Oh, the places we will go

Wayne and I are preparing (note I do not use the word “training”) for our first Century. We are planning to ride our hybrids, in our street clothes, 100 km in late September. I have every intention of wearing my Chuck Taylors and my pink Chocolate World tee-shirt, which matches my pink helmet that I have bedazzled with Hello Kitty heads, plastic gems, and bits of ribbon sporting such things as pink panda bears. I am on the lookout for pom-pom socks to complete the look.

We are riders, not racers.

We both try to move at least seventy miles a week. For Wayne, all of the movement is in the form of bike riding. Mine includes my Leslie Sansone workouts and my walks. We are in pretty good shape and we have good attitudes and decent bikes that are well-maintained. But, 100 km? 62 miles? That’s a long ride. I might need some padded shorts.

Today, we did twenty miles. We’ve discussed doing at least one 20+ mile ride each week until the race. We had an excellent ride today and did it in a decent (for us) time. We talked, laughed, and enjoyed the scenery. We are blessed to live in a beautiful area that is quite flat, basically a bicycler’s dream. It’s a warm and wet summer so everywhere we look around here we see lushly verdant greenery, wildflowers, generously full gardens. 

Today’s ride was on the main north-south highway, the same route I take to work. And we didn’t just see maples, hummingbirds, and Queen Anne’s lace. We were also confronted with what I consider to be a great big lack of respect. Consider:

  • Boxes that originally held fried chicken
  • Bags and wrappers from McDonald’s, Hardee’s, Wawa
  • Empty cups: coffee, Slurpee, soda
  • Empty bottles: water, soda, beer

I don’t understand the need people have to toss their trash out of the window of a moving vehicle. If everyone would key into the fact that this world is a gift, and it’s one we have to share with everyone else, maybe they could discover a bit of respect for what they’ve been given. Maybe they would find in themselves a feeling of stewardship. Maybe they would wait until they got to where they were going and put their trash in a trash can (it may actually be rocket science, the whole trash can being made for trash thing).

But then… I saw the first thing that made me think I was being too hard on my fellow Delmarvans, that indicated that at least some of the dumping was accidental: a towel. Not a beach towel, which I would almost expect to see since we were on one of the major routes, therefore an artery leading to the beach. No, it was a normal old bath towel, a pretty grayish-green color. And seeing the towel opened up a sort of door to the world of Strange Things on the Side of the Road (queue creepy music):

  • A green gingham baby dress
  • A shoe, the kind that kids who play sports wear when they take their cleats off, sans sock or second shoe
  • A tee-shirt, blue, I suspect men’s (I caught a hint of a pocket)
  • A second towel, smaller than the first, originally white and now very dirty
  • An entire case of Nip-Chee

I gotta say, the item most likely to be accidentally lost is a toss up between the Nip-Chee and the baby dress. It was an extremely cute dress and any little girl, say six to twelve months, would look like a wee princess in it. But Nip-Chee? Who throws away an entire case of seriously good crackers and doesn’t mourn their loss?

We’ll have to go in the other direction next time and see what there is to see that way. We could turn it into a little bit of cultural anthropology.

What “middle age” means to me

The idea of aging was brought home to me in a big way a few days ago when one of my sisters told the rest of us that she had taken our brother to the hospital and that he was in congestive heart failure. My immediate reaction was no, he is too young, he’s my BABY brother.

I remembered that the fact of my age has been in the front of my brain for a while now, perhaps since Wayne asked me to marry him. I am obsessed with the idea that, at 44, I am middle aged. It means my siblings are also middle aged and, as my mother pointed out a couple days ago, my parents are senior citizens. And I guess middle age is when things start to fall apart, like my brother’s heart.

But. I often feel that I am in the process of rebooting myself, and surely one cannot start anew and be on the down slide at the same time. I exercise regularly, I have almost eliminated fake food* from my diet, I’ve stopped smoking and cut down on my beer drinking (I love a good craft brew, sorry), and I am a newlywed. I have a great idea of what I love and I spend as much time surrounded by those things as I can. I have awakened to the fact that I am one of those people who, while I have a career, will stay at my current level until the bitter end. And I am fine with that, because it means I can do my best and be a lot more relaxed about work.

Basically, at 44 I feel like I am the best me that I have ever been. I’ve forgiven myself for mistakes I made in the past, I’ve surrounded myself with the things that make me happy, and I concentrate on being healthy and strong.

