After our evening ride, which happens slightly more that fifty percent of the time, I have a little ritual. I wash my face with Seabreeze on a cotton ball, a tiny part of me believing that if I use the same stuff I used when I was fifteen, my forty-four year old skin will forget that it isn’t fifteen. I wash up with a soapy washcloth. I think about my mom telling me and my three siblings to take a duck bath on summer evenings. That thought leads to memories of running and laughing in the humid summer air, of swinging and sliding, of catching fireflies and sneaking off to look at the little pond, of creating elaborate games where the mimosa tree is a castle and we are princesses. I always pause there and just remember.

Of course, those memories lead to more and I find myself longing for other things. I want a round cardboard box full of powder, topped off with a puff that has a silky back. I want to press the puff into the box, then tap-tap-tap it on the side, then tap it on my shoulders, under my arms, on my belly. I want to surround myself in a cloud of talcum-tinged air, to breathe it in and out again. I want to slick my body with a skin of pure white, to soak up that sweat that is bound to sneak out when I’m asleep.

I want a jump rope, a red one with barrel-shaped plastic handles. I want the rope to be just a little too long so I have to pull it into one of the handles and knot it again, making it smaller. I want to jump and hear it slap-slap-slap the sidewalk under my feet while I chant “Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack, all dressed in black black black.” I want to jump until I am out of breath and my arms feel like spaghetti and my feet tangle in the rope and I stumble and fall into the sweetly green summer grass and giggle to myself.

I want a Beverly Cleary book, or a Madeleine L’Engle. I want a thermos of orange Kool-Aid, my book, a great big pine tree. I want to climb up and up and up, until I can see the tops of all of the cars and find a spot where two branches make a vee. I want to sit there, trunk at my back, the smell of pine soaking into my pores, words and stories soaking into my soul. I want to lose myself, completely, for an entire afternoon.

I want to be in the back of the station wagon with my brother and mom’s friend’s son Johnny, listening to him “crack wise.”

I want to be at a summer fair, hands sticky from cotton candy, lips stained from Popsicle, stomach roiling from my sister’s mad tea cup skills.

I want to be lying on my back, on an old quilt, watching fireworks bloom like magic in the sky.

I want to be seven, or eight, or nine. I want to be carefree and young, strong and tanned, with my whole life in front of me and nothing to do tomorrow but explore and read and be alive.

And then I remember this real world of mine. I remember the words in my head that push to come out, and the man who loves me. I remember filling two sides of a sheet of paper practicing my new last name and how much I love vegetables, now. I think of how strong my legs are, how far I can ride, the fact that I can get ice cream when I want instead of waiting for someone to buy it for me. I put on my nightgown and go into the bedroom where Wayne is waiting, where my Kindle is waiting, where a cold beer is waiting. I smile and think how grateful I am to have memories, but how very much more wonderful this middle-aged life is than I had ever imagined it would be when I was jumping rope and climbing trees.

Since the list post, I:

  • Nursed a princess
  • Broke stuff, and then fixed it
  • Read a whole bunch of awesome stuff (I am on a poetry kick, thanks to what Wayne is doing in school)
  • Read Divergent (good), started The Handmaid’s Tale (amazing)
  • Got to the lace in Multnomah! (I know!)
  • Lost more weight. I am simply wasting away to nothing.
  • Decided to eat more
  • Practiced my new signature
  • Painted and sanded the book shelves Wayne made for me
  • And of course, organized my books
  • Wrote a chapter in Megan and dreamed about HPS
  • Counted the days until my last name changes
  • Picked what might be my wedding dress

Before I post again, I might:

  • Finish a couple books
  • Harvest some cherry tomatoes
  • Fix a pair of shoes
  • Finish all of the prep work for a super-big go-live
  • Buy a dress to get married in (and shoes too?)
  • Get a new computer

I’m allergic to not being awesome

Lately, I’ve been seeing a series of coincidences pop up in my reading.

First, I should explain how I pick what to read. I have some “real” books, but most of my reading is library books on my Kindle. I normally choose to read a “real” book when I don’t have anything on the Kindle. It happens; the library only has so many electronic copies of books, and some that are on my book list they don’t have at all. I would say that at this stage, I read one paper book for every ten e-books.

All of that is to explain that I am normally not picking what to read next. I put a book on hold with the library and when it’s available, I read it. And I go down my “to read” list in alphabetical order to add books to my hold list. There’s a good deal of random chance in what comes up next, in other words.

Not long ago, that random chance resulted in reading three books in a row that were based on the lives of the wives of famous men from the 20’s: Call Me Zelda, The Aviator’s Wife, and The Paris Wife. I bought Call Me Zelda in paper (somewhat local author and all that). The other two came up around the same time on my library list. Weird? I think so.

And it’s just happened again. I just finished Chime and am about halfway through The Light in the Ruins (links below). Why they seem like they have nothing in common, they both feature a very prominent character who is short an extremity. Shiny nubs in both books, in other words.

