Saturday, April 26, 2008

Easy riders.

Today was the Country Music Marathon here in Music City USA. It was a beautiful day to torture your body by running 26.2 miles. Listen to me - could I be more jealous? It's not that I have any desire to run a marathon - in fact, I can't think of anything I would hate to do more (maybe childbirth?) - but I would love to know what it feels like to have that kind of determination and physical strength. What an accomplishment! I actually caught myself tearing up as I watched people hobble toward the finish line. Yeah, I can hardly believe it myself.

I think I must have been nostalgic for my marathon training days. It hardly seems possible that I, a person who doesn't even like to run, signed up and trained for a marathon once. I didn't make it to the 26.2 mile race but managed to squeeze in a 13 mile training run before completely injuring myself and swearing off running for good. A half a marathon was more than enough accomplishment for me.

Today's marathon and half marathon both ended at Titan's stadium which is just outside our neighborhood so we rode our bikes down to watch. We were hoping to catch a glimpse of our friend Sunny and 10 other girls hula hooping past the finish line. That's right, they hula hooped the half marathon! I had originally said I would do it with them (yet another weak moment!) but fortunately no one held me to it. I definitely preferred cheering them on from my bike to waking up early on a Saturday to walk 13 miles.

I'm either getting lazier or smarter.

We jumped on our bikes and peddled about half way down the block before realizing it was little chilly and Liam might need a sweatshirt. We turned around and Bill ran into the house while I stayed on my bike with Liam. Before he ducked into the house I yelled, "Grab a smoo, too!" I thought it was perfectly obvious that I meant grab a smoothie and a straw in case Liam gets thirsty once we get to the stadium but he translated it to mean grab a smoothie and pop a straw in it right now so Liam can spill it all over himself on the back of my bike. As he sulked back into the house he muttered, "Why don't you just e-mail me?"

What? That's not fair. He can't read stuff I write and then just throw it back in my face. That's so not cool! When I told him this he had no idea what I was talking about. He hadn't even read my previous post yet! How funny is that? I guess we're back on the same wave length!

Friday, April 25, 2008

A half-carat rock and a hard place.

Sometimes I feel torn between being a good wife and a good blogger. Seems like it would be a pretty obvious choice, huh? It is but also it isn't. Let's see if I can explain.

I've noticed that I tend to only post things about my husband that are positive. Big shocker, I know. Why would anyone want to post negative stuff about their spouse unless they were trying to get a divorce? Well, for two reasons really:

1) Writing is cheap therapy
2) I'm not a liar

Writing helps me sort things out. If I find myself all stuck in my head and moping around feeling sorry for myself for no particular reason, writing can help me come back to reality. Sometimes it makes me realize what was bumming me out in the first place and other times it just gets me out of my funk so I can move on with my life.

It also helps me communicate. I've noticed lately (or perhaps it was brought to my attention...) that my verbal communication tends to resemble word vomit. I don't think this is the case with everyone I speak to (God help me...) but it is definitely the case with Bill. I'm not sure if it's because I've known him for so long or what but when we talk I tend to swap out "You know what I mean?" for actual words. This inevitably leads to me being frustrated that, in fact, no, he does not know what I mean. Sometimes I think it would help if I could communicate with him in a way that allowed for lots and lots of editing. Maybe, just maybe, I would finally get my point across. Or maybe I'd realize I didn't have a point to get across in the first place. Either way, I think it would be an improvement.

So why not send him an e-mail or tuck a perfume scented letter under his pillow? Why even toy with the idea of posting negative stuff about my marriage for all to see? Because of #2 - I'm not a liar!

