Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Now that we're under contract in Boise and under contract here, it's a little like I'm seeing things in color again.  In lots of ways, things feel totally vertiginous and out of control--I'm buried under assignments that need to be graded and manuscripts to evaluate and proposals to figure out.  I'm doing real estate like it's my job and trying to get to the gym and to the girls' performances and travel every other minute.  The mental gob of trying to figure out how and when to say goodbye to so many people and this life, and remember that I'm still me after we leave, is totally overwhelming.   It doesn't all just go away and the hours completely evaporate before me.  Every day.

But I'm seeing things in color again.  The sunset over Coors Field last night, the feeling of drinking a beer outside.  I mean, it was freezing!  I was exhausted, and had to get up early this morning.  But the experience was like the slightest whiff of spring, and it was beautiful, and I could relax into it for a minute.

Or today.  It's been the longest day and I still have to watch a movie for class tonight yet, but it's dark and quiet in the house and there's a candle burning and I get to watch movies for work.  That's cool.  I can appreciate that.  There is also the fact that I didn't really need tights today because it's warming up, and there's a lone cherry blossom peeking out of the deadish gray branch outside my window.  There's knowing that soon we will be a little bit settled, and there might be some room to create and move and not just react.  I'm seeing all of that again, and I'm really grateful.

Because it's been kind of a long slog, you know?  There was the business with me and E. last year, and then the downward spiral at work, and then the do-we-move-to-Boise thing, and the interviewing, and the deciding, and the selling houses and buying houses, all while trying to be a not-too-damaging parent and colleague and the barest bones friend.  And knowing there's lots more "excitement" to come.  God.  It's something.

But the colors.  I'm glad they're back.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Better Days

Today:  better.  So far.  I say so far, because I've had a few good days here and there lately, what I thought were good days, and then ended up weeping for two hours for reasons that are hard to explain.  Such has been this month.  But today felt different, maybe because I took the leap of coming back to this blog yesterday and openly showing my metaphorical ass in public.  Even if it is only to seven of you.

But, better!  I'll take it.  As in:

Crosffit.  Crossfit makes things better for me.  We're almost done with the Crossfit Open at my gym, and though I had no intention of participating, I'm glad I did.  I had no intention of participating because, well, I'm an older athlete, compared with most crossfitters, and I have a bum shoulder and a bum knee and sometimes pee my pants when doing lots of repetitive jumping.  Also, formal competition makes me very nervous and self-conscious and a little sick

[informal competition, on the other hand, is my thing, as you probably know.  I get all passive aggressive with that shit.  Like it was my job.  Oy]

but I'm glad I did it!  I learned some new skills and accepted a few low scores pretty graciously, I think, and did well on workouts I expected to tank on.  Take this week's WOD (workout of the day):

Row 60 calories
50 toes-to-bar
40 wall-balls
30 95-pound cleans
20 muscle-ups

in 14 minutes.  IN 14 MINUTES.


I knew I'd be able to row 60 calories.  That doesn't sound like much, does it?  But it really is.  It's pretty tiring, burning 60 calories.  If I was in my old body-hating phase, I would have used this information to scold myself for eating treats.  [See how much energy it takes to burn 60 calories?  Why do you eat so much?  Now you have to go run, pizza-cow!].  I'm not in that phase at the moment, though.  I ate 1/2 a pint of Ben and Jerry's after lunch, in fact, and though I almost never do that anymore, it's fine that I did, and I don't feel the need to self-flaggelate.

Maybe self-flatulate, though.  Thank you dairy products.  But that's a different post.

Anyway, I knew I could row the 60 calories, and that it would be tiring but do-able.

But 50 toes-to-bar?  No way.  Last time I tried toes-to-bar the coach had to stand behind me and push me so that I'd know when to try to throw my legs up.  I looked like a seizing giraffe.

Not me, obvi.  Just an illustration of T-t-B.

But miraculously, today, I was able to do them, and faster than I thought.  My goal, honestly, was just to finish.  But I finished with time to spare (we only had 14 minutes to get through everything).  This was both awesome and terrible since then I had to go do 40 wall-balls, even though my shoulders were Jello and I could barely breathe.

Wall Balls.  Ouchie.
For wall-balls, you're basically dropping into a below-90-degree squat and then standing up and throwing a 14-pound medicine ball up to a mark on the wall.  40 times.  When I started Crossfit in August I couldn't get all the way into a deep squat, and could barely throw an 8-pound ball up to the mark.  Sometimes I couldn't even catch the ball and it would hit me in the face.  So I was pretty happy to get through 40 Wall Balls.

