THE EYES DO NOT HAVE IT

I few months ago, I had to renew my driver's license and I did not take my glasses in with me when I did this. Then the lady told me to look in the box and read the last row of letters. I paused while internally saying "fuuuck". Somehow, I managed to blunder my way through, though she did ask me to read them a second time. Up until this point I had no idea how much I had been relying on my glasses for distance vision. Cut to a day or so ago when I had to go in for my annual eye exam. The technician had me leave my glasses on and then read the letters from a board first with my right eye and then with my left eye. I could not read ANY of the letters with my left eye and I almost started hyperventilating.

It was bad. Real bad. I got into the room with the eye doctor and she set the phoropter (that's what that thing with all the lenses is called) in front of my face. We went through the whole right left rigamarole again. When we got to my left side, I gasped and kind of yelled out "WHAT IS HAPPENING!?!?" I told the doctor that I couldn't make out any of those letters, hearing the high pitch panic in my own voice as I made this confession. I started to worry that something was really wrong with me. Like maybe I had a tumor sitting behind my left eye. Maybe I somehow burned a hole in my eye when taking pictures of the eclipse or working with the lasers on the microscopes. I have seriously effed up my left eye. In fact, it's probably going to fall right out of my head.

My doctor could sense my rising panic and assured me that I was okay. She said "we knew your left eye was the problem eye. It's just gotten a little worse." Then she showed me cool 3D images of my eyeballs. She pointed out certain structures and told me that they looked nice and healthy. She drew imaginary lines along all of the blood vessels and said that my blood vessels looked healthy. My reading vision is still 20/20. I nodded my head and allowed her to console me. Then I spent about $500 on new lenses for my sunglasses and regular glasses. Later, I was talking about all of this to a friend. She played down my blinding left eye by telling about the time she left her glasses off at a pool party. She said everyone was so blurry that she couldn't even tell if they were wearing swimsuits. Her story really put things into perspective. At least I can tell if people are naked or not. 

So...things I learned: My left eye is not going to fall out of my eye socket. I do not have a tumor. My vision has gotten worse, but not so bad that I couldn't see something like a bear running towards me. If I decide to change careers and become a pirate, I need to put my patch over my left eye. 

WRITING A MILLION WORDS

The other day, I started a word document on my computer for the sole intention of writing a specific story. All of my other bits of started stories are on the drive which means I have access to them whenever I am not near my personal computer. I kind of thought if I put it in a word document on my computer that I would specifically dedicate a certain amount of time every day to sit and write. That happened four days ago. I added two sentences to the two pages I'd copied and pasted over from a drive document. You know what I did Sunday after finishing laundry, making ghee, washing dishes (we use a lot of dishes on Sundays) and cleaning the bathroom? It sure wasn't writing. I organized my sock and underwear drawer. It's really nice. I should have taken a picture of it to show you. 

I also read. I've been reading Loving Day by Mat Johnson and I'm pretty much in love with this guy's writing style. There have been many times I've had to stop and read some things out loud because of how the words were strung together. I need to stop doing this because it's slowing me down. I pre-ordered Circe by Madeline Miller and it arrived days ago. I'm really excited about this book, but I've always been the kind of reader who finishes a book before starting another. Even though my fingers twitched to open up to the first page, I set it down and walked away. The idea of hearing Circe's side of the story, even if it's made up, is oh so appealing to me. I didn't really care for the Odyssey when I read it as a kid. Actually, all of those old Greek stories have been on my least favorite list mostly because women are either no where in the story, a beautiful damsel in distress or a witch. 

My insecurities were developed hundreds of thousands of years ago, just like all women. It has been passed down from ancient ancestors through art and storytelling. From the earliest literature, women have been depicted as meek and mild or hateful and villainous or a combination of all of those things. We are rarely depicted as warriors and depicted lovingly only when our bellies are are round with child, most specifically a boy child. We are never smart or if found to be cleaver we must be doing the Devil's work. Women are deceitful. I can't even bare to pick up classic literature anymore without cringing. It reminds me how long and slow our struggle for this current level of equality has been. It's been over three hundred years since the last witch trial. It's been about a hundred years since a woman was arrested for protesting for her right to a vote. It's been fifty five years since Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, though we still see discrepancies in equal pay.