Coincidence surrounds me. The books are a good example for me because I read so much, but they happen in odd other ways, too. I remember when Wayne and I first met and were going over the getting-to-kn0w-you early facts of our lives up to the age of 41. We had some odd and interesting spatial coincidences. We were in Norfolk at the same time. He was working in the school where I worked for my first job after the Navy. Both of our marriages blew up in hugely dramatic fashions in the same month and year (it’s possible it was the same weekend, if not the same day). We still tend to think and say the same things, but I think that speaks more to our similar personalities than to any cosmic voodoo.

Not that I believe in any such thing as cosmic voodoo. Actually, I am very much on the side of luck for many things. I believe that we can put foundations and boundaries in place that help lead us to luck, and we have to be vigilant to see when luck could happen, but it all still boils down to luck. My current job was posted not long after the drama of endless layoffs at my old job – that part is luck. Having the knowledge, background, and skills to actually get the job, though – that is not luck. That’s preparation.

I suppose it all boils down to luck and coincidence. If I didn’t read book after book, I would not be in a position to see the coincidences in my reading. If my marriage hadn’t ended, I would not have been there when Wayne and I talked about all the times we almost met. But really – is there a difference between luck and coincidence? Aren’t they both just random chance?

Since my last post I:

  • may have gained a granddaughter. My biological daughter had her first baby. I am unsure how I feel about this. It makes me cry, though, so that’s a clue.
  • planned a honeymoon.
  • did very little creating of anything.
  • walked/biked a combined total of 67.25 miles.
  • read Chime (amazing), started The Light in the Ruins, and started re-reading Great Expectations (much better this time around).
  • lost six pounds, which is interesting because I gained two last week so that’s four pounds in two weeks. That’s way too much and unsustainable so I get to eat more!
  • figured out how to build an SCCM collection from an Active Directory group.
  • wrote a chapter in Handsome Prince Stephan
  • built an Amazon Prime playlist: The Cure, Depeche Mode, The Violent Femmes, The Smiths, Joy Division. It is pure 80’s nerd heaven.

Before I post again, I will (or hope to):

  • assist my daughter with recovering from dental surgery. Wish her luck; I am a horrible nurse.
  • actually pull weeds in the tiny garden.
  • eat the first tomatoes from said tiny garden.
  • do something, anything, with yarn.
  • write at least one chapter in either Megan or HPS.
  • talk Wayne into doing the 20 mile ride again. Talk my legs into it, too, while I’m at it.

A dream

I dreamed last night that I was on a beach. Gentle waves lapped a golden crescent of sand, clean and glowing in the afternoon sun. Behind me, the gold of the wet sand slowly faded as it moved up up to yellow-white dunes, topped with scraggly little trees that were probably a thousand years old but so very stunted by the wind and the waves that shaped all of their days.

In front of me on the sand was a laundry basket. I started to fold the clothes in it, placing them in piles on the sand. I saw another pair of hands reach in, pull out a green tee shirt. I followed the hands up the arms, to the face, and saw that it was my mother. She smiled at me as she folded that shirt, put it on a pile, and reached in for something else. The waves brushing the sand sang to us and the sky opened huge and blue behind her head.

And then, another pair of hands. Again, my eyes traced up the arms to the shoulders, the face. It was my daughter. She looked at me and smiled, then she looked at my mother and frowned. She was folding a red towel.

The song of the waves increased suddenly, with no warning, and I looked over my shoulder to see a huge wave coming, so large that the roiling, foaming grayness of it blocked the entire sky. And then my mother called over its song, “Save the laundry.” My daughter and I put the piles into the basket and I reached down to grab it, to pick it up and run, when the giant wave arrived.

I was swirling and spinning and crashing in a gray, salty universe. The water pulled at my legs and arms, whipped my head around, crawled into my nose and I pushed and kicked. I felt myself rise up and up and up until my face, and then my head behind it, broke the surface. The perfectly blue sky arced above me. The whole world was the grayness of the wave, and its smaller siblings who were crawling along behind it.

I turned, flipped my legs out behind me, started body surfing. I looked to the right and saw my daughter, her brown hair flowing out behind her, belly down, riding the top of the wave crest as I was. I smiled, fluttered my fingers at her. We rode the wave in, the shore suddenly miles from where we had started. We made it safely back to the golden sand crescent, though, and came to our feet in the foam of the retreating wave holding hands. She spoke. “Where is Nana?”

We both looked for my mother. She was gone. I knew that the wave had taken her. “She was never a swimmer.” My daughter’s words echoed my thoughts. I looked from her face up, to the left, hoping to find my mother higher up with the stunted trees. Instead, I found them decorated with brightly colored laundry, like the wishes supplicants tie to the fences and walls at a Japanese temple. I walked towards them, up and up, feeling the climb in the fronts of my calves, feeling the roughness of the sand with my toes as they gripped into the dune to push me forward-up.

And then I was in the trees, and they were much larger than they had looked from below. I turned and looked behind me. The gray ocean was endless, the beach a tiny sliver next to it. I searched for a bobbing head of gray hair, and saw nothing. With a sigh, I turned back to the trees. They were three, four, ten times my height and decorated with blue pants and yellow shirts and pink towels and purple sundresses. On my right, I sensed movement. I looked and my daughter was climbing a tree and tossing down laundry, stiffened with salt.

