Saturday, July 31, 2010

Thoughts on Afterlife

I get up sometimes before the sun, so I try to get to bed early most nights. The other night I was in bed by 10:30. I was awakened at 11:50 when Spencer came in and kissed me on the cheek to let me know he was home.
Then, around 12:30, Tucker climbed into bed next to me.
"I can't sleep," he said. "I keep thinking about what happens after you die."
Maybe I should have anticipated this question.
A boy from his school died last week after he touched some live wires. The boy, a tall lanky kid with curly blonde hair, was on the track team with Tucker. Tucker declined the opportunity to go to the candlelight vigil.
But this week, as he lay alone trying to sleep, the question began to haunt him. Where was this boy now? What happens when people die?
We are Catholic, so Tucker has grown up hearing stories about Jesus, and he knows the timeline includes some point in the future when there will be "a new heaven and a new earth."
I couldn't bring myself to remind Tucker of that story in the dark of the night. It seemed too much like a fairytale that I would tell a six year old.
I told him that I thought there was more after this life. That our spirit doesn't just snuff out.
"What happens?"
He's 14. He wants black and white.
"Maybe we come back again," I suggested.
"Everybody?" he asked.
He realized that I wasn't able to comfort him in my groggy state. He decided he would read his "boring" book for Honors English and that he would probably be able to sleep once his dad got home from work, and he stumbled away without a definitive answer.
That's one answer, whether morning or midnight, that I won't be able to give him.
Maybe I should tell him about some of the near-death experiences that people have written about. They tell the same stories about a bright light and seeing figures. They talk about watching the efforts to revive them and the wonderous feeling. That's about all the hard proof we have.
I do believe in God and I believe that there's an afterlife, but I don't believe in hell, which makes it harder to think there's a heaven where everyone is having a big family reunion.
Maybe our spirits stay close to those we love. Maybe we all hover some place waiting to be needed by our loved ones. And when they need us, our spirit goes to comfort them with a familiar smell or a feather on the ground.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pony Tail Holders

Just to get rid of the photo of the asparagus that creeps out Dream Girl, I'll write my yearly fashion column.
Have you seen these new pony tail holders?

Grace brought one home from a swim meet. She always pulls her hair in a ponytail before she puts on her cap, but she frequently doesn't have a ponytail holder. She borrowed this one from Leah, and I love it. It's my current favorite.
It looks like tie dye, don't ya think?
I found some similar ones at the store and bought them.

They're very mod, and the colors are fab, but I still like the white and peach one better.
How can they come up with new, improved ponytail holders. They've been around for years.
Have you found a little thing, like a change in ponytail holders, that makes you think, why didn't they do that before?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Eating Changes

Well, I, and some commenters, have mentioned changes in my eating plan, and since it has actually lasted more than four days, I guess it's safe to write about.
Grace and I have been doing P90X this summer. P90X is an intensive exercise program We do a different exercise six days a week. They usually last an hour but sometimes an hour and a half. We're on Week 7 now. We're feeling stronger and more flexible but some of those muscles are still hiding beneath fat. So we decided to eat better.
We were going to start two weeks before our trip to Florida, but Grace had swim meets through last Thursday. We knew we couldn't diet while training and competing was still going on. We marked Friday as the day to begin.
Friday morning, I woke up with a headache. Now, keep in mind that I hadn't actually begun this new eating plan, so I couldn't blame the headache on that. Our plan was to try the Fat Flush Diet that, some of you may recall, I tried last spring and ended up with a migraine and throwing up.
Just call me a glutton for punishment because on Friday morning, I poured the cranberry juice (unsweeted) and flax seed into a cup and downed it. Then I spent a few minutes leaning over the toilet puking it up. Apparently flax seed and I don't agree.
The Fat Flush Diet encourages cranberry juice, a few proteins, unlimited vegetables (on the list), and some fruits. As Sheila commented, the diet doesn't promote exercise the first few weeks. I think that's crazy! Why would I give up exercising to diet? Won't I get better results if I combine them?
The other thing that I don't realize most of the time is that other people don't exercise nearly the amount that I do. I should have realized when Dream Girl went for cancer treatment and they said she was in too good a shape to participate in the exercise and chemotherapy treatment. If I looked around me, beyond my running friends, I'd realize that most of my friends don't do hard-core exercise. I've slacked off on my running this summer and run three to four days a week. But I've added the P90X. So I exercise a minimum of an hour a day and sometimes more than two hours a day. How can I even need to lose weight? I'm convinced that all the exercise, especially training for the marathons, messed up my metabolism.
Because of all the exercise, and after feeling too tired to move the first few days, Grace and I have changed the eating plan a little bit. We are now eating proteins -- grilled chicken, cattled-fed beef, eggs; veggies -- zucchini, asparagus, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce; and fruits -- pineapple, peaches, melon, strawberries, blueberries. Grace is not a big vegetable lover, so she eats more fruits. We also added a baked sweet potato the other night that made a big difference in our energy level.
We have done away with sugar, fats, dairy and grains. We both feel like we've slimmed down and I can't complain about the food I'm eating. Most mornings I have an omelette with tomatoes and spinach. Lunch is usually a salad with some left over chicken added, along with walnuts, tomatoes, cucumber and dried fruit. Last night for dinner, Earl grilled some yellowfin tuna steaks with a kind of vinaigrette, and we ate it along with asparagus and canteloupe. I cheated and had a glass of wine to relax with my husband.
See, that's all good food and when we get hungry we grab a banana or a peach.
We plan to stick with it until we leave for Florida and then it's vacation food all the way.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Recovering

