Peace On The Shoreline

april 23 metroparksSpring is really here, and it’s so beautiful! I am generally more productive, outgoing and engaged once the brighter, warmer weather hits, and it’s a refreshing change. We had a super cold and gray day last week and I remember thinking that actually, I really like the variety in our weather here. I embraced the cold and had some hearty foods and hunkered down for the evening. While I only lived in Los Angeles for a year and a half, I was pretty much the only person out there that thought El Nino was great because it was nice to have SOME variety instead of the same thing, day after day after day. Rainy days have character. You can choose to run in the rain, or choose to stay close and cozy indoors. Or maybe catch a movie. I appreciate the hot weather so much more because it’s contrasted with our cold winters, which I have come to also love and appreciate since I became an outdoor winter runner.

I think everyone in Cleveland really rabidly lives hard and embraces summer so fully because we have this weather for such a limited time. There is an intense energy to people hosting BBQs, porch drinking parties, kids’ outdoor birthday parties and patio dining that doesn’t happen in places where it’s more moderate all year. And I love that.

I went for a long hike again yesterday to see how spring is developing in our beautiful metroparks system, and to move things forward in my mind and heart that I continue to struggle with. Two people actually offered to go with me, one friend I know well and someone else I only met just recently, but I really wanted to go alone. Those spontaneous moments where you can stop alone and walk to the water’s edge and hear the river rushing, maybe snap a picture of this pathway here or this beautiful field of bluebells there, “going where I list, my own master, total and absolute.” (W.W.).

The park system was full of people, as I expected. Our population here is just big enough that you are never really alone for very long on a beautiful day in nature like this, but it’s not so crowded that you feel you can’t get any serenity or peace. I encountered a few solo runners and wished my ankle was in better shape. Yesterday’s 8-mile hike was particularly tough on the back half, and I know it’s not ready yet, especially for uneven trail running. But with the exception of a few runners, everyone was with someone. Their kids, their spouse, their boyfriend or girlfriend, a parent, maybe even just a dog. I emerged into a clearing at one point and saw a couple kissing on a rock and honestly wished so much that I had someone in my life who had that place, who was there for hikes, for the hearty breakfast I fixed when I woke up to prepare for the hike, to join me at my son’s race in the afternoon, or to watch a movie with us after dinner that night. The single mom life is a really lonely one, and while I cherish the invitations to be 3rd wheel with other couples or go on mom-dates with other moms, they all go home to a spouse or significant other, and I go home alone. The people who want to be my companion, I’m generally not interested in. It’s not the same as that couple kissing on the rocks. Or someone to whisper your secrets and fears and hopes and dreams to before you shut off the lights.

As the weather has opened up, I am also open. I know I have to put my energy and my best self out there to be the best mom I can be every day and the best me I can be, so I’m working on that and doing that. Someone told me recently that I am an “amazing catch,” but that line is loose and floating in the stream, next to the rocks and in the sunlight.

The Chambers Of The Heart

april 16 hill

One of the best gifts my Mom has given me is the ability to cook. She was an avid home cook, both for frugality and because she thought home-cooked food was so much higher quality than what you got in restaurants (she was right, mostly). Cooking was her way of expressing her creativity and was her best way to take care of the family. Arthritis has robbed her of the ability to do much cooking anymore, and probably will one day be my fate, but I’m so grateful to what she taught me, of the times I stayed home sick from school and we’d watch not just the Prize Movie, but Jacques Pepin and Julia Child. She said that making mistakes was how you learn, that experimenting was how you made a recipe yours, and even though it wasn’t polite, if you made something great in the kitchen, you should brag about it.

She was into quality sourcing before it was cool. She knew the hamburger in the grocery that says “fresh ground” comes coarsely “pre-ground” and that they re-grind it on site to be able to advertise it as fresh, so she got a meat grinder and ground up roasts herself to make hamburgers and meatballs. She couldn’t abide all the sugar in jarred spaghetti sauce, so she made her own, and taught me how at her side. She showed me how you cook eggs on a lower flame, and taught me how to time things so they were all done at once.