All of this has nothing to do with my inability to discipline myself into writing every day. It does have everything to do with how I want to twine words together. I once heard someone say that to be a better writer, you should read from different writers. So that's what I'm doing. I'm reading so that I can eventually write a million words. 

 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

I noticed a white powder drifting down to my yoga mat as I moved through my sun salutations. My skin was so dry that it was flaking off of my body with each movement. I was disgusting. The next day, I took a long steamy shower and scrubbed my body with oily bath salts and then coated myself in lotion. This is something I have to do every day or I am just a walking flake. This is called self maintenance. This is something I have gotten better at over the years. I schedule regular doctor visits for all of the doctors. I take time to visit my favorite massage therapist every so often. I keep my toenails trimmed so I can't use my toes as weapons. These teeth get flossed every day. Look at me, being a grown up and self maintaining. 

Once week, I sit in my therapist's office talking about my week which inevitably circles around to how I am not enough. I could write you the longest list of ways that I am not enough. I am not fill-in-the-blank enough. The biggest not enough of them all is the hardest one for me to say out loud, but sometimes I do so I can hear just how ridiculous it sounds. Because I know that biggest one is ridiculous, but still...that's the one that sits with me day in and day out. Dr. Mary doesn't really ever say much when I talk about not being enough. Whatever she says it tends to prompt me into talking about the things I do that are enough. I talk about the money I can spare every month for charity and how teaching yoga at the Y is giving back to my community. This is self care. This is something that I have not gotten better at over the years. 

Whenever the weather is remotely nice outside, all the people in Kansas City get outside. This means that the Y is practically empty. Wednesday night, I set up to teach my yoga class and then ended up sitting around for about half an hour. I was just about to pack it in and call it a night when a woman stumbled into the class. She looked around, slightly confused and then said "Am I the only one? I thought I was only just late." Then we had a short discussion about whether or not to have class at all. I told her that I didn't mind teaching a short thirty minute class with her, so she grabbed a mat and a block and I taught class. And it was a good class. It was the kind of class where I could see the student making those mental connections to the cues I was giving her and see the lightbulb of understanding light up above her head. It was the kind of class that could make me believe that I was making a difference and doing something good

This is self care. 

This week, I am thankful for that one student. I am thankful for the opportunity to share my practice and knowledge. I am thankful for that moment where I was enough. I am thankful for self care. 

I am thankful for you.

 

THE FARM LIFE

Michael's been reading a book about food and how he should eat this instead of that. A lot of the information he's getting is about the dangers of processed foods and industry farming. He tells me things and I just kind of nod my head. He's learning about all the things Chris and I learned about food years ago when we watched all of the documentaries and read all of the books. We fell down a rabbit hole of organic, responsibly sustainable food and how to get them on our tight, almost nothing food budget. Those were the days when Saturdays were devoted to grocery shopping and it took us all day to do it because we had to travel to at least three, sometimes four, different places spread out across the OKC metro to get all of our groceries for the week. The breaking point came when Chris and I went on a road trip and stopped at a convenient store for a snack. I walked out in tears because I couldn't find anything to eat. That's when Chris realized I might have gotten a little out of control and that we needed to find a better balance. 

And we did. I did. 

So, I'm listening to Michael tell me why we should only eat grass fed beef and how sugar is the enemy as if it's all new information and I am clueless about all of it because we all need to discover things on our time, in our own way. I know the rabbit hole he's about to fall down. I told him about how I'd been using "Do what you can with what you have, where you are." as a meditation mantra and how it is not a bad mantra to apply towards food. He agreed. We still ended up visiting a farm Saturday morning to look into buying some pork chops. Bonnie View Farm is seriously eight miles from our house, which sounds surprising because we are in such an urban city area. Just a few minutes south and suddenly you're in rolling hills and pasture. Bonnie View looks like any other midwest farm house, painted a buttercream yellow with a wrap around porch. The farm itself is tucked down the hill behind the house. You wouldn't even suspect that there was a working farm there if they didn't have a sign posted out front. 