Just an update on yesterday's horrible run.
When I walked outside this morning, it felt as good as a glass filled with ice and fizzing Coke. Truly refreshing. (Yes, I have been truly affected by advertising.)
So I ran my usual 3.5 mile route with only a few pauses to walk. Whatever is going on with me, I think I'm recovering.
I'm not hanging up my running shoes yet.

My Yearly Tour of France Over

I'm so sad that the Tour de France has ended -- even though it was eating into a lot of my time with its four hours of coverage on Versus every morning.
We started watching the Tour de France to see the beautiful countryside. Then, of course, we got into the competitiveness of it.
So if you didn't see the bicycles zooming around mountain roads without guardrails or the camera panning over castles, I'll give you a brief run down of the highlights that I saw.
Andy Schleck, a lanky 25-year-old from Luxembourg, took the lead in the mountains ahead of Alberto Contador, a 27-year-old Spaniard, who won the tour last year. Contador was on Lance Armstrong's team last year. He always rode for himself instead of the team so he wasn't my favorite.
Biking has some strange rules. It isn't everyone out for himself. They work together as a team. And if someone wrecks or has bike difficulties, the rest of the race will slow down and wait for him. It's kind of bizarre because it isn't cut throat like most sports are here in the U.S.
I was watching on the day that Armstrong crashed three times and found himself unable to win the Tour de France. I felt bad for him.
I was watching during the mountain phases when Contador stayed right on Schleck's tail. Schleck was 31 seconds ahead of Contador and the two of them stayed together, keeping an eye on each other. As Contador followed the wheel of Schleck's bike down a winding mountain, I suggested that Schleck try a "Wronski feint" which is a term from Harry Potter. In Harry Potter, they are on broomsticks and the person dives toward the ground so the other person follows. Then the first person pulls up at the last minute, while the second person crashes. I thought that might work for Schleck if he headed toward the edge then pulled back at the last minute. Contador might go right off the side of the road. But it didn't happen.
The next day in the Pyrenees again, Schleck still in the lead with 31 seconds, he makes a move in the mountains. He starts to take off and Contador starts to follow. Then Schleck hesitates like he can't pedal his bike. The chain comes off. Contador is about 50 feet behind him and he speeds away while Schleck must stop and fix the chain. Schleck rides like mad to catch up but ends up 8 seconds behind Contador.
There was a lot of controversy about this and whether Contador should have "attacked" while Schleck had mechanical difficulties. It wasn't the gentlmanly thing to do.
Photo from www.lexpress.mu
That's Contador in the yellow jersey and Schleck in the white jersey on the right.

The two of them stayed together the rest of the mountain stages and Contador won a time trial by 31 seconds, putting him 39 seconds ahead of Schleck overall.
It still seems like a slightly dirty win.
I loved watching them zip through the streets of Paris around the bend at the top of the Champs Elysees and past the Tuileries, which the British announcers called the Twillery.
My yearly vacation to France through the television is now ended.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Going Backward

This morning when I walked outside at 6:30, either I had a hot flash, a cold sweat and fever, or it is just incredibly hot and humid outside.
Any of those seem plausible, although I haven't yet had hot flashes, but I have been sick the past couple of days.
The heat and the illness combined with a new "eating plan" are what set me back this morning as I attempted to go for a run that felt like an uphill climb the whole way. I literally was too weak to run very far. I thought about turning back and coming home. Then I determined to run a block and walk a block throughout my whole route.
It felt humbling to go from running 9 miles a few weeks ago to running blocks at a time. Sometimes I would run two blocks then walk a block. As I was on my way back from my 3.5 mile route, in one of my walking blocks, a guy in a Jeep pulled up next to me.
"I saw you running tired. Want some water?" He held out a small bottle.
"No, thanks," I said. "Almost home."
(See, Earl. I'm not paranoid that people pay attention in our little burg whether I'm walking or slacking off.)
My friend Dream Girl claims that you never regret going for a run.
I'm not sure I feel grateful that I went for a run/walk, but I am glad that it's over for today.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Relax


I spent the entire day grading essays, answering emails and juggling the 20 hours of classes I am teaching this quarter.
I took a break around 8 and flipped on the television. I could watch a rerun of the movie The Holiday, I could go back to grade the remaining six essays, or...I spied on the bookshelf beside the couch -- Emma.
So I popped in the movie and now I have a calm evening, kids gone to their various activities watching Emma. What could be better?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Swim Stars