Working in restaurants and living and being friends with chefs and other epicure type people has only served to strengthen that. Tonight I was going to get some takeout, but so many places are closed because of the holiday, and I thought well, I can probably make the thing I want from stuff I have around. I’d seen the dish in some ads that popped up on Facebook and thought, I can make that. I looked up a couple of recipes, glanced over their instructions, then I went in the kitchen and made it. I didn’t measure anything, I didn’t time anything. I just figured it out as I went along. It was a saute dish with pasta so obviously I had to make that first, and then while that was going, I prepped my other ingredients. I cleaned as I went (thanks, books about Thomas Keller, Michael Ruhlman) and tweaked and tasted. Honestly, it was really fucking good, and I was proud I had made it and saved the money. And it really took no time at all, maybe a half hour start to finish. I also made some meatballs while I was making my main dish, so I’d have some protein for the week ahead.

This is a thing a lot of people really don’t know how to do. They don’t have the confidence. Or are grossed out about getting their hands dirty. Measuring is smart and a good idea a lot of the time. Part of why I don’t bake is I am not that exacting of a cook; I just look at what’s in something and throw it together, whereas baking takes precise measurements, patience, and lots of time. I don’t have those qualities. So that was “Easter” dinner, as much as anything.

Last week at the Science Fair at my kid’s school, we read someone’s exhibit all about the science that proves that being around trees and in forests is actually good for your health, physical and mental. The next day, we were both off work/school, and I made him walk to a nearby lake preserve near me, and then take a long walk on the trail, and back home. He complained a lot about his feet hurting and whined about how long it took, but he was better than he used to be, when going for a walk was just impossible as he didn’t want to walk, he just wanted to stop and look at EVERY SINGLE THING along the way; leaf, tree, water, bugs, bridge slats, whatever. So we got that done. We went to a playdate that evening at a friend’s house and had such a good time. They are very casual people like I am, and the kids sort of fend for themselves while the adults do their thing. In our case, that meant gossiping and talking about how hard relationships are and how complicated love and life and parenting is, while a bunch of guys moved a piano in that my friend got for free on Craigslist.

It rained yesterday morning, so I couldn’t take the kid to the Easter egg roll. He was not really into it, and neither of us minded not going. We spent most of the day getting ready for some professional “mommy & me” photos I sprung for. I never have these types of professional photos done, but I have a friend who works wonders with these things and charges reasonable prices so I decided to go ahead. I’m trying hard not to mind that I look old and fat and I’m getting gray, and make myself get into pictures with my son as often as I can, as I know one day he will treasure every one of them. And he’ll like these formal ones too, I’m sure. Getting old is getting even more difficult as I approach 50 sooner rather than later. Body doesn’t work the way it does, and doesn’t really respond to diet and exercise, though I do it anyway. I’m just how I am, and that’s how I am. Luckily, the friends and lovers I’ve had as I age don’t seem to mind or notice, and like me just fine the way that I am. So I’m lucky there, as well.

I went for a very long and difficult hike today after I dropped the kid off at his dad’s; the one I wanted to go on a few weeks ago but which had to be shut down because I fucked up my ankle again. I’ve been taping it every day, and that seems to be helping. It’s still unstable and loose, but I was able to do a little bit of trail running today during my hike, and I managed to scale a pretty big hill to get around an area of trail that was completely muddied out, so I felt fairly spry. The ankle is singing tonight, as is my back, but I’m glad I went. I thought hard about my stay in the hospital a few weeks ago while I was hiking, and how supremely fucking glad I am that I don’t actually have something wrong with my heart. I just have so much more to do in this life. So much more love to give, so many friends to hug and pictures to take and stories to write.

It’s going to be a busy week. I got another essay accepted and have an extremely tight turn-around window so I have to get on that. I have something to write for the PTA that’s due before the end of the month, too. And I have social plans every night this week. Maybe I can write the piece over lunches the next couple of days.

For now, with a glass of wine, the patio door open, a sunburn on my face and even the throb of my ankle, I’m grateful for what I have, and am able to do.

Can’t Stop My Brain

parking lot ice

I’ve been fighting a season-change head cold thing for a week now, and honestly, I’m fucking exhausted.

I’m tired of going to work and having everything be difficult and wrong, tired of getting yelled at and nitpicked, about every assumption being that I did something stupid or made a mistake, even when I didn’t and provide proof that what I wrote or changed was purposeful or is backed up with facts I have to print out and present.

