Sunday, March 17, 2019

Half crazy

I'll admit I was smitten.

A new road race had been added to the local roster in January.

It had a pretty little emblem: Mountains in the distance; pine trees on either side of a river: and the illustrated likeness of Henry Hudson's sloop, Clearwater, sailing along the waterway.

Truth be told, I loved the logo as much as I loved the trail it represented.

It probably didn't help me much that the web link to the Helderberg to Hudson Half Marathon -- an inaugural road race on the Albany Rail trail April 13th -- wasn't working.

It made me crazy. Like keep-pushing-that-button-hoping-to-get-a-different-result kind of nuts.

This was obviously a sign that I should not try to learn more, or entertain any notion that might lead to signing myself up.

This perplexity may explain how it happened a month or so later - once a live registration site made its way to that excruciating link, which I had quietly obsessed over along with the possibility of actually being able to meet the 15-minute-per-mile pace cutoff - that I signed up without ever considering the downside.

You know: the simple little fact that I have not run (or run/walked) more than four miles at any one time in almost a year. And for a year before that, I hadn't been able to run at all.

You see, the injury that heals itself in its own sluggish time - an injury that had loudly and repeatedly kept me from participating in these pace parades - had been oddly quiet.

It didn't even grouse when I had to search for my credit card midway through the transaction.

Of course, it did raise its stupid eyebrows the minute I started to train in earnest. It required stretching this way and strength training that way. And there were piffling reminders that it was always waiting in the background for its chance to charge up and take over. Slow moving pain can be insidious that way.

A part of me wishes the race officials had kept the event to the confines of the nine-mile trail maybe adding three-tenths at the end for a 15K.

Like ... you know like Schenectady's Stockade-athon or Utica's Boilermaker. Two races I've depressingly watched from the finish for the past two years.

I can almost grasp that distance now. Adding six miles to the place I can barely reach at this point seems akin to trying to go to the ends of the earth.

Which I definitely won't be able to navigate with a pack of 2,000 like-minded and able-bodied folks ambling along in front of me. (I'd have said "alongside," but even I can't spin that yarn.)

But worried though I am, I am also excited about that day in April, just four weeks away. The race has sparked excitement. A running club in my home town is sending a bus with a few dozen people to cut down on congestion and condense camaraderie. And I will be on it.

Even if I have to walk half the way, I'll be there.

I'm only half crazy.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

News from the Gross-ery

"You will not believe what your mom did at the store," laughed my husband as he hauled four bags of groceries -- looped over one arm -- into the kitchen from the car.

And thus begins another episode of "Mommy-Gagging: The Curious and Mostly Believable Things People See Their Mothers Do From Behind Laced Fingers Positioned Over Their Eyes, As They Hide Two Aisles Away Pretending They've Never Seen Her Before.

He dumps the bags on the counter and backs away. His job is officially over.

The kids, brimming with curiosity and sensing the possibility of a fresh box of breakfast cereal, slither out from their individual lairs and rummage through the overpacked reusable totes.

The mission they choose to accept required they put the loot in its rightful place.

They half listen as their dad recounts the colorful tale of the rare, date-night style grocery trip with his so-called "better half."

Who, as he and his progeny tell it, is the person ordinarily tasked with trudging to the supermarket daily and yet NEVER manages to buy anything to eat.

They snicker and roll their eyes as he starts in the parking lot, describing the scene: He has had to wait
while this Magoo character he married returns to the car -- twice --looking for aforementioned reusable tote bags she had in ANOTHER tote bag dangling from her shoulder the whole time.

Then there was the argument over the big cart; a supermarket choice she refuses, even at Thanksgiving, for no other reason than vanity and the erroneous belief that "we don't need much stuff." The fact that she piles the little cart with a clown car's worth of provisions every single trip, notwithstanding.

The there's the disappearing act. Anyone in my family will tell you this is an inherited trait in which the less ambitious shopper (me) stops walking or disappears altogether for the unintended purpose of looking at something they have no intention of buying.

Lobster!!!

No, wait ... I'm gonna let your mom tell it. I'm not sure how IT really happened.

So it is near the tank of blood red crustaceans that I find myself browsing when I look down, and some man is kind of half-crawling, half-reaching for my shoe.

Now, I'll admit, this is unusual, and my first thought is that he may be trying to free me from some detritus
I have trailed in from the parking lot. Instead, the man apologizes and asks about the construction of my boot. Are the uppers really leather or a polyethylene weave?

It's hard to tell from a website, the only other place he's seen this very style he's interested in purchasing for himself.

"Are they waterproof?"

Now ... I love these boots. I practically live in them. So having a chance to talk them up seems preferable to deciding which flavor Goldfish snack crackers is the current favorite.

