cuts and bruises to heal.  Bonus.

The experience ranks right up there with whale watching from an inflatable raft in the middle of the churning Pacific.  I’m proud of myself for doing it, but I will never, ever do it again.  Ever.

…that one of my new favorite things to do is sit in a bookstore coffee shop with my daughter sipping a cold frappy, nibbling a calorie heavy treat, and reading a good book.

…that sometimes blog spam is amusing.  I normally don’t pay much attention to it – just hit the delete button and move on.  But today I found this attached to one of my reading challenge entries:

Thats just because youre still mad at him for winning the starting RF job over your man-crush last April.

It’s like I’m in a fight with someone and I didn’t even know it.  Such drama.

…that the 10 hour drive to South Padre Island is so much more fun than the 11 hour drive home.

…that we have entered that point in tennis season where I am again forced to question my long-standing Federer allegiance.  I can forgive a loss at the Australian Open to Murray, but a loss on clay to Tsonga in the quarterfinals?  I’m at the breaking point…seriously.  If Federer doesn’t step up on the grass in London, I’m out.  I mean it.  For real this time.

that there is a Great White shark lurking just off the coast of Cape Cod.    Note to self:  no beach excursions during future trips north to visit my Boston peeps.

…that there is an Atlantic Green sea turtle named Allison at Sea Turtle, Inc. on South Padre Island with a prosthetic flipper (think boat rudder, only for a turtle) to help her swim.  Go read about her – and all of the good work this amazing organization does – (here).

…that I will take a Stats class over Art Appreciation any day of the week.   I had two objectives going into this summer – knock out a couple of required courses I have put off because I know they will suck and get a tan.  Well, it’s only a few weeks in and I’ve already failed.  No, my tan looks great, but I seem to have hit a hurdle with that other thing.  It turns out I’d rather jab a stick into my eye than sit through 10 weeks of art appreciation, and its endless string of mindless “art” projects and presentations.  I couldn’t drop it fast enough.  Of course, now I have to take an extra class in the fall to make up for it, but I think art history will suit me much better.  I sure hope so.  On a side note, Stats is going to work out just fine.  Who’d have thought?

…and last but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by my sweet daughter and her band awards.  I’m not proud or anything…

Blog? What blog?

Oh!  This blog.

Worry not, my faithful followers.  I haven’t been eaten by a bear or abducted by aliens or fallen down a deep bug infested hole in the middle of a secluded rain forest.

<shudder>

I’ve been busy.  You know, doing stuff.

What stuff?

I’m glad you asked.

The month of May marks the end of my semester and usually goes one of two ways:  1) I am overcome with creativity and spend endless hours either at the keyboard writing like a madwoman or viewing the world through a camera lens snapping photographs of every unfortunate bug and blossom to cross my path; or 2) I am overwhelmed by life, say screw it all, and overdose on trash television.

Sadly, it’s been the latter kind of month, and consequently, my brain is in full-on decomp after watching an endless stream of Ancient Aliens, Married to Medicine (an all-time low for me), and the Real Housewives of Orange County.

I blame science.  Specifically, historical geology.

I spent four months immersed in millions/billions of years of earth history- from its origins to the revelation of geologic time to the theories of evolution and plate tectonics.  I studied orogenies (the process of mountain building – get your mind out of the gutter), sedimentary deposition environments, bio – and litho – facies, faulting and folding, and learned to age date and correlate rock formations.  I can identify a whole slew of fossils based on a laundry list of characteristics.  If you ask nicely, I can even give you their kingdom, genus, species and period of existence.

While this is all fascinating stuff, it is not conducive to cultivating creativity – neither is “reality” television.   I spent the first 2/3 of May stuck in “left-brain” mode.  I couldn’t see the beauty of a rolling field of wildflowers.  I only saw an eroded anticline left over from a Mississippian period thrust event. I wondered if it was faulted; if the adjoining basin was filled with terrestrial material; if there was evidence of a transgressive or regressive marine environment; what fossils might be present.

Disturbing, I know.

