Monday, November 30, 2009

My Grown-Up Christmas List

It's Black Monday, readers! That means that, while you are allegedly working, you might have a window open in Explorer browsing deals at your favorite cyber shopping site. I'm cool with that, so long as you are also procrastinating and costing your company money while you have my blog open in another window, ready to minimize when the boss comes strolling by.

And while we're all ordering things online today and maxing out credit cards and hoping that we're not becoming victims of identity theft by ordering zebra-print Snuggies, pick up a little something for Cranky, won't you? Here's my Christmas list this year; some of these items may be hard-to-impossible to get, but probably still not as hard to get as a Zhu Zhu Pet. (Seriously, has anyone else had to tell their kid that Santa's elves went on strike and can't make those this year?)

1. To never, ever hear that Owl City Fireflies song again. Yes, I can always change the channel when it comes on my radio. But I have neighbors who like to play their car radio every Saturday while they're out working on their car or bike or whatever, and I can't turn theirs off when that song comes on and I can hear it through my windows (and this Saturday, it came on TWICE.) So clearly the only solution is for someone to destroy all known copies of that song. If you can figure out how to do this, you would be doing all of humanity a favor.

2. For Jon Hamm to show up on my doorstep, dressed as his character from Mad Men, but smelling like frosting like his character in 30 Rock.

3. A Sunday afternoon with absolutely, positively nothing that I have to do. Sunday has become the dumping ground of my life, the day in which all the stuff I meant to do all week shows up outside my bedroom door and gets in line behind the stuff that I already have to do on Sundays to get ready for the week. I want a Sunday where the most strenuous thing I have to do is get a shower and eat an entire Ghirardelli dark chocolate candy bar by myself.

4. For UK to beat U of L in basketball. It's been a hard couple of years to be a UK fan, and I still don't know how I feel about Coach Cal, but a victory in that game just might make me feel like a fan again.

5. To go see a movie and not see a single cell phone come on, or hear a single person make a comment, or have the child or adult behind me kick my seat.

6. A surprise snow day the last week before our break, when I am stressed out and wondering how I'll get all the wrapping and baking and everything done, but wake up one morning to the sweet sound of the snowplow and a phone call from work telling me school has been cancelled.

7. To cook and eat dinner with the Neelys. They make being in the kitchen for hours look like fun.

8. And now for one very real request. All I really, truly want is for everyone in our family and circle of friends to stay healthy and whole this holiday season. No trips to the ER, no car accidents, no flu, no falls, no hospitalizations. 2009 roared in like a lion and has pretty much been rattling the cage ever since. Here's hoping it goes out like a lamb, with everyone around me in good health and good spirits.

But if anyone knows how to get Jon Hamm to show up for New Year's Eve bringing and smelling like cupcakes, well...that would just be the icing on the cake.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Every year, I stop for a moment on the blog to share what I'm thankful for. It's been a tough year, but I feel like more than ever I have a lot to be grateful for.

Join me by giving your own thanks in the comments section below. Giving thanks here will help you be able to dig into your Thanksgiving turkeys a little faster on Thursday!

This year, Cranky is thankful for...

My funny, big-hearted kid. My husband, who is also my best friend. My mom, who I don't worry so much about these days because she has become so independent and does a kick-butt job of taking care of herself and living her life the way she wants to. For friends who are like family, who jumped right in when we needed support earlier this year. For a cute haircut (the importance of this to a woman cannot be underestimated).

I am thankful for 6 1/2 years or remission and for a year of relatively good health. For the roof over our heads, especially now that the roof has been repaired and no longer leaks. For our jobs, as crazy as they make us sometimes, since they allow us to live comfortably and pay our bills with a little left over for Rock Band downloads and decent beer on Saturday nights.

I am grateful for this life that I have and all the beauty that's in it: good food, great friends, a loving, healthy family. And to go along with those big things, the little things that make life fabulous: good books to read, fun things to watch on TV, Beatles Rock Band to sing harmonies to.

This is a good world I live in.

Your turn. What are you thankful for this year?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Yep. We're One Of THOSE People.

It's official. The Crankies are now card-carrying liberal hippie tree-huggers. Jason drove home yesterday in a Prius.