We got out of the car and stepped into the cold, just as Justine, one of the owners, stepped out of the small barn that acts as their store and houses their giant freezer. She greeted us warmly and beckoned us all to come inside where it was a little bit warmer. Two of her older children where in the process of moving chickens from the coops to the pasture. She said that the chicks should have been moved out there weeks ago, but with weather being so cold they had had to leave them in the coops to keep them warm. Then she got down to business and talked pork and bacon with Michael. She said that she does have some greens that she grows in her hoop house and she'd have them on her list whenever they are available. We talked about vegetable gardens. She agreed with me about the work. Her two oldest daughters where the gardeners of the family and when they got married and moved out, Justine let the garden go. We chatted about seeds and piglets and then I asked if I could take pictures. Justine said "let me go get one of the girls to take you down to the barn." Her daughter Emma came out and took us down to the barn to see the baby goats and a calf.

They were all so nice. 

And relaxed. 

Even when we noticed that one of the chickens had escaped. Justine and Emma slowely circled around the chicken, which led to a chase into some fencing before Justine calmly scooped up the bird. They all shrugged their shoulders as if to say "this is life on a farm." For just a tiny half minute, I thought I could get used to life on a farm. Then it snowed on Sunday and I started looking at retirement villages in Mexico. The thought quickly shifted to 'I could get used to visiting this farm'. Hopefully, the next time we do visit, we will be able to go on our scooters.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

The other night, I dreamed that Chris and I were at Six Flags. We were the first ones into the park and headed right back to the biggest, newest roller coaster. There wasn't a line, but we had to twist our way through a maze of ropes and up and down a narrow staircase. The staircase was the scariest part because it was dark and the steps were steep. When we finally made it to the loading station, the roller coaster car pulled up and the seats were just open benches without any kind of harness or lap belt. You just held onto the seat and hoped you had the strength to hold yourself down on the loops. Chris looked at me and said without saying (because Chris never talks in my dreams) "are you sure you want to ride this roller coaster?" but then a hoard of zombies entered the park before I could answer him. Michael and I had just watched the most recent episode of the Walking Dead. By the way, season eight is just plain awful and I don't think I care enough about any of the characters any more to watch.

I realize now that I never answered Chris's question about wanting to ride a roller coaster that was so very obviously dangerous. Dr. Mary gave me a handout from a lecture she did a while ago about seven things for functioning or something like that. She had me read the list out loud and when I got to the second thing on the list, I busted out laughing. Number two on the list had to do with recognizing dangerous situations and avoiding them appropriately. Then I told Dr. Mary about the time I drove an hour to have dinner at a stranger's apartment and how I didn't see anything wrong with this until I got there. Then it was a little bit creepy that the guy only had one light on, no heat and camp chairs for furniture, but I still figured that if I had to fight this guy that I totally could have taken him. I most of the time do not recognize a dangerous situation as being dangerous. This is why Talaura has a video of bison running down the road with Michael's voice clearly saying "get in the car, Cindy." 

A few days after this dream, I spent two minutes in supported fish pose. This pose feels nice between the shoulders but also leaves your neck exposed. I had been warned that I might get a wave of panic having my neck exposed while hanging out for two minutes in fish. You know, like having the feeling that a wild dog is going to come rip your throat out for no reason what so ever. Except I never did get that feeling. Actually, I've never had that feeling in this pose. I've never felt panic or fear in any yoga pose. Instead of fighting fear induced anxiety, I ended up fighting tears. My eyes welled up and spilled down the sides of my face. My throat is the first thing affected when tears attack. It closes up and I can't talk. I can barely even breath. Losing the ability to squeak out a word makes me furious, which in turn, makes me cry harder. It's usually pretty ugly. I wrinkled my brow and wondered why I was suddenly crying in fish pose and still able to breath.