To combat this troubling trend, I tried to drown my inner geologist with anything and everything offered up by the Bravo network.  It worked for a while.  Of course, there comes a point when one realizes that consuming junk might be satisfying in the interim, but it lacks sustainability and, in the long-term,  is detrimental – sorta like Oreos.

So, what does one do when faced with a situation such as this?

Go to the nearest art museum; attend a historical lecture; read some frivolous fiction; take a trip to the beach.

Kick that “right-brain” bitch out of bed and tell her to get her shit together.

I did.  I feel much better now.

A blog birthday

So, the old blog turns 2 today.

Cake balls for everyone!

photo source:  dallasnews.com
photo source: dallasnews.com

Camp NaNoWriMo: the aftermath

On Saturday, I surpassed my Camp NaNoWriMo goal by 4K+ words.

That means I won.

Yippee!

Time for a celebration.

Tequila and Ren Faire, it is.

Don’t judge me.

So, now it’s over.  The euphoria that comes with accomplishment is waning, and I am left with the aftermath of writing willy-nilly for a month straight without rereading or editing a single word – just a lot of marking and moving on.  A difficult concept for me, and frankly, the thought of facing what I’ve committed to paper scares me.

I did, though – at five in the morning, over my morning coffee.  My walk through was brisk.  It was all I could muster after four hours of sleep and the realization that I had forgotten to pick up french vanilla coconut milk coffee creamer on my way home.  Black coffee sweetened with refined sugar does not make for ideal shitty writing reading conditions.

I hear war stories from the NaNo veterans.  They assure me that cringe worthy writing is the norm.  After all, NaNo is not about producing a finished product, it’s about a commitment and dedication to the act of writing.  I suppose in this context, what I found was on par.  It is a bit overgrown in places, a little sparse in others.  There are rare bursts of brilliance encapsulated within thick sticky sludge.  Anna is still missing her retribution.   The fragility of her state of mind is not quite right, and her brother is without a completed introduction scene – again.   And the typos – sweet baby Jesus, don’t get me started on the typos.

It is a work in progress, ever evolving.  I am not displeased with what I’ve done – it could be worse.  I’m far from finished, but I am closer to the end.  In the last few days, I have been struck by an idea for a new opening scene.  It is something I’ve struggled with for a long time – where does Anna’s story begin?  This new scene captures Anna’s inability to cope, her helplessness and hopelessness, her quest for absolution.  In other words, Anna hitting rock bottom.  I think it works.  I hope it works.  I’m sure my writing group will tell me if it doesn’t.

On a side note, its inspiration comes from an album that I’ve listened to countless times and never before made the correlation.

It’s all in the timing, I suppose.

So, now what?

More writing, of course.

Anna needs to get her retribution back!

 

Almost Friday

Another gorgeous weekend is so close I can almost reach out and touch it.

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Lions, tigers, and bears…

Okay, maybe not.

But I did run into a spotted leopard, a funny looking bear, and a cheeky koi while on vacation recently.

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The look of 40

Last June, I turned forty.  A dubious milestone no woman strives to achieve but like most unpleasant things in life, aging is completely unavoidable.  I took it on the chin.  I didn’t take to my bed in a blubbering fit of self-pity, or trade in my 4 door sedan for a zippy Maserati, or wake up with a tequila hangover and a mystery tattoo.   Being the boring mature adult that I am, I opted to celebrate with a quiet dinner, a glass of wine, and a Daniel Silva novel.

The first time my age came up in casual conversation, I was honest and straightforward.  There’s no shame in forty.   Anyway, I don’t really feel any different from when I was 39, even if the elliptical at the gym insists that I somehow burn fewer calories for every forty-five minute workout since my birthday.   The evil work of some abstract algorithm, I’m sure.

“You’re forty?” said the young optician measuring my pupillary distance for my new “no-line” bifocals.  “You don’t look forty.”

“That’s very generous of you,” I said.

“No, seriously.  You look good.  I hope I have such good complexion when I’m your age.”