But when it all comes down to it, this new and improved me is inside of a biological machine that has been on this earth for forty-four and a half years. It is no longer perfect. My right rotator cuff is messed up and will be forever. My hair is fading from red to something else as more of it turns gray. My knees pop and crackle. Those things I called laugh lines are there all the time now, so I probably need to consider calling them what they really are (wrinkles). I have various little ailments and maladies, many of them rather scary the first time I encounter them (they become normal after a while). I guess you could say that the improvements are staving off the total breakdown. That’s how my bright-canary-yellow optimism is choosing to see it, anyway.

Spending a couple days in the hospital really pushed home how we are all aging. My mother is slow and gray-haired. My brother is looking at spending the second half of his life on a heart disease diet. My sisters (both older than me, I am the third) are dressing more age-appropriately and are dying their hair. We no longer talk about our children, except to speculate which will be the next parent. We are becoming grandparents.

When did all of this happen, I wonder. Did I wake up one day with chicken neck and paper-dry skin on my hands? I think I did. At least, this me did. If middle age means I come out of my cocoon as something lovelier, different, and stronger than what I was before, I will age gladly. As I try to do everything.

 

*Fake food is stuff that has ingredients I can’t pronounce without sounding out. I am trying to rid myself of such things but I so love soft-serve ice cream and cereal bars that I still have them occasionally.

An unexpected gift

I worked many, many extra hours last weekend. Because I am on a four-day schedule for the summer, my weekend is three days long. In that three day period, I put in close to thirty hours. In under-reported it as twenty-two because I always feel that when I work from home, only actual work should count. When I am physically at work, I might knit a couple rows or write a blog post or look at baby pictures on Facebook and call that work time. I am much stricter on myself at home.

And so. I am salaried and someone in my chain of command (bless his big old heart) believes that working salaried people to death is not a great idea. I took three hours off on Wednesday and then took all of today (Friday). And so, here I am on a Friday morning, it’s not yet seven o’clock, and I have the whole day ahead of me. What might be the best part of all is that Monday is part of my “weekend,” at least for two more weeks. It’s the little gifts like a four-day weekend in the middle of the summer that almost make the rest of it worth it.

There’s a certain joy to an unplanned day off. I am on my own and can really do whatever I want, when I want to. I may choose to ride my bike to the gas company later. I could choose to Big Scrub the kitchen floor instead of just mopping it. I might finish my book and start another, go grocery shopping, finally drive to Berlin to check out that yarn shop. All or none or any combination, and it’s all my choice. I’ve been given the gift of a day, free from bosses and customers, projects and documentation, feet in mouth and random drama created by people who can’t function without drama. It’s just me and maybe the cat, if she deigns to bless me with her royal presence. And it is terrific.

A day free of structure and tasks and goals, projects and meetings and other people’s drama? That is a good day. I’ve been given a gift and I plan to make the most of it. Heck, I might even VPN in to work and do some stuff there. It’s totally different doing it when I don’t have to do it, you know?

 

 

Do you even READ?

I dreamed about books last night.

Not just any books, though. I dreamed about two of the four most-read books in my house approximately twenty years ago: Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny.

When my children were babies, I chose what I would read to them, and I read to them every day. When they were too small to care, I would read aloud from whatever my current selection was. I can’t pinpoint what I read when because I’ve always tended to mix things up and I never worry about reading something as soon as it comes out – books are timeless, after all. But I know how I have always read so they were getting a selection of chick lit, mysteries, classics, science fiction, romance, coming of age, biographies…. there is very little I will not read.

When they were a little older, I would guess around 16 months, they started picking what they wanted to hear. We soon worked out a habit of sorts where they would pick a book and I would pick a book. They chose to hear the same books over and over. The earliest choices were Goodnight Moon (my daughter) and Runaway Bunny (my son). I read one or both of those books aloud every day for months at a time.

In a slightly hilarious and mildly inexplicable aside, I cannot recite either of them now. I imagine the kids can.

Their choice, then mine. That’s how it went. I chose things like Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, Little Women, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. You get the picture. I would read a chapter or two every night. And I never read them to sleep. I would leave them, heavy-lidded and dreamy-eyed, clutching a cloth or board book, and they would fall asleep on their own.

I like to think I helped them people their dreams. I know I taught them to be readers, and that is a beautiful thing.

Being readers sets them apart from the norm. They are never bored, have massive vocabularies, speak clearly and understandably, comprehend quickly, have active and sometimes dreamy imaginations. They also tend to be snarky grammar Nazis, especially with that we call “Big Wordigans,” those who use big words incorrectly. I no longer correct people unless they ask me to, as Wayne does. The kids have not yet learned that other people are only going to get angry, especially if they are their father and/or step-mother. 

