Thursday, March 29, 2007

Saying Yes

I am president of a local chapter of a writing group. You don't need any sort of credentials to be president, hence, they asked me. Or begged, rather. I could have been a cab driver who walked in off the street and they still would have asked me.

All I had to do is say, YES, I'll do it, and then do my presidential duties and then become the secretary/treasurer when that person moved to Kansas. Ah, the perils of saying yes. If you say yes to one thing, it often gets you on a road to saying more yeses. What a can of worms. Anyone who knows me well knows I should have nothing to do with handling an organization's money. Or handling money, period.

Reward: I get to meet fascinating writers from all over the state who have much wisdom to impart to a novice writer like me.

I said, yes, I'd volunteer in my daughter's kindergarten class on Thursday mornings. Now that Leah is aware of what day it is, she knows if I don't show up. She lets me have it. "Mama, you forgot to come," she says in a Cindy Lou Hoo voice that makes me feel about a foot tall. Kids'll do that to you.

Reward: I got to help Jimmy learn the difference between quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. Before that, he thought everything was a penny. It was great to see the lightbulb go on.

I said yes I'd be the Cub Scout Wolf Leader. Every Monday I have to entertain a literal pack of 8-year old boys, who sometimes get very sweaty, smelly and bloody. For an entire hour!
Then they ride home in my car and I have to roll the windows down when it's 20 degrees outside.

Reward: I get to be with my son and his friends and help him pass off his requirements that will turn him into an upstanding young man. (We can hope.)

At parent teacher conference, I asked a very pregnant Mrs. Miller how I could help her for the last semester of third grade. She said she needed help with writing. Somehow that morphed into an eight-week play project put on in three acts that the children wrote themselves that I was in charge of. Somehow for an hour a week my group of third graders fight and argue about what lines they will say and who is hurting/maiming who! "He sat on my head!" one of them complained yesterday. It's a most headache-inducing experience for everyone involved, it seems.

Reward: I have yet to think of one. Well , maybe that the kids think it's the coolest thing ever to put on their own play, to have ownership of something. And I feel justified in taking ibuprofin and drinking a huge diet coke when play practice is over for the day.

I said yes to my daughter that I would take her to the DMV to get her driver's permit on a Friday afternoon. We got to stand in line with the most unpleasant people imaginable.

Reward: Now she can drive with me in the car? Some reward! One of her best friends just took out her fence trying to park the car. Sheesh.

So even though I told my daughter who thinks I never say yes that she could have a party this weekend where I would make dinner for her and her friends, deep breath, because no one can come to the party, she says I never say yes to anything. So I am trying to think of something else to say yes to. She wants me to stay home tonight, but I can't, I have to go to a dinner with her Dad. Sheesh again.

What am I going to say when Mrs. PTA lady asks me to help with the school carnival? Or when three different kids want to sign up for T-ball, machine-pitch baseball and girls softball? Yes, yes, yes, of course! Whatever you want. My goal in life is to facilitate everything your heart desires!

I've turned into a total pansy.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Make Way for Soccer

I've got two kids starting their spring soccer season this week--Samantha who's 12 and Nathan who's nine. This may not sound like that big of a deal, but it's a huge deal. Nathan's obsessed with the game, and has been trying to play soccer in various venues since Christmas. (One of those venues in the living room--augh!) He is elated that he can finally team up again in the fresh air with his soccer buddies. I am elated that he has that release he's been craving, that he'll get the heck out of the living room, and that he can start beating the fence to death with his "scores."

Sammie's on a co-ed team where the kids are 12-18. I was initially worried about this. I thought, "I'm not going to let Sammie play with a bunch of 18-year old boys!" Turns out that she is one of the youngest, but there's no one over 17. Still, that's a huge age gap when you take maturity into consideration. But last fall, it wasn't an issue. They all just get out there and kick the ball around, not in a very skilled fashion, either. Their favorite part of the game is the treat, the parties they have periodically at someone's house, and coach Kristen, who is the most energetic woman known to womankind. She cheers them on with reckless abandon. (She also makes amazing homemade chocolates at Christmas time, beside the point!)

