Monday, November 29, 2010

Passing Inspection

Two years ago I found a little lump on the front right side of my neck.  I had it checked out, and was told it was a "complex cystic structure".  My doctor did not seem too concerned, and I left his office with some relief that the weird little knob was just there to hang out--cool, I can be hospitable and accommodating.  I kept my eye on it, making sure it didn't get out of line, or take advantage of the cells I was so graciously supplying.

Finally, in October, for no other reason than I was tired of having some strange thing on the side of my neck that didn't seem to serve any purpose, I requested my doctor take the little freeloader out.  He wasn't too keen on slicing open my neck to remove a lump that hadn't shifted, morphed, or proven itself a Gremlin.  He explained that many women have these nodules near and/or on the thyroid.  He asked me if I had experienced any other symptoms.  Nope.  Without other symptoms, he reiterated, he was definitely not going to get scalpel-happy on my neck.  However, just to be safe, he sent me in for an ultrasound.  I made the appointment for Friday, November 5th.

Feeling relief that I would soon get the "we have confirmation that you have nothing to worry about" phone call, I went to work on Monday morning . . .  and was promptly laid off.  Awesome.

My level of panic over losing my job can be gauged by the fact that I drank only a bottle of wine, and not a bottle of tequila.  I made appointments with all my doctors before my insurance ran out (good girl!), signed up for unemployment, dusted off my resume, and started asking myself if the quest for the perfect piece of chocolate cake was really going to be my only contribution to society?  What do I want to be when I grow up?

I went in for my ultrasound on Friday and was reassured that I had nothing to worry about from my lovely ultrasound tech, Olga (I'm going with Hungarian.  The story is more fun if she's Hungarian).  "I see these all the time with women your age.  Start worrying when there is only one lump.  You have numerous."  I know she was shooting for comforting, but how comforting is the thought of "numerous" nodules running rampant all over my throat and thyroid?

My doctor called that afternoon.

I was informed that the nodule on the right side of my thyroid was about 3 centimeters long--cause for concern.  The next step was a Fine Needle Aspiration biopsy.  Fine needle or not, I was not jazzed about, essentially, being stabbed in the neck.  The fact that it would give a conclusive answer was a comfort.  As my doctor went on describing the short procedure, I realized this was the first time the word "cancer" had graced us with its presence.  No more talk of "complex cystic structures" and "nodules".  Whatever was lounging in my neck either was, or it wasn't.  I guess I was grateful we had narrowed down the outcome.

So, I got stabbed in the neck.  It felt weird, but George, from Honduras, sweetly stood beside me and kept asking if I was alright.  We talked about his 11-year-old daughter and his experience running marathons.  Like Olga, George assured me they had done a number of these procedures on women and it turns out to be nothing.  Gotta love those optimistic foreigners.

Two days went by . . . three . . . four . . . the weekend.  This Monday, while D.R. and I were in the throes of cleaning for Thanksgiving company, my doctor called with the results.  Let's just say the dusting and vacuuming came to a halt.

Papillary thyroid carcinoma.  It is the first stage of the most manageable type of cancer one can get.  It requires surgery to remove the tumors and the possibility of radiation to zap any lingering cells.  My thyroid will come out along with all of the offending lumps, and I will be on hormones for the rest of my life. 

Once I got over the horrible imagery that followed the connection of my own life to the word "cancer", I realized I've got it pretty good.  My grandfather had thyroid cancer and the same operation I will have.  That was in 1968.  He died just last November after a long and healthy life.  My mom and her sisters have all dealt with some sort of thyroid issue and they are still bossing family members around with grace and finesse.  I come from good stock, people.

My doctor assured me I was not "a ticking time bomb".  He told me to schedule the surgery for some time after Thanksgiving.

It is amazing how certain news makes all those little planets orbiting around our heads at any given time--bills, the holidays, family, desk organization, laundry--line up for inspection.  And, if they don't pass inspection, they are let go.  Life makes perfect sense in those moments.  As all those little planets left my orbit and wandered to a galaxy that I will revisit some time in 2011, I said, "Doc.  I am scheduled to run a half-marathon on December 5th.  Can we schedule the surgery after that?"

"Absolutely.  I think it would be good for you to do that."

You have no idea how right your are, Doc.  No idea at all.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Onwards, Upwards, and Nauseous

Distance Run:  4.5 miles @ 9pm

Time:  55:39

Route:  East on Los Feliz and back.

