Wednesday, July 29, 2009

That's My Girl

A couple weeks ago, Katie's car was vandalized--someone sprayed foam insulation up the tailpipe. She knows who did it and why (she had his car towed from her parking space after repeated requests not to park in the spot she pays for).

Last Friday, walking home from DinkyTown, she and her friends came across this guy passed out under a tree. She insisted on trying to help him but could not rouse the guy. She called 911 and stayed with the guy until help arrived. The officer who responded could not rouse the guy, either, so she (the officer) called an ambulance. He was taken to the hospital to be treated for alcohol poisoning.

Katie sent me an email that night to tell me what happened. She said she wanted to leave the guy there, but couldn't. She remembered who she is and who I raised her to be, and knew she had to help even this jerk. The last line of her note thanked me for raising her to be that kind of woman.

It's been 3 days, but the note still makes me cry. This Mom thing is a good gig.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Some day soon I'm going to write about something other than how happy I am to be on my bike again. Today, I'm still a one-note symphony.

Last night some of my family got together for a dinner cruise--riding our bikes to a local restaurant. Evan didn't ride but met us for dinner. We had a fabulous time and stayed longer than we'd planned. It was quite dark when we finished, but I still wanted to ride home. My nephew, not wanting to be outdone by a mere girl—and an old one at that—agreed to go with me.

We rode a gravel trail through a park, along a river. No lights. Nothing lighted nearby. The sky was overcast and the thumbnail crescent moon wouldn't have helped much anyway. The gravel is light gray, so the path was basically visible enough to follow and that was it.

After we'd gone too far to go back, my nephew yelled from behind me, "This might not be the smartest thing we've ever done."

"My life's full of 'not the smartest thing.' " I yelled back. "Never regretted a single one of them. Keep pedaling."

We rode into a section completely canopied by trees. Dark like you can't believe--deepest, darkest, blackest dark. Twenty feet into it, we were surrounded by fireflies--thousands of winking, twinkling miracles. Terrified and enchanted in equal degrees, I couldn't decide whether to ride faster to get out of the dark or slower to soak up the magic.

In the fields beyond the canopied section, we were greeted by hundreds and thousands more fireflies. I've truly never seen so many so close.

When we got to the park, I hated to be finished. Riding that trail in the dark was foolish. Terrifying. Exhilarating. The most fun I've had in years.

Magic is everywhere, but you only find it when you say YES. Finally home in bed, my entire body buzzed with the sibilance of Molly Bloom: yes I will yes I am Yes.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Somewhere deep inside me, under the gray hair and the age spots and weird whiskers, a single cell remembers what it's like to feel attractive. When I ride, that cell arches its back into the breeze and floats free, testing its power. It considers reproduction then remembers that's never really been an option in this body.

Six pear-shaped tomatoes ripen on a vine planted in a metal trash can on the deck. Before the tomatoes, before the blossoms, before the vine, a seed held their promise.

The cell and the seed, the tomatoes and me: we all reach for the sun and dream of more.

The Count...

for the morning:

Miles ridden: 10

Indigo Buntings: 3

Wooly Caterpillars: 5

70-year old woman wearing giant sombrero: 1

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Rain kept me from riding last night, and you'd think I was a kid who didn't get to go to the park. If a tantrum would have helped, I would have thrown one.

It's still raining now, but I may put on rain gear and go pedal anyway. Just don't want to let this feeling slip away.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hair Raising

Cutting off my hair changed my life.

No, really.

I'd been struggling for many months: depressed, overweight, working too many hours, feeling terrible nearly every day. Every day started with a battle with my hair. I've let it go gray and every day I revisited that decision. Several times. Along with the color, the texture and bounce left my hair. Every morning I washed it, filled it with mousse and gel before blowing it dry and setting it with Velcro rollers. Then I'd add hair spray and touch up flat spots with a flat iron. Finally, wax and more hair spray.

Within minutes it was completely limp. Completely.

On June 21, I came home from somewhere and walked into my bathroom to brush my teeth. When I caught sight of myself in the mirror, I knew something simply HAD to change.

By noon the next day, I was in a chair, explaining my dilemma to a guy who nodded sagely, lifted pieces of hair and watched them fall, and put a new blade in his razor cutter.

Then he hacked my shoulder length hair to about 2 inches long all over my head. My hair is now fringy and spiky and a little edgy, something I've wanted since the day I met the irrepressible Deb in Portland a couple years ago. I've never been brave enough to risk it. Then I hit the wall and knew that even if it didn't work, it would be better than what I had going on.

It worked.

For days, every time I got near a mirror, I marveled at having cute hair. I put on make up, even to stay home and work. I bought a new outfit.

Four or five days after the hair cut, I took my bicycle to the shop for a tune up. I rode 5 miles the day I got the bike back. Since late June, I have ridden every day--as much as 15 miles at a time. In every way you can think of, I feel better than I have in years.