David Sedaris tells a terrific story about overhearing a conversation on the Metro by some American students who debate which city is better, Paris or Austin. After all, in spite of Paris' benefits, Austin does have air conditioning and the Sonic burger. One of the points he makes is that no country or city has the motto: "We're number two." Everyone thinks they're the best.
Yesterday, Tucker's motto was "I'm number two" as he came in second in every race he swam at the day-long, outdoor swim championships. Tucker is a great swimmer and he is used to winning everything in the outdoor swim meets, because the swimming isn't as competitive. At championships, sometimes swimmers show up who might not have been at the regular meets. Every race Tucker had Wednesday was against a boy named Orion, like the constellation.
And Orion's times were much faster than Tucker's.
When I saw him on the blocks, I thought he looked like a man and wondered how he could be 14. Tucker is big for a 14-year-old, but this guy had the pecs that stand out. Gulp!
Each time Tucker returned from a race, having taken second behind Orion, he had a little more information about the boy. He was homeschooled, Tucker said. Of course, so was Tucker for six years.
He's graduating from high school next year. Okay, Tucker is not doing that.
All of Tucker's times were good. He dropped seconds in each race, but always came in second to Orion.
"I'm sorry, Buddy," I said to Tucker. "I knew I should have named you after a constellation."
"Yeah," Tucker said. "Little Dipper."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Of Course

As if to prove me wrong in my past two blog posts, yesterday I managed to run 3.5 miles, work on my novel, exercise with Grace, make pancakes for Grace before she left for work and Spencer after he finished his workout at the gym. Then I answered emails to my students and planned my next class. I successfully wore all my hats, although my husband, who did laundry and moved a new refrigerator into the basement, may point out that I didn't play the role of wife very well. Today, I'm just tired and going to get to work on grading papers.
My other blog post, reminiscing about those chubby little hands, was put to rest when both of my boys were incredibly surly rather than snuggly. They both got grounded in the space of 10 minutes as they sniped at the rest of the family. Of course, this was as we were planning family night -- enforced time together.
All three of the kids requested an at-home family night. I think they were afraid we'd plan another 22-mile bike ride. We talked about dinner and renting a movie. Grace was scheduled to work until 5. In the middle of the afternoon, a thunderstorm came through so she walked in the door at 3. Shortly thereafter, we lost power. We opened the windows and the air outside that had cooled during the thunderstorm quickly heated back up into the 80s so we had a nice sauna effect.
I looked through the newspapers for a movie we could all agree on. At least it would be cool in the theater. No concensus.
So I made dinner early, goat cheese pasta with peas and ham. Sitting around the dinner table, we were sweltering. I grabbed a section of the newspaper to fan myself. Earl remembered the hand fans we had at our outdoor wedding, little paper fans shaped like palm fronds on wooden sticks. He got one for each of us and we sat at the dinner table fanning ourselves in the heat. Well, Tucker, in a snit about something, had already abandoned the dining room for the couch.
We talked about walking to the ice cream shop downtown, but the kids protested. The car had air conditioning.
"Couldn't we just drive around in the car and listen to Harry Potter?" Spencer asked. We all still love the Harry Potter CDs.
We drove to get ice cream then, ever the optimists, decided to rent a movie in case the electricity came back on.
I stood outside the grocery store waiting in line for the Redbox Video rental. It began to rain. Thunder rumbled. Lightning struck close enough to make me jump. Still, I valiantly waited for the video. (Where are all the heroes today? People willing to brave a lightning strike for a good movie?)
I got Men Who Stare at Goats and when we returned home, the power was back on! We closed the windows and turned on the air conditioning. We're becoming such typical Americans. We used to go most of the summer without air conditioning so I could leave the windows open and hear the kids playing outside. Now they don't play outside.
No complaints from the movie. Everyone stayed to watch, but family night broke up early after that. I went to bed, Grace went out with friends and the boys headed to the basement of entertainment -- XBox and computer games.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chubby, Little Hands


