making room

There are a lot of terrible things about getting divorced. Although I am very lucky to be part of a positive, consciously uncoupled, respectful and friendly co-parenting situation that we have both worked hard to develop and maintain, there are still a lot of things to get used to. From the word go, the thought of not having Miss L for days in a row was absolutely devastating. I dreaded that separation and imagined long, lonely days in an empty house, so I stockpiled lots of projects to keep me busy.

This now seems a little funny. Nothing is as traumatic as it seemed like it would be. Miss L is an example and an inspiration – she is happy and excited to go to her dad’s house and seeing her so positive and well-adjusted, and knowing that she just loves spending time with both of us in different ways, has been the biggest relief. I barely have time to do the housework and laundry, the yard work, grocery shopping and meal prep, much less complex knitting projects, half marathon training, furniture restoration, learning to swim or writing that novel. I try to do a lot of chores on the days that Miss L is with her daddy so that when she’s with me, I have everything organized and more time to relax and have fun. But I usually end up working longer hours to make up for the days when I dash out early to beat commuter traffic to pick her up; I come home feeling drained. I do more sleeping and staying in pajamas and crash out for naps at the drop of a hat. I’m not sure if this is psychological or physical or if I just need to kick my own butt. I’m hoping this is a passing phase that will correct itself as I get used to the schedule, but right now I’m just rolling with it.

I have a four-bedroom house and for the last couple of years the two back bedrooms have been a staging area for GB’s things and other stuff that we just don’t know what to do with or haven’t gotten around to recycling or tossing. This weekend, when Miss L was with GB, I finally roused myself sufficiently to start cleaning out one of the rooms. I’m relieved to have a workable spare bedroom again. The room itself is in terrible shape and needs a complete makeover – wallpaper stripped, repainting, floors refinished, baseboards and toe boards redone, new closet doors, window treatments – but I start getting tired whenever I think about that. Having it clean and organized with a comfy made-up bed feels like a major accomplishment, even though my upstairs hall is now filled with trash bags and piles of boxes. It feels like I am moving into a new place, as though I never fully occupied this space before now, even though my name has been on the mortgage for almost eight years.

As I combed through the bookshelf and the closet, it felt like going through a museum of my life. I went through my knitting stash, photographs and scrapbooks. I took books down from the shelves and made piles for Goodwill and it was funny to set things aside. The books about law school prep, Australia travel and restaurant guides, pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum depression – those were all huge phases of my life and those books are well-thumbed and now I don’t need them any more and never will again. Now replaced with books about surviving divorce, finances for the single woman, creating happy homes at mom’s house and dad’s house. The knitting books and running books went to higher shelves, still to be used, but not as often as they once were. There is room on the shelves for new books now, and I am excited to see what they will be. Raising a teenager, dating as a single mom, maybe biking or mountain climbing, who knows. Right now all I have the energy for is a hot bath and a nap!

you belong with me

Miss L was less than thrilled to wake up early on a ‘stay home day’ (“Mommy, is it the middle of the night??” she asked groggily when I roused her). But by the time we were in the car and she was eating her breakfast PB&J toast sandwich and drinking milk out of her Thermos, she was ready to go and be of service as a volunteer at a local charitable 5k race.

We agreed that you see many, many beautiful moments when you wake up early.

09.2014 sunrise

All day long, she kept singing, ‘You belong with me, you’re my sweetheart’.

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After we cheered on the 5k runners, we got our yardwork and grocery shopping and some chores done, and it was a productive and happy day. Nonetheless, my sweetheart and I are very happy that tomorrow morning we get to sleep in.

lowlights

  • House of Cards – I’m not a huge fan of political dramas but this one is gooooooooooooood.
  • Listening to Jon Krakauer’s ‘Into Thin Air’ during my commutes. The version I have is narrated by the author and I am basically finding myself driving aimlessly so I can keep listening to it. Is it weird that I want to start climbing now?? I have become so obsessed with the whole controversy that I think I have to read ‘The Climb’ now as well, and I’m going to check Netflix for that Everest doc.
  • This week, I’ve been the only person in my department and I’m doing constant triage. People come to find lawyers, they find a row of closed doors, and me. I never imagined that being in a corporate legal department would result in such a wide array of problems to solve. I’ll never get any benefit out of it, but damn, my knowledge is now a mile wide and an inch deep on easements, governance, compliance, bailments, anti-counterfeiting, and FORK TRUCK LEASES. If I can drag myself through one more day of rolling that rock up that hill, bless my heart.
  • Please, please, please, please, PLEASE secondhand gods of running – PLEASE don’t let me be getting shin splints. Please. Okay? I will use my foam roller and increase my miles by only 10% per week and ice and sleep in my ugly compression socks and wear the compression sleeves when I run and slay a chicken on your altar if you just won’t give me shin splints.
  • I’m getting too much pleasure and enjoyment out of Get Off of My Internets. I won’t tell you which blogs I like reading the vicious snark about.
  • I never thought I was a motorcycle boot kind of girl until I saw THESE bad boys on my beautiful bestie. She assented to my request to purchase the same pair. She’s an unselfish sort. They feel extremely heavy and clompy but after mincing around in heels they are undeniably solid and comfortable and the leather is just absolutely gorgeous. They are also the real deal. Steel toe, oil resistant, Good year welt sole. They are, in the words of ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’, bona fide. They probably won’t look as cute on me because I don’t curl my hair, but anyway.

