Sunday, December 23, 2007

How I feel about Everything, A-Z, Whether you Want it or Not

Don't blame me, this was EJG's idea. I think he's feeling a little guilty about his lax blogging habits. The following is my current state of mind. Or maybe think of it as a year in review, A to Z. Now that I've done it, fellow bloggers, I lay down the gauntlet. Who dares to pick it up?

Anti -immigration. Anti-War. Anti-Abortion. Anti-Drug. Anti-Racism. I’m so tired of negativity.How about this: Pro-immigration reform, pro-peace, pro-choice and pro-child, pro-addicts recovery programs, pro-equality.

He’s kin to Cheney? Loved his books. Loved his speech at the Democratic convention. Love his energy and his optimism. Not sure about him as a candidate.

Bill – Probably one of the smartest presidents ever. What the legacy will read remains to be seen. Hillary- She’s not Bill.

Talented and Yummy. Who cares if he can sing?

Her cancer came back, and they’re still running around campaigning. Is he a viable candidate? Is she going to be okay? And what about their little boy, Jack, age 7?

The former are a joy. The later make me crazy. Both enrich my life.

If he/she is really out there, does he/she really will people to hate, to maim, to kill in his/her name?

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Don’t get me started.

Oh, how I love the way she hurts me. She makes me believe I’m a gladiator.

Compelling and beautifully crafted. Don’t want to ruin the read by seeing the film.

Calisthenics of the devil. Worse when Darth Judi, the trainer, commands that they are performed while holding 40 lbs. of hand weights.

Huge undertakings both.

Lovely state, a bit cold for my taste. No more qualified to choose a president than the Supreme Court was in 2000.

Oops, he did it again.

More alike than they are different. Wonderful, mostly.

The foundation of our democracy. Why do we have a stamp tax? Why tax our tea? That’s how our country began. Not an anti-American activity.

Personal. Inappropriate when worn on a sleeve, pushed in someone else’s face, or proclaimed as a qualification when seeking a job in secular America.

We’ve got it all wrong. Too much too soon, without time to process or to learn to love learning. Big mistake underway, and we may feel the fallout for years to come.

I heard that the writers went on strike. It hasn’t affected my watching habits, though. MASH is as good as ever.

Man, do I hate that song. Nothing but dreck on the radio these days.

She’s recently hand washed, the top is down, and I’m cruisin’… to Publix. Whatever, I’m loving the ‘Stang.

A bitch to do, but they feel great when they’re done.

Carter’s work has been heroic. Even GB the first has done good for people since he’s out of offices. What will the second do post D.C.?

Definitely a state of mind. 29 and holding.

Sleep. Highly underrated. Pillow time is the best time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I must be getting old...

I try to keep an open mind, but it's hard for me to find anything decent on the radio these days. So instead I seek out artists I know and keep my ears on alert for someone new and interesting. Regardless of your musical tastes, may I recommend you give a listen to Melissa Etheridge's newest cd/download, Awakening. Even my 13-year old has found things to love about this cd. In the car today she had us play Message to Myself five times in a row. The cd is full of messages to others, too. In one song she wrote to "The man who's been told that he's a king," for instance.

I was singing along to "Message" in the car when I paused to think about the message in the song. One line in particular:
It's funny what you fear can make you weak
Truth is what you get
When truth is what you speak

Embrace what I fear, so that it loses the power to weaken me. Speak the truth to hear it. Wisdom in a pop radio package.

Maybe Melissa's not the top of the charts these days. Actually iTunes lists its #1 download as "Low" by Flo Rida. It has some pretty intense lyrics too:

h h h h h let me to talk to ya let me to talk to ya
mh h h h h let me to talk to ya
come on shortie had them apple bottom jeans (jeans)
boots with the fur (with the fur)
the whole club was lookin at her
she hit the floor (she hit the floor)
next thing you know shorty got low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low
them baggy sweat pants
and the reboks with the straps (with the straps)
she turn around and gave that big booty a smack(heyyy)
she hit the floor (she hit the floor)
next thing you know shorty got low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low (come on)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Inertia, Indeed

in·er·tia /ɪnˈɜrʃə, ɪˈnɜr-/ [in-ur-shuh, i-nur-]
1.inertness, esp. with regard to effort, motion, action, and the like; inactivity; sluggishness.

a.the property of matter by which it retains its state of rest or its velocity along a straight line so long as it is not acted upon by an external force. analogous property of a force: electric inertia.

—Related forms
in·er·tial, adjective
—Synonyms 1. torpor, inaction, laziness

I've discovered something about this noun, particularly definition 2.a. The body at rest retains its state of rest so long as it is not acted on by an external force. Sitting for a while, catching up on blogs, and checking on emails resulted in torture as I stood to refill my cup with the makings of a cranberry-pomegranate spritzer. My feet curled, my muscles froze and my back made a crunching noise. I thought that I had overdone it, and my foray into fitness had ended.

Then I took a killer step class at the Y. Step interval, taught by Judi the infamous trainer, involves cardio and strength interval training. Usually this means uptempo choreography segments followed by endless lunges or squats. I never bounced higher or squatted lower. The feet, legs, and back felt great all the way through the class. This reinforces definition 2.a. again. Matter is retaining its state of velocity.

So the trick to feeling good after overdoing it is to do it some more. What a vicious cycle I have begun.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Two Halves make a Whole

Today was the second half marathon in three weeks. Mother Nature was kind, providing cool breezes and mostly overcast skies. Making our way along the course through Beauclerc and Mandarin, the time flew as I laughed with Click and Clack, and then belted out some tunes to my iPod. My apologies to my fellow runners who were subjected to the breathless, loud covers of hits that spanned the decades from Kool and the Gang's celebrations to the golden tones of Jill Scott.

I was surprised to find the second time to be a little easier. Mile marker 8 was the first time I thought about how much further there was to run. I may have even experienced a runner's high, sometime after mile 10. I didn't have an adrenaline rush or feel myself levitate. I just felt incredibly, ridiculously happy. Drenched with sweat, chafing God knows where, and plodding along at a pace that would embarrass any self-respecting runner, I couldn't lose the obnoxious grin. Running may be second only to waterboarding in degrees of torture, but I'm actually enjoying the sport.

What's more is that our friends are encouraging this behavior. Enablers all, they show up and cheer for us, clapping when we cross finish lines way after the award assemblies have concluded. CS dragged MD from his sickbed and together they met us at the gatorade pools. The official photographers of the JG/EG half marathon, friends and supporters, drove a good 30 minutes each way just to be there. Forget the runner's high, I can get that rush any time I think about these people I love.

As to the possibility of improving the half marathon to a full, I firmly state AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN. I know, CS, you suggest that when I voice it then God wills the opposite to come true. In this case I think I'm safe. Nobody heard that over the screaming of my muscles.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The eye of the beholder? Baloney.

Our American culture and its obsession with youthful, slender beauty has never been an environment where my appearance would be considered noteworthy. Thankfully, I have little need for that superficial stuff. I find comfort in being noted for my deeds rather than my 'do or my duds. Yet lately I've noticed some changes that make me uncomfortable. Lines on my face appear when I laugh (often) and then hang around for a while (all day). Shadowy crescents beneath my eyes used to be the result of late night frolicking, but now they're a feature of midday living. Tracks above my brow used to be an indicator of my deep thought, but now they are the permanent onramp to my thinning hair. With youth slipping away from me, this would be a crappy time to become vain.

I thought about this a great deal this week as I traveled with the loveliest onsite coordinator. She is a graceful, beautiful woman. She speaks softly, properly, clearly, and with a light feminine voice. I believe it's possible to hear the commas and the periods in her speech. She keeps her hair a golden blonde with a delicate flip at the bottom. Sparkly earrings and a fur vest were her week-long accessories. With colorful fingernails and brightly colored lips, she is a picture of the put-together woman. Pushing hard toward (or maybe past) 70, I wish I could look half as good. As we spoke I found myself thinking that she must have been a beautiful woman, back when she was young. I tried to imagine the face without the laugh lines, the eyes without the shadows, the brow without the thinking tracks, and her hands, before the fingers became twisted above the knuckles, the result of arthritis and time.

Beautiful when she was young? What the hell. She's beautiful now. And I guess that means I would be too, if I cared about that superficial stuff.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Let it snow, let it snow, get me outta' here

Yesterday's drive between seminar locations clocked out at just over 100 miles. It took us 4 1/2 hours. The first 8/10 of a mile took us one hour.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

D2 and the Perky Chef

Geez, one cannot even swing the proverbial dead cat around New England without smacking into a Dunkin' Donuts. They're in every gas station and on every corner. Preparing for the drive tonight, I knew I needed coffee. How I longed for the Green Goddess. In her absence I agreed to a trip to Dunkies. The warm, brown-tinted water they sell has very little to do with coffee.

