Monday, February 26, 2007

Was it the Gas or the Ladies?

I am quite a feminine woman. But I am also a feminist. Equality for all. No prejudices based on sex. My husband has always agreed with this and we've prided ourselves on being stereotype-busters. But... is my husband the man he has always claimed to be? All of this snow has created a revealing situation.

History: Chris has never shoveled our driveway. I am the resident snow-shoveler. And if a neighbor is unable to shovel, I shovel for them too. Which I have been doing for NeighborLady these past few weeks.

BUT, this weekend Chris got home from work on Saturday morning and couldn't get in our driveway. So he stumbled into the garage, discovered where the shovels hang, and proceeded to shovel a path into our driveway. He gets no more than 3 shovelfuls flung when NeighborLady comes out and offers him the use of her just-purchased snowblower.

Now my husband has always bucked the stereotype that "the smell of gas gets (his) blood pumping," as my father once put it. Every male in the room had hastened to agree - except Chris. (That's my boy!)

So on Saturday morning, it was "with reluctance" that he assented to use NeighborLady's snowblower to do our driveway. And hers. And the neighborlady's across the street. And the neighborlady right next door. And the sidewalk for the couple across the street. And the family right next to them. By this time, I had awoken and peered out the window to watch all of this. I rubbed my eyes. Yep, it was Chris.

He cut quite a dashing figure, sort of like Arnold in The Terminator, all square-shouldered and relentless. The snow would blow up and blast him, obscuring him from view. Moments later, he would emerge from the haze - still square-shouldered, still moving the snow. I wasn't the only one who noticed.

Everywhere the guy went, women poured out of their houses to chitchat with him (at least it looked like chatting from my vantage point!), and daintily shovel some ancillary piece of property.

Now who should happen to call, but my dad. Naturally, I filled him in. He clearly enjoyed the scene as much as I did - with not a little gloating, "Oh yeah, nothin' like that smell of gas in the morning." Just then, the plot thickened. NeighborLady followed him into our driveway with her shovel. Dad suggested posting "No Trespassing" signs. On Chris.

Sunday morning was a repeat. With the addition of a plate of homemade "thank you" cookies. Hmm... so what am I to blame (thank?) for this transformation: Was it the smell of gas - or the scent of a woman? And which way do I want this question answered? I mean, if he's been a secret gearhead all this time, what does that do for women's - or men's - lib?

On the other hand, what if it's the ladies? Or maybe that's OK, as long as he's only blowing their snow. Huh, I can hear it already, "But Honey, I was just blowing her snow."

Oh, what a quandary! Do I buy him a snowblower of his own? Bake more cookies? Dab gasoline behind my ears?

Spring cannot come too soon! Out damn snow!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Snow Came

Friday Night

Piper and bosom buddy Maggie romp at the forest. Notice the snow in front of Maggie.

Saturday Morning

This is the same forest on Saturday morning. We skied again at 10PM, for which I put skis on outside of our front door and skied down the streets to get to the trail. I love beating the plows out the door! The snow was drifted so high in spots that it created waves that rivaled those at Mavericks. Fourteen MPH winds kept a steady sheet of snow sworling off their front edges. Piper plunged right over the top of one and was nearly lost in the avalanche of snow. I, having spent time in California observing surfers, "caught" the wave from the side and managed to "surf" it to the bottom. Watch and learn, Piper.

Sunday Afternoon

Here we are at the forest yet again. I gotta say, my training partner rocks. The picture at right is Piper struggling through a drift near the end of our first loop. Yet he burst into the second loop without missing a beat. Now that's stamina!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch....
And no, we don't need to make any pronouncements on who possesses the most intelligence at our place.

The. Snow. Came. Yay!!!!!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Thin Skin

I want you to know that it was bullying did me in. Made me anorexic. Not you or Dad or the others, but the spitballs. The two BFF turning their backs on me and hating me for 3 months. For no reason. No, for the very good reason that we were middle school girls and that's what middle school girls do. Haze each other and make the outsider baste in her own hateful skin.

Too good of a vocabulary. Too.... everything. Not their friend. Someone to whom you say mean things, whom you get the 8th grade girls to taunt. Whom you call the hated names that her siblings called her and that she shared with you in confidence. When you used to be best friends.