Hm.

I assured her there was no mistake.  I’d seen my birth certificate – born 1972.  It had an official seal and everything.  At the time, I accepted her declaration as a compliment, vowed to continue using the overpriced anti-aging cream from that high-end department store I loathe, and went on my merry way with a little extra spring in my step.  Yes, vanity is a sin; and yes, I’ve been guilty of it on more than one occasion.  Sue me.  In the seven or eight months since, others have echoed her disbelief, but the initial boost to my ego has waned.  I should probably feel jubilant, over the moon even, that I appear to look so young and vibrant – especially, for someone of my advancing years.

I’m not.

I’ve said it before – I am a personality fraught with flaws.  The list is endless.  Near the top, just beneath chronically phobic is:  tends to over-analyze life, often prone to bouts of irrational suspicion in others, and is perpetually awaiting the other shoe to drop.  A dangerous trio that makes it impossible for me to let these benign bits of frivolous flattery roll by without further examination.

What does it mean when people say I don’t look forty?

What is forty supposed to look like?

Is there some predetermined criteria?

Am I somehow deficient?

Like most women of any age, I look at myself in the mirror every morning and cringe.  I am no great beauty – perhaps passably pretty, if we’re feeling generous.  I run on the wrong side of average, with thick thighs and flabby arms.  I have to sweat a lot to maintain a consistent weight in the mid-120’s, and I’m not known for my overt fashion sense.  My mouth is flanked by laugh lines, the delicate skin around my eyes crinkle ever so slightly when I smile, and every six weeks the silvery-grey hair I work hard to hide winks at me from beneath the glare of the bathroom lights.

It’s an image I’m quite familiar with, and it is an image that has gone virtually unchanged over the last few years.   I find it strange that no one commented on how good I might look for my age when I was 37, or 38, or even 39.  It’s only after I have reached the pivotal age of forty that I am suddenly an oddity in the eyes of my peers.

This inconsistency makes me wonder by what standard forty is judged.  From my own experiences, there seems to be some preconceived notion of one’s physical appearance once a certain age threshold has been crossed.  It’s as if at forty, one abruptly reaches the apex of physicality and is then expected to begin a rapid downward spiral into the dark abyss of crippling old age.  I am, after all, now traditionally considered “over the hill.”  Or so, I’ve been told.  But am I really?

A quick internet search told me that in ancient Rome, a woman’s average life expectancy was between 20 and 30 years depending on her social status, the age she married, and the number of children she bore.   According to Sarah Woodbury, women living in the Middle Ages fared slightly better reaching an average age of 40.  This was, of course, provided she survived infancy, avoided contracting some sort of plague, and didn’t perish giving birth to her own offspring.  During the Industrial Revolution in Victorian England, life expectancy hovered around the upper 30s, but by the beginning of the twentieth century, those numbers rebounded to a staggering 50.  This upward momentum continued through the 1900s, and today women living in the United States can take comfort in the fact that, on average, they may live to be 82 or so.

Hm.

I have long wondered what it might be like to live in another time period.  Now, I know.  It drives home the true meaning of the old adage “life is short.”   While I am grateful to have been born in twentieth century, the numbers do paint a sobering picture.  At forty, I am now truly middle-aged.

Over the hill.  Long in the tooth.  A mutton dressed as a lamb.

Perhaps that Maserati isn’t such a bad idea, after all.  I wonder if it comes in red.

Even so, this depressing revelation doesn’t answer my original question:

What am I supposed to look like at forty – you know, now that I have statistically reached the midpoint of my life?

Should I have developed a hunch back?  A stilted gait?  A weather-beaten face?

Should I suddenly forget how to apply make up?  Allow my hair the freedom to convert back to its natural gray streaked frizz?

