Thursday, December 30, 2010

reason, season, lifetime.

a few "imaginary" friends (as I sometimes refer to the people I know only through the virtual world of the internet) of mine have posted beautiful posts in the past on the idea that people come into our lives for reasons, for seasons, and sometimes for lifetimes.

Whether or not I agree with that categorization, there's something special about the long-term connections. The "lifetime" friends.

The people who have known you through the awkward periods. Who have seen you bawl over inanities, celebrated the good moments with you.

With whom you literally have decades of history. and the stories can be referenced with a few words.

Tomorrow, I might be grateful for the friends I've made in the last 1,5,10, or 20 years. Heck, I'm always grateful for these friends.

But tonight, an extra bit of gratitude for the friend I've known for more than 2/3 of our lives. El Bandito and I had a drink with her and her new husband (married in May, second marriages for them both) tonight. May her happiness last this time. And may we always fall back into the easy rhythms of conversation and love. We've fallen half-out-of-touch so many times. Our paths diverge. And yet?

I was among the first people she called when her mother died.
She saw my engagement ring before I did.
We've watched hockey games together, in person and by phone.
Cried happy tears at weddings and used far too many long-distance phone cycles.
And there's the certain knowledge I can pick up the phone at any time, and if it actually matters, she'll be there.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

birthday wishes

Besides El Bandito bringing me coffee this morning, I woke up to a Happy Birthday email from an unexpected source.

The day brought a multitude of birthday greetings. Lots on FaceBook, a handful of emails, in person wishes as well.

It made me smile. Some were simple two-word notes; others a bit more developed (promises of plans, sweet comments). But it made me remember how lucky I am to have good friends. Long-time friends, new acquaintances.

Thanks for all the birthday love, y'all.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

the neighbors

Not my neighbors.
In fact, one of the few regrets I have about where we live is that I don't really know my neighbors. My neighborhood, yes. The older man who runs the corner convenience store. The dog who lives across the street. But my neighbors? Not really.

El Bandito and I arrived back from our adventure in the Windy City to my parents' home just in time to turn around and cross the street to a gathering of friends.

My parents have lived on the same block for over 30 years. The block has changed, but there is a core group of people who have lived here for 10-30 years, with my folks being some of the longest-term residents.

And they're friends, not just to nod hello to, but to celebrate with, to mourn with.

Tonight's gathering was a holiday celebration, and a chance for the (grown) children of the block to recongregate -- and to visit with the other long-term members of the block. Most of the "block kids" are younger than I am. I got a lot of baby-sitting jobs in my teens. Now those same kids are adults. Some of them came for the holidays. It's neat to see the adults they've turned into.

But more than that, it's lovely to see how chance has formed such a community over the years. To see my parents greeted with hugs (by block residents and returning offspring alike), to be greeted with hugs and chided to move closer. The teasing and the affection that have grown over decades of experience with each other.

And to know that my parents have nearby friends looking out for them.

Monday, December 27, 2010

mini-vacations (gratitude, post delayed)

El Bandito and I ran away.

We do this almost every year now on the annual holiday family visit -- as much as I do love visiting my family, this break we've instituted? Helps everyone.

We ran away.
We spent a lovely afternoon at the art museum in the Windy City, some time browsing in a bookstore (mostly used books). Wandering city streets and imagining ourselves living in that apartment. Kicking snow at each other.

Dinner, with a wonderful bottle of wine at half-price because Monday nights are half-price wine at the little restaurant we chose at random.

Touching base.
Drinking a little more than we should.
Strolling hand-in-hand back to the b-and-b.
Laughing, again, as El Bandito crashes to sleep before I do.

Comfortable bed to nestle in. Good coffee to wake up to.
Time to stroll by the lakeshore, see how the ice has coated the trees.

Time to reconnect and strengthen our little world-of-two. There's room for so much more when we're solidly together. These times? They don't have to be deep conversations, although they allow for them. It's about being together. Running away and running toward.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I don't...

... have a difficult relationship with my parents.

Among many of my friends, this makes me a bit of an oddball. My friends surround themselves with "chosen family" and I'm so glad they can and that they and we have those bonds. It seems to surprise people, however, that planned visits to my family aren't stressors (other than the hazards of travel itself). Oh, we can get in some spats all right, and my sister and I have a much better relationship by phone than in person, where facial expressions can push buttons. But my parents?

We play card games where we make up the rules.
My mother sometimes tells me to "shush" because a quick glance between us can speak volumes.
My father and I trade barbs with aim and yet no malice.
a lifetime of stories and inside jokes.

I started this month of gratitude with a visit from my parents, but I don't think it's cheating to say it again, that I'm so thankful to have the relationship with them that I do. They've had enough very serious health issues in the last few years that I am repeatedly grateful to have these visits, where there's still joy and ease and traditions and teasing. I know that some day, my return to this house will be for sad reasons.

but not this one. and I'll take every minute of it.

Friday, December 24, 2010

traveling for the holidays...

(a short one for a chaotic day)

smooth flights
good books
and airport margaritas
arriving and actually having luggage arrive
being greeted with hugs
wrapping the gifts that were sent ahead or ordered online and shipped
being with family on this Christmas Eve.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

coffee break

an afternoon break, grabbed from the busy day.
free-ranging conversation.
hot tasty coffee, with the mug warming your hands.
a little bit of stolen time, a resetting of the pace.

too many things snowballing to get done.
these days are packed
wonderfully. zanily. happily.

but packed.

and sometimes, twenty minutes of chatter and
a hot beverage open a little space in the day.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

having health insurance

Having health insurance doesn't seem like something two relatively healthy people should need to think about enough to be grateful for. And health insurance doesn't quite resonate with the heart-warming gratitude of so many other of these posts. And yet?

My ankle has cost a lot of money despite having good insurance.
And taken a lot of time to heal.