But who allows that to happen to herself? Who goes to the nurse's office, the counselor's office but doesn't say, "My so-called friends are being bitches"? Who allows themselves to be bullied?

Me. I did. Because somehow I was a shameful enough person to deserve it. That's what I'm getting now. Why it still stings now. Because they were wrong and I didn't stand up for myself. Because it's my pattern. They were Hammers and I was an Anvil.

There are bad people in the world. Hammers who will never understand the secret life of Anvils. The Hammers can't even begin to conceive that someone outside of themselves may hold a shard of truth. That is the face of evil. The cocksure, I've-got-all-the-answers-face. We Anvils, on the other hand, grab for that piece of truth that has just barely eluded us. That everyone but us must have.

Huh. That's it.

I am out in this world with the Hammers. Where they can lift their snouts to the air and smell my vulnerability, my uncertainty, my need. And then circle in for the kill.

I have been "over-sensitive" from the time I was shoved from the womb. I need to toughen up, get a thicker skin. But dammit, I don't want to! Partly because I'm just plain old stubborn, partly because it is hard to not be me. Believe me, I've tried.

But also because there is at least one perk to being sensitive... I have lived many lives. I have felt and experienced and intuited that which was not happening to me. Because I'm never sure. Because I can't avoid looking at the Other and listening and thinking, "What would it be like? What is it like in that skin? Believing what they believe, knowing what they know?"

I'm not sure what this sensitivity gets me - certainly nothing tangible. But somehow I like it. I like seeing the Falstaffs and the Hamlets and the Katherines. I like knowing them - even if it is only from the obtuse angle of inference. I like wavering on the edge of my skin and letting that translucent self blur just enough to understand.

And that's something the Hammers will never get.

Nor take from me.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Beauty Seeker

I sip the sunlight that bathes us in light
Plunge myself into the warmth of his chest
Smile at the mud on the prancing paws
Throw the stick - agaaaaaain
Continue crunching the snow
and its crispety crust.

Run fast just because
it feels good to breathe.

Nod nightly to Orion, Cass, Big and Little Dip.
Tingle to my fingertips when Sarah Brightman hits the high notes.

I am skeptical of the commercial trappings of thrill-seeking.
But Beauty-seeking?

Drink up.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

How to Make a Pussy Purr

Build him his own house, replete with heating pad, mousetoy-sized holes, and place it well, well beyond the reach of the puppy.

You see, it used to work to share, but that was like 72 pounds ago...

Wanna make your pussy purr? Contact the WoodMan at 101 Triteacher Alley.

High Mileage Week

Woof. It has been a week. I'm thinking back to last weekend and it seems like it was months ago. It has been a week of contrasts and extremes...

I have been breaking-dishes angry and tenderly loving - to the same person.
(No dishes were harmed in the production of this post.)

I have not eaten at all and then eaten sushi to excess.
I slept 4 hours one night and 12 on another.

We left our hamlet of 1500 for a city of 250,000
but still found a cornfield to trek through.

I have played nurse at home and at school,
pushing one 5th grader in a wheelchair, and butterfly-taping another's chin until stitches could be had.

I blistered my fingers lacing and tying 24 pairs of ice skates.
A nurse cleaned and bandaged them for me.

I didn't miss or slight a workout until I was sure everything was OK.
Then I let inclination dictate and netted a 2 hour walk instead of a 3 mile run.

I was drained
and then rejuvenated.

I have been, I have felt,
I have lived.
I have gotten my mileage out of life this week.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Thank You

You've heard my sadness,


Now hear my joy;
I'm off for the weekend
to play with my boy.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Troubles of the Heart

Phone rings at 3:30 AM
The worst time for a call

Fears confirmed
Chest pains and fainting
To the ER I go

Pale and confused
In a bed he lay
EKG, blood draws
Family heart history?

Grandpa, Uncle.
Bad, just bad.

But no! I'm his wife
and I can assure you, Doc,
his heart is in the right place.

Test results?
Yes, for now it is.

He's mine
for while longer
at least.

Valentine's Day 2007.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

What Do You Want?

What do you want?

A tri bike. No. TWO tri bikes - a custom-built steel and a carbon fiber equally outfitted. In my garage for 2 weeks this summer. I'd ride the blazes out of them and then purchase the one that put more smiles on my face.