It is not that I purposefully or willfully refuse to recognize a dangerous situation as maybe being dangerous. And don't think for a minute that I am not scared in these situations. It's just that stubbornness is the rock, while fear becomes the scissors in this game. Stubbornness wins every time. I love supported fish pose. I practice that pose ALL of the time. I never once thought about how my throat was exposed or the dangers involved in exposing your throat. Now, all I can think about is that scene from Roadhouse where Patrick Swazye rips that guy's throat out with his bare hand. This should creep me out or make me shy away from poses that expose my throat. Instead, I find it slightly hilarious. That scene is ridiculous, though if you ask the guys I work with, they'll say that it is awesome, in the same way that Bill and Ted are awesome. I am comfortable in dangerous situations, at ease, in my element and even can relax enough to cry. 

So yeah, I'd probably still ride that roller coaster, because that's the whole point and there's something worthy of gratitude in this somewhere. You don't know how anything is going to end, so you might as well enjoy the ride. 

AN EDUCATION

When I was in high school, there was a brief discussion about possibly sending me to Cascia Hall Preparatory School, an expensive private school in Tulsa. The biggest draw for me was their orchestra. It meant that I could play my cello all the time in a real orchestra. Collinsville High School could barely afford a band, let alone an orchestra with stringed instruments. Stringed instruments where instruments of the rich. This discussion of attending Cascia Hall was brief for a couple of reasons: the price of tuition and being held back a year. Cascia Hall would have automatically put me a year behind. My parents really were not sure how they were even going to pay for my college education if I didn't get scholarships. They would have found a way to make it work if I had really wanted to go there, but it would have been a strain on all of us.

I stayed with public education and played my cello in a youth orchestra once a week. When I started my senior year in high school, I took classes at the local junior college to give me a leg up when I started college. The education I received at Collinsville did not prepare for college. Don't get me wrong. It was a good enough education. My teachers (most of them) did their best to teach us with the resources they had available to them. My sophomore history book was my sister's sophomore history book. I know this because she'd written her name inside it. She was five years older than me and the book had not been new when she was a sophomore. The students at Collinsville were used to books with torn covers, a missing page or two, and even a bit of mold growing on the inside. It was not uncommon to not have enough books to check out to all of the students. Meaning, you only got to use the book when you were in class. There was never enough money for new books, band instruments, choir uniforms or even for building renovations. Many of my teachers had second jobs. There was never a time when I was not hawking something for band or choir. We would not have had any of our arts programs without our fundraising efforts. 

This has not changed in almost twenty five years. Many teachers who teach in Oklahoma schools have second jobs in order to make ends meet. They are still teaching with books that are torn and moldy and out-dated. They are still teaching in buildings that are in desperate need of renovation. The teachers of Oklahoma are still doing the best job they can with the resources available to them. The protests are not just about a more than well deserved pay raise. It is about finally making the state of Oklahoma actually value an education for their children. I am a success story of the Oklahoma education system only because I had teachers who pushed me to take those college classes and attend biology camps. When they could not provide me with information and resources that I needed, they found programs outside of the school that could. This does not make Oklahoma teachers unique or special...because they are teachers. This is what teachers do and it is not an easy job. 

You will never be able to convince me that education is not one of the most important parts to our infrastructure. It deserves more funding than our prison systems and our military. This is why I stand by Oklahoma Teachers. 

THE WINTER THAT WILL NOT END

Otherwise known as "Now is the winter of our discontent" or The Long Winter or The Winter That Killed Cindy Because She Never Saw The Sun Again. The End. 