I won't bury the lead with attempts at insight.  I got laid off from my job and the past three days have been less than stellar as I "transitioned" everything to my replacement.  It's over now.

I viewed tonight's run as a purging of the anxiety, anger, and uncertainty that has dominated my brain since Monday morning.  With those emotions as my base, I'm not surprised the run didn't go as well as I hoped.

Along with battling some unseasonably warm weather (90 frakkin' degrees in November?), my lungs are still struggling with the remnants of the Wretchedness.  My legs felt heavy and my feet were dragging.  I've had a wonky stomach since this morning and the jostling didn't help at all--Pepto Bismol for dinner.  Funnily enough, my hip feels much stronger.

This run will not go down as an example of powerful athleticism, but I am so grateful for it.  Life isn't what I want it to be right now, but running is exactly what I need. 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Seven Miles in My Head

My Nike+ is no longer calibrating correctly, so I am forced to run (gasp! shudder!) tech-free until I get a new one.  Since I can't make notes about my runs on the Nike+ website, I figured I would come here and tell the Interwebs of my running revelations.


Distance run:  7 miles 

Time: 1:29:31 

Route:  East on Franklin, past John Marshall High, down the west side of Silverlake Reservoir and back.

This is my first run back after being sick with the Wretchedness for two weeks.

We went to Billings a couple weekends ago to celebrate my stepmother's 50th birthday, and my sweet niece, Isla, gave us all her cold.  Seriously, with this face, I ask you, could you stop yourself from picking her up and smooching her?


(Uncle D.R. was very proud of her choice of toy)



(Blue eyes in the bath)




("Little Girl, Big Dreams")


While completely worth it, I have felt like an elephant on fire has been sitting on my chest for two weeks.  Today was the first day that I felt my lungs could handle some real work.  

**********

I read an article a while back about a man that can run an entire marathon on a treadmill with no music or background noise.  He has honed this ability over many years, focusing on his breathing and how his body feels at any given moment.  He is very present, almost yogic, in his running.

I cannot relate.

I am an iPod runner.  I need that music pumping in my ears to get me through the tough spots.  The Nike+ understands this so well, it has the option of a "Powersong".  A song of choice is programmed (currently, mine is Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You"), and when that last mile is nothing but wheezing, burning, and shuffling . . . Kelly saves the day.  I.  Need.  My.  Ipod.  Moreover, the thought of running 26 miles in one place is like death to me.  I can't run the same 3-mile route for more than a week, let alone on a treadmill.  I need changing scenery, uneven roads to maneuver, people that walk 3-bodies wide on a sidewalk so I can sigh disapprovingly at them when I pass.  Oh, excuse me!  Am I in the way of your Humvee stroller and chihuahua on a 37-foot long lead?  

I do yoga.  I love yoga.  I do it as a counter-balance to the heart-pumping, body-pounding, glory-seeking that is running.  Yes, yoga has great mental benefits and forces me to focus on my breathing and stretching.  But, to be honest, I am not waiting for a moment of enlightenment; I am waiting for my hip to loosen enough so I'm a little more Warrior 3, and a little less Wobbly 1.5.  I proudly admit that I am a results-oriented person. 

I'm sure there are runners like me that start the run . . . then immediately place their focus on the end of the run.  Just get it over with!  Then, I thought about people that have asked my why I run.  I never answer, "Well, the sooner you start, the sooner it's over!"  I explain that, running is about proving to myself that my body can do something even when my brain is telling me it's a horrible idea.  It is about overcoming all those voices that said I could never be an athlete.  It is about finding solace in motion.

The thought occurred to me that maybe I need to focus on feeling that way while the run is in progress.  Mr. Marathon on a Treadmill presents an interesting challenge:  be present in your body at the time you are requiring the most of it.

I set a goal to adopt this "meditative running" for a period of 6 months, with the caveat that they did not have to be consecutive.  Whenever I feel like challenging myself, or when my running play list turns boring, I can turn it all off and just listen to (and hopefully subside) the traffic in my head.

Lucky me, October is one of my chosen months.

**********

I've been fulfilling my goal with the Nike+ because it offers the option of no music while you run, but still has the voice that reminds you how far you have gone.  Very helpful.  With no audio mile-markers to look forward to, I really had to implore my brain to be my ally today.

I always find that for the first mile, I am asking my body to remember how great running feels and get on board for the journey.  OK, everybody, remember this:  one foot goes down, then the other?  I find it takes at least the first mile for all body parts to get in sync and play nice with each other. 