So now we start the driving thing again. Two games a week, two practices a week times two kids. That will put a fair number of miles on my already-aging mini van. Speaking of the van, the first week of March it needed a new starter motor. The third week in March it needed new front and rear brakes. Today it's in the shop getting A NEW TRANSMISSION. All in one month. The guy at the transmission place said since it only has 109,000 miles on it that it's totally worth putting the money into it. "Of course he said that," I told my husband as we left the shop. "He wants to install a new $1,800 transmission." He knows I want to junk it and start over. He knows it's not prudent to do so. He told me so. He wins. OK. I will drive the thing until it's no longer driveable. Yes, and I'll do it with a smile. Ok, a half smile.

So, I find great joy in watching my kids wear themselves out on the soccer field. Great joy. I love to see Nathan red-faced, sweating and limping off the field. He pours his heart and soul and body into the game like nothing I've ever seen before. This means he will not need wrestling nor will he try to play ball in the house that night. He will sleep well, and for the required amount of time set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics (or whatever it's called). I say, wear him out, coaches Blake and Catherine. Torture the kid, please!

I just love to watch them with all their youthful energy. I think it's so fulfilling to see my kids out there running around, learning to play, learning to get along, making friends. It's fun to see them pour themselves into something they love, something that can stay with them all their lives. I love to just sit there and watch. You wouldn't catch me out there running around like a maniac. I'm perfectly happy in my lazy Mom chair with my diet coke in one cup holder and cell phone in the other. I'm happy as a clam. Especially if the weather's nice and I have another Mom to talk to. I'm right there when someone gets hurt. I will stand up and cheer if my kid scores, or if any kid on the team scores, for that matter. I'll even let a sweaty kid sit on me if they get hurt for a little while.

That's the life in spring.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

"Book" Group Musings

Wednesday night I went to my "book" club. I put the word "book" in parentheses because the books that we read each month are only discussed for 20 pecent of the time. The other 80 percent of the time is spent in non-stop chatter, babbling, eating and laughter. Hey, women have to have an excuse to get together and yack. Hiding behind the guise of a good book is about as noble as it gets.

This month we read Gilead by Maryanne Richardson. The consensus was it probably shouldn't have won the Pulitzer. We talked about paid clergy vs. lay clergy, and how that makes a difference in the spirituality of a congregation. That wisdom was imparted in less than 10 minutes. Then it was onto the important stuff of life.

It's a good thing KS's husband took the kids to see the Goo Goo Dolls that night, or we definitely would have kept them up late on a school night. It was nice that there were only four of us there. KS talked more than she's ever talked in nearly four years of book club. It was great to hear what was on her mind after always wondering month after month. She talked about her kids, their activities, which one she was worried about, and how she wanted to help him. We all listened intently, wondering when, or if, she would ever stop talking. When she finally finished, she sighed, like she had just let go of a great burden.

"Did you know there's a make-out rock at the high school?" I asked when KS stopped talking. "What? Where?" they wanted to know. Not even the friend who went to that high school knew anything about the make-out rock. We agreed that it must be a new rock.

So I told them about the make-out rock--painted a patriotic blue and gold--that my daughter, Adrienne, had told me about earlier that day. One of her swim team friends lost $500 that week for kissing a girl at the rock. His parents had promised him the money if he didn't kiss a girl until he graduated. Too bad, he only had two and a half more months. We agreed that she must have been irresistably hot. The same deal applies for his little sister, who is Adrienne's very close swim team friend. The jury is out on whether she'll make it. So far no kissing. But, she still has two years to go. On prom night she could say to her date, "OK, you can kiss me goodnight, but it's going to cost you $500." Then she gets the cash and the kisses.

We giggled over that.

When I told my daughter I thought $500 was not worth never kissing anybody your whole high school career, she looked at me, aghast. "Well, it's just a fun part of high school, and it's . . . . . . " I stopped talking after looking at her face. It said, "Mother, you are revolting!" I didn't say another word, and there was one of those awkward mother/daughter silences. Apparently, I said the wrong thing.

"So, would you pay your kids not to kiss?" I asked my book club friends.

"It's like paying them for grades," AS said.

"It's like paying them to be "moral,'" KS said.

"We live in such a weird place," MC said.

"You said it," I agreed.

On to other topics. Weight. It's always weight.

"KS, you look like you've lost weight," I observe.