You probably have a pre-conceived notion of the kind of people who drive Priuses. Go ahead. Think those things. There's a grain of truth behind stereotypes, or so I hear.

When Jason's Impala began to resemble a crumpled Dr. Pepper can more than it did a car after his second accident, we decided to take the insurance money and get an affordable, highly-fuel-efficient car. The problem is, those kinds of cars don't usually fit 6-foot-4-inch dudes very well. Jason's head touches the ceiling of my crossover and he hates to drive it; it's hard to find something outside of the good old American land barge that he fits well into.

But he fit comfortably into the Prius. Who woulda thunk it?

We all went for the test drive, but I've stayed out of the later parts of the buying process. When he pulled into the garage last night, and paused for a while before coming in, I knew he probably wanted me to run down and see the new car. But I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I've told him that for a while, anyway, I don't want to drive his car. It's not that I don't like it.

It's that I like it too much, and that makes me a traitor.

Dad worked for and retired from GM and was a proud member of the UAW. There were a lot of things, growing up, that I would have been terrified to tell my parents. That I had gotten knocked up. That I was in jail. That I was eloping and moving to Kenya. That I had decided to vote Republican in the next presidential election. But the following conversation scared me most of all, because it would have been the least likely to have been forgiven:

Mom, Dad, I...There's no easy way to say this, so I'm just gonna come out and say it. I...I've fallen in love with a Toyota and I signed the papers today. I drove it home, and it's going to be living here with me a really long time.

So now we have this Prius, and I'm worried that my dad is going to perhaps haunt it.

We broke it to my mom last weekend, gently.

"Mom, we decided to buy a Toyota. I know you still want us to buy GM cars, but we have good reasons for wanting this car, and we couldn't find a GM model that had all the things this car does for the price."

I kid you not, my mom actually put her head into her hands.

"Oh, Lord. You didn't."

I am such a disappointment to my mom. I was a valedictorian of my class, graduated from college with honors, have kept the same steady job for a decade, and given her a granddaughter that she adores. But I have gone against my raising by buying a foreign car.

She eventually got over it, and we might even be able to get her to ride in it someday.

But I am never, ever taking it to Dad's cemetery. I believe in vengeful spirits.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanks, God, For Everything. Now, Can I Just Get A Cheeseburger?

Do any of you really, truly like Thanksgiving? Anyone? Anyone?

I know at least one of you has an aversion to eating turkey because, even brined and roasted to a lovely golden brown, it still looks just like it did in life. And several of you chimed in on my "I hate hate HATE stuffing" post last year that you're totes in agreement on that. This week, when I feel Thanksgiving's approach like a death knell, I have to wonder...does anyone really get excited about this holiday, which is a lot more like work and a lot less like a celebration?

If it weren't for the long weekend that usually comes with it, and its Pavlovian association with the start of the Christmas season, would it be missed?

This is from someone who was never really big into turkey or dressing or cranberry sauce or sweet potatoes or even pumpkin pie. No, not even pumpkin pie. Secretly, I think pumpkin is fouler than fowl (pun intended) and I can only mildly tolerate it now in pumpkin cheesecake because I've tried really, really hard to like it and fit in with Jason's family, who all seem to love it. It's not an acquired taste, technically, but I've been trying to acquire it anyway.

Yeah, Thanksgiving is supposed to be about more than the food. And I do take time every year (usually in this blog) to reflect and say what I'm thankful for. That part, I get. What I really could live without is spending hours in the kitchen, making food that I really don't like, for two different meals with two different families. I still like the getting together with both families part, don't get me wrong there. I just think we'd all have a better time if we just got together with food everyone actually likes rather than a predetermined, traditional turkey dinner that you feel is necessary for the American identity. You know, maybe some wings and brew since everyone just ends up watching football anyway.

Every year Ainsley learns about the first Thanksgiving and why we eat what we eat. It usually convinces me to at least play along and make my green beans, dumplings, and crunch-topped apple pie for my family's feast and ham and sweet potato casserole for Jason's. (The interesting thing about the sweet potato casserole is I get rave reviews on it because it's Paula Deen's awesome recipe, but I have never actually tasted it myself because sweet potatoes trigger my gag reflex and cause me to make a very unpleasant "rolf" sound in the back of my throat whenever I try a bite. And yet, I make the casserole anyway because Jason luuuuurves it. That, my friends, is devotion.)

