Promise of a new year

“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”

― Alfred Lord Tennyson

Christmas is not my thing.  I make no bones about it, and offer up no apology.  If I had my way, I would spend the entire month of December on a beach in the Caribbean – book in one hand, frozen concoction in the other, the grit of sand between my toes, the roar of surf in my ears.   No traffic, no clutter of decorations, no batshit crazy holiday-goers with blood in their eyes.

Of course, it’s not all about me.  Ever the humble conformist, I bow to social convention.  I put up a tree, battle the mall, send out Christmas cards. All the while, with an eye to the horizon.  The new year shining in the distance, a whispered promise drifting in on the wind.

Change is in the air.

As I write this, I am well aware that the new year has come and gone.  My January was a fantastic whirlwind.  But that is a blog for another day.  I’m only just beginning to collect my thoughts:  reflecting, evaluating, forging the plan ahead.  I’m not one to make resolutions. To me, they amount to nothing more than simplistic commitments bearing unrealistic expectations.  Having said that:  I do look upon the new year as a period of renewal. Redemptive, in a way.  A chance to build upon what works; adjust what doesn’t.

Last year was a period of transition for me.  The hip injury I suffered a few years ago progressed into something too significant to ignore.  I was forced to address it once and for all.  It was a frustrating process – slow and tedious with more setbacks, more pain, more tears than I care to remember.  It took almost a year, but I have finally put the “yoga class from hell” to bed.  It’s quite liberating to be out from beneath that beast.  Physically, I am in great shape – the best in five years.  I’ve slimmed down and toned up.  I feel fantastic.

With a look ahead to 2016 and in an effort to exploit this new found freedom, I began to explore an idea that has rolled around in my head for a while now – tennis.  I wanted to play tennis again.  I played when I was young, but haven’t in over twenty-five years. There are a lot of reasons for this – lack of opportunity, physical challenges, my social introversion.  Joining is difficult for me.  But if there is one thing I have learned over the last few years, it is that one cannot truly live within the construct of self-imposed isolation.  ‘I can’t’, ‘I don’t’, ‘I won’t’ are phrases born out of fear.  And fear is detrimental to our natural evolution and quest for a satisfying and fulfilling life.

Bearing that in mind, I signed up for tennis lessons last week.

I think 2016 is going to be a fantastic year.

Let’s see where it will take us.

 

 

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…

Things I learned this week

I learned this week:

…that Historical Geology is not going to be a cake walk.

From the course material:

“The study of sedimentary rocks can involve many scientific disciplines.  Considerable knowledge of mathematics, biology, and physics is required to fully understand the mechanics and processes associated with weathering, transportation, lithification, the preservation of life forms, and the postdepositional alteration and changes that may occur.”

My horror at seeing the words “mathematics, biology, physics, and required” strung together in a cohesive sentence was only compounded by my professor’s declaration that Historical Geology is not for the “faint of heart.”  And, just when I thought for sure it couldn’t get any worse, I spied logarithms in lab assignment number two.

Excuse me while I vomit.

It seems college algebra has risen from its darkened mire to torment me once again.

Of course, maybe it won’t be so bad.  The first thing I thought after I typed the word “mire”:  low energy environment; muddy sediment with fine clay particles; decaying animal and plant matter; peat; bituminous coal.

…that I have been paying out-of-state tuition for the last several semesters even though I live in the state, and haven’t moved since my house burned down in 2006 – which was prior to my enrollment.   It took two full hours to convince them I haven’t been commuting in from some faraway place every semester – you know, to take advantage of their renowned education opportunities.

I’m not sure this is the spirit of efficiency Max Weber had in mind when he penned the six characteristics of bureaucracies.

…that Roger Federer has made it into the semi-finals of the Australian Open.  This is usually the point where he lets me down and has his ass handed to him by Rafe Nadal.  But maybe there is a ray of hope this year.  Federer’s chief rival is out with a knee injury.  Could this ensure victory for my favorite aging Swiss tennis pro?