"Yes, about 12 pounds," she beams.

"Hey, MC and I have also lost 12 pounds recently!" (MC is my Weight Watchers buddy.)

"That's awesome," KS says.

"Yeah, it's just great," AS whines. "I've put on 30 pounds since November." (AS is 25 weeks pregnant.She spent the first trimester eating every 10 minutes to keep from throwing up.) We all look sympathetically at AS, knowking exactly how it feels to put on lots of weight during pregnancy. That's why we're all dieting, to get rid of the excess poundage put on over years of childbearing.

"So, KS, why do you have so many great treats tonight, if you're dieting?" I ask as I pop a sixth malted milk egg into my mouth. I absolutely love those things.

"Yes why?" MC asks, laughing. She's done better than me at avoiding KS's beautiful spread.

"Sorry, I didn't know everyone was dieting," she says sheepishly.

"I'm not!" says AS, loading her plate with chocolate chip cookie bars, cheese ball and crackers and those wickedly good Costco cream puffs.

About 11 pm we stand up. "We should go," AS says. She loads another plate for her husband.

"What's the book next month?" KS asks.

"Oh, yeah," AS remembers. "It's my month. I thought we'd do Katherine Patterson. You can read any book by her and we'll discuss her as an author."

"Oh, that'll be different," I say. Bridge to Terabithia is such an amazing book."

Maybe it will get 30 percent of the alloted book club time. I wonder. Maybe even more. But not if more women come who need to talk about work, school, husbands, kids, pregnangy, delivery, weight, exercise, moving, and other such things.

Which they undoubtedly will if the past four years is any indication. That's OK with me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Getting Worked Up Over Working Out

I have a love/hate thing going on with exercise.

I wish that I could burn calories like I did in high school, so I'd have an excuse not to exercise. Back then I would run all over the school and everywhere, being involved in this and that, and would go late into the evening. I still run around all day, but the piece of cheesecake I eat for dessert once in a while becomes one with my thighs, no matter how many calories I think I'm burning in my busy life.

I wish I could burn calories like I did when I was in college. Yes, I put on the freshman fifteen, but it wasn't a big deal to take it off again. The late-night pizza binges made their marks, but I could erase them without too much effort. I could stay up late and function quite well the next day. Hah! Those were the days.

Then I had kids. Four of them. Why is it that everything that was functioning properly, looking good, feeling good before you had kids suddenly goes to pot after you have kids? That is the question I want answered TODAY! Someone, please answer this question. PLEASE!

After just one child, my skin was stretched beyond recognition. My feet were a 1/2 size bigger. My hair fell out in the shower. I had a "pregnancy mask" that was still around long after pregnancy. I was gorgeous! We won't talk about weight. OK, I guess we will. Remarkably I managed to shed all the weight from the first pregnancy, but not until the baby was two years old. And it didn't happen by bouncing baby around and singing in the middle of the night either. I walked and walked and walked miles around Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin, to get off that last 10 pounds, just in time to get pregnant with baby two.

With baby two I put on 50 pounds and got rid of 35 of them, then gained back five pounds. With baby three's pregnancy I put on 35 and got rid of 20 it. With baby four I put on 35 and, and, and, I can't even say it. Baby four is now 5 1/2 years old. I'd like to say it's nice that my babies are still literally with me, but that would be an outright lie. My metablism went from efficient to to inefficient in less than 10 years. That's a sorry state of affairs.

What it means is that I have to be work a whole lot harder and be much more conscientious about what I eat than ever before. This is the year to work on it. Diet, exercise, lifestyle change--the whole nine yards. Why is this the year? Because when you turn 40 you do almost anything to reverse the damage you've done to your body. For me, that means losing weight.

Exercise. I hate it before I do it, and love it after I do it. On every given day it hangs over my head like a black cloud before it's done, nagging and pushing me to put on my shoes, or get on my bike. It's worse than a headache or a twisted ankle. It's just there, almost mocking in its insistence that I move my body. It tells me (in not a very nice tone, mind you) that if I don't exercise, I won't achieve my goals. I'll be at risk for diabetes and heart disease and a whole bunch of undesirable medical problems. Worst of all, if I don't do it, I'm a lazy loser. Blah, blah, blah, it goes, nonstop, as if nothing else in my life is important.

