Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Keeper of Useless Facts

 That's what I called him, my dad.  He was brilliant.  He was eccentric.  He was stubborn and frustrating to a point that rivaled a 5 year old.  We adored him and loved him to pieces.  He was beautiful, with eyes clear and blue like the sky.  He was a gentle, gentle soul.

~"What a spirit, what a spirit!"~

He found delight in simple things, in complex things, in things nobody else would ever notice.  He found treasures in trash, he found activity in the mundane, he found wealth in the penniless.

He was painfully shy with adults, but somehow people loved him within seconds of meeting him.  He was a gift to children.  He had the gentlest of natures.

He wouldn't hurt a fly.

With all of his anxieties and phobias about life, he walked with dignity, and a certain self-imposed naivete about what other people might think of him, about how he was perceived.  It was self-preservation.  He was a sweet, sweet man.

He could fix anything. And when I say anything, I really mean anything.  Ask anyone who knew him.  Legend has it that he once fixed a broken down VW van with a penny. 

He could build anything- a house, a computer, a sailboat, a guitar.  I shit you not.

He could make anything- a fine soup, write a children's book, sketch a peacefully sleeping daughter on a napkin.

~ He was a keeper of useless facts.  His was curious as a cat. ~

He once hooked an odometer up to my little sister's hamster's wheel to find out how far it would run during the night.  It appears that a 3inch long hamster can clock over 7miles in 8 hours- a hamster "ultramarathon"?  Nobody knew that but him.  Maybe nobody wanted to.  But he did, so he took the time to find out. 

He was a seamstress.  One year he bought an industrial sewing machine to sew sails for his sailboat.  He followed that project up by turning a socially questionable white leather blazer into a respectable bomber jacket for motorcycle rides, complete with reflective accents and a masculine edge. 

He snored like a buzz saw.  It was truly awful.  His house was messy and dirty.  It made us nuts.  Ironically, he took meticulous care of certain things in his life, and the fruits of his labor (work) were often organized, professionally polished, and squeaky clean.

He was a musician.  He kept his finger nails a wee bit longer than socially acceptable so that he could pluck his guitar better.  He would  play us to sleep at night.  He would play himself to sleep at night.  He had perfect pitch. 
He had an oddly green thumb and found peace in watering grass, picking oranges, and weeding my sister's lawn.  He loved to grow and eat tomatoes.  He would slice into them on a plate with the respect and purpose of someone enjoying a fine steak. 

He was an artist, a contractor, an electrician, a plumber, a mechanic, a naturally talented golfer (but not *that* kind of golfer), a naturally talented sailor (but not *that* kind of sailor).  

We called him Prumerie.  Back in the late 80's when we sisters were still playing fancy-lady dress-up, we got annoyed that he was wandering our chateau grounds without permission, so we decided that surely he must be the butler! And so we named him "Prumerie".  And it stuck.  We made him Prumerie.  His grandkids shortened it to "Prummie". 

~ "Daddy, do you want some beer?~
~ "Sure, I'll take an inch of beer." ~

It was never more than an inch.  If the beer was good, there might be a 2nd inch, but never more than one inch at a time.

One of his tricks- Salt shaker standing.

~The Jim Weigel Dictionary~
Vibracciones (Vibrations, or any sudden movement)
Like-a-deesa (sandwich cut up into 1cmx1cm squares, each with it's own toothpick)
GroKeries (groceries)
Coconut (referring to your head- i.e. "Aww- Did you hit your coconut?")
Da tings an' da tings ("Tell me how you're doing?  What's going on?")
Spirimentos ("Experiments" with shadows created by xmas lights on the ceiling- like watching the cloud shapes)
Tato-ato (Michaela- from Potato or Tato-Buggy)
Milk and Dirt (chocolate milk with Ovaltine)
Garbage Ball (see December 2010 blog entry for Garbage Ball description)
Palachie (Palace, as in "Prumerie's Fine Microwave Palachie" where he made us dinner...)
ChippyCheese (Tortilla chips dipped in cream cheese)
Bel-owb (Elbow)
QuatroCincoSiete! (5th gear on a manual transmission)
Dozerd (bulldozer- the dozerd would often wake us up in the morning, playfully but forcefully nudging us off our sleeping pads, tiling the living room floor)
Mud Flaps (the Alviso estuary)

