Affected by the threat of loss…

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This photo captures part of my scrapbook, which displays my school spirit, my frizzy hair before flat irons and special products came to my rescue, and my dear friend, Krissy. We posed for a photograph prior to marching in the Memorial Day parade with our squads and the marching band.

A few years ago, when I was in high school :),  I tried out for the pompon squad. My sister was about to graduate high school, and she wanted her klutzy little sister to take her place as a Sailorette. (Our motto, “Sailorettes Shake It,” meant we shook our pompons, not our rear ends, just to be clear. Seriously.) Initially, I tried out for the squad to please my sister — or certainly because of her encouragement. But by the end of tryouts, I really hoped I would make the squad, and I did.

What followed was a year on the 50-yard line as the tallest girl on the squad, two-pound poms in each hand, bus rides and hair braids, a wardrobe of orange and black, and learning and performing dance routines for a full football season plus marching band competitions and local parades. I absolutely loved it.

Toward the end of that school year, I again had to try out for the squad. Previous participation did not guarantee a spot. This tryout bore much more weight than the first one. I had experienced being a pompon girl. I knew what I had to lose if I didn’t make the squad. The threat of losing my place made me realize just how important it was to me.

I had a similar experience with running recently.

Three weeks ago, I bruised my shin bone. I was getting into the back seat of an SUV in the dark, holding a heavy bag in each hand, wearing a dress and high heels, when I slipped and landed directly on my left shin. It hurt terribly and swelled immediately. I limped my way from the car to the elevator, from the elevator to our apartment, and from there to the couch, where I propped up my legs, allowed my husband to administer ice, and began the process of feeling sorry for myself.

A bone bruise is sometimes called a “pre-fracture,” meaning some fibers of the bone have actually been damaged; recovery is slow — as in months rather than days or weeks. “All bruises were healed by the end of two years,” one article read. Really, years? So instead of following my planned agenda, I was resting, icing, compressing, and elevating the injured area. “You are at risk for re-injury,” my husband repeatedly reminded me. I did not want that, but I was afraid that might mean I couldn’t do anything that would challenge that area of my leg — including running.

When I wanted to at least walk during my morning exercise times, my husband (and physical therapist) warned against it, suggesting swimming instead. Sigh. I knew if I disobeyed my physical therapist’s orders and got injured, I would pay the price — a scolding along with discontinuation of therapy. So I obeyed. Mostly. I walked little stretches with my friend and then swam for longer stretches. I was frustrated, imagining months without running — and the trial of working my way back to my former fitness level.

I wanted to run. Immediately.

This attitude from the girl who wrote about running in a post titled “My hate-love relationship…” because I hated to run but loved how I felt after I ran. (I also liked losing some weight without really adjusting my diet.)

I was shocked that I actually missed this tormenting form of exercise.

I was more shocked last weekend when my husband casually mentioned that I should try running — just 10 minutes — to see how my leg responded. And so I did — and though my shin remains swollen and slightly discolored these three weeks after my accident, it didn’t worsen after the run. The next day I ran again — 17 minutes — and had no issues. My physical therapist cleared me to resume my running schedule. Woohoo!

It took the fear of losing running to make me realize how much I wanted to do it, rather like my experience with pompon tryouts back in high school — except I actually knew I enjoyed being part of the squad long before my second tryouts. Following those, when the list of girls for the 1982-83 Sailorettes got posted, I was too afraid to look. One of my friends looked for me. I had made the team.

Whew and woohoo!

It’s been said that “it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”; I’ve said it myself. But sometimes the threat of loss is all it takes to love something better.


When work is the escape…

The mystery of the chair has not been resolved.

The chair where I spent the wee hours of Saturday night, attending to my miserably sick son. Somehow this wooden chair made it from the kitchenette to my son’s bedroom in the middle of the night. How? None of us know. I do know it was a very present help in time of trouble, and I am thankful I had it for my late-night vigil at my son’s side. Now it is a very present place to store a spare shirt and pillow… I hope another miracle returns the chair to its rightful place at the kitchen table.

I have never been more thankful that I gave up teaching than I am today. If I were a teacher, I would not be heading to work. Instead, I would be living the life fantastic — cleaning and cooking and preparing for Thursday’s big bash at my leisure. Lucky me! I get to go to work. (I am not being sarcastic.)