At the Newman Center on OSU's campus where we go to church, we sit to the side in a section filled with families. Our kids aren't little and restless anymore, but it is a habit we got into and so we continue to sit in the family-friendly section. This morning, Earl and I both seemed to be noticing lots of adorable kids. He was fascinated by an Indian boy and then a baby who looked like a mafia member.
I watched our friends who sat on the steps with their son, who is Spencer's age, 16, and their little girl who is 6. The girl has thick, gorgeous dark hair. She was born with a full head of hair that she now pulls out of its ponytail holder and smooths down again before trapping it. I can tell this is a new skill that she takes great pleasure in. But what really got to me today was when she leaned over to whisper to her mom.
If I'm going to whisper to someone, I may cup my hands around their ear. This little girl, Elizabeth, reached her arm around her mother's neck, her little hand pressing her mother's head toward her mouth as she whispered her secrets. And I remember little hands pressing me closer.
When I nursed Tucker (until he was 3!) he would rub his finger against a mole on my cheek. Grace would twirl my hair while she nursed. My own children had those little chubby hands that were always reaching for me and caressing me.
This morning, Tucker sat next to me in Mass and I reached over and rubbed his broad back a few times. But I know there are limits to how long I can maintain touching this 14-year-old before he shrugs me off.
Still, there are days when Grace will lie down on the couch and rest her head on my lap. Sometimes if we are walking somewhere, she will grab my hand and we'll swing them along like we did when she was little. And both of my boys, although 6-foot, 3-inches and 6-feet tall, will push my office chair away from the desk where I am sitting and climb onto my lap for a quick hug and talk before they're off again to their teenage boy activities.
I remember feeling overwhelmed with the physical contact of little kids, especially while I was nursing. I didn't think I could stand for another person to touch me. Now, I realize how rare those days of constant touch are because they slipped away so quickly. So I take the hugs and hand holding where it comes these days.

Passions


Sometimes it's hard to keep all the balls in the air at the same time.
If I decide to focus on writing, my running slips. If I decide to really train for running, my writing falls off a cliff. I won't even tell you where mothering and teaching fit in.
One of the problems is that I am most productive early in the morning. At 5 or 6 a.m. I am usually either at the computer writing or on the road running. And that is my window of opportunity.
If I write for an hour or two, I'm not likely to then go for a run. I might head out the door, but I don't make it too far.
If I go for a nice run, when I return dripping sweat, I'm more likely to sit on the front porch and read the newspaper than I am to sit at the computer and write.
Many days these past few weeks, my early morning hours have been spent preparing for class or grading papers. I'm teaching four online classes this summer, but once everyone is out of bed, if Mom is home, the expectations are that I'm not really working. I can make lunches and run to Target, and all those other little errands that eat into my day instead of grading and preparing for the classes I do have to go to teach.
Grace and I have also been following an exercise program that takes an hour to an hour and a half everyday with only one day of rest each week. We've finished five weeks of it so far. Grace is not an early riser, although I may roust her out of bed at 8 on mornings when she has to work. So this is another thing that is eating up my time.
There's always the evening, someone might suggest. But they haven't seen me in the evenings. I'm wiped out. Whether I've been teaching, grading papers, running kids to doctors appointments or meeting friends for lunch, come 8 p.m., I'm useless and am lucky to hold a book in front of my face or lift up the remote to change the channel until I lurch to bed at 10.
I guess I'm kind of the opposite of ADD, people who can't pay attention to one thing. Instead, I end up focusing on one passion at a time and the others fall to the wayside.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Flourishing Plants

This summer, Earl cleared the garden in front of the garage and planted strawberry plants. Strawberry plants come back every year and they spread. They shouldn't be allowed to grow fruit their first year. Instead, Earl had to pull off any flowers so the plants would grow well.
After the first few weeks, a couple of volunteer plants stuck their heads through the soil in the strawberry patch. A tomato plant began to grow in the front corner away from the strawberries, so we left it. Then some sort of melon began to grow right in the middle of the strawberry bed. We love a good melon at my house, so we let it grow too.
We weren't too surprised about the volunteer plants since we had grown tomatoes and melons there the previous year.

Here's a picture of the leaves on the melon plant.
All of a sudden, the melon plant began to grow up instead of crawling along the ground. And then it sprouted this:

Something that was not a melon was definitely on its way.
And mid-morning, the plant would flower into a tiny yellow bloom with a reddish center.

It closed again before noon, so I was the only one in my family who ever saw it since everyone else slept most of the morning.
One morning, before the sun became ferocious, my neighbor Sandy joined me in the garden with a couple of wildflower books. We searched until we found the same bloom with the same leaf shapes. It was called "Flower of an Hour." Well, that made sense because it only bloomed for an hour. And it was a wildflower from "Eurasia." Truthfully, it was a weed.
Earl asked if he could pull it since it was a weed. I said no.
"Why?"
"Because it's pretty."
And in spite of its beautiful blooms, as it grew, it began to look weedier -- tall and rangy.
Finally, when Earl asked his weekly question about pulling the Flower of an Hour, I told him to do it.
Now our nobbly strawberry patch is without the gangly weed in the middle.
Here are a couple of actual flowers growing around our house. I'm not going to let Earl pull them. This is a Chinese bellflower, or a baloon flower, and I love it.