~ He was, in the words of a dear friend, "one of the best guys ever."~

Fourteen years ago he signed me up for a new Yahoo email account so we wouldn't lose touch when I moved abroad.  Username:  Gringochick.  He gave me that.  He made me Gringochick.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Is this Heaven? No, it's Iowa.

I’ve been thinking a lot about place, about space, about home.  Owing to my dream job, my life on the road has expanded, like, tenfold.  I spend most weeknights in strange hotels in strange cities, eating strange food and sleeping in strange beds.  A majority of my conversations are with strangers, also staying in strange hotels in strange cities, eating strange food and sleeping in strange beds.

It gets lonely sometimes, but you do what you can and savor the perks, making the best out of the place you’re in because you know you’ll be back next week or next month to do it all over again, so you’d better deal and start making lemonade.

I’m a self-proclaimed homebody, so this new life outside of my life has become an Easter egg hunt of sorts, searching under every rock, on every trail and menu for familiarity, for balance, for comfort, for routine.  I have “favorite” hotels simply because I can get a huge pile of eggs and an epic bowl of fresh fruit every morning, because I can rest assured that their shampoo won't give me a bad hair day, because it is only 2 miles from a trail head...

So back to “place”- what do you to do find place if you are feeling out of place?  Well I guess you imagine it.  You imagine everything that is good or has ever been good about your world. 

What I've managed to conjure turns out to be my happiest place on earth when I’m not-so-happy.  It is so utterly fantastic, I've started to wonder: is this what heaven would be like?

Fat chance.  I don’t believe in heaven, but if I did, just for giggles, it might go something like this:

My periphery is flooded with green, my eyes fixed down on the smooth, packed trail under my feet.  I’m on a stretch of single-track somewhere in the muggy, lush forests of Maryland that reek of honeysuckle.  I’m moving fast, my feet dancing over the rocks and roots.    


It smells like the jasmine bush outside a friend's house in Laguna Beach where I woke up from a nap one Saturday afternoon back in 2003, like needles fallen from the huge Sugar Pines of my mighty Sierra, like Mike when he leaves for work in the morning.  I taste warm, yeasty bread, a hoppy IPA, a spicy Allan Bros Mexican mocha, cold watermelon, good fresh dirt. 

I realize the trail is getting rocky and technical, so I focus down at my gnarled muddy legs and realize I’m chasing six little sweeties.  I hear someone yell “Get ‘em, Aunt Squiddie!” and I look over and see my little sister's beautiful, beaming, dimpled smile.  I’m trying to catch them, I love them so much.  They squeal and scream and sprint away.  I scoop them up one at a time and smother them with love and kisses.  I think I might eat them.  

I hear evening crickets (my South Bay homies) and loud happy guffaws coming from the smiling faces of my best girlfriends sipping margaritas in a Baja cantina.  There is the chatter of a crowd around me in the woods, and I know it’s the GAC.  I look in front of me and see my favorite dirty runner calves.  Then it quiets and I hear just one voice, a dear friend chatting away as we tear up the trail together. 

I’m alone again and moving fast.  I open my heavenly flip-phone.  There is a text from my mom telling me she’s right behind me and reminding me of how strong I am, and one from someone telling me to cru$h it.  

Cru$h it?  Oh, but heaven isn’t for “crushing it”… or is it? 

I start to run, “crushing” the trail in a $arah sort of way…  It isn’t fast, but it is happy and elegant.  The technical parts feel like a dance, the down-hills feel like a race, and the up-hills become my friend.  I look up and see epic views of endless headland and rolling burnt grassy hills.   The air is warm and dry.  The view makes me weak in the knees.   

