Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Removing the excuses

Every day I stare at it.  I have a little piece of paper taped to the top of the frame around my computer screen at work.  It says:

only handle it once

Only handle it once.  It being email.  Read it, reply, or drop it into a "save" folder.

It has changed how I live my life.  Every day I make sure I clear out my work inbox before I leave, if not right when I get each email.  No longer are the unanswered emails staring me in the face, mocking my very existence.

You might be aware of this, Internet, but I stress out easily.  On the other hand, though, I'm a simpleton when it comes to happiness.  Little things bring me great joy.  Once I started clearing out my email inbox each day it was a tiny step to clearing off my desk before I leave.  Both of those things mean I come in and approach the day without carrying over a single remainder of worry.

The last few years I've tried to simplify so many of my decisions.  Having dealt with my fair share of anxiety, it would appear that before my thirties I didn't really have a handle on how to do things without becoming a total freaking mess.  Outwardly I was making it all happen and signing myself up for anything and everything I could, but inwardly I struggled with stress, expectations, demands on my time and guilt.

I've learned to write down EVERYTHING.  Google Calendar is my best friend.  I have reminders set up on my phone for everything.  Ev. ery. thing.  I have a list for my kids of what they need to do morning, afternoon, and evening.  I have a chart for myself of what I need to do, cook, run, and clean each week.  I have a daily task sheet that I fill out for myself every morning when I get to work so I don't forget to do any of the basic (but ridiculous) responsibilities I have, like taking roll.

All of this means the worries are out of me and written down on paper.  But I had to come up with a way to make consistent running happen, and making a list wasn't enough.

Enter the best idea I've ever had for my personal well-being.  Remove the excuses.

I know you're like duh Bob Harper, but listen.  This is my blog and I get to celebrate all the obvious epiphanies I want.  I'm sure I heard a million and a half people tell me this kind of thing in relation to food (you know, take all the junk food out of your house, dummy) but as it applies to running I had to figure it out for my little self.

I started running on Monday April 13, 2009.  I was two days away from my 9 year wedding anniversary with the guy I'd been separated from for six months.  (What?  Yeah.)  But I decided that I needed to begin (as I called it) Operation DontGetFatter even though my life was a steaming pile, and running was going to get me there.  Running has been the best thing I've ever done for my mental health.  But running wasn't then (and has not been) easy to maintain.  This summer is the best I've done with making a choice every day to run (notice that I don't say discipline), and I think it's because I have figured out what my excuses are and how to avoid them.

Here are the little convos I have with myself based on my little cadre of excuses:

Excuse #1: I hate running when it's hot.

Solution #1: Learn to get up early.

Excuse #2: I am too tired to get up early to run.

Solution #2: Go to bed early.  Take a Benadryl by 7:00 or 8:00 and you will feel plenty sleepy.  (Plus you like sleep anyway, so quit complaining about an early bedtime.)

Excuse #3: Long runs are boring.

Solution #3: Get over yourself and go run with people.  (Yes this means making friends, Introvert.  Do it!)  Get some audiobooks for when your friends can't go.  Learn where you can run and look at pretty things.  Learn to stop waiting to be happy until you get someplace.  Try to be happy wherever you are.

Excuse #4: I am too slow.

Solution #4: Announce to the world that you are slow and you embrace your slow speed.  No, you would not like to push it a little harder, your name is not Usain Bolt.  Tell people you're captain of the Walk Break Team.  Share with the world that you are working your ass off to run those slow miles and anyone who has a problem with it can shut the hell up and suck it.

Excuse #5: I don't have time to run.

Solution #5: See #1 and #2.  Plus if you get up early you're never going to have conflicts with other fun stuff since normal people don't get up at 4:00 AM.  It's amazing how many free hours you have in the early morning.

Excuse #6: My feet hurt.

Solution #6: Get the right shoes.  Spend a little money on a good pair of socks.

Excuse #7:  My legs/back/hips/knees hurt.

Solution #7: Figure out what you're doing wrong, or what you need to be doing right.  Running is strenuous, but if it hurts like a mofo something is wrong.  And you're no spring chicken anymore.  A little stretching might do you some good, Father Time.  Same goes for post-run ice, genius.

Excuse #8: Running is hard.

Solution #8: Um, yeah.  It is.  When did that ever stop you from doing something?  So was college.  So is marriage.  So is BEING A PARENT.  The best you can do is to do well right now in this moment.  Take baby steps.  Remember how to eat an elephant.  You can do hard things ANYWAY.  Remember what mom and dad said:  Just do your best.  Your best is good enough.

Excuse #9: I don't like to run on Wednesdays, Fridays or Sundays.

Solution #9: Don't, then.  Run on Monday and Tuesday so you can take Wednesday off.  Then run on Thursday.  Boom--Friday is a free day.  And if you run on Saturday you earn a rest day for Sunday.  Planning your run days around your own natural schedule and preferences makes a big difference.

Excuse #10: I am afraid to run in the dark.

Solution #10:  So don't.  Stop trying to pretend you're not afraid and just go join a gym.

I guess this has been on my mind lately because of #10.  The week school started I slipped back into excuse mode and I only ran one time.  I can't do that since I have a marathon in three weeks.  I've learned that just like it helps my kids to have fewer choices when they make a decision, I tend to do better if I've narrowed the field.  The gym has been a lifesaver.  Removing the excuse, the worry, the fear about being out in the dark means my week is much less stressful.

If I sleep early, I know I've improved my chances of getting up early too.  If I get up early, I'm not going to not run because there's something else more fun happening.  If I tell my friends I'm going to run with them, I'm way more likely to go.  If have the right gear and I walk when I need to, I'm more likely to have a pain free run, which means I'm more likely to go the next time.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm learning to trick myself into doing things.  But it's working.

Two blogs that have been incredibly helpful in my efforts toward simplifying and being more productive:  Zen Habits and Simple Mom.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book review: One True Thing

One True Thing by Anna Quindlen

So, E says all I ever read are cancer books and Holocaust books.  Lately that seems to be an accurate statement.  This one falls into the first category.

One True Thing was my first download now that I've signed up with Audible again.  Having finished every audiobook on our computer, I was in need of something new to listen to while I run.  I chose this because after Anna Karenina my ears have been craving simplicity.  I liked Living Out Loud, a book of Quindlen's nonfiction, and A Short Guide to a Happy Life, one of her commencement speeches turned books.  I enjoyed her style of writing nonfiction so I picked the novel with the best reviews on Amazon and dove in.

The book is about a thirty-something writer who leaves New York to take care of her mother who is dying of cancer.  She has to redefine her view of herself and come to terms with her assumptions about her parents and family.  The book is written as a flashback.  In the opening chapters of the novel we learn that the main character has been arrested for ending her mother's life.