Except at that point I only had 90 seconds left in the 14 minutes and was wheezing like an asthmatic geezer and then had to try to clean 95 pounds 30 times, which clearly was not happening, since 95 pounds is close to my one-rep-max for cleans.

This is kind of what a Clean looks like.  If you're the Hulk.  It's the move that's most likely to make you poop your pants.  IMHO.

I bent over and looked at the bar for a good 12 seconds just trying to breathe and then some coaches yelled at me to pick up the damned bar, so I did, but I couldn't clean it all the way cuz I was just so tired and just dropped it instead.  Then I cleaned it 3 times then dropped it again on the fourth but then cleaned it 1 last time for a total of 4, my fellow Math Wizards.  Which gives me a score of 60+50+40+4=154.  I feel really good about that.

But not too good.  Just for humility's sake, I'll say that the women's Crossfit Open leaderboard has a max score of 256.  Which means that some lady-hulk out there was able to go through that entire workout plus do another round of rowing.  Christ.

And now Crossfit has been explained to you.  You're welcome.

Oh, except for Muscle-Ups, which I can't do because I've never tried and they're the hardest thing you can do so I might never try them except some time in the future I might.  I've learned not to say never with Crossfit, I guess.  Here's a muscle-up:

Muscle-Ups:  Crazy Olympic Gymnastics Kind of Shit.

Anyway:  proud of my score and was glad to get out my head this morning, is all I'm saying.  Then I went to a thesis defense.  The student was really smart and did a great job but as always with these things at Mines my contributions were minimal because science and engineering students never really have time to get to the "social" part of their work so I'm always just on those committees playing a symbolic role and I'm bored with that.  So it's probably good I'm leaving after all, was the reminder.  Because that job was killing me in lots of ways.

Not killing me in a good way, like Crossfit.  Ouch.  Hurts to brush my hair right now.

Okay, back to work, because I still have students and deadlines and more houses to look at and agonize over and children to raise and husbands to scold.  But if you want to call and talk Crossfit I could probably find five minutes.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

No Tiny Stitches

Addie just brought me this tiny little doll dress to mend:

It was my mom's surely--the satin is soft from age and the rick-rack is starting to come apart.  Addie wants it to dress up her bunny in, but it was ripped down the back.  Part of me wants to mend it and then put it away, preserve it, the sweetness of it.  But doll dresses were made to be treated roughly by little kids, in my view, so I give it back to her for bunny.  My mom has literally dozens of large boxes in her garage, filled with her childhood doll collection--I was never allowed to play with them as a child, and I don't think she's looked through them in decades.  Who knows what shape they are in?  Their meaning?  Their worth?  I do have a little trunk full of gorgeous Madame Alexander clothes for a Revlon doll Mom gave the girls last Chrismas.  Those I did abscond with, having been one of the more precious items I can remember playing with as a kid.  I dress up the doll every change of seasons and put her out.  Which probably makes me a total weirdo.  Or connects me with my mom in some way.  Ah:  both.

I wish I could say I mended the dress with tiny, painstaking, even stitches.  But I didn't.  I only have white and black thread out at the moment, no blue, and the fabric had frayed enough I needed to gather it up in big, ugly white stitches to get it to stay together at all.

There's lots of big and ugly going on, right now, in fact.  We have most likely sold our house, though we won't know for a few more days if we cleared the last hurdle, and we sold it for more than we listed it for, which is good.  I mean, better than good.  I'm so grateful for that, the speed with which it happened, and the money, which we can definitely use.

But we struck out in finding a new house in Boise.  We bid on one, but lost it to someone who had a lot more cash to put down.  And now I don't know what.  Our money is not going to go as far as I thought there, and we might end up in a not-great neighborhood, far from my work.  Eric doesn't have a job lined up.  Unemployment has almost run out.  We don't have a house to move into.  I just have no idea what's next, and it's got me down.

I feel big and ugly about it all, and am having horrible second-thoughts about whether I've done the right thing, quitting a secure job and a nice house and all of our friends here.  Maybe I've been horribly selfish and hasty, as some have suggested, and now everything is about to fall apart.  At every stage there has been something I could do--prepare for the interview, pack up the house, scout out properties online.  And now:  nothing.  We just wait.  The next steps aren't clear.  Do we buy a house without having seen it first?  Rent for a few months?  Fly up last minute and try to beat someone out in a bidding war?  Move the kids around from school to school while we sort things out and I try to make a new job work?  It all sounds absurd.

I sound absurd, I know that.  I'm sad and angry and frustrated.  Everyone just waves their hands and reassures me the right house will come along and that will be that, and that everything has fallen into place and is meant to be.  We'll be fine.  But in my head it feels like the big unresolved thing that will make or break our being okay in this city that I've dragged everyone to.  There are no tiny stitches to make, just big ugly knots to jump into the center of and hope they come out alright.