It's not just the service stations and the intersections that feature the Double D's. There are only 2 types of commercials on tv up here. Cheesey political advertisements and Dunkster ads. Am I the only one who finds it disturbing that Rachel Ray is a spokesperson for D2? A chef and food connoisseur, a woman who makes her living cooking and recommending good eats, is running to the bank for hawking crappy coffee and sugary fried amorphous blobs of bread product.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I'm a Loser Too

Hotels can be noisy places. The pipes moan, phones ring unanswered, and voices murmur on the other side of thin walls. To combat the curious cacophony around me, I usually turn on the tv. The cadence of the broadcast voices on any random channel are more familiar than the sounds of strangers.

Last night the tuner landed on The Biggest Loser. Of course I'd heard of this reality program, but I have never experienced it first hand. I found myself distracted from my work, watching events unfold in a horrified fascination. The gratuitous blubber shots, the close-ups on 300 pounds of spandex, the bottom-up camera angles to catch the double and triple chins; as a person of size I was disturbed by the dehumanization of the contestants. Yes, I know they signed the waivers and willingly waddled for the audience watching from home.

What a depressing picture it paints of weight loss and fitness. In order to attain a healthy shape, the show promotes "challenges" such as dragging 150 pounds of dead weight across burning sand in the desert sun. The trainers have dramatic moments with their spontaneous inspirational speeches right in the faces of their exhausted charges. In one scene, Jillian, the skinny bitch with negative body fat who does one-arm push ups, was shouting into the tear-streaked face of a fattie who suggested that her 250 pound body couldn't run on the treadmill set to 13.o. That setting makes for a 4:40 mile. I think thunder thighs may have been right in her assumption.

An acquaintance of ours, desperate to lose weight, auditioned for this program. She prepared a video tape wherein she and her husband worked in tandem to stuff her heft into some unforgiving denim. They hammed it up for the camera (pun intended) and rolled around on the ground, complete with moaning and tears. She didn't make the call-back for Loser. Instead she went under the knife. Almost a year after the gastric surgery, she still looks about the same to me.

Instead of promoting fitness, I suspect that this program might have the opposite effect on its viewers. Comfy in flannel, parked on the couch with Ben and Jerry, the prospect of fitness would seem even less palatable. Who can afford to leave home and family and live on a fat farm for 13 weeks to trim up? Who wants to sweat and strain like the contestants? Better to be fat and happy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

They, the people

This afternoon I stepped off a plane at Boston's Logan airport. Heading out of town during my $80 cab ride, I did some 'burb-watching. We passed through several tunnels and then merged onto I-93. In the HOV lane, the cab blasted through the town of Quincy, Mass. One strip mall/car dealership/parking garage/office building followed after another. Another non-descript bedroom community with overpriced real estate and killer traffic, in my estimation.

In this neck of the woods, I am always aware that we walk among the ghosts of the founding fathers. Quincy was the birthplace of John Adams. I became interested/obsessed with John Adams about 2 years ago, having read David McCullough's remarkable biography of this complex man. The book described Quincy as a fertile countryside, an unlikely place for a rebel. A quiet, conservative place like Quincy bore the man Thomas Jefferson called "The Colossus of Independence," one of the men to lead a rebellion against the crown. Adams was distinctive in his intelligence and his passion, yet he made incredible mistakes as he ascended to power in the earliest days of our nation. Humbled by his misjudgements, he spent his later years filled with regret.

Through the highways and the strip malls, past the construction sites and the overpasses, I tried to imagine the remote Quincy of 250 years ago. How different the landscape, the people, and the future must have appeared to the men and women then. Even the brilliant visionaries of their day cannot possibly have anticipated the complexity of our society, or the depth of our difficulties in fulfilling the truths that are self evident.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

What does this say about leadership?

I resigned from my sixth grade teaching position in January 2002. I had been the retiring teacher of the year, and a part of the vertical writing team, the school improvement team, and I coordinated the school literary magazine while I co-directed the full musical each year. I knew everyone in the school, and I think everyone knew me.

In six years a lot changes. Two new administrators occupy the front offices. When we auditioned kids for the musical this year, I barely recognized the names of the homeroom teachers listed on the audition cards. Arriving early for a rehearsal a few weeks ago, I stuck my head into the faculty room and recognized no one.

Tonight I attended the Christmas party for the same school. About 20 faculty members attended (less than 1/3). I knew everyone there.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Impressive political strategy. The script writing was brilliant.
Romney: Don't hate me because I'm Mormon.

Here are some more press conference-worthy quips.
Clinton: Don't hate me because I'm female.
Obama: Don't hate me because I'm African-American.
Thompson: Don't hate me because I'm asleep.
Huckabee: Don't hate me because I'm downright frightening.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I'm cheating and back-dating this because I didn't want to pay for internet access.

For the past several years I've been able to make a living as an expert in something I know so little about. Perhaps the secret of my success is my frequently-reiterated contention that I am no expert. Nevertheless, people pay good money to come and listen to my pondering and pontificating. Go figure?

I love that I can meet so many people. Good people. Dedicated, hard-working teachers who care about their students so strongly that they are standing up to all the malarkey being thrown at them, insisting on providing experiences for their students to learn, not just to test. Today I met a teacher who paid her own way for a 2-day seminar on writing workshop, even though this is likely her last full year in the classroom. "I just want to reach all my kids," she told me.

Another teacher today challenged the group (and me) with questions to the point where it threw the whole schedule. I was finishing up my A.M. plans when we broke for the day at 3:15. The timekeeper in me was a little upset, but the conversation was interactive, and most everyone (90 people) remained engaged. This teacher stayed on as I packed up my tech gear and we chatted a bit. She told me she'd hung on in her school beyond what was a reasonable time frame. She was tired of having her hands tied by administrators and she was seeking a new position. How can she find a better situation, she asked me. I told her that I was sorry to report from the field that frustration among teachers has reached epidemic levels. She then asked me to compose a recommendation for her, thinking that a note from an “expert” like me would be the job-seeker's equivalent of a Get Out Of Jail Free Card. It seemed silly. We’d just met. But I thought about it for a while and decided that I probably had learned more today about her ideas on teaching than her negligent administrator had learned in her 15 years in the school. So I wrote:

To Whom it May Concern-
I met Mary Beth today. Mary Beth was one of over 90 attendees at a seminar and I was the speaker. In spite of these circumstances I don't find myself lacking solid information when recommending you consider her for a position in your school.

Mary Beth came to today's seminar with specific goals, and she wasn't afraid to demand that they be met. Her active participation in the seminar demonstrated an enduring interest in delivering the best instruction for her students. In designing and presenting staff development for teachers throughout the country I have learned that I can roughly gauge a teacher’s commitment based upon the questions he or she asks. Mary Beth was persistent in her questioning. She vigorously pursued strategies to meet the needs of all the learners in her classroom.

A teacher seeking to improve her effectiveness? A teacher demanding strategies for her students? Mary Beth appeared to be this and more. Certainly an applicant worth considering for the important position of a teacher in your school.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Is the Barometric Pressure Falling?

Moodiness and teen years often go hand in hand. We weary parents of teens learn a skill not unlike storm survivors in Tornado Alley. After the big one blows through we collect whatever trinkets have escaped unscathed, then we move on. Maybe we're gearing up for an F5, but the last few days have been calm, cool, and sunny in teenland.

After ballet practice last night, I picked up IMG to find her happy. Giddy, really. In a dance class with HS students, she's usually cucumber cool, trying to blend. Maybe it was the excitement of the upcoming Nutcracker performance, or maybe it was the fun they had twirling around in their Waltz of the Flowers costumes, but last night she was acting little-kid silly. She even asked me to hug her in front of the other girls.

In the car on the way home from dance we shivered together until the 'stang's heater cranked up, and then we were roasting. A detour to the McD drive through and we shared a Value Menu ice cream cone, giggling at how silly it was to be cold/hot/eating ice cream. At home it was more hugs and silliness.

This morning she readied herself for school early and was out the door at 7:30 instead of the usual 8:45. She got out early because she wanted to go to Science Club. Yep, I said she wanted to go to Science Club. We had a little Chick-fil-a breakfast together and chatted about nothing particular. During the twenty minute drive to school we admired her glittery new make-up, her perfectly scrunched hair, and her Happy Hanukah sweater/jacket with the fuzzy yarn balls on the ends of the hood. We laughed at my old fogy rapping to a Kanye West cd. In front of the school a clandestine kiss-blowing to Mom, and she was on her way.

Yes, things have been calm around here. Too calm. Better keep an eye on the Weather Channel.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Defection 2008

Puttering around town today, I was listening to the NPR Radio debate of the Democratic presidential candidates. Of course they were out in Iowa, as that is the the state with the best representation of every American. Those Iowans can assess the candidates better than the rest of us, I guess. Mostly the debate made me want to defect to Canada. I was reminded that I am proud to be a long-time National Public Radio supporter. Michele Norris, Steve Inskeep and Robert Segal insisted on answers to their questions, following up with a second query when the candidates avoided direct responses. It was tough going, though. On my score sheet there was only one candidate who would've received full score on those extended responses, Dennis Kucinich. Sure he's divisive, unelectable, and a little elf-like.
I've got to believe though, that he would be pretty influential among world powers. Any guy who looks like that who can convince this woman to be his wife

will have Al Qaeda waving US flags and watching NASCAR in his first hundred days.