I had no idea that fleece lined leggings would actually be the most practical and important purchase I would make in 2018. When I bought them on sale, I thought I was planning for next winter. My weather app currently says "feels like 26°" and this morning I had to tell the dog three times to go outside. She usually does this on her own, but this morning she stayed under the comforter until she heard Michael open the front door to leave. Even then, she only poked her head out to see what was happening. I almost think I saw her shoulders shrug before she tucked herself back into the blanket. Yesterday morning, while it was sleeting and snowing, the cat came in and settled down in my lap. Then he attacked me for no reason other than he needed to make someone suffer for what was happening outside.

We spent most of Easter Sunday on the couch under blankets or snuggled in bed reading books. I did manage to clean the bathroom, do laundry and clean out my closet, but there was a lot of immobility happening in between chores. There was a lot of scowling at the window whenever we'd hear the tap-a-tap of ice hitting the glass. We also ate a lot of cheese and pickles. For some reason, cheese is our go-to comfort food. I don't know why the pickles were involved. We watched a cooking show on PBS where the chef said things that made us question if she had ever tasted food before. She coated grapes with olive oil and salt and then roasted them in a pan with butternut squash. Micheal said "that's interesting." I replied "I don't know...it's a HOT grape." A salty hot grape on a salad. If raisins are the worst thing ever to be handed out as food, a salty hot grape has got to be the second worst thing.

Michael mentioned something about the trip we made to Wisconsin in July and how we nearly froze to death. One of us always ends up mentioning this trip whenever the weather is acting inappropriately. Wisconsin again interrupted my train of thought as I passed a guy in the hallway who works with sea lamprey. They're an invasive species that made their way into the lake from the Atlantic Ocean some time around 1938. Sea lampreys caused significant damage to the fishing industries of the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission has gone to great lengths to get the lamprey population under control. Still, when I think about falling into any of the Great Lakes, I think of freezing to death while being attacked by hundreds of lampreys.

That's what this winter feels like. I'm freezing to death while giant eels are attaching themselves to me with a suction cup mouth full of razor sharp teeth. And yes, I realize that I am probably over exaggerating and being a bit dramatic. But really, I have nothing more to tell you. 

THINGS THAT SURPRISE ME

Every morning, after Michael leaves, I ask Alexa to play some music. She will come up with some playlist that she thinks I might like and often I will say "Alexa, play something else." Some times I just tell her what to play. Monday morning, I asked for the usual and Alexa said "Okay, how about Kesha's popular songs." I shrugged, thinking "why not?" A minute later I'm dancing in the kitchen and singing into a spatula while making pancakes. I like Kesha. 

This surprises me. I tend to be the kind of girl that likes her music more obscure and angsty. I could cocoon myself up on a gray day with the National or croon along with Morrissey. I could spend all day rollerskating with Arcade Fire. I'd love to have dinner with Neko Case. Even though I am disappointed in Wayne Coyne as a human being, I could still soak in a bathtub of tangerines. When asked what kind of music I listen too, I usually answer 'alternative'. I like to listen to bands you've never heard of. I have always been this way. I will hear one bit of a song from an obscure artist and then totally and completely devote the next two months of my life listening to every single song from that artist. Though I recognize their importance in American music, I have never been drawn to the Pop artist. Which is how I would have categorized Kesha.

Someone recommended listening to Kesha's Rainbow album and I've been hooked ever since. I downloaded the explicit version of the album and I think it's her vulgar swearing that I love the most. It reminds me of being a teenager. Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville was the first explicit album I ever purchased. Even then, I was too young to buy it. I had to have Katrina get it from Starship Records for me. It was not the type of album I could just pick up from the Walmart music section. I would pop that tape into my walkman, put the headphones on and lay on my bed listening to Liz sing about fucking guys and pleading to Mary for help. Each word was a golden nugget and listening to that album made me feel slightly rebellious. Maybe it was my rebellion. Kesha doesn't inspire the dark rebellion in me the way Liz did, but she does make me want to high five someone and yell out "YEAH!" Also, when she sings Praying, I want to weep for her and hug her and tell her that she is the most brave and that guy is going to rot from the inside out. By the way, Praying is not a song of worship. 