The second mile was very hilly.  I reminded myself to shorten my steps and keep the cadence the same.  "The body's form and speed should not change because of a hill," says some running dude at Runner's World.  I actually enjoy hills because it gives my brain something on which to focus.  It's when I'm running flats that my brain starts to wander.   Today, my brain wandered right into Nelly's "Ride Wit Me" lyrics.  I have no idea why.  I haven't heard it on the radio.  It's not on my iPod.  And, I don't really know the song, so I just kept repeating, "If you wanna go and take a ride with me . . . Hey! Must be the money!"  

Miles three and four were on the path around the reservoir, which means I was doing a lot of stroller/dog-walker/unobservant runner dodging.  Not having music made me more aware of my rage at people who do not adhere to path etiquette. 


Mile six was the reverse of the hills of mile two.  I had to give myself a pep-talk.  Out loud.  I didn't care if anyone could hear me, and I don't really know what I said.  I do remember repeatedly saying, "It's all mental . . . it's all mental."  Kelly Clarkson would've been helpful here.

The rest of the way home, I concentrated on the ground I could see under my hat brim.  I didn't lift my chin to see how far I had to go.  No.  I covered the 10 feet I could see under my hat brim, then I worried about the next 10 feet.  What can I control right now when my body is on the verge of revolt?  My legs are heavy.  My feet are burning.  That fucking en fuego elephant is back lounging on my chest!  Those ten feet were all I could handle.  

I was afraid of that seven miles, so I'm grateful and proud that I completed it.  But, I'm saving my victory dance because I had a moment of stark clarity before entering our apartment:  I am closer to achieving my goal than I am to starting my goal.  I am past the halfway point.  It's going to get harder before it gets easier.  

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Warner Warning

I have a revolving door of celebrity crushes.  Currently, I cannot get enough of Jackie Warner.  I came on board a few years ago when she did her reality show on Bravo!.  I gotta say, I loved the lesbian drama, especially when she started sleeping with her trainer Rebecca.  Ohhhhh, girl -- scandalous!  And, while I was skeptical of Rebecca's motives (uhh, reality show fame whore, much?), I could absolutely see how a straight woman could give up her man meat and start attending the lesbian luncheon.  That woman is a force.

Recently, Bravo! allowed Jackie back on television in a show called Thintervention.  It reminds me very much of Biggest Loser, but with contestants who are whinier, more entitled, and just so stereotypically "LA" that I have issues rooting for them.  Really, I'm supposed to feel sorry for you, Nikki, with your massive inheritance and investments that has allowed you to live job-free since you discovered Grey Goose?  How's that life path treatin' ya?!

But, do not judge, lest ye be . . . blah blah blah.

My favorite parts of the show are when Jackie corners each individual contestant and gets to the underlying issue(s) that has caused them to gain weight.  One of the contestants, Gina, lives in a giant house, has oodles of money at her disposal, A PERSONAL CHEF, and access to any upscale gym that she comes upon.  Jackie tells her that clearly something is missing because she has this "great life" and yet she is unhealthy and unhappy.  Proof that body issues are hard to deal with whether you're wrapped in K-mart or cashmere.  Back fat and tummy rolls are the great equalizers.

There is also a therapy session at the end of each show.  Jackie requested that each contestant bring a picture that depicted them at a happy moment in their childhood.  I was sure it was going to be some malarkey about "getting back to innocence" and "remember how great it was to run outside and play when you were a kid?  Let's all pretend we're children again and this obesity epidemic will go away, tra la la!"  Each contestant shows their picture and hearkens back to the days of missing teeth and crooked ponytails.  Awwwwww, how sweet . . . c'mon, let's get to the malarkey.  As everyone is enjoying a cuddle from the warm 'n' fuzzies, Jackie interrupts and asks them to tell the child in the picture--I'm paraphrasing here--that they are fat and worthless, they are not loved, and they will never be what they wanted to be when they were that child in the picture.  

Umm, ouch.

Of course everyone thinks that's crazy and abusive.  Jackie asks them why, then, is it okay to tell themselves those things as an adult?  It's still abusive, no matter what age you are, right?

Aaaaaand, cue gut check.

