throwback

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If you’re on Instagram, you are probably aware of #tbt – Throwback Thursday. You put up an old picture and hashtag it and you can go through and check out all sorts of retro views of your connections and the world, if you are so inclined.

I love IG and although I don’t have a prolific following, the portability and simplicity of the app has transformed photography from a hobby to a true passion for me. What I could never accomplish with a digital camera, I can do with my iPhone and a couple of apps. Now, I move through the world looking for photo opps and taking pictures and the thing I love about it so much is that it allows me to be fully present in a moment, to see the beauty of a little corner of the world, and through very simple cropping and filtering techniques, let my friends and family see it in the way that I saw it. Or, more accurately, in the way that I felt it. I used to be mildly socially anxious and dislike going places or having engagements and now if I start feeling that come over me, I think to myself that there are probably a few good pictures there, and it gets me out the door.

When Miss L was tiny, we gave her a Fisher Price camera for her birthday (I think her third) and recently I plugged it into my computer and downloaded years of blurry shots. There were some really beautiful ones and I love seeing the world that we shared several years ago through her eyes. All of these photos, except the top one of her own little self, are hers (the top one was, however, taken off the FP camera).

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Although I will be happy with whatever she chooses to do with passion and excitement (within reason), I would love for her to keep taking pictures, and sharing them.

the gambler

Last night I dreamt of a post-apocalyptic nightmare world that I was trying to adjust to, living in some stunted way and trying to act as though everything was normal and happy. I clearly remember thinking in my dream, as I switched on an emergency radio, ‘maybe someday everything will go back the way it was. can it ever go back the way it was?‘ and knowing that the world was never, ever going back the way it was.

Then a familiar tune slowly began to filter through the walls of the dream, notes and a refrain, entirely out of place with what was going on in my grey dream state. I rose up out of sleep, slowly, and the street outside my window was full of Kenny Rogers warbling “The Gambler”. I considered calling the police (who has a Kenny Rogers themed party on a quiet residential street at 12.31 on a Sunday night?) but instead I lay there sort of blearily humming along with it. Then it was over = there was just that one song – and I lay awake for another two hours trying in vain to fall back to sleep. I didn’t quite remember there being so many choruses.

So today I was thinking about that dream, and the wish for things to be a way that they aren’t, that they never can be again, and for the first time in a long time, instead of feeling like I was just staunchly ignoring a familiar pain and thinking that if I just rode out that wave, soon it would be over, just breathe through it like a contraction – there wasn’t any pain. There was, instead, a realization that I am EXACTLY where I need to be and SOMETHING helped bring me through this, directed my boat and helped me steer when I felt blind. I looked at where I could be, the different choices I could have made, the other paths, and instead of feeling regret and loneliness, I realized how much stronger and better I am for what I have been through and what I’ve learned from it.  Instead of feeling like a passive victim of circumstance, I can see the choices I made and how they got me where I am now, to the right place, and how miserable and out of sorts I might have felt in any other place. I’m not quite sure what the Gambler has to do with it but he definitely fits in somewhere (because God knows there can’t be anything random or coincidental about Kenny Rogers in all of this) even if it’s as a midnight reminder that the secret to surviving is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep.

what you believe it to be

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I don’t think I’ve been to the Michigan Renaissance Festival since I was a kid, and although I don’t remember it, I would imagine that my father probably hated it and made us leave promptly. It’s just the kind of overheated, excessively crowded place that would make his skin crawl.

I think in order to understand this, you have to understand my good friend K and her family. They are a big family and full of similarly beautiful, elfin girls and they’re all kind of Ren fans. They don’t exactly dress up, but they don’t need to, as their normal fashion sense of riding boots and fingerless mitts and floating skirts and scarves makes them fit right in as they drift dreamily up and down the mazey Renaissance alleys.

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I expected that the whole day would be a bit of an ironically humorous situation but it was actually incredibly fun. There were of course a lot of drunk people weaving around the labyrinth streets, there were ankle-deep seas of mud and indescribably horrible privies, but there were also a lot of craftspeople. And there were a lot of people dressed in elaborate and wonderful costumes, performers, face painters, and little dreamy fairy girls wisping and wishing that they had been born in a Pamela Dean novel, and honestly, who doesn’t wish that. Every time I saw someone in a carefully constructed dress or costume, I had to smile, thinking about them in their office cubes all week long, looking entirely different and probably not telling any of their colleagues that they saved their money for steampunk, fur, and a stitched leather jerkin to feed their fantasy life and their deep wish to have been born in another time and place.

We ate giant turkey legs and big pickles and K knew where to find the best honey place and the schneeballs. (“What’s a schneeball?” asked the man in the polo shirt standing in line behind me, looking dubious. “I don’t know but it’s probably good,” I said.) Miss L had her face painted and while most little girls might have picked the unicorn or the fairy, she wanted the spiderweb, to the delight of our fairy girl escorts. (And yes,  in the morning it was definitely cold enough for scarves and mittens.)