As you can imagine, the entire thing is heavy.  Probably heavier than I anticipated, though I knew what it was going to be about.  I found myself making comparisons to my favorite novel, Barbara Kingolver's Animal Dreams.  Though that novel deals with a dying parent, the tenor of the story is entirely different.  Where Animal Dreams is beautiful and captivating while dealing with something incredibly sad, this book was just sad.  I felt it dragging me down with it as I read.  This was a hard one for 4:30 AM on the treadmill.

Now I have to say that for what it discusses it is not a bad book.  It's probably spot-on as far as accuracy.  I just can't say I enjoyed reading it--even though I'm not sure I was supposed to.  It was like looking at a photograph of someone with an illness.  Realistic.  Disturbing.  Memorable.  But not beautiful.  I'm not sure I can accurately convey what I feel about it.  I tend to like books with more to unravel when it comes to prose.  This was straightforward, clear, but I didn't find much I could savor.

Some books need to be written.  I could tell that this was one of those books.  It seems like writing it must have been cathartic for Quindlen, who lost her own mother when she was young.  I'm not sure I can recommend it to anyone for pleasure reading, though.

My recommendation:  A decent story.  If you go there, just make sure you know what you're getting into.

Monday, August 29, 2011

VMAs, a photo essay.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Head. Ache.

Heat equals dehydration.  Dehydration equals headache.  Running the last three miles of twenty two point five with no water equals GIANT HEADACHE THAT WILL NOT GO AWAY.

No, you didn't die.  Way to go, champs.

I managed to get this mother under control last night for a while with massive amounts of ibuprofen, but I woke up to it again this morning and it's back, standing tall in the face of painkillers and coffee.  Stupid, beastly headache.  Gonna have to just drink a ton of water today and lay low.

Truth be told, I didn't need much of an excuse to be lazy today and do the ol' hermit crab routine.  It has been a busy, trying week and we've been away from home more than we've been in it.  I want to rest, prep for the week, and breathe a bit before I start all over again.

Plus I've got two cats on my foot.  If that isn't a reason to stay put, I don't know what is.

Duh.  You know who is in charge here.
The best thing about Mondays is that you get to start all over again.  Looking forward to it, right after I put in some Q.T. on my couch.  Wearing pajamas like it's my job, today.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A strange long run

Well that was a weird run.

This morning was my longest training run before I run the NorCal Marathon in San Jose September 18.  Today I was aiming for 22-23 miles.  Kel and I decided on two laps around Lake Natoma in Folsom.  It's just over 11 around, and by the time you add in bathroom breaks, about 11.25 each time.  22.5 total.

Though we run in this area often, I've only gone around the lake one time.  The first lap was fine.

The second lap was a disaster.  I mean, it happened, which is still a plus.  But I felt like my body was rebelling--my eyes wouldn't stop watering (some was just watering, some was--admittedly--a little crying), my nose was running like a faucet, I was hacking up phlegm, my right glute was tight, and I had cramps.  Icky.

But whatever.  Like I said, we kept going.  I think this week of school was harder on me than I anticipated.  I should know that three days of coming home feeling exhausted from various discipline issues would take a toll on my running.  And while I'm proud that I made it to the gym before work three times to run, I'm also sure that was an adjustment to my routine.  I think all of that--oh, and the HEAT--was a factor in my basically wanting to throw up for the last five miles.  I was just done.

I was lamenting our choice to run the same path twice, but Kel reminded me of something.  We were meant to be on the second half of the path just when we happened to be there.  We came around a corner and saw a woman who had fallen off her bike right in the path.  It must have just happened.  Her husband was crouched down to help her, and another biker was on the phone with 911 asking them to send an ambulance.  The woman wasn't wearing a helmet.  She came down a hill on her bike and she must have twisted the front wheel and gone over.  Her chin, arms, and head were all bleeding.  She couldn't move.

Kel and I helped keep bike traffic away from her so nobody came flying around the corner without seeing the accident.  We helped the husband lock up bikes and then move them once the ambulance came and they got her on a back board.  It was scary, but I was glad we were there to help.  I was also glad that people were so good about stopping to see if everything was under control.  It makes me feel like if I ever had an accident out on the trail, someone would stop for me.

The moral of this story?  PLEASE WEAR A BIKE HELMET.  Even if you're not a hard-core speed rider.  I'm not.  She wasn't.  She was just out for a ride with her husband on her beach cruiser and she got hurt--bad.

Today was hard.  It seemed like it took us forever.  I'm glad I could cross it off the list, but I'm looking forward to shorter runs for the next three weeks.  It's downhill from here.  "Only" 14 next week!

Thursday, August 25, 2011


click to enlarge
The hardest thing about trying something new is giving myself permission to be horrible at it while I learn.

I need to frame this quote and keep it on my desk while I pursue my MFA.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Eh, Chief?


Oh man, these last two days.

The gym at 4:30 AM is a beautiful, safe, happy thing; if you can get into bed no later than fifteen past eight that same night it feels like a check in the awesome column.

But if you're, say, up late because you drove off after work to look at a car in a faraway land and you have to drive said car home for two hours without falling asleep on the road, you might begin to curse the hour at which you rose.  A bit.

And then if they next day you realize that you haven't figured out the perfect seating chart for your forty freshmen yet (is there such a thing?), you might begin to feel a slight sense of frustration at the your inability to get this monkeybusiness under control.  You might lose your voice before you lose your shit, but it's neck-and-neck for a while.  You might feel like you just want to lay down on the cat-pee scented classroom carpet and die.

But you won't.

You'll keep going until you can pack up for the day.  But then if you're walking, jubilant, to the parking lot when you remember that your day's not really over, you might want to kick your feet against the portables and have a tantrum.

You'll hold it together because that's what big girls do.

You'll MacGyver your patience back together for two more hours because you get to be with nice kids at practice.  And that's what you want, right?


But you might have to skip cooking or salad in favor of a cheeseburger.  Your third of the day.  You might ask people not to judge you.

You might need to come home and watch Deadwood so Al Swearengen can give voice to your sentiments.

You might pass out before he shows up onscreen.

The end.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Gym rat

Well, hardly.  But I got my gym on for the first time in a long time today.

I've been having a crisis of scheduling since school started.  Last week I made it through all my work tasks just fine, but the only day I ran was Monday.  That's right, I ran 5 miles last week.  Five miles for the whole week.  The week before I ran 33.

Since I'm running this marathon next month come hell or high water, I can't do that again.