"The only water that gets in comes from the top because I leave them unlaced, even when I snowshoe."

"Are they light?"

And this is where my husband, having noticed I was no longer behind him at the bulk granola bins, came to find me ...

"They have a little weight to them."

... balancing on one leg, and holding out my boot to a stranger near the seafood counter.

My kids' eyes go wide.

"I can't believe how lucky we are," my daughter exclaimed as she hugs a giant box of tiny snack crackers.

"We almost went with you to the store!"

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Alien comforts

We'd never been on a vacation quite like this one.

Summer in winter. White sand beaches. Tropical flowers that perfume the air. Pink drinks that flowed like water for days.

No worries.

Except for maybe the deeply reddened skin of our predecessors, who were checking out as we were checking in to this oasis of opulence carefully carved from hardscape near the sea. 

We called it Resort Land, and made like all the other manufactured natives, who -- donning color-coded wrist bands -- would belly-flop up to their corresponding swim-up bars by day, and wind their way through the all-you-can-eat restaurants by night. 

It doesn't take long to get the hang of things. 

This is what paradise looks like when photographed with a wide angle lens. 

Though, I had to admit the magazine layouts did this place justice.

The pools were blue and clear, the palm trees were tall and graceful, the clouds were white and fluffy. And it seemed like we had the whole place to ourselves as the sun came up on the day.

I had acres of lush landscape, a half-mile of beachfront, and a mile-and-a-half of running route ... all to myself between sun-up and 9 a.m. when the crowds started to meander to breakfast.

Even though it's difficult to leave the comfort of my feather-soft bed, I took full advantage of the hotel's offerings. I overindulge in the decadence of an in-room espresso machine and 24-hour room service, one of the many benefits of an all-inclusive vacation package.

The kids are also got their fill of this novelty that is "bedtime cheesecake" while supplies last.

I want to love it here. How could I not?

There is beauty everywhere I look, and not just in the fan-shaped traveler palms and the impossible jewel-toned tides. It's in the sweeping curves of the sweeping hotel edifices rising up from manicured lawns and glittering ornamental pools.

The only bodies that ever wade into these waters carry leaf nets and scrub brushes. 

I marvel most at this team of caretakers who look after this place and its guests with simple tools and complex talents.

Gardeners pruning palms, edging flowerbeds and weeding with the aid of only a machete.

A plumber comes by bicycle to fix a leak. He takes out a wrench and a roll of tape from a small tool kit. A few minutes later the drip-drip-drip is silent.

These caretakers smile greetings, and call us their "family," a construct as flimsy as ours, as we pretend to own a piece of this luxury ... referring to our hotel room as "home" for six days and seven nights. 

They belong. 

They have built this place and continue to shore it up, while visitors sip sweet drinks and crisp in the sun. 

The last day finally arrives, and we wait at a desk with our bags to check out. The changeover apparent as paler versions of ourselves line up to check in.

We make conversation the computers take their sweet time to process us. 

Did we like our stay?

I found it a hard question to answer. 

How is it possible to feel so comfortably out of place? 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Bury the saint

We have new neighbors. 

A young couple. Two kids. The most adorable dog you can imagine.

He doesn’t even bark.

They seem perfect. 

Or at least as perfect as we were when we moved in a decade ago. Our kids were as itty bitty as theirs.

Of course we were nervous. Then and now. 

New is scary.  

Will they like us? 

Our dog barks.

The mower sits idle sometimes, in the middle of its job, waiting on batteries that take forever to charge.

I don’t always remember to retrieve the recycling bin from the curb in a timely fashion. Occasionally it sits out there for days.

A part of me worries our new neighbors will be too perfect. 

The house they bought had been for sale for a while. In a buyers’ market this lag time might worry a person that a sluggish sale could have something to do with the state of our volunteer garden or the patchwork motif on the front lawn.

Still, it is a big house. On a main street. Needing a little updating. 

Houses, after all, are a major purchase, and moving a huge undertaking.

Our old neighbor, bless her heart, had already done everything in her power to move the homestead along. For a generation she and her family had kept the place in tip top shape.

The only thing left was to leave it to God. 

Which, according to ancient Catholic lore, meant she had to bury a statue of Saint Joseph in her front yard. 

Which, she did, paying careful attention to all the rules you may never have heard of, but I can attest exist thanks to occasional insomnia and the fortune of watching comedian Stephen Colbert and actress Patricia Heaton one late night engage in a who’s more Catholic throw-down.  