At the end of school last year, I took the big plunge — quitting my teaching job before I had another job. It was a tad bit scary — embracing unemployment and joining the job-seeking minions — but it ended happily for me. I started my new job in June and loved it immediately — never more than at this moment — and not just because the school zones were inactivated this morning. I love it because, for today, my job is an escape.

Over the weekend, the plague entered my house. Saturday evening, my son became ill. Quite suddenly. Cough, hoarse throat, fever, chills, lack of appetite, vomiting, insomnia, severe headache. Sunday, the vomiting continued; his headache left but dizziness took its place. I was the ever-concerned mama, often huddled at his bedside, willing him to sleep, dumping and washing trash cans of vomit, offering timely beverages and crackers and tissue boxes and blankets and pillows, spraying Lysol when he left a room (behind his back because I didn’t want to offend), and opening windows to the unseasonably warm but fresh air. And repeatedly washing my hands.

When my husband returned from work he had his own symptoms of illness — a severe head cold with a vicious cough.

Since Saturday night had been a rough night for both my son and me, I was looking forward to a little catch-up last night. My son’s cough awakened me once in the night, but my short visit to his bedroom to check on him did not have to be repeated. The misery of the night before had passed. He slept; I mostly slept, except for my husband’s violent coughing episodes that jiggled the bed and assaulted my ears. It was rough for me, rougher for him, and I wanted sleep — and nothing more to do with illness. I certainly didn’t want to catch whatever bug was lurking in the man beside me or in the young man in the bedroom down the hall.  These two weren’t putting a positive spin on it.

At some point during my husband’s coughing gymnastics when I was bounced awake yet again, he told me I would have to stay home from work today to care for him and Adam. He was kidding. I did clarify that before happily bounding from the house, bags in hand, glad to be leaving with my health intact, and thrilled to head to that escape called work.

Which I could not have done had I still been teaching. Funny to be thankful not to have an extended Thanksgiving break…

Still a mama…

This young man's best friend in time of illness....

This young man’s best friend in time of illness….

For months I have been working with colleagues who are mothers of young children, newly entered into childcare situations and suffering the germs and illnesses that come with that. These young moms come to work tired, sharing stories of how little sleep they got the night before because their child was sick.

Today is my turn. Except my son is 18, well above the acceptable age for daycare. His “babysitters” are his 30-hour-a-week job at a pizza parlor and his college classes, but despite his 6’4″ stature and his apparent maturity, he needed his mama last night.

Yesterday, I had the joy of my sister’s company at a college football game. I had purchased tickets from a colleague — way up in the 87th row in the south end zone of the stadium.

“I love the seats. I can see everything,” she had told me. “I just bring my little binoculars…”

You get the idea. I was happy to have tickets for this last home game, just because it meant time with my sister, who lives too far away. When I arrived home from work on Friday, my son told me he had gotten his friend’s two tickets to the game — west side, 17th row, 35 yard line, chairbacks. And when my sister arrived after a three and a half hour drive straight from work late Friday night, he approached her and told her he had upgraded our tickets. This extreme college football fan had willingly shared his prime tickets to the game and taken our nosebleed section tickets quite willingly.

We wanted to reward him — I bought him a team T-shirt — but in addition he was rewarded with illness. Cough, which I rewarded with the only cough medicine in the house, which lasted 12 hours, did not affect the cough but gave him side effects: insomnia, for one. He also had fever. Vomiting. Dizziness. Headache. Severe headache.

My 18-year-old baby was miserable, and I could do little to help him.

I provided him with tissues and a trash can, in case he couldn’t make it to the toilet to vomit.

I tucked him tightly with three blankets to ease his chills.

I left his door open so I could hear him through the night — and I heard a lot. Episodes of vomiting. I dumped the trash can, washed it, and returned it to his side. Moans and groans. I returned to his side time and time again, to aid as I could, to talk as he would, to offer comfort.

The cat seemed to sense his illness and refused to leave his side.

“She’s just using my warmth,” said my feverish lad. I thought she was being a faithful, comforting companion. At some point between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. while I slept, a wooden chair appeared beside his bed, and when Adam’s groans awakened me again, I went to his side and took the chair — and realized my husband had held vigil in my absence.

A combination of vomiting and headache didn’t leave a lot of options for treating the headache. Meds for his head could negatively trigger his stomach issues. And so I tried pressure points in his hands to relieve his headache. I tried ice packs wrapped in towels to cool his fever and ease his pain. When I removed my pressure from his hands, he asked me to continue, and when my thumbs ached from the effort, I tried pressing my hand on his forehead or touching his arm or hand through the blanket. This miserable, groaning and moaning young man seemed to settle at my touch, and he managed a few moments of rest.