Monday, December 3, 2007

I put on a Happy Face

Normally I hate the idea of bumper stickers on the car. EJG loves them. He thinks that his $30,000+ rolling investment is a good place to advertise his political views. I think that advertising his liberal politics on a parked, unguarded car is simply inviting the retaliation from the rednecks less open-minded, less well-read folks we may encounter in this region. The only one I have allowed is this:

A PBS mind in a FOX news world

Anyone who would be offended by that probably doesn’t understand it.

EJG was surprised, then, to see that I had placed a magnetic sticker of sorts on the back of my 2006 metallic blue Pony, who we call Desi. She’s my midlife crisis machine, and I am known in this neck of the woods to be riding topless regardless of weather, belting out a tune with the radio, soaking in the sun and the joy of a 50+ MPH breeze through my hair. My life makes me happy, and if EJG can advertise on the car when he is disgruntled, then I want equal time.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Everything's a Matter of Time

Maybe it is because I fell asleep at 8:30 last night. Snuggling with the hubby and fully dressed, I slept with the ostinato of my ticking Timex. Maybe it's because I wanted this morning to never end. Cool breezes tickled my bare skin and gently rattled the blinds. Their soft percussion, combined with the birdsong and backyard fountain, created a soothing Sunday morning symphony. But as I lay on the table under the therapeutic touch of Oscar the Magnificent my moments of muscular-skeletal seventh heaven were interrupted by a disturbing thought. We are all Time's bitch.

Time doesn't fly when we're having fun, nor does it drag on when we're bored. No, she's a sadistic SOB. Whether you're in the midst of lovemaking or root canal, an hour is an hour is an hour. Life isn't a game. There's no Time out. The clock won't stop. Whether we've committed a crime or not, we all serve Time. She rules every moment, waking or sleeping, with her incessant, steady move forward. Foolish humans, we try to race against Time, but she always wins. It would be wonderful to kill Time, that is to stop her unrelenting draining of the biological clock that governs our living and dying.

Cher isn't the only one who would like to turn back Time (though she certainly has tried with her series of cosmetic procedures). Given a chance, I'd turn Time back to our newlywed days. EJG and I loved to surprise our grandparents, visiting them just to be with them, to give them the only gift we could afford in our stone broke years. We shared our time. Whether enjoying a meal or playing a game of cards together, that was Time well spent. But Time stole our grandparents away from us. Could I turn time back to my baby's early years? Once again to scoop her little being into my arms, allowing myself to believe that my embrace could protect her from everything the world would throw at her? Of course not. There's no Time but the present.

It is true that time is money, but it is a lie that the best things in life are free. Time is a currency with a limited supply. We're all living on borrowed Time, and part of her game is never letting us know when her generosity ends. Spend wisely my friends. Time is not on our side.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

One of my many personality flaws is that I am fiercely competitive. In most everything. In school I had to get the highest grades, and I competed with the other honors kids to finish tests the fastest. As a singer I am a soprano, so I can sing the highest notes. I also can usually sing the loudest and in most groups I am the tallest. But it's a good thing I'm not into this running thing for the competition.

We're slogging through two 5K races this weekend. After 13.1 miles, 3.1 should barely seem like a warm-up. Problem is, we actually try to run these. We're never going to beat any fit person or stand on an award podium, but these sloth-like middle-agers desperately want to break 30 minutes.

This morning we had a race at St Johns Town Center, literally up and down the streets of shops. The weather was cool and there was a small crowd. Adequately caffeinated and arriving with ample time to pee, we lined up at the start. The cannon fired. My trusty iPod kept the tempo as I chugged along to my Fast Running Tunes playlist. Sisters are Doing it For Themselves, Run and Tell That, Conga, Love Shack, Girlfriend. Thank you Annie Lennox, Elijah Kelley, Gloria Estefan, B-52s, and Avril Levigne. Mile Marker two came up, and I chugged past it with the clock at 19:25. With 1.1 miles remaining 10:35 placed our goal on the outside edge of possible.

Around the corner, past the Cheesecake Factory, and the finish after Barnes and Noble came into view. With a few hundred yards left the clock read 29:50. So today I had to settle for my personal record, but I guess that's the best anyone really can ever do.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Pass the keg, the ammo, or the ciggies

EG had the Today show on as I puttered around the house. Unpacking and sorting laundry, I overheard a feature story about how the FDA is considering the regulation of salt. In our great land, any yutz can get their hands on a gun. Beer is sold in kegs and tobacco owns half of Washington D.C., but the FDA is fussing over salt.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Live and in Color

I am a member of the TV dinner generation. Bonding time in my house consisted of Swanson and CBS. I considered Archie, Edith, Gloria and the Meathead among my family members. Florida and J.J. were like cousins to me. When Sherman Helmsley moved on up, I went with him, and I didn’t separate my own experiences from those lived through these characters on television. Perhaps growing up in a world where there was always a punch line and a happy ending has skewed my expectations for adulthood. In my adult reality I don’t have the luxury of being the zany, scheming housewife who is always forgiven by her handsome Cuban-American husband. I’m not the wise-cracking wife of a bus driver who always finds a way to love her stubborn, chubby husband in spite of his many faults. Real living is much more complex than the 30 minutes of family life I saw on the screen, but I still hold fast to my childhood TV family.

Carol O’Connor, Jack Lord, Jackie Gleason, Lucille Ball, Redd Foxx, Gene Rayburn, Tony Randall, Jack Soo, Fred 'Rerun' Berry, and Flip Wilson - so many of the faces of my childhood are no longer with us. I worry about some of the aging icons. Alan Alda, sexy, witty, sensitive and wise, Carol Burnett, the crazy aunt we all wish we had, Chevy Chase, the goofy uncle, touchy-feely Richard Dawson, and Bob Barker, the icon of calm in a sea of excitement: just to name a few. As time goes by I think about my pseudo-ancestors, and I wonder how they’re getting by in their twilight years out of the spotlight. Though they don’t know me, and I really don’t know them, they helped to shape the person became.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Dorothy knew what she was saying.

Getting out to see the world and visiting places I'd never otherwise see, that's an incredible perk of my job. I don't begrudge the travel, but I miss my family terribly. I mourn the loss of each and every minute we didn't have together. Yet this morning, as Delta 1272 ascended over North Florida, I was thinking about some of the simpler things I'd be missing the next few days.

I'll miss our morning run. At home, with my running buddy, we can run the same route every day and it never becomes boring. In fact, the sameness of our route is comforting. Mile markers are noted with the passing of a sign or a tree, not a cold, impersonal LED display. The run outdoors is a rarity when I'm on the road. Either the climate or the traffic is unfriendly. Running on a treadmill is pure drudgery. Even with the distractions of television, iPod, and a magazine all I can do is count down the minutes remaining.

I'll miss my breakfast ritual. Lately I've been enjoying a tall post-run cranberry pomegranate spritzer. I fill our biggest cup 3/4 of the way with seltzer, 3/16 with cranberry juice and 1/16 with Pom Wonderful (give or take). It's bubbly, full of antioxidants, and the cranberries are supposed to keep the parts clear of bad fungi. The spritzer is the perfect cocktail to wash down the melty peanut butter coated English muffin. That customized meal is an impossibility on the road. I usually settle for a Styrofoam cup of instant oatmeal and a mini box of raisins, a meal I can prepare in my room using the immersion heater in my self-fashioned frequent traveler's survival kit.

I'll miss Big Pillow. My trusty body pillow, a friend I found more than a decade ago during pregnancy. Snuggling up with this 5 foot long squishy pillow has cured many an aching muscle. Because of its size, it cannot stow away on the plane with me. The best I can do is bring one of Big Pillow's cases with me and stuff it full of lumpy hotel pillows.

For so many big reasons, and many more little ones, there really is no place like home.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I'm gonna' live forever

Thinking about opera and my ancient history as an ingenue of the operatic stage has really brought me back. My roots and interests in the arts didn't grow out of a childhood packed with exposure to the finer things. I was brought up on Long Island, exposed to a steady diet of Laverne and Shirley, TV Dinners, and Land of the Lost and David and Goliath weekends. Others who studied opera in the New York area were weaned on Mozart and The Met.

I think I was attracted to the arts because they have a transforming quality. A performing artist lives twice as much: once as herself, and once through the character. I was also attracted to the promise of the immortality of fame. My naive teenage thought process had me convinced that with "Fame, I'm gonna' live forever.." and living forever sounded a lot better than dying. I guess I assumed that my rendering of Papagena or Marcellina would be a hot conversation topic for centuries to come.

My line of thinking was reflected in a memoir I just finished reading, Alan Alda's, Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself. In a chapter he titled "Celebrity and its Discontents" he reflected on his relationship with fame. At first it was a slice of his motivation to pursue a career in acting. He said of fame, "Of course I'd wanted it. It was a way to live forever. There was even a moment in my life when I'd worked out a strategy for eternal life." He certainly attained a fame that was widespread. He noted that a poll conducted in the 1970s found that more grade school-aged kids recognized his face than the image of Abraham Lincoln. He wrote that in his twenties, he'd determined a new method of acquiring immortality, writing. "...I wanted to write really well because otherwise my work wouldn't last very long. Writing lasted..." But his years and his experiences have taught him something else about living forever, that "It all evaporates."