With that little psychological nugget burrowing deeper into my brain,  I went for a run.  I had to wait until 9pm because Los Angeles has recently been on the business end of the sun's blow torch.  90 degree heat does not a happy day-runner make.  I started out into the night enjoying the glinty moon above and the slight breeze on my face.  I could feel my ponytail swishing on my back and the rhythmic galumph of my shoes on the pavement.  I ran past all the big houses with their strategically lit yards and landscapes.  Rosemary bushes, still warm from the sun, giving off their heavy scent that always makes me want to eat stew.  My hip started to loosen up and I was really enjoying myself.

That was half a mile in.

I started sweating.  Boy, it's a lot hotter out here than I initially thought.  I had a steady stream of sweat down my face and stinging my eyes.  My feet were getting progressively hotter, the moisture-wicking socks clearly at capacity.  I looked at my watch and noticed my arms and wrists already had a sheen of sweat.  The waterfall on my head was white-watering its way into my bra and soaking the waistband of my shorts.  Sweet Jesus, this is miserable!  My shoulders were slumping and my dragging legs were making a very good case against You Can Do It, Only Two More Miles To Go!  The smell of rosemary was rage-inducing. 

Hey, brainiac, why don't you take off your shirt.  You're too hot with it on.   

I have heard and appreciate your suggestion, but no. 

Your shirt is soaked and weighing you down.  It's not really helping the situation. 

You know what else would not help the situation?!  Having my lily-white wobbly belly flesh refracting off the headlights of oncoming traffic. 

Whatever.  You are on the sidewalk where people can barely see you, and they are going too fast to care. 

Well, I care!  Los Angeles does not need yet another set of large breasts bouncing down the street!  I have enough stretch marks lining my hips and thighs I could be mistaken for a tiger and tranquilized on sight!  My muffin top is not improved by the actual muffin (apple bran) I had for breakfast this morning!  And, my complete lack of upper body strength means I have ham hocks where my arms should be!  I'm not taking off my shirt!

Then, Jackie Warner, in all her cut-abs-and-silver-hot-pants glory, came to rescue me from the Ike Turner of emotional beat-downs I was inflicting.  Would you say those horrible things to a child? 

I went as far back in my memory as I could to the last time I was not aware of any type of "flaw" in my body.  I had single digits on my birthday cake.  When, by second grade, you're standing in the back row of your class pictures with all the boys going through growth spurts, and your pants are always two inches above the top of your worn out high-tops, awkward starts early.  I compensated by having a big personality to go along with my body.  Go big, or go home, right?  

Evidently, the SS Keep Telling Yourself That is not as seaworthy as I thought.

With one more mile to go and no signs of the Belly Wobble Police, I took off my shirt.  I definitely regretted the glaring white sports bra, but I figured, since I was running at night, it was really more of a safety measure--a DD safety measure.  I forced myself to think of all the things my body could do instead of all the things I wished it could do.  In that moment, I was grateful that I stepped outside of my limitations and found, shockingly, that I survived.  Will I be making half-naked running a habit?  Probably not, but running without a shirt instinctively made me suck in my belly, drop my shoulders, and raise my chest--good running form. 

Sneaky, Jackie . . . very sneaky.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Devil and Daniel Craig

It's not a recurring dream, but it's a recurring dream event.  Whenever I run in a dream--away from danger, or towards a half-naked Daniel Craig--it always feels like I am  j u u u u u u s t   s l o g g i n g  through the space.  My brain is telling me that I can run faster, that I must run faster.  Daniel Craig needs you!!  My dream appendages, on the other hand, are not getting the dream memo and I am running through a world made of custard.  A world of custard and Daniel Craig?  Umm, OK!  Or, sometimes, in an even stranger scenario, I am pumping my arms and legs freely, but the world is not moving past me as fast as it should.  Daniel Craig is standing exactly where he was, even though I have been running towards him for a good five dream minutes.

Oh, irony is fun.

For the past six weeks, I have been on the elliptical staring longingly at the people on the treadmills.  When I see runners on the street, I stare at their legs and hips, hoping to observe something they are doing that I am not.  I look at their shoes.  I look at their posture.  I wonder how a woman built like me can run like the wind, while I run like a maimed yak stuck in a mud puddle.  It is so not fair, but discouragement breeds giving up and all sorts of nasty circumstances. 

In addition to my new found relationship with the elliptical, I have also been hanging with a chiropractor regularly, drinking my vegetables, rolling around on the floor with this sadist, dabbling a bit with ChiRunning, and saying really sexy things to D.R. like, "Honey will you rub my hip?" and "Slow down, my shoe orthodics aren't broken in yet."  All of this because a tiny little tendon does not have the ability to support my robust German hips.  German engineering, my ass!