What do you want?

Ok, Ok. Freedom from desire. From the constant ache, craving, clawing, anticipation of the next thing. To be in the present and live here. In this time. In this place. Inner peace.

Humph. Better stick with the tri bike fantasy.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

I Feel Good!

Like Scary Good.

I did my first interval workout in 2 years last night - on the treadmill (TM). And I taught myself how to program TM for an interval workout. That shows you, my friends, that I am investing in TM. That I think I will need to reach out to the beast and tame it. To this end, I am renaming her; hereforward, she is Truly Mine (TM).

She helped me run fast last night. Oh, the bliss of running fast again! I love it. I'm a junkie for those sweat-wringing, heart-pounding, heavy-breathing intervals.

She helped me dream - imagine - that I might just be able to meet my goal for my 1/2 marathon in April. She gave me evidence last night. I saw 6:53 for 5 quarter miles. Now 13.1 miles of 7:09 that does not make. But it opens the door to it. I soooo want to believe in her. And in me.

Then I had the audacity to run this morning. In the cold. (See Frosted Flake on right.) And I felt good again. Something's coming together here.

I feel good! Na-na-na-na-na-na-na!!!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

You Need My Job

Fifth graders are the best kept secret in teaching. There's the legendary sweetness of 4th graders - resulting in landslides of applications to teach that grade. Sixth graders are known to be smart and impressionable. So where's the press for the 5th graders?

Exactly! No one extolls the virtues of the 5th grader. So let it be me who says: they rock! They are sweet, and now, about halfway through the year, they are getting IT. They're becoming more insightful about themselves and their world. And they talk about it. In fact, they ooh and ahhh about it.

One kid is "getting to be a better reader," as he and his huge smile point out the multisyllabic word that he has just decoded.

Another formerly-reluctant reader leaves her book on my desk with a sticky note instructing me to "read from p.146 to the end of the book," in which the main character is radically altered and realizes it.

Yet a third, my needy little tantrum-thrower, slugs a classmate in the morning, swallows another session on "What other choices can you make when you get angry?," and comes to me in the afternoon with her new library book, When I get Mad, "cuz I have problems with my anger."

Seriously, you need my job! :)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Tag #2: Ironman

Hee, hee, I'm really milking this tag. My apologies for the shame I bring upon your house, Bubba. Ready for #2, kids?

2. Describe a memory from your most recent triathlon.

With Ironman, I really can't describe "a memory." It's so much more than that. I like to think of it really, in 3 (very creative) phases: Before, During and After....

Before: Becoming Ironman
The Becoming (as xt4 so aptly put it) is HUGE. It involved more training and dedication than I was even sure I was capable of. It meant believing in myself and pushing myself - and setting limits. I had to decide what price I was willing to pay for the race. And it was a decision I had to keep on making.

What sacrifice is too big? Family time? Quality of instruction provided for my students? Possible long-term damage to my knees? Expense upon expense upon expense? And with each new roadblock, I made an informed decision and juggled and compromised - or just flat-out drew the line in the sand.

All those moments of crisis in the "Before" had to be dealt with. You can't look past that. It was really baptism by fire - over and over again. I was being shaped into iron, one choice at a time.

That sounds really rough, but it wasn't all tough decisions, of course. It was also the moments of stunning self-actualization and pure bliss:
  • Riding down a hill at 45 mph, whooping at the top of my lungs.
  • The afterglow in meeting the next benchmark in distance. Topping out at 6 hours of riding. Swimming for flippin' 2 hours straight!! Woof.
  • The ability to eat whatever the hell I wanted without guilt.
  • Pride in finding that what my body wanted was tuna and lettuce and garden tomatoes.
Yes, it was good, too.

During: Becoming Ironman
Then September 10th came. And I loved it. I have so many images that still give me shivers:

  • All of the bikes neatly racked in the transition area, lit by those early morning strobes.
  • Running up the helix through the tunnel formed by a wildly-cheering crowd.
  • Handing my bike off to my brother and kissing my dad.
  • At mile 23, telling a bemused, smiling husband that this was fun and there might be more of these in my future.
Madison is a beautiful place for a race.