As if I were trying to settle a toddler after a bad dream, I stayed by his side, letting him talk, speaking gently in return, waiting until his breathing deepened into sleep, and then slowly released the pressure of my hand from his arm and then the mattress and eased myself to a standing position. As if on cue, my husband appeared at my side, told me Adam was OK, and suggested I return to bed.

At 4 a.m., this youngest child of mine finally drifted into a full sleep and at my husband’s beckoning, I followed suit, exhausted by this return to mothering, thankful this precious young man was seemingly improved and resting, and grateful these moments of motherhood are mostly memories.

And, yet, so thankful I am his mama still.

And I worried about matching?

My discarded wardrobe from this morning...

My discarded wardrobe from this morning…

This morning the temperature outside my home registered 32 degrees — which meant it likely dropped below that just before sunrise. Our wooded lot also shelters us from wind and somewhat insulates us from the cold, and so when I arrived at the health club a few miles from home, the temp was 28 degrees. Fahrenheit. In mid-November. In Florida. As I drove, I listened to the news on the radio and learned that at least eight people have died due to weather in Buffalo, New York. I know I should not complain about my weather woes, but I will anyway.

My running partners have all bowed out of these outdoor excursions, citing cold, sickness, and other wimpy excuses. Me? I hate running on the treadmill, and I hate the idea of losing my edge in the running arena (not that I have much of one). So I determined I would brave the cold and run anyway. I even thought today’s dry cold, as opposed to the humid, windy cold of Tuesday, would actually not feel as bad — even though the thermometer registered 15 degrees colder. My husband provided a mask that would cover my ears and nose and mouth, I wore my Cuddle Duds under my light jacket, and I added gloves to my wardrobe.

I was ready to face the cold — but not the fashion police. I didn’t match. My gloves were black and hot pink, which matched my black pants, but my jacket was a soft aqua with lime green highlights, my running shoes a deep bluish purple, my pepper spray red and black, and my mask was a lovely camouflage (and smelling distinctly like old camping equipment, a remnant from my husband’s biking accessories he kept in the garage).

In the locker room, I stretched, put on my gloves and attached the pepper spray, then attempted to put on the mask. Its Velcro kept sticking to my gloves, so I had to remove the pepper spray, remove the gloves and try again. Below the pony tail? Above the pony tail? I attached it above, breathed, and noticed that wearing the mask made my glasses fog. But as it was cold enough outside, I figured the fog would not be an issue, and I re-donned my gloves and the pepper spray and started to walk out of the locker room. I felt rather conspicuous, not matching.

“You look like Hannibal Lecter,” one of the ladies said.

“Well, then I doubt anyone will mess with me,” I replied with a smile that was hidden by the mask. I looked like Hannibal Lecter? And I was worried about being conspicuous because my colors didn’t match?

Outside, it was cold. I was thankful for the gloves and covering for my ears, nose, and mouth, certain they would make all the difference. Within a hundred paces of the health club door, I realized the mask did, anyway. It kept my ears and nose warm but fogged my glasses. I considered turning back to leave my glasses behind but feared I would choose the comfort of the gym over continuing a cold run. So I kept running — and eventually put my glasses in my pocket. Afraid they would fall out to be lost or broken, I kept reaching into my pocket or pressing the glasses against my side so that I knew they were safe — and in so doing, I realized that while the mask did its job, the gloves did not. My fingers were freezing. My toes — encased in mesh running shoes (so breezy and cool in summer, so freezing and cold now) — felt like solid cubes of ice that threatened to break. (Do they make winter running shoes? But, then again, how many days are winter cold in Florida? Maybe I could get wool socks or toes warmers.)

I made it almost to the mile mark, my goal as I nurse my shin injury, and turned around, still running despite my frozen, hobbled feet because I wanted to be back in comfort as soon as possible. I made it inside, realized I had only been outside for 20 minutes, headed to the locker room, and frightened two friends on their way outside for a run.

They didn’t fear the female version of Hannibal Lecter; they feared the cold I represented. One look at me and they saw not mismatched clothing, but a desperate woman clad for cold who had gotten beaten by it anyway.

I went one way; they hesitatingly went the other. I soothed my frozen toes and fingers in the warm pool, the thaw almost as painful as the freeze, but I was done. I had run — not as far, not as long, certainly not as fashionably dressed as I might have wanted. But it made me wonder how people who live up North do it. A baby dose of cold in Florida was enough to turn my feet back toward the warmth of the health club.

