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This morning I was driving down a local divided highway muttering under my breath, “That is EXACTLY the kind of strip mall shopping center that would have a nail shop and there (LongWindedVulgarity) better be one!”.  Happily, there was one.

 

The lovely photography of cajsa.lilliehook when you creative common search "mani pedi" on flickr.  Who knew?

The lovely photography of cajsa.lilliehook when you creative common search “mani pedi” on flickr. Who knew?

 

After a Saturday of work related training I was going the other direction on the same divided highway and pulled in to get my toes done.  Even in the south you can be excused for no longer maintaining painted toenails after Labor Day.  We won’t be wearing boots (comfortably) for another six weeks, but we all understand that it is ok to acknowledge that other people are experiencing fall.

So why was it such a big deal?

I’m not sure, but I know that part of it is connected to coffee.

For everything that I have read and considered about money, for every time I’ve thought about pointless calories, or how much better off I am without caffeine, or how I like to sleep an extra 10 minutes in the morning, I am LOATHE to put down and walk away from a morning cup of coffee handed to me through a Dunkin Donuts window.

Dunking Donuts was the third place I knew how to get to in the town where my new job is (my job, and my new gym were the first two).  I just love saying something to a near-stranger in the morning and four minutes later having that handed to me through a window.

For me, it is a form a self care that I am willing to trade money for breakfast.  I love that they don’t run out (usually), that I don’t have to buy the component pieces, that I can choose a bagel or a wrap.

That is the connection, in the end.  I have the skills & tools to make coffee at home*, AND I have the tools and skills to do my own nails.  Neither is difficult, and neither is important.  They are absolutely trivial things, and yet it feels like amazing self care to just give to (and some money) to somebody else and just let THEM figure out what to do next.

It has been a busy few weeks, with a few more to come, but by golly my toes look nice.

*To be fair, I got an AMAZING new coffee maker for my birthday and so home coffee is tidier than it was a month ago, but I still like coffee coming in through the window.

From my vantage point, my legs were built for pants.  My waist/ass/hips were always agreeable enough with each other that they could agree on a size.  My thighs have never aspired to a size 00 but worked well in an era of low waist, boot cut dress slacks.  In my 20s I loved to compete, via heels, with my 6’4″ first husband.  In my 30s, and with a jacked up foot, I have enjoyed a well turned kitten-height heel.

If I wanted to look hot I’d do scandalous things with my neckline, my décolletage is downright breathtaking when it is played correctly.

Until 3 summers ago you never would have seen me in a skirt.

I was also kind of delighted the fact that because I worked and lived in air conditioning I rarely needed shorts because, well, my legs were built for pants.

At the start of LLV, as we resisted putting in the window air conditioning unit that would need to turn three corners to cool the bedroom, I decided to try to wear … something.  Skirts were better (aka easier to find, cheaper, cuter, and more size forgiving) and I had already figured out that my headspace was better if I didn’t look like I had just rolled out of bed for 90% of my days and so off to Kohl’s and the start of my personal leg revolution.

I really looked at women’s legs for the first time, the way that some women go to the beach and realize we are all just mobile meat sacks.  Even when I paid attention I rarely noticed leg hair or veins, and when I did they just looked like hair and veins – blood circulation is GOOD (if perhaps a bit close to the surface).  I got better at wearing skirts and realized that not ever summer breeze was Marilyn Monroe walking over a staged subway grate.

I started a new job today, wearing a pink & white pencil skirt, a white blouse, and neutral shoes.  I think that I may have gotten to the point that the people who think of me as “someone who doesn’t wear skirts” will be my oldest and dearest friends, and you – because you read this.

Writers Block

 

I’m less than 48 hours from the start of my new gig.  I am delighted at how much walking into a new role in a new facility just feels like going home.  As I sat with the news that I had been hired I mainly remember thinking, “ok, cool, I’m back in it now.”  It feels right.

Last year I wondered about how I would spend unstructured days, and when I would be Aspirational Me and when I would be slacked out on the couch.  Ten months later, here is what I can tell you:

1.  My days and weeks were anchored by Writer’s Block, my nickname for my friend J.O. and I getting together and working quietly next to each other.  It kept me working on projects when it would have been easier to do anything else.  I am glad hearted for this time with her and I will miss it deeply.

Also – the local coffee place Hendershots has a great core of routine people during the week, we aren’t friends but by golly you get a group of folks to make eye contact with.

2.  My weekends were anchored by CK lunches.  Friday lunch with my awesome circle of female friends kept me from feeling lonely, isolated, or alone.  I am going to miss the predictable routine of seeing these ladies and sharing our lives with each other.  When things feel all a mess there isn’t a thing that can’t be solved with chunky guacamole and ALL THE GREEN.

3.  I was athletic for a bit.  I got to try out if I was someone who could work out a lot, and I was, for awhile.  I got as far as 5 days a week with a double on Friday and the movement felt good when I did it but after I took a week break to rest my screaming feet I (kind of) never went back.  Even with the time and endorphins I struggle to keep moving my body.