This is how it looks before it blooms, like a Chrysler symbol.
We also have a rose bush for the first time at this house. It has bloomed for nearly a month now.
I don't spend a lot of time on flowers. I usually plant some things in the spring and hope they continue through the summer. About this time of year, I run out of color in my garden. Before long though, the mums will begin to bloom and I can stop worrying about whether the neighbors are whispering about my garden or lack of it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Happy

Today I am filled with joie de vivre. So many things have gone my way, starting with my morning when I wrote the end of my novel. I still have to go back and add a chapter, along with editing. I'm sure many things will change, but it makes me so energized and thrilled to know that I'm nearly there. Things have really come together the past few days.
Grace asked if she could edit for me and I explained that my experience with Earl as an editor when I was a journalist had convinced me that family shouldn't edit each other's work. I remembered arguing about specific words and big ideas. Nevertheless, I printed off the 280 pages today and handed them to her in a file folder. When she came home from work, she sat alone and ate her dinner of chicken sausage with apples. She read page after page. I walked past and assured her that she didn't need to read it all now. I still planned to write that extra chapter and get it to her. She read more than 80 pages as she crunched on carrots and sat at the table long after she'd finished her dinner. I know she has to tell me that she likes it, but she claims she would be honest if she didn't.
And now, as evening falls, the kids have dispersed and I am home alone. I love being home alone. Probably because I don't get the opportunity very often.
Since I had kids, I have worked from home. We home schooled so I never had time home alone while they were gone to school. They all started school about two and a half years ago then more than a year ago, Earl's job changed and he is home during the day while the kids are at school.
It's not like I do anything special when I'm home alone. Sometimes I do housework, sometimes I exercise, sometimes I surf the web, watch mindless tv or read a book. It's just nice to be alone occasionally. And tonight, I can pour myself a glass of wine and feel satisfied that my writing is progressing.
Then it's back to my papers that are waiting to be graded.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Family Night Rides Again

With the temperature in the mid-80s rather than the mid-90s, we decided that a bike ride would be a perfect family night.
It was a little complicated with five people and five bikes. We ended up taking two cars because the bike carrier holds three bikes, so we put the top down on the convertible and stuck two bikes in the back of it. Of course, one of our bikes was missing because Tucker had ridden it to a friend's house and left it where it was locked in a garage. We borrowed a bike from Earl's sister's husband.
Spencer was focused on getting family night over with. "How many miles?" he asked.
Eleven there, eleven back with ice cream in between, I told him.
And he took off. The bike trail runs from Johnstown to Granville. The trail is shared with walkers and runners and crosses several roads, most of them not too busy.
As we started off, we came to a wooden bridge. A squirrel ran onto the bridge at the same time Spencer rode onto it. The bike scared him and he scurried across Spencer's path then ran and dove off the edge, hopefully onto a tree.
That was about the last we saw of Spencer as he decided to ride ahead. He later told us he managed the whole 11 miles in 35 minutes. He turned around and came back to find us since he didn't know where the ice cream shop was.
The path goes through woods and farm fields. It was full of strong odors, like skunk and cow manure. It also had butterflies and birdsong. The woods were protecting and ominous. The fields full of corn that stretched as high as an elephant's eye.
Tucker's bike has issues. Earl says it's because he throws it on the ground when he finishes using it. I say they should have put a kick stand on it if they didn't want kids throwing it to the ground. Nevertheless, he would be riding and the chain would just pop off and he would pedal going nowhere until it reattached.
I found this hilarious. Him, not so much.
Some swear words were thrown around when we left the flat path of the trail to climb the hill up to Granville. It's a steep hill and I called "every man for himself" before we got to it.
Earl and I rode on the street, but the kids all headed for the sidewalk, which meant they couldn't pass each other so were limited to the speed of the person in front of them. Anyway, they all made it to the top without stopping to push their bikes, which is more than I could say for myself the first time I did it.
The ice cream parlor in Granville served up floats and milk shakes that helped get us the 11 miles back to the cars.

This guy fed ice cream to his dogs. He made them take turns and share a spoon. He used a different spoon and somehow thought that was sanitary, even though they were all eating from the same bowl. Ick.
After ice cream, Tucker needed a grilled cheese.
Grace and I headed back to the trail while he waited for his food. We knew we would be slower than the guys. We rode steady for a total 64-minute ride on the way back, along with a few stops for photos. I figure less than a 6-minute mile isn't bad for us.
The boys stayed at the ice cream parlour to eat the grilled cheese sandwich then took off at a pace that might have done the peloton on the Tour de France proud. They shoulted a hello and Spencer's red shirt billowed in the wind as they passed and rode toward the lowering sun.

The sun was setting as we finished at the grain mill in Johnstown.
We were all pretty tired when we got home, except Spencer who of course ventured out to "hang" with his friends at "the turf" which is the high school football field.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Au Naturel