And so. I saw a picture of the Two Best Books Ever (Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny, of course) on Facebook yesterday, and they popped up in a dream. I saw the pages of the board books and heard the piping and sweet voices of my toddler-aged children reciting them with me as I read. I heard them mispronouncing things (gardener became darkener, one of my favorites). I felt their warm and heavy heads on my arms, their little hands relaxed and still on my legs, their stirring breathing that was never in sync. I smelled the baby shampoo I had washed their hair with earlier, the fabric softener from their pajamas. I woke up with all of those fresh in my head and a huge smile on my face.

I wonder what those memories are like for them?

The more things stay the same, the more they change

Today, I am struggling to change my name at work. The good thing about being a systems administrator is that I can do my own name change for my login, email, etc. The bad thing about being a systems administrator is that no one else will do my name change for me. I all but begged my coworkers to do it for me as a wedding present. I would say their response was to scoff, but they didn’t scoff. They laughed. Like I was making some great, big joke.

No joke guys. Seriously.

At the same time, I am trying to change my name everywhere else. I wasn’t nearly this connected the last time I had a name change and the list is almost overwhelming. Facebook, Google, iTunes, Amazon, eBay… and then the two hundred other sites I think of as non-official. Social Security, MVA (that’s happening on Monday), HR, insurance, banks… all of the “official” stuff. I wish I had taken the whole week off and sent Wayne back to work today so I would be free to work on name changes.

I sound like I am complaining, don’t I? I’m not. I don’t mind changing my name. It is a beautiful thing to be the Mrs. to his Mr. I love being married to my soulmate, my dream guy, my best friend. He said if it took marrying me to make me feel comfortable he was doing something wrong. But I wasn’t uncomfortable. I was happy being his girlfriend, and then his fiancee. But I wanted to be his wife. I wanted to be his other half.

I told him he’s caught now. He said he was caught long, long ago.

Since my last post I:

  • Got married
  • Went on a mini-honeymoon
  • Saw my oldest and dearest friends
  • Ate WAY too much food
  • Encouraged over-tipping
  • Did very little reading
  • Tinked Multnomah back to the beginning of the lace (I KNOW!)

Before I post again, I hope to:

  • Be closer to having my name all the way changed
  • Do a go live
  • Read and knit
  • Get into the groove of being Wayne’s wife

Getting Gauge

Gauge is crucial when knitting or crocheting a fitted garment like a hat, gloves, socks, or a sweater. Printed patterns always tell you what their gauge is – so many stitches per so many inches, so many rows per so many inches. They might say something like “24 sc and 22 rows = 2 inches.” The very first thing you should do when trying a new pattern is grab a hook or needles and make a gauge swatch. You’ll learn over time whether you work looser of tighter than the average crocheter or knitter, and based on that you’ll learn to start with the recommended hook/needle size or go up or down in size. And when you finish your swatch, if it’s not the same size as their gauge notation, you either rip it out or grab more yarn and do it again.

It’s sometimes a bit of a pain, especially if you’ve found some terrific-looking new pattern and you just want to jump right in. But it’s really quite necessary. Taking fifteen or thirty minutes, or even an hour, to get gauge saves you from spending a month working on an awesome garment in expensive yarn that doesn’t stand up well to being ripped out and re-done, only to find out that it fits no one. Including the person for whom it was made. A small amount of preparation always pays off in the end.

I am learning, as I get older, to apply the concept of getting gauge to life in general. If I have three hours before a meeting and I have five things that need to be done, I will spend the first few minutes reviewing what needs to be done and figuring out what will fit best into that three hours, rather than just jumping in. If we are spending a few days out of town and going somewhere I have never been before, I will take a look at what we can do there before we leave so we’re not walking into things blindly.

Getting gauge works in other places, too. I outline, or at least summarize, bigger writing projects before I start them, for instance. I know that I will spend months on a novel, with some long periods of time when the rest of my life or my job take precedence and writing just cannot happen. When I get back to it, I need a reminder of what the general plan was. Without it, I will go off in some crazy direction and spend twice or three times as much time rewriting, or just be saddled with something unreadable.

Jumping into things does not get anything done faster. It always makes them take longer and come out worse. Always. Preparation, in all things, matters. I like to imagine how different the world would be if everyone stepped back and took the time to get gauge. Think of all of the gifts that would not be returned because the giver took time to figure out what would suit the recipient. Or how about the abortions, divorces, and emergency room visits that would never happen? The would is full of big and small things that would simply go more smoothly with a little bit of planning and forethought.