It could have been so very much worse.
had I torn another centimeter, it could have required surgery.

I've bitched about the slowness of healing this injury.

But I'm not complaining about my physical therapist or my sports medicine people. I am grateful to them for setting limits. For making me respect just how effed I managed to make my ankle in one very efficient missed step.

El Bandito has incurred an injury of his own. Tweaked his knee somehow. Hopefully very minor.I have suggested to him that it might be a RSI from sewing (heavy duty industrial sewing machine).
He thinks it likely.

But having decent health insurance means we don't have to wait it out. That he can have it checked before we fly across the country. That we both get some reassurance.

and that I can laugh at him for having a sewing injury, once we know it's nothing major.

It's a ridiculous thing in some ways, but I am so grateful to have decent coverage. And to be able to afford the copays and treatments.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

long beach, vancouver island

Years ago, El Bandito and I took a vacation. (Oh, we've taken some since. There was a long hiatus in the dark days of my dissertation, but we know that we need time away from our daily lives, and there's quite a world to explore.)

But on that vacation, more than a decade ago, we ended up on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
We camped at a lovely spot down miles of rough logging road. Right on a pebbly beach, with skillfully created driftwood furniture. Crappy camping food that tasted fantastic, and good wine.

From our campsite, we could watch black bears crabbing on the beach.

And from that campsite, we drove up to Long Beach, Vancouver Island. Which is exactly as it sounds, long.

We ate peanut butter sandwiches on a large driftwood log.
We watched sea lions frolicking offshore.

and later on that vacation, we went to a small gallery on Salt Spring Island.
I fell in love with a print.
It was a lot of money.
Even with the fabulous exchange rate at the time.
I bought a beautiful wood bowl as a wedding present instead.
and petted the gorgeous gallery dog as often as the owner would allow.

and later, El Bandito and I bought the print.
and had it framed.
in one house, it lived on a living room wall.
in our current flat, it hangs on the bedroom wall, and it's one of the first things I see in the morning.

I don't know if that's the exact driftwood tree we sat on, although we tell the story that it is.

It's part of the story of us. of picnics and road trips and bears.

I wake up to that print.
Depending on the lighting, it's melancholy or joyful.
Much like the beach itself, I suppose.

I love waking up to that beach, and hearing the waves in my head.

Monday, December 20, 2010

for this, and you.


the reminder to remember.

the reminder to be grateful.

the reminder that stumbling blocks happen.
but that they are sometimes irritants rather than obstacles.

and even when they're obstacles, sometimes obstacle courses are challenges not just frustrations.

the reminder to take a moment and step back.

to cherish the good things in my life and my day.
to remember that, even when my boss makes me cranky, I'm still working and that I'm cranky because I want the science done right and that's a worthwhile goal.
to remember that I am loved.
to remember that coming back from injury is slow, but that forward progress should be celebrated.

for words on the internet that connect me.
for the reminders.
for the time.
for all this, I am grateful.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

brunch. a meal to be grateful for.

challah french toast w/ orange butter.
spinach and goat cheese frittata
bloody marys
coffee (and coffee and coffee)

but also...

relaxed conversation.

and the house is clean and ready for the week ahead.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


hearing Louis Armstrong at the ballet and thinking of my wedding day.

reading words from distant friends and feeling closer to them.

rolling over in the morning to be wrapped up in El Bandito's arms before facing the day.

talking to my mother on the phone and laughing.

an unexpected touch at the right moment, that says "I'm here" and doesn't demand.

Friday, December 17, 2010

and I think to myself...

what a wonderful world.

we played Louis Armstrong at our wedding reception -- a custom mix cd of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.

To this day, I wish I'd been able to find an audio track of Louis doing "Here comes the bride" to use at our wedding. He performed it at the end of the movie High Society and I've been looking for it ever since.

That man. That voice. That trumpet. and that joy.

Tomorrow promises to be a rainy blustery day of errands and editing; I think I just chose my soundtrack again.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

love in a blanket.

My mother is the knitter in the family.
El Bandito laughs at my collection of hand-knit sweaters, most of which I don't get to wear regularly in this mild but damp and windy climate. Laughs, because I still want more.

And there are comfy slipper socks, a hat or two to warm my head. Scarves.

And then, there are the afghans.

I've had mine since sometime in college. I don't know when I got it, exactly.
Only that I've carried it from place to place.

The one in the photo is technically El Bandito's, and if I remember correctly, it was given to him while he was still officially the "sin-in-law" (my mother's affectionate term for both of her sons-in-law prior to wedding ceremonies). But it's the one wrapped around my feet at the moment, and thus the appropriate one for a post about gratitude for the afghan. Also, the one within reach of my camera phone without making me get up.

They're not exotic yarns. Some acrylic blend that can be tossed in the washer and dryer. They've stretched; my afghan is a complex polygon with somewhat abstractly curved sides rather than a precise square at this point.

At various points, they've been hijacked by cats; our "little starter" cat would sleep on an afghan whenever it was in her sight -- she'd start to purr just seeing it. In her last days, either afghan was often gently puddled on the floor for her to nestle in.

They've been tossed on the beds over the comforter on cool nights. Wrapped around feet or over laps when we're sitting with computers or books or watching movies snuggled on the couch.

And everytime I grab one, or toss it over my feet, or ball it up to throw it in the laundry, I think of my mother, her skill and her love. I'd be grateful enough for all that an afghan is, even without the sentiment. But with it? Precious indeed.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

El Bandito, aka It's About Time


I thought about lifting jote's post about her marriage almost wholesale, because she said it so well. About growing together, or on parallel paths. How lucky she was, how lucky I am, that those decisions made in our youth have nurtured our souls so well.