Monday, January 27, 2014

On Eating a Whole Lot of Animals, All at Once

Warning:  Long, self-obsessed post.  As always.

There were those nine years once where I was a vegetarian.  Remember that?  I mean, I ate fish and eggs once in a while, and had a wee bit of turkey at Thanksgiving.  If my hot and sour soup had pork bits in it at a restaurant, I wasn't going to raise a huge fuss.  But pretty much no meat, from the time I gave birth to Addie on.

For lots of good reasons, I think.  Factory farms are heinous.  They contribute a lot to climate change, for example, and I think are illustrative of some of the nastier elements of American gluttony and disrespect for the environment.  I have also been raised (by my own self) on a steady diet of women's magazines and advertising which suggests that a diet "rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy" is the way to go.  And maybe it is.

So it may come as a shock (it does to me) to know that for the past two weeks I've eaten nothing but meat and vegetables.  Like, 20 OUNCES OF MEAT A DAY.  That's a lot of animals I've consumed.

Writing that sentence just made me a little nauseous.  But I'm going to persevere.

This has not been part of a "diet," like the "Paleo diet," though it's related to that--it's a "food challenge" (which maybe is the same thing as a "diet") sponsored following a workshop at my Crossfit gym (which CF nerds call a "box").  The challenge is to eat nothing but high-quality, meaning grass-fed and organic, animal protein and unprocessed vegetables and high quality fats, meaning only coconut oil, olive oil, and avocados for three weeks.  Then see what happens to us in the gym and how we feel in "real life."

I'm on the first day of week 3.  If you had tried talking to me last week, when I was still going through nasty sugar withdrawals, my head would have spun around and I would have spit venom at you.  This week, though, I'm feeling real good about things.  Like, weirdly healthy and happy.

But why do this?  Why the big turn around?

Answer:  for some of the same reasons I tried vegetarianism, I guess.  Because I'm always interested in experimenting with food.  Because I'm curious about what making big changes in my diet does to my body.  Because I had gained pounds the past few years and couldn't seem to take them off by doing more exercise, and eating less just pisses me off and makes me very obsessive.  So, essentially because I'm pretty vain.  Also because I had high cholesterol readings despite being really "healthy."  Because as convincing as I found The China Study I also found The Paleo Diet quite convincing.  And you know I read diet and health books like it's my job, so I'm not just being random here.  But I'm also trying this challenge because I lift heavy at Crossfit four times a week, and I love seeing new muscles appear and feeling strong and challenged, but didn't like feeling nauseous or super-sore after a workout because I wasn't eating right.  Because I'm sleeping so well and have energy during the day.  Because I think a lot of advertising just tries really hard to make it super-easy for us to over-eat processed food.  I find the arguments about the perils of wheat and soy production in this country really compelling, for example.

Because challenges are fun.  Even when they suck.

But here are the things I'm thinking about:

1)  I hope they provide us with some guidance for what to do after the challenge, because this really is a shitload of meat I'm eating, and even though we're paying extra for the "good" stuff, stuff that I hope is humanely treated and killed, it's still animals being slaughtered and really I don't know how good they're being treated.  We may have to look into doing something more local where we can see how the animals are treated once we move to Idaho if I'm going to keep this up, like maybe buying a big freezer and part of a cow or something.  That is so crazy that I just wrote that.  Again, regurge.  But I have lingering questions about the long-term effects of this, and how to effectively modify given those concerns.

2)  This thing has made me come face to face with some of my worser habits around food (lots of snacking, too many processed and refined foods that had snuck in without my really considering them, eating too fast, mindless eating, and, of course, having dessert after every meal for the last 20 years).  But mostly I've had to face my emotional attachments to food.  People who talk about using "food for fuel" have always seemed like nasty perverts to me.  Like an alien race.  Like flagellants.  I mean food tastes good.  It makes you feel good.  It's social.  People who eat cardboard bars for "energy" are pervs.

Sigh.  But yes, food is also fuel.  I kind of get that a little better now.  There are other, more fulfilling ways to comfort one's self, and finding those might also make your life better in other ways.  Like, slowing down my work schedule and getting outside everyday, whatever the weather, makes me feel soooo good.  Better than a quesadilla, even.

3)  I've been thinking about what "cheating" means.  I don't like the language of "cheating" because it implies a "diet" which doesn't seem particularly sustainable to me, and like I said, makes me go a little crazy.  We're not supposed to have any sugars on this thing, which means no alcohol or sweets.  But I've been pretty much like, fuck that.  Friday and Saturday nights I have a glass of wine.  And I make a wicked chocolate pudding from avocados that's incredibly decadent but not too bad for you:

in the food processor, blend up two avocados, 4 T honey, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa, 1/4 c coconut milk, 1t vanilla extract, and 1t instant coffee.  Chill.  Stick in in your pie-hole.  Send me a thank-you note.