If I want the cloud to go away, I have to exercise. There's no other way. When the wheels start moving on my bike, or a get into a good walking clip, the black cloud changes to gray. After I've been moving for about 20 minutes it turns into a lighter gray. It actually stops berating me. When I've hit 40 minutes or more, it's completely white and completely silent (thank heavens). When I'm done, it's gone. There's nothing but blue skies smiling at me.

Thoughts before exercise: Grump, grumble. This is such a pain that I have to worry about doing this every bloody day of my life.

Thoughts after exercise: Wahoo! I feel great! I hope I can feel this good every day of my life!Exercise helps so much!

They say attitude is 90 percent of everything you achieve or don't achieve. I believe it.

Time to go get rid of the black cloud. It's about ready to seriously dump on me.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Are you an A person or a B person in the morning? I heard about a recent study in Denmark that explored the differences between As and Bs. An A person is the kind who jumps out of bed, pops in the shower (and maybe sings while there), trots down the stairs, and has nothing but positive words to say about the opportunity to be up and about on such a wonderful day (even if it's a drab inversion day). They are ready for bed early, so they can be up and at 'em early the next day.

The B type of person fights and struggles just to get upright in the morning. They often hit the snooze button several times (if they can find it) or have to be coaxed and prodded out of bed by a spouse or parent, etc. These people don't function well until about 9 or 10 am, feel like they're walking around in a foggy haze, and can barely find the shower nozzles. They don't like to talk much when they first get up. If they do talk, they have nothing good to say about anything. If they manage to get their eyes open enough to put in their contacts, they stare off into space until the fog clears, while the A types buzz about merrily around them. When the A's are all tucked in to bed at night, the B's suddenly turn on, making up for all they couldn't accomplish in the morning.

The Danish study prompted some companies there to consider having two kinds of workers--A workers and B workers. They A's would come earlier and leave earlier. The B's would come later and leave later. How civilized! The B's wouldn't have to deal with the annoyingly cheerful, energetic A's, and the A's wouldn't have to slow down for the pokey, negative B's. You could match your work hours to your personality type. I have lived in Denmark , and I can tell you that they are very practical, reasonable people. This idea makes sense! First off, their work week is 37 hours as opposed to 40 hours like ours. People relax a lot in the evenings instead of running errands and shopping. Stores close about 7 pm. You just might not be able to get your late-night chocolate fix at 10 pm, but you're at home being cozy with your family and friends instead.

I'm a B and have been forever. But guess what? I'm married to a capital A. While Darren literally runs down the stairs in the morning, I struggle to make it down the stairs at all. While Darren is driving Adrienne to 5:30 am swim practice, I am still in a deep, coma-like sleep, unaware that he has even gone. While he is pressed and dressed by 7 am, I don't get that way until 9:00 or 9:30 or even later on some days. Part of it has to do with the differences between men's and women's grooming rituals. Mine just takes longer. The contacts, the hair, the makeup, the lotion, the earrings, etc. But even if I didn't do all those things, he would still leave me in the dust. It's just how we are.

So the Danish work day options might work for some, but if you don' t have a traditional job that you go to everyday, it wouldn't benefit you. People still need to get up and help the kids get to school. They still need to make lunches or iron clothes and sign school papers. All that has to happen whether they are an A or a B. So it's a good theory for the workplace. But could it work at home? Could you be an A home or a B home? Could society organize itself around an earlier or later schedule? I wonder.

So . . . what if your spouse is an A and you're a B like me? Oh man, I don't even want to think about that. Maybe you could work out a compromise like OK, we'll be an A minus family this year, but next year we're going to be B pluses. We would say things like, "Oh, it's too late to call the Joneses. They're A's," or "Don't the Smiths know we're B's and they shouldn't mow their lawn so early?"

I would really love to be an A and greet the day with enthusiasm and energy. It does make sense to me. But it's like trying to ignore who I've been my whole life. I would be going against my genes, my personality, the very core of who I am. Plus that, do you think my children could ever handle two perpetually cheerful parents in the morning?