Where do I start this?.A power outage an eternity ago. Or maybe... six months after that, when with all the drama and passion of the young, I made him promise to some day ask me to marry him. I don't think I ever expected it would happen. But we rewrite those stories too, don't we?
Maybe the reason I'm having trouble starting is that I want to
believe this, this partnership, this marriage, transcends a beginning, or an ending. It's a story in the middle and it will always be in the middle because it's constantly evolving.

Today is El Bandito's birthday.

We were so very very young when we met.

I never would have predicted where we are now, in so many different ways.

He has always made me laugh.

But now? All it takes is the right word, the inside joke, the raised eyebrow or the ridiculous expression, and I am laughing so hard I'm breathless.

He has often made me melt unpredictably with a small gesture. A hand on my shoulder, the way he brushes my hair off my face.

He supports my crazy ideas (and I'm full of crazy ideas and crazy plans, though I tone down my adventuresome imaginings for him sometimes.) Ideas that say I want to learn trapeze, or how to blow glass -- neither of which I could have ever conceived of trying without his encouragement. Ideas that say I want to try canyoneering, or how about we go up this mountain? Can we try this alpine route? My hiking whims and outdoor needs have led us to silent alpine meadows and treacherous rocky ledges; his love of urban landscapes have brought us on city adventures. Sometimes, he reels me in.

We complement, in ways I could never have imagined.

We sometimes complete each others' sentences (other times, he grumbles at me for not finishing mine).

There's no perfection here. There are scars and frustrations and grumbles of daily life. And yet? There's nothing I would trade this for (though he might wish I was a wife who did the dishes more frequently or made dinner rather than fancy desserts).

Happy Birthday, El Bandito. I will always be grateful for the gift you are in my life.

For the laughs
For the synonym-toast and acrobats
For putting up with my tossing my book onto your pillow when you're up later than I am, because I'm too lazy to roll over and put it on the nightstand.
For never objecting when I decide a friend needs to be fed.
For fighting through your acrophobia when I decide the best hike we could possibly do requires a mile stretch of narrow, slippery ledge.
For putting up with me in the dark years of my dissertation depression.
For butternut squash pizza and a bottle of wine.
For the way you're constantly thinking about your latest idea, whether work, or project, or even video game. I tease you about your obsessive nature, but I also love you for it.
For loving me.

For love—I would
split open your head and put
a candle in
behind the eyes.

Love is dead in us
if we forget
the virtues of an amulet
and quick surprise.
-- Robert Creeley

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

an ordinary day

Yesterday, I said it was the details to be grateful for.
And it is, as well as the big things, of which there are plenty.

Today, however, I was finding it difficult to be grateful. Not for anything of import. No sad news, no family issues, no drama that needs to be resolved. Just ... not feeling particularly grateful. A little grouchy.

So I sat down to write this, and the cat jumped up on my lap and El Bandito's in the kitchen making dinner and I thought...

I *am* grateful today. Grateful for the ordinary day. For the cat trying to steal my morning yogurt. For the coffee. For the job which sometimes frustrates me, sometimes makes me feel underutilized, but lets me spend my free time playing in circus school. an expensive habit, this trapeze business. For the flexibility in the job that lets me spend a little extra time in the morning with El Bandito. For the view from my office window, as distracting as it sometimes is. For the bike rides to and from work. For the rain. Sometimes, an ordinary day is just what you need.

Monday, December 13, 2010

gratitude, sometime's it's the details

small things.

getting to bike home with El Bandito due to serendipitous timing

a bowl of hot soup on a chill night

purring cat stretched across my lap

a lunchtime workout slid into the day without complicated scheduling (rarer than it seems it ought to be.

an email from a friend offering a networking connection; grateful for both the contact and for the fact she thought of me.

unexpected christmas cards in the mail

Sunday, December 12, 2010

starry night of gratitude

Today I got to stare at this.
Not a print.
Not a representation on the internet.
But Van Gogh's actual painting.

There were a number of fabulous paintings in the exhibit.
A Seurat sketch of the circus done in primary colors that was somehow so entirely vibrant, joyful and alive; I found the fully painted finished version on the internet after the exhibit and liked the sketch so much more.

But I got to stare at Van Gogh's Starry Night on the Rhone. In person.

That's enough to be grateful for, and I am.
But El Bandito also just spoiled me rotten with an early Christmas/birthday/New Year's present.
I continue to be an extremely lucky woman.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

vegetable box

red kuri squash soup
roasted sweet potatoes, sauteed napa cabbage served with jote's tofu (which has become a staple recipe in this house since I rediscovered it)
salad greens w/ fresh dill and sweet sweet carrots

these are a few of the things we've eaten in the last week that have come from our vegetable box (ok, the tofu didn't, but I included it anyway)

Sometimes, picking up the box seems like an extra step in an already overcrowded week (although El Bandito usually does it on his way home by bike, and sometimes we'll manage to connect to ride the rest of the way together; that's enjoyable.)

but having a wide variety of seasonable, tasty, "locally*" grown organic vegetables and fresh farm eggs? (and a husband that makes me very tasty things with them?) I love that.

Friday, December 10, 2010

oh the places you'll go...

Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

You’ll look up and down streets. Look’em over with care. About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.” With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too smart to go down a not-so-good street.

And you may not find any you’ll want to go down. In that case, of course, you’ll head straight out of town. It’s opener there in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen and frequently do to people as brainy and footsy as you.

(Excerpted from Dr. Seuss, of course)

today's gratitude: the places I've gone, the places my feet have taken me. the mountains, the canyons, the beaches, the parks. the city streets.
and the places I'll go, the adventures yet to happen.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

bruised and thankful for it

No, this isn't an epic tale of how I'm grateful for surviving some horrible accident with only a few bruises.

Nor is it precisely a story about how we should be thankful for the bruises and scars that mark us, make us who we are.

Not precisely, anyway.

It's about this:

When I finished my doctorate, I promised myself I would find an entirely different challenge, a physical one rather than an intellectual one.

