Saturday, July 11, 2015

Post 500: Habits Old and New

I am one of the least self-disciplined people you may ever meet. As much as I earnestly want to get a healthy amount of sleep every night, stop wasting huge chunks of my day on the internet, keep my house clean, and institute age-appropriate responsibilities for my children, I very seldom manage to do any of those things.

Every once in a while, though, a positive change bubbles up from somewhere so deep inside me that I didn't even know it was lurking there. It happened to me most recently not long before the school year ended.

I had just dropped Willem off to play at a friend's house and decided I would try to squeeze in a walk on our local trails before I picked him back up. My outfit was something of an embarrassment to me. I didn't really have shorts to wear (shorts are not my friend), and my one pair of sweatpants has no pockets for my keys, so I had to wear jeans.

That might not seem like a big deal, but I live in a land where even casual walkers swathe themselves in multiple layers of technical fabrics. One single athlete might be wearing leggings, cropped pants, and a long-sleeved fleece pullover over a moisture-wicking tee shirt, topped with a vest and a pack. Like as not some sort of hat or headband would be involved.

I, on the other hand, was wearing the cotton tee shirt of my work uniform (why get another shirt dirty?) and the aforementioned jeans. My tennis shoes, while comfortable, were an especial cause of psychic pain.  They were purchased back when I used to do a step workout to a VHS tape, which tells you how outdated they are. They are solid white, leather, and seamed in parallel lines so they puff up all over like the Michelin Man. Because I had only worn them indoors, they were blindingly white. The overall effect was that of having slit open two brand-new volleyballs and and slid my feet inside.

Well, I went walking the trails in this outfit, and I accidentally went down a dead-end trail that struck me as familiar (because it was the one place I was supposed to avoid going) and I soon found myself questioning whether or not I was going to make it back on time to get Willem.

I scrambled back up the muddy hill I'd gone down at a brisker pace than I had moved in years. I looked around when I got to the main trail to make sure there were no witnesses to what was about to happen. Then I jogged. Just a bit. IN JEANS.

I felt strangely exhilarated. I could have called and said I would be a few minutes late at any time, but I was determined not to. I walked as fast as I could and, when I was alone and was up for it, I jogged. Hardly at all, but some. For the first time in years. 

I picked Willem up exactly on time, though my face was an alarming patchwork of deep red blotches and lighter white spots, and I was sweatier than I'd anticipated. I decided that, after a hiatus of 10 years, it was time to take up jogging again.

I chose a different, flatter trail for my first day out, and only jogged a few sections of it. I happened to be jogging when a fit man passed by going the other direction nodded and smiled at me and said, "Good work!"

I recognized his tone of voice--it was the same one I praised my kids with when they started using the potty.

"Do I look that sad? That hopelessly out of shape?" I asked Shaun when I got home. I'm not a rock star in any arena of life, but I had never thought of myself in need of pity encouragement.

He gave me a kind look. "I think it's the shoes," he said.

*     *     *

I have new shoes now, and a new habit. 

I've lost an old habit, though, and it doesn't have anything to do with jogging; I've lost the habit of keeping this blog. Five hundred posts is a good long life. I wish I knew how many words that was. A book's worth?

I haven't been writing much of anything in the past few years, and I want to change that. After eight years of blogging, I've learned that I don't want to be a blogger. I do want to be a writer with a blog. 

So, while I won't be updating regularly, this is still my little home on the internet. I plan to do some housekeeping (add contact info, take away the blogroll graveyard in the sidebar, link to my work elsewhere) so people who find their way here will know that this is not a dead, abandoned place. I'm just turning off the lights and shutting the door behind me. For now.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Today in the Kitchen

Our lead cook, Becky, should have known better when she sent her school picture to the ladies in the Skyridge kitchen. They send out the makings for all the food we serve, so we get a cart or two from them every morning. After declaring Becky their mascot, they made her into a leprechaun on St. Patrick's Day and affixed her cheerful image to the inside door of the cart. She next appeared as a cupid, and then the Easter bunny, as seasonally appropriate. We'd stopped being surprised when we opened the cart door to find a new, festive Becky incarnation smiling back at us.

But today? Today, they outdid themselves.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Bit of Housekeeping

VoiceCatcher is an online journal of Portland-area women writers, and I have a non-fiction piece in the Winter 2015 Issue! You can read it here and then have a look around.

I will be participating in a reading at the Multnomah County Central Library in Portland at the end of March, along with other contributors. I find I am a lot more nervous about getting up in front of people than I used to be, since I do it so seldom these days.

One day, maybe I'll go back to theater and play quirky old ladies. Until then, I'll live vicariously through Nels, who has surprised us all with how good he is in his school productions.

I thought maybe I'd close this post with a poem for Valentine's Day, but I have zero poetry knowledge, and reading love poems (even the classic ones) on the internet today just made me cranky, because none of them said what I wanted them to say.

But I still thought we should have a poem, so here's something  from Aaron Belz's Glitter Bomb.

Your Objective

In a given situation
Your objective should be
To act as much like yourself
As possible. Just imagine
How you would act
And act that way.
A good rule of thumb
Is, try to be similar
To who you really are.
But keep in mind
That there's no way
To perfectly replicate
Yourself at all times.

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Kitchen Christmas

This Christmas, I would have loved to have had a fancy party to go to. I wanted to get dressed up and drink a glass of bubbly on the company dime. I had hoped Shaun's work might do something nice, but they didn't have a party that spouses were invited to.

I did have a Christmas party of my very own to attend, though; a very exclusive party comprised of me, Becky, Amy (our cashier) and Mr. Bob, the custodian. This year, as last, we drew names for a gift exchange, and I went in to work early so we could celebrate during break time (everyone but me arrives before breakfast.)

Bob had recently mastered a new pan pizza dough recipe (he's full of surprises), so he brought in his stand mixer and baking supplies and made a beautiful dough. Amy brought in a jar of homemade sauce, and we all brought in our own toppings. Our pizzas looked amazing and tasted even better.


Last year I was a little nervous about participating in a gift exchange with a man who wears a t-shirt with a howling wolf and an American flag on it without a trace of irony. I needn't have worried, though. Bob did end up drawing my name, and he gave me a lovely amaryllis in a tasteful clear glass container. He asked me about a hundred times if I really liked it, which I really did. It bloomed three times.

I drew Becky's name this year, and I bought her a giant vintage Santa light after she told me she was into old Santas. It was a risky move, but it worked out. (Who am I kidding? I think we all know I would have been delighted to keep this and find her something else if she didn't like it.)

Bob set up a nicer table than our usual, and we ate pizza and chocolate chip meringues in the custodial room, which adjoins the kitchen. We didn't party in a swank hotel or an empty stadium like the some of my friends did, but I can't help but think that sharing a meal next to a washer and dryer and a mop bucket might be a more fitting way to mark the birth of a baby whose bed was an animals' feeding trough.

Once our (short) party was over, it was back to work. In the most inspired moment of the day, Becky stood Santa next to the milk cooler so he would be the first thing the kids saw as they came through the lunch line. I could not believe the excitement. He was bigger than all of the first-graders, and most of the second-graders, so that was quite a thrill. They cried "Santa!" and greeted him like an old friend.

The older kids tended to pat him on the head or poke his nose, which sent him rocking back on his heels. I thought he was going to topple over entirely at several points, but Becky didn't bat an eyelash. It was obviously better to brighten the kids' day than to worry about the Santa being damaged.

It may be slow going because I am set in my ways, but working with Becky is eventually going to make me lighten up. Even if it kills me.