I’m tired of nightmares every night this week. Bizarre, upsetting, twisted visions, leaving me rising feeling exhausted and tormented. One about George W. Bush last night, who I was taking to a play, and I had to go in the back and help the stagehand with something because nobody else knew how. Another about being in the back of an enormous plane so packed with gear you couldn’t see out the windows, and it struggled to reach the right altitude, with lights flickering and bins popping open. It was terrifying and I woke up sick to my stomach.

I’m tired of the emotional upheaval of late, which has drained me and led to some difficult changes I’ve had to make in my life. I’ve made them, but it’s made me more tired.

Two writing rejections this week as well. Nothing in the hopper. Desire to write has left me temporarily. Can barely manage the blog.

I tried hard to live fully today with my kid, to be present and enjoy it. By the end of a long day, he was exhausted, dirty and slightly injured from hard playground play, and my ass hurt from sitting on the ground while he played, being ignored by all the other parents because they don’t speak to me. And because we spent two hours outside, all the homework and projects and permission slips which seem to always not get all the way done during his Dad’s week had to be rushed through while I’m trying to do laundry and prepare food for the coming week. Yes, 2:45 is the answer. Here’s a check for the field trip, and the signed permission form. You have an important test this week. Practice one of the songs for spring concert. Let’s go over this spelling test so you understand what you missed. Write down your reading on the reading log. Describe the plot to me of the book you finished and color in the associated circle on the homework sheet. Cuts bandaged, scrapes cleaned, teeth brushed, too late for a story, sorry, but I always have a hug and thank you for being the best boy you could be today.

There were laughs and memories and there was sunshine and windows down. There has been singing, alone and with others, and music, and dinner with a close friend, raucous times with other friends, and important conversations with yet more friends. But all of this is also tiring, and when you’re fighting a cold, and fighting everything else in your life, fighting to sleep, to eat, to not eat too much, to remember to eat after not eating for 3/4 of a whole day another day, it just creeps and adds stress and I end up feeling as tired as the earth must feel, entertaining several inches of snow two days ago and 78 degree temperatures today.

I took out the trash in shorts and had to walk through a large (but quickly melting, dirty and gray) snow pile to get to the dumpster tonight. And that’s about how I feel; dirty and gray and exhausted.

I know there’s another side to this. There are signs of hope. I am trying to just keep plugging away and hope that it’s brighter on the way down the mountain.

 

Gotta Get My Feet Back On The Ground

path

It’s been a hell of a few days, and that’s all I have to say about that.

Well, it’s not, of course, because I talk too much and this blog doesn’t help matters.

Saturday I had a small gathering of friends. People misbehaved and I had to throw them out. That IS all I’ll say about that one, except that, onwards and upwards, I ended up getting a good night’s sleep, refreshed and ready for the Sunday ahead. I was not getting the boy this past Sunday, as he was staying an extended period of time with his Dad as we are trying to break up Spring Break a little so we aren’t paying so much goddamned money for all-day daycare. So Sunday, it was slightly overcast but getting nicely warm (for Spring, so, high 50s/low 60s), and I decided what I really needed was a long, difficult hike in the forest, to clear my brain and body and soul.

I set out with my water, my phone, my music and my knife, all essentials for such a thing and yeah, it was pretty muddy on the course I’ve run before in a trail run 5K I do every June. (Well not EVERY June, but more about that in a minute). I had to run and sail over a few patches that were really wet and concentrated, but mostly just picked my way around the wet bits by going deep into the woods, walking on downed trees (my balance is pretty good for an old lady), walking where there were clusters of leaves, etc.

There was one corner that looked so muddy, I wasn’t sure how I would get through it. It veers around in a sharp 45 degree turn and begins the ascent of a large hill. So I decided to just take a shortcut, and climb the hill with my hands and feet. It went pretty well, all things considered. I moved slowly and carefully and when I made it up, I felt pretty good. There are stairs built into the woods at the top of this hill and I made it up them easily, even though I always struggle with that part during the 5K. I came around the loop and then back down, crawled back down the hill without incident, jumped puddles, etc., and crossed the street into the longer part of the course. I’d only gone a little more than two miles but felt good and it was warming up so I took off my jacket and tucked my water in my back for the next bit.