I've lost weight and gained perspective. My dad's still sick. Several dear friends and loved ones are still facing health challenges. Publishing is still in a tailspin and making a living as a writer and editor is still tough. BUT I feel more capable of facing each day. I"m stronger physically and mentally. I'm happier. When I wake up in the morning, my muscles throb in a it's-good-to-be-alive way.

It is. Good to be alive, I mean.

Especially when you've got cute hair.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Seasons of ....

Driving down to my brother's house at 7:30 this morning, I had Paula's top down and the sound track to Rent cranked up. The sun was bright but cool and skating the curvy road was pure pleasure.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes....

Cruise control freed both my feet to tap along as I danced in my seat. Coasting down hill, I raised both arms to the sky and felt the wind's resistance against my open hands..

Live in my house, I'll be your shelter....

My body felt full, from the center out to the surface of my skin. I could feel my blood circulating, thrumming in my veins.

Seasons of love...

I remember this.

This is joy.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road

You see things up close from the back of a bicycle. Take roadkill. (Please.)

The first day you see a dead skunk in the middle of the road, it's like a recently vacated auditorium. The essential skunkness is gone but you see plenty of signs it existed only moments before.

The second day the body has begun to deflate a bit. By the third it's quite flat and the luxuriant black-and-white coat is a faded memory. On the fourth day, only teeth and claws and a few odd bits rise above a puddle of nothingness. In another day or two, you may see a greasy shadow, but maybe nothing at all.

Vibrant to vacant. Powerful to powerless. Here to gone.

It's all such a mystery.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Into the Storm

"Chuck gave his life to Christ a long time ago as a young Marine in a railroad car on the first leg of his deployment to Korea. In his family, there's been some confusion about whether he was baptized as a child, and he wants to be sure. He comes to his baptism today a long time member of the family God, a man who wants to mark that membership. We're delighted to be here with him as he does."

The minister's tan, bald head bobs a bit as he stands in a water-filled glass tank behind the altar. Red and purple and blue light plays on his white robe as flashes of lightning illuminate the stained glass windows behind him. The organist plays a background melody accompanied by the snare drums of driving rain on the roof and the bass line of occasional thunder.

Dad appears at the steps on the side of the tank, wearing a white robe made for a much larger person. He hesitates, takes the first step, then walks his hands down wall as he makes his way into the water one halting step at a time. His robe billows, which makes him look like a balloon in the Thanksgiving Day parade—minus the guide wires, of course. He flies with nothing but faith to tether him to the earth today.

The glass front of the tank allows the congregation to see everything. The minister asks if he accepts Jesus as his savior and Dad replies in a firm, clear voice that even the deafest old woman sitting in a back corner of the church can hear. He crouches a bit so the minister can reach his head to guide him backward into the water. Dad, who does not swim and has a pathological fear of being under water, falls back willingly. His cheeks puff as he holds his breath.

When Dad stands, the wet robe clings to him. The folds of his belly and the outline of his shorts are visible. I don't know whether they're visible in fact or only in memory, but I see the shadows of scars from repeated surgeries on his lungs and abdomen and shoulder: a map of the world with no key. He wipes his face and gasps for air. The congregation claps and Dad nods, then struggles back up the steps.

The congregation sings several hymns as the minister and Dad change: "Nothing Is Impossible," and "Now We Thank Thee All Our God," and "Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart." The minister emerges, wearing a black robe and hand-woven sash. He announces special concerns and prayer requests and celebrations. Dad slips back into the pew, dressed again in an oxford shirt and khakis. Mom takes his hand and he leans over to kiss her fingers.

Mom turns to Dad and he wraps both arms around her and kisses her full on the mouth for two or three seconds, a we're-in-this-together kiss, a you-are-my-world kiss, an I'll-love-you-in-the next-world-too kiss. Envy sparks in the eyes of two gray-haired women behind them. Each turns and wipes away tears. Neither Mom nor Dad seem to remember there's anyone else in the room or maybe even on the planet as they hold each other close.

Finally, they turn to listen to the rest of the service, but their hands remain as knotted as the veins crossing their knuckles. Mom's left hand rests on top of their intertwined hands, holding the part of Dad's fingers she can reach beyond that first grasp. She rests her head on his shoulder and he rests his head on hers. Nothing about it is unseemly, but it is almost too intimate to bear.

After the service, Mom and Dad stand with the minister, shaking hands and accepting congratulations and welcome. Their joy burns like a flame, even in the bright light of the narthex. When the last hand has been shaken, they thank the minister, join hands, and walk out into the storm. Together.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Attention Span of a Tsetse Fly

I saw My Sister's Keeper last night, bought the book and find myself outraged by the ways the producers changed the story.

Walking to my car from the movie, I deeply felt the heat of the day and a poetic description of it riffled through my head.

Katie's car was vandalized yesterday in retaliation for her choice to have a car towed from her parking spot.