My life would have been so much simpler had I fallen in with triathletes back then. Certainly, a triathlon would have fit the criteria. Or even a marathon.

But I always did have to be different.

I kept walking past a circus school, thinking "if only I was a kid, I could try gymnastics classes there! I could be an acrobat!" I assumed only kids or professionals could go to circus school.

One day, I looked at their web site. There was a class entitled "Absolute Beginning Static Trapeze". I signed up.

I was humbled that first class. I didn't know how incredibly weak I was. I was sore for days afterwards. But also hooked.

It hasn't been a straightforward journey, and I'll never be much more than a mediocre aerialist. It isn't about performing for me, although that's a challenge I'm looking forward to. It's the challenge, the absorption. The coming home with bruises and rope burn and sore muscles and knowing it's from hard work and that I am making progress.

The way I lose track of time, and I don't think about work. Or whatever else might be demanding my attention.

That when I'm on the bar, I only think about where this hand goes, where that foot needs to be, how do I make this look pretty, what's the timing on that move to get around.

That I can do pullups without thinking about them.
That I've gotten so much stronger, learned to push myself harder.
That I've come back to the trapeze after a serious shoulder injury and subsequent injury, that I could commit to that process. That I could be patient enough to not push past the limits, but also care enough to keep pushing.

The friends I've made. Circus folks are a quirky group. And it's sometimes really amazing to me that I fit in (don't get me wrong, I know I'm quirky! But not quite the same manner of quirky, I would have thought).

All of these things.
And so much inexplicable more.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

post-injury running

athletic tape.
ice pack for the inevitable soreness after I've pushed a healing ankle a wee bit more than it was ready for.

slow improvements.

I'll take 'em.

I have a love-hate relationship with running.
But having been told I couldn't for >4 months?
I'll take what I can get.

Some time ago in this blog, I wrote:

I am, in my opinion, a mediocre aerialist. But that's not why I do it.

When I'm working on the trapeze, I Put Everything Aside. There's no room for other thoughts.

When I run, I Sort Things Out. Sometimes it's conscious, a thinking through as I run; sometimes it's just reaching a state where things settle in to my brain.

It's nice to be in motion again.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

elixir of waking

I am spoiled.

My morning, as often as not, starts with the arrival of a freshly brewed cup of coffee inches away from my face.

Some mornings, I wander into the kitchen before it's time to depress the plunger on the press, but other mornings, El Bandito delivers my coffee to me.

And he makes damn fine coffee.

I love my morning coffee. Not just for the welcome caffeine (although I can do without).

For the ritual, and the comfort of wrapping my hands around the hot mug.
For the love it represents when it shows up on my nightstand.
For the taste. As a child, I despised the taste of coffee while loving the smell. Sometime in my teen years, that changed.

I love the random cup of coffee with a friend in an afternoon. There's something about drinking a cup of hot coffee that slows down the rhythm of the conversation.

But today, I am grateful for that morning coffee delivery.

*image lifted from somewhere on the internet. thanks, anonymous internet image search.

Monday, December 6, 2010

full days and laughter

Mondays are ... well, Mondays around here. The scurrying to get out the door in the morning, trying to make sure that I have everything I might need for the day in my bag (gym clothes, work appropriate attire if I'm wearing bicycle-commuting clothes, shoes, lunch, snacks, warm sweater, keys, wallet, phone, id card). Breakfast. Rushing.

Which isn't to say Mondays are bad days, just that it's easy to get into the weekend flow.

Today was very full. Busy at work, a lunchtime pilates workout that boosted my mood immensely, and the afternoon flew by until it was time to run home, feed the beasts and meet El Bandito to attend an astronomy lecture at the science museum.

And then pizza, salad, discussion of dark matter and lots of laughter with good friends.

Now, it's time to do ankle exercises and the nightly cleanup before starting another jam-packed day tomorrow. But first, a moment to appreciate that my days are packed with fun, interesting things.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

gratitude, day 5

As I stretched lazily this morning, I thought "today's gratitude post will be clean sheets". A small thing, but somehow a joy nonetheless.

I promptly followed that thought by dumping half my coffee on the bedding.
I had to laugh at the timing. And another load of laundry gets added to the day.

It has been a lovely, lazy rainy Sunday despite that abrupt beginning.

Today I am grateful for ...
clean sheets (and being able to do laundry whenever I want).
the promise of soup for dinner (and the fact that El Bandito is a fabulous cook).
getting some freelance projects finished ahead of deadline.

But more than any of those, nice as they are?

the walk I had with El Bandito this afternoon, strolling in the drizzle (and then the rain), watching the waves and the birds and dogs frolicking in the surf. My shoes are wet and the damn ankle brace is a little muddy, but it was a wonderful way to spend an hour of my lazy Sunday.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Autumn leaves

I live in a city of great beauty, but it doesn't really have the same seasons I grew up with. For example, the days are shortened and the nights are colder now, and one could call it winter. El Bandito and I often say "Spring comes early and often."

However, this place doesn't really do autumn. Summer visits in October. Oh, some leaves turn brown, the grass gets greener with the rainy season starting, and the light changes. "Autumn" light is truly beautiful here, but I miss those crisp fall days of my childhood and college years.

My mother brought me a small ziploc bag of beautifully colored pressed autumn leaves, and they make me smile (albeit a little wistfully) every time I look at them.

Friday, December 3, 2010

there's a book...

waiting for me to put down my computer.
not a particularly special book - in fact, it could be any of several.

I have always been a reader, though not quite to the extent my sister was (and is). She's the type of reader who can immerse herself in a book so thoroughly that she can tune out most of the outside world.

I'm a little bit more easily distracted.
However, I'm also an absurdly fast reader, and even a good novel may only last me an hour. A friend of mine once commented "you've probably read more really good books and more lousy books than anyone I know" because I have a hard time giving up on a book once I start it.