I hate for anyone to think for a minute that my marriage is perfect just because I don't write about the bad stuff. It's not that I wouldn't love to have a perfect marriage it's just that, well, THERE IS NO SUCH THING! If someone you know has one, THEY ARE LYING! This happened to us. We got married young (I was 22) so we didn't have a whole lot of married friends, just one couple. They were like our marriage gurus. They were happy, adorable, perfect - just what we wanted to be like. We said "I do" thinking, "If that's what marriage looks like, count us in!" Come to find out that is NOT what marriage looks like. Marriage is hard. Really hard. It took us well over a year to find our footing. We fought and fought and fought. Doors were slammed, obscenities were screamed, threats were made. You would have thought we were in a marriage arranged by brutal dictators or a mail-order bride situation or something. Surely we didn't choose this life! But we did make a choice, a vow really. Eventually we had to realize that it was time to stop fighting with each other and start fighting for our marriage.

It was a lot of work to get to where we are today. Some days we get to reap what we sowed and other days (ahem...) we find we still have an awful lot of work to do.

Oh, and our perfect married friends? Divorced. Not three years after we got married they split up. We never saw it coming but I'm sure they did. If only we had known that they weren't this fairy tale couple perhaps we wouldn't have been so scared when our marriage turned out to be less than perfect. How nice it would have been to know we were NORMAL, not doomed.

Since then, we've tried our best to be honest in the hopes that if any of our friends face tough times like we have had (and continue to have), at least they'll know they're not alone. I know it helps me to no end when I'm struggling with something and a friend confides that she knows exactly what I'm going through. What makes it even better is 10 times out of 10 it's a friend I admire and look up to (is there any reason to have friends you don't admire?).

What a relief to know we all struggle from time to time. There are no perfect people - just normal people and liars!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

What all the hoopla is about.

I spent a good part of the day cruising YouTube looking for hula hoop videos. There are some amazing hoopers out there and I got lots of great ideas and inspiration. As soon as Bill finished mowing the lawn (THANK YOU!!!), I grabbed my hoop and and headed out to the back yard. I started off in boots because I'm scared of ticks and bugs and stepping on glass (we find glass everywhere - either the previous owner of our house had a hot temper and a drinking problem or its from the 1998 tornado), but after a few minutes I said, "Chiggers be dammed!" and kicked off my shoes and socks. The fresh cut grass on my bare feet made me feel like I was 8 years old enjoying every last bit of the day before the street lights came on and I had to come in for dinner.

After practicing for a while, I wanted to see if it looked like I knew what I was doing or not so I ran inside to grab my camera. Unfortunately, by the time I got back outside, our next door neighbor Steve was in his yard pulling weeks and fertilizing the grass. The last thing I wanted to do was get caught busting a hoop move to my video camera so I made Bill come outside with me as a decoy/camera man. We kept the music kind of quiet and I hooped close to the fence so Steve couldn't see me. It was almost perfect until the very end when, well, you'll see.

video

Obviously that was my neighbor shouting, "Go Hoop Mama!" as I pranced around the yard in all my glory. How embarrassing! Since I had already been busted, we went ahead and took one more quick video. I wanted to see a new move I was working on and didn't get a chance to do it before I got caught. So, here it is!

video

Friday, April 18, 2008

I'm a teacher.

Remember a long time ago when I made a list of 30 things I wanted to do and looking into teaching was one of those things? Well, I think it's time to check it off the list! I am currently TEACHING two HoopAerobix classes of my very own. It's not at all the kind of teaching I had in mind when I made the list but I would say it's infinitely better.

Let's take a moment to compare:

Being a school teacher is really, really hard work. Not only are you at school all day long, you have to plan lessons and grade papers when you go home at night. And the pay for all this hard work? Not so good. You have no idea what kind of class you're going to get but once you get them they're yours for an entire school year. Your students might come to school hungry or tired or sick or angry. They might have learning disabilities or language barriers. Depending on where you teach you might have very limited funding or inadequate supplies. No matter, you still have to make sure no child gets left behind. So, teach the test, teach the test, TEACH THE TEST! From what I've seen lately, all the joy has been completely sucked out of school.