With exactly 12 weeks until the half marathon, I decided last Sunday that I would re-engage the running.  I have done some research on runners' usage of heart rate monitors and decided to give it a shot.  The idea being, if easy runs are executed at 65%-75% of maximum heart rate, one will build endurance in the heart and lungs, strength in the muscles and tendons, and avoid turning the body into one giant injury.  Once a running base is built, faster and harder runs can be incorporated.  Makes perfect sense.

Armed with this new information, I strode triumphantly to the treadmill.  I started running a very slow mile.  I wasn't gasping for air and my hip felt pretty good.  I placed my hands on the heart rate sensors and the beeping red heart icon gave me the equivalent reading of "Dear God, your heart is going to explode!"  Confused but obedient, I slowed the pace.  Five minutes later, I took another reading.  No imminent explosion, but I was definitely being warned.  Seriously?!  Before my injury, I was running and working out at a much faster pace than this.  And, it's not as if I'd been sitting on the couch eating pizza and ice cream for six weeks.  What is the deal?

The good news is, I got off the treadmill with only a little soreness in my hip.  I took a couple ibuprofen and went about my day.  Yesterday, I took to the streets with my new snazzy heart rate monitor.  Every few minutes I checked my heart rate and adjusted accordingly.  By the end of the run, it felt exactly like my dream -- running so slow that the world is not even moving.  It took me 44 minutes to cover 3 miles.  Pre-injury, I could run 3 miles in about 30 minutes!

Now, I am fully aware that I suffer from a rampant disease called Impatience.  I am also aware that I cannot go back to doing the same things I was, or I will continue to have the same injury.  And, if we're being completely honest here, my heart probably is working harder than it should because of 10-15 pounds that just really adore my butt and backs of my arms.  I have been so busy congratulating myself for "being a runner" that I haven't given my body the proper care.  Who cares if I'm hauling 10-15 extra pounds, I can run five miles without stopping, suckas! Oh, those rationalizations sound so good, don't they?

So, I am stuck in a dream, and it's not the fun Inception kind.  I am accepting my body's current limits with the realization that they are there only because I have made it so.  I will remember that if I make demands of my body, I must also show it courtesy, care, and a salad every now and then.  I will not gripe (too much) at my initial slow running times, knowing that my reward will be stronger, more sustainable fitness.  I will deal with the custard running.  I just hope Daniel Craig will wait for me.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Second Tattoo

I want another tattoo.

I got my first tattoo accompanying my friend Ellen on her way to get her 6th.  I really had no intention of getting one, but the tattoo parlor was near my apartment, there was promise of a cocktail, so I thought why not?  I had been thinking about getting one, but couldn’t quite land on the thing that would be inked—for better and for droopy/saggy/wrinkly—on my skin forever.  I wasn't going to get one until I had a clear picture of what I wanted.  Ellen was getting her astrological sign on her forearm and, as clich├ęd and unoriginal as it is (and since Ellen didn't cry out in agony) I thought it a good plan.

I am an Aries—a hot-tempered, sometimes selfish, argumentative, stubborn, and passionate Aries. My father was an Aries too, and our hooves and horns clashed in some mighty battles.  Exasperated after yet another exchange with a younger and smaller version of himself, he would ask, “Why must you always argue?!” My answer was, “The Zodiac demands it!"

Standing in the tattoo parlor a few days before what would’ve been my father’s 59th birthday, I lowered my jeans for a stranger and asked him to mark me forever—a simple Aries sign for me, and a small star on the right for the Aries that was no longer with me. Perfect.

Everyone told me, “Oh, now that you’ve gotten one, you’ll want more; they’re addictive.” It’s been four years and I’ve never thought about getting another one. I am happy with the one that represents a very pivotal moment in my life that turned me towards the path I now currently walk.

Or run, rather.

After my father died, I decided to train for a half-marathon.  Having never been a consistent runner before, this was an undertaking. Three months in, I was sidelined by a hip injury and an extra 30 pounds that were the answer to, “Is there any reason this can’t be covered in frosting?” Defeated, intimidated, and forced into physical therapy I decided to concentrate on losing the weight before training again.  Feel free to laugh at the irony of having to lose weight to be a successful runner.  I did.

For the last five years, I have called myself a runner.  Sure, there were bouts of burn-out and brief affairs with cycling, dancing, yoga, and one very humiliating hour in something called Turbo Kick, but I always returned the roads.  I haven’t trained for a half-marathon since 2005—sticking to 5K’s and 10K’s—but my sister and I decided we needed to do something great for 2010 and settled on training for a half marathon.