I know that it is healthier for me and my family to eat locally grown foods fresh from the garden. That's why I stopped by our pitiful excuse for a Farmer's Market yesterday where there are two vegetable stands and two homemade soap stands, along with some fresh-baked goods.
I bought some peppermint, tea tree hand soap and then got down to the business of buying vegetables.
Not a lot is ready to be harvested here in Ohio. I bought two zucchini with shiny green peels, two tomatoes that need a little more time on the window sill to ripen, some small red potatoes and a big green cabbage.
When I got home, I pulled off a few of the showy outer leaves of the cabbage and flushed it with water to get rid of the dirt that gathers around the stalk. Then I set it upside down beside the sink where it stayed until I got home about 8 p.m. from a marathon swim meet.
Around 9:30, when I thought I had the energy to get up and eat something, I decided a few slices of cabbage would be a healthy snack. I pulled off another outer leaf of the cabbage and it felt a little slimy underneath. How many of the outer leaves are you supposed to pull off, I wondered. Then I saw a couple of tiny, quarter-inch slugs. They really were too small even to be considered slugs, more like snail wannabes.
So I pulled off their leaves and a few more then a few more just to be sure.
At this point, having dealt with dirt and slugs, I really didn't want to eat the cabbage. I was feeling a little queasy.
I reminded myself that the reason cabbage in the grocery store doeosn't have slugs is that it is sprayed with toxic chemicals to kill things, which is probably much worse for me than anything left behind by the slugs.
I forced myself to eat a wedge of cabbage sprinkled with salt.
I guess it's a good thing I didn't grow up on a farm. Then again, I'd probably be much thinner if it were down to picking off bugs and slaughtering chickens.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Motherhood Changes Everything

I was working tonight in a tutoring session with a couple of other teachers. One of them is in her 20s, recently married. The other, a single man in his late 40s, was wondering how to handle a situation where a woman left his class repeatedly to take cell phone calls. She said she had to answer her phone because her son was epileptic and the school might try to reach her.
This could be a reason why she needed to check to see who was calling her, but the school probably hadn't called her twice during that hour. The male teacher wondered what he should do about it.
The earnest young teacher turned to me first and asked, "Do you have kids?"
I said yes and she said, "I will probably offend you then."
She turned to the other teacher and said, "I would tell that woman that having kids is her hobby and not my problem."
I was biting my lip to keep from laughing. I wonder if I ever felt that having kids was a "hobby."
This woman was so sure that she was right. Her students' personal problems, even if it was epileptic children, had nothing to do with her.
I remember talking to another teacher who now has two young children. She lamented that she had been so unfeeling toward her students who were single mothers who worked fulltime and took care of their children.
I told the young teacher, "Someday, you'll look back and cringe that you said having children was a hobby."
She didn't believe me.
That's okay.
Was I ever that naive about being a parent? Probably. The more vehement they are, the harder they'll fall when they have their own kids.
BTW, I don't allow my students to leave in the middle of class for cell phone calls either, but not because I don't respect their dedication to their children.
It's disrupting to the class.
"If you have to take a call, just take your things with you and go," I tell them so you don't interrupt the class again by coming back in.

Showtime


Lights. Camera. You're on!
I stand blinking in front of a new college class.
More and more, teaching feels like acting to me. I have to be "on" in front of the class. I have to be prepared. I have to be entertaining yet informative.
Truthfully, I love it.
Last quarter and again this quarter, I've had four online classes at the main college where I teach. This week a new semester started at my back-up university. I have two classes where I get to be in front of actual students.
I'm always nervous before I start.
I have my lesson plans. Is this enough to get me through four hours and keep them awake? Where will I add the ice breaker that makes them get up? Where should I include the small group sessions so they start to know each other? How about the youtube videos that will make them laugh?
I dressed carefully. A linen dress with a straight skirt that nips in slightly at the waist and pooches out a little where my belly isn't quite flat. My Jambu shoes that are comfortable to stand in for four hours. My hair is curly, pulled back from my face.
The first few minutes are chaos. Students who have been reassigned to my class coming from another class. Conferring with the other professor. Done. 21 students sit before me. Some like baby birds ready to be fed. Others like Missourians with their arms crossed daring, "Show me."
There is Mulu who was in my class last session.
"How'd you get stuck with me again?" I tease.
"I knew it was going to be a tough session," he replies. "I asked for you."
I smile but I'm flattered. Mulu is from Africa and English is his second language, although his speaking and writing are excellent.
I begin class.
The computer isn't working so I can't flash the syllabus onto the screen. I move on to the next thing on my lesson plans. I ad lib. If students start to look bored, I tap dance faster, trying to keep their attention.
By the end of the evening, by 9:30 p.m. as we move to the computer lab, they are approaching me individually to clear up questions. They are handing me their prewriting for their first essays. They are asking for confirmation that they're on the right track.
I soothe them. I flash smiles. I offer words of reassurance.
And then they are gone. I sit alone in the computer lab, plugging in attendance and going over the successes and failures for the evening.
Probably 15 years ago I took a personality test that confirmed I was an introvert. That means I gain energy from being alone rather than being in a crowd. But these things can change, I think as I walk toward the car.
I call Earl so his voice can keep me company through the dark parking lot. I regale him with my performance.
The voices of the students echo in my head like so much applause.
I'll be back for an encore the following week, perhaps to a more receptive audience or to a tougher audience as they judge how successful I am at performing.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Sock Shortage