I’m so glad I don’t live in Buffalo, but I have a lot of respect (and prayers) for those who do.


When it all points to God…

The Dagens, November 19, 1994

The Dagens, November 19, 1994

Twenty years ago today, I wrapped myself in satin, lace, and bows and made myself a birthday present — a bride for Steve Dagen on his birthday. With that “I do,” I changed my status from widow to wife and childless to child-full. I became an instant mother of four children, 9, 8, 5, and 3. I had no idea what I was doing.

But even now, when I look back, I have to say that ours was a match made in heaven. I’m not saying it was a bed of roses (unless you refer to the thorns). Often marriage and motherhood seemed difficult at best, and I thought God had had no idea what He was doing — or I that had completely misread His cues.  (I don’t mean to suggest we don’t have free will, but I will say a lot of “coincidences” led Steve and I together.) God seemed the ultimate matchmaker. Our back story seems orchestrated completely by him.

In 1991, after slightly more than two years of marriage, I found myself a widow. My beloved 25-year-old Bill died suddenly following complications from ulcer surgery. Before he died, however, he told me that if anything happened to him, he wanted me to marry again. (Being slightly more selfish, I did not return the favor.) I couldn’t imagine losing Bill, and I couldn’t imagine loving someone other than Bill.  My imagination was short-sighted; both came to pass.

Because Bill and I lived in a not-so-nice apartment and section of town, friends of mine invited me to live in their spare room until another apartment situation opened for me. While I was living there, among their three children who knew Bill, I was forced to grieve “out loud,” as it were, answering questions such as “Is Mr. Bill in heaven?” and “Is Mr. Bill watching us right now?” It was painful but good. My friends and church family rallied around me, and one day my friend Becky visited, bringing me a cassette tape of music she thought I would find soothing. I still remember walking her to her car that day as she left, when she asked me to pray for her friend’s husband and four children; the woman was dying of melanoma. I didn’t remember the name, but I did remember to pray for “that man with the four kids.”(I later knew that name as well as my own. :) )

Near what would have been my third anniversary with Bill, I wrote a column in the local newspaper, where I worked, along the lines of “It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all,” in which I shared the heartache of losing my spouse but believed it was better than to have never had that love with him, even for so short, too short, a time. Unbeknownst to me, Steve read that column and almost called me. He was the man with four children who was losing his wife to melanoma, and my words connected to his experience. He didn’t call, but he did begin following my byline in the newspaper. That is all.

Life went on. I surprised myself by dating and falling in love and desiring to married. I just happened to fall in love with Mr. Wonderful who was also Mr. I Won’t Commit. I knew what I wanted, and it wasn’t dating forever without hope for marriage. I ended that. A couple of months later, a friend introduced me to his friend — a body builder who talked to me about this thing called the Internet and how it would transform shopping. That, too, was beyond my imagination, and I ended that. I worked with a man who I could picture loving — and he moved away. And then my pastor tried to set me up with someone who had admired me from a distance at church. He invited me — and then my roommate, so it would be less awkward — to his house for Easter dinner, where he also invited this young man. Ultimately, my pastor did set this man up — with my roommate.

Timing is everything, right? So on a Saturday night, my roommate and I organized a singles’ group outing to view the movie “Forrest Gump.” We drove separately so I could give a ride to a man with cerebral palsy. Rather than Barb beating me home, I arrived and waited hours before she finally returned home, in tears. After the movie, my pastor’s friend from Easter dinner had confessed his love for my roommate. She cried; I cried. She felt terrible, but I certainly wouldn’t do anything except encourage their love relationship. It was painful just the same.

Even at church the next morning, I was tearful. I felt God had taken away every potential man, and I was anticipating living single forevermore. I recommitted myself to Him and asked Him to take away my desire for marriage and to help me be satisfied with Him as my bridegroom. I felt peace.

That afternoon, my friend Becky called and asked “Would you be willing to date a man with four kids?”

She had met Steve at the local swimming pool and conversed about dating.

“Do you know Sara Olson?” Becky asked him.

“Does she write for the newspaper?” he queried.

Their conversation ended with Steve suggesting that Becky ask me if I would be willing — because, really, what were the chances that a single woman would be willing to take on a man and his four children?

Perhaps one who had just dedicated her love life to God and found the timing of this call anything but accidental. I still think it all points to God — including the fact that twenty years later we are still together and still in love.