But here's my fantasy Thanksgiving. I do not have the cajones to actually do any of this; my families follow tradition, and so will I, because I'm all about the complaining and not about the rocking the boat. Maybe, though, this will inspire one of you to break out of the "roasted bird/honeybaked pig/bread soaked in broth/green bean casserole to give the illusion of a vegetable" rut that is the American Thanksgiving.

My ideal Thanksgiving would not start with me getting up at the buttcrack of dawn to start the country-style green beans needed for my family's lunch-time "dinner." It would start with me getting up just as late as I ordinarily would on any weekday off from work. In other words, the only alarm that would go off would be when Ainsley comes running in the room to announce she's awake, to which I would reply, "Go watch a Phineas and Ferb while Mommy wakes up," buying me 15 more minutes.

Not having to worry about all the calories and heavy food stuffs coming later in the day, I would start with a creme-filled bakery donut and a cup of coffee. Or maybe, since it is a holiday, after all, a mimosa sipped while soaking in the tub.

Since this is a day about food and thanks and family, the three of us would get all cleaned up to go eat "dinner" with my family at my sister's house. But instead of the usual turkey, my mom has prepared the simple (and not time-consuming!) meal that many an Appalachian has given thanks for over the centuries: soup beans. Not bean soup. Soup beans. Never heard of them, you say? They're pinto beans cooked up with a healthy amount of ham hock or salt pork. Best served with some buttermilk corn bread. Not what the pilgrims had after the native Americans saved their poor white arses from starvation, but very close to it in spirit; I've heard that 50lb. bags of pinto beans and hogs butchered and smoked annually are what kept my ancestors alive during the harsh mountain winters.

After dinner, we'd all settle down for a few minutes with my sister's puppies. Then we'd head home for a nap. A long one.

Later is when the real fun would begin--instead of turkey dinner number two, we'd get together in the evening with Jason's siblings and the kids. And start immediately with some cocktails. No one would have to go through a lot of trouble for food; we could just fry up the all-American favorite. The food that I would argue better represents "USA" than a baked bird. Cheeseburgers. With fries. And maybe beer.

After the kids start getting weary and all the funny family stories have been shared, we'd head home and, after the kid's in bed, watch a very special 30 Minute Meals wherein Rachel Ray does Thanksgiving in 60 minutes. And even that will look like a lot of work, and we'll be glad our bellies are full of beans and cheeseburgers instead.

Ahhh, bliss. And nary a can of pumpkin in sight.

That is something I could really be thankful for.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The (Real) Most Wonderful Time of the Year

My favorite day of the year is tomorrow.

What is so special about the second Saturday in November, you might ask? It's not a holiday, or an anniversary, or a birthday. But it's like Christmas to me. I get up that morning bright-eyed and giddy with excitement.

The second Saturday in November is the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's annual Taste of the World event at the Newport Aquarium. It's a lush's paradise.

Not that I am a lush. Don't go crank calling my house asking for an "Al....Al Coholic." But this 3-hour-long tour of a beautiful aquarium accompanied by fine food from Cincinnati restaurants and fine wines and liquors from all over the world (some of which I wouldn't be able to afford to ever taste otherwise) is the highlight of my social season. The only light of my social season, really. Okay, it is my social season.

We've been going since 2006. At that very first event, I tried sushi for the first time. And had my first sip of imported French wine. And tried a stuffed grape leaf. And learned that the calming, surreal jellyfish room is an awesome place to be at the end of a wine tasting. I remember Jason and I going to the Barnes and Noble next to the aquarium, which was open late, having a coffee and sharing a piece of pumpkin cheesecake (the dessert room wasn't as stocked that first year as it later came to be) and sitting in awe of our very first wine tasting ever.

We both sat back in our chairs, sighing and sated.

"That was awesome. We should totally do that again."

"Yes. And we must tell others and get them to go with us."

We recruited a pair of friends that next year and we've gone together ever since. It's gotten a lot more crowded over the years; word has spread that as far as charity events go, this one is one of the most affordable and most worth your time and money. I run into people I know every year. In fact, this picture of me and good friend "DD" (with another familiar face in the background) is from two years ago when I discovered that my good friend from childhood was actually a volunteer at the event in honor of her leukemia-survivor sister. See that big smile on my face? That's what this event does to me.