So if someone with the wisdom and world view of Alan Alda has come to recognize that everything we do simply evaporates, where is the motivation for living well? For making art? For doing right? He answered that he finds wisdom in Bosco's Belly. Bosco, his grandchildren's dog, has attained life's true meaning. Watching Bosco lapse into dreamland while having his belly scratched reminds Alda that there is a point to life. "Of course there's a point. Life is the point," he wrote.

So, my friends and fellow blogistas, I urge you to take a moment today and make a point. Stop and smell the roses, or the freshly laundered, warm towels. Savor that sip of tea, or that crumbly melting biscuit. Pause to listen to birdsong, cat meowing, or baby cooing. Take the sun on your face, because fully living every moment may be the only way we can live forever and make a point with our lives.

And now, taking a cue from Cora Spondence, blogger extraordinaire, what was your moment of immortality today?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

All things Domestic

I really like doing the laundry. There's something gratifying about the process. Clean becomes dirty. What was soiled is fresh again. Folding it, warm and smelling good from the dryer, satisfies all my senses.

Puttering around the kitchen makes me happy. Last night, for no good reason, I made 2 kinds of soup and a loaf of bread. I conjured up a vat of Split Pea because I was chilly. Then I tried a new recipe from Women's Health magazine for a turkey, barley and greens soup. A great way to use some leftovers, low fat, high-fiber and scrumptious. Isn't it something about soup, how the whole is greater than the sum of the parts? Wonderful chemical reactions made for a delicious 7PM snack, alongside a 3 ingredient (dairy free) recipe I found for beer bread. Having also nabbed this one in Women's Health magazine, I had no regrets about our late, light supper.

As I think about our day, I'm looking forward to our simple plans. We'll try out the legs again, having rested according to published advice after Thursday's big run. 7-8 miles ought to do us. Then maybe some light yard work between the raindrops: a little hedge trimming and whacking back the crepe myrtle and bottle brush beasts. Doing nothing special on a cloudy Sunday, it's delicious.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I ain't what I used to be

I skipped a day of posting.

I know I didn't pinky swear to the 30 day challenge like some other blogistas, but I was feeling pretty good about the streak of blogs I was cranking out. Yesterday I didn't post because I reconvened with The Mouse.

We departed at 7AM, minivan full of cousins and coffee to journey to the land of happiness. Yes, the place is friggin' expensive. My sis bought 1-day tickets for herself and my nephew. $120 plus tax, no park-hopper options. EJG and I buckled and decided to renew our status as passholders. 4 single day visits equate the cost of a Florida resident seasonal pass. We'll surely be back 3 more times before November 2008, especially if we're invited to the LMJ inaugural Mouse run.

After running 13+ miles, cooking and cleaning on Thursday, the legs held up remarkably well. We were in the Big Kahuna of Family Fun, the Magic Kingdom. In an effort to maximize my sis's one-day ticket dollar, we just about closed the place at midnight. Images of roller coasters, parades, fireworks and more than a few snacks filled our heads as we climbed back into the minivan for the return trip. Feeling peppy (and recently caffeinated) I volunteered to drive, reserving the right to call EJG up from the farm team, should the starting line poop out.

Somewhere north of the intersection of I-4 and I-95 I was slapping myself, blowing pitches into my diet coke bottle, and making my own words up to the nonstop Christmas music on the radio (damn, that I forgot the XM hookup). I decided to do something totally out of character. I gave up.

Off the exit ramp, EJG and I switched places so quickly, I don't think the car ever went out of drive. He was rested, having snoozed from the park exit forward, so he was ready to step in and take over. We arrived safely, just after 2AM. To sleep in our own bed was worth the grueling late night trip. But I lay in bed for a while, reading yet another sign. There was a time I could fight the urge to doze. Clearly, I ain't what I used to be.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I Can Skip Santa This Year

Half of a marathon was a whole lot of running for us. The cool, wet weather was a help in managing the trek (which clocked out at 14.2 miles on my GPS). Near the race's end I cranked up the iPod to hear the tunes over the screaming of my knees. How smart I was to have downloaded a good chunk of an iTunes essentials list. Some dude must've graduated high school when I did. His HS Faves list propelled me through the last 5 miles. Thank you Thomas Dolby, Duran Duran, A-Ha, and Falco.

Even with the tunes for mental inspiration and the caffeinated power blocks for physical inspiration, it got a little rough at the end. Turning a corner and heading for mile marker 13 I was questioning the sanity of this running habit we've developed.

Then something occurred that is truly beyond my explanation. Maybe it's the same motivation that compels people to donate a kidney, or to fall on a grenade for a comrade. Truly, an act of nobility that was amazing in its selflessness. In the chilly morning rain on the Thanksgiving holiday, 3 of the most special people I know willingly left the warmth and comfort of home, drove for 2o minutes, and waited for an hour on a strange street corner just to be there for us.

Forget about Black Friday, 4 AM sales or the presents under the tree. One of the best presents I ever received can't be gift wrapped.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Good-bye Happy Dance

Mastery of anything feels good. Whether it's 15 more pounds on the incline leg press, nailing a new recipe, or finding the perfect rhyme for a couplet, it just feels good to do something right. There's a moment of personal victory when you go for it and it works.

That was one of the things I always liked about Math. Different from other subjects, there's a right answer in Math. Gray areas exist in other subjects, even when I didn't think they did. So I learned to consider the antagonist's point-of-view in English, to determine the motivation of the ruthless dictator in History, to engage the scientific method of thinking to question what seemed to be fact in Biology. But in Algebra, there was a satisfaction that came when the answer came out right. x=3.18. Plug it back into the equation, and Bam! Like the last piece of a puzzle, that satisfaction that comes with mastery.

Sadly many kids today are denied that satisfaction. With an emphasis on keeping to the curriculum map, the objective-a-day-even-if-they-don't-get-it pace of instruction doesn't allow for those moments of triumph. Helping IMG to prepare for a math test I tried to share my excitement when it works out just right. The happy dance when you know you nailed it. She didn't share my enthusiasm. Maybe it is because the week-long chapter on the test encompassed everything from "What is a variable?" to "Which of the following is a non-linear function of x?" . Maybe it's because kids today have figured out that what is valued isn't learning, it's performance on assessments. Or maybe it's because working hard at something until you get it just isn't that important.

This is a generation of kids who can spend all night "pimping a MySpace profile" or downloading just the right ring tone for a mobile phone. What a shame to skip the important life-lesson of the intrinsic motivation that comes with mastery.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Everything Flies

Maybe it's my Delta Platinum Preferred prejudice, but I definitely notice a difference when I fly Southwest Airlines. Never my first choice, perhaps because of the gang seating mentality. Lining up like cattle waiting for the slaughter never seemed like the most dignified manner to prepare for a flight. Or maybe it's their lack of a first class cabin. I don't like to think of myself as someone who needs to be separated from the common folk. Well, maybe I do.

In coach, and especially when I fly SWA, I notice a different clientele. The Greyhound of the skies, this is everyman's airline, and I'm always depressed when I meet everyman. Parents who can't control their kids should really have to drive from Jacksonville to Indianapolis. Maybe after 20 hours in the car they will figure out that it's time to get your kid to sit put. People in coach who have their inane conversations at dance club volume maybe don't realize that it is hard work NOT to listen. I don't want to know about your uncle's goiter surgery, or the prospects for this college team, or even your tips on how to make a good guacamole dip. I want to read my book, or to work on my laptop, or to do nothing at all. Instead I am assaulted by your voice and the kicking feet of your tantrum-throwing children.

Taking SWA today was a gamble. If all the stars in heaven align correctly, the plan is that I can arrive home tomorrow night before 10 PM, thereby optimizing the pre-race sleep. This was the only airline with a direct flight Indy to Jax, and I didn't want to risk a connection combined with the Turkey Day Tumult at the airport. Flying is a crap shoot either way, but I thought that slumming was the best of the options in this case. The payoff of that gamble remains to be seen.

Monday, November 19, 2007

71 Hours and Counting

Seventy-two hours from now, I won't be sitting in front of my computer, tapping the keys while casually sipping my cranberry spritzer. I won't be comfortably stationary, enjoying the rest after my morning run and coffee. Seventy-two hours from now I'll be hitting mile 5 or 6, the almost-half-way point of the longest race I ever anticipate trying to run, our first attempt at a half marathon.

According to the training schedule put out by the 1st Place Sports running club, the three days prior to the race should be pretty restful. Limit your run to an easy 3 miles, and cut back other physical activities so as to save all energy for the big day. Well, we already put in our usual 5 1/2 'Bucks and Back. It wouldn't be a Monday morning without it. And though it's probably a mistake, I have an appointment later this morning with Judi the Trainer. I doubt she'll have any sympathy on me, as she's generally unimpressed with our running habits. When we completed our last milestone, the 10 miler, her only response was to ask if we're getting any faster.