The trail smooths out again and I realize I’m on the side of Mt. Tam on a relentless climb.  I start to get tired and I hear someone say, “Get up thaht hill Saaraah”, a new voice in my life I don’t know what I’d do without.   

I feel my other little sister's hand on my left shoulder, because that’s where our birds are.  I feel a large hand pat me firmly on the back and a playful voice call me “Sowie-Bowie”, and I know it’s my dad because I feel slightly annoyed (his pats are good and firm) but intensely loved.  I feel a burst of energy and I’m on the move again.  

The midnight sun blinds me and I stop and look up. I’m alone in the Yosemite Valley and Half Dome is towering in front of me.  Uncle Bob is there at the base and we start to climb together- this is probably the only church we ever really shared. Anna and Lenny are at the top waiting for me, and we sit there together eating gummy bears, staring out at the view and laughing out asses off at nothing in particular. 

We descend and I’m alone again in the valley.  Mike appears in front of me with his beautiful smile and sparkling eyes.  He takes my hand and our fingers weave together so very perfectly, like they were meant to be that way for a million years and just needed time to find each other.   

He says, “Hey kid, how’s it going?” and my heart melts at the sound of his deep voice.  I feel like I've come home.   I look back, around, and in front of me and I realize that I just may have everything I ever wanted.  

 Peace.  Place.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Thank you, 2011, for Kicking My Arse

…but in a good way. My arse was so kicked I didn’t even have time to tell you all how kicked it was. I only wrote two blog entries in 2011, which is kind of nutty and makes me a feel a little bit sad. This blog is my friend, and I seem to have neglected my friend. But blog-friend should understand- getting your arse kicked is no joke.

Now, the arse-kicking I speak of is that kind of lesson-learning, beautifully humbling, sweetly loving, and gently prodding kind of arse-kicking that most of us enjoy, at least in retrospect. It can be a struggle, but ultimately the arse-kicking moments just become part of my infinite list of blessings, and I’m left feeling like I’ve learned a hell of a lot, at Walmart prices.

Thou Shalt Not Forget Aunt Squiddie

When I miss my family, it feels like someone opened up a can of whup-ass on my soul. When I say goodbye to them after a visit to CA, my sadness is tempered by the knowledge that I will likely talk to my mom, dad and sisters regularly and often until my next visit. But my heart starts to break when I say goodbye to the six sweeties who are my nieces and nephews. I am genuinely worried they will forget me before my next visit. So, to account for the squirley electrical nature of memories, I’ve implemented two strategies:

1) Be in their faces: I’ve started to send them all framed pictures of me+them to hang on their walls. My goal is to force myself repetitively into their little minds every time they look up and see me smothering them with Auntie love. They shalt not forget Aunt Squiddie or her love-clutches.

2) Infiltrate the older ones: Actual message on VM: “Hi Aunt Squiddie. It’s Maya. Mama put your phone number in my phonebook and said I can call when I want. So, I wanted to call…um… just ‘cause. So, you can call me back if you want and we can talk… if you want. Ok, bye Aunt Squiddie.” Maya (now 9) and I have started to call each other every couple of weeks, um... just ‘cause. We like to chat. We like to shoot it. We like to catch up. Um… just ‘cause. Sometimes she puts Max and Brynnie on the phone too. More difficult conversations with the young ones, but for someone who wants to just hear their little voices, this will suffice.

The Mike Trifecta

Mike #1: “Why don’t you take a week off and really rest your body.” Gulp…

Mike #2: “He’s right. You might want to even take two weeks off and rest your body.” Double gulp…

Mike #3: “Good, now that’s it’s been two weeks, I don’t think you should run until all your pain symptoms are gone.” Ahhhhhhrrrggghhhhh!!!!!