4.  I didn’t improve or expand my cooking at all.

5. I essentially never slacked out on the couch, maybe an afternoon here or there but the hours upon days of watching reruns just never happened.  For that I thank Writer’s Block and CK Lunch.

6. I can plan a decent Time But No Money vacation, with the help and support of a lot of people.

My husband and son were wonderfully supportive, the stars aligned when I needed them to, and my heart is grateful over and over again.

Inhale:  Yes, there is a lot.

Exhale: Right now breathing is important.

Inhale: I want clarity.

Exhale: In due time.

Inhale: I can’t clearly see the shape of future days.

Exhale: You only imagine you can even in the most stable times.  Your imagination is not mandated to be the truth.

Inhale: I have a mark I’m sure I need to hit.

Exhale: Don’t race past *this* moment.

Inhale: I don’t like discomfort, for myself and for those I love.

Exhale: My discomfort is growth, their discomfort is theirs.

Inhale: I want us all to be safe and ok.

Exhale: I can hope but not control.

I have a long list for tomorrow.  Only one thing must get done, and that is to be a present parent for my son’s first day of school.  I will breathe.

Three years ago something happened to my son for 40 minutes. It was scarier than the time we Heimlich’d him for Thanksgiving (I never thanked Julie for calling that – and I should have – so Thank You Julie).

For three years we have made a decision for our son, and he has participated in it. It has been more than half his life. We have been consistent, insistent, and effective. We consulted with professionals, they could not give us a clear answer and so we took the most conservative route possible. We have, I will always believe, done the right thing.

Modern medicine insists that there is something wrong and that it has a diagnosis. Modern American medicine insists that to not know the name, to not identify it, is absolutely NOT to deny it’s existence. The assurance of the existence, even without proof, or a name, or a plan, is safer than the risk of identifying it as a fluke. Or an oddity.

There is a face my son makes at me, when he sees a strawberry or a banana. It is hope and despair at the same time. The knowing, and the giving over to the idea that some day it will be different. Maybe.

Or that he will just understand why.

Today he and I went to the doctor. We talked some, we tested some, and I stopped looking for the explanation I want and will never be granted. I looked instead for the next right thing.

Tomorrow. With a calm face and a racing heart I will begin to reintroduce the foods that he has not had in years. In season, crisp and sweet. As he wants to try them.

I can be both excited and afraid at the same time.

I hope to be both.

I love performance & the rehearsal that goes with it.

I love backstage, and greenrooms, and pitchers of water set up for “us” who are decidedly not “them”. I’m dressed inappropriately for the season, I carry the folder with the gold lettering. I am walking taller, and with a longer stride as part of the “us”. Dress rehearsal, where the seating is a mess and the sound is foreign and I actually, briefly, sing completely the wrong part – goes just the way it should.

Jeff has a tech rehearsal coming up, into a new theatre looking out onto different seats than he has seen before, with a new backstage. I saw a bit of it at the winter show, he gets taller too.

Call time makes me smile if it is for me or for Jeff. The special name for the time before performance, when you need to be there and getting into whatever element of zone you like. Get a drink, go to the bathroom, make sure they know you are there. Think through the plan. Get ready.

My mom asked me what it was like to sing in front of 1,000 people a night.

For me – it feels right as rain.

I think that there are entire years where my mom was never in a picture. I’m running around and grinning. Dad is looking at the photographer with love in his eyes, coffee in his stomach and smoke in his lungs. The Sisters are sitting & standing on the same side of a table each with A Look on their faces ranging from What? to WHAT!!!! My mom is there, every time – she has the best camera, the best skills, and even the darkroom for a time.

This weekend was one of those weekends where you gather around the old pictures and talk about who you recognize, and what year it was taken, and what story went with why she had a paper bag decorated as a chicken on her head … again.

I thought a few times about the Mom Stays in The Picture article that came out 18 months ago. About the pictures (assuming anyone could get them off the drives and phone) that are available of me.

A lot of them are taken from the length of my arm. I’m in close quarters with people I love. I have 14 chins all eclipsed by the pores on my nose – but I’m getting kissed by someone. The awesome spot we are at is hinted at over my shoulder. My hair looks great so I took a picture.

I think selfie became the name because it is a less formal version of self-portrait, but it has been used sometimes in a way that implies that it is silly and vain. There is a huge gap between documenting your existence and being vain. It is all all so fleeting and fast, my face is changing and won’t ever go back, people around me are changing and I don’t want to forget how beautiful they are in that light on that day. Sometimes I’m behind the camera, but I love a good selfie. Yours or mine. Snap on.

Years ago a friend of mine casually made a joke about me being overprotective. The easy joke that comes when everybody in the room knows that it is true and, for whatever reason, it is pointed out in the hopes of toning down the behavior some.

The thing was that I didn’t know it. In fact, had you asked the moment before he said it, I would have said that I was being kind, and exceptionally laid back about things given the circumstances.

With some distance I know that we were both right.