And I know that this Christmas, just like every Christmas I can recall, there will be a box of library books under the tree to be devoured over the holidays.

So today's gratitude? Public libraries. For feeding my addiction to the written word. For not making me pay for the privilege. For making information available for people who need it. For giving free internet, for having rooms full of children's books and storytimes, for their programs and lectures and all those good things.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

sometimes he probably thinks I don't like it...

... But El Bandito is noodling around on his guitar (before turning back to work on his computer).

I like the sound of live music in my house, especially since I lack any musical talent whatsoever.

More than that, however, is the joy it brings me to remember those days oh so long ago when we'd first met and he'd play me to sleep. Sometimes over the phone, sometimes in person.

Small things, random moments. Still special.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

cold, crisp air. or, gratitude: my commute

I don't think I've made a secret of the fact I commute by bicycle. I could say that I do so for environmental reasons, and it's true that I am glad my lifestyle doesn't require me to drive to work.

I used to walk to work, and someday, when I have two fully functional ankles again, I probably will intermittently do so again.

Even walking is more efficient than taking transit, thanks to the geography and transit routing in my vicinity.

Seriously, the primary reason behind my bike commute is my complete lack of patience. I'd rather be moving than not.

However, I have an awesome commute, by bicycle or walking. I go through one of this country's great urban park, passing museums, fountains, people doing tai-chi. Dogs chasing balls. Hawks screaming in the trees above me.

This morning, I biked a little extra to fully take it in again. I could be stuck in stop-and-go traffic. I could be in a sardine-can of a train, breathing other people's perfume. I could be in a bus, jerking slowly to my destination.

Instead, I get to start my workday with fresh, crisp autumn air and beautiful sights.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

30 days of gratitude

Last December, I stumbled on the blog of a college friend. She was doing a daily gratitude post for the month of December, and it was delightful to get glimpses into her life.

She's doing it again this year.

She's invited (challenged?) her readers and friends to do the same.

I may not hit every day, and I probably won't have the beautiful photos illustrating the many little (and large) things I'm thankful for in this life.

My parents visited for Thanksgiving this year. We had a lovely visit, with walks, sight-seeing, eating too much tasty Asian food (Burmese, dim sum, Vietnamese). Too short in some ways, although it will also be wonderful to have our house back to ourselves.

So, for the first day... I am incredibly lucky to enjoy my family, to consider them friends as well as relatives. They may drive me crazy at times, but they're also wonderful company, fun to argue with, and I know they love me, as I am. That makes me thankful.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


from merriam webster's online dictionary:

1. a. something that bounds, confines or restrains
7. something that is exasperating or intolerable


I'm not good with limits. Not when they're set by things out of my control. I like to push them. I like to push my own limits, physically. Mentally.

Obviously, some physical limits I'll never exceed.

And I absolutely loathe being told I can't do something. That's a fairly sure way to make me give it a shot.

So I have been gritting my teeth and trying oh-so-hard to be patient and cautious with this healing ankle. To listen to my PT and my sport med folks, and to push myself gently within their constraints. But I am chafing at the bit.

The definitions I quote above would be good ones for my ankle injury. It has been a hard 5 months. I've missed most of the "after-work runs in the park" season. My plans for a half-marathon have been delayed and delayed, and then delayed again. I will be wearing this damn brace until Christmas.

I am just now allowed to run outside. In the daylight. With it taped. For short distances.

But. I. am. allowed. to RUN OUTSIDE. In daylight, for short intervals. On relatively flat ground. but ... it's not the treadmill. it's not the elliptical trainer. it's fresh air, outside, me, moving in space.

I signed up for a February 5k. I can't train for the half in time; my ankle won't take that kind of increased mileage. But still. I am allowed to RUN OUTSIDE.

I climbed in the gym twice in November. Easy climbs. Climbs where I could use my upper body and core strength and not rely on foot position. But things are improving.

And yesterday? I did some ankle catches. Not many. But enough to believe in the possibilities again.

And that?

The world is limitless.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


I went from being excited yesterday by making progress in PT to being annoyed at how hard everything felt and how out-of-shape I felt.

Suck it up, buttercup.

I have the feeling I'm going to be telling myself that a number of times in the next few months.

Friday, August 13, 2010


athlete. n. : a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina

Turns out? There's nothing in the definition that limits it to competitive athletes.

Just my head.

It's taken years for me to really accept that I am an athlete.
I was not athletic as a kid. Active, but not athletic. We took a lot of walks, some modest bike rides, and played outdoors. My parents were bookish folk, neither particularly athletic themselves (although I remember my mother walking to work for most of my childhood, and swimming at lunch until her mastectomy and associated lymphedema made that difficult). My sister and I were latch-key kids, and the schools we attended had minimal athletic programs at best. And there weren't all the programs there are now. I doubt there were soccer leagues.

I've often regretted that I wasn't involved in organized sports or, at least, organized exercise activity -- maybe not team sports, but something that had more structure.

When I was rehabbing from my shoulder surgery, I got a number of comments "oh, but you're an athlete", often referring to my gritting my teeth and enduring something excruciating in the physical therapy process. I remember being surprised by the description, even though I'd been doing trapeze for a couple of years by then. And one of my trapeze friends asked me then how I had become "such a jock" when I didn't have any childhood background in sports or competition.

I run, not well or fast or far, but for my sanity. I ran, similarly, in college. And I was reminded today by someone I knew in college that I very much hung out with our college's athletic culture. I had become "athletic" without realizing it. And El Bandito, who met me in college, said "I have always thought of you as athletic"

Graduate school squashed my activity. I was too tired and depressed and frustrated, although in the last year or two of dissertation hell, I started doing a lot more walking, hiking, and gym workouts. I needed the balance. And some shortish bike rides with El Bandito.

But it wasn't until I found trapeze that I really fell in love with an activity.
And then, activity it general.