I don't think it's going to happen. Not in this lifetime.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Times in Texas

I bought myself a "Don't Mess with Texas" mug today at one of those touristy stores in San Antonio. It has a big snarly bull on it. That's kind of how I am in the before about 9 am. I plan to drink my herbal tea with even more attitude in the mornings now.

So everything is big in Texas. The women have big hair, people are big, cars are big, food portions are big, the world is big. It takes hours by car just to get out of the state. It's just an enormous piece of land at the bottom of the country. My sister says sometimes she feels trapped living in Texas because it takes so long to get OUT of Texas. Oh, and I've seen tons of tattoos in the past five days.

Yesterday we drove down to San Antonio. What a great, pulsing city with an eclectic mix of people! We stayed in an historic hotel on the River Walk and enjoyed the cool spring breezes on our River Walk cruise. All kinds of native shrubs and flowers were blooming along the way. The palm trees made a stunning backdrop to the newly sprung pink, purple and yellow blossoms.

The Alamo was a fascinating historic site in which hundreds of people had decided to visit. I think all of Texas was on spring break there today. I learned a little bit of history in between dodging the hoards of humanity. Then we decided to visit the San Antonio zoo. It took us 15 minutes of bumper to bumper in the parking lot to realize that we wouldn't be able to get a park. And since the five-year olds had already been walking for three hours that day and were getting whiny, we decided to pass.

My brother in law offered to tend the kids so Lisa and I could go shopping, bless his heart. While driving to the Round Rock Outlet Mall, we tried to think of the last time we'd been shopping together sans kids. We figured it was eight years ago, right before Lisa had moved to Anchorage, Alaska. (Yes, she does go from one extreme to another, doesn't she?) Eight years since we'd been out together! Back then we sat in a Barnes and Noble cafe and made up Master Card commericals. Ours went something like this: Pot of mandarin tea to share--$4.00; lemon cream cookies to share--$3.00; Anchorage Daily News--$1.50; spending time together without children--priceless.

Today I made up a new one: Breakfast for seven on the River Walk--$54.00; Passage for seven on a River Walk Cruise--$27.00; a pink cowboy hat and T-shirt at the souvenir store--$22.00; snacks to make everyone happy on the way home--$15.00; cousins sleeping in the back seat together--priceless.

There have been other priceless things about this trip. Like when I listen to my nephew whine it sounds exactly like his cousin--my own daughter--back home. (Well, this is more amusing/annoying than priceless!) When I look at my niece's baby pictures it reminds me of how my own babies used to look. When I walk into my sister's bedroom and see it is painted EXACTLY the same color as my own bedroom, I realize how similar we really are. In her closet I see clothes and shoes that I would wear, too. I remember how I used to go into her room and "borrow" what I wanted to wear! And when my niece sits down at the computer to write a story, I realize that yes, we really do share the same blood.

As usual, this trip has passed way too quickly. For Lisa and me, there is never enough time to be together and there's always way too much time in between visits. There's a thousand and something miles between her home and mine. When we were growing up I'm sure we never thought we'd live so far apart. There were days as a teenager when I remember thinking I didn't ever want to see her again. And I know she thought the same about me every day!

Today, though, I'd love just a few more days down in the Lone Star State.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Austin is Awesome

Hi y'all. I'm a down here in Texas visiting my sister. Everone is just so nice. Really. They're thoughtful, helpful and cheerful. Today my sister's friend said to me,"Hope y'all have a great time on the rest of y'all's trip." I didn't know you could put two y'alls in a sentence. Wow.

It's spring in Texas. The air is sweet and warm and smells like cherry blossoms the minute you step outside. The brown tree branches trees are getting those bright green leaves on them. I love their color when they first come out. As it gets hotter they fade to a calmer green, but right now they're absolutely shouting, "Hey y'all out there, look at me! It's spring! Didn't y'all know?" And it's about 70 degrees, the perfect temperature in most people's estimation.

The first night we arrived we ate dinner at this great Southern comfort food restaurant called Thredgills. It's the kind of place that bills macaroni and cheese and grits with gravy as a "vegetable." So you know you're gonna feel like you died and gone to heaven with every bite that goes into your mouth. You can practically hear your arteries saying, "Brace yourselves, pecan crusted chicken is on it's way down!" That's what I had, by the way. It was a divine dish. I love anything with pecans (or as Texans say it PECAAAAANs). So I was in the right place. My nephew Sam ordered fried catfish and my brother in law was in heaven with his meatloaf and "vegetable" sides of mashed potatoes and gravy and San Antonio squash, which was doing the backstroke in cheese and butter.