I got to The Big Stairs that run behind the Rocky River Nature Center. They’ve been closed for two years as they were completely reconstructed, and, as high up as they are and how steeply they carve into the hill there, getting the stairs built soundly is important to everyone. So the race course had cut a different path the last two years, and this was my first visit to the stairs for a long time.

There are a lot of stairs. I mean, a lot. But that’s ok. I did have to stop once, near the top, but found the view so breathtaking I didn’t mind. I snapped a couple of pictures and then went on. The course at the top of the hill is mostly flat until you get to a series of descending stairs built into another part of the hill, but I was feeling good and like I could maybe do 6 or 7 miles.

All that, and just walking. And then my ankle turned to the outside, I heard a “snap” and I went down hard. Just like in November.

Those first few seconds after an injury you tell yourself you’re ok, it’s fine, you can get up and go on. But that’s just adrenaline, and then the pain catches up with your brain. I was yelling a lot of obscenities and kind of rocking back and forth. It was excruciating. Then I realized, how the ever loving fucking hell am I going to get off the top of this hill and down to my car, which was at least a mile away from the bottom of the stairs I had recently climbed.

I sat and tried to gather myself, get on top of the pain mentally. I texted a couple of friends and told them what was going on and where I was and asked if they had any suggestions. I sat there trying to will this event not to have happened, trying not to think about all the races I was going to miss, the four months I have spent rehabilitating this fucking ankle, all while trying not to puke or cry because it hurt pretty bad.

Like Blanche, I have become dependent upon the kindness of strangers at times, and Sunday was no exception. A couple about my age came by, and asked casually in passing if I was ok and I just shook my head no. The guy asked what happened and I told him, and explained about the re-injury, and he asked if I needed help. He said he “carried people all the time,” whatever that means, and I said I would figure something out, I had contacted a couple of friends to see if they had any ideas of what to do. He said well, we’re gonna loop around and when we come back, if you’re here, we’re carrying you down.

Which they did.

I was able to put a little weight on it, but just a little, so they helped me down the stairs, the guy taking the weight of my bad leg and the girl going in front so I didn’t miss my footing and tumble all the way down like Jill, breaking my crown. We hobbled to a nearby large rock and I said I thought I could make it to my car from there, I was parked super close, and shooed them on their way.

I lied, of course. I’m really bad at accepting help sometimes, and I was mad as fuck at myself, embarrassed, frustrated and a thousand other things. So I punished myself by galumphing all the way to my car. It took a long ass time and my back hurt so bad from walking crookedly, I could have just passed out in my car. But I knew I had to go.

I went to urgent care and they said it wasn’t broken, that I probably re-tore the ligament, to wrap it, ice it, wear an air cast, to follow up with my doctor, etc.

I messaged my doctor when I got home and he called me less than an hour later. I was well into a glass of wine by then and attempting to roast a chicken, which is harder than it sounds when you’re working with a bum leg, and he quizzed me about symptoms, admonished me about not being careful when the ankle still wasn’t 100%, told me to RICE it and wear my air cast or an ace bandage when up and about, and call him to follow up in a few days, maybe we would get an MRI.

It’s nice to have a doc who will call you on a Sunday. And strangers who will take time out of their hike to help you for a long ass while. So I’m pretty lucky.

I got home and was slowly limping in in my running clothes still, and one of the neighbors was out front on her patio drinking some tea or coffee. “Good morning!” she sang out to me. Now, this lady has barely spoken to me in the years she has been living here. Like most of the people here, she and her family are Indian and they generally keep to themselves and only socialize with other Indian people in the complex, of which they are many. I said hello and she asked what happened. I stopped and we chatted a bit and she said how she had sprained her ankle dancing last year and we talked about how it can take more time to heal a bad sprain or tear than a break. And she said she hoped it got better soon.

I finally figured it out when I went back inside and thought about why she would be talking to me. It was the “REFUGEES WELCOME” sign me and my kid made a few weeks ago and put on my door. Which I got a threatening note about from management only a week or so after I put it up, because you’re not allowed to have anything on your door and if you do, and someone complains about it, you have to remove it or you can be fined and even evicted. Apartment living is so great, right? So I took it down, but I’m sure everyone on my floor saw it, including the next door neighbor, who is the lady who said hi to me. So that’s something.