The more I think about the answer to this question, the more I’m convinced that age is simply an outdated societal construct designed to confine individuals to easily discernible categories in order to dictate acceptable behavior.  Generally, in our twenties we are considered young and beautiful with carefree spirits and the luxury of worldly ignorance.   In our thirties, we are plagued by the pressure of conformity, the harshness of reality, and the need to settle into designated career and familial roles.  By forty, any hint of the youthful spirit and beauty of our twenties is thoroughly eradicated and replaced by the exhaustion of motherhood, the cruelty of gravity, free-falling metabolisms, wrinkling skin, and mom jeans. By fifty, we are destined for the early bird specials at the local pancake house and an AARP lifetime membership.  Fifteen years later…well…it’s all over but the crying.

Do these categories represent reality? Perhaps there is a measure of truth to be found somewhere floating in the depths of these stereotypes, but I certainly do not believe that we, as individuals, fit into such nice neat boxes.  I don’t wear mom jeans, drive a minivan, or feel the weight of motherhood bearing down on me.   I did all of that in my early thirties.  Now, at the tender age of forty, I am on a wondrous journey of self-discovery and have never felt more alive.  This proves to me that I am right in my belief that age is a relative concept.  You are only as old as you perceive yourself.  I do not perceive myself as old, over the hill, or long in the tooth.  Therefore, I am not.

So, what does forty look like?

Fabulous.

Waiting for spring

I have been sitting here all morning avoiding my WIP by sifting through some old photos I shot last spring.

I can’t wait for everything to bloom again.

Here are few of the more interesting ones.

Enjoy.

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The bee is blurry on this last one, but I think that is what makes it interesting to me.

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Things I learned this week

“What fun is it being cool if you can’t wear a sombrero.”

– Bill Watterson

Indeed.

I learned this week:

…that it is possible to earn an A in Geology.

Who knew? Not me.

Let’s see if I can do it again next semester.  I am feeling so froggy about it that I have registered for Historical Geology.

Take that scary science.

…that having a home office does not guarantee peace and quiet.  The night before my two most challenging finals, I retreated to my new sanctuary for a little study time.  I’m not sure when it happened or even how it happened, but an hour in I looked up at the sound of an awful ruckus and realized my space had been invaded by two cats, a dog, and a kid.  Really?  I had more solitude in the living room.

…that dropping my dog off at the groomers (until two months ago, I’d only owned cats) was a little like leaving a toddler at daycare for the first time.  There was lots of whining and crying and forlorn looks that said:  “Why, mommy-lady?  Why are you so cruel?  I’m really sorry I ate your slipper.  Really.  I am.  Don’t. Leave. Me.” Of course, as soon as I left the building, Kevin the groomer dude became Rocco’s new best friend and I was completely forgotten.

…that I still don’t get the allure of twitter.  I used to have an account a couple years ago – for about a week.  I didn’t understand the point, so I deleted it.  This week I am trying my hand at it again.  All of my writer friends are doing it.  I feel left out.

29 tweets and 23 followers later.

Um…yeah.   Still don’t get it.

I think it’s just beyond my capability.  All those cryptic codes and hash tags.  It makes no sense.  Plus, it seems like an awful lot of work to maintain.  I can’t even get myself together enough to blog regularly let alone come up with something witty and interesting to tweet several times a day – in less than 140 characters.

…that I am too old and snarky to spend 11 hours riding on a bus to and from Houston with a bunch of sugared-up middle schoolers without the benefit of coffee…or booze.

…that just when I thought human depravity had reached its peak, I am yet again proved wrong.  I cannot begin to fathom the level of grief felt by the families of those killed in the Sandy Hook shooting.  My heart aches for everyone involved.

I usually don’t like to delve too deep into political (or religious) ideologies on this blog.  I find that in this digital age where every Tom, Dick, and Harry has an opinion, a keyboard, and the luxury of anonymity such discussions deteriorate into hate filled tirades not intended to find resolution, but rather to shock and offend.