HoopAerobix, on the other hand, is nothing but joy. I lead a half dozen girls through an hour of hula hooping, dancing, laughing and sweating all while listening to fun music and getting a good work out. My students are awesome and happy to be in class and the hourly pay beats a teacher's salary any day. Sure, I only work 2 hours a week but that's the way I like it. It's absolutely perfect!

All this excitement gave me another idea - I want to start a cheer leading fitness class. Yes, that's right, you heard me - CHEER LEADING FITNESS! If I had to do what I did in cheer leading practice every couple days, I think I would be in killer shape. Just try to do all those high Vs and front kicks and herkies and not look hot. I want to put on the jock jams right now and get to it! Go, team!

Stuck on you.

A shop down the street sells neighborhood bumper stickers that you'll find stuck to anything from a beat up old van to a sparkly new convertible. And of course the many wagons and hybrids. Here are a few of the stickers that make me laugh:

37206: Over the river and through the hood
From downtown Nashville you drive across the river and past the projects to get to my house. It's what they call a transitional neighborhood. I've heard some talk that the city might move the projects because apparently some people don't want to pay half a million dollars for a home and still hear gunshots at night. Wussies.

37206: Not just for gay people anymore
I guess a lot of neighborhoods like mine start the transition when gay men start buying and renovating old houses that have been neglected. They're able to restore old homes like no one's business and since it's two buff guys living together, they don't have to be scared of living next door to criminals. Thanks, gays!

37206: We'll steal your hearts and your lawnmower
Having your lawn mower stolen is sort of a right of passage around here. When we first moved in, Bill was out front mowing the lawn when he saw our neighbor Steve and walked over to say hi. Steve freaked out and told Bill to NEVER leave his lawn mower out like that. Bill kind of laughed and said, "Dude, I'm right here." Steve gave him a real serious look and said, "I know. But crackheads are fast."

37206: Where everybody knows your dog's name
A bar in our neighborhood has a weekly "lappy hour" where dogs get special treats like, um, discounted water from the hose? I have no idea. I love my dog but have never considered taking her to lappy hour. We took her to the neighborhood dog park once but her herding instincts came out with a vengeance and she got bit trying to corral a herd of Golden Retrievers and Weimaraners. I like to keep her securely tethered to my chair on the front porch where, in the last week, I have witnessed a man on a skateboard being pulled down the street by a bulldog and a man in his front yard playing with two large dogs on the ground while giving a third a piggy back ride. That takes "man's best friend" to the next level!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

On my mind.


I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. - Michaelangelo


What a remarkable notion to think that such exquisite beauty was there all along, just waiting to be uncovered. How lovely to think that the same is true with each of us. That anything we desire is already present within us; we just have to chip and chip and chip away until it is revealed in all of its glory. Sometimes we can get away with a quick spit shine with a soft cloth while other times we need to call for reinforcements and get someone to help us with the sledgehammer. Either way, there it is...just where it has always been.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Viva Nash-Vegas.

I love Nashville. I am so happy we moved here; so happy to have a friendly little community to call home.

I sometimes get so caught up in day-to-day life, in the details that can happen in any city or any town, that I forget where we are. Then a night like last night comes along and my memory is joyfully refreshed.

We spent the afternoon at our friends' house drinking beer and grilling hot dogs and watching the kids run around the yard. It was warm enough to be outside without a jacket but cool enough that we weren't being eaten by mosquitoes. In scientific weather terms, I believe that's called PERFECT. And perfect it was.

We stayed as long as possible. When we could no longer deny that it was Liam's bedtime, we begrudgingly gathered our things and sulked to the car. On the drive home, I told Bill he could go back if he wanted, that I would get Liam to bed. He sweetly offered me the same and without hesitation I said, "OK!" I'm no sucker.