You obtain a statue of Joseph, patron saint of families, carpenters working men and evidently realtors — a small one from Catholic Supply will cost about $10, though shipping and handling may be extra) — and you dig a hole next to the For Sale sign. Next you invert the statue and place it in the hole, feet toward the heavens and facing the house you hope to sell.  It could be yours, or could your neighbor’s. The import part after that is for you to pray. 

You keep praying to the saint until your house sells, at which point you dig up the statue and give it a prime spot in your new house.

You may laugh ... but just like Comedy Central predicted ... and in fewer than two weeks’ time ... God delivered.

A sold sign came down from above.

And for a month of Sundays, our new
neighbors came to work on spiffing up the place before moving in.
Mostly at night and in their spare time. Gently revising. Removing carpets, painting walls, and other stuff we couldn’t quite see with the subtlety of our awking eyes.

They waved through the window when they saw us. We waved back.

Move-in day came and we waited another week before we traipsed across their lawn bearing a heart-shaped plant and a local highlights guide.

Our new neighbor was all smiles
as she let us in and apologized for the mess. 

“Truth is it probably going to be a
mess for a long while.”

And then we proceeded to talk about life and moving and kids and running and Christmas and dogs and school teachers for the better part of an hour.

When I checked my watch I knew for sure they were perfect. But time was up. Maybe next time I see her I’ll tell her about the saint. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Blockhead

So ...

James Tedisco The State senator from Glenville -- blocked me on Twitter last week.

That was a surprise.

I thought politicians were in the business of listening to those who disagree with them before using the charm of practiced smiles and burnished talking points to discount such dissent as they go along on their merry way.

Apparently, the medium of Twitter, especially in the Trump era, cuts past all that for modern public servants.

Not that I expected to change the mind of a man whose anti-choice stance caused a local newspaper to rescind its endorsement of him.

See ... I had disagreed with the senator's take on abortion, as well as the musings of a local columnist he was extolling from that same newspaper. The issue at hand is the recent passage of the Reproductive Health Act and its apparent result in the inability of law enforcement to add a charge of abortion to any attack on a pregnant woman should the offense result in fetal demise.

Thus the argument that women with wanted pregnancies and more pointedly, wanted fetuses had no way to get legal justice for such a tragic loss.

The Republican State senator agrees with the columnist's assertion that the change took away any human value fetuses had once had under previous criminal law.

Which is a gut-wrenching thought, but one that is ultimately wrong.

Thing is ... any charge concerning the loss of a pregnancy is essentially a charge pertaining to an attack on a woman.

No separate murder or manslaughter charges had existed for fetal demise.

The pro-birth advocates who push for laws that give personhood to fetuses know that legal definitions matter. They know that having the ability to level a charge on behalf of a fetus has the potential to prevent a woman from making critical life choices for herself, as well as threatens doctors who provide women with the standard care they need and deserve.

But they also know that we all feel the pain of such loss. We can all put ourselves in that position.

Having a child is a blessing, no doubt. Losing a child ... losing a pregnancy ... losing hope for the future is nothing short of traumatic.

But we should beware of what enacting a punitive fix really does.

Because the tragedy that we're not talking about in this is the fact that that the laws we put in place to protect women from their partners could just as easily be used against them by their partners. A single court case could decide.

And this anti-choice law masquerading a legal protection would have been slipped into place by the same lawmakers who will just as quickly tell you gun laws don't work. 

People like Mr. Tedisco, who have consistently voted against proactive legislation aimed at reducing gun violence. He voted against a 30-day waiting period for potential gun buyers who fail to pass the initial survey conducted through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System; he voted against the prohibition of bump stocks; he voted against Extreme Risk protection orders requested by individuals, which would temporarily prohibit a person from purchasing or possessing firearms; he voted against legislation that would prohibit individuals convicted of domestic abuse from purchasing guns; he's voted against laws that would enforce safe storage of firearms and laws that would require micro-stamping technology. 

Perhaps it's time we look at ways to make families healthier. Work toward securing access to all types of healthcare easier, while at the same time seek to make access to guns more difficult.

Perhaps it's time we, as voters, start blocking rhetoric and face facts. 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Wild thing, I think I don't love you

Wild thing ... I think I love to hate you

I do not like our youngest cat.

Condemn me all you wish for this unkind thought said aloud, but I know it is this grey tabby, who truly runs our house, and she is a tyrant. Entirely inhuman.

For starters, she waits for me at the top of the stairs, quietly tucked in the shadows, and chooses the moment I start my decent to cut across my path.

Once, such an occurrence could be filed away in the mind and forgotten. However, as a regular as my morning coffee, this darting between legs at the place of least likelihood for stability seems like the underpinnings of an evil plan.

She must want to kill me.

I can see it in her eyes.

The kids see it, too.


She is the only cat who has remained uncharmed by their cat-whispering ways.

