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

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

Memories and roles

I’ve been imagining my life laid out on a timeline, where each role I play or have played is blocked out over its span. I could compare them, look at the overlaps, do some serious study that might reveal amazing things about myself. The idea of it has popped into my front-head wanderings and into my dreams more than once over the past few days. I have even found myself going over towards where we store office supplies with the thought of grabbing the graph paper and crayons (yes, crayons, don’t judge) so I could get this out of my head and just move on, already.

But then, then. I find myself asking some questions that cannot be answered and that my mind would need answered in order to complete this project. For instance: If I outlive all of my siblings, would I still have the role of “sister”? My mind tells me no, I can only be a sister if I have siblings. I am okay with that answer, but it leads to the idea that I am no longer anyone’s granddaughter. The last of my grandparents passed away years ago. The idea that my Mommom’s lack of life would erase her existence, at least as far as I am concerned, is one that does not sit well with me. Every time I knit or crochet, things I do daily, she is there because she taught these things to me. Every time I write, I hear her voice when I was seven or eight telling me that I have words in me and I really need to be a writer. I will always be her granddaughter.

And so. With questions that cannot be answered, this timeline of my life’s roles will just continue to live in my head and provide me amusement when needed, like during meetings or when I am counting reps at physical therapy. I will think about how interesting it is that there was a period when I was mother, sailor, technician, estranged wife, girlfriend, daughter, sister, granddaughter all at once. It’s the technician and the sailor in the middle that makes that one interesting to me, because it defines the short period after active duty when I was in the Naval reserve. And I find the defining of these periods act like opening doors to memories.

And now you get one of my favorite memories from then. Brian, a man I worked with and dated, sort of (long story short – he had too much going on in his life and I was a hot mess so it didn’t work), did this amazing thing for me. I was a newly single mom, living a lifetime away from my family, struggling to make it on my own with two very young children. In the middle of a life that was often scary and seldom easy, Brian showed up on Mother’s day with a gift. He had found a cabinet at a yard sale, then he had taken my kids and helped them paint it. It was pink, yellow, red, green, blue. It was messy and sloppy and drippy and gorgeous. He brought that thing over to our apartment and placed it in the living room, then put a television on it and gave us a ta-da. What a thoughtful and beautiful gift, and what a wonderful memory.

Do you see how this will amuse me until something else comes along to take its place? And how much better is it if I don’t create this timeline physically? In my mind, right now, I see it laid out. I see the time when we lived in Tampa, and the memory of Brian and his gift is up above it in a little window, bright and shining and beautiful. I lack the talent when it comes to creating things on paper to create anything even close to what lives in my head. I’m sure you noticed the word “crayons” above, and that should give you a really good idea of the tools I have available to me when it comes to paper. Graph paper exists to map out filet crochet or simple cross stitch patterns and crayons are for coloring in my Hello Kitty coloring books. Don’t judge. It’s quite calming.

Last week I:

  • Finished Baby Emily’s blanket
  • Ate amazing seafood in Cambridge at Jimmie and Sook’s
  • Bought alpaca yarn
  • Discovered the glory that is Panera’s tomato basil bread
  • Met an amazing local cottage farmer and dreamed about being her friend
  • Discovered ESWA and re-kindled a dream
  • Started A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  • Added four library e-books to my Kindle
  • Got more shots in my shoulder that don’t seem to be working all that well
  • Worked at UMES graduation (it was wonderful)
  • Ate in the student cafeteria

This week, I hope to:

  • Write a chapter in the untitled book
  • Add the next ESWA event to my calendar
  • Figure out what to make with that alpaca
  • Work on Multnomah
  • Get the DR server live and off my to-do list
  • Eat a little bit better, or at least eat fewer calories
  • Ride the newly discovered seven mile ride again