Having said that, I would like to have my say:

I believe in the Constitution. I believe in the Supreme Court’s authority to interpret the intended spirit of the Second Amendment.  I believe in an individual’s right to protect his/her person and property.  I do not, however, believe civilians have a need for military grade assault weapons or magazines that hold dozens of rounds.  I do not believe a ban on such weaponry would seriously impinge upon a citizen’s constitutional rights, and I think it’s passed time for rational dialogue on how we prevent the recurrence of such senselessness.  Of course, then there is the issue of the perpetrators themselves – the ones who yielded these weapons.  I do not have hard statistics, but I think a blind man could see that a good number of these shooters are plagued by some form of mental illness.  This is a problem.

How do we fix this?  I honestly do not have the answer to that question.  What I do know is this:  This will happen again unless we can set aside our egos and self-promoting ideologies and move toward a real solution through meaningful conversation and compromise.

…that I don’t have an awww moment of the week, so I will leave you with a photograph I took recently of the Day of the Dead bride and groom figurines I brought back from my last trip to Mexico.  I bought them to commemorate the 15 years my husband and I had been married (at the time).  We are now two weeks shy of our 17th anniversary.  I just love these little guys.  They make me smile.

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Things I learned this week

“A spy, like a writer, lives outside the mainstream population. He steals his experience through bribes and reconstructs it.” 

John le Carre

I’m on a bit of an early Cold War era spy kick right now.  Two reason for this:  I am writing a paper for my African-American history class that explores the Cold War’s influence on the civil rights movement; and I recently picked up a couple of John le Carre novels at my local second-hand bookseller.

I don’t have the luxury of a lot of free time this semester.  I spend most of my days immersed in a bubbling vat filled with school, work, and family obligations.  However, I have been able to sneak in a few minutes here and there – mostly in the carpool line – to delve into the 1963 classic The Spy who Came in from the Cold and the dark world of aging British spy, Alex Leamus.  It’s not a book packed with action.  Indeed, most of the story plays out within Leamus’ head as he struggles to find moral justification for his life’s work.  I find his introspection fascinating.  John le Carre is a master of his craft, and I am more than a little jealous of the intricate and thrilling story he weaves – without blowing anything up.  Amazing.

Alright, so now that I’ve bored you to tears with my spontaneous book review, let’s get down to business.  I’ve learned a lot this week.  Some good; some not so much; all of it meaningful to my journey of self-discovery.

I learned this week:

that I missed having the BFF around.   This week she and I were able to meet in the middle of the day, on a whim, for a little coffee and girl talk.  It’s been years since we’ve lived close enough to do that.  It was a fabulous way to spend a Thursday afternoon.

(rant of the week)

…that sometimes I expect too much from of my higher education experience – and my professors expect too little from their students.   As I’ve said before, I am in the midst of the group project hell.  In general, I struggle with these sort of things because a) I am a control freak; b) anything less than perfection is failure; and c) I am an introvert who finds prolonged interaction with people I don’t know (or necessarily like) exhausting.  It is no different with this project, though I do generally like the members of the group.

This assignment is two part:  written paper and oral presentation.  Everyone has an individual part to play, but success is contingent upon cohesion.  Bearing this in mind, I took my portion of the paper to my professor for help with an unusual citation.  I would hate to get it wrong and the group grade suffer for my incompetence.

He took it from me, read the first line, looked up at me over his reading glasses and said:  “Are these your own words?”

I said:  “What?  Of  course, they are my own words.  Why on earth would you ask me that?”

I glanced down at my paper because, by this time I couldn’t remember what I had written to illicit such a reaction.  It was a simple opening statement, short and to the point.  No fuss, no muss.  No ten dollar words.  Nothing complicated or provocative.  As you might imagine, I went through a medley of emotions:  shock, indignation, anger.  He backtracked then, but the damage was done.  I walked away from the conversation feeling irritated, more than a little offended, and wondering why I was voluntarily subjecting myself to such nonsense.

Over the next few days, the group began to email me their portions of the paper for editing.  My professor’s cynical attitude solidified before my eyes.  It turns out that decent writing in these sort of survey courses is not necessarily the norm.  Needless to say, I was flabbergasted by the lack of quality, and dare I say, effort, I found in their work.  While I understand everyone has different writing skills and styles, I had expected by this stage in the game, they would have gained the ability to produce a passably intelligent product – with complete coherent sentences.  You know, with a noun, a verb, and the occasional adverb or two thrown in for good measure.