Ho. Lee. Hell. These suggestions from the Mike Trifecta resulted in two months off from running. Ultimately their wisdom lead to the very successful Sarah Weigel Couch-to-50-mile program (not to be confused with the Sarah Weigel Marathon of 2009, Scott Weigel). The couch-to-5K program (weeks 1-4) were the hardest I’ve ever been through- lungs screaming, sore everything, walking breaks, cursing the heavens… you name it. Those first three miles are the worst! I have SO much respect for new runners now, and that will live in me forever.

I learned more about my body and mind as an athlete in those 2-3 months than I ever have before. I have big plans for running this year, and I don’t want stupid decisions, like running through injury, to get in the way… if nothing else, it isn’t worth battling through those first three miles again.

Where the hell are all my witnesses?

2011 boasted one of the big loneliness shockers of my life. I envy the people I know who have close and frequent fact-to-face contact with others who share a deep history with them. I didn’t know it until my friend Jamie moved back home (east) to New England, and I was filled with a crazy clingy glee that there were now two whole people on the east coast who knew me before I moved out here. And not only that, they knew me before I realized Mike was my dream man (when we were just friendseys).

I had no idea that I would be subsequently hit with a profound longing for my friends and family, scattered all over the world, witnesses to my first 32 years on Earth who don’t know me as: 1) “Sarah, Mike’s girlfriend”, or 2) “that crazy CA girl who decided to move east” and often added 3) “who insists on running with us”. Please don’t get me wrong though, I LOVE being known as Mike’s girlfriend and CA girl, I just miss my other people (see Is Anyone Else Here a Hare Krishna?).

I described this to my best girlfriends, and their response was a resounding, “Yep. That sounds about right”. Each of them understands the fear of a past identity being lost in your present-day shuffle, and the nostalgia it brings for past people and places to remind you of who you are, or to hear someone else say, “Oh yeah! I remember that too!” when you tell a story.

People and place help create identity, so when you change both of those up all at once, you are left scratching your head and wondering, “where the hell are all my witnesses?”. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a thing I never knew mattered. A thing to adjust to. That’s all.


And now, the puppy pile of events that added to the arse-kicking:

Finishing a job, starting a new job

Buying a beautiful home and tightening the financial belt

Making new friends, and trying to keep in touch with the old ones

Utter success and utter failure, utter delight and utter disappointment

Saying goodbye to some familiar things

What went down during miles 39-46

The elation of having the love of your life pop the question

The sweet rhythm, the “go team”, the delightful mellow of being with someone you totally dig.

Exhaustion from work, exhaustion from play

My temperamental gut and my grumpy hip

Having faith in people, trusting people, authenticity with people, patience with people

All of the above, but with myself

Having SO much love in me that I don’t know what to do with it all- I may explode.

Happy New Year, Everyone! I hope 2012 kicks your arse!

(…but in a good way)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Comin' Through the Chute

Do you know what that feels like?

Like you're looking back and looking forward at the same time.

Maybe you're done, and maybe you're not 'cause sometimes it's a loop.

In this case, thankfully, I know I keep moving

Either way, there's a huge sigh of relief.

Life is interesting, really f-ing interesting.

In a good way.

And in a zero way.

And sometimes in a hard way.

But we knew that...

I spiraled around an on-ramp on the way to work this morning thinking about honesty.

Honest is just about the hardest thing you can be. With yourself, with others.

Being honest means you completely give up control of the receiving end.

Giving up control, or the illusion of it, is hard.

But when did you really even have that, anyway?

Where did this year go?

Time's fun when you're having flies

Biting flies

When you've been here already, you start to know what to expect, and they're coming.

The flies.

So is the heat

So is the humidity

So is the fall, the winter, and then another summer. I know them.

I'm transitioning out of transition.

I know what I'm leaving, but I don't know where I'm going yet.

Hilary says I need to be challenged- ain't that the truth.

The winter put me inside, but didn't keep me there.