Honestly, I thought it would be cake.  I have almost five years of running under my belt.  I am lighter and faster.  I have found the perfect shoes and the only sports bra that can keep The Ladies in check.  I live in Los Angeles, where I can run year-round without the threat of snowdrifts and sub-zero temperatures keeping me on a treadmill.  I have months to build up my mileage to that glorious 13.1.  Seriously, what could go wrong?

The answer: I got cocky.

I figured I was in good shape.  Not the kind of "good shape" where I could do 200 squats and one-armed pushups; the kind where I gave myself permission to cut corners every now and then.  I stretched religiously after running, but conveniently forgot to strength train.  (An important component after dealing with a hip injury resulting from weak hip and core muscles.)  I ate pretty healthfully, rationalizing extra plates of pasta and delicious baked goods all in the name of Carbo Loading.

Cutting corners “every now and then” soon turned into one or two corners every week.  The cruel reality is, when one occasionally but consistently cuts corners, soon one finds they are running . . . in a very small circle.  My running times aren't as fast as they were last year.  I'm not sleeping as much as I should.  8 of those previously lost 30 pounds have slowly crept back onto my frame.  And the Devil Cherry on top of the Evil Cake of Running Highjinks is . . . MY EFFING HIP IS INJURED AGAIN!

This aggression will not stand. The Dude minds.

The good news is the injury is not as bad as it was five years ago.  My doctor told me to stop running completely last time, but I am convinced that I can tweak my running and training schedule for the next few months, add in some cross and strength training, spend some quality time torturing myself on the foam roller, and get these uneven hips across the finish line and to the nearest margarita.

In true Aries form, I am stubborn and passionate about this. I am now on a quest to finish something that I started five years ago. The motivation has changed, but I know that crossing that finish line will be the culmination of emotions, limitations, fears, and “almosts” that have lived very comfortably in that region of my brain called Doubt.

This will be another pivotal moment in my life, stemming from the previous one.

It will be documented.

It deserves a tattoo.

It's going on my hip.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Nomad Goes to Paris

My mom is a child of a military family. Her parents, my Nana and Pop-Pop, hauled her and her four siblings around the world--each allowed a footlocker to carry their worldly belongings--setting up homes in whatever housing the US Air Force provided. If you catch her in the right mood, Nana will tell the story of falling in love with Pop-Pop in a coal-mining town in Pennsylvania, and eloping against her father's wishes; the first house Pop-pop built; the one--and greatly celebrated--tree on the Air Force base in Iceland; giving birth to my Aunt Linda in Germany (and consequently, subjecting the children to matching Lederhosen, which would later dress up innocent and unsuspecting grandchildren); lugging the wood, literally, up the side of a mountain to build their dream home in Twin Lakes, Colorado; fleeing to Arizona in their motor home, "The Clipper", when the Colorado winters got brutal.

Even after their five children had grown and started families of their own, Nana and Pop-Pop never settled. During my childhood, it seemed they were always in exotic locales: Mesa, Arizona . . . Parachute, Colorado . . . Shamokin, Pennsylvania. I spent a summer with them in one house, came back a couple years later to find they had moved to a different house mere blocks away. After move twenty-blahblahblah, my mom and her siblings stopped asking why and just showed up to help pack the U-haul.

I believe this nomadic tendency has seeped into our genetic code and is passed along like eye color and meaty thighs (which come in handy when lugging boxes between zip codes). I did not have one, I had many childhood homes. As a kid, I repeatedly heard phrases like:
"Let's take the scenic route!"
"It can't be that far to the top of that mountain, right?"
"All kids under age 10, get in the back of the truck and hold on!"
8-12 hour weekend road trips were a common occurrence, and a good night's sleep could always be had stretched out on the seat of my mom's old truck. Adventure was but a Conoco stop away (have CornNuts, will travel).

My Nomad Gene kicked in at 18, and I high-tailed it out of Billings, Montana and landed in Minnesota. I survived five of those wicked winters, earned a degree in European history, and gained a deep and abiding love for Garrison Keillor.

At 24, Chicago called to me and I answered (What can I say? I loves me a good winter). I truly feel I would've stayed in Chicago, worshiping at the altar of All Things Deep-Dish, if a pesky little predicament in Los Angeles hadn't reared it's ugly head.

Love.