I got back to the party just in time sing Happy Birthday to two of my dear friends and toast them with a cupcake and a glass of wine. Once I finished my cupcake, I cornered the busy hostess so we could catch up. We went out to the backyard with a bottle of wine and soon everyone who was left at the party had joined us outside. It didn't take long for a guitar to emerge and before I knew it I was in the midst of a full fledged Nashville sing-a-long!

Now, I know stuff like this happens in places other than Nashville. Obviously. But what kills me about this place is how good everyone is. It's not like a bunch of tone-deaf kids singing a tragic version of American Pie. It's like an amazing collaboration of supremely talented musicians. If they would have charged admission, I would have gladly paid it.

(I shudder when I remember that many of these people witnessed my karaoke version of Ace of Base at Bill's 30th birthday party.)

I wasn't the only one blown away by the music last night. As Thad Cockrell and Courtney Jaye harmonized beautifully over the soothing sound of an acoustic guitar, a hoot owl sang along from a nearby tree. It may have been the 3rd glass of wine but I swear the owl was singing with them. He only joined in on one song and was quiet for the rest of the night.

I woke up this morning with music in my head. Well, music and a hangover. Souvenirs of a really great night.

Today was another beautiful day. Liam had school which means Bill and I had FIVE WHOLE HOURS alone. That is a rare and wonderful occurrence so we totally ate it up. We went hiking at Warner Park and stumbled upon yet another Tennessee tradition that neither of us saw coming. It's summed up best in these lyrics by country music star Brad Paisley:

I'd like to see you out in the moonlight
I'd like to kiss you way back in the sticks
I'd like to walk you through a field of wildflowers
And I'd like to check you for ticks.

An' oooo You never know where one might be
An' oooo There's lots of places that are hard to reach
Yeah I been there

I gotcha.

I'd sure like to check you for ticks...

I GOT A TICK.

I can't go into much more detail than that because every time I think about it I throw up a little bit in my mouth. As soon as Bill took care of it (barf), we thoroughly checked each other for more. I don't know where Brad Paisley got the idea that that type of full body check is sexy but he is wrong. Sooo wrong.

Friday, April 4, 2008

PPS.

Another quick addendum to my previous post.

Those follow up books I was wondering about? They already exist. Big time. I was in Borders the other day and allowed myself to really look at the self help section. Usually I feel self-conscious like everyone in the store is reading over my shoulder and judging me. "Ooh! She's obsessive compulsive and in a sexless marriage and addicted to rice pudding!" "Mummy, look! That sad lady doesn't know who stole her cheese." "Hahaha - why don't you try The Idiot's Guide to Being Pathetic you big loser?" It's like, lay off people, I'm just browsing!

My in-depth search was mind blowing. I had NO IDEA how many books were out there. There is literally a book for every possible situation. Can't stop beating yourself up? Check out Powerful Self Talk: Change your Self Talk; Change Your Life. Afraid the food you eat is making you sick? Pick up The Allergy Self-Help Cookbook. Got so many problems you don't know where to start? No problem! Try The Last Self-Help Book You'll Ever Need. As it turns out, you can self-help yourself through just about anything.

I probably spent an hour looking through row after row of books. It made me think two things, 1) wow, it looks like every book has already been written, and 2) who cares? change the perspective ever so slightly and you've got yourself a whole new book!

So, yeah, I want to write a book. Or a ton of books. I mean, really, can you imagine anything more fun that that? I can't. Not that I necessarily want to write a self-help book but if I do, I could use Writing Successful Self-Help and How-To Books as a guide. I'm telling you, there's a book out there for EVERYTHING.

I used to think you had to get paid in order to be something. Like I couldn't be a writer unless someone was paying me specifically to write and the title on my business cards was "writer." Even when that was exactly the case, I still felt funny saying I was a writer. Like I was lying or pretending to be something that I wasn't. Now I realize that that's kind of silly. Labels are just labels. Who you are has nothing to do with what you call yourself. Knowing that made me feel perfectly free to say (to myself), "I'm a writer and a photographer." Woo hoo! It doesn't change who I am or how I feel about myself but it sure is fun. Try it, you'll see!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Problem solved.