I had the self-discipline to get my ass back into a pool and give my legs a break

To crawl and stretch across a yoga mat and throw down my favorite Warrior-2

To not move a muscle for a day, or a week, or two…

I'm gearing up for fun.

For change

For relaxation

For more balance, like we all wish we had.

I'm gearing up to not start something I SO badly wanted to finish,

but such is life when you have a grumpy toe and you’re finally being brave.

I think I've started a tradition or two.

I've made life-long friends and somehow mustered a family.

Thursday night is whiskey night in the basement with my people.

They have a special glass for me because I like it neat.

That's some of them. My Family.

We have a home, a big bed to fall into, two cats named after places we love.

I'm working on that fat paycheck I promised you.

I've napped and watched movies all day, ordered dinner in, chilled the heck out.

I didn't know I could do that.

I'm bearing down on one year since I landed here,

All 35ft of me,

And took a picture of my toes

standing in Salem.

Monday, March 14, 2011

2011 Resolution: Chill the Heck Out...

I found myself on January 1, 2011 wandering around Salem looking for a hot cup of coffee to flush the champagne out of my system and provide an outlet to plug my 3:30am-bedtime-btw-I’m-not-21-years-old-anymore-for-the-LOVE(!) body into. Sitting at a local coffee shop, best friend in one hand and best boyfriend in the other, it dawned on me that asking myself, "Huh, what should I do today?", lead to a certain feeling of lightness and excitement, the unfamiliarity of which nearly shocked the hangover out of me.

In the last 48 hours, a creepy lingering dread had somehow disappeared. The funny thing is that I had never even known it existed until it was gone. For the last 6 months I had spent my days and nights borrowing homes and beds, linens, kitchens, books and WiFi from dear friends and faceless landlords, and frantically avoiding the obvious cloud that being un-tethered for so long can create. Perhaps this is how I solidified such a strong emotional bond to my car over the last 6 months- it was the only thing I recognized as 'mine'- a space I belonged in, that belonged to me.

The very fact that 48hrs earlier I had moved into my own home, unpacked my life from almost 7 months of storage (well, 18 months, actually), and started to nest in a blissful state of “chill”, created a new anticipation of the day ahead that was, well, easy and something to look forward to, not dread.

As we wandered the quiet soggy streets back home (yep, I said “home”), I felt excited instead of paralyzed. Then, yanking me out of my blissful stupor of planning my day, Marion started chatting about New Year's resolutions, prompting a new blissful stupor of planning my year. Yikes. I frantically scanned my brain for something pithy, something deep, some idea to sink my newly tethered teeth into that would impress my company to no end. But, when asked about my own resolutions for 2011, all I could come up with is, "I guess I just want to chill the f*#@ out." (Yeah, I dropped the F-bomb, but it was champagne-induced, remember?).

As you all know too well, I’m a pretty intense gal, and the last few years of my life have reflected this intensity ten-fold. It’s actually really not my fault though- it’s yours. It’s not my fault that my life is filled with accomplished, creative people whose momentum and beautiful lives are so dangerously inspiring to someone like me. It’s not my fault you’re all so welcoming and loving, ready for anything and paving paths that make my mouth water. And it definitely isn’t my fault that you’ve encouraged and supported me and my goofy ideas, my inability to reign myself in, and let me mooch off of your spirits like a leech. You people are intoxicating, and because of that, I’m exhausted. So thank you, from the bottom of my heart. This eager beaver couldn’t have done it without you.

Like a rat on a wheel or a runaway train, I’ve really taken no time to breathe, and that kind of marathon deserves a much needed chill pill.

There are always hurdles on the journey to Chill. For me, there are two potential hazards at large that fill me with anxiety and a feeling of being trapped. I work hard every day to ignore them, or at least, to look at them with perspective. They are those creepy lurking dudes in the back of the room: Mr. Past and Mr. Future, and until I can figure out how to minimize their affect on me, I won't be able to create the time and space to find my chill.