Later, it also made me throw up into a Chipotle cup in the car on the way home, but that's the only time I've been excessive.

Even if you're not an imbiber, the food alone would be worth it. It's mostly the same goodies every year. Lettuce rolls from a really good Chinese bistro. Pulled pork. Rich, cheesy pasta from one of downtown's most upscale restaurants. Sushi. Cheeses and olives. Sweets. And the kicker: mini roast beef sandwiches au jus from a riverboat restaurant that we can't afford to go to for dinner. Seriously, I don't know what they do to that beef. It melts in your mouth like butter. We've often said that those sandwiches, coupled with a chance to watch the sharks and the sea turtle would be enough, really, to make it worth the money.

Do you see why it's like Christmas?

I always have a special feeling, too, when it's all over and we're in the dessert and coffee room waiting for raffle tickets to be drawn. This event raises money for people like me. People fighting leukemia or lymphoma. I have a kind of pride at the end of it all, that I am a lymphoma survivor healthy enough to attend and to give back to the charity that supported me 6 years ago. It feels good, and I get a buzz not just from the wine and the new brands of legal and safe absinthe, but from being a part of this both as an attendee and as a one-time beneficiary of others' generosity.

God bless us, everyone!

So I am very excited today. It's Taste of the World Eve. I hope I get everything I asked for tomorrow: roast beef sandwiches, Unibroue, rigatoni, maybe a nice sparkling wine in the new, revamped jellyfish room.

It's not just tiny tots with their eyes all aglow who will find it hard to sleep tonight.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How Cranky Got Her Groove Back

The fog has lifted. The sky above my head doesn't look so dark. I won't lie to you and say life is all rainbows and bluebirds, but it's certainly not the tornadoes and pigeon droppings it was a few weeks ago.

I feel like me again.

Even last week when fate or karma or just plain bad luck dealt me two more bad events, I didn't completely freak out. When my phone rang Monday and it was Jason telling me he had been in yet another car accident, but that he was okay, I took it pretty well. Two days later when Ainsley's school called to say she had an accident at gym and they believed she had a concussion, I was relatively calm. To get two calls at work in one week with words "accident" in the first sentence, I think I have done rather well.

This could be because we've had such a run of bad luck that nothing really surprises me anymore, or that I am so used to unpleasant things happening that this is the norm. Or it could be that I have found a way to navigate the bad stuff with a few simple joys that turn my frown maybe not upside down, but at least into something more like a straight line.

Some of you commented either on the blog or to me privately about things you do to make yourself happy. Here are the things I've turned to these past two weeks to raise myself up out of the doldrums.

I'm not really a stress eater. I'm truly not. If anything, I lose my appetite when I'm overly stressed. But it's amazing how something good to eat can lift my spirits.

I like to cook, but I don't always like to eat my own food. If I spend too much time preparing something, I really want no part of it when it's on the table.

But well-done food that I don't have to cook or clean up after...ahh, glorious.

One day during my trip to Bluesville, a co-worker stopped down to tell me she had won lunch at Chipotle for ten, and would I like to be in on that? Yes. Yes, I would. There is something beautiful about a free burrito bol at school, where we usually can't get anything decent to eat from the outside world. I was on a beans-and-rice high the rest of the day. One of my late-afternoon students even asked me why I was so chipper. The answer? Green chile and tomatillo salsa.

I swear there's healing power in a crispy chicken wing spun in hot sauce from Buffalo Wild Wings (especially when you chase the wing with an ice cold draft.) Or a piece of double-pepperoni pan pizza from LaRosa's (with the extra layer of pepperoni on top of the cheese so it gets nice and browned.) Or a Holland cream donut from the new little country bakery about 10 minutes away, eaten on a sunny Saturday morning with a cup of fresh-ground coffee.

Healthy? No. But I don't do this every day. Which is why it's such a special, enjoyable treat when I do.

Modern Family and Glee
TV has (sadly) always been a joy. But there's something different about these two new shows. They make me laugh out loud without the cringing that The Office so often causes or the snarky after-taste left behind by 30 Rock.