No. We're really not getting any faster. Not any faster by measurable standards. I don't really care to. Running our way feels good. I can sing to the iPod, chat with my partner, or I can enjoy the silence, observing the sights and sounds around me. Running fast means I can't speak for fear of hyperventilating, my heart pounds too loudly to hear anything, and my vision blurs with the strain and discomfort. So instead of faster I'm satisfied that we are running longer.

The only thing that upsets me about the idea of a half-marathon is that it seems anticlimactic in its name. It's half of an achievement. Half of something people are proud of doing. Half the job is done. Half way to being historic. The running store sells bumper stickers and gold pendants with "26.2" for the boastful full-marathoner. They do not carry the same merchandise with "13.1" emblazoned in gold. If I cross that finish line on my own two feet Thursday morning, I won't feel half proud. I'll feel bumper sticker gold necklace proud. And its a feeling I can't wait to feel.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Brother and Sister

You don't get to pick your family, they are already picked when you are born. I could grumble/giggle about the cast of characters that comprise my kin, but I'm more drawn to a pair of black-pajamaed feuding siblings that live in my house. Brother and sister who were fated to spend life next to each other, Hansel and Gretel have a reluctant acceptance relationship that is fun to observe.

They look so much alike that when they were little we confused the two. A pink collar for Gretel and blue for Hansel was the only way we could keep them straight. With their silky black fur and almost identical white spots on the tummy, they were so similar as kittens. As they have grown their bodies have changed. He's taken on the long, lean look of a Tom, and she has the shapely thing going on. Gretel is kind of Romanesque.

Were there others in the litter? Did we adopt the left-overs in the batch? They were the pair waiting for us at the adoption center, so they seemed fated to become a part of our lives. But I sometimes wonder how they feel about being stuck together.

Did Hansel have a brother he played with? He sometimes plays rough on his sister, and she doesn't stand for it. Sure, Hansel may think that sneaking up and biting the rear of your unsuspecting sibling is a great gag, but Gretel is none too amused. A chase and smack-down usually ensues, but no matter how many times she puts him back in his place he tries it again. She's not a good sport when it comes to play.

Does Gretel lie awake at night wondering, of all the cats in the litter, how did she end up with him? Did she have a sweet sister in the group, with whom she shared her giggles watching the antics of their goofy brother? I swear that sometimes I see Gretel rolling her eyes when Hansel's shenanigans get out of hand.

Certainly they have their moments. Sharing a windowsill, they wag and squeak in harmony when a bird is at the feeder, or when a lizard dashes across the hibiscus. Sometimes he'll approach her during her grooming, and she uses her little pink tongue to smooth the stray fur between his ears. Companions in the box on the trip to the vet and during the long days they are home alone, surely they appreciate one another's presence.

I suspect they care for one another more then they'll ever let on. I can imagine them as senior citizen kitties, twenty years from now, snuggling together on a soft blanket and reminiscing about the fights of their youth.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

By the seat of my pants

I just need a flippin' pair of pants. I want some pants that are casual and comfy but not a pair of jeans. I want them to fit at the top and to be long enough to touch my shoe tops on the bottom. I don't want them to look like a deflated balloon around the hips and legs. Some flare at the ankle is good. Liberty Bell wannabe look is bad. Gimme a zipper and one button, no annoying sliding things, and please, God, not a button fly.

My vision of what I want is clear. I can picture these pants, and by golly, if I could sew more than a button, I should just make them myself. Instead I hit the stores.

There I am faced with too many options. First of all, I fit into pants in every department of the store (okay, maybe not infants). Juniors, Ladies, Women's, all of these departments have pants I need to try. Interesting that a size 14 in Women's falls off, 14 in Ladies could belt around the bottom of the bra, and the one in Juniors would require a bikini wax before I'd attempt the zipper. Some pants come in lengths, which would be helpful. If I were a size 3 tall or a size 26 short I'd be all set. When I finally find one that fits on the top, the bottoms look like I'm preparing to enter a wading pool.

After all the fuss at the stores, it sure feels good to come home a put on a nice pair of elastic waist running shorts.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I had to put on the heat this morning.

The alarm went off at 5 AM, as it usually does for our weekday 'Bucks and back run. By 5:15 the feet must hit the pavement in order for EJG to make it there, back, showered, shaved, and ready to report for duty at school by 7:30. One toe outside the blanket and all plans were aborted this morning. The temperature was way too low for me to convince myself to leave the warm family bed for the cold outdoors.

Unfortunately my body knows when it's wake-up time, so I lay there reviewing my to-do list. Damn, that I can't put checks in any little boxes while I snuggle beneath the blankets with EJG an IMG. Normally I would just get up and putter around the house, but again, the temperature was way too low for me to convince myself to leave the warm family bed for the cold kitchen where my laptop waited for me.

"Friday morning, it's Friday morning" was the song ringing in my head. After the never-ending yesterday we neglected to pull the trash cans out to the curb. We can't miss trash day, not this week. Then we'll have no place for turkey carcass, potato pie tins, and all the other festive trash we plan to generate next week. Plus we always need room for the cat box refuse. Yet the temperature was way too low for me to convince myself to leave the warm family bed to haul the trash to the end of the driveway.

In the bed, sleepless, with the imminent need to exercise, check off the list, and beat the trash collectors, my head swirled. There was only one solution. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four Mississippi, five Mississippi. Yep, that was all it would take. In five seconds I could dash across the house, hit the thermostat, and make it back to bed.

Ouch, the breezes created by my dash across the house. Disappointing the kitties, I failed to stop at the pantry where their treats are stored. I passed every light switch and felt my way through the house, hands out Frankenstein-style. Five seconds and I was back in bed, waiting for the house to warm up enough for me to emerge from the blankets and be my normal, productive self. I can do all of the to-do, bundle up for the trash can schlep, and have everything ready for a run in the Friday afternoon sun. Today will be just fine, I thought.

Shoot. All that cold air made me have to tinkle. And I don't even want to describe the sound I made when the flesh hit that cold seat.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


It's 9:47 PM and I'm just arriving home. I volunteer for various programs at EJG's school. I started my volunteer "workday" at 11 AM, after my visit to the MD. Today I helped to hang lights, solicit community businesses to make donations, wrote a script for a variety show's emcee, set up a sound system, ran sound and mixer for 56 acts in the variety show, and then co-chaperoned a performance of the choir I helped EJG prepare to sing with the Orange Park Chorale.

Ming Moon has cooked my supper, my pajamas are waiting, and Hansel is beside himself because nobody has played with him today. No sympathy solicited here. Simply stated, I'm toast.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I have an owie

Complaining about the minor ailment can be a slippery slope. As it is believed of alcoholism, kvetchism may be an inherited disease, and I don't want to tempt fate, especially since I come from a long line of boastful sufferers. I got through a bout of running-induced plantar fasciitis earlier this year without as much as a peep. But I find myself inspired to bitch. An ailment has hit me right in the core. I have a boo-boo in my belly button.

Stunt belly button double used to protect writer's anonymity.

A skin rash of some kind, I attempted ignoring this nuisance. When it persisted I began the application of an over-the-counter cocktail. All things anti were applied to the tummy stump. I used anti-itch, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and I think I may have tried Anti Em cream too.

She isn't really a relative of mine either.
This ailment hit its forte when I started bleeding from the navel during a run. Today, I had to cancel an appointment with the personal trainer because sweat makes my owie even hurt worser.
Tomorrow I will go to the doctor with some fear in my heart. Does flesh-eating disease begin in an innie? Oh, how I wish my parents had opted for the outie. Aren't belly buttons on grown-ups kind of the same things as nipples on men? Nice decoration, but pretty useless. When useless becomes a nuisance, maybe it's time to do something drastic. No, I'm not talking about impeachment proceedings. Perhaps a referral to a plastic surgeon is in order.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What is religious, anyway?

EJG and I have been working with a small group of students on an incredibly difficult piece of music. John Rutter's Mass of the Children is a modern composition that calls for an eight part choir, soprano and baritone soloists, plus a children's choir. It happens that IMG's voice teacher is the director of the Orange Park Chorale, and they had begun practicing this piece when their children's group backed out. Could EJG arrange for a group of kids to do this? Before he looked at the music, he said yes.

A five week sprint of rehearsals ensued, with Saturday being the only possible time because of prior commitments to Oliver, the musical, A Chorus Line, for musical theater class, and Nutcracker rehearsals (not to mention the 2 choirs that EJG already coordinates after school). Through the pounding of notes and a crash course in score-reading, those kiddos have pretty well learned this, even with the dissonant harmonies in this arrangement of the traditional liturgy.