When it came time for dessert, we all declined because we were so full. Later my sister told me that the peach cobbler at Thredgills is legendary. It's the most delicious dessert ever, mostly because it's made with six (yes 6) squares of butter. Yee haw! Plastering your arteries with cement would probably be better than eating that peach cobbler. It would have been nice to try one bite. Just to say you tasted the best peach cobbler on the planet. Needless to say I did my sister's workout DVD called "The Firm" this afternoon to counteract any damage that delightful dinner may have done.

Austin has a great night life, so my sister tells me. Bands were playing all around and people were just sitting outside in the beautiful weather enjoying the breeze and the music. Tonight we went to a great Mexican restaurant called Curros. My brother in law was again in heaven with his chilis rejenos. He said, "Thanks so much for coming so we can go to all my favorite restaurants!" I loved my vegetable enchilads and black beans and rice. Guess what? The enchiladas were stuffed with tons of vegetables like zuchini, yellow squash, mushrooms and onions. There was no macaroni and cheese in sight. Another wonderful dinner.

Then we went to the Whole Foods Market where I was astounded by the assortment of incredibly attractive looking foods. What's so cool about it is that all the clerks are sort of hippie/granola types and I had just as much fun looking at them as I did the very attractively displayed foods and other organic goods. The coolest thing in the stores was a huge wheel of organic cheese--some sort of fancy French cheese--for $279.00! It was literally the size of a wagon wheel. Antother bizarre thing was the Adriatic fig cake that looked like a Christmas fruit cake that had healthy things in it like, well, figs and other brown things. One more cool thing was the handpainted cookies that cost $10.99 a pound! I could have stayed in there all night, but it was off to the Bookpeople bookstore. Wow!! Another place I could have just moved into and felt very comfortable for at least six months.

So that was my first 24 hours in Austin. I'm having a great time. Leah is enjoying playing with her cousin Sam (the one who ate catfish at Thredgills) and his brother and sister. (They had salmon and chicken fried steak, respectively, by the way.)

Tomorrow it's off to do more fun things in downtown Austin. Until then, hope y'all have a great night tonight, OK, y'all?

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

My Pink Bike in March

I got on my bike today for the first time since November. I felt like I was saying hello to a good friend who had been away for awhile. I felt like my world was waking up after a long hibernation, like my thoughts had been fuzzy and cloudy but were now emerging from a bewildering haze.

I started biking last summer. My husband bought me a pink mountain bike, just my size. I was as happy as I'd been when I'd gotten a three-speed Schwinn when I was 8 years old. The only place I ever rode back then was to friends' houses or to the drug store to buy candy. I wasn't much of rider, in other words. I rode purely for pleasure, like most kids.

When Darren bought the bike, he was skeptical. He thought it would be like other things he'd bought me in the past that initually I'd been excited about but then would forget. I surprised him a month later when I was still riding. Two months later I was still riding. I even kept riding after I took two bad wipe outs while trying to make a fast turn. I don't think I've ever had such a huge bruise on my leg.

I rode all the way into November when I started getting headaches from the cold. It was time to retire the bike for the winter. Frankly, I surprised myself, that I stuck with a form of exercicse for longer than two weeks. And that I actually ENJOYED that form of exercise.

So I'd pass my pink bike in the garage whenever I got into the car, which was about 178 times a day. Spring seemed years away.

All winter long I had to do (or not do) other kinds of exercise. There were those six weeks between mid-November and January 1 when I didn't do a thing but holiday stuff. Then in January I started doing exercise videos and walking/jogging (if you can really call it jogging) at an indoor track. Honestly I have no idea how people can stand jogging. The only way I can stand it is if I have on two sports bras, music in my ears, and I can stop after every lap and walk one lap. The big accomplishment of the month was when I could actually jog again without feeling that I would pass out. I was prepared for my body to never forgive me for neglecting exercise.

I'm not really the athlete type. I'm five feet two and a hundred and blank blank pounds. But last summer when I biked up the canyon, suddenly I saw myself becoming super-fit, super-lean and super-strong. I could ride up the canyon and back, about eleven miles, and to me, that was the Tour de France!