Sometimes a girl just needs to shake her ass and have some boogie feet.

Something else that surprises me? I did 108 yoga pushups in yoga class on Saturday. 

HIGH FIVES ALL AROUND!

THINGS I SHOULD HAVE DONE

I should have bought her apples for her. The young woman stood at the check out counter negotiating with the cashier. An older woman, the mother or an aunt, took the very tiny and fussy baby from the young woman and took a few steps away, swaying with the baby. The woman fidgeted with an envelope labelled "WIC" on the outside. She hadn't received her card yet and the cashier was having to write down everything on a form. He had already scanned the milk incorrectly and had to rescan it and then fix his mistake on paper. I could feel Michael growing impatient beside me. We were kind of in a hurry. The young woman tried her best to look bored. Finally the cashier rang up all of her items: a half gallon of milk, three apples and two pounds of grapes. 

The cashier looked up at the young woman and said "This is going to put you a little bit over. Is that okay?" The young woman looked at her three items and then said "take the apples off." Michael moved passed me and said "We have to go. We're going to be late." I looked at him and then at the few items we had sitting on the conveyer belt and then I looked at the apples and then back at Michael. He looked at me more insistently and said again "We have to go." I fumbled, lost at what to do before giving in and saying "okay". It was only after we had made it outside to the parking lot when I said "I was going to buy that woman some apples." Michael paused and then asked "Why didn't you say something?" Then he asked if I wanted to go back in and buy the apples. I said "no" and we got in the car and headed off to our appointment.

That memory and hesitation has been sitting with me ever since. I just keep seeing that woman's groceries. Two pounds of grapes, three apples, and a half a gallon of milk. No Twinkies. No candy bars. Nothing remotely unhealthy. She had to give the apples back. I feel slightly sick with guilt. I should have stepped up and bought the damn apples. It was just that I wanted to buy the apples discreetly, with out a fuss. This was something I could have done if we had stayed in line, but instead I let myself be dragged away. Now I'm kicking myself for not stepping up and making a fuss. I was so concerned about not embarrassing the young woman or making the situation worse for her that I froze and did nothing. 

I did the wrong thing.

But I am not the only one to fail this woman. This was a grocery store in a poor neighborhood. Michael and I had gone in there to grab three items that we had missed in our usual grocery trip. This grocery store seemed convenient because it was between our house and our haircut appointment, but when we got inside the store we already knew that we had a made a mistake in stopping. The produce section was less than half the size of your usual produce section and twice as expensive. I picked up a bundle of asparagus and balked at the $5 dollar price tag. That same sized bundle was no more than $2 at Trader Joe's. All of the produce at this grocery store was overpriced. Meanwhile there was a sale on Hawaiian Punch. A high fructose corn syrup laced 'fruit' drink was cheaper to buy than two apples. 

This is what's called a 'Food Desert'.

People living in food deserts do not have access to affordable nutritious foods. As a result, they tend to have higher percentages of obesity and diabetes due to a diet of cheaper, less nutritional foods. Socio-economically, this means that poor people are more likely to be sick and as a result, may not be able to work. This requires them to rely on government assistance. Now we've got an endless loop going. It may be very inexpensive to eat fast food and the less nutritional things from the grocery store, but long term, it becomes very expensive for ALL of us. I don't know what the fix for this problem might be, but I do know I could have helped by buying some apples.

I don't tell you this because I want to hear you reassure me that I am a good person. I tell you this to keep myself accountable, as a reminder that I am capable of being better. Because I am capable of being better. 

NEW THINGS

Last week, I finally gave in and upgraded to the new iPhone. I'd been on the fence about it ever since the X and the 8 came out. I wanted the new camera features, but I didn't want a giant phone, which is what I'd have to get to get all of the camera features. I stewed over this for some time and thought about how my tiny hands would deal with a bigger phone. Then I got kind of mad because the bigger phone would force me to hold the phone in one hand while texting with one finger. This isn't the past! Also, I carry my phone around in my bra strap (Yes, I've already been told that I could be giving myself cancer for doing this) and I probably wouldn't be able to do that with the bigger phone. I've been pouting over it for months.