Yesterday as we prepped the gang at school before we headed off to join the adults, we were particularly worried about a section in the Benedictus. It involves a play on time signatures, a hemiola, where the rhythm switches from 2 over 3 to 3 over 2 again and again. Previewing the section and giving the young performers some reminders, EJG casually asked if anyone in the group was religious, because we'll need all the help we can get with this section. Most raised their hands in a show of support for the lord, except for one. A boy in the choir, known to pretend "save" kids on the playground, and the son of a minister at the Baptist church, asked what is "religious." So we, the Jewish directors of the public school's secular choir explained "religious" to the son of a Baptist minister, and then proceeded to lead the group in a modern interpretation of an ancient Christian mass.

Joined with the OP Chorale, soloists, organ and percussion, this modern masterpiece transformed some notes on a page to nothing short of heaven on Earth. The innocent voices of children asking, "Little lamb, who made thee?" set alternately with the soaring adult voices singing "Agnus Dei, Qui Tollis Peccata Mundi" Lamb of god, who takes away the sins of the world, allows the listener to forget the sins of the world, if only for a moment. As they rehearsed the piece in a language I don't speak, at a church I don't attend, celebrating the mass of a faith I do not practice, the music provided me a religious experience. All was harmonious and any discords were resolved and celebrated. Maybe that's what religious means.

Monday, November 12, 2007


The only constant is change. The world around me changes. People enter my life and then disappear: loved ones, students, acquaintances. Sometimes a change can be a shock. Not unlike the devastation I felt upon learning of Steve Irwin's ironic meeting with fate, I find I am mourning the loss our friend, the so-called Spear of Death (SOD).

She dangled from a branch, some thirty feet high, and pointed her menacing fingernail downward. Attached by nothing we could see, we feared she would be knocked down by every windstorm or heavy rain. But she withstood the elements, even getting sharper as if she were secretly filing her sharp, pointy digit.

We counted on her, our spear. Sure as our own sweat, we would see this mystery of nature, defying the laws of gravity, and setting a mile marker for our run. As we chanted "Spear, spear, of, of, death, death, death..." our voices reverberated through the trees. The spooky setting of our pre-dawn runs was accented by the potential of an interception with our spear, so we carried our mini flashlights to illuminate her slim figure.
Then as easily as we had noticed her presence, we noticed her absence. Her broken limb, pushed to the side like so much trash. We knelt by the trail and recovered her pieces, carrying her home for a proper resting place.

Today, a day after learning of her demise, we paused at her spot on the path. A new chant to honor her passing is becoming a quick tradition, "We have nothing to fear, fear, fear, for there is no spear, spear, spear."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Yummy, yummy Sunday

The Jaguars just managed to put another one in the W column, and the chicken is ready for the grill as I am sitting at my kitchen table, blogging with the setting sun and birdsong streaming through my open windows. Today has been a day of ordinary delights.

The first treat was the morning long run. Thank you Mother Earth, for orbiting further from the sun this time of year. From October through April we can start our Sunday Long Run after sunrise without fear of heatstroke. Lounging around until the lazy hour of 7:30, we then took our time prepping and updating podcasts. I enjoyed every minute of today's 10.27 miles, barely noticing the time for Click and Clack, and then the new cd from Melissa Etheridge.

Lunch at the local Loop was well-earned. This was followed by shopping with the family in hopes of picking up some amazing sales at Kohl's. Sure it brought out the typical mom-teen-it's-not-appropriate-do-you-think-I-am-made-of-money drama, but we escaped with some good, solid winter tops and even her concert dress black and whites for choir. Even my short trip home from Publix was a delight. Groceries in the Mustang's trunk, convertible top down, cool breezes caressing my skin, I felt like a movie star (without the Betty Ford track record).

Now the temperature is dropping and the sun is sliding away. The open windows make the cats extra frisky, so I know they'll sleep soundly tonight. After a yummy, yummy autumn Sunday like today, so will I.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

She's a teen

Back home with my family, waking up together is delicious. So unlike the disoriented, lonely mornings I wake in some anonymous hotel room, alone. We three (yep, I said 3, at age 13 she's still there) wake with giggles and songs, whispering and silly beneath the warmth of the blankets.

Awake first this morning, I waited until the hubb reached that half-sleep, and then whispered my good mornings. "My family. I'm here with my family."

"That's us. Take us or leave us," came from beneath a pillow.

"But where should I take you?"

Then a little voice came from the southern end of the Temperpedic, "To the mall."

I don't know if she was awake or dreaming, but she's certainly a teen.

Friday, November 9, 2007

We're all suckers

Water in a bottle, oxygen for sale, what’s next, packaged poodle poop for your curb? Some things used to be free.

Yes, I quench my thirst with the nifty square bottle of mineral water from the islands of Fiji. Of course I prefer the coffee brewed by a barista over the coffee dripping adjacent to the greasy McFries. En masse, we have allowed these exorbitant expenses to pile up. I do not take personal responsibility.

My only regret is that I wasn’t the clever devil who figured out that people would be willing to pay for what they already get for free. I wasn’t shocked to learn that many bottled waters are substandard. We’re not buying it in a bottle because it’s purer. We’re buying it in a bottle because we’re purer. Why should the wealthy be the only ones in those ultra-safe, airbag-lined boxy cars? Safety should be standard for every car. Water should be pure enough to drink and oxygen clean enough to breathe without cost. Free enterprise has put a price tag on good living, and we’re all willing to pay it. If you don’t believe me, then wait until next year when you have to buy a special adaptor to use your own television.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Mission Not Accomplished

It's 5 AM, I'm awake, the kicks are laced and I've strapped on the heart rate monitor. Down the elevator, through the hotel lobby and damn! The fitness center at this trap doesn't open until 7:30 AM. 7:30! My seminar presentation begins at 8:30 so there's no way I can get in my 5 mile, shower, and egg routine before I start. I'll be dragging it all day today. Besides, moving makes my muscles ache less. I'm still suffering afterburn from the devastating workout inflicted by the trainer Monday afternoon. Seriously, I can't straighten my arms for the biceps pain. Something we did when I was on the floor using a press and 180 pounds of weight has made it challenging for me to stand without assistance. Running yesterday made that all feel better. I'll just limp and ktetch through the day, hoping that tonight's new hotel has a functioning treadmill.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The well has run dry, and so have I.

What the heck was I thinking? 30 days is way past my attention span. Damn you, Cora! Presenting me with a challenge to write is a lot like giving Lindsey Lohan a bottle of 90 proof and the keys to the Benz. Kinda' hard to resist. What's worse is that I'm not as good at this stream of consciousness stuff like LJ and Cora. But I'll give it a try.

I'm sitting in a conference room in the Madison Radisson (fun to say, but not to stay) during the lunch break of a seminar on Writing Workshop. As usual, I started my day with the thought, "Holy crap, these people actually think they're going to learn something from me!" I'm amazed at the skill level I'm developing in sounding authoritative while at the same time admitting I still have so much to learn. Maybe I could write Hillary's stump speeches.

It's friggin' cold here (Wisconsin, duh). Indoor heating makes me nuts. The system rattled all night, and for every molecule of heat produced it consumed a molecule of moisture. I'm chapping in places that should never chap. My elbows could sand concrete and I'm having trouble navigating the chapstick over the potholes in my lips. On a happier note, there are snow showers expected tonight, so I might flail about and produce middle-aged snow angels in the parking lot of the next Radisson on the list.

I'm still not sure this stream of consciousness is flowing anywhere, but I'm going to dam it up here anyhow. Unsure if I will be visited by a muse tomorrow, I don't want to waste all my irrational triflings today.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

I didn't forget to post

Posting way early this morning, as this is a travel day for me. I head to the great Midwest for a run of seminars this week. One would think that I could easily blog while in the Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International airport, where I lay over from 11:30 AM to 1:45 PM. I could, but I flatly refuse to pay for the wireless Internet service.

ATL has wireless Internet access in every corner of that city-sized airport. With all those laptop-carrying people, sitting around with nothing better to do, why should the Internet be free? Ten bucks to go online with your choice of carriers. Hopefully that charge is just enough to dissuade the frugal travelers from checking in with the office emails, so instead they can buy the $6.00 coffee.

I'm lost without Internet access, and it makes me worry about my entire generation. The terrible memory-loss ailments that afflict older folks devastate the brains of people who had to add and subtract without the aid of a calculator, to remember phone numbers without speed dial, to recall banking hours to access their cash without the backup of the after-hours ATM. Even with a lifetime of brain exercise, too many of our elders suffer from slipping memories. What will become of us who rely on Google for long-term memory?

That will have to be the end of this rambling post, as I need to tab over to the Delta website to recall the departure time for my flight this morning.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Under Pressure

So EJG has rejoined the blognation, after much encouragement (and a major guilt trip). I effectively convinced him that he has many topics, and he is full of blog posts, just waiting to happen. In fact, we discussed that fact over our morning coffee at the 'Bucks that marks the midpoint of our runs on weekday mornings.

What a great idea for a blog post we had! Funny, interesting, and detailed. And I promised he could have it.

Instead of being a blog-jumper, I defer to the post of EJG.

He's Blogging! He's Blogging!