Which is why I've been a cranky wench for the last 5 weeks with this ankle injury. A worse sprain than I had thought: Grade II tears of multiple ligaments, a pulled muscle and a bone bruise. 8-12 weeks with a major brace on it. No ankle catches.
No running. No running. No running. Did I mention? No running.

I've been on the trapeze. Frustratingly limited, but at least I'm getting some exercise and working on some things which needed work anyway. I've been allowed to bike to/from work for about 3 weeks, and I've been slowly adding a little extra in at least one direction. And I can walk up to about 2 miles/day. Just not downhill. PT 2x/week.

I grumbled about this to my primary care physician, and she just laughed and said "If I could get most of my patients to do your "limited" activity, I'd be thrilled." It's still not enough.

It turns out? I'm an athlete. A slow, non-competitive one, but an athlete. Who knew?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bad timing

I'm sure that everybody knows how much my body hates me
It lets me down most every time and makes me rash and hasty.

Those are lyrics from a Billy Bragg song that's been stuck in my head since the end of May. The context and the rest of the song don't fit, but the sensation that my body hates me? That does.

May was a whirlwind of wonderful events and great times -- two fabulous weddings in which I got to play integral roles, a play-off hockey game (even if my boys lost), a brief hit of summertime visiting family around one of the weddings. Catching up with friends, hiking, running, biking.

Then June rolled around. Also full of fun plans.

Three days before I was supposed to line up for Muddy Buddy, I got hit by a nasty upper-respiratory virus. Laryngitis, cough, fever -- I could hardly haul myself from one end of the apartment to the other, and I had to send the dreaded "I can't do this" email. I'd been looking forward to Muddy Buddy for almost 3 years. It was one of the markers for really moving on after the shoulder surgery of October 2007, and it also just plain sounded *fun*. I was incredibly disappointed even though I knew it was the right decision.

That virus affected my breathing for more than a month, triggering some ambiguous form of asthma. So at the beginning of July I ended up on inhaled steroids. They're helping.

Although it's hard to tell just how much they're helping since I can't do much to test my aerobic capacity right now. Just under a week ago, I missed a stair or somehow tripped going down the stairs (I'm still not sure exactly what happened) and sprained my ankle. It's not a bad sprain, although the bruising is spectacular, but it's worst with flexion.

Which means I can't run. I can hardly walk. I can't bike.

and worst of all? I can't do ankle catches. There are three of them in my trapeze act. My act which is in rough shape prior to auditons for the Circus Center showcase. The audition is July 25, so I have *no* idea at this point if I'm going to be ready. Those ankle catches are important transition points in the act, too, so I can't just skip them and I don't have the time to learn new choreography to elide them.

I'm frustrated and cranky. I *almost* wish the injury were worse, so that I had to come to terms with it and there wasn't a remote possibility.

It just seems like ... every time I plan something physical that can't be rescheduled? That I'm really looking forward to? My body sabotages it.

Which is nonsense -- I've taken a month of rock-climbing classes, done fabulous 10+ mile hikes and had terrific bike rides. I'm not over-trained. It's just a dose of bad timing.

and to quote another Billy Bragg song from my college years, also out of context, it's bad timing and me, we find a lot of things out that way.

I guess it's time that bad timing teaches me more patience.

But as I'm fond of saying, Patience is a Virtue, just not one of mine.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

art vs. science

The Big Apple had an early spring this year. El Bandito and I spent a few days on the east coast visiting his family, and as many hours as possible walking through the city seeing everything in bloom. Tulips, dogwoods, daffodils, cherry trees, daisies -- there was a plethora of flora.

And we saw our friend's paintings hanging in a wonderful space full of light and books and people reading and talking. Our visit wasn't planned around the exhibit; it was a very happy coincidence.

I even got a short run in. I had hesitated taking my running gear for an extended weekend trip which I knew was going to be jam-packed with familial visiting and obligations; El Bandito is also a little paranoid about my safety and so I expected him to be reluctant for me to run in the streets of a bigger city. However, he supported my packing them, and I had a lovely, albeit short run one evening.

The title of this post isn't actually anything profound. Upon our return to the left coast, El Bandito and I had an extremely full day. Back to work, obviously, but then I met up with a friend for a foray through the members' only night at the art museum. After wandering through a maze of both art and floral design (the theme for the night), we sprinted to the house, met up with El Bandito, and went off to hear Neal DeGrasse Tyson in conversation. The man is both smart and articulate -- and I love astronomy; not enough to have pursued it as a career, but it's a whole lot of fun to hear about from smart people. Given that we were running from one event to the other, we were joking about it being a competition between art and science.

Sometimes I feel like we're busy living life at breakneck speed. So it was delightful to get a good portion of last weekend to spend just hanging out with El Bandito, with minimal plans. Particularly since yesterday was a fabulous wedding that definitely moved at supersonic pace. Very good friends of ours got married; I was given a lovely sterling dog tag engraved for my role as "Bride's Pitbull". There was a truly touching and quirky ceremony, followed by a reception that was just so very very them. Tea party picnic in the park, complete with pinata, a neat time-line concept, cupcakes, acrobatics by guests, and smiles all around.

Life is full of trapeze and running. In theory, I'm training for Muddy Buddy in June. I have a super strong suspicion, however, that my partner is going to bail on me -- I don't think I can find a replacement partner; the only people (I can think of) who might think running, biking, and doing an obstacle course with a mud pit at the end is an ideal way of spending an early Sunday morning are already doing other races or events that weekend. Alas. We'll see what happens. Either way, I'm enjoying the running and biking as "training"

Monday, April 5, 2010

rain makes applesauce

That's the title (and tagline) of a children's book that coloured my childhood.