Maybe she was just happy that it’s finally Spring. It’s cloudy and the trees are still barren as fuck, and it was only 45 today so it doesn’t feel very springy out and I don’t feel very springy either. But I’ve kept this fucking ankle wrapped and elevated and air-casted, a lot more than I ever did with the original injury, and the swelling has gone down quite a bit, though it still looks like a cankle from hell. However, when wrapped, I can walk, and so that’s a thing, getting my feet back on the ground. Must not overdo it. Must go slowly.

It’s so hard to take the path that’s right in front of us sometimes. As I told a friend today, life has a way of making you go the right way when you try to ignore the signs and forge ahead the wrong way.

Get Into The Light Where You Belong

Sometimes the signs are there and you’re just not as good at seeing them as you should be. I am working on that, and I think it’s paying off.

Yesterday was a pretty amazing day, all things considered, and it was just a normal workday Thursday. I had an extremely long phone conversation, interviewing someone for an article I’m writing and was actually brought to tears hearing the person’s story. More than once, and in a good way. Also discovered, through our conversation, that my interviewee has very strong opinions about how you life your life every day, and how you never know what your path is going to be, but you have to move forward every day and prepare for the best, and never give up. It’s a tale about what we are capable of even in the most extreme conditions, and how our legacy can outlive us if we bring light to every day and work to illuminate others. I believe in this a lot, even in small and seemingly insignificant ways, and to get this message and talk to this person sort of reinforced all that for me. Honestly it was one of the most meaningful interviews I’ve ever done, and how that will affect me going forward could end up being important. The not knowing, sometimes, can be exciting.

Last night I took that conversation to heart and pushed to do something out of my comfort zone, and ended up the day feeling like I really did something and experienced life fully and with vigor, wonder and joy. I was also really sore, since that my outing involved running a 5K with some strangers, and then going out for drinks and food. The exhausted and happy and accomplished feeling is a good one to have when you lay down your head on your pillow to sleep. I have plans to continue that work this weekend.

Spring is also leaving signs. Though it was very cold yesterday, today is supposed to be in the 60s. The birds are chirping when I leave home each morning, and there is more light, internally and externally.

For right now, I am grateful, and I am working. The coffee is hot, my belly is full, I have shelter and employment. I am loved, and I love. My eyes are open, and I am looking for more signs.

Sky Was All Purple

purple sky

I’m on a longer than normal break from parenting, as the kid will have an extended stay with his Dad to stretch into spring break next week, and then I’ll pick him up mid-week. So I’m making plans, seeing friends, working on self-care, taking care of me and my shit and my life. That’s what I do when I’m not with the kid, which I feel makes me a better, more prepared and more focused Mom when I do eventually see him again.

Been spring cleaning, purging, throwing shit out and getting some newer, better shit at my apartment. Despite tomorrow’s return to freezing temperatures, yesterday it was 45 and today 54 so running outside has returned, mostly. And the birds and my sinuses both seem to know it is spring, so winter can only have a temporary hold on us going forward. My ankle is still not 100% better, but it continues to improve and I’m hoping to run the first race I usually run each year, which is a primarily trail running course the first weekend in June. I’ll be driving back from a long road trip vacation through the day before the race, so I’m not sure if I’m going to make it or not, so I won’t pre-register in case I’m too beat. I don’t expect any sort of impressive time. I think the days of 5Ks just under 30 minutes are gone, and that’s ok. I just feel lucky I can still run at all.

I had to take a break from yoga and lifting to try to heal up my shoulder, which was causing all kinds of problems. But I think I got it before it got really bad, and am working on building up strength again. It’s amazing how quickly strength you build up at this age disappears as soon as you quit strength training or yoga or whatever. But I persevere as it’s important. I want to be able to reach overhead or touch my toes for many decades to come, and life has shown I can’t count on anyone else to be there to help me, so I have to keep myself in shape.

Concert tickets have been secured for a couple of concerts to attend with friends this summer. I’ve locked down lodging for a vacation with the kid at the end of May. I got a hotel room for my THIRTY year class reunion this summer. In the immediate, exciting social engagements are in the cards this week, and I am looking ever forward.