EJG wrote a blog post!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Fickle Fan

Watching the weekly Jaguars struggle with EJG is not for the weak of heart. With every setback he curses his lousy second-rate team. He holds grudges, wishing the opposing quarterback an extended and painful death. Every network announcer is anti-Jag, and he takes it personally. Visibly raising his own blood pressure, he nears explosion every time we punt the ball back. During an interception today, I think he burst a blood vessel in his neck. Then he cheers madly for each little triumph, hooting and hollering in tones that would have done Beverly Sills proud.

This love-mistrust relationship he has with his team is not unlike his stand on Chinese food take-out. We have a long-established relationship with Ming Moon, the best damned little take-out restaurant south of Brooklyn. We have them on speed dial, on the home and on the cell. They know us by voice, and often throw in some of those yummy cheese wontons as a customer appreciation gift. EJG learned this week that a Wok-n-Roll is opening in a new shopping center here on the island. "Let's try it. Maybe it's good for take-out." Did he forget the late night deliveries? The times they came, in rain, sleet, or hail to deliver the wonton soup, the egg rolls, and the sweet and sour sauce?

All of this leaves me wondering. If he can turn so quickly on the team and on the wok-master, what about the spouse?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

I've got nothing

Woke at 5AM today for the pre-race dressing and coffee ritual. Lovely 10K route through the live oak-lined streets of Mandarin. The weather was so cool I barely broke a sweat, even with an hour of running. EJG and I kept a good tempo the whole time, our mile average coming in around 10:30.

Autumn weather, a lovely course, and some new tunes on my iPod made this a great race. Queen Latifah rocks my world with her new cd of standards, which contrasted well with the lesbo-rock of Melissa Etheridge and the Euro R& B of Joss Stone.

I had a scrumptious race, but no profound thoughts today.

Friday, November 2, 2007

What’s in a Matzo Ball?

The chicken soup is simmering on my stove, and my house fills with the fragrances of earthy dill, perky carrots, and mellow parsnips. Scented with memories, my house smells like the house of my mother, and of her mother, and of her mother's mother. We Jewish mothers understand that cooking is not about the recipe or the presentation. It's about the people. As the individual flavors meld to one wonderful medley, I think about those who will share this meal, the wonderful medley of friends. Food brings us together, so we toil and labor in the kitchen to prepare massive feasts. The food keeps friends and family around the table, talking, laughing.

What better meal than chicken soup with matzo balls? It's been called the soul food of the Hebrew brotha' and sistah', the Jewish penicillin. It is a fact that it can cure the common cold and ward off the onset of at least a dozen deadly diseases. Cooking today and thinking about the friends who will share this meal, I add some special ingredients: my hopes that this will help us to relax, my wishes for lasting good health and happiness.

Besides, if the food doesn't fix all that ails us, the company will.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

There's Oil in Them Thar Hills

She's been singing since she exited the womb. With all the objectivity a mother can muster, I have long professed that the kid's got pipes. Through the experiences of my own vocal training, I have acquired an ear for potential. I always believed she had it, but of course this opinion means nothing coming from her mother.

So IMG started voice lessons a few weeks ago. We found an appropriately accredited, nurturing, and eccentric voice teacher. This teacher impressed me from the start, in that she wanted an audition to be accepted to her studio. She only wants to work with those who are both serious and in possession of an instrument worth playing. Completing her audition, she noted that IMG's rating in potential is a 10.

Six weeks into her training and she has finally progressed to the point where she is making sounds. Several sessions were spent on the anatomy of the respiratory system and of the vocal cords. After breathing on the floor, on the wall, and while doing abdominal crunches, she was promoted and ready to make noise. Last week she started with lip trills and vowels produced with a pencil between the teeth.

Oh, the fond memories I have of these lessons from my youth. The foundations of vocal production may be the first things we learn as singers, but we think of them again every time we reach for that high A or for the D in the break of the voice.

While these lessons are allowing me the indulgence of reminiscing about my days of endless potential, I am more drawn to the phenomenon living in my own home. At age 13, IMG is producing vocal sounds that would have Juilliard grad students wielding the sticks of Tonya Harding's accomplices. Yesterday her voice teacher told her to practice well, that she'd be supporting her old Mom and Dad with her voice. During her practices my house fills with the sound of heavenly vocalizations, and I have to remind myself that these glorious tones are coming from my little girl.

I can say without conceit that she reminds me of my younger self. Although I can't blame my parents for the sporadic support they offered in my pursuit of a musical career, I have to think that my life could have been different if they'd provided what we're going to provide to my girl. We're cultivating a triple threat in a small teenage package, and we're committed to do everything we can to help her bring it to harvest.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Just when I thought I was getting somewhere...

Without any set goals for fitness, I'm working without any pressure. After all, my sole goal in running is to cross the finish line in one piece. With such a low standard, I can easily exceed my expectations.

Feeling good about my completion of a 10 miler on Sunday, I willingly agreed to a one-on-one session with Judi, the personal trainer at the Y. So I showed up at 7:45 this morning to warm up. 40 minutes on the gauntlet (that torture device that looks like the escalator from hell) and I was feeling strong if moist. Then our session began.

We started the hour with intervals of lat pull downs, single leg lunges with a weighted biceps and shoulder lift, and abs on the bosu with a medicine ball, 3 sets of 15 reps, 12 reps, and 25 reps, respectively. After that things got harder. At some point during the hour (was it during the bridge with a triceps lift, or the back extension with a weighted twist?) I needed to take a moment because my 6:30 English muffin was making a reappearance.

There would be no histrionics before the trainer today. For all my big talk of half marathons and 5 AM training runs, I was nothing more than a quivering pile of aching muscles by the end of the session.

What a devious machine, this body that houses my proud spirit, in never allowing me a moment of glory. I forecast a lot more lifting and sweating in my future.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

omg - totally not lol

ilana, my DD uses this desktop computer for her important work like MSG for her BFFs. She sometimes D/Ls PICs for her MYSPACE Profile

i found this on the hard drive with the file name "mario lopez nude" OMG! CU L8R. GTG strangle someone!

Sweet October

Always my favorite month of the year, first because of my October birthday, this month is filled with wonderful change. Even Florida's stubborn insistence on heat and humidity cannot withstand the change in the weather that late October brings.

Growing up in New York I relished the first chance to put on those new corduroy and woolen clothes we had purchased for back to school; the scratchy feel of a new jacket before it was broken in or abandoned in the school lost-and-found. The leaves, with their sweet smell of decay and omnipresent crunch underfoot, white noise for my nose and ears. And Halloween, the day of endless possibilities. Up North we do not have the ridiculous tradition of waiting until sunset to begin the festivities. Trick-or-treating my way home from the bus stop, in costume from a day of candy and parades at school, I would empty my bag of loot before I even really got started.

This morning, during my predawn run, I caught a glimpse of those Octobers. The wind blew, and I jogged across wet fallen leaves. I can't go back in time, and I don't think I'd really want to. But a cool October morning can take me there if only for a moment.

Dead Run

I wasn't going to blog about this, but my peeps in blogland have pressured me into writing. I can't keep my nose out of any challenge, and this is a writing challenge at that! A blog a day for 30 days, starting 10/28.

Sunday was the longest race EG and I have ever run. The Pumpkin Run was a 10 miler, 0.7 longer than the Gate (although my satellite GPS device clocked the 10 miler at 10.87). This was run on an early Sunday morning in late October in the Evergreen Cemetery in downtown Jax. There were two races running simultaneously: a huge crowd ran the 5K, and the 10 mile continued thereafter.

Starting off with the 5K crowd, it seemed like it would be a whimsical race. Many pumpkin runners donned their festive orange T's. Others wore costumes. Wonder Woman ran with Superman (did you know they're going together?). We blew by a sixty-something fairy godmother, in spite of her wand and fairy dust. Things were good.

We trudged along at our "long run" tempo, and skipped the turn-off for the finish mats at the 5K mark. Two more loops around the cemetery and we'd hit the big one-oh. The crowd thinned. Running alone through a cemetery on a gloomy October morning, trusting the flimsy race signs placed intermittently between rows of headstones, we hoped we weren't lost. We passed few people. Two ladies, schlepping and chatting among the dead, ran slower than we did. I think maybe they were on ventilators. Occasionally a really speedy runner would zip by in a whir, completing lap two and heading for the finish as we dragged through lap one.

Mile marker seven was at a turn; left to the finish mats, right for the final 3. "Turn left to finish!" the volunteers shouted at us. I shook my head and laughed between my labored breaths, pointing right. For the last three miles we were the sole live beings moving through the cemetery. Even the friendly water station volunteers had deserted their posts, leaving the gatorade-filled cups on the wet tables.

Alone but proud, and just a little more than 2 hours after we started, EG and I crossed the mats to mark the first official ten mile race we completed. There were no fireworks. The crowd didn't go wild. But these two out of shape forty-something parents of a teenager ran ten miles before most people got out of bed that morning.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Junior High School Birthday Girl

I resent the world that wants her to hurry and grow up, her teachers who say that everything is solely her responsibility. Thirteen and Junior High School doesn't mean that she's an independent adult. With the world just beginning to open for her, careful guidance and nurturing are vital to her success. "Figure it out, you're not a baby anymore," is neither nurturing nor supportive. It's negligent. Parents aren't entitled to or responsible for her getting her work done, so they say. We are her teachers, no matter what they say, and we'll continue to battle the system on her behalf.