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We watched a joust and Miss L screamed with delight and terror when our knight Sir Tyler (…Tyler?…just sayin’.) advanced to the final round.

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I have to admit, I was yelling too, and shelling out money for a wooden sword and striped knee socks. I sort of wished that I’d dressed more like K and her girls. K is the kind of woman who always looks like she should be walking down a cobbled street in Europe. Her long fair hair is always perfect, just a bit mussed, she wore good boots and an artful scarf and I felt pretty out of place in my all-weather running clothes with my hair pinned up haphazardly. You can’t catch the eye of a hot bagpiper when you’re wearing Nikes at the Ren Fest (not that I am in any way ready to bring home anyone, much less a bagpiper).

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By the end of the day, my wallet was feeling the hit and Miss L was drooping down the alleys, eyelids heavy, dragging her little sword behind her; but one last piece of magic. A woman in an incredibly elaborate dress, petticoats and corset and wool stockings, bustled up to Miss L in the crowds and presented a plastic tiara.

“Begging your pardon, miss, but did you drop this?”

Miss L gawked. “No, it’s not, mine,” she said shyly.

The woman ducked her head and said, “Well then, will you be keeping it? It seems to suit you, if you don’t mind me saying so.”

Miss L bent her head and let the woman slide the tiara into her red hair, then step back and drop a deep curtsy. We were all smiles as we continued on our way, and made one last stop at a dark little shop selling pixie dust.

“And what is your name?” the shopkeeper inquired. Miss L told her, and the shopkeeper raised a shout, “ALL HAIL PRINCESS L!” The window shelf was full of necklaces dangling tiny stoppered bottles, catching the light. The shopkeeper ran her finger along them, setting up a tinkle of glass, and describing the kind of pixie dust in every bottle. Dreams of dragons, dreams of fairies; images of your own true love, but take care, just take care, because magic is potent.

“It’s just GLITTER?” another round-eyed child said, sounding very much like he wanted to be convinced otherwise, and the shopkeeper tsked.

“It is if that’s all you believe it to be,” she said, and for that, she earned her $10 and Miss L got herself a little bottle of magic pixie dust.

stoked.

I am not the kind of person to use the word ‘stoked’. Whenever I hear it, I imagine very attractive yet highly appearance-driven people discussing their new fave salad place (“I AM SO STOKED ABOUT THESE TOPPINGS, DUDE!”) , or Crossfit abbreviated jargon (“I was stoked to do my WOD in the BOX today! GO MURPH”).

But I can’t think of a better word to describe how I am feeling about two things related to my running.

1) DUDE I AM STOKED TO BE RUNNING FARTLEKS IN MY GHOST 7’S.

The Brooks Ghost 7’s have completely revived my excitement about running. With my crap Mizuno 17’s, if I even ran on 2 consecutive days, I would have shin splints and calf pain. With my Brooks, I am back to running with pleasure, aiming for my goal of 20 miles a week. I am sad that I won’t be ready to run my favorite half marathon in my favorite part of the world this year – the Sleeping Bear Marathon and Half Marathon. I’ve done it for the past two years, but with everything going on this summer, personally, I just couldn’t get consistent about my training until recently, and it’s just too late. However, I am hoping to be a volunteer at the race so I will still get to be a part of it and give back to one of my favorite events. You can see by my expression in the picture below how excited and proud I was after last year’s Sleeping Bear when I PR’d.

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2) MY TOTALLY AWESOME RUNNING PARTNER IS BACK AND I AM STOOOOKED.

At some point along the way, I gained a great friend who despite his youth (he was in preschool while I was listening to Milli Vanilli in my purple AMC Concord outside of Owosso High School) finds some enjoyment in my company while we run. He’s been out of commission for basically 2 years due to knee injuries, but has recently been given the “all clear” to get back to running. This is a huge motivator for me as I’ve never had someone to run with who was able to inspire and motivate me, pace me, and exchange great conversation with in the way that he does. I remember one of our first lunchtime runs we both brought our iPods and didn’t even plug them in because we talked about Game of Thrones during the whole run. In spite of his superior athletic ability – he can easily turn in 7-minute miles for extended periods and barely be winded – he is very patient about my slower speeds and matches his pace to mine at just the right level so that I am pushing myself,  but not wearing myself out. He is my favorite person to run with and I can’t wait for us to get back to lunchtime runs and planning for a spring half-marathon together.

shinin down like water

The first few months of being a solo homeowner have been fraught with Interesting Situations. You know, things that people say build character but really just kind of suck. Two power outages in thirty days (leaving me deeply concerned about the capability of good ol’ Detroit Edison’s mouldering infrastructure to sustain their huddled masses during what the 2015 Farmer’s Almanac promises to be another spectacularly heinous winter) and an air conditioner that crapped the bed during the only three days of the year in which I really needed it. Last weekend I had to sneak into the Y during a power outage (the Y had power, but was closed for maintenance, mind you) and, as part of a phalanx of disheveled women who couldn’t bear to face their weekends with bedhead, defy bewildered workmen to blow dry and straighten my hair before a social engagement.