Here's the problem: ANXIETY.  I know in my little nerd heart that I'll feel better if I get the run out of the way first thing in the morning.  That much is clear.  Waking up early isn't a problem since I go to bed about the same time as the folks at the retirement home around the corner.  But every day I "plan" to run goes like this:

1) Wake up to alarm
2) Look outside at dark sky
3) Panic
4) Go back to sleep and avoid my fear of running in the dark

What happens then, my friends, is that I say "oh I'll just run tonight."  I always want to, but then there are issues of food timing (like I can't eat a steak and then sprint around the neighborhood) and lately, heat.  Once it cools off or I'm done with whatever we're going to do for the night, it's dark outside again and I have to decide if it's worth being murdered to get that training run done.

It isn't.  I'm such a 'fraidy cat.

I used to have a treadmill (well, still have, only now it's a broken treadmill).  I decided I didn't want it in my room collecting laundry anymore though.  And when E's sleeping that makes it hard to want to run.  Yes, I can run at home when the kids are here, but it's not a real sturdy one and it moves a lot under my feet.  I'm also sure it isn't calibrated right, which means I'll be running a 12:00 mile and feel like I'm sprinting up steps, Rocky-style.


So I signed up for the gym for a while.  I haven't been a gym member since E and I were first married, and back then I didn't know anything about running or any other kind of fitness except wandering around the gym looking lost.  So I'm giving this a go.  It's a safe place to run at 4:30 in the morning.

Today I gave it a shot and it was wonderful.  So safe.  So bright.  Such nice treadmills.  I basically just want to drop in, run, and drive home--it worked out great for that.   I just listened to my lil' audiobook and I zenned (verb?) out for an hour.  I was going to do 7 but I got there a little late.  Tomorrow, hopefully.

I'm glad--I'm not a gym fan per se, but it's nice knowing I have somewhere to run that's safe and dry for  at least the next month until my race.  I have a feeling I'll keep the membership through the winter so I'm not out in the elements all the time.

Now if they just had another news channel besides Fox.  And I wasn't even in front of Fox, which would have been better.  Why, oh why did I choose the treadmill in front of the HOUR-LONG infomercial for reruns of the Carol Burnett show?

Next time I'll do better.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Seven Links

I'm way behind.  I was tagged by Heidi last week and I haven't had the energy to be thoughtful.  In case you haven't seen the "Seven Links" thing that's making an appearance around blog world, it's a set of seven categories and you're supposed to choose a post from your blog that fits each one.

Some of these were hard for me since I don't rely on a stat counter.  I decided more than a year ago that since I would write in this space only if it was for me, I need to ignore that data.  I used to get all kinds of hung up on how many page views or comments I had; I discovered that my blog is a low-comment kind of blog, but that doesn't necessarily mean that people aren't reading, and none of that matters so much anyway.  I'm going to write because I'm going to write.  So these are based on my sense of how popular something is, not any kind of scientific research.

I was also a little unsure of how I'd feel posting my "best" somethings... but I enjoyed reading other bloggers' so much that I decided to quit being such a worry wart and just get over myself.

Most beautiful post

I have a hard time calling my own posts beautiful, but I will share what I think are the two best in terms of writing.  Is it breaking the girl code to write about a massage? I wrote in my head while getting a massage in Hawaii two years ago.  It just turned out exactly how I dreamed it up.

May Sestina I am proud of because it too turned out just how I wanted it.  Also, if you know anything about the sestina, it is a really difficult type of poem to write.  The last word of every line is repeated in a different order in the next stanza.  I was proud to make that work and have the poem reflect exactly how I felt about my vow renewal to E.  This poem captures exactly how we felt, knowing we were coming back together rather than divorcing as we'd planned.

Most popular post

By far my most popular post is Our Retrouvaille Weekend, and it makes me so happy.  I wrote it for me, but I also wrote and titled it so it would show up in a Google search for Retrouvaille.  When E asked me to go to Retrouvaille and save our broken marriage I went looking for personal accounts in blogs so I could decide if it was a good idea.  I wanted my post to be there for people to find who need help.  I get emails about it from random people to this day.

I believe wholeheartedly that Retrouvaille gave us the skills we need to stay married.  And I'm not saying "stay married" like some sitcom joke, either.  We were living in separate houses with separate bank accounts and we were going to divorce.  This program helped us learn the skills we have to use to be together.  We love each other, but marriage needs careful work.

The last thing I'll say about it is that I am glad this post is my most popular since it represents the spirit with which I started the blog.  Honesty.  When I started the blog I was a single mom and my life was miserable.  I had just found blogs and I was heartbroken by how perfect the picture looked from the outside, save for one which showed just how hard it is to live through a divorce.  I adopted a policy of honesty for this space that I think has served me well and been a good approach to my writing.  In the end I was surprised by how many other people were living the same difficult things that I was.

Most controversial post

I don't think that I write anything too controversial, unless you count the whole idea of writing about every detail of my life as controversial.  And since I don't get consistent comments, I'll go more by topic.  I think that the ideas in Should you go into teaching? are more controversial than most things I write.  I think people want to imagine that teaching is always easy and fun and I think we're living in a time when that's not always the reality.  I do think, though, that overall my blog represents the totality of how I feel about teaching, but this particular post explored some of the preconceived notions people hold.

Most helpful post

I'm choosing running/health posts for this one.  When I started to run two years ago, I didn't know Jack about it.  So as I discover things I write about them.  Par example: What if I hate running?,  Why PE screwed me up, Myths about running, and just for good measure: Green Monster, perfected.

A post whose success surprised you

I saved this one for last because I have no idea.  I don't know too much about which of my posts (beyond the Retrouvaille post) is most successful.  I'm going to cop out and say I am most surprised that people will read what I write at all.  Every time someone says "hey, I read on your blog..." or "I've been reading your blog and..." I think to myself that it's kind of surreal and amazing.  Or the first time I get a comment from someone who is like "I just found this blog and I'm adding it to my Reader..." I don't know.  That's gold right there, folks.  So I am most surprised that my blog has readers.  The end.

A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved

I don't know the answer to this one either, since most of my posts are not commented on (which is fine!) but E and I have a running joke that I can spend three hours crying and opening a vein to carefully write a post that will end up with no comments, but I will post a few cat pictures with a caption and I get ten.  So in that spirit, one of the most difficult (and comment-free) things I ever wrote was Sonnet for Adele. It's the only sonnet I've ever written, if I'm not mistaken.  I wrote it on the very night that she stopped reading aloud and started reading in her own head.  But I understand why it didn't get a ton of attention.  Sonnets aren't exactly Snooki, you know, when it comes to entertainment value.  :)

The post you’re most proud of

My answer to this would be different depending on the day, so I chose the two things I've created that I'm most proud of: Addie and Henry.  In that light, the posts about their birth stories are the two I want to share here, Sunny Side Up and Hank: The Story.  These are not my best writing, but they're my best life works.  My two little humans.