I was wrong.  Lesson learned.

…that my dog’s most prized possession is his raw hide chewy thing, and it is imperative that it be kept stashed in a secret spot until it is time to finish it off.   As a novice dog mom, I am perplexed by canine behavior.  Cats are easy and predictable.  They expect to be fed, acknowledged upon demand, and left alone to nap wherever they choose.  Dogs are different.  Mine reminds me of a mischievous toddler – left to his own devices, mayhem ensues.

While in the backyard this week, I  watched Rocco dig feverishly in a remote corner.  I went to investigate.  He was burying his chewy thing.  I’m not sure why he thinks such a drastic thing is necessary, but there was an air of desperation in his actions.  I suppose he could be worried about a cat uprising.  He is, after all, the only dog in a houseful of felines.  He would be stupid not to feel a little paranoia.  I’m sure even as I type this they are plotting something diabolical.  Hmmm…it seems I understand Rocco a little better than I thought.

…that Skyfall is the best damn Bond movie I’ve ever seen.  And I’ve seen them all.  Multiple times.  In the beginning, I wasn’t thrilled with the choice of Daniel Craig for the part.  When they announced it, I was peeved.  He didn’t fit.  He wasn’t right.  I swore I wouldn’t see Casino Royale.  I was convinced it would be complete shit.  Then  I saw it.  I was speechless.  Bond had evolved.  He was grittier, rougher around the edges.  There was a vulnerability emulating from him, giving him a new level of humanity and mortality.  Despite all of my efforts to the contrary, I liked the film- I liked Daniel Craig as Bond.  I went into Skyfall with high expectations.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you with another review.  If you like this sort of thing, go see it for yourself.  Tell me what you think.

…that my daughter has suddenly decided that jeans with rhinestones on the back pockets is not so repulsive after all.  I’m not real sure what to make of this sudden shift, but rest assured there is a boy involved.

that last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by a ladybug I stumbled across in the garden.  He was an uncooperative subject who dodged my best efforts to shoot him from his more photogenic side.  It was almost as if he was mooning me.  Surely not.

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Things I learned this week

Learn we may be with another man’s learning:  we can only be wise with wisdom of our own. – Michele de Montaigne

I learned this week…

…that a simple thing like a hair color touch up and a trim is enough to ease the sting of a trying week.  It won’t make up for the B (very low B) I earned on that Geology exam, and it won’t erase the craptastic essay exam (worse heap of horse manure I’ve ever produced) in my African-American History class, but at least I will feel pretty as I go forward into the aftermath.  I can weather anything life throws at me, as long as I have perfectly coiffed hair.

…that Andy Williams has died at the age of 84.  He is best known as the crooner of the classic Moon River, but to me, he will always be the voice of Christmas.  I’m not a big fan of Christmas – never have been.  It’s nothing personal, I’m not a holiday advocate, in general.  You can read more about that here and here.   My mother, however, loves the holidays and one of her prized possessions was an Andy Williams Christmas album (circa 1963) – on vinyl, of course.  From December 1st until December 26th, that record played ad nauseum.  It took a little time, but it grew on me.  I don’t listen to it very often anymore, but sometimes, when the moon is full and the stars are aligned just so, I add it to my playlist and dream of sugar plums, sleigh bells, and snow covered hills.  RIP Andy Williams.