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Ever since I crashed and burned during my big presentation opportunity a few weeks ago, I’ve been discouraged and demotivated at work. The last several days all I want to do at the office is plan my running schedule, check Instagram, chat with friends, and read snarky online gossip about a popular blogger that I am a wee bit fascinated with currently.

I have to remember, though, in the midst of these cycles of low energy, that I’m not only really lucky to have a job that allows me to BE a solo homeowner and a single mom, I’m lucky to have a boss who sends us home early on a bad weather day to spare us bad traffic and potential risk to our well-being. The same boss who lets me work from home on the first day of school and when the dudes need to come fix my air conditioner and prep my furnace and chimney for another polar vortex.

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So, after a departmental offsite at a nearby seminary that has been converted to a conference center (and a Catholic golf course – true story – I wish I’d snapped a pic of the huge painting of Pope John Paul that presides over the concierge desk), I did a brief meditation at the on-site reflecting pool. I am not Catholic but I love the beauty and dignity of Catholic icons and rituals. I could have hung out in the chapel for a long time, soaking up the Romanesque architecture. However, the driveways were already awash, so I dodged raindrops to head home.

Investigating the flooding in my yard in ballet flats was likely not a great idea, but at least I had a slicker.

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There’s something about the combination of the religious surroundings and the weather today that has reminded me to be grateful for my blessings.  The social engagement that I broke into the Y to prepare for last weekend ended with my gutters being fortuitously and unexpectedly cleaned, and this afternoon, as I watched the brown rainwater burble merrily out of my clean downspouts, feet damp and cold in my wet flats, I am again reminded that in the weird intermeshing of little details and large weighty matters, things usually do work out.

 

tooth fairy

 

 

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Miss L started first grade and her new school seems to be a great place for her. I have fond memories of walking back and forth to school as a kid in my small town and Miss L’s new school is close enough that on the first day, we walked. She wore her new dress and carried her new backpack full of school supplies and the safety patrols on the corners were neighborhood kids and her favorite new buddy lives on the corner. It’s sort of like I always imagined school should be because that’s how it was for me, I guess.

She lost her third tooth last week at Y-care and when I went to pick her up, she was sitting at a table with two other little girls, coloring. I was informed about the tooth loss and asked to wait while the coloring job was finished, all the while conscious of the intense scrutiny of the two other gals. Finally one of them spoke up.

“She doesn’t know that tooth fairies are MOMMIES,” she said, gesturing to L.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said. “COME ON SWEETIE IT’S TIME TO GO.”

“Have you ever actually SEEN the tooth fairy?” the small skeptic pressed.

“No but our cats have,” I said. My palms felt sweaty. L was taking her sweet time finishing up and didn’t seem to be paying any attention to the interrogation.

The little girl scowled at me and pushed at her paper with her pen. I managed to hustle Miss L away from the table, stuffing things into her backpack and chatting gaily to distract her. The sweat prickled along my shoulders. The little interrogator wasn’t finished yet, however, and as we exited, she hollered after me, “WHEN SHE GROWS UP AND LOSES ALL OF HER TEETH WILL YOU FINALLY STOP LYING TO HER?”

Grade school is rough these days, I’m telling you.

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labor day

  • If anyone had randomly stopped by last night (which they didn’t – everyone knows better) they would have found a strange party celebrating the long US holiday weekend. There was a small redheaded girl running around the backyard in shortie pajamas and a tiara, covered in ice cream. There was a woman of indeterminate age (ahem) (also covered in ice cream) glumly prodding at a disappointing campfire and swatting mosquitoes. There was a crazy striped cat hanging off the screen door yowling. There was Valley of the Dolls on Netflix after small redheaded girl repaired to her bedroom to nurse her mosquito bites. Patty Duke, holy cow.
  • How is Wheel of Fortune still on television? Who exactly is still watching this show?
  • We have a mild and rainy summer and my completely unnecessary air conditioner works perfectly well. We have a heat wave over a long weekend and my air conditioner wheezes to a halt. 86 degrees and no A/C, I wouldn’t have made a good pioneer.
  • I haven’t exercised in days and yet every muscle in my body hurts because hey, yardwork. Somehow I just don’t think I’m going to get the same weight loss and toning benefit to pulling weeds as if I were investing the effort in running and planks, but a girl’s gotta do and all that.
  • Tomorrow is the first day of school for aforementioned little redhead girl and there are sacks of school supplies waiting to be packed in a Frozen backpack. There is a new dress to be worn and a new lunchbox to be filled and a mommy whose hand will need to be held on the morning walk to first grade.
  • The leaves are already starting to turn.

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