I think my husband broke his hand on our third date. It looked like he did it at the time, it was sore in a way (and for a length of time) that implied he had done some real damage, it aches when the weather is changing. His experience of it was absolutely minimal. Never checked it out, rarely complained, barely modified his actions. I still think he broke his hand.

Today I took my son to the doctor to check out the following symptoms:
1. Approximately 15% increase in emotional fragility
2. Two casual mentions of a sore throat
3. His runny nose that was running perfectly in line with blooming trees and my own runny nose, itchy eyes, and generally allergic behavior.

The nurse added:
4. 99.5 temp

With a 5.5 year old son, most people would not be going to the doctor for such a vague and minimal list of symptoms. I had two pieces of secret information in my back pocket: 1, the daughter of a friend recently had nearly silent strep so it was on my radar, and 2, Jeff had strep last year and it looked about like this until it looked like OH MY HOLY G-D!!!!! strep.

He was checked out and it is either strep or a sinus infection, but no doubt at all that he’s got a touch of something.

In health things I absolutely have a touch of over protective, I also am generally pessimistic about the outcomes of big stuff. Still, when the mom of a 5.5 year old brings him in for essentially being A Tool — she’s usually right.

Once a trend hits the 2.5 year mark or so, I start to give thought to joining in. Dress flip flops, capri pants – if it holds great potential to be unattractive, I take it out for a spin eventually.

My next test of the “why won’t this trend DIE already” variety was juice fasting, or juice cleansing. Either way – lots of juice. This is my story so far.

You can rely on any reasonably liberal college town to have a juicery of some sort at this point. Not your average Jamba Juice but, using my town’s as an example, a raw, vegan, organic, cold-pressed, non-pasturized juicery. The juice is interesting and refreshing in the shot glass sized cup, it allows you to have an opinion on kale juice, and in the 16oz bottle is more expensive than hiring Benedict Cumberbatch to wash the yogurt stains out of the back seat of your car.

Still, there are specials all the time, and so I signed up for two days worth of juice.

Day 1 – Picking up the juice.
I got a phone call early in the day asking me if I wanted to substitute some juices for the ones they were out of or if I wanted to pick up the next morning, “because it has been a crazy weekend.” At the juicery. I said I would substitute (annoyed because a pre-order should have some standing, right?) and when I got there they had closed more than an hour early because they were out of juice.

What the fuck?
Oh yeah, spring break abounds in a college town.

Day 2 – Actually getting the juice.
I had a light breakfast and headed back over to the juicery to pick up my supply for the next two days. They gave me a pep talk, some instructions, and sent me on my way with 16 bottles of juice. At the time I got them, the combination of their plan and my day – I was supposed to drink 16oz of juice every 90 minutes PLUS tea to beat back the caffeine headache AND water.

I am really susceptible to the temperature of the fluids I drink – I am a total wuss that way, so drinking cold juice while the outside air temp drops 20 degrees means that I am also drinking a lot of tea and hot water because hypothermia is my other option.

Results –
Light Breakfast
A sensation of being simultaneously VERY overfull and NOT sated at all.
My brain doing those tricks that I recognize from when I smoked that involve head bobbing and, “nobody is going to tell ME what to do”.
6 chicken nuggets
2/3rds of an old school box of mac & cheese
and a half a can of corn.

Day 3 – I’ll show you who is boss of ME!
This was today, with a plan of being out of the house for a large part of the day and some social coffee plans.

Results-
I felt good up through about 4:45 when I was talking to my mom and recognizing my entertaining rants as being about 30 minutes short of hunger induced raging bitch.
Beet juice before yoga (excellent practice today)
protein heavy one before coffee,
coffee,
a ginger / veggie one before before the next coffee,
coffee,
a veggie heavy one,
HALF A PIZZA,
and then an apple veggie one.

There were two flavors in the original set that I just didn’t tolerate well at all. So I threw those out.

I am going to stay juice heavy for the next two days because it is an interesting change, I like some of the flavors, and I know that even with a vegan husband I do not get the variety of vegetables that I should.

Do I feel like a new person, no.
Am I doing it as prescribed – no, I’m a 40 year old woman with a life and a family.
Would I recommend it to you? Eh, don’t expect to be a new person because someone else can squeeze the hell out of a cucumber.

A couple of weeks ago I did some science. That project ended today with me spending 90 minutes head first in an MRI. Ninety minutes is just about my limit.

Overall, the experience was great. I ended up with some cash in hand, learned some stuff, and got two new earrings for my tragus (if you count the plastic retainer) that replace the one I had been wearing for 12.5 years.

The part where I was ready to be done was at about 70 minutes into the MRI. The machine spent 7 minutes making a noise comparable to the first really long tone in a modem dial up. For seven minutes. In my head.

I can tell you for sure, audio torture is the way to get me to tell you anything you want to know. I will tell you the secret recipe for my grandmother’s potato salad at 4 minutes, and if you’re patient I’ll even tell you how to make the Graff Christmas cookies.

I would completely do this again. Now I just hope a decade from now this paper doesn’t show up in Retraction Watch.