…that football, at the middle and high school level, is serious business in my neck of the woods.  As a Texan, however transplanted, I should understand this, accept this, and even relish in the glory of the Friday night lights.  I, however, do not.  I’m not a fan of the game and, under normal circumstances, would never entertain the thought of spending my evenings sitting on a cold, hard metal bleacher, in the chilly night air, watching kids try to plow over one another in their quest to get an oblong ball from one end of the field to the other.   It’s really sort of barbaric, if you ask me.  And boring.  This year, however, I have a middle school age daughter in the band.  The band plays at the football games.  Ergo, I am spending a good deal of time sitting on a cold, hard metal bleacher watching a game I do not like.  Of course, if you know me, you know that I’m not really paying much attention to the action on field.  Instead, I prefer to watch the parents sitting around me.  I am treated to an extra special dose of crazy at these things because not only do I get to watch the football dads freak out over an erroneous off side’s call (I’m not even sure what that is), I get to observe my favorite exotic beast, the Cheer Mom, in her natural habitat.   That right there, makes it all worth it.

***Side note:  My daughter’s middle school band rocks!

that Alias has arrived on streaming Netflix.   Score.

…that after years of boycott, I am going to put aside my grudge against Ben Affleck and see his new movie.   Yes, I know this goes against my longstanding vow to loathe him for all eternity.  However, in the infinite wisdom that comes with age, I have found it is unrealistic to stringently adhere to such limiting assertions.  Sometimes, for reasons beyond my control, I must adapt and evolve, especially when it is most self-serving.  I love a good spy thriller – one that is smart, well-written, and keeps me on the edge of my seat from the opening frame until the closing credit.  By all accounts, his new film, Argo, will do just that.  I have thought it over most carefully and have come to the conclusion that I would not forgive myself if I were to allow this work to pass me by simply for the sake of a grudge – a very worthy grudge, but one I readily admit falls slightly to the right of juvenile.   Of course, this does not mean that I am going to abandon my feelings.  I will allow Mr. Affleck to wow me with his directorial (and acting) genius and then it’s back to business as usual.  My rationality and goodwill only go so far.

…that I have to participate in a group project/presentation for a political science class I am taking this semester.  At first, I was pissed off about this.  It seems to be a growing trend among professors, even though it really is not representative of workplace reality.  At least, not in my workplace.  I can’t tell you the last time I had to work in conjunction with a colleague on a project.  I am largely a solitary worker, responsible for my own successes and failures.   I like it that way.  It keeps me from committing acts that might be construed as felonies under the current rule of law.  Having said that…this week my group had its first meeting.  They’re an interesting lot – young and energetic, full of misinformed ideology and false hope.   I sit and watch them through the eyes of the cynic I have grown to be, wondering how they will make it out in the wilds of the real world.  This week, however, I realized that all of my fears were unfounded after one member of our six-man team failed to make an appearance at our little get together.  Group participation is key to our success and as such, any weak link will be detrimental to our overall grade.  My fellow classmates took it upon themselves to nip a potential problem in the bud, and informed our absentee member that if she didn’t produce her part of the project by the next meeting, she was out.  Period.  No excuses.  End of discussion.  Please pack you knives and go.

Alright, then.  I think they are going to be just fine.  And perhaps this group project will not complete suck, after all.

…that school is putting a damper on my creative endeavors.   I apologize for the neglect this blog has suffered since the beginning of September.  I fear it will not get better until December when I can finally put this hellish semester behind me.  The lesson to be learned here – Geology is an evil best endured solo without the added distraction and pressure of…well…everything else.

…and last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by Underdog and the Chick-fila cow sharing an intimate moment during a recent football game.  Heartwarming, isn’t it?

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A hint of fall and a dragonfly

This weekend a cold front blew through my neck of the woods.  The first of the season, putting a welcomed end to a long stretch of 100+ degree days.  On Friday, we set a record when the mercury topped 105.  By Saturday morning, we were enjoying lows hovering around 60 and highs in the mid-eighties.  Around here, we call that fall.

It was fabulous.  Picture perfect, and I just simply couldn’t allow it to go by without getting out to enjoy it.  Along the way, I found this guy perched on a dead tree branch.

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Things I learned this week

In nine lifetimes, you’ll never know as much about your cat as your cat knows about you.”

– Michel de Montaigne.

This week I learned…

…that after taking the entire summer off, I am having a hard time acclimating to the new schedule.  Actually doing things – every single day, all freaking day long – is hard.

that Andy Roddick is retiring from the sport of tennis.