A few weeks ago, we were in Seattle attending the wedding of my nephew. While there, we both had moments when we saw each other at our worst, and, yet, at the wedding reception, I turned to my husband and told him I would say “I do” all over again. Crazy as it sounds, I would. (I probably still have no idea what I am doing.)

P.S. That Mr. Wonderful who was also Mr. I Won’t Commit? He went to another country, met a woman, and proposed within a week.

P.P.S. The body builder who predicted the Internet? I lost track of him, but he was definitely Mr. Right — at least in his forecast of this worldwide web.

P.P.P.S. My colleague who moved away? He never moved back and never knew my disappointment. I got over it.

P.P.P.P.S. The man who my pastor inadvertently set up with my roommate? He married her, and they are living happily ever after.

As am I.

And P.P.P.P.P.S.? The story that follows that back story is titled “A mere nineteen years ago…


“Dine at desk” November…

Evidence of "Dine at Desk" November... my breakfast smoothie.

Evidence of “Dine at Desk” November… my breakfast smoothie.

Because we went out for lunch to celebrate the birthday of a colleague yesterday — and went out for lunch last week to bid farewell to a colleague moving to another city — my husband has taken to asking me what I am doing for lunch, as if on a daily basis I am having restaurant meals and fun with friends instead of my usual brown bag lunch all alone in the office kitchen. In November, my answer to his question doesn’t even include “eating in the office kitchenette,” because I know I will be dining at my desk. Not working, mind you, but writing. After all, it is NaBloPoMo — National Blog Posting Month — and I aim to write and publish a post every day.

This morning it was freezing according to Florida standards (i.e. mid-40s with a bit of rain and a wind chill of 39 degrees), but I went on a run anyway. I had long pants and a light jacket but no gloves or hat. I was actually pleased with how good it felt to do a sustained run and might have continued, except that my ears and fingers protested, painfully throbbing. Once inside the gym, I took a few minutes to soak a formerly injured shin in the 52 degree cold pool and made conversation with the other souls who had braved the chill. I mentioned my ears and fingers, and another runner suggested some affordable gloves and hats he’d found that work well for exercise.

“But Target runs out fast,” he advised. “The first year I saw them, I didn’t think I needed them — until it got cold. Then when I returned, the store was out. Buy them while you can.”

More evidence of "Dine at Desk" November... my lunch of turkey and rice soup (homemade with leftover turkey from LAST Thanksgiving so I can make room for next week's leftovers...)

More evidence of “Dine at Desk” November… my lunch of turkey and rice soup (homemade with leftover turkey from LAST Thanksgiving so I can make room for next week’s leftovers…)

As I drove to work early — so I could begin today’s blog upon my arrival before the day’s work began — I contemplated using my lunch time for running to the store for gloves and a hat. The weather is supposed to be a record low tonight — in the 20s, a hard freeze — and I figured everyone and his brother will be at Target buying these gloves and hats. But that would mean no time for writing a blog post today — and I had missed yesterday due to the staff lunch downtown. I had to weigh shopping vs. blogging, special hat vs. not, gloves vs. socks on my hands. The winner? Blogging and its consequences: no special hat, hands in socks instead of gloves. Priorities, priorities.

So as I blogged before work, I drank my breakfast smoothie. As I blogged during lunch (which is now), I ate a bowl of turkey and rice soup. I would slurp a spoonful and type, type, type. Then slurp another and so on. I finished dining at my desk before I finished writing at my desk, but my timer tells me I still have 14:44 left for blogging. No pressure.

The real question is: Why? People do “No Shave November” because they want to draw attention to a cause. Do I do NaBloPoMo because I want to draw attention to my blog? (OK, yes, I do.) Last year, one of my students, knowing I blogged, asked me if I were participating. He was attempting to do NaNoWriMo. Both competitions were new to me; at his suggestion, I read about the blog post writing challenge and decided to do it. (NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which occurs in November. Technically, I could do NaBloPoMo any month, but November draws the most people, some of whom do both novel writing and blog writing every day. I am not that crazy yet.) Last year, I started on November 2 and managed a post a day all the way through mid-January, when I crashed and burned. This year, because my work schedule is so intense and I have little time at home after work, I knew NaBloPoMo was simply out of the question — and yet I did it anyway.