So today, after two months of listening to Mari Winsor talk about feeling the love and energy after my workout, and after two months of breathing stale sweaty air at the indoor track, I was free!! It was 50 degrees and there was no stopping me.

There was still snow on the side of the trail. I wasn't the only one out enjoying the nice weather. Even the serious joggers had grins on their faces, don't ask me how. It definitely wasn't as scenic as it is in the summer or fall--the colors were drab and dull compared to the fall splendor I remembered. Oranges, yellows and rusts were now brown, gray and more brown. Even the green of the pine trees seemed faded somehow.

On the way up, I was breathing great gulps of fresh air that smelled like new soil overturned in my father's garden. New ideas were stirring that had no outlet over the winter. It was finally spring, and all its cliche words began popping into my head as I pedaled: rebirth, renew, growth, survivial, change, strength, awakening.

You know how all winter long you wear long sleeves, long pants and closed shoes? Then one day it's warm enough and you put on a T-shirt, shorts and sandals, and your skin kind of tingles, not knowing how to react to the open air? That's how it was for me today.

When I came down the canyon, I rode as hard as I could. When I thought what could happen if I crashed at that speed, I slowed down a little, but then sped up again. What a rush it was!!!

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Getting Ready for Vacation is no Vacation

I'm taking my five-year old daughter, Leah, to Austin, TX, with me this week to visit my sister and her family. My sister, Lisa's been bugging me for four years to come and visit her--ever since she moved from Anchorage, Alaska--but for whatever reason, I never got it together enough to go. She's pointed it out to me on numerous occasions that I got it together enough to visit our brother in Seattle twice over the past few years, and she's come back to Utah several times to visit us, but I have failed in my sisterly duties to visit her.

Well, she can stop bellyaching. I'll be on that plane this week. It's not that I don't want to go to Texas. It's not that I don't want to spend time with her and her family. I truly do. It just happens to be twice as far as Seattle and not nearly as green and politically correct. I mean, our current president hails from there and that's a bit disturbing to me. I keep thinking of the year we lived in New Orleans, Louisiana, and how awful that was. And silly as it is, I sort of equate Texas with that experience. But Lisa tells me that Austin's different, that it has great music and restaurants. I think, so did N'awlins. She says there are tons of fun things to see and do in clap clap "deep in the heart of Texas," and so I'm going to rid myself of my Texasaphobia, have an open mind, and head on down the the Lone Star State. Yee-haw!

Besides that, Utah has been BLOODY cold and snowy for the past two months, and my sister tells me it's 85 degrees down there. I would really like to be warm for the first time since last October. I've consumed more hot chocolate this year that any other year on record, I'm sure. I complain insessantly about the temperature in the house and turn up the thermostat when my husband isn't looking. I mean, really, he wants to keep it at 64 at night. How insane is that? So it would be nice to be warm for a few days. Warm sounds very nice right now.

It's not very easy to leave three kids behind and just take one. I'm been hearing about it every day since I booked the ticket about two months ago. I thought I'd make it easy on everyone and take the kid whose the hardest to take care of and the one who would miss me the most if I left her home. That was a no-brainer. That's the five-year old who only has 2.75 hours of school a day, and wants us to play with her for six hours straight when she gets home. She's the one who calls me every five minutes on my cell phone to ask me when I'll be home, and the one who cries if I'm not in her radar. OK, I will make life easy for everyone and take her with me. She was thrilled. My 12-year old, Samantha, was not thrilled.

My sisters's son, Nicholas, is exactly Samantha's age. They're weeks apart, literally. To Samantha, it was a major slap in the face not to take her. I explained to her she'd have to do hours of homework when she got back. I explained to her that she got to go to Alaska with me when the other kids didn't. I explained to her that we'd help her pay for a trip to Texas in the summer when she was on vacation. But then she pointed out to the the same thing I've been telling my sister when she asks why we don't come down in the summer----IT'S TOO HOT!!! Hot enough to fry an egg on the cement. UGH! I can't win.