The problem with Mr. Past and Mr. Future is that they both try to stop me from being in my present by trapping me into looping on my past and future. And not only that, but they’re always trying to give me that ruler so I can see if I measure up. You know which ruler I’m talking about? It’s that double-edged one that can lift you up just as easily as nudge you into the unsettling depths of self-doubt, inadequacy, and concerns that you just aren’t doing enough and need to work harder.

A wise person once said, “At some point you have to stop focusing on how things used to be and start focusing on how they just are.” No wait…that was me. I just made that up. Opps, well I like it anyway. When your past is injured and sad, you could spend the rest of your life trying to fix it and make it better. If your past was a blast, full of amazing glorious moments that you yearn for again, you could spend the rest of your life trying to resurrect it.

The only way I can deal with the creepy lurkers is get up in my own grill and force myself to dip a toe into that peaceful pool of acceptance. And let me tell you, after three years of working on this, it is easier said than done. The beautiful thing is that if you can get a toe in, sometimes your entire foot follows suit (or both feet, or even a whole leg!). I feel progress every day, meaning I am less likely to take that ruler from them or even acknowledge their presence, allowing me to see my past and my future for what they are- just that.

“It is what it is”. I know that phrase has become a little cliché, but I still love it! There is nothing truer in my book. With a new home and a routine that finally suites me, I'm fully equipped to let things just be, and continue to give those lurkers the eye if they get to close, keep the ruler at bay, and learn how to fill my time and space to enjoy or create a moment. Oh, and it makes me so chill just thinking about it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I can handle a frozen head, but can you handle Garbage Ball?

That's right, New England. You know I'm ready for you to teach *me* something, but are you ready for me to teach *you* something? Lets re-define winter, shall we?

This last week has been a crash course in how to live in the winter time-- and it just started snowing...

~Lesson #1: Using the Proper Tools~
For the first time in my entire life I went and bought a hair dryer the other night. And it was not to keep my coiffeur in order. It was because as I left the gym after a swim, I realized that I was scaring the locals with my creepy Medusa-icicle-head... not a pretty sight.

I replaced my piddly CA frosty-window scraper in my car with a 2ft one with broom attachment, which I can only assume is for sweeping the heaping mounds of powder off my poor car before jumping in it to drive 50 miles to work every morning.

I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out how many layers I need to wear to work, out and about town, to the gym...from my car to the gym, from the gym to my office, into the woods, out of the woods, into bed, out of bed... And I think I've managed to strategically plant gloves and chapstick in several dozen places where they may be needed at any moment.

~Lesson #2: Basic Physics~
Last week I had to make a mental note to myself about the chemistry of water. "Self: do not empty water bottle outside car door in the morning, because when you come back in two hours you're likely to slip on the inadvertently created icy patch and eat shit."

I drove home in my first snow storm last night- it took me 2 hours. I realized that my basic rule of thumb will be to keep clear of ANYONE who looks like they know LESS about what they're doing than I do.

~Lesson #3: Keeping Toasty Warm~
I'm learning to look at the weather forecast and understand why I should be excited when the temperature is predicted to be a balmy 32 degrees. I know to keep my keys in my pocket so that I can unlock my car doors remotely and keep my hands snuggly warm until the very last second before exposure to open the door.

I exhibited surprisingly unbelievable strategury that I can only figure is innate evolutionary instinct. Walking to lunch the other day, I scouted two paths through the buildings to my destination- one sunny, one shaded. It was obvious to every cell in my body which one I should take, if only to walk those 25 yards- The sunlight was pulling me in like a tractor was totally visceral and uncontrolled.

~Lesson #4: Accepting My Own Strange Behavior~
I've never been happier staying indoors. I've never been more excited about the fact that my car heater works really, really well and doesn't smell like mouse nest (anyone remember my old Subaru?). I have now, twice, contemplated why someone would spend $199 on a "remote car starter" on sale at a shop on my way to my Physical Therapist.