Modern Family is quite possibly the best, truest family sitcom I've watched since I started my own little modern family. These people are hilarious, but never mean-spirited. They fight, they get into ridiculous situations (but not so ridiculous you can't believe these things could happen), they make up by jumping fully-clothed into the family swimming pool. And then, in the tradition of shows like Scrubs, they have those serious moments of genuine emotion that make you stop laughing just long enough to feel the love.

Glee is just...gleeful. I'd like to say it reminds me of my own days as a choir girl geek, but our musical choices weren't nearly as fun. I walk away from every episode with a song stuck in my head. This is a good thing, though. I never thought that a show choir version of "Golddigger" or
"Take a Bow" could lift my spirits so and make me dance around the living room.

The Company of Four-Footed, Furry Creatures
My interactions with that cat we used to have are no longer so pleasant. When I show up at mom's for any reason, Scout takes off and hides because she associates me with a trip to the vet and a thermometer probed into a private area.

My sister, though, has two new puppies. The first was by choice, the second by chance. I'll be the first to tell you I am not a dog person, exactly, but watching two small bundles of energy chase each other, and curl up in your lap, and just generally overwhelm you with impossible can you be stressed when a baby Cavalier spaniel rests its head on your knee?

Last But Not Least...My Funny, Wonderful Kid
Being a mom is frustrating and worrisome and full of scares (like getting a phone call that an ambulance is taking your kid to the hospital.) But balanced with all that is a joy that's hard to believe.

Sometimes it's the things she says, the little nuggets of Ainsley-wisdom that show me that a child's way of looking at the world is both naive and wise. Sometimes its her silliness, the way she's often happy just to be seven and shows it by oretending to be a puppy or dancing to her favorite song or jumping up and down over a batch of cookies or a new Phineas and Ferb.

More and more it's because at seven I can see who she really is and the adult she's going to be. I see both Jason and I in her, which is narcisistically wonderful. But she's her own person, too, a person who defies any resemblance to either parental unit. She is herself. She is Ainsley.

Here's how my kid has made me smile lately:

She loves chicken wings as much as I do and pounded a suprising number at Buffalo Wild Wings on our last trip. She got up and started dancing the day I first played my Glee soundtrack CD as soon as "Bust Your Windows" came on. When she was on "brain rest" following the concussion, she begged to be able to read and to write letters. As soon as I thought it was okay, she curled up on the couch with a book and then went to her notebook to write letters to all her friends about her ride in the ambulance. She does math packets left over from first grade just for fun. She taught herself cursive one rainy Saturday by looking at a cursive alphabet that came with a journal she got for her birthday, but because she hasn't learned cursive in school yet, this is forbidden fruit and she enjoys it secretly as such. She has been going around the house singing the Beatles song "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" because it was stuck in Jason's head after a night playing Beatles Rock Band and asked to listen to the Abbey Road CD in the car this week. (Yes, it's a jaunty tune about a serial killer that no 7-year-old should be in love with, but c'mon. It's the Beatles.) She is equal parts a thinker and a partier, a geek and a diva, a scholar and a goof-off. She's everything I didn't even know I needed in my life.

She's my joy.

Dark days will return, as they always seem to do. I am a gloomy type of person, especially as the calendar flips from summer to fall and fall to dreary winter. The good mood I'm in right now, November 11, could be gone tomorrow morning and despair in its place. But Ainsley will sing me a song, or write me a letter, or wax philosophic on how the country-parodying ditty "Truck Driving Girl" from the Phineas and Ferb soundtrack is, in fact, the perfect song to have come on just as we're pulling into the Texas Roadhouse parking lot, and, comes the sun. And I say, it's alright.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

And The Hits (to the back of the head) Just Keep On Comin'

Anyone out there remember a post I did in September, 2007, where I described Ainsley's falling on the concrete parking lot her school uses as a playground and being diagnosed, much to our surprise, with a concussion at our local children's hospital? Remember? And then not too long ago I wrote about how much Natasha Richardson's death due to traumatic brain injury scared me because, like Ainsley, a long time passed between the injury and the first appearance that things weren't quite right?

Would you believe we went through all that crap again today?

I got a call late this morning from Ainsley's school.

"Ainsley had an accident..."

Words you never want to hear.