My 77-year-old father is being baptized this Sunday.

And what am I posting this morning? Pure fun.

Thursday, July 09, 2009


If you've been reading along for a while, you know Katie and I have an ongoing thing about calling each other bitch. For Christmas, she gave me a nightshirt with a picture of three dogs and the words "Bitch. Bitch. Bitch" embroidered below the pictures. (Pay attention--the embroidered part is going to be important in a minute here.)

Yesterday morning I woke and rambled into the bathroom to get ready for the day. I pulled my Bitch nightshirt over my head and faced the mirror to decide whether or not to wash my hair. My reflection made me laugh so hard I spit all over the mirror.

Must have been sleeping on my stomach, because sleep wrinkles of "Bitch. Bitch. Bitch." were impressed across my midsection. It looked like I'd been branded.

When I told Katie, she asked if I still believe in signs from God.


I mean that in the most loving way possible, of course.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A Bunch of Sew and Sews

Heard about a group of women who gather once a month to make quilts for kids in hospitals and signed up to participate. Made the 45-minute trek last night and what I found was more than worth the drive.

For seven years now, a rotating group of women has gathered in the back room of this quilt store once a month. They cut and sew and talk and laugh for hours. Most of the fabrics and supplies are donated. The laughter is free. Anyone who wants to help is welcome.

Worked all evening and came home with a stack of quilts to finish binding as well as a stack of fabrics to make into weighted blankets for children with autism. Somehow, these women found out that weighted blankets help some kids on the spectrum sleep better. They came up with a pattern and instructions and started recruiting people to make the blankets. The need is great—the waiting list to receive one of the blankets is many months long.

I love to sew, particularly for kids. But what I love even more is being in the company of women united for a cause. The collective spirit and energy and creativity in that room could power the rotation of the earth if need be. I left so full of enthusiasm you'd think I'd been mainlining adrenaline.

Can't wait to go back. I wants me some more of that.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Only Now

The family gathered at my sister's house on Saturday, along with friends we've known for more than 25 years, among them a young family with two boys: 5 and 7 years old.

After dinner, we convened in the front yard for a few fireworks. The little boys were ecstatic--they ran in circles, shouting "Best 4th of July EVER!!!" These little guys are so well behaved and polite, so much fun to be around that I stayed until the last popper popped, despite other invitations. Their enthusiasm was contagious, their delight so real that the sparklers sparkled brighter, the crackers cracked louder and the fizzes whizzed faster. Watching them transported me to the time my own children were equally thrilled with small things.

Yesterday was Meatloaf Monday. Mom and I reported for duty, as usual. Before I could start mixing and measuring, I had to take set up shop in a corner for a minute, using my computer and cell phone to run one last detail to ground and get a magazine article submitted. As soon as possible, I packed up my laptop, turned off my cell phone, and headed to the kitchen.

My mother was standing at the counter, lit up like a Christmas tree. Wearing a pink baseball cap, a lavender t-shirt, khaki capris and her brand-new tan Crocs with white ankle socks, she could have been any age at all. Actually, she looked ageless: so dear it's impossible to believe she's 75.

Several people were on vacation, so five of us produced meatloaf, mashed potatoes, corn, and salad for more than 500. The kitchen was hot and the work fairly heavy for so few. Mom more than held up her end of the deal, slinging 10-pound sleeves of hamburger and 3-gallon containers of corn like they were nothing. She laughed and told stories that made others laugh. She wrung every bit of possible enjoyment out of the experience.

Neither those little boys nor my mother would describe what they were doing as "being in the moment."

No mantras. No meditations. No chants.

Only joy. Only love. Only now.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Growing a Pair

On Friday, I got an email telling me I am being recognized as a top contractor (among more than 6000) for an organization for which I freelance. The email asked me for a bio and a photo to be used in the newsletter and provided the bio of the other person who has received this recognition in the company's three-year history.

Kind of cool, right? Not if you're me. I skipped past the "good for me" part, directly into the "I don't have enough education" and "there's not a single picture I can send." From there, I leaped to "who are the other people if I'm among the best." Like Groucho, I kind of wonder about any club that would have me as a member.

Katie called as I was fretting about the bio and pic. Picking up on my distress, she asked what was going on. When I explained, she said, "Oh, Mom. Grow a pair. You're smart enough to get the award. Surely you're smart enough to write a decent bio."

When I grow up, I'm going to be as pragmatic as my darling daughter.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


The pathology reports are back. The abnormal growth in Dad's lung is not malignant.

Let's aks Jesus!

Now that we know what it is not, we need to find out what it is. He'll have a PET scan next week to figure out what's next. The growth can't stay there--it's causing his lung to collapse and fluid to collect, which results in repeated pneumonia. But that's a problem for next week. Today, we sing and dance and give great thanks.

Thank you for your kind words of support, your prayers and remembrances. It all means more than you can know.