I love to write. I like the challenge NaBloPoMo offers — making me stretch myself by writing more often, writing fewer words at times, writing about random topics, writing less than perfectly, and even failing. I love interacting with fellow bloggers, especially giving and getting feedback and encouragement. Writing posts often takes me out of my comfort zone, makes me focus on something other than food, and, actually, makes me hunger for ideas.

Although I do hunger for the occasional meal and fun with friends, I am OK giving most lunchtimes in a given month to “Dine at Desk” November.


Six hours later: Day is done. Gone the sun. Gone the dinner. Not at a desk. At home. With loved ones. No writing. All good. Tomorrow is another day.



When I am scared of pants…

Americans are getting fatter and fatter, yet the pants we wear are getting smaller and smaller. I just don’t understand it. Personally, trying on pants has made me so afraid it reminds me of Dr. Seuss’s beloved What Was I Scared Of? The rhyming children’s book on fear and tolerance tells the story of an encounter with “pale green pants with nobody inside them.” In the story, the main character visits numerous places and keeps running into and then away from these pants that move though minus a body. I’m thinking a lot of pants — pale, green or any color — in these United States shouldn’t have anyone inside them. They might be less frightful. Pants these days are smaller, tighter, and should be socially unacceptable. As I try on pants, the same brands and sizes I have worn in the past, I am as scared as the character in the story — because they don’t fit — but I don’t see myself embracing these tight pants anytime soon…

what was i scared of

Confession: Some of the pairs of pants I wear today I have been wearing for ten years. On a wintry weekend those many years ago, I had been suffering a severe cold, feeling miserable. My husband, for the first time in my life with him, suggested “retail therapy,” otherwise known as mall shopping. I went without children, shopped just for myself, made purchases, and came home feeling almost completely healed. Retail therapy worked for me. My husband has never forgiven himself.

But on that shopping trip, I met The Limited. I went into the store for the first time, looked at the clearance rack (as per my modus operandi in any store), found a couple pairs of pants and headed for the dressing room. What I found there was customer service. The attendant exchanged clothes for different sizes, brought back additional items she suggested I try, and even brought in a pair of jeans she thought would be perfect. It was heavenly. Though I bought only a pair or two of pants at a good price, The Limited had a friend for life.

I returned on my infrequent outings to the mall, always heading to the clearance rack and always receiving good service. It was there I purchased my pants, always “dry clean only” varieties that held their shape and which I could launder using at-home dry-cleaning supplies. It is those pants that fit me well and remain staples in my closet. The Limited, unfortunately, closed after a couple of years of my clearance-rack-only purchases, and I wore all black for days in mourning.

But these are the days of online shopping, right? So when I wanted more pants, I went right to the site — found my size and style (and sale, of course) — and made a purchase. The pants arrived — The Limited name, my size, my style — but they did not fit the same. I kept them, being too lazy to make the return, and figured I could lose a little weight and enjoy them more. They remain in my closet, pristine; they are simply not the same.

Likewise, workout pants seem to be getting smaller. I am tall; length has always been more of a problem than width in my purchases. In my dresser, you would find Nike, Adidas, Champion, and other brands all in the same size. They fit fine but I give them plenty of wear and wanted replacements. But going to the store to purchase new workout pants is a humbling experience. Nothing fits — or at least nothing fits modestly enough to wear in public. I tried on a number of my usual brands and styles in my size and found nothing acceptable. When I checked out — just buying a new shirt — I told the checkout clerk that I would have to diet before I bought workout pants. Really?

If you haven’t read Dr. Seuss’s What Was I Scared Of?, you should — aloud — just for fun. If you haven’t gone shopping for pants lately, you shouldn’t, because then you will be scared. The version of What Was I Scared Of? I had was tucked into a large book that compiled several of Seuss’s more famous works, and it was a gem my youngest son and I enjoyed over and over again. Apparently, you can purchase a version of it that glows in the dark; I can only hope that the skintight pants on the market do not come in styles that glow in the dark…

Just for fun, I took a few of Seuss’s lines and made them my own:

I was walking in the store

And I saw nothing scary.

For I have never been afraid

Of anything. Not very.

Then I was deep within the racks

When, suddenly, I spied them.

I saw a pair of workout pants

That seemed to be my size then.

I wasn’t scared. But, yet, I stopped

To try those pants to be sure.

I wanted them to fit me well,

That brand that fit me before.

And then I tried those workout pants

They made my bod look so big

My former pride, I must admit,

Began to see me a pig.

I tried on more, the same result.

The brands and sizes I wore

Before no longer seemed to fit.

And so I left the sports store.