At first, I thought (and was hoping) the school secretary meant, like, wet-your-pants type of accident. Because as embarrassing as that would be for a second grader, that's an accident that's essentially no harm, no foul, after a change of clothes. Alas, I learned that Ainsley had hit the back of her head hard during a game in gym in which Ains was riding piggyback on another student (still trying to figure out why this was a sanctioned gym activity) and fell off backwards. She cried inconsolably, told the school nurse/secretary that she was afraid she was going to die, and then promptly threw up into her lap after being walked back to class.

Classic concussion symptoms for my kid. And it's sad that I knew these to be warning signs from past experience.

Given that Ainsley has the prior record of head trauma, and that a former paramedic who now works at her school as a teacher was concerned that she hit the back of her head so hard, an ambulance was called. Thank goodness I work only 10 minutes away and could get to school just as the ambulance was pulling in so I could ride with the kid to the hospital.

The doctor and nurses were great, and Ainsley passed the neurological exam with flying colors. Even so, with the vomiting and with the location of the hit, we were told to put Ains on "brain rest" for 24 hours. Anything that could be stimulating to the visual-processing parts of Ainsley's young brain is off limits until tomorrow; she can't watch TV, play video games, do work on the computer, or even read.

Try to entertain a homebound 7-year-old like Ainsley without TV, the computer, physical activity (also out) or reading. Tough, no?

There was actually a moment as we headed to the car that I felt stupid for allowing her to be taken to the ER via ambulance in the first place. Given how she seemed at that point, I questioned whether or not she really had hit her head hard enough to merit the copay and the burden.

But 15 minutes later, after the car went over a bump in the road, she turned white and threw up again just to remind us that concussions are serious business.

The doctor has assured us that, unlike the poor football players who have essentially turned their brains into mashed potatoes who we saw profiled on 60 Minutes a couple of weeks ago, Ainsley's concussions have occurred far enough apart that we really don't need to worry about permanent damage.

But just in case, I will be discouraging her from getting involved in contact sports or anything else with a high risk of causing a blow to the head. I am thinking competitive power walking may just be her future sport. Because two concussions before her 8th birthday is just not a good thing.

If she keeps this up, like Cousin Eddie, her hair just isn't going to part right.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

New Math

Ainsley's in 2nd grade, and already she's doing things for homework that I feel ill-equipped to help her with.It's not that I can't give her an answer to some of these math problems. I know, for example, that if Johnny Appleseed has 36 red and green apples, and 17 are red, then 19 must be green. (Right? Check my math on that, would you?) What I got stuck on yesterday, though, was how I explain this to Ainsley when they haven't yet learned borrowing from the tens to subtract from the ones.

After stammering around for a few minutes I realized that Ainsley wouldn't have had this as a homework question if they hadn't gone over a clever way of solving it in class, so I flipped back through the pages of her math workbook to see that what the teacher wants for problems like that is for them to draw a visual represenation and count. So I was supposed to make sure Ainsley drew 36 blank apple-looking things, colored 17 of them red, and then counted the rest of them to see how many were left.

Am I a bad parent if I was sorely tempted to throw her our calculator and say, "This is how you'll figure that little problem out when you're an adult"?

When I was in school, my mom used to tell me she couldn't help me with my math homework because it was "new math." I was always baffled by that; what the heck was so new about addition and subtraction? To this day, I don't know where my mom got the idea that we were doing anything new and different in elementary math; it was all straight-forward book work and board work and I absolutely hated it.

What Ainsley does, though, really is "new math." At least, new to me. Last year when she was learning basic addition of numbers that added up to 20 or less, she was given a paper of rules to learn. I remember just memorizing, through flash cards, that 7 + 8 = 15. Ainsley's teacher drilled them and had them memorize "doubles": 7+7, 8+8, etc. Then for problems like 7+8, they're supposed to think, "Well, I just add one to 14, since 7+7 is 14, but 8 is one more than 7." A process by which I was impressed. But at the same time, I really just wanted to go, "Or, you could just memorize that 7 + 8 = 15."