I took an unintentional 6 mile walk today.
I'd intended to walk a few miles with a friend. Fortunately my day was flexible and I just stayed later at work to make up the time and finish things up. It was simply too beautiful not to walk all the way out to the ocean. Our readjusted plan still would have made that a reasonable lunchtime stroll -- we were just going to grab transit back. But public transit failed us -- the train was "broken" and they promised a shuttle bus "as soon as possible". We've heard such things before, being veterans of the local transit system, and just headed back up the hill. We'd made it more than halfway back before the bus passed us.

It was a striking weather contrast to the weekend. Sunday afternoon I had a date with a friend for a run. Both of us were adamant that we were going rain or shine, and we tested that out thoroughly -- it was a downpour a lot of the time we were out. My shoes were soaked within the first quarter mile. It was a lovely and fun run, punctuated by pullups and jumping jacks and random parcourse stations. I came home an hour later drenched but grinning. A vast improvement over the tired and cranky from before the run; we had wonderful guests over for dinner the previous night but stayed up talking and drinking until well past 3am.

I interrupt this post to say I have the BEST spouse ever!. El Bandito has been making dinner and just came dancing in and out of the doorway purely for my entertainment. He makes me laugh like no one else.

But giggling for 5 minutes has completely derailed my train of thought.

We went to another astronomy lecture last night; this one was on high-energy imaging of supernovae. In the Q&A after the talk, a young kid asked "isn't everything you've said really just guesses?" Great question. Welcome to science, kid. It's a lot of guesswork. A lot of "this is the best explanation we have come up with that fits the data we currently have". Handled with aplomb by the speaker, who basically said "Yes, of course. Keep up with your math and physics, and come help us make better guesses."

There's no real point to this post, other than to say, despite some frustrations, I really like my life.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ten Things on a Tuesday

Today's post might just be brought to you by the letter T. But it might not.

Ten) No letter T here. I intended to write a post about snowshoeing in Yosemite. I didn't. Write the post, that is -- we did indeed spend an enjoyable weekend playing in the snow with friends and marveling at the views. However, I haven't located where El Bandito downloaded the photos, so I couldn't find one to add to this post. Perhaps I'll save it for a summer evening when we could all use a little ice.

sqrt(81)) Tofu. Oddly enough, this ties in to snow-shoeing. With all the snow around, I was hit by a memory of being snowed in while in college, stuck on campus when I lived off-campus. A friend of mine took pity on me and made me a tasty meal at her on-campus apartment. The food was good. The caring inherent in it was most of the memory. Despite the fact that I've eaten a lot of tofu in my life, I'd never had it done like she made it.

Serendipitously, she posted the recipe on her blog a few days after I thought of it.

And, surprising El Bandito greatly, I actually made it for lunch on Saturday. Why did that surprise El Bandito? Those of you who know me in person may be aware that I don't cook. I bake; I do make extravagant fancy desserts (not always baked). But I don't cook. It was quite tasty.

eight) I forget what eight was for.

siete) Towel. Not that I needed further proof that El Bandito is among the world's very best spouses, but this evening I came home drenched from a sudden downpour in the middle of my run, and he met me at the door with a towel freshly heated in the dryer.

12/2) Temptation, Travel, and Teammates. Five years ago, I did the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer (which really ought to be against Breast Cancer, don't you think?). Last year, a woman I know from the internet did the 3-day walk with a group of fabulous-sounding teammates. She's encouraging me to join them this year. They're in Arizona, so traveling would be necessary. And probably problematic. It's tempting, nonetheless. It was a good experience to do the Avon Walk, but there was a lot of craziness surrounding it (we moved less than a week later, for example). I'd love to do something like this as part of a larger group. While I consider the possibility, y'all should go donate to her team: Team Bad Girls. It's a good cause.

V) Reading about polar exploration makes me cold. and angry about the waste we're laying to the environment. (Hmmm. Temperature and Temper?)

2^2) Trapeze. I've made it more than half-way through my countdown without mentioning trapeze? My act is progressing. Sometimes slowly and frustratingly, sometimes well. It's the performance part that is challenging. The Circus Center announced the dates for its annual "recreational student" (that'd be me!) showcase -- the last weekend in August. I damn well hope I'm ready by then.

3) Time-wasting. I gave in to the crack (aka FaceBook). So far, I haven't found it deeply compelling. Time will tell.

zwei) There are no particular Ts in this one. Just an acknowledgment that I like the letter Z, although ten items with Z would be even tougher than T.

and finally...

the last thing. Tent! Wish me good weather for the weekend. El Bandito and I (and possibly the friends with whom we snow-shoed) are heading car-camping and day-hiking on this upcoming weekend. I am very much looking forward to it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

internal teenage squeee!

Today, I got something in the mail that made my internal teenager squeal with delight. An autographed 8x10 photograph of
Tony Hawk
. Professional Skateboarder, in case the name doesn't mean anything to you. Some people may dismiss skateboarding; it's certainly not a traditional sport, and somehow its appeal to 'tween and teen boys doesn't help its mainstream image. But I've had a long-standing thing for TH. and skateboarding, and frankly, skateboarders are intense athletes.

The Tony Hawk Foundation has helped build skateparks in low-income communities across the country. *Helped* build. One of their requirements for granting funds is that it be a community initiative. Their mission statement is worth reading.

In early January, I stumbled upon a link to -- a fundraising effort to build a skatepark in Watts. The Tony Hawk Foundation was matching donations, and I threw a few dollars their way. (I also threw a lot of money towards more pressing social causes, but that's beside the point).

Today, I came home and found an unexpected thank-you gift in the mail. So I'm grinning.


And yet, I still haven't answered's question from the comment on the last post.

Due to circumstances not worth explaining to my limited portion of the blogosphere, I ended up running my first "official" 5K (as an adult; I ran some as a kid) on about 2 hours of sleep. I still met my original goals, but not my revised (more ambitious) goal. And frankly, I could have pushed harder. So I'm a) generally pleased about the whole experience and will do it again, and b) completely irked with myself for not having pushed it just a bit harder. Next time. And I'm already looking at 10Ks for the not-too-distant future.

