Monday, January 28, 2013

The Next Level

I had this wonderful teacher in high school who had two last names. (A last name as a first name and a last name as a last name, for the uninitiated) I've tried to think of a great moniker for him but I can't. He's just Anderson.

Anderson taught me to love jazz and blues, taught me to sing into a microphone. He taught me to own a stage, and to look like I was having a good time doing it. He taught me to always be prepared ("You gotta get to the gig!") and responsible for myself. He called us all "Doctor."

It's been many years since I was in high school and yet Anderson remains a wonderful friend, a touch stone. I call him every few years, we go to lunch, I tell him my news, he tells me his, and then inevitably, he ends up saying to me "Doctor, you're now onto the next level." It has been his way to tell me I was making progress, that I had passed an invisible milestone, that I had gotten to the gig.

Only this time it was different. This time, I was giving a different kind of news, news of hope and growth and change and love and peace and just plain being happy in the face of struggle and challenge and busy-ness. Although all of my news was not good news, even my bad news was being shared through rosy tinted shades of optimism.

Anderson was impressed. He didn't tell me I was onto the next level, though.  This time he said something that blew my mind. This time he told me his work was done. He said it had been the first time in 20 years that he hadn't had to try to bring me to a positive place, to see my own value and to feel confident in making some noise. I was already there, already cheering myself on, already leaning into the downbeat, anticipating the changes rather than dreading them. These had been the true lessons he had wanted to teach me and here I had learned them.

He said his work was done. I said he was onto the next level.

Monday, January 14, 2013

And Then, BAM! Life Gives You a Smackdown

Last week, Thursday night, I was doing everything in my power to try to force myself into going for my 3rd day of C25k. I want to do roller derby this year and I need to get in shape. I got dressed, added power songs to my playlist and laced up my shoes. I just didn't feel right. It started to rain and I used it as the reason I wasn't going. I went to bed at 9:00.

I woke at 12:30, noting angrily that Mr. T had fallen asleep on the couch. I went and got him, annoyed that every light was on in the house. I crawled back in bed next to him and realized I wasn't angry, I was in terrible pain. Excruciating pain that Alleve and changing position would not relieve. Pain that had me wake him at 2:00 am in tears and ask to be taken to the ER.

Several hours later, I was given a diagnosis of gallbladder attack due to gall stones. And the lady doctor who delivers the news, a really sassy lady who reminded me of that one neighbor on 227, she tells me I can't eat anything "that tastes good." No spice. No fat. No coffee. That is, until I have surgery to have the blasted thing removed. A terrible way to live, especially the coffee!

This is a good thing. It explains a lot of how I have been feeling for the past year or so. It can be treated and I will be fine. I know this could be a lot worse.

I can't help but hate the feeling of being sidelined from things I want to do, though.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Gadget-zooks! Too many devices, too much of the time

We struggle with this as a family so much. I find myself referee and litigant in more device and console related arguments than I care to admit. It is maddening for me and Mr. T and it's no doubt detrimental for our kids.

I work with corporate customers to help them understand how to image, deploy and manage their devices and yet I struggle with setting and managing time limits and dealing with the pushback of multiple kids when trying to enforce reasonable balance. It's just plain hard. We have been plugging away, devising a plan that works for us. I've also been working on applying my technical knowledge to craft a homegrown solution for us which I will share when complete. Nothing wrong in fighting fire with fire.

One thing we have found vital is providing the equipment of fun. We received a most wonderful gift for Christmas of a field hockey (foosball) table. That table, with a nice fire roaring in the fireplace, some hot wassail in the decanter and fresh popcorn, are all a perfect recipe for an exciting, analog evening with the kids. Everyone loves to watch the heated games and partake in the smack talk. Mr. T has accused me of being a braggart but he's just jealous because I have yet to be beat!

Here's a great article about kids and setting limits on technology use.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Planning a Garden For Shangri La House

My old container gardens with broccoli, 2009
I had to lose a lot of my previous life in order to find this place I am in now. One of the more painful things to me was losing the home at which I had created a raised box garden. I was so very proud of the fact that I had salvaged the wood from someone's trash pile, hauling it to the house in a tiny car stacked to the roof. It was lovely. I have missed it and really, I have missed gardening.

It wasn't really possible for me to garden until now. I know it is possible to garden in rental properties but really, I just didn't want to expend the time investment until I was somewhere to stay. This past summer, we found our forever home, bought it and we are now settled into our future.  It's a lovely home, with plenty of space for our large family and a large backyard that abuts to a beautiful park with a playground, ball field and .4 mile track.  It is truly our Shangri La.

Although it is January and the sky intermittently spits out snow and my breath makes clouds in the air when I go outside, I am already thinking about my first garden here at Shangri La House. Since I've been out of the game for a while, I reached out to my friends at Sow and So for some guidance and inspiration. I'm going to be documenting the process and hopefully my family will be eating some delicious, homegrown fruits and vegetables this season.

Before that ground thaws and I can get my hands dirty, there are a few things I can do to get ready.  The first was setting up my compost heap. My first heaps were made with chicken wire and fence posts and they worked quite well.  This time, though, I will be using the Presto Geobin.  It's a simple and customizable design that is inexpensive and reasonably attractive and it seemed to be the perfect way for me to begin composting here. 

Setup was relatively easy but I would recommend having a second person to assist as the bin is quite unwieldy when you first uncoil it. I opted for a 3 foot diameter this time, securing the sidewalls with the included plastic nuts, washers and bolts. Next was threading the four poles through the walls, which had me cursing at first, but by the fourth pole I was able to do it with ease.

Last was selecting the right spot in the yard and tapping the support poles into the ground. I chose a spot that is next to the fence and will be partially shrouded by the foliage of the bushes when spring hits. I put a bed of leaves, crumpled newspaper and shredded cardboard in the bottom and will begin collecting kitchen scraps today.  I can't wait to get a nice, steamy compost going!  

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Road to Roller Derby Begins With C25K Day One (Could also be titled "Ow! Ow! Ow!")

Although I don't believe in making New Year's Resolutions, I do believe in striking when fancy hits. Recently, I decided I needed to seek out some new experiences and get healthier. I decided to do roller derby. No, I am not a particularly good skater. No, I have never done it before. I've never even been to see it.  But the women I know who have been involved are the most vivacious, wonderful, supportive, incredible women I know and I am drawn to them.  I want to be one of them, a woman who really grabs life by the balls and lives the crap out of it.

But. (I never allow the kids to give me a "but.")

I'm not ready yet.

I've done some homework and it seems there are a few roller derby clubs near me, which is the first requirement. It also seems that those clubs are tryout clubs, which would require a certain level of fitness and skill on my part before I could even think of it.  I checked out the Fresh Meat File over at and it seemed like the best place for me to start was to build some strength and endurance.  Enter C25K.

C25K is a running program that has been around for years.  C25K (Couch To 5K) is designed to take a person from couch potato status to being able to complete a 5K in 8 weeks.  It's done by starting slowly and ramping up as the runner becomes stronger.  Day One consists of a 5 minute brisk walking warmup and then alternating running and walking on 60 second/90 second ratios for 20 minutes, finishing with 5 minutes of brisk walking for a cool down.

There's a bunch of cool app's out there to aid the would-be runner in their C25K endeavors.  I used C25K Free for my first venture onto the track. It worked well, allowing me to use an iTunes playlist from within the app, alerting me when to run and walk. My phone battery died in the last 5 minutes of the workout but by then I was on the cool down walk.

The road to roller derby begins here.