I also like these posts because they're my first attempts to search my own memory for inspiration and my first efforts toward using this space to record the details of our family history.

So there you go, Internet.  If you're not tired of reading through old posts yet, you can check out my Key Posts tab at the top of the page.  There you'll find even more of my favorites.  I'm supposed to tag people, but you know how that gives me anxiety.  So if you'd like to do your Seven, please do, and please let me know you did.  But you don't have to.  It's your party, man.

Tomato Basil Shrimp

Another wonderful recipe!  I made this shrimp a few nights ago.  This time the recipe comes from my mom.  It's very good, very easy, and a great way to use up some of the tomatoes stacked up on my counter.  (My garden runneth over!)

This recipe could be made in any quantity, so you could adjust it for one or two or make a lot more for a big dinner.  Delicious!


Tomato Basil Shrimp


olive oil
crumbled feta cheese


1.  Drizzle enough olive oil in the bottom of a baking dish to lightly coat it.  Quarter tomatoes and place in pan.  Sprinkle with minced garlic.

2.  Roast the tomatoes for approximately 15 minutes under the broiler.

3.  Sprinkle feta cheese and basil chiffonades on top of tomatoes and garlic.  Top with raw, peeled shrimp.  Drizzle a bit more olive oil over the top.

4.  Cook for an additional 10 minutes under the broiler.  Serve over pasta.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

First week, finished.

I wanted to write this week but I didn't feel like I could hear the creative muse. Fatigue deafens my ears to it so predictably. When I used to have to choreograph dances for school shows there were times when I stood in front of the mirror, staring through my own image, the vocabulary of steps entirely absent from my mind.  I felt the same each time I opened a blank post this week.  No words.  I also didn't want to write entry after entry about how exhausted I was... but now we're at the end of week one of the school year and I don't want to let it pass without writing about it in some way.

As summers go, this one felt long. Being off early in the summer is not my preference, I've learned, but time off is time off and it allows me to face the anxiety and stress inevitable in the rebooting of my school year routine. I know I've talked so many times about how teaching creates a cycle of emotions. Having a blog for two and a half years has helped me to see patterns in how I feel about myself, my children and my students at different times of the year. Knowing that doesn't make the emotions any less potent, but it takes a bit of the pressure off to know that phases shift in a matter of months every year and I always end up feeling better if it's too much.

The monkeys had a good week of school and appear to be, as I said early in the week, taking less time to adjust than I am.  We're blessed again with wonderful teachers and I am pleased to say how consistently apparent the high expectations have been in all of Henry and Addie's classes.  I like that their school sets the bar high in academics and in behavior.  I definitely feel like they're in the best possible environment and that their teachers are keeping them challenged but also helping them to love school.  Some highlights from the week:  Ad's first dodgeball game, Henry's amazing math test scores, Ad's managing to run a mile on the track (thank you, Girls on the Run!), and Henry's new joke (I'll have to videotape it and post it soon).

My school was a little schizophrenic.  Every day was a different schedule, only one of them being a full, "regular" day.  A few of the others were trussed up like Thanksgiving turkeys, bits of first-week stuffing shoved into available cavities.  Days without this stuffing were served with a heavy spoon of activity (meetings, lunches, classroom work time) at the beginning or end of the day.  I can't complain that any of it was too bad by itself, but the constant shift from one schedule to another makes me tired.  I'm trying so hard to make an impression in class all week that the Mrs. P Show is in nonstop performance mode.  Also I'm not good with minimum days--they seem like they will be less work, when in reality they are equal to the work with the kids and include greater responsibility elsewhere for the remainder of the day.  By Friday morning I was sore and really having to push myself to keep going.

But what about the kids?  Oh, the kids were great.  So far not too many of them have asserted themselves.  I maintain that if I know your name already for something you shouldn't be doing or for your attitude, we're going to be having a long year together.  Fortunately there were only a small number of those.  The rest were a nice mix of smiling, bright seniors and timid but friendly freshmen.  I love that I get to be a part of the beginning and end of students' high school careers.  It is without a doubt my favorite combination of grades to teach and I am glad to be three years into this particular schedule so there's a fair amount of predictability to it.

I'm looking forward to a nebulous date two or three weeks in the future when I know my students and I know how to get through the regular routine without too much trouble.  Right now I'm still losing chunks of time in the morning and it feels like I have ten hours of work to do in a 7.5 hour day.  That will all settle and the chaff and grain will separate.  What matters will remain and the rest, the constant worry and busyness, will drop off.  That's good, because right about the time that all happens I'm going to run my first marathon and start a Masters program.  Eek.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I lost it


I don't know what happened to it. To this day I wish I could at least remember who it was that borrowed it, or where I set it down, or why I didn't keep a more watchful eye over it.

It doesn't make sense that it should still upset me to have lost it. Its value is not high; today it would be outdated.  I'd love to have it, though, and I think of it from time to time.

I wish I knew what happened to the custom CD that E made for me in college.

Before such a thing as an iPod, before easily downloadable media, music was a smaller world. At least it felt that way to me. You had to know someone who "had" a song in order to even have a chance to have it yourself. Or you had to be rich, which I was not.  Since I couldn't just hop online and discover something new, my tastes were more closely influenced by those around me.

Growing up I liked what I knew, which was pretty much what my dad listened to: The Beach Boys, the soundtrack from The Big Chill, Madonna's Immaculate Collection, Glenn Miller's In the Mood (that was for cleaning the house on Saturdays).  I did not make brave choices on my own.  My first Audio CD was the soundtrack to Disney's Aladdin.

Dance offered exposure to a greater variety of music--Lawrence Welk, "Classical Gas", "Weird Science", showtunes to musicals I'd never heard of, Christian artists like Twila Paris, classical pieces like Vivaldi's Four Seasons. I was naive to the cool music of my age, for the most part. Whenever my classmates started to sing along with a tune at a school dance I'd just try to smile and wait it out, hoping nobody would notice that I didn't know a single Beastie Boys lyric. Good thing I could dance.  And God Bless Garth Brooks for being ubiquitous enough that I could at least pretend to be a part of the zeitgeist.

Sixteen year old E liked Metallica. He played me rock and Rammstein. Through his grin he would sing along to Weird Al tapes in his car. We'd listen to Monty Python sketches together over and over again; the fish license sketch never got old.

The year he spent at Cal Poly, I spent on the banks of Putah creek at UC Davis: crying, writing letters, and feeling sorry for myself that I couldn't afford to call him whenever I wanted. Of course I racked up about $1500 in long distance charges anyway.

That year E borrowed CDs from dorm-mates and burned me my first custom CD, the "mixtape" of the late 1990's.  It was gold.