I've learned to enjoy a few hours of watching football with friends, take delight in how red my nose gets after being outside for just a few minutes, and smile at the sight of the sun setting at, like, lunchtime.

So in exchange, my darling New England, you get to listen to some stories of what winter means to me. Mostly, in CA, winter means December. Everything before it is too damn hot, everything after it I consider early spring. Over these last few weeks, my definition of winter has broadened into one includes elements beyond the holidays and my family's propensity to make them last, like forever, with an unbelievably exhilarating, equally touching, and often exhausting gamut of traditions and events.

So sit down, relax, and let me show you what I can bring to the near-perfect table of yours.

~Stories of Christmas Past~

Holiday dinners at my Dad's house were lousy with tradition- movies, games, big feasts, and lazily playing "'Spirimentos" (one of thousands of made up words from the Jim Weigel dictionary, loosely rooted in the word "Experiments", with a Latin twist), a game where we'd turn on the Xmas tree light and stare at their colorful glare on the ceiling, trying to decipher shapes and characters in the shadows.

Another favorite tradition was Garbage Ball. Because of my Father's extreme disdain for cleaning (there were much better ways to spend your time, after all) we would eat our holiday feast on a disposable table cloth and paper plates with plastic utensils. After dinner my dad would come in and pick up the four corners of the table cloth and wrap the entire dinner and it's remnants into a huge "garbage ball", and carry it out of the house and straight into the dumpster out back. It was a brilliant clean-up scheme, leaving us hours and hours of time to just roll over onto the living room floor and watch movies for the rest of the night, while other families were slaving away in their homes washing dishes and polishing silverware.

And beyond all of that, we have St. Nicholas Eve, celebrated on December 5th. We lay our shoes out before bed and find treats in them when we wake up the next morning. We never believed in Santa Clause growing up, but St. Nicholas was surely real, to the point where I was a little bit freaked out each year to think he could be wandering around our house at night. All good to leave shit in our shoes for us, but please please please don't let me see a strange old guy lurking in the dark!

One stormy December afternoon back in the mid-80's, a substantial pine tree blew down outside our house. My mom saw the tree fall straight toward the living room ceiling where my dad was standing, bracing herself for a tragic end to our holiday season. At the last second, a gust of wind sent the tree a bit to the left, where it literally bounce off our deck and fell to the side of the house, missing our unsuspecting father and roof-line by mere feet. Shortly thereafter, the largest limb was severed, stuck in a stand, and place in our living room, decorated head to toe in large colorful bubble lights and funky ornaments- at the top was a Hari Krisha symbol lit up in bright yellow lights. A "good thing", as Martha Stewart would say, for that was the year we couldn't afford a tree.

We also spend an evening torturing ourselves to sight-read Handel's Messiah with the San Jose Symphony, slapping high-fives as we get the final five minute "Amen" if we haven't lost our place in the score yet- Altos have it particularly rough...oh to be a soprano. We delight in enchiladas and "fruit soup" for dinner on Christmas Eve (WTF? But they are soooo good...), and we spend 30 minutes or so staring at our Christmas tree lit with real, honest-to-god candles. The next morning, our table is set with old-style crackers (I hate the sound and always cover my ears) filled with toys and jokes, and we grub on apple dumplings with tissue-paper crowns on our heads and a silliness that only explosives mixed with pie crust and caffeine can induce. That night, dinner is my Dad's home-made veggie soup and some delicious desert Anna has somehow found time to create.

So there you have it, New England. My holiday season, and winter for that matter, have been a mess of odds and ends strung together that always affected me deeply. I wanted to share them with you because it gets kind of lonely to be the sole owner of these good times and places out here in the east. They are are part of who I am, and some of them may have to be part of our definition of wintery life for me out here. These last few weeks you've managed to bring a new kind of concept of winter to me. I hope you can help me figure out how to meld the two together, so if anything peaked your interest, you let me know...