At 26, I shipped all my belongings to the west coast (a place I never thought I would call home) to try my hand at co-habitation. Here I am almost four years later happily settled as a dog owner, upholder of the benefits of sunscreen, and a very defensive driver.

Well, almost settled . . .

D.R. and I had been living together for about three years. Things were comfortable. Things were routine. Things were . . . the exact opposite of nomadic. I suggested we move to a new apartment, but that was tossed when I admitted we'd be crazy to give up our cheap rent and awesome location. We went on day trips. We visited family during holidays. We changed around the living room. Still, that little nomad mentally popped up with a packed suitcase and good walking shoes to remind me that the world needed exploring, and the continental U.S. just wasn't cutting it anymore. I needed to cross an ocean. I needed to experience a different culture. I needed really amazing food (read: cheese).

I needed Europe.

Of course! Nana loved their time traveling around Europe; my mother gets that dreamy look when she remembers a trip she took to Florence; and my father and grandfather believed wholeheartedly that it was a great disservice to the self and society if one did not see foreign lands. For heaven's sake, I had a degree in European history! My alma mater would probably take the thing back if they found out I had only read books and written mediocre term papers on the place. So, really, I had to go to Europe. I had a job to do.

My 30th birthday was approaching, and I wanted to do it up right. I wasn't dreading 30. In fact, I feel I earned each of those years, and I wanted to celebrate my accomplishment.

I celebrated with Paris . . .

I was prepared to immediately love Paris. I was prepared for it to sweep me off my feet in one breezy crusty-bread-scented motion. But, as most of us can attest, when expectations are placed on love, things can get dicey.

D.R. and I decided that our first stop (duh) would be enjoying a beverage in one of the ubiquitous Parisian cafes. Paris is synonymous with cafes. What Paris is not synonymous with is the protocol of cafes for two adrenaline-fueled-overly-tired-awe-stricken-un-peu-de-Francais-speaking-Americans.


We passed the first cafe and D.R. asked, "Do we just go in?"
"I don't know," I said.
We continued walking, sure that the French I studied for four years would make a triumphant return to my memory and I would be able to ascertain exactly what we were to do. We passed a couple more cafes and rationalized that they looked quite empty for 5pm. Maybe they were getting ready to close? We didn't want to be an imposition.

We approached another cafe and craned our necks. I looked at D.R. and wondered, "Should we let them know we're here if we want to sit outside?"
"Ugh, I don't know.  What's with all these chalkboards?  Do we order from them, or ask for a menu?"
"I have no idea.  They're in French, and my translation skills are not cooperating."
Onward, to the next cafe which was sure to be the one. . .

An inviting smell wafted towards us and I knew pastries were in our midst. We peeked in the doorway of yet another cafe. D.R. asked, "Do we order at the bar, then take our coffee outside? Do they bring it to us? Is it cheaper to order at the bar?"
"Ugh, I really don't know."
Ya know, walking really is a very healthy practice . . .

Finally, I got fed up. I spotted our target, grabbed D.R.'s hand, straightened my brand new trench coat and sidled up to a cafe. I would love to tell you the name, but I was so nervous, all details failed to implant. I walked in and confidently said to the gentleman, "Deux, s'il vous plait!" With a cocked brow, he handed us two beverage menus.  I asked in broken (splintered, shattered, non-existent) French if we could sit outside and he nodded. (Of course we could!  What was he going to say?  "I'm sorry ma'am.  Unless you can properly conjugate the verb "parler", you are not allowed to sit outside.)

Looking back, I realize that our complete lack of know-how was actually expectations and anxiety -- typical for a first date. We let it get the best of us.  But Paris was supportive and kind, bolstering us with soft pastries, glorious cheese, and that golden sandy sugar that hovers for a moment on the surface before being swallowed up by the thick, frothy espresso below.


Wandering ancient streets with modern additions, our relationship grew.  We figured out what worked best for us (a lovely boulangerie up the road from our hotel that served warm savory croissants), and what did not (a late night stroll through the gray and sketchy 13th arrondisement. Skip it. I promise, there's nothing to see but a train station). We discovered that communication really is the key to a good relationship (even if it's just "merci" and "s'il vous plait", the French appreciate it).  We made mistakes (walking the enormous Versailles gardens in boots), and discovered hidden talents (the gardens! Oh, the gardens!). Paris shared its secrets with us and we respected its history.  Four glorious days together, and I assured Paris that it would always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first . . . and you never forget your first.
 