“Save the laundry,” she said.

I was standing under the tree, laundry basket in my hands, catching the items as they fell from her small star of a hand, far above me in the tree. I could barely see her up there. The sky was so blue, the tree was so green, the laundry was so bright – everything glowed, and the glow moved into, through, out of her.

And then, I woke up.

What I’ve done since my last post:

  • Got a marriage license
  • Scheduled a civil wedding ceremony
  • Helped my daughter move out
  • Started Chime and A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents (yes, at the same time)
  • Filled up my library checkouts on my Kindle
  • Made a shrug and frogged it
  • Made several to many (lost count) Rainbow Loom bracelets
  • Bought cheap yarn for no good reason besides, well, yarn
  • Got a new nightgown that I am in love with and want to wear all the time
  • Got a set of Addi Turbos, moved Multnomah to them, and started working on it again
  • Gone on several bike rides, sweated to many Leslie Sansone workouts, took lots of walks
  • Worked on some web site authentication and redirection
  • Backed up and restored a lot of databases

What I hope to do before I post again:

  • Plan a little honeymoon
  • RSVP for a party
  • Get Multnomah to the lace, or at least make it grow by a few inches
  • Figure out what to do with that brown yarn
  • Go through my yarn stash and straighten it up
  • Clean up my knitting bag and get my active projects down to two
  • Clean the upstairs really well
  • Start working on the closet in the upstairs bedroom
  • Schedule a go-live
  • Finish the two books I am reading and maybe two or three more
  • Lose another pound

Long rides and fro-yo

The first time I ever experienced the joy that is frozen yogurt was the one and only semester I was actually away at college. I grew up in a small town that didn’t have a whole lot of draw for tourists, so we tended to be a bit behind on things. Like, no New York style bagels (I thought all bagels were like the ones you get in the freezer section, next to the frozen waffles), no 31 flavors, basically only McDonald’s and convenience stores. College was in a typical college town, the sort where all of the yummy things that the rest of the world knows about can be had. My Jewish roommate introduced me to the glory that is a day-old bagel with a smear of cream cheese and lox (day-old bagels were half price). She laughed at my wide-eyed, sheep in the big city wonderment of things like a soft-serve machine that they let you work yourself and a real deli where you can choose your bread, not just what goes inside.

Many of the things I first encountered when I was seventeen and Jen with her Philly accent, was showing me the world have stayed special to me. Most of them have a tinge of nostalgia, a light of “remember when” shining on them. And since almost all were food, and much of it bad for me, I don’t have any of it regularly so it’s all still a treat.

I count calories. I really count them. I don’t estimate unless I cannot do otherwise, and when I do estimate I go high. You can come really close to the real count these days, thanks to things like apps that scan barcodes and return nutrition information and the glory that is Google. I also exercise regularly and enthusiastically and measure calories put out. I have a daily calorie goal of 1350 base, without exercise. And I aim to eat half of what I exercise away. It doesn’t always work out, some days I am over and some under, but I’m averaging well over the course of about a week. I am trying to lose weight and I am also trying to work on some annoying middle age issues (aching feet, popping and sore knees) that are exacerbated by being overweight.

If I was reading this I would totally be saying enough backstory already, get to the point.

The point is, we’ve decided were going to do a metric century. We may not be able to do it this year, but we are still going to aim for that as a goal at the end of the bike riding season. With that goal in mind, we’ve been doing longer and longer rides. First we rode a seven mile loop until it became easy and then we added a three mile loop to it. We talked about mapping out fifteen but then just said oh to heck with it, let’s go straight for twenty.

So we did it. Twenty miles on hybrid bikes in street clothes (my bicycling shoes are Tiffany blue Chucks). It took us about an hour and a half and I burned over 1200 calories. Almost my entire caloric intake for the day. That gave me, from the ride alone and not counting my morning workout, 600 calories to blow. Treat time! I headed to my new favorite place, Tutti Frutti. One and a half cups of yogurt, strawberries, those yummy little balls of yum, and granola. And of course, the feeling of decadence that comes from eating something that has no real nutritional value, that is nothing but treat. I love that feeling once in a while. I love even more knowing that I earned it.

But you know what the best part is? Taking a few minutes to remember Jen, who I haven’t seen or spoken to since 1987. I can still see her cloud of hair and her smile in my memory. Hiya, Jen!

Since my last post I:

  • Wrote two chapters in the current book
  • Started editing (!)
  • Found a new morning workout
  • Went on my summer schedule
  • Finished Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. Read The Reader and Gone, Girl.
  • Watched Wayne construct a table in the laundry room
  • Lost more weight
  • Did a ton of database-ish stuff

Before I post again I hope to:

  • Remind myself that it doesn’t have to be on my Kindle to be read
  • Take my engagement ring in to get it re-sized
  • Buy some new sports bras, and maybe pick up some socks too
  • Get back into the habit of daily yoga
  • Iron out a real, workable morning routine for the summer (I go to work at 6 AM)
  • Help my daughter settle in at her new place and remember that she’s an adult, so this move is a good thing
  • Write at least one chapter
  • Get in a few hours of editing
  • Do the new 20 (ish) mile ride again