Friday, October 29, 2010

I'm Gonna Let You in on a Little Secret...


(crunch crunch crunch)

What if I don't finish?
You will- you've done this before. You always finish.
No I haven't- I just did 31, and I raced it. I went way too fast.
Yeah, but you've done 5ish hours, this is just a few more.
I should have gone slower- it's "time on your feet", not "time to finish".
Shit, I'm not ready. Oh, and did I mention I feel out of shape and bloated?
That's because you're on a taper and you are only running an hour a day and you are retaining water because of hormones and it's not your fault. Do I really have to remind you of all this? Jeeeeez.

Welcome to the bizarre pickle of a place called "My Pre-race Mind".

(crunch crunch crunch)

Dude, check out the trees. What's better than orange leaves against a blue sky?
If I check out the leaves I'm going to eat shit.
Change the song- I want to listen to Band of Horses.
No, I'm kind of pissy and like this gloomy stuff. It works. Alright- here you go.
Dude- this song perfect right now- jesus, a pink tree! Check it out!
Would you please look at the ground? I don't want to fall. Yeah, this song is good. (smiles)

(crunch crunch crunch)

It's in a week. A week from today I'll be a nervous wreck. I'm not trained up. I hate tapers. I don't trust them.
Yeah, but you don't feel like running long anyway right now, so why don't you just enjoy it? Yeah, Taio! Now this is the shit that's gonna keep you moving. I love cheesy music.
I guess it doesn't matter - I'm trained as much as I can, body has learned what it's going to learn. Cramming right now won't do me any good.
Yep, that's right, now will you look at the goddamn pink tree? Oh! there's another one. Do these people know this shit is out here?

(...A7 2030, A8 2035, A9 2256...)

I wish I were on a team. Team sports are better. There's always someone there with their eye on you. You have to answer to someone else- that's motivation. I hate this shit. I don't want to be alone out there next week.
You won't be. Someone will show up. Mike said he'll crew you. Now pay attention or you'll fuck up this reaction.
I know, he's a saint- he's my boyfriend and I asked him to. Poor guy... he has no way out. Seeing his smile will be like a hit of adrenaline- or novicaine.
The GAC will be there. You've done lots of these. You can do this one. Just get their early, drop a bag in the woods with him and go. You'll be ok.
But what if their faces don't work in my shitty moment?
Then you'll picture your faces on your own.
Yeah, but it's different now- this is scary shit and I really want to see some faces.
Any face will work, and you know that.

(pat pat pat)

God I love running- even on roads. Seriously, it's so easy. Ok, body check: all good, no aches. Nope, there's my toe. Stupid toe. No! I didn't mean that. Sorry toe.
Oh Gawd, what if I'm tired next week? What if my body is just too tired?
Then you'll go slow. You'll eat. You'll listen to slow music. You'll come in, like, 75th place- that would be a first!
Ha ha ha. It might actually feel good.

Eventually, these two figure it out. They have moments like this where they're sparring, and then moments when they're both throwing air punches and smiling that shit-eating smile that comes from the happiest place I know.

I know what you just read sounds like sheer lunacy, but it's actually practice. It's practice being in my most raw and vulnerable place- scared as hell. It isn't scheduled- I sort of slip into it when I'm one or two weeks away from a race. I practice that shitty moment when I don't think I can go any further, or when my body is doing something I can't control. I practice what I'll do to move past that point.

Food, music, change clothes, stop and walk, more food, water, think of people... But what if my tricks and crutches don't work? What if there's a second shitty moment like that, way later on? What if there are always two of them, and I've just never run long enough to experience the 2nd?! I go through the race over and over again. I think of Mile 12- my hardest mile sometimes. I think of Mile 22, my other hardest mile. I have no idea what miles 32-50 will be like... even harder?

I'm one week out right now. I think about it constantly- beginning, middle and end. And if I do what I do best, like most runs I go on these days, you'll all be there with me and we'll be just fine.