I wish I remembered more than two tracks--it boasted a full playlist of songs that he said reminded him of me.

I remember "Brown Eyed Girl" and Tonic's "If You Could Only See."  Nothing more.

The cover was our picture from Winter Homecoming, taken the same night as the photo above. The same night I danced with him to a Celine Dion song.  The same night we had our first kiss.

I only had it for a few months, and then suddenly it was missing.  I sure wish I'd find it at the bottom of a box one day, but I know that's not realistic.  It still bugs me that I have no idea where it went.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


You need to make this soon.  K gave me the recipe this week and it's awesome.  It's another "almost-gnaw-your-arm-off-because-it-smells-too-good-when-it's-cooking" recipe.

And honestly, it was SO good.  It was very easy.

I might have scraped the pan.

I might have had a second plate of rice with just sauce.

I might have hidden the one extra piece of chicken away from E so I could eat it for leftovers today.

I might have a new favorite recipe:

You're welcome.

Hey Twinkle,


Tuesday, August 16, 2011


It's 10:18 and my eyelids are half-shut already.  I feel like I don't know how to navigate my own schedule yet.  Everything is getting done, but everything feels like it takes me all day.  There are no pauses.  I am a shark.  Must keep moving.  I'm glad to know that will go away soon, but it's Crazytown, population: me right now.  I have to get up and run tomorrow, only I would love nothing more than an extra hour of sleep.  Yeesh.

School is going well.  I'm happy with my young charges; today I actually got to talk with them instead of at them.  Yesterday was a reverse minimum day, ironically tiring.  Today was a much more normal schedule, so it felt better.  Familiar, if not yet routine.  I'll be happy when we get past the part where the freshmen think they need to make fun of me under their breath for everything I do because like oh my god, she's so dumb.  Once they learn I embrace my own awkwardness it's just easier because we can laugh at me together.  Seniors were great today--although the secret is out about me, numbers and crazy.  Had to do that whole thing for them and answer a bunch of questions.  Funny.  :)

The monkeys are doing wonderfully.  It seems like they never left school.  I guess that's the difference between a six week break and a regular summer break.   They're fine.  Everyone is back in the routine at home, although we did have some procrastination issues with Henry tonight.  Homeboy had to be told six or so times to get in the shower, and then he was in such a hurry to get his patoot down the hall that he ran smack into the door frame.  Kids.  Yeesh.

That's all, Internet.  My feet are throbbing and my back is melting into the memory foam.  It's time to close the 'puter.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Back to school pics

roo schoolkid collage2roo haircollage2walking

Breathe and let be.

"Breathe and let be. Die to having to have anything be different in this moment; in your mind and in your heart, give yourself permission to allow this moment to be exactly as it is, and allow yourself to be exactly as you are. Then, when you're ready, move in the direction your heart tells you to go, mindfully and with resolution."
Jon Kabat-Zinn

photo via Pinterest

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A note to School.

Hey, School.

Can we hang out again?  It's been long enough so I've almost forgotten what a jerk you were in May.  I'm sorry, I shouldn't bring that up because it's bad for our relationship.  Good thing we didn't see each other for a while, because we might have said some things we'd regret.  A break was good for both of us.  Hey, I bought new shoes and new pens and new whiteboard erasers for you.  That should be kind of cool, right?  You like new things and you never get them as often as you deserve.  Try not to use up all of my supplies in the first week, okay?  We have to be together for a long time and I'm out of money already.

I'm curious about how your first day will go tomorrow and what kind of tone the kids will set for the year.  I'm dreading your five hours of silent stares as I stand up front and try to remember how to speak English and write words while people are watching.  You always get me on the first day, School, you trickster.  If you're going to include some heinous, embarrassing incident like a public failure of spelling or my skirt being tucked into my tights, please let it be in front of some nice kids, huh?

Go ahead and throw in some of those "real life" moments that aren't about standards.  You know how those light me up inside.  And maybe give me, like, one kid who likes to read?  But no parent phone calls--yet.  I'm just not ready.

I know I'm also not ready yet for your tyrannical control over my schedule, and the void I'll be feeling where my couch has been these past three months: under my butt.  I wish it could be like the old days, School, when you still sold some damn chocolate.  You used to be so cool before those nutrition laws.  But School, the one thing I wish more than anything in the world was that you'd let me use the bathroom whenever I needed to, like a grownup.  But it's okay. I understand why it doesn't make sense to you.

Don't worry--I'll bring enough coffee for the both of us.  Honestly that might make the bathroom situation more pressing, but we'll both be glad I'm caffeinated.

School, be kind this year.  I don't think I can take it if a kid walks in and calls me a name on the first day, or makes a joke out of me.  Remember the awesome times when I was able to turn it around on those mean kids, School?  Or the time when I helped that kid prepare for the AP test?  Let's do that again.  Let's pay attention to kids.  Let's find our groove by second period, but not tire out halfway through sixth.  School, I'm really going to need you to distract me at about 1:30 when my body wants to take a nap.  Be a pal and keep me awake.  Help me to put on a damn good Mrs. P Show.

Be full of friends and kind students.  Be free of injuries or copy-room disasters.  Show me that ol' spark again that reminds me why I have such a great job.  Give me some good stories.  And by God, let there be charts.  Here we go, for better or worse.

Love ya.  Mean it.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

S'more books

So much reading this summer. This is how I imagined adulthood when I was about thirteen.  I feel really good about wrapping up the last two just in time to start school, too.  All day today I've been nesting--as I scrubbed the grout in my kitchen I realized I was having the same panicked, frenzied feeling I felt before both babies arrived:  if I can just get everything ready in time, it will all be perfect.

I'll wait for you to stop laughing.  That's a real thing, right?  Get everything clean and finished before school and then the year has to be awesome?  Oh it isn't?  Sigh.

So here are my last two summer book reviews:

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

Suite Francaise has been in my Kindle Wish List for some time.  I wasn't sure how heavy it was going to be, so I was putting it off.  I knew I wanted to read it though.  Last month at a barbecue my teaching partner said she had just finished it, however, and she loaned me her copy.  I figured that meant the time was right.

It's hard to talk about the book without talking about the author's life;  I'm confident that her life story would make an equally (if not more) compelling book in and of itself.  Nemirovsky was Russian-born and Jewish; she had been living in France since the 1920's and had published several novels before World War II.  She intended Suite to be a five-part fictional series detailing life in Nazi-occupied France.  She and her husband were both arrested and sent to their death at Auschwitz before she could start the third part.  Suite Francaise is composed of those surviving first two pieces.  Nemirovsky's young daughters were moved around the country for their safety during the occupation--they survived, as did the manuscript of the novel.  It was not until decades later that one of her daughters began to transcribe her mother's notebooks and discovered her last work.  The book was published in 2004.