Random things I’ve done since I last posted:

  • Knit several lace repeats on Multnomah
  • Convinced myself that when it is finished, I need to do a clapotis
  • Found a crocheted wrister pattern that I want to try to use up some stash sock yarn
  • Written another chapter in Megan, and copied everything into a printable document, preparatory to printing it and starting the first round of editing
  • Shared the news of our upcoming nuptials with the families
  • Got a pedicure (big deal – I hate paying people to do things for me that I can do myself)
  • Read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Alice Munroe’s Dear Life: Stories,  Wilkkie Collins’ The Woman in White, and John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (that’s a lot of reading)
  • Met our new CIO (he seems pretty awesome, so far)
  • Walked/rode a large number of miles
  • Lost two more pounds

Some things that will happen before we talk again:

  • We’ll get married, and I will start the process of recreating myself with a new name
  • Another book, or two, or more will be read
  • I will see Maia and Amy, my two oldest friends (Maia and I became friends in seventh grade, or 1981. Amy and I met in Japan when we were in the Navy, or 1989). 
  • Knitting, and maybe crocheting, will be done
  • If a new project is started, I will take the time to get gauge.

Everything’s coming up sevens

I love to find patterns in things. I enjoy counting things, sorting things, matching things up. I bet I was a super terrific kindergarten student.

In my daily life, my love of counting makes tracking my diet and exercise pretty easy. I don’t miss a day, ever. Or at least not since I started. I love the statistics that come from all of that tracking, too. When I get that email telling me how many miles I moved last week, I get a little SQUEE of joy. When I look at my weight chart steadily trending downward, I get an even bigger SQUEE of joy. Sometimes, I find, though, that all of this counting and tracking and paying attention leads to some odd coincidences.

My current coincidence is the number seven.

The first occurrence of Freaky Seven happened a few weeks ago. Wayne is in the process of recreating a car. He says he’s rebuilding it but it’s getting cleaned and painted, taken apart and put back together, tested and tweaked. It’s a totally fascinating process to observe and nothing I would ever want to do, but still something I find extraordinarily impressive. Anyway! We decided to drive it from here to Seaford one afternoon (destination: beer store). It chugged along wonderfully. As we were pulling into the parking lot, I happened to notice one of those bank clocks that show the temperature. It was 77.7 degrees. I pointed that out to him and he said “watch, something good is going to happen.”

When we finished our shopping and came back out, the car wouldn’t start. He putzed around a bit and then we got a jump. That process made us about 5 minutes later than we would have been. As we were driving through Laurel, we saw the remains of a horrible accident. Judging by the emergency vehicles on the scene – only state troopers – it was very obvious that the accident had happened about five minutes earlier. We would have been there. We could very well have been the car whose passenger side door was pressed against the driver’s right arm. Coincidence, I’m sure, but odd nonetheless.

And yes, I realize it was also 77.7 degrees for the guy who was hit, but I bet he didn’t see it on the bank sign!

Second case in point: I have one of my best exercise weeks ever. I feel amazing. I actually rode 11 miles the other day on tires that were down more than half their rated PSI. Not on purpose, of course! Yeah it was super hard to do but I did it. I am growing a hard candy shell. Tough as nails and all that jazz. I feel a little better all the time, but something about this past week was above and beyond for me. I wish I could quantify it or explain it but words fail me. Suffice it to say it was awesome.

I got my weekly progress email from MapMyRun this morning and of course – 77.7 miles last week. Of course my best week ever as far as getting the miles in and feeling great about it would be 77.7 miles. I’ve had weeks with more miles, but they exhausted me or made me a grump-a-saurus. This one? Not at all. I am still sort of riding high (pun intended and really bad, sorry) on the high of getting my best overall mile per hour bike time yesterday. Air is a magical thing, isn’t it?

So what’s the point? Good question. I suppose it comes down to two things. First, I can find coincidences in anything and that might be my super power. Second, I obviously have some deep-seated and odd superstitions going on to burden the poor number seven with being the harbinger of my good luck.

Of course I know there is no such thing as luck and there are no lucky numbers. Life is chaos. I miss being in accidents every day and there’s almost never a seven thing going on. I have great weeks where I’m strong and lose weight and move 64 or 82 miles. It doesn’t mean anything at all. But… I scheduled a civil wedding for us on a day that we just happened to be off work. The date? 7/7. Hopefully there is something to this lucky seven stuff. Not that we need luck. We’re pretty close to perfect for each other. But since this is Number Three for me, I’ll take all the help I can get.