Sometimes it is sad to move forward. Sometimes it’s exciting. Sometimes it’s a mix of both, or vacillates between the two, even hourly. But the goal is to keep moving, keep living, keep feeling, keep loving, and keep people around me who want to be there, and I with them. I’m working on all of that.

There isn’t much I can do about the paranoid sociopath in the White House, or his not-so-merry band of uber-rich racists and bigots. I am still writing my letters, signing petitions, and occasionally making calls. But I need to work on what’s in MY sphere. Me, my kid, my life, who is in it and who isn’t, and what’s happening to make progress.

The blurry purple sky in today’s post was shot after a night out at a local dive bar a couple weeks ago when we had a full moon. It was a kind of weird night and this seemed the perfect end. It didn’t really look like that outside, but I loved what the phone did to the atmosphere and the picture, as my heart is often purple.

I have many friends struggling and hurting right now. Sending my purple energy out to them, and my love. My home is always open to anyone who needs to escape, laugh, create, sing, make music or dance or just drink some wine and bitch about how difficult the road can be sometimes. Keep moving.

 

Heart Full Of Soul

chucks

So much is happening in my life these days, it’s hard to keep up with the blog. I feel like I could blog twice a day and it wouldn’t encompass everything.

Writing has slowed considerably over the last week in general. I wanted to catch up on some movies I’ve been wanting to see, Oscar-nominated stuff that’s finally rolling in from the library, and then of course there’s last week’s hospital visit, which knocked out a good 36 hours from my life. Short version: bad tickers in my family and confluence of many bad/weird symptoms made me think I might be having a heart attack. But I wasn’t, and that’s good. I am seeing a sports medicine guy for the very bad shoulder/neck/arm thing, which was one of the key factors in said visit, and am grateful I still have health care, as this is likely to have been a HORRIBLY expensive visit. My job is not the best, but we do have good health care, and, on days like today, a snow day for my kid, I can work from home and plop my son in front of books and TV and muddle through what I have to get done from the comfort of my easy chair instead of the confines of my workstation, and that is nice.

I hit several writing goals the first week of March and am now going to start pursuing some other leads I’ve saved but not chased, as well as work on tackling one of my bigger, longer-term writing things that I hope to have done by official beginning of summer. As my ankle is doing much, much better (though still not 100%), I am trying to get back into running, and had my first outdoor winter run of the season the other day. Honestly, it was freezing, and then it felt great. It’s actually a really good way for me to deal with winter. I just had to invest in the proper gear for it, which I did last year, and from the looks of things outside, I’ll have plenty of chances to get to use it all before winter goes away.

I’ve also settled most of the details for a road trip me and the kid are going to take this May. I promised him I would take him to the ocean, and finally, am going to drive us there, though it will take a very long time to get there (and probably feel like twice as long coming back). It’s a long haul and very expensive to manage alone, but I promised the kid and I’m going to do it. I’m looking forward to it as well, as long as the car holds up. I’ll have to get new tires before we go, and may have to replace my entire headlight assembly, which is failing, but this is what I’m doing this year instead of throwing him an expensive birthday party which is mostly populated by my ex’s family, and I’d much rather do this than that. So off we will go. The fucking ocean, finally. He’s been asking since he could talk. I hope we don’t get eaten by sharks. Ha.

After the hospital/heart scare, I spoiled the kid Sunday. We had a visit at Grandma’s and then I took him to see Kong: Skull Island. He was the only little kid there and I don’t even care. He loved it, and whispered “awesome” at least five times, so I call that a win. Hell, I was more scared than he was.

I have less time to work on me during the weeks that he is here, and that’s ok. Last night I tried to do yoga but he needed help with several homework assignments so I just bagged the yoga and we worked on all his shit that didn’t get done last week at his Dad’s, and now he’s much more caught up.

In addition to the snow day today, school is closed Friday for “in-service,” which I’m convinced is an alternate language phrase for “teachers need a day off.” It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and we are part Irish, so I will take him to work with me and hopefully we can take a long break and watch part of the parade. I’m taking him to a fish fry Friday night and then Saturday we’ll have our corned beef.

It would be nice if I had an adult companion for these things. St. Patrick’s Day, movies with the kid, road trips. I love the kid’s company, but miss adult companionship.

I bought a little shamrock plant for good luck. I feel like it’s starting to work. At least I know my heart is good, literally and figuratively.