As I said, it's hard for me to think of this book separately from its author.  I'm so intrigued by Nemirovsky's will to write--that will that made her scratch this novel out in microscopic print to save paper--that will that kept her writing even as her life began to be threatened.  I also can't separate the clarity with which she writes of her own time period from what I imagine to be her own experience.  It gave a different feeling to the novel.

This book is good.  It's written so well.  A million times as I read it I had to remind myself that this was a lightly (posthumously) edited version of a first draft.  That blows my mind.  It doesn't read as a complete work, but knowing that it was going to be incomplete before I got into it meant I got something different out of it.  It felt like bearing witness to the author's life (and her work), but also to the lives of the type of people she wrote about in her novel.  One thing that I struggled with as I read was my lack of knowledge about this specific area of WWII.  I know the basics, but I will admit to not having considered the lives of the French as the Germans began to invade and then assume their space.  I was interested in the exploration of what it means to fear but then also to navigate complex human relationships with someone who will be in your town or home for the long term.  I liked that it made me think beyond my ordinary assumptions about the war and how people reacted to it.  I think in many ways our collective vision of WWII is something like Saving Private Ryan and while that's part of it, the war can't be reduced to any one thing.

The first part of the book, I liked less than the second.  If the first half was prelude to the originally imagined longer work, it would have had a different effect.  As it was I didn't feel like it had cohesiveness to it.  This is not to say it was bad, but it was more a study of character in short, pithy bursts.  It felt a little distant.  To borrow the author's musical metaphors, it was like the overture of a longer piece of music.  The second part had a more singular theme to it, so it was a more enjoyable read, but it too was still a very specific look at how and why people act the way they do.

My recommendation:  If you're the kind of person who values the act of writing or the kind of person who understands reading to be a way to witness someone else's life, then you should read it.  I don't think this book is for everyone, but I am definitely glad I read it.

The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant

Speaking of history about which I am completely ignorant... let's talk about 15th century Florence.

So, yeah.  The Birth of Venus has been patiently waiting on my iTunes for years.  I downloaded the audiobook a long time ago, I think after reading The Other Boleyn Girl or The Girl With The Pearl Earring, thinking it would be along the same lines.  It was, kinda.  It is not nearly as good of a book as either of the two I just mentioned.  It was a work of historical fiction woven through some choice moments in 15th C Flo, like the rule of Cosimo di Medici, the rise and tyranny of Savonarola, the Bonfire of the Vanities, and plague.  Good ol' plague.  All of that was interesting.  (Sorry for all the Wiki links, I am an unashamed researcher at the University of GoogleIt.  Better to know than not, right?)

The book centers around a precocious 14 year old girl who wants to paint, never marry, and speak her mind.  Imagine for a moment how that works out for her in the 15th Century in Florence.  Not so good.  So instead of skipping off into the sunset to paint frescoes and live the single life, she gets hitched to a much older man without realizing that he's really her brother's lover and the whole thing is a cover to keep all three from being arrested or killed.  Gasp.  None of that was so bad, even.

This book wasn't as awesome as it could have been, though.  I was listening to it while I was running and in some ways it was great for that.  Not very complex, not too hard to follow... but after a while I realized that it lacked any complexity.  It had a lot of description and some interesting dialog, but it was disappointing.  Some of it didn't make a lick of sense at all and I wasn't clear exactly why a few things happened.  The title is only referenced in a tiny little tangent, and that bugs me.  Insignificant.  Boo.  Things I didn't like so much:  1) The characters used all kinds of modern slang.  Fail.  2) Lots of sexytime (not necessarily an issue, by itself) that was described in way way way way way too much detail for me.  Multiple times I was past someone and be embarrassed about what was in my ears.  After a while I began to wonder if I'd accidentally downloaded some bodice-ripper of a Harlequin novel.  I still don't know, but this wasn't exactly haute literature.

My recommendation:  Pass.

Friday, August 12, 2011

"I get tired just driving 20 miles."

Me too, guys.  Me too.

But today I ran 20 miles, all by my lonesome.  Only it wasn't so lonesome--I had a new audiobook and it was quality alone time.  QT with me.  I have no idea how you people feel about reading posts about my long runs but I use this blog as a record for myself too, so I'm going to go ahead and journal it out.

From space this looks so beastly.  Actually, who am I kidding?  It was beastly.

I set my alarm for 4:00 this morning.  My stomach in particular needs a while to get going before it hits the road.  You know that quote about a woman who wakes up in the morning and the devil's all oh, crap?  Well I'm not her.  It takes me a while to build up to vanquishing mode.  I think for the first 20 minutes I'm up, the devil's like meh and then he goes back to watching C-SPAN.  I might be able to do this early morning thing, but it's never gonna be cute.  There will be more whining and ridiculous excuses than a Lindsay Lohan parole hearing.  But it will happen because in my book waking up sucks no matter when you have to do it.  I might as well just do it.

Anyway, I dragged my sorry butt out of bed at about 4:15 and I didn't get out the door until 4:45.  I didn't make oatmeal (for shame) so I made myself take a Gu before I left.  When I say made myself I am not pulling your leg.  There was gagging.  I have somehow managed to go from No Prob Bob to zero tolerance when it comes to Gu.  Oh well.  I can't quit you, Gu.  Gu ain't going anywhere, so I make myself take it so I don't--you know--die on the road before any of my family members are conscious.

I had to be done running by 9:00 so my mom could make an appointment.  Today was the result of herculean planning and life/routine rearrangement by E, my mom and Lis.  I have no illusions about this running thing being all about me.  Everybody is making this happen for me and I am totally grateful.

I knew I was going to run my first hour or so in the dark.  For me that's 5 miles.  My original plan was to take off down the boulevard and run over the freeway, but I chickened the frick out.  I did those first five miles in my least favorite way to run--teeny tiny little circles right around my neighborhood, my heart racing because I was sure Rapey McRaperson was also up at 5:00 AM and was lurking in the bushes to get me.  Since I'm five years old and I am afraid of the dark, I ran all the courts.  Boo, boo, boring courts.  I hate doing that because it feels like I'm going nowhere.  But it got done and I didn't get murdered or attacked by any wildebeests, so it's all good.  After the run like you're afraid to go too far away from your home portion was over, I stopped at the house.  Bathroom break, more Gu (more gag).  I ditched my super swanky reflective vest and the head lamp I borrowed from Henry.