A thousand plus words…

One small square of  driveway that made me stop and wonder.

One small square of driveway that made me stop and wonder.

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? This post is that thousand plus a few of my own.

Last summer in drought-like conditions, we were swarmed with mosquitoes. They buzzed and bit and mobbed en masse and made life miserable.  This year, despite months of heavy rains, we had few. It could be due to the onslaught of frogs that convened on our property when a small pond formed in the lower southwest corner for a time. Their chorus kept silence at bay all summer — but it is possible their appetites took care of the mosquitoes too.

But now it is November and so dry that those deluges and nightly frog musicals are but a distant memory — except for the hickory nuts, which hit the roof of our house and ding our vehicles when we forget to park a safe distance from their trajectory. My husband hypothesizes that this boon in hickory nuts mirrors that of the rain we had all summer. A physical therapist with an eye for potential hazards, whenever my husband walks onto the driveway, he picks up the fallen nuts and tosses them over the garage into the Spanish bayonets beyond (the plants, not the weapon). These round nuts, camouflaged with the autumn leaves can easily turn an ankle or cause a fall. And they don’t seem to simply fall. When the tree branches shake these hickory nuts free, the nuts shoot like bullets or missiles — aiming for shiny cars or roofs over sleeping heads or simply breaking apart to leave a rusty residue that delights the squirrels and stains our cars.

These nuts do not delight me.

Until I see them broken, their hearts exposed and beautiful, and I am reminded of the Creator, who seems to weave a bit of wonder into everything He creates. He truly does make all things beautiful in His time — even annoying hickory nuts!

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ephesians 3:11).










One small square of  driveway that made me stop and wonder.

One small square of driveway that made me stop and wonder.

My cat is in the closet…

I am sitting at this computer, waiting for pages to load, thinking out loud that this is the slowest computer in the world — even though I am the only person in the room. And then I hear movement in the closet, shuffling, rearranging, moving paper, and, then, silence (yes, I hear that too, as it is so conspicuously different, that absence of sound). My cat is in the closet.

I get up and shoot a photo — and manage to capture something tolerable on the first shot, because I didn’t want to disturb this precious kitty in whatever it is she is doing.

Tori the cat, the wonderful, wonderful cat -- who makes herself at home no matter what she is destroying to do so.

Tori the cat, the wonderful, wonderful cat — who makes herself at home no matter what she is destroying to do so.

Which would be sleeping in my portfolio of newspaper articles, as it turns out. Which is on the third shelf. Which just happens to be inside a non-lidded cardboard box. Which, interpreted, means no protection from shedding hair or, worse, claws, which I have failed to cut for fear of hurting her, despite the painful acupuncture treatments she has given me and the nail holes she has inflicted on my Soma robe. (Note to self: Write Soma about providing robes for cats. Or patches for your robe. Inform them that their fleece robes might find a niche in the cat supply market.)

Now it sounds as if she is turning the pages and reading, but I shudder to think what she is really doing to my quality articles and columns from my newspaper days 20+ years ago that I thought to send to my mother, hundreds of miles away, and that she thought to save for me — because who knows if and where I saved a set for myself. (If I did, they are in the garage and likely of no quality to keep.)

Pets are an odd thing. I know people who cater to their pets and treat them like children. I’m not sure I even catered to my children, and yet I allow my cat to ruin my portfolio of newsprint or leave holes in my thigh with her kneading claws or push open the bathroom door when I’m inside and jump to the sink so she can have fresh water or let her stay warm at the foot of my bed even though it means I have to sleep with one bent leg.

We have a chair that is a monument to the destructive force of her claws as well as the cemetery for her hair. It is ruined and an eyesore and leaves hair on the rear end of any human who tries to claim it — yet it remains a fixture in our living room. (In hope, I think, that she continues to use that as her scratching post and leaves the other furniture alone.) We have spots on the carpet that memorialize her carefully timed escapes into the outside world, where she immediately ate whatever vegetation she met and then promptly vomited, upon her return, in the carpeted part of the house.

I love cats, I love every kind of cat.  Not really, that was for Brittany, who showed that video to me and all her classes a few years ago. (We were both school teachers.) It became the theme of the year, somehow, and forever stuck in my brain. But I do love our cat.

I am not that sappy, but somehow I let this cat, Tori, have on-demand petting and feeding and whatever else her little heart or spastic brain desires. If we go on vacation, my husband sends text messages to whomever is left behind to take care of this furry animal: “What does Tori say?” If I am away, my husband has me speak to this cat on the telephone, and she stays near the phone as if she really hears my voice and misses me. I could swear she hugs me when I return home.