I gave myself the week following the 5K off from running. I donated blood, did pilates, took long walks with friends, and realized yet again that trapeze is easier when your legs aren't leaden.

Last night's 2-mile return to running might have been a little easier had I not hiked 6 fairly strenuous miles on Valentine's Day and then walked 6 miles before running the following day. But it felt good, regardless.

Now, off to do something more productive, or at least more physical, than sitting here *writing* about running.

Friday, February 5, 2010


prospect n.
(1)an extensive view
(2)a mental consideration
(3)a place that commands an extensive view
(4)the act of looking forward
(5)a mental picture of something to come
(6)something that is awaited or expected : possibility

No, this isn't a Superbowl post. I'm not a football fan by any stretch of the imagination. Hockey's my spectator sport of choice, at least when it comes to mainstream arena sports. I had a crush on Steve Yzerman of the Detroit Red Wings for the entirely of his playing career, and I don't think it will ever go away. That's not actually why I love watching the game, but it doesn't hurt. And Yzerman has been one of my heroes for about the same length of time, but that's a story for another day.

But I've been considering prospects.

Not romantic prospects; I'm extraordinarily lucky to have found El Bandito early in our lives and luckier still in that we've grown in complementary directions.

Job prospects (no immediate changes in sight). The position I took in May was certainly not my "dream job", although I'm no longer sure exactly what that is. There are many things I imagine doing, but most of them would require the circumstances of my life to be so different as to be unrecognizable, and I'm not willing to make those choices. Nonetheless, it's a job, which in this economy is a serious plus. There are many times when it's interesting and challenging, but I also feel underutilized.

Race prospects -- well, there is a little matter of a 5k on Sunday morning. I am taking 21cmom's advice and rethinking my goals. My goal was simply "run the whole thing", since the last time I ran anything official I was not yet old enough to drive. But frankly, I have been running enough over the last few years that that's a fairly achievable goal. So I've rethought my goals, considered her suggestion, and revised my time goal down. If it means I go out too fast and walk a few feet, no big deal.

Signing up for the 5k did exactly what I wanted it to; it helped me get out running more consistently. And, it convinced me that I am indeed doing Muddy Buddy this year. I've wanted to ever since I discovered it on Stronger's blog in 2007(?), but my shoulder wasn't ready in 2008 and I couldn't find a willing partner in 2009. 2010, however, is on the calendar. The San Jose race.

Other prospects? Certainly. Like anticipating how wonderful bed will be when I get there. My trapeze class tonight was hard work.

But even better than all of these, All Soul's Prospect.

As part of my 2010 goals, I'm trying to spend more time and energy envisioning and remembering the things which make me truly happy. This is one of them.

This is from our September hiking trip in the Canadian Rockies. Part of the "Alpine Circuit" above Lake O'Hara. We got snowed on. I grinned like an idiot. The view was amazing from this spot, the official All Soul's Prospect. The trail was a little difficult to locate at times. Although we stopped here, it was a short break, as it was too exposed to sit there long. The cairn at the prospect blocked some but not all of the wind,

Sunday, January 24, 2010

a drizzly sunday

2010 has been off to a good start, albeit not exactly what we'd expected. And I'm a bad blogger -- there are things I meant to recount, to recap, both for the few friends who've found there way here and for my own recollections.

I just came in from my "long run" and realized it had been more than a month since I updated.

First? The friend I mentioned in my last post did reply to my email. And left me with a huge grin on my face when I read it, even though I still need to reply in turn.

We started off the year with El Bandito joining a group of internet friends for a 57mile bike ride. After not having ridden more than 25miles in a day for years.
On a fixed gear, no less. Crazy man.

I did a lovely solo hike that same afternoon. Saw a coyote a few feet from the trailhead. Dipped in and out of fog and sun and got a little bit muddy and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It had been far too long since I'd played on the trails by myself. I discovered I tend to move faster alone, which amused me.

January is flying past -- I looked at the calendar today and realized we've had 4 dinners (and one brunch) with friends, volunteered doing groundskeeping work at the zoo, gone to an astronomy lecture, and dealt with landlords and insurance inspections...

...and I've gone hiking thrice (once with a friend where we got thoroughly wet and yet laughed most of the drive home), spent hours on the trapeze, started a weekly pilates class, met friends for walks multiple times and lunch twice, and have done almost all my training runs for the 5K (one, my shoes were still in my luggage, 150miles away from my final destination. stupid airlines. the second one I missed because I decided an actual rest day might be a good idea, having had hard physical workouts for >8 days in a row). Signing up for the 5K worked, at least in as much as it has motivated me to actually get out and run.

But the biggest thing of 2010 so far was the addition of a new feline member of the household. Our delightful yet neurotic cat N. (never name a cat after a neurotic ballet dancer -- it's too predictive!) hadn't coped well as an only cat after our beloved gray gato died in October. He'd taken to screaming at us for attention, but frequently being unwilling or unable to calm down enough to accept it. He and our elderly girl hadn't really gotten along, but apparently her presence in the house helped keep him calm. So we'd been thinking of bringing in another cat -- we had looked a few times, but weren't ready.

I'm not sure I was ready yet.

But a friend rescued a kitten off the side of the freeway. Covered in grime and dirt. Gorgeous little orange tabby polydactyl, probably about 5 months old. Fearless and intrepid. He got a clean bill of health from the vet's office after a weekend of being quarantined in our bathroom (at one point, he fell or jumped straight into my shower. I'm not sure which of us was more startled; I scooped him up quickly enough that he never really got upset), and cat integration is going remarkably well. And N. is definitely calmer with a second cat in the house. Weird.

And on a completely different note:

They do good work. Help them if you can.