The next 10 I ran along the same long route as last week.  Basically an out-and-back to the edge of town (5 each way) with little to look at.  By then I was pretty focused on my book, though, so I zoned quite a bit.  Just like last week, I stopped at McDonalds to fill my water and use the bathroom.  One of my biggest worries with this marathon is all the time I'm going to lose going pee.  I can't sit on my couch for 4 hours without having to go--imagine how thrilled I am about hitting up porta-potties along the course.  Oh well.  I guess this is where you remind me that I don't care about my time, only that I finish.  And we all know if I don't stop to use the facilities I'm going to punch someone in the face and/or have a panic attack, i.e. not finish.  (Related:  No ditching into the bushes.  Ever.  I ain't that kinda girl.)

My plan B was to run back to home after that 10 and head out again for the last five.  But as I approached the turnoff for my normal route, I knew that if I made myself go all the way home there was little to no chance I'd be able to head out for a third leg of this run.  Instead I took my usual course where it met up with the road and just decided to suck it up.  Suck it up, P, that's what I told myself... for about ten minutes straight.

Right as I was about to tell myself you can't handle the truth, I felt the skin between my big toe and second toe start to slip.  Last week's long run was an exercise in bad sock choices--the cotton diddies I wore left me with a ginormous whopper of a blister right in my flip flop spot. (Can you imagine if I had the same confusion over the word thong as some of the women in my family do?  Kinda gives a different image, right?  I'm speaking of my FOOT, people.)  So long story long, the blister tore at mile 15.  Suddenly I was back in high school stuffing my grody feet into pointe shoes and trying not to wince because my whole leg felt like it might fall off.  Seriously, have you had a friction blister?  I've had my share of strange ailments and childbirth experiences and having to keep using a blistered foot ranks at the top of my THIS HURTS list.

The rest of the run was uneventful.  I was much more fatigued than last week, even though I was only running three more miles.  I didn't sleep well last night and that hit during the last hour.  Even though my book was good, I was getting restless and bored.  I needed more walk breaks.  I needed more water.  The blister got easier to ignore after a mile or two, but I know it added to my general disdain for mankind.  That's right.  I was cursing the human race for a few hours.

I made it home in one piece, running the 20 miles in 4 hours and 4 minutes.  I feel good about my time even though it's not going to win me any awards.  I feel even better that I did it.  I feel best about the fact that it's done and I get to eat to fill that amazing exercise void of 2000+ calories that the run generated.

The.  End.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Summer forever

pickle roo

Pickle Roo.

Hanko, Miss Roo and Hurley Dog are all watching Spongebob.  In related news, Spongebob is just about the worst distraction when I'm trying to write.  Bwahahahahahahahah.  If you've heard that little guy, you know what I mean.  But I'm content enough to sit with my Roodle that I put in some headphones so I could continue.  Henry's dancing in a tie-dye t-shirt that I'm sure is three days past fresh.  Everybody's got bare feet, mosquito bites and a slight tan.

Today is the most Zen of ZT thus far, as there is nothing on the schedule for the day.  Nada.  I'm resting up to tackle my first 20-mile run tomorrow and the kids are (as ever) trying to fit in as much lounging and snacking as possible.  Roo attacked the pickle (above) a mere 30 minutes after breakfast.  What can I say?  We should own stock in Claussen.

I'm glad my years get broken into definite seasons with the school year.  Right now I feel like it's been summer forever--and in a way it feels like the events of last summer are closer to me than anything that happened in the tightly-wound cray cray of May.  Is that weird?  I guess that's because May is so foreign compared to the patterns of real life entrenched in summer.  As excited as I get about each new school year, I'm sad that this always summer feeling is going to fade.

Last night I ran 7 along my normal route and I think I lost about three gallons of sweat.  I am such a whiny baby about when I can run--anything above 85 degrees feels like might as well kill me territory.  I actually scared myself in the mirror when I got home because I was such a mess of melting makeup, frizzy hair and salty, nasty clothes.  The only good thing about that kind of workout is that it feels like ten times the badassery--I'm sure that's a remnant of dancing days when someone told me if you're not sweating you're not working.  Well I'm always sweating if I run, but somehow more sweat = Olympic Long-distance Champion.

On a different note altogether, I had a religious experience during last night's dinner.  A big pile of tomatoes from my garden + homemade pesto?  Angels were singing.  So simple, yet so transcendent.  God bless 'merica.  And tomatoes.  And summer nights.  Amen.

This picture has no relationship to this post.  It just makes me happy. Any time I'm feeling sad about the end of summer, I remember that I got to stand here and see this. And there is much rejoicing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How could he not remember?

(in the car, eating chicken nuggets)

Radio (NPR): ...yesterday's shooting of a helicopter in Afghanistan...

Henry:  That's where that one guy is.

Me: Afghanistan?  You mean Carney?

(Carney is a former student of mine who was serving in Afghanistan until recently.  My mom also taught him.  Henry's class sent valentines and a care package last year.)

Henry:  Yeah, we sent him notes and he sent me a letter with that coin.  You were his teacher and grandma was his teacher.

Me: Yep.

Henry:  So, how long have you been doing that?

Me: Being a teacher?

Henry: Yeah.  I don't remember it.

Me:  I've been teaching for ten years, Bud.  Since before you were born, and Addie.

Henry:  Even last year?

Me:  Yeah.  Every year for ten years.

Henry:  But I don't remember that.

Me:  What are you talking about?  Of course you remember.  You've been coming with me to school since you were a baby.


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

What dreams may come

It must be time to head back. I'm having strange dreams about school again. Well, dreaming about being unprepared... and that sounds like it's about school now that I'm sitting back on my haunches for a week.

Two nights ago I dreamed I had to pick up one math class a day during the period I have a student teacher.  Not only does math make my face want to break out like it's 1993 again (because of my synesthesia and my general discomfort with having to come up with an answer under pressure of time), but I am about as qualified as my cat to teach math.  I am abso-ruten-tootenly positive that this dream is also a mirror of the almost-crisis I was having last spring about the possibility I might have to teach PE to keep my job at my school.  Anynervousness, as if being responsible for teaching the math class wasn't bad enough, the department chair was going to stay in the room and observe me every day.  So, someone who actually knows that 2+2 does not equal purple.  Oh, the humanity.  Woke up from that one in a cold sweat.

Last night was a different tack but the same theme.  My body's default reset to panic dream is the ballet-show-is-about-to-start-and-you're-not-backstage-yet dream.  This time I was back dancing as an apprentice to Sacramento Ballet (if ever there was a year of more worry and self-loathing for me, I'm not aware of it) and the curtain was about to go up but I was in the lobby with my parents.  Instead of telling them to find their seats, I decided I'd take them through the backstage area and let them go up to their seats from the front.  The only problem with this was that the entire backstage was dark and I knew I was going to get caught doing something I shouldn't do.  I had to climb over dancers and stage hands.  I bumped into costume mistresses and soon after I realized (to my chagrin--Hutch will appreciate this) that the choreographer was Laurie Ann Gibson.  (She choreographs for Gaga, among others, and while her work can be amazing, in person homegirl is unpredictable and crazy with a capital C.  She's just not my personal cup o' tea.)  So I finally got my parents out the door to their seats (in the dark) and I managed to make it onstage just before the curtain came up.  The music came on and I glanced over at Kailani, a former student of mine, also onstage, to realize I know NONE of the choreography.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, scene.