Memorization is not encouraged in the "new education". It's all critical thinking and problem solving and real-world applications and blah blah blah. I'm not sure if I would have thrived in that sort of environment. I was really good at memorizing; I have a good memory and relished the joy that came from standing in front of my tenth-grade classmates and being the 2nd or 3rd person to recite the "Friends, Romans, countrymen..." speech from Julius Caesar. (Always the 2nd or 3rd, though, because the kid that goes first is just showy and pretentious.) In fact, the only part of elementary math I was really, truly gifted in was the times tables, because I could imprint that into my brain and not have to think too hard about a train going 50 miles per hour heading west and another train going 70 miles per hour heading east and where, exactly, they would meet up. But when we used to have times table competitions...I was fierce.

Under "new" math, I think I might have been a pretty poor student. I am a visual learner, though, so maybe seeing colored apples and playing with manipulatives would have done it for me. But I have a feeling no matter how the basics would have been taught to me, there would have come that moment in AP Calculus when corycaleb and I stayed after to talk to our teacher about the problem we were having with the concept of limits, which I never did get, and I walked out of the room saying, "I think this is as far as I'm going with math, and I hope to God I test out of any required courses in college."

Now, where's that calculator? I have to check my kid's 2nd grade math answers.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Well...I'm back.

If you're back, too, thank you. Things mostly look better (though Jason was involved in yet another car accident today, which I am not even going to go into, except to say that he's safe but the run of moderately bad luck is, apparently, still on.) I've discovered that the key to happiness, for me anyway, is a tricky little thing called balance.

The last few Saturdays, I have tried my hand at a yoga class. I initially did it because I feel the need to shake up my current workout routine and thought yoga would be a nice, relaxing, stress-relieving way to gently stretch my uptight muscles and rehab the knee I injured a couple of months ago.

I didn't count on it kicking my ass.

The very first class, after being asked at one point to roll onto my back, put my weight on my shoulderblades, and kick my feet back over my head and walk them backwards, I was about ready to laugh yoga off. In fact, I did laugh out loud after that pose and after a few other poses I tried were epic fails. But then I got called into "detention", as I frequently do after fitness classes.

Have I mentioned that I am not really coordinated?

"We need to work on your balance," the pretty little petite instructor said. And as she showed me some tips for aligning my core, and finding my center of gravity, and making small balance-aiding adjustments one teeny weight shift at a time, it hit me.

This is all stuff I need to do not only in down dog, but in life in general.

My troubles in yoga class are just a reflection of the troubles I've been having with life. I am not in alignment. I can't find my center. When my position changes, I can't make the adjustments I need to in order to not fall on my face.

In short, I can't find a good balance.

Balance is hard. I see now why some celebrities with the long, lean, muscular bodies I so want to have can at least partially credit yoga with their shape. It takes muscles you didn't even know you had to support your body weight while you're bent and twisted into a position most of us have only been in during a competitive round of childhood Twister. Some positions I've been twisted into the past three Saturdays seemed impossible to hold with my history of vertigo and a general lack of grace until I pulled from reserves in the core of my body that I didn't even know I had. It was either dig deep into these unknown reserves to try to find strength and balance, or fall into a formless heap on the hard wooden floor.

I chose to find strenth and balance. For a few seconds, anyway, and then I'd fall into a formless heap on the hard wooden floor.

But a few seconds of balance can do wonders for your body and mind.

Balance has been remarkably lacking in my life for longer now than I'd like to talk about. I've always been an all or nothing kind of gal. There have been times when my work has absolutely dominated my life at the expense of my health, my family, my sanity. There have been times I'm so focused on caring for others in my family and others in my workplace that I forget myself. And sometimes I get so wrapped up in me, myself, and I that work goes to hell and my family suffers. When one ball starts to drop, I don't make small adjustments; that always seems too hard. I let everything come crashing down, pick it back up, and swear that I'll do better tomorrow.

Really, though, the answer is to keep the balls in the air in the first place.

The past three Sundays have been hard. My body's search for balance isn't pain-free. I wake up a little tight and a lot sore. But I already feel stronger in a way that repetitions on nautilus equipment wasn't doing for me. I feel stronger in my core. And this Saturday, I didn't get called into fitness detention for remediation on a pose I totally bombed; I mostly kept with the program (I only toppled over once--progress!)

I hope I can also strengthen my mental and emotional core in the coming weeks. I am going to do a better job balancing home, work, and family and not letting any one of those things completely make or break my day. I ain't saying it's gonna be easy, and I ain't saying it won't hurt a little the next day.

But if it keeps me from falling on my face--totally worth it.