I think.  Maybe.  Yes.

Wait?  What’s that?

Novak Djokovic defeated David Ferrer today to move into the finals at the Open?

Damn it.

Update:  Federer lost his semi-finals round to Andy Murray. 

<facepalm> 

Update 2:  Djokovic defeated Murray for the title.  I’m okay with that. 

…that Beyonce Knowles – aka Mrs. Jay Z – likely lip-synced the national anthem during President Barak Obama’s inauguration.  Big freaking whoop.  I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here, but do I need to remind the media that there are more important things happening in the country and around the world?  Don’t make me list them again.  I’ll do it, you know.

…that I have been nominated for a couple more blogging awards.  I am getting behind in my acknowledgements.  Let’s see if I can fix that.

From jazzytower over at thoughtsandentanglements, I received a nomination for the Beautiful Blogger Award.

versatile-blogger-300x300From Kevin at nittygrittydirtman, I received a nomination for the Liebster Award.

From Kitty over at kittyb78, I received a nomination for the Versatile Blogger Award and the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.

If you guys keep this up, I’m going to get a very big ego and begin to channel my inner Sally Field again.  You know how messy that got last time.

(please, don’t stop)

Thanks to Jazzy, Kevin, and Kitty.  Go check out their blogs.  I’m sure you will enjoy them as much as I do.

Okay, as always these things come with rules and regulations.  I’m going to try to combine them to save space and time.  First, here are some interesting – or not – facts about me:

  1. I am a hardcore grudge holder.  I’m still mad at the snot-nosed brat who broke the personalized license plate my dad gave me for my bike when I was ten.  Her name is Melissa, and she is the devil.
  2. Last summer, I taught myself how to swim.  I’m not going to be competing in the next Olympics, but I can get myself from one end of the pool to the other without drowning.
  3. I still prefer traditional print material to digital, though not because I think physical books are somehow superior.  I just can’t seem to remember to charge my eReader.
  4. As an introvert, I find a lot of social interaction exhausting and awkward.   I’m learning to adapt, though there are times when I wish I had a t-shirt that read:  “Do this introvert a favor and shut the hell up.”  Too much?  I’ll have to work on that.
  5. I am addicted to the History Channel – H2, not the one that plays hours of Pawn Stars and Top Gear, the other one that plays marathons of Ancient Aliens.  A girl has to have standards, right?
  6. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a Marine Biologist – until my dad told me I would have to board a boat, sail out onto the ocean, and dive into the water.  You know, with all those scary things that live underwater.  Yikes.
  7. I love picture frames.  The only issue – I tend to forget to have photos printed to put in them.  So, all around my house you will find frames displaying generic photos of people I don’t know.  I’m looking at one right now on a shelf in my office.  I should fix that.
  8. I like to cook, but I hate cooking dinner.

Okay.  That’s all I’ve got.  I’m not all that interesting.

Now some questions from Kevin:

  1. What is your favorite time of day and why?  My favorite time of day is first thing in the morning, just as the sun in coming up over the horizon.  I love the stillness that comes with dawn.  For me, there is nothing more peaceful. 
  2. How and when did you first discover your passion, whatever that passion is?  I first discovered my love for writing in the third grade when I penned a short story based on the Aesop’s Fairytale the Tortoise and the Hare.  I wrote it as a class assignment, and it wasn’t received well, but the process really did foment my passion for the written word.
  3. Hopefully, you’re familiar with The Breakfast Club for this question.  When you were in high school, in which social group did you best fit?  I suppose I was a social misfit, though likely not in the true sense portrayed in the movie.  I was always introverted, unpopular, and walked to the beat of my own drum. 
  4. Where do you write your posts and why did you choose that place?  I write anywhere I can find a quiet corner: at school in the common areas between classes, gymnastics practice, the bagel shop, the coffee shop, the library, the carpool lane.  Just about anywhere and everywhere.
  5. What always makes you laugh and why?  This is going to sound cliché, but my daughter makes me laugh.  She is probably the funniest person I know.  Sarcastic, witty, insightful, cynical, silly – she’s the whole package.  I look at her sometimes and wonder how I got so lucky.
  6. If you could appear on a televised talent show, what would your talent be?  Oh, geez.  I can wiggle my ears.  What kind of show do you go on to highlight that talent? 
  7. Which flower reminds you of happiness?  Big fat yellow sunflowers, bluebonnets, and poppies.
  8. What is your favorite book and why?  Pride & Prejudice.  What’s not to love? 
  9. It is important to eat your vegetables, but which vegetable to you always resist/avoid eating?  I honestly cannot think of a veggie I will not eat.  Fruit on the other hand – I hate apricots and mangos.
  10. What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day? I love to curl up in my favorite chair, with a cup of tea, and read something frivolous.
  11. Who is one celebrity, past or present, you would like to meet – what would you ask that person?  Jennifer Garner.   I’d love to ask her why she keeps making all of those pathetic Rom-Coms.  Put us all out of our misery and bring back Sydney Bristow. 

Passing these along is tough.  Not because I don’t know anyone deserving, but because I know a lot of people who are.  I’m going to stew on this for a while.

…this week’s awww moment of the week is brought to you by a girl and her dog.

IMG_0915

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.

IMG_8527

An update and an award

Usually, I post these self-shaming updates on Sunday, but I was too busy watching Roger Federer reclaim the top spot in men’s tennis.

One must have clearly defined priorities, right?

In between break points, I did manage to pull myself away from the television long enough to take a good hard look at my WIP.  I haven’t really done that since JuNoWriMo ended.  I was a little scared, but it wasn’t all that bad.  There are parts that work, parts that don’t, parts that scream WTF.   It could have been worse.   It needs to be better.

After reading through 90 or so pages of material, I decide that Anna needed a brother.  So, I added him, and then I killed him.  Cold, I know, but necessary.  It will add an emotional element and focus to the story that I felt was lacking.  Of course, adding (and killing) an important new character means that the underlying dynamic of my story has changed and therefore, an outline revision is in order.

I can’t tell you how much that thrills me.  You know, because outlining is my favorite part about the writing process.

Moving on.  I want to take a minute to acknowledge and thank Julie over at Word Flows for the Lucky 7 Meme Award she tossed my way a couple of weeks ago.  These sort of things always put a smile on my face.  Thank you, Julie!

Of course, this one is a little different from most.  It requires giving up a piece of my WIP for the world to see.  That’s not something I am comfortable doing outside of my writing group.  If it had been anyone else, I would have bowed out, but for Julie, I will do it.

The Lucky 7 Meme Award Rules are as such:

1. Go to the 7th or 77th page of your work in progress.
2. Go to the 7th line of the page.
3. Copy the next 7 sentences or paragraphs. Remember, they must be as they are typed.
4. Tag 7 authors.
5. Let them know they’re it!
 

So, here are my 7 lines – unedited and raw.

That’s all I’m willing to give.

“Rome, however, remained constant. The streets and lanes were still narrow and winding, paved in worn uneven cobbles.  The stucco facade of the old buildings were still faded and covered in graffiti. Smart cars, motor bikes, and scooters still clogged every conceivable inch of space.  Life moved on.

Anna inhaled.  Even through the fog of her grief, it felt good to be home.

She didn’t live far from the piazza, just around the corner on the Vicolo Moroni, a street so confined she could touch the walls on either side.  Her flat was on the top floor of a Renaissance era structure the color of salmon.  A heavy wrought iron gate shielded an intimate courtyard with a bubbling fountain and potted orange trees from view.   The entrance to the…”

There you have it.  Doesn’t tell you much, does it?