Monday, August 08, 2011

I hereby reinstate ZEN TIME.


Last year I dubbed the penultimate week of summer my "last week of summer" and held one week in reserve as Zen Time. Here's what I said about it:
Zen Time will be devoted to [reading] one last book, cooking delicious meals, laying in the sun for hours at a time, wearing spaghetti strap tops, short shorts and bare feet (before I have to turn back into Mrs. P, the modest adult), napping, walking, and drinking. I think I'm going to enjoy me some Zen Time.
Zen Time was a major success, and in light of this being my second year of being furloughed with no pre-service days before the start of the school year, I am happy to reinstate a little ZT.

The first rule of Zen Time is that you don't have to do anything.  You can choose to do any task you want, but it has to be a choice.  It can't feel like work.  DO NOT get up on time, schedule any dentist appointments, or decide this is the week to organize anything.

The second rule of Zen Time is that you have to have fun.  This means you might take yourself less seriously than you do for the other 51 weeks a year, and by God that's a good thing anyway.  You should spend time with the people who really matter.  Do things you like.

Third rule of Zen Time: Must get outside as much as possible.  Related detail: Exercise is allowed because it makes you feel good.  But if you choose it, exercise with gratitude and confidence, not whining and insecurity.

Fourth rule: Must cook at home with fresh, vivid ingredients.  Must not count calories or vilify any foods.  Must enjoy the act of eating good food with people you love.

The fifth rule of Zen Time is that you have to keep your schedule free of too many commitments.  That way naps, books, swims, and impromptu Lego-playing can find themselves into your week.  Don't over-plan.  Let life happen.

The sixth rule of Zen Time? You are allowed to throw out the rules at any time in favor of finding joy and peace for one last heavenly week.  Zen Time is about real life.  Enjoy it.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Marin | Seeing to write

Sausalito reminded me. There were always souvenir shops at the end of family vacations. From rows of trinkets, doodads and mysterious talismans my sister and I would each pluck one. We'd arrange them on the top of our dressers once we got home, hoping to mark what our kid eyes had seen. Most of my personal items were "my X from Y."

We encourage the same for Henry and Addie. You get to buy one thing to remember the trip, we say, and they agonize over the choice until we prod them toward the register. As a kid I stuffed years of vacation spot t-shirts into my dresser drawers. I'd wear them thin and dread the day I had to give them up, fearing I'd forget the trips themselves. From tiny stores in coastal towns Lis and I culled shells, their pink sides glossed with garish shellac that set us up for disappointment in the brown-grey muck of Northern California sand. I come across the most meaningful of childhood souvenirs about once a year, usually as I sort through bins from the attic for a garage sale.

Even the best of these looks like junk today. They remind me of what I thought was really cool, but the clutter nags. Words are my best collection. If I'm going to keep a memory, I have to write it. In this way I can relive it. Hopefully my kids can live it too, or know me better for it. A broken sand dollar at the bottom of a tub isn't evocative as a paragraph of precise images.

Seeing to write is a different beast, though. It's hungry seeing. Forgetting what you have to do when you get home. Recording, but not like a camera. Breaking rules about what goes with what. Inhaling the scent of a place and swirling it around the shape of the cliffs as you drive. Tasting the sunset in your beer. Sensing the interruption of sailboats in the bay like staccato punctuation. Drawing lines between conversations and expression, sketching what you feel about someone in the shape of how they stand in a place.

I was seeing to write in Marin. It's not that I'm formatting a mental Word document while I walk around. But I'm so happy for experience because I know how it will drive me to write. I am always bursting with words when I've really gotten out and done something. Marin county was beautiful; K is good, comfortable company. All of that makes for delicious writing.

Muir overlook

Fog curled at the margins of our vision just about everywhere we went: rolling, rising scrolls of mist. Though the sun shone full above us, it was a rarer sight than the thick grey which deepened the cleft of the cliffs and obscured the horizon above the water. Up and down the hills the highway wove, like the strand of a gentle braid through eucalyptus and thick green brush. I tried hard to see and to keep. To take it in and mix it together. To both enjoy and absorb.

Marin county is largely foreign to me even though it's pretty close to home. It's lucky that K went to college there and appreciates the escape of a day trip. It helps that places abound that evoke memories for her, too. I love to listen to her stories. The area is close to where we live but it's so different from what I know, and different even from other parts of itself. On one edge a row of weather-beaten mailboxes guard a narrow road through untamed seaside. Buildings rise like interlopers from behind thick vegetation. Charcoal logs ring toppling fire pits on an ash-strewn beach. But just over the hill, extravagant houses straddle the bay on rickety stilts, their facades lined up in gradated hues like tailored shirts at Macy's. Scarf-wrapped mothers step out of catalogs in Tory Burch flats to walk their North Face-swaddled young. Lavish boats come and go without apology. All of it, strange. All of it pretty.

What goes on my memory shelf from this trip? Matchstick fries. A methodical ride along the narrow road on the edge of the earth. The crunch of dried seaweed beneath my purple quilt, K doodling in the sand just like she does during a meeting. A flat tire, a mandatory pause in a fortuitous spot. A curtain of fog. Tiny beers. Old ladies jogging. The soft brush of waves. Too many jalapenos. Life experience.


photos that are not mine: here, here, here.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

That's better!


The search for coastline was on, yesterday, and though K and I made several other stops we ended up lounging around at Stinson for a stretch, dipping our toes in the brisk water and staring out into the big wide world. I've never been anywhere near that stretch of California, but even in the gray fog it was lovely. Ocean air is so young and unspoiled.

Was it Kate from LOST who stood in the sand, sinking as the tide washed over her feet? What a feeling.

On the drive we talked of the accidents when I was in Yosemite, the scary and undeniable powerlessness of man compared to nature. But as we chatted on a quilt to the accompaniment of soft ocean white noise, I felt the same awe for nature's beauty and tension-easing gift.

That duality humbles me. What a summer this has been of both wonder and simplicity in time spent outside.

Last night I broke a week of sleeplessness. Today I carried the lull of the waves with me as I plugged away at a 17-miler. A moment--a day--of calm is so sweet. I just feel better today, like I saved it up.

I'm ready for the school year now.