If I have difficulty falling asleep and Tori happens to jump on the bed and settle down for a catnap, I immediately calm and know that I will fall asleep — because I will be still so SHE can sleep, which in turn will help me.

When she started cleaning herself sore last summer, I spent hours reading online forums, trying to figure out what was wrong. I changed her food to a more expensive brand, and I was happy when my husband was able to spend more time at home — for Tori. Really? Have I become so crazy? When she isolated herself in a box and our children made comments about how weird she was acting, I found myself defending her, explaining her mental state. My husband suggested I start a cat psychology blog.

My daughter and her husband have a boxer, and that pet appears in more Facebook posts than any other event in their lives. They seem to take great pride in his craziness and his ability to hunt and eat small, cute animals and birds. Really?

Oh, wait, my 18-year-old son just walked in, looking for Tori, then grabbed his cellphone to shoot a brief video of this cat in the closet. I suppose if my cat really is reading the newspapers it would make an interesting video.

All I can say is that pets seem to change us, making us less sane and more sane at the same time… well, at least in my family. :)


Random rant I wish I’d missed…

The parking lot at the health club was ridiculously crowded, but just as I entered the lot, I noticed a car with backup lights and positioned myself to wait for the prime space. Being courteous, I didn’t hover as that would block other traffic from flowing, but I clearly was waiting for that one spot. Just as the car backed up and exited, a woman in another vehicle sped around the corner and pulled into it. Had I recently watched Fried Green Tomatoes, I might have yelled “Towanda!” and pulled in after her, come what may. I hadn’t and didn’t.

So you get a better idea...

So you get a better idea…

But I did drive away in a huff. Then I entered the club — after a long walk from the farthest parking lot — and made my way to the locker room. Like spaces in the parking lot, lockers were hard to find. One other woman, who I knew vaguely from an aqua class, was in the locker section, and I commented on how crowded the club was today. Then I happened to mention the incident in the parking lot.

“And I was waiting for this parking space someone was leaving, and this woman just rounded the corner and slipped into the spot. How rude!”

At this moment, the woman turned to face me, and I groaned inwardly. I knew her from somewhere other than the swimming pool and locker room. As in, if I saw her profile driving a car in the morning darkness, scooting into a parking spot I had deemed my own, I might be more sure. But I had a sinking suspicion I had inadvertently, by my rash, random rant, confronted the very person about whom I was ranting. Our conversation continued in a casual manner, and I thought I must be mistaken. Whew.

Upstairs, my workout partners and I were back together after a series of vacations, sicknesses, and injuries had disrupted our routine, and I all but forgot the incident. But when we had finished for the day, I returned to the locker room, showered, and began getting ready for work.

Suddenly, my “rant-ee” approached me, wet from her swim.

“Sara, I thought about what you said the entire time I was swimming, and I think I was the person who stole your parking space. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you were waiting for that spot.”

Sigh. I can’t even remember what I said in return. I was too embarrassed. Really? I’m waiting for a parking space to be closer to the doors of the health club? As if a brisk walk carrying two bags and a set of hanging clothes couldn’t be a small addition to my workout?

Instead I had ranted about this rude woman who stole my parking spot TO the very person I was calling rude.

Who’s rude? Me and my big mouth. :(

To make myself feel better, I reiterated my story to two friends (and, now, you). Both declared the other woman in the wrong for stealing the parking space and told me to forget about it. So why did this bother me so much?

It’s not the parking space I didn’t get. I now realize I had no way of making clear my intention for that spot; I was pulling straight forward and so couldn’t use a blinker, and I didn’t choose to block traffic to get in a more obvious position. Unless the woman had been waiting as well, she likely would not have noticed that I had been waiting for any period of time. So, really, my complaint may have been unfounded from the start.

But I think what bothers me is that I got caught. Had I known that this woman was THE one in the car, I would not have confronted her. I am not a confrontational person. I would rather silently forgive — be willing to accept the consequences of another’s behavior — than point to the wrong done, unless, apparently, I am doing it behind that person’s back, where I can rant and rage and get kudos for doing so. I think I consider it a form of entertainment. Shame on me.

In my reflections on the situation, I was reminded of this verse in Ephesians:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29, NIV).

Reading it makes me want to learn something from this experience: to use my words to encourage others — and to drive for parking spaces more aggressively. :)