09.2014 boots

  • Soon I’m going to do a post on how crazy my cats are. But after this week of shin splints, legal department triage, and a disastrous climb up from base camp, I just don’t have the energy to get into it. I also don’t have the energy to link to the House of Cards and Into Thin Air and everything like that, bleah.
  • After a summer of ruining my hair, I’ve officially turned the reins over to my stylist. Burgundy lowlights.

09.2014 lowlights

And those, my friends, are the lowlights of the week.

do one thing every day that scares you. – eleanor roosevelt

One of my friends is an avid trail biker and all-around adrenaline junkie. Windsurfing, rock climbing, ex-parkour aficionado. He’s also very mild-mannered, methodical and safe, totally trustworthy and an excellent teacher, so when he invited me to go mountain biking with him I said yes. I’d  never been trail riding before, my bike is over a decade old and has never seen a trail, but I felt that I am in good enough general physical condition that I could at least keep up.

09.2014 bike selfie

One of the local state parks, which is on the grounds of a former historic sanatorium for Detroit tuberculosis patients, has some great bike trails, and so, with the sun shining on green trees just barely starting to turn their colors, cool and bright and windy, we headed there. Unfortunately, as we discovered, the only trails are yellow-grade, not green, so more intermediate. There was some concern and discussion, some initial coaching, and off we went.

So, mountain biking on an actual trail is terrifying. I don’t know what I expected but it certainly wasn’t that. I didn’t expect steep declines studded with rocks and exposed tree roots, narrow switchbacks and crumbling gravel, sand and mud, inclines that took every bit of muscle in my lower back and legs to push up. Even though we were going at an almost leisurely pace compared to what these guys usually do, the speed was intense. It took constant focus to assess what the terrain was doing and what I needed to do in turn, but no time to make decisions, so for the first few miles, I felt almost paralyzed with fear, just pointing the bike and praying. My friend was behind me, giving me tips, and then we came to a sharp corner. I twitched to avoid a rock in the trail, hit the front brakes too hard on a downhill, and had my initiation into flying over the handlebars.

My friend was very calm, picked me up, brushed me off, and on the side of the trail we did a brief deconstruction of what had occurred. I listened, nodded, tried not to look at the blood on my knee and hands, and got back on.

The lessons I learned from the first few miles and the first fall:

  • Right brake is the rear wheel, left brake is the front. Use the right brake more on downhills but feather the left brake as well.
  • Know your gears and shift them constantly. I had never known what or when to shift for different things, but at the end of the trail I was shifting all the time, and still not as frequently as my friend behind me.
  • Learn how to stand up on the pedals and keep them horizontal on a downhill. Lean backwards and be able to grip the seat with your legs to keep control and keep your center of gravity stable on the  mid to back section of the bike.
  • Practice. I have to go out  on more trails and get more miles in. You don’t have time to think or process so you have to react instinctively and in the moment and that only comes from practice.
  • Go with a good teacher who knows what he/she is doing and is willing to watch you and teach you and take responsibility for you out on the trail. My friend didn’t even break a sweat when we were out, it wasn’t even a workout for him, but I could not have finished 6+ miles of that trail without him watching me every minute and yelling instructions when I needed them.

At the end of the trail, my teacher told me that I had done very well, especially for a first-timer, and I was so pleased with myself. I couldn’t believe I’d actually done it. I was so proud of these, because I had totally earned them.

09.2014 bruisesLater, we did some urban biking on the Detroit riverfront. The wind was blowing up some storms and I wish I’d had my camera for more of the trip, because watching the freighter move up the river was amazing, and the Dequindre Cut made me happier than anything.

09.2014 belle isle

I already know it was the day that I will look back on and feel was the last, best day of summer, poised right on the edge of fall.

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.