**written on May 14, 2010

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Currently a Blurg Instead of a Blog

Ahhh, the best of intentions produces . . . apparently nothing for almost two months.  I spent a lot of time snazzing up my blog for exactly one entry.  (FotoFlexer.com makes me so happy).

The good news:  I have been writing.  Essays, social commentary, evocative food descriptions abound (I'm a restaurant critic caught in the salary bracket of an Executive Assistant).  The bad news:  it's all in my head.  Ugh.

Pen to paper (or digits to keys, as it were) is still proving difficult.  I can't really call it Writer's Block, so I will call it Grammar Block.  I get caught up in subjects and predicates . . . What the hell do I do with a semi-colon? . . . Is that funny or ridiculous? . . . Is this relevant, or hell, even interesting for that matter?  I think of how perfectly David Sedaris gets his humor and point across with a toss of a dash or ellipsis, and I freeze.  Double ugh.

Finally, I reminded myself that--old habits die exceedingly hard--I am so far in my head that I might find Dennis Quaid manning a tiny space ship in there.  (Anyone? Anyone?)  So, I've decided to start small with a few of my favorite pictures from the last few months.  Captions are writing, and I will hear nary an argument.


(My cousin Rachael, Jeff, and their kiddos Grayson and Lilia)

Valentine's Day weekend in San Francisco and San Jose.  Sunday morning pancakes were in the works when I snapped this.  I love it when pictures capture the personality of the people in them.  This is exactly what I picture when I think of this family.

(My cousin Cathryn) 
This picture begs the question:  Why just laugh when you can guffaw?  The women in my family are robust and frequent laughers. 
 
(My Sweet, D.R., and the grand Alice B.)
 
On the way back to Los Angeles from San Jose.  I broke a few traffic laws taking this picture while driving, but resistance is futile when you have sweet sleeping faces like this. 
 




(Breakfast Pizza)

I cannot even begin to describe how delicious this was.  I saw it on my favorite blog in the widest world, and had my mission for our evening repast (minus the homemade pizza dough).  One of my small joys is having breakfast for dinner.  Breakfast for dinner on a PIZZA and I commence falling all over myself.  Also, when I took this picture I looked at D.R. and said, "We need to own more yellow items."  So beautiful!  
 
 (My sweet baby niece, Isla)

My sister sent me this picture of her daughter while I was driving.  Once again, traffic laws were loosely interpreted.  Texts were flying, tears were rolling, and plots to get this kid in commercials were ruminating.  Look at those eyelashes (Isla-lashes)!  

The words may be coming slowly, but they are coming from places of joy.  

 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Head Years

I am leaving my old blog behind.

There is nothing wrong with my old blog; Live Journal served me well. I was proud of my title when I thought it up in April 2005. "I Have a Theory" was going to be the name of my highly innovative one-woman show/novel/movie trilogy. Why not also make it the title of the blog that started it all? Yes, Conan O'Brien, I started this magical journey at just 25 years of age. I am a pretty big deal. Well, Conan O'Brien has been recently screwed over, and I haven't written anything that I am proud of in over a year.

Not the makings of greatness.

Knowing that my 30th year has endeavors in store, I sidled up to the ol' keyboard again. I logged into my Live Journal, ready to make literary jazz hands. I re-read some old posts to get back in the groove and had a thought:

I've had waaaaaay too many thoughts for someone who is only JUST going to be 30 years old.

2005-2009 are marked by such words as "analyze", "scrutinize", "contemplate", and "pragmaticate". My brain took the brunt of my life for a while. No wonder it gave up last year and cut off the word supply.

But, I noticed in the past year that I haven't been writing . . . I've done things. I traveled a bit. I leaned on my family during tense and shifting times and let them lean on me, more so than in the past. I discovered and reveled in the sensation of overcoming obstacles that I thought were placed before me, but learned that I had placed within myself. I made my first batch of English Toffee!! All things requiring more action than thought.

Have I completely expunged my brain? Of course not, let's not get crazy. But I am making peace with my brain and asking it to play nicely with the rest of me. I shall report on our adventures.

As a send off, I include some of my favorite posts from Live Journal

The Latte Failure Theory

This Can Only End In Tears

Detours With the Thin Man

There's A Tear In Your Piccata

Me and Sam McGee

Scenes From A Bathroom

Old Or New, They're Always Blue

Can I Still Sit On Santa's Lap?

My Goodness, My Cupcakes!

Junk and My Trunk