Her daddy says that the most frightening part of being the parent of a 13-year old is that she has reached an age that he remembers being. I contend that the most frightening part is much bigger than that. No longer a small child, yet so far from being an adult - how strange are these years of in-between-ness. Hard to imagine that it may be as few as six more years that she calls our home her home. What will the future hold for our girl, who still asks to be tucked in, to have me turn on the bath water for her?

Until then, we will enjoy filling her childhood with potential for many wonderful memories. Birthday parties and school dances. Family vacations and intensive study sessions. Dance recitals and doctor's appointments. Nighttime snuggles and afternoon shopping sprees. Don't hurry, my girl.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


6 years more than Mozart. 2 years more than Dr. King. 26 years more than Anne Frank. Forty-one complete years of me. Forty-one tally marks stack like a cord of cut firewood, yet I feel like the same insecure tall kid on the top riser of Mrs. Loge's fourth grade chorus.

Alone tonight, in my Oklahoma City hotel room, steps from the site of the Muir building bombing, I type at my laptop, ignoring the quiet distractions of Oprah's guests and the murder of crows assailing the Sycamore trees beneath my eighth floor window.

This is my real New Year's Day, never mind the Roman, Jewish, or Modern Western calendars. No ball will drop in Times Square, but I will celebrate, appraise and resolve all the same. I will toast myself with a tall iced tea (unsweetened) over my grilled chicken Caesar salad in the mediocre hotel restaurant. I will evaluate riches, with family and friends, health and good fortune, my blessings are too many to count. I will resolve to become better – more patient a wife and mother, more learned a professional, and more charitable to me, the tall one singing Soprano in the back row.

Friday, September 21, 2007


This month I have only 2 days of work. One was the 5th and one will be next week, the 26th. Thus I have had an extended period of time at home. With the exception of the 4 –day trip to Sin City with Ma, I'll be home for 26 of the 30 days of September. In the 6 years I've been doing this crazy job, I haven't had a month like this, ever. A fluke of scheduling? The end of the wave I've been riding? A blessing in disguise? Maybe all of these. July and August provided me with seven consecutive weeks of work, work that took me away from home a minimum of four days a week. So I've earned a little down time, but the problem with down time is that it's unpaid!

Remarkably my days have remained quite full. I'm whizzing around my kitchen, creating everything from soups to muffins, Jewish-ethnic to stick-to-your-bones beef stew. During the first of my now-daily visits to the Y, they actually welcomed me back, after my extended absence during the work frenzy of July and August. I've hand-washed the 'Stang twice, including an Armor-all and Rain-X detailing. My yearly well-woman exam, blood work and mammary-squish are done. I organized the pantry, alphabetized the spice rack and backed up the important files on the notebook. I'm up-to-date on all my RSS feeds. 40 of the 50 puzzles in my Sudoku in the Sun book are completed, and I've read Runner's World twice. The cat litter is fresh, the birdfeeder is seeded and tonight's dinner and all the laundry are always completed by 9 AM. Looking at the list, it seems incredibly productive, my list of labor without compensation.

If I have much more time at home, it may be necessary to find work outside my home, for mental and financial stimulation. Maybe my local 'Bucks is looking for a barista. I'd need no training, and I'm already a big corporate investor. Heck, EG, IG and I ventured 3,000 miles on our pilgrimage to Mecca this summer. We took more pictures in front of Starbucks store #1 than in front of Mt. St. Helens (ok, the torrential rain had something to do with that too). Barista-ing could be fun, but the pay is probably bupkis, and I wouldn't want to de-mystify the allure of Starbucks. I could tutor, or teach voice, or maybe complete the paperwork to become an official sub in the district. None of those sound appealing either.

I guess I shouldn't fret it too much, though. I'll only be home 12 of the 31 days in October, and I just received an email for a job in August of 2008.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I Wanna' Be Like Gretel

Gretel in Her New Catbed

Writing makes my ankles hurt. Running makes my neck hurt. EJG has a mysterious arm injury that only hurts him when he's resting. I'm tired when I'm awake and when I should be sleeping I lay with eyes as big as hubcaps, recounting the "to do" that should have been done. Yet, the clock rings in the morning and we punch in. We show up.

This is what it is to be a responsible, grown-up human being. And I guess it's important to be a good human being, because I've already selected the next position for my reincarnation. I wanna' be like Gretel.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Another Place to Rant

To my throngs of dedicated readers:

I have created another blog for the masses. To keep up-to-date on my rantings on the topic of education, catch my posts on the JG Edublog.

Join the edublog community with your thoughts on the state of education. The global conversation is already in progress!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Wonderful Consolation

Missing my family and being so far from the comforts of home are two of the occupational hazards in my present line of work. My daughter seems to be growing a decade a day. Missing even one day of Ilana means I miss too much. Alas, the sacrifices that I make to balance my professional and personal lives.

Usually my travel is manic, and my sightseeing is limited to the airport, the Holiday Inn, and the cafe/audi/gyma/torium of the school that has hired me. This week I have been lucky to be working in the same spot for three days, so I had a little time to be adventuresome. The video below simply cannot capture the seamless blue of sky and sea, the crisp, cool air, or the sweet musky scent of douglas fir with an overtone of oyster harvest.

I am blessed with my friends and family, and I never forget that, especially when I mourn the time we've lost because of my travel. Witnessing the glory of Mother Nature's creations in Coastal Oregon was a wonderful consolation.

My Virtual Running Buddies

With my new subscription to Bloglines, I've been reading more about the topics that interest me. Allowing the aggregator to do the work, it searches the web for blogs and news articles based on specs I have set up. Naturally, I have it looking for information about running.

This morning my feeds included an article published last night about Prineville's Adventist Marathon Clinic. This is a faith-based running club, integrating spiritual and physical fitness. Marathoning for the All-Mighty may be a good way to motivate my feet to move faster.

Or maybe if I were born the child of Zhang Jianmin, a Chinese businessman, running would be easy for me. Instead of wasting my youth on games of Kick-the-Can, Red Rover and Boxball, I would have been running the equivalent of one and a half marathons daily by age eight.

Reading other reluctant runners' stories, blogs and news articles I feel more connected to my brothers and sisters in pain. Commiserating with the way she feels, I chuckled while reading about writer and runner Kelli Young who fessed up to having a questionable running soundtrack, "Baby Got Back." That would fit right in with my "Love Shack" and "Shake Your Groove Thing" playlist that sets my 5K pace. Preparing for my AM hotel treadmill pounding, I am thinking about her perfect simile:

"I was hooked. Addicted to the sense of peace that comes at the end of a run, even on days I silently grouse with each step. Peace. Like the feeling you get after taking Excedrin for a really bad headache. Not until you feel as if your head's ready to explode can you truly appreciate the feeling of relief when it eases."

Sometimes the training seems ludicrous and lonely, so it is comforting to know that there are other amateurs out there, fellow Marathoner-wannabees, trudging along to set our PRs.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Marathons and Desitin

Eleven miles yesterday. Eleven miles logged in training for the Outback Distance Classic Half Marathon coming this Thanksgiving Day. Way ahead of the training schedule, I'm a superstar. Look out folks, because now I can work on time. That's right, at mile 10 I'm thinking, this was nothing. Piece of cake. Next time more speed intervals. Tomorrow track work. I won't just finish, I'll glide across that finish line after mile 13 with the lithe twenty-somethings, barely breaking a sweat. I felt good, proud of the accomplishments completed before 9:30 AM on a Sunday.

Barely 5 hours later my glory melted into an uncomfortable sensation. The skin covering the spot where the triceps muscles should define my upper body was in flames. Both arms. Apparently the combination of 100% humidity, 94 degrees Fahrenheit, a doubled-up sports bra and 11 miles makes for the perfect prickly heat recipe. Or, more precisely miliaria as defined by Wikipedia:

"Small red rashes, called papules, which may itch or more often cause an intense 'pins-and-needles' prickling sensation. These rashes may simultaneously occur at a number of areas on a sufferer's body, the most common including the face, neck, under the breasts and under the scrotum. Other areas include skin folds, areas of the body that may rub against clothing, such as the back, chest, and stomach, etc. "

Thank God I don't have a scrotum. Treating the underarms with Desitin was embarrassing enough, especially for a running superstar like myself.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sensory Youth

The taste of grass between my teeth
The sound of my parents’ late-night voices down the hallway
The feel of the hot slide on my bare legs in summer
The smell of an exploded ink pen, of a fresh box of 64 colors, a newsprint sketchpad
The purr of new corduroy school clothes
Watching a millipede roll into a tight ball when frightened
Watching the moon follow us from the back seat of the Duster
The salty mush of my boogery tears in my mouth as I cry over some injustice
My senses, as a child, so alive, so vital to my existence.
Now quieted for my focused pursuit
Of something I cannot sense.