***There seems to be a formatting difference.  In Word, this excerpt is truly 7 lines.

Things I learned this week

This week I learned…

…that Beginning Yoga for a grade is really a combination of intermediate Yoga and Pilates for a grade.  This is something that I feel is grossly misrepresented in the course description.  The instructor, a tiny woman with Madonna arms and the flexibility of a Circus du Soleil performer, is surely the spawn of the devil.    She is an unsympathetic, anti-whining, whip cracker who doesn’t understand why we all showed up to the second class limping and chugging bottles of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines.   I am happy to say that I did make it through the week without disgracing myself.   I managed to perform every single pose she threw my way.  They might not have been pretty, but I did them.  Of course, I can still barely walk.  Hopefully, my body will forgive me by Monday when I have to start it all over again.

…that I don’t like change.  Yes, I know this is no revelation, but sometimes I forget how uncompromising I can be.  Lately, I’ve had an issue with getting through the books stacked on my bedside table.  After a four-month struggle to finish one novel, I finally resorted to an audiobook.  I’ve always sorta looked down my nose at audiobooks, like they were a means of cheating.  Of course, now that it benefits me, I have had a complete change of heart.  I’m fickle like that.  What can I say, I’m a Gemini.   In the last week, I’ve finished two novels.  Both Gabriel Allon spy novels by Daniel Silva, and both read by the same man, John Lee.   I have come to associate his warm, accented voice with these characters that I love so much.   This morning, I popped my little flash drive in the handy-dandy USB port in my car, and settled in as the opening chapter of Prince of Fire began to play.  What is this?  No John Lee? Where’s John Lee?  As it turns out, John Lee is not the reader for this next installment of Gabriel Allon’s adventures.  This new reader is terrible and his Ari Shamron interpretation sucks.  I may never recover.

…that sometimes I forget that my daughter is a girl.  I know that sounds strange, but if you knew her, you would know exactly what I mean.  She is a tomboy, through and through.  She doesn’t wear frills or ruffles or anything with a skirt.  No pink or purple.  No glitz or glitter.  She wears dark jeans with a flared leg, graphic tees, sneakers, and a hoodie – right now she is in love with her lime green Invader Zim hoodie that comes complete with ears.  She will only wear her thick blonde hair in a severe, slicked back ponytail.  No earrings or bracelets, though she does like necklaces – of course, those must meet a certain criteria and cannot be overtly feminine.  These are the rules.  Any deviation from such will result in a big sigh and an eye roll.  So it is not unreasonable for me to sometimes forget that she is, indeed, a girl.  Today is a big day for her.  She plays the clarinet in the sixth grade band and they are doing a performance tour of our local elementary schools.  This morning she dressed with extra care, made sure she didn’t have a hair out-of-place and then, as she studied herself critically in the mirror, announced, “I’m as pale as a vampire, Mom.  I need to use some of your powder and blush.”  Um…okay.  Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off of the bathroom floor.

…that Roger Federer allowed himself to be ousted from yet another major by Rafael Nadal.   This time the Australian Open.  I hope Novak Djokovic kicks Nadal’s ass in the final, and if he does, I am swearing off my allegiance to Federer for good.

…that after my little temper tantrum last week, I find that I am feeling better about my writing, though I still don’t want to talk about the Retribution implosion.  This week I have started work on a short story and have fallen in love with a very flawed old man with a penchant for old books and aged scotch.  His past is peppered with unimaginable pain and the horrors of a war.  I hope to find him a measure of redemption, but it’s too soon to tell if he will know absolution or fall victim to his crushing guilt.

…that my hockey player problem has resolved itself. I am happy to report that half of them have dropped and the other half have decided that the young blonde two tables over is more their speed.  I am grateful.  I can hear the professor again.  Now, if only the girl with the weird bouffant hairdo that sits in front of me would move so that I can see all of the projection screen…

…that I don’t have a pet peeve of the week!  OMG.

…that last but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by this adorable little baby otter named Cayucos.

Source:  http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Chicago-s-Shedd-Aquarium-rescues-baby-sea-otter-2727899.php