She has let them know with
the sharp white teeth glinting out from her wide open mouth whenever they pass within arms' length of her.

And in her ears, always rotating toward ordinary household sounds, and yet, also ready to flatten against her head whenever her gaze settles on one of the others in the household.

She is a wild thing. Brought inside as a wee kitten, rescued from an encroaching winter and feral life, which began under a summer cottage porch.

Instantly, there was torment. The other animals were put 

She never seemed to settle in, but she never seemed unsettled. She owned us immediately.

Though she didn’t seem to love us much at all.

Well ... I used to think she loved me just a little. Owing mostly to the food and provisions I’d inevitably provide when the children who promised to be “the best caretakers a cat could ever have” reneged sometime around week three.

Those were the days she’d find her way to my side of the bed, settling in around my shoulder, purring.

But any sudden move — tossing or turning included — she would perceive as a threat and react accordingly.

By cutting me to ribbons in my sleep.

Four years later — after being rudely awakened in the middle of the night for the unknown number of times
by a gash across my knuckles that started at my chin — it seems her love for me continues to be something sinister.

Maybe I shouldn’t have chased her out of the room by flailing my left slipper in the air. And maybe it’s fitting that my right slipper tripped me on my way back to bed.

I don’t feel bad.

She is not the victim.

In two hours her caterwauling will wake me up again as she seeks entrance and maybe a snack to tide her over until breakfast.


Not wanting to sleep with one eye open, I will fill a bowl with kibble before I let her into the room, putting it down and backing away slowing ... hoping she doesn’t bite the hand that feeds her.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Slow burn


You know that feeling …

You wake up most mornings with it.

Eyelids still heavy with sleep. Nose swollen thick with resistance to allow the full measure of air to flow inside you.

You might feel the dryness of your throat more acutely …

It’s probably from mouth breathing. How attractive. Not that you care. You don’t even think too much about it at first.

It’s just your regular I’m-not-young-anymore morning with a side of Probably-just-allergies. 

Your husband brings you a cup of coffee in bed. Because that’s the arrangement, you have on weekdays when he has to be up with the dawn anyway. And because of this small indulgence, you don’t complain that the arrangement about The-one-who cooks-getting-the-night-off-from-cleaning-the-kitchen has somehow fallen by the wayside.

Everything about relationships ebbs and flows.

You read the headlines, and you sip the coffee.

It tastes weird.

There is nothing good about the wide-wide world in this news cycle.

Same world wide web, different day.

The coffee is getting cold, as is your desire to finish it. 

It’s time to get up … but you set the snooze alarm on your motivation.

Nine more minutes under the blankets and then, you tell yourself, you’ll suffer that first shock of freezing floor and make your way into the rest of your morning routine.

As you wait, you’ll wonder if your stomach seems off.

Nothing overt … just a sensation.

Which makes you question what’s going on in your head.

Another sensation. Fullness at the temples … a squeezing around the forehead.

Is that a headache starting?

Are you getting sick?

Like for real? 

That’s all you need. The forty-four thousand things on your to-do list and a touch of the flu.

Seems just about right.

Lose all hope, those who reach here,” says your brain as you draw the covers up for nine minutes more. Even as you try to quell that voice that keeps screaming that YOU ARE GETTING THE FLU!”

You tell yourself to calm down: “Maybe it will pass. Even if it is something, I will probably won’t linger.“

Fool.

When was the last time you had a twenty-four-hour bug?

The brain can’t remember, it’s been that long.

Eventually, you muster the energy to rise and dress and get on with the schedule.

Ma’am colds and Man colds are not the same. Even though a headache has now descended on you as it could fit itself in a second head, pain is also second nature.

Not sure what would make you feel better without exacerbating side effects, you don’t take anything. 

Suffering.

Every errand becomes a chore.

Post Office. Bank. Clients. Grocery Store.

Finally home …

Where you rest on the couch for a moment before the kids bang open the door and come rushing in, every step amplified by four.

Twenty minutes ago, you’d made the executive decision to take acetaminophen because it’s easier on the stomach.

And suddenly you notice your head has stopped throbbing ... and your stomach wants toast.

By the time the door swings open and your kids fly into the house on a gust of cold air, you notice you feel more like a human again.

Over dinner you will relay this miraculous healing to your husband in full detail, even adding the parts you hadn’t spent much time thinking about … like how you waited with clenched shoulders for the full-body-aches but they never showed up.

He will look startled.

And then guilty.

And he will ask you something silly …

Like:

Didn’t you have any more coffee today while you out and about?”

No. I felt horrible. I didn’t want any.”


We’ll … that may have been my fault. We were out of your coffee this morning. I gave you decaf and forgot to mention it.”