This morning for my run, I wore yellow fuzzy socks with lady bugs on them.
I knew it was probably a mistake as I put them on and felt the seams along the toes, but my drawer was empty of athletic socks.
I had only walked out the back door and taken time to locate a quarter moon, shaped like the one that is always used to illustrate "the cow jumped over the moon" and a single star/planet shining in the 5 a.m. sky, when the seam on the sock started to rub.
I sat down on the hammock, took off my shoes and turned the socks inside out before putting my shoes on again. Then I went for a run and figured I'd just live with the socks.
Obvioiusly, they aren't running socks. Apparently athletic socks are at a premium in my house.
Just last week I caught Tucker, size 12 men's shoe, wearing my running socks, size extra small womens. They were running footies with pink at the heel but he had stretched them over his giant feet. The day before he'd had on my Thorlo socks, which are padded at the heels and balls of the feet.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"I needed some socks," he shrugged.
He claims they were laying on the dryer, which is where we pile the boys' clean clothes for them to put away.
I either need to step up the laundry or find a boy who won't wear pink-trimmed socks.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Runner's Hangover


On Saturday morning, we ran 9.5 miles.
When I left the house, I was already tired and dreading it. If my friends hadn't been waiting for me, I would have skipped. That's the reason to exercise with friends, isn't it?
I took some vitamin B12 for energy and ate two shot bloks on the way to meet my friends. Shot bloks are like gummy candies that are "electrolyte chews" to give energy and replenish the things we sweat out.
Princess joined us for our morning run, so there were four of us. Princess just bought a new house and moved so she has a legitimate excuse for missing some of our runs. She also is a single mom with a son, so she always has a good reason to sleep in rather than run with us.
We ran our normal route of 7.5 miles, talking and laughing the whole way. I ate two more shot bloks at the turn around, but I wasn't feeling as miserable as I had anticipated.
We went on past the parking lot an extra mile south before we turned around. That made for a total of 9.5 miles. The training schedule called for 9 miles and we're trying to keep that .5 edge.
I "sprinted" the last half mile or so, but only because if I didn't run faster and finish then I was going to stop and walk. I felt good at the end and relieved it was over.
When I got home, I drank more water and sat down to finish reading a book. Slowly I began to feel like a dishrag that had been rung one way then the other. Nothing really hurt, I was just exhausted.
My husband got up and came into the living room where I was lying on the couch. I explained why I was taking a nap at 9 in the morning. My daughter got up and I repeated the scenario.
The rest of the day, the headache slowly built. Dehydration? Possibly. Maybe I should have had Gatorade after my run. Allergy headache? Always a possibility in Ohio. Hormonal-related? The timing was right.
I pulled myself together for a cookout at Earl's sister's house then spent the rest of the day doing nothing. Grace and Tucker stayed home with me since they had been out late the night before and I was in bed early, hoping to vanquish the headache with a good night's sleep.
The next morning, a trace remained, but I didn't even notice it as Grace and I did our morning core workout.
Is it worth it to continue training for the marathon, even though I don't plan to run the marathon, if I'm going to face days when I feel like a limp noodle?

Friday, July 02, 2010

Just Keep Swimming

This morning I didn't write from 5 to 7 a.m. That's because Grace and Tucker had to be at a swim meet at 6:15. Waking teenagers to swim at 5:45 a.m. is never a cheery event.
Tucker has been swimming year round since he was 8 years old. Even that first year, he showed promise, making a "star time" in back stroke and free style. Now as he wrestles his way through his thirteenth and fourteenth years, he wants to give up swimming. He has fought me about practices since last fall, complaining each time that I send him out the door with his black Speedo backpack. He swam for the middle school last year and is already faster than most of the high school boys.
Today was a USA meet rather than a YMCA meet. That means the fastest swimmers from around Ohio, southern Michigan and northern Kentucky gathered at Ohio State to swim this morning.
The air was cool as I dropped Grace and Tucker before parking in the garage. They both dogged it on their 100 free, their first events. Then came the 50 frees.
Tucker ended up fifth overall for the 13-14 boys. That means he made it into the finals this evening. USA swimming uses the times in the morning for preliminaries. The top 8 come back to swim the finals and the next 8 come back for a consolation round.
From the stands, I told his coach that he wouldn't want to come back. Tonight Columbus celebrates Fourth of July with Red, White & Boom. Tucker asked earlier this week if he could go to a party to watch the fireworks.
The coach talked with him for a minute, turned toward me in the stands and said, "He wants to come back."
"Okay," I said.
As soon as we left the building, he told me, "I don't want to go back tonight."
"You already told the coach you'd go," I replied. I really didn't want to hash this out. The coach had talked to him; he'd agreed, why did we have to talk about it. Or, more precisely, why did I have to listen to him complain. He is four-tenths of a second behind the first place finisher. Hundredths of a second behind the second through fourth place finishers. He could win this.
Sometimes I wonder if it is worth the constant arguments about swimming.
Pat, one of the dads in the stand with me, said, "If I were as good at anything as Tucker is at swimming, I'd keep doing it forever."
That's just it. When you're 14, you're pretty sure you can be good at anything you want to. You may not recognize that this is a special talent you have.
As we headed back to the pool at 4:30, Tucker said, "I'm not going to do as well as I did this morning."
"Why?" I asked suspiciously. Was this his plan?