After: Being Ironman
Ironman is the gift that keeps on giving.
I'm still inspired by it. And what's more - the people around me are inspired by it. The day I got back to school after IM was picture day. I wore my finisher's shirt and medal. I then sent this picture with my thank you cards.

Five months later, it is still on my parents' fridge. Strong Sister keeps it propped on her nightstand.

Ironman has meant so much to me and to those in my life. Immediately after Ironman, I was blue - mourning all of the things I'd lose now that Ironman was over. Five months out, I'm realizing that the Iron Me is the new default setting. All of those qualities I'd gained through Becoming, by Becoming, are still here. They are better felt than expressed, but have to do with confidence and self-reliance, belief that I can get the job done.

From here forward, everything is shaped through the lens of Becoming and Being Ironman. By default.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Tag: First Triathlon

Bubba said to do this meme, so I will. I mean, when a guy who runs a 50k in sub-zero temps says, "Jump," you say "How high?" However, I'm going to do this one my way as you'll see.

First, in case you're wondering, You, JWM, Spence, and Steve are it!

1. Describe a memory from your first triathlon ever.

2. Describe a memory from your most recent triathlon.

3. What's the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you in a tri?

4. What's the most thrilling thing that's happened to you in a tri?

5. What is something you discovered about yourself by doing triathlons?

6. What is The Big Goal that you're working towards?

Next, I'm going to take my good old time with each one of these. Indulge me; when there's a windchill of -28F, I need some good tri memories to keep me warm. On to the meme...

1. Describe a memory from your first triathlon ever.

Flashback to 1999. I'm standing on a beach with 30 buff females feeling very self-concious about my bra sticking out from under my swimsuit, thinking, "Ooh, what am I in for here?" I have always been a runner, but when my mother-in-law's hospital decided to host an olympic-distance triathlon, I thought, "Why not?"

I signed up 2 weeks before the race. My "training" consisted of hobby swim/bike/run. It had been a superb summer with a stay at a cabin on a lake in northern Wisconsin. My husband and his dad fished all day while I swam alongside the boat or hit the trails to run and bike. Nirvana.

At the tri, I'm way too scared to talk to any of my competitors but soak up the scene, already making plans for next year's improvements. Then the bang, and we were off.

The swim is unlike anything in my experience. I am, of course, overwhelmed by the slash and burn technique of the whole scene and swim way off course to avoid being scratched/crawled over/ thumped yet again. Yet I still almost drown because my adrenaline is high and there ain't no way I'm slowing down to breathe. I come out of the swim alive and stop at the porta-potties.

"Aren't you supposed to be racing?!" my husband scolds me. I give him a tremulous but excited smile and, with shaking hands, don my newly-purchased bike helmet. I'm off.

I must have actually exited the swim in front of some other racers because I get passed non-stop in the bike portion of the race. I have a eureka moment when one of my passers cheers, "Woah, you're tough to be doing this on a mountain bike!" I continue to pedal for all I'm worth - and vow to have a bike with skinny tires by next year.

Hydration plan? My husband is standing at the side of the road, holding out a bottle of water. It is the first time I realize how fast I am going relative to someone standing still. In other words, the bottle pass is tricky. My in-laws laugh, wave hand-made signs, and shout encouragement.

Before I know it, it's time to run. If you have not tri-ed before, you have no way of knowing how absolutely bumble-fucked you feel getting off of a bike after going full-tilt for 26 miles and then trying to run. I couldn't have walked a straight line, much less run one! I, the marathoner, am astonished at my traitorous legs, but finally marshal them and charge onto the course. I am sure that I am going to die numerous times. I'm hot, my legs are tired, my chest hurts, the scratch on my face adds sunburn to its litany of woes - but I just.keep.going. One foot in front of the other. I pass my cheering-section, but can barely lift my head to acknowledge them. They cheer louder, and leap-frog to different points along the course.


Finish line. 2:53 and I've done it! Hugs, tears, weariness, - but strangely - eery, bubbling elation. I'm hooked. I've done that course every year since and PR'd on it at 2:32. Slightly better than 2:53.

Ooh! I'm warm now. Thanks for the tag, Bubba - just what I needed. :)

Up next, #2 of the tag. Ironman, here we come!