I have a spoonful (or ten) of that every night.  Fucking delicious.  You'll have to pry it from my cold dead hands, and if I can't have something like this everyday on this "diet" or "challenge" or whatever, I'm not going to do it.  I don't think that's cheating, I think that's called living an awesome life.  At least, that's what the pudding whispers to me as it's sliding down my throat.  And, see #1.

I'm trying to think about how I might make something like this work for me long term.  I think most paleos that I respect try for an 80/20 split, where you eat paleo 80% of the time, and 20% of the time you can eat other things.  Which means working fruit and nuts back into the diet.  I miss them a lot.  And maybe dairy and pasta once in a while.  Though I weirdly do not miss them at all.

4)  And neither does the old poop-chute.  I'll spare you the details, obvs, but let's say this little experiment has certainly made me wonder if I didn't have a little gluten/dairy intolerance there for a while.  Like, for my whole life.  I don't miss the tummy aches, at all.

5) Some things will get worked back in.  Fruit.  Nuts.  I'll probably have my homemade granola at home once in a while at the end of the three weeks, and our semiannual binge at our favorite Mexican restaurant has to stay in.  Cause it just makes me glad to be alive.  And I need to do some more research making sure my liver stays happy and I'm still getting the shite-tons of fresh vegetables everyday, because that is a beautiful, healthy thing.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Try that avocado pudding, friends.  You won't regret it.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Today's Dose of Almost Unbearable Sweetness

Nolie held my hand almost all the way to school today, and then said, "Mama, I think I just want to walk by myself now."  Addie wouldn't even look at me when I kissed her goodbye.
I guess that's that.

All and Around

There's this amazing group of women that gets together every few years or so for a weekend-long slumber party--and once in a while, the stars and frequent flyer miles align just right and I get to go and be with them.  These ladies have been friends for years and years (I try to create a timeline of how long they've known each other and how they all know each other, but it always ends up looking more like a loop-di-loop because of all the hilarious side stories and remember-whens and I'm still not sure how it all fits together.  It doesn't matter).  I'm a new addition but they've taken me in like one of their own.  It's a blessed feeling.

There was a winery tour involved.
After two weeks of very quiet family time in our house--the last time we'll probably be alone for Christmas for many years, I imagine--I was pretty ready to get out of the house.  As you know, I'm a hermit by nature and love to hunker down in jammies for a good chunk of time.  But even I needed to get out by the end of it, and there was a slumber last weekend, and so I went.

It was awesome.  And gorgeous.  And drunkerly.
Loooong introduction just in order to say that one of the women at the slumber was telling a story of a very, very difficult time she went through ten years ago or so.  Heartbreakingly difficult.  But she says the one thing she really remembers about that time is not so much the pain anymore, but the way everyone in her life rallied around her.  The visits.  The phone calls.  The meals.  The caring that extended itself and embraced her through that difficult time.

The sky looked like this.
Maybe if we're cynical we see that as a cliché sugar coating of difficulty.  Maybe we've gone through things and people haven't shown up, or have shown up in ways that felt wrong.  I get that.  But her story really resonated with me, because I had a similar sense of being embraced and supported this fall.  Nothing bad or tragic happened, thank goodness.  But you know, I was pretty sick with nerves during the process of getting this job in Boise.  Lots of "what have I done's" and "this is going to be a disaster" and "why would they want me" was happening.  Everything went down so fast, and I had to really tune in to my intuition and tune out a lot of other, left-brained stuff.  Otherwise I think I would have completely big-time freaked out.  The little freaking out looked instead like:  Lots of not sleeping at night and waking up anxious when I did sleep.  Talking to myself.  Reviewing my resume and everything I've ever done and being sure I'd come up short.  Angst.

Then I got the interview, and things got even more intense, fear-wise.  But on the day of the interview, when I woke up in the hotel room in Boise, friends and family essentially barraged me with texts and emails wishing me well.  Even though they weren't sure they wanted me to get the job, or wanted me to get it more than anything, or were busy with their own lives, they made sure I knew that they had my back, and that I was supported no matter what happened.

God, this is another "all about me" post, I think.  But that's not what I mean--it's not the point.  It's the fact that we have this incredible community of loving and loved people around us, and that has become so beautifully clear lately, and I'm so glad for it.

Things got a little wild and we may have broken a chair.  No, that is not real hair on the chair, that is a wig.  But you get the idea.