"I'm tired," he said.
"I'll let you stay out until midnight tonight if you swim a faster time than you did this morning," I offered.
Game on. Usually he has to be home at 11.
He warmed up then sat and waited. He went to the diving well and warmed up some more.
Finally, it was his turn to swim.

They were swimming long course, which means they swim 50 meters all the way down. Most pools have a lane that goes 25-yards across then they come back 25 yards.
Tucker climbed on the blocks, his cap a bright green.

He dove in the water and moved his arms fast. He was ahead for much of the race. He finished in second place overall and dropped more than half a second. For anyone who cares about swim times: he had a 27.66 in meters long course. That translates to a 23.79 in short course yards.
I could tell he was proud afterward as he walked me through the race.
"Those other guys were all wearing Speedos and I wanted to show them I could beat them not wearing a Speedo." Tucker hates those little suits like underwear. He wears the suit that comes down tight to his knees. The guy who won wore a suit like Tucker's.

As we walked through campus, emptied by the holiday weekend, Tucker was satisfied with his hard work for that day. That doesn't mean that we won't argue again on Monday when it is time for swim practice again, but I plan to make him stick with it.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

American Heroes

My friend Dream Girl is making me feel depressed. You remember her. She's the one who found out she has breast cancer. I was all worried about whether I would act differently around her, what I would say. And, of course, I was worried because I want her to get better.
I see her every Saturday for our weekly runs and we stay in touch by email the rest of the week. Her emails have depressed me and it's taking a toll on my body.
I've already eaten a small box of malted milk balls and I just ordered pizzas for dinner. I haven't run this week at all either. I left the house two mornings to run and ended up walking around the block before coming back.
Today was Dream Girl's echocardiogram to make sure her heart wasn't affected by the heavy duty chemotherapy she has taken. Here's part of the message we receieved from her afterward:
So I ran far and did 6 hill repeats this morning to crank my heart up before my echo. I bombarded Janise, the girl who did my echo, with questions about how high a score I could get on my echo. Average/a good score is 55, and she said my previous 62 was really good, but I wanted to know what the best number would be. She said a younger person could get like 75-80, and that there were people my age that could get up to 70-75.

See, some people might think, "I have cancer. I need to treat my body gently." But Dream Girl thinks she should whip her body into its best shape ever while going through chemotherapy. She's running 60 minutes a day and doing extra hills, plus riding her bike on paths that run through corn fields. She's swimming laps without needing a swim cap (since she's bald).
She doesn't know the score on her echocardiogram yet, but here was the follow up message she sent:
I don't know my new score yet. I have to wait until I go back to the Dr. I'm hoping for a 70! Hee hee! It probably would be too if I had been swimming. Dang.

And you can probably see why this level of activity by someone healing from breast cancer can be disheartening from those of us who are complaining about plantar's warts or heavy periods.
Really, can any excuse stand next to the woman who is having chemotherapy, the woman who got jabbed five times at the doctor's office last week because they couldn't get a good vein. As she left the office, she reassured the lab technician that it wasn't his fault that he couldn't get a vein. Can Mother Theresa have been reincarnated into my friend's body if she was already alive when Mother Theresa died?
Some people might see this kind of reaction to breast cancer and be inspired to try harder. I wish it had that kind of effect on me. Instead, I feel defeated before I begin.
So, I'm eating malted milk balls and pizza before a night on the couch watching bad sit coms.
Don't get me wrong. Dream Girl is amazing. She's my hero. She's just flown so far out of my realm that I can barely see the soles of her feet any more.

Writing Sex Scenes

To be honest, I have written sex scenes in all three of my novels. In the first two, I later edited them out.
I have just finished writing a sex scene in my current novel so it is still there -- for now.
Here are the possibilities:
The sex scenes are gratuitous and don't carry the story so I cut them out.
I'm mortified by the fact that my children and parents may someday read the book with the sex scenes, so I cut them out.
I'm just not very good at writing sex scenes, so I cut them out.
I'm a prude and get embarrassed at the idea of sex scenes, so I cut them out.
For my latest sex scene, I tried to make the lead-in exciting and then jumped over the details. I mean, everyone knows how those things work, so I probably don't need to go into great detail. It's the emotion and the reason behind the sex scene that I want to focus on.
In my current novel, following great sex that involves chocolate mousse, the Frenchman tried to convince the stalwart Midwesterner to sell the multi-million dollar painting that her uncle took during World War II. So, is it a seduction for the sake of sex or for the sake of manipulation? See, it might actually play into the book.
At least, that's my story for now and I'm sticking to it.

Dreaming of France -- Moving Misadventures

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