I figured out the equivalent to a swaddle for adults - meditation! Not like the general every day kind but the kind where you intentionally SIT and don't move and hope that your mind will just quiet down already.

I've been confused about meditation for a while now. Like most things, I was totally over-thinking it. I wanted rules and specific dos and don'ts. I couldn't grasp that something that seemed so profound could be so simple. There were plenty of times that I would be still and quiet and not thinking about anything at all. Then I'd think, "Man, I wish I knew how to meditate. Imagine how great my life would be then!"

Saturday's Za Zen meditation practice was a great wake up call for me. It's the kind of meditation that does have rules and specific dos and don'ts and I think that structure helped me finally let go of the obstacles I had created. Now I see that "meditation" can happen at any time. As long as I'm experiencing the present moment and not letting unconscious thoughts and actions take the wheel, I'm golden.

A friend of mine was leading the class and I was really excited to see what it was all about. Not excited enough to get myself there on time but excited all the same. Walking in two minutes late to something silent that you've never done before is pretty stupid. A few years ago I would have turned around and high tailed it out of there. No way would I be that person! Things have definitely changed. Last week I walked into a Pilates class at the YMCA 30 minutes late and just set up my mat and joined the class. To my credit, the time was posted wrong on the website so I didn't realize I was late. But still - when class ended 15 minutes after I arrived and I figured out what I had done, I wasn't nearly as mortified as I maybe should have been.

Where was I? Ah, yes, interrupting meditation.

I sneaked in, found a pillow, sat down cross legged and closed my eyes. Once I sat, I really stayed put. Usually I have to pull down my shirt, fix my pants (they always seem to ride up when I sit like that), look around, crack my neck, stretch my arms, you name it. Not giving myself the option to move was so much easier than I thought it would be. I was shocked at how still I was able to sit (I didn't even move when my foot fell asleep!) and my mind was pretty quiet, too. It was the most uninterrupted quiet time I can remember in recent history and boy-oh-boy, was it relaxing.

Everything was going swimmingly until a loud CLAP! made me jump out of my skin and look around in a panic to see what was going on. Everyone was standing up and forming a line that just happened to face me. I did what they did and then realized in horror that I was the line leader. My friend tiptoed up next to me and whispered that she would clap the wooden blocks once and we would walk slowly and then she'd clap them again and we'd walk quickly. I tried my best to play it cool. I mean, if she thought I could do it, surely it was no big deal. I would lead the class in some sort of walking meditation. No problem. She clapped the blocks and I started walking REALLY slowly. My eyes were closed and I was feeling my body as I intentionally placed one foot in front of the other. I never turned around to see if I was doing it right because that's so not Zen. I just kept placing one foot in front of the other in my own little world. I was about to walk face first into the wall (slowly and with intention) when my teacher grabbed me by the shirt and led me to the back of the line. Why I thought I could walk with my eyes closed and not run into something remains a mystery.

We walked slow and then fast for about 10 minutes with our eyes sort of closed but open enough to see (eyes closed, you're sleeping; eyes open, you're dreaming). Then we sat again for about 30 minutes and chanted a little and that was it. Za Zen Meditation!

Having a beautiful, quiet space like that and time set aside for nothing but peace and relaxation was pure luxury. I will definitely do it again. More importantly, now I know that I can tap into that presence anytime. Yesterday I was fully present while folding laundry and you know what? It was kind of wonderful. I thought I hated doing laundry but when I actually did laundry instead of sloppily folding clothes while watching TV and thinking about what I would rather be doing, it wasn't bad at all. The clothes were clean and smelled good and when I folded a t-shirt just right and added it to the stack of neatly folded clothes, it was darn close to perfection.

The real test will be doing dishes. And making dinner. And mopping the floors. And cleaning the bathroom. And...

Finding joy in the little things...like Scotch tape.