(insert a hearty “YES!” and an Arsenio Hall worthy fist pump here)

I am neither shocked nor saddened by this news.   He’s never been one of my favorite players.   In fact, I really sort of loath and despise him with every fiber of my being – strictly from a fan/professional athlete perspective, of course.  I imagine he’s a perfectly lovely person.  Really.  Surely, he doesn’t throw juvenile temper tantrums alaJohn McEnroe when he’s not on the court.  I doubt his wife would put up with such behavior any more than his tortured circuit line judges.  Then again, I could be wrong.  It’s been known to happen.  Maybe he is, indeed, a sniveling snot in every aspect of his life, not just during game play.    Hmmm….I suppose, I should be gracious and acknowledge his contributions to the sport, but, yeah…I’m not feeling it.  I bid you farewell, Mr. Roddick and if you could do me one small favor as you fade quietly into oblivion, please take Rafe Nadal with you.  Please.  Thank you.

that, speaking of tennis, Roger Federer is out in the quarter finals of the U.S. Open.

(sigh)

…that it takes roughly six months to recover from a yoga-induced hip flexor injury. Good to know.  Of course, it would’ve been nice to have this bit of insight eight months ago.  I could have avoided the whole damn mess by choosing to fulfill my physical education credit with something a tad less ambitious – like “walking for fitness.”  They even offer it on-line.   What is it they say about hindsight?  I suppose I should tuck this lesson way for my blog entry “Things I learned in my 40s.”

…that my husband sometimes says things that cause me great concern.  This week, while driving in the car, he was complaining about a series of dysfunctional ROMs he recently downloaded for his cell phone.   I am ashamed to say that I was only half listening.  I’m not big on technology.  It all seems like a bunch of voodoo magic to me, and besides, I’d heard that song and dance before:

Week one:  Download sparkly new ROM for phone; profess love for said ROM;  it’s the best ROM ever.

Week two:  This ROM is shit.  Everything is totally effed up.  My phone keeps rebooting. I’m going to have to find a new ROM.

It’s cyclical and as predictable as the rising sun.  The ROMs are revolutionary in the beginning, but inevitably they all end up being worthless pieces of buggy shit.  However, this week, my husband figured out the source of his problems. It seems that all this time, he was…

…flashing dirty.

I hate it when that happens.

…that I must continually remind myself that change is good; and the desire to step outside of my comfort zone is what drove me back into the classroom.  This semester I am taking a geology course and a discussion based history course.   While I find the earth’s processes interesting, and have been known to tune into the science channel on occasion, it’s just not my thing.  History, on the other hand, is my thing.  I love it, perhaps even more than writing (EGADS – say it isn’t so!).  However, the discussion driven format of this particular course goes against the grain of my introverted personality.   I struggled with the decision to take this class, even put it off two semesters.  In the end, my desire to learn the covered material over-ruled any anxiety.   Plus, the professor teaching the course is one of my favorite.  He is a character unto himself who rails against our over-regulated, liberal society and the established state mandated educational bureaucracy that dares to dictate his curriculum, lock him into an unworkable timeline, and require he complete a laundry list of menial administrative tasks.  All of which he finds idiotic and nonsensical.  Unfortunately, as we close out the second full week of the semester, I find myself pained at the prospect of attending this class.  The unorganized format has increasingly dissolved into a full out free-for-all complete with irrelevant  arguments, wandering points, and, on occasion, rampant hostility.  All things that set my teeth on edge and have my inner rebellious self fantasizing about jumping up onto a desk, shaking my fist in the air, and screaming STFU!

Of course, I’m sure that would adversely effect my GPA.  Bummer.

…that after a two week absence from WordPress, it is absolutely impossible to read all of the blog entries sitting in my Reader.   I shall have to do better.

…and last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by this little guy.  I found him feverishly stowing pecans in his secret hideaway.  As I have a nifty new lens, I stalked him with my camera until he caught on to my game and promptly outsmarted me by disappearing into the high branches of an old live oak.

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