So, y'all, I've got a lot to do to get ready to go. Make sure there are groceries in the house, make sure the laundry's all done (well, for as long as it can stay done, oh, about three minutes) write out a schedule for my husband to follow and hope that I haven't forgotten something major like my daughter's lifeguarding class that she has to be to every night while I'm gone. Did I pay the piano teacher and the swim team? Did I make those dentist appointments, did I find some new sandals to take down there, have I got enough stuff to keep Leah happy on the plane?

What it comes down to is this is my sister. And I get to go visit her. And if she lived in Timbuktu, I'd still go visit her.


Thursday, March 1, 2007

Life of a Teeange Girl Swimmer

A month ago my daughter competetd in the State 4A Swim Championships. When she was in the pool pulsing through her 100 butterfly, I couldn't help but thinking of the countless hours that brought her to that point. (By the way, I think anyone who can contort their body through the pool with any semblance of a butterfly rhythm at at all deserves the highest praise!)

So I thought of the first time she ever got into a pool. She was about one. She wore one of the swimsuit/lifejackets all in one. She looked like a bobbing round bubble holding onto my hands and squealing and kicking. I knew then that she loved the water.

Then there were summer swim lessons at the pool when she was four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine where she'd get slathered down with sunscreen before her class. She'd protest when it was time to get out--beg to stay in longer. Thirty minutes was a joke of a swim lesson for her. She wanted more.

There were summer afternoons at Lake Hebgen, Montana, where she'd jump off the end of the pier and stay in the lake the rest of the day.

In third grade she decided she'd join the local swim club. That meant more pool time--much more in fact, and a lot more running around for me, the chauffeur. Three days a week for 90 minutes at a time. She was in heaven.

Then the better she got, the more she moved up, and the longer the practice. Her meets were two-day affairs, sometimes hours each day. They moved slowly and methodically. She'd chew on her goggles in anticipation of her race. She still chews on her goggles and paces the side of the pool. I could always find her in the crowd, just look for the kid pacing with half a pair of goggles stuffed in her mouth.

She and her Dad would pore over the meet sheets, looking at other swimmer's times and thinking about what she's swim at the next meet.

Ninth grade crept up on us. She was still in junior high but could now could officially join the high school team. Since she'd been swimming competively since 4th grade, she was autmatically on the varsity team. High school meets were a lot more fun for her and the family. They were half the time, twice the spirit, and three times the fun. Butterfly was her stroke.

She worked her guts out. Her Dad drove her to the 5:30 am practice three mornings a week since I couldn't open my eyes at that hour. I would have crashed the car! Bless his heart. I could manage the 3 pm daily practices; I was at least awake at that point in the day, though quite frazzled. There were endless bottles of swim shampoo, many trips to the swim shop, and the smell of chlorine suits and towels hanging in the laundry room. I must have bought at least 3,567 pairs of goggles--some "cheap and crappy" some "OK ones" and some "sweet ones." There were fins, fast skins, meet suits, caps, pool buoys, warmups and parkas and other assorted swimwear/gear. There were heavy metals that would knock over her music stand, and a scrapbook for her ribbons.

"Hi, is Adrienne there?" friend callers would ask over the years. "Sorry, so and so, she's at swimming." I must have said that at least a thousand times.

Her sister would ask, "Where's Adrienne?" Her brother would answer, "Where else would she be, she's where she always is." At the pool.

So that was her life. My life. Our lives.

Now Adrienne is a sophomore in high school. I'm surprised she hasn't sprouted gills and fins for all the time she's spent in the pool. Turned into a mermaid like Daryl Hannah.

She flip turns and takes on the last lap with determination. She's not kicking hard enough, but she seems to command the water, like Moses parting the Red Sea. I don't know if she'll win or not. It's close. I see that she is ahead of her projected time, so as long as she drops time. I don't remember how the race turned out exactly. I was watching the other girl swimmers, her comrades in nylon/polyester, grab on to her and smother her in their teeagerly cheers and excitement when she got out of the pool.

As they jumped around and huddled on the side on the pool, I got to thinking that there's nothing better than being a part of a pack of wet, hysterical girls who have all shared your pain, misery and joys for years. Nothing better. I'm so glad she has that.

The week after the state meet was over, she told me she and bunch of her swim team friends are going to join the water polo team!!!!! UGHH!

It never ends.