Then I was looking at pictures my friend Luke took during our St. Patrick's Day festivities and I got real jealous of that camera. I ended up ordering the X a few days later. It's smaller and it gives me all of the new camera features. I like it but the best feature, my most favorite thing ever about the new phone is not the camera. It is the animoji feature that turns your face and words into a cute cartoon animal you can send in texts. I cannot express to you just how much joy this brings me. I've been a unicorn, a pig, a fox, even a poop emoji. Last night I sent Michael a text as he sat on the other end of the couch of a cute bunny who sweetly sang "Would you please go get me some ice cream?" The people I've sent animojis to in texts probably do not think they are hilarious as I do, but it's all I want to do. I want to send the whole wide world texts of me as a unicorn, saying "I love you". I discovered that the panda animoji has very expressive eyebrows and makes a delightful evil face. So, I'll save that one for when I'm mad. 

We also broke down last week and purchased an Insta Pot. I'd been toying with the idea of one for a really long time because of the pressure cooker feature. I had (maybe still do) grand delusions of pressure cooking lots of beans. The Insta Pot seemed safer than what I know of pressure cookers. Which is nothing except they can blow up. I did a lot of research and reading around and I came across this blog entry from the Prairie Homestead about using the Insta Pot to hard boil eggs. The last time Micheal and I tried to peel a hard boiled egg from our chickens, it looked like we had chewed the shell off. The part that really sucked was that we had boiled a dozen or so of them and had planned to make deviled eggs. Instead they became deviled egg dip. Any way, this woman used her Insta Pot to steam her eggs and she says that the shell comes right off. When I read that, I was all "SOLD!"

The Insta Pot, which we have named 'Rosie', arrived on Thursday and Michael has gone Insta Pot crazy. Almost every meal we have eaten since Thursday has come from Rosie. Michael has cooked broccoli, made meatballs, cooked chicken thighs, roasted potatoes, and made rice. Every meal except for Tuesday has been planned around Rosie and Micheal might just find a way to make our Tuesday tacos in the Insta Pot any way. Tonight, we're having vegetarian sloppy joe's. Every time Michael finishes cooking one thing, he says "What else can I cook in here?!?" I've created an Insta Monster. And now we've become one of those people. You know exactly what I'm talking about. 

What else is new? 

I've decided to stop eating bananas and using plastic straws. I'm wearing a new pair of organic cotton yoga pants that I bought off of a sales rack this weekend at Whole Foods and they are the softest and the only thing I ever want to wear, ever. I got my haircut for summer. It's super short and it's still very not even Spring like around here. My ears are cold, but that's nothing new. 

THANKFUL FRIDAY AND THE WEEK THAT TRIED TO EAT ME ALIVE

I laid on the couch in my therapist's office Tuesday evening (yes...sometimes I lay down on the couch; mostly I sit, but this was a reclining kind of day) and then told her all of the things I've dealt with in the last two days at work and how I am already exhausted and it's only Tuesday. Wednesday morning, I drove my scooter to a mechanic to get it inspected and nearly froze my face off. But it had to be done because the car and the scooter tags are due next month. Michael is out for Spring Break, which means he can go to the DMV any time this week. There was a frantic evening of printing and hunting up the necessary documents for tag renewals. In the middle of all of this, I got a new phone and managed to completely screw up the setup process. It took me two days to figure out how to get my contacts from the old phone to the new phone. Yes, my contacts were backed up on the cloud, but only half of the contacts got transferred. I don't know why.

I don't understand how the cloud works. Obviously.

This has not been an easy week. Every task has been complicated and convoluted and hard. All without reason. Difficult for the sake of just being difficult. I went to teach my Wednesday evening yoga class, with a poor attitude and a little wish that I wouldn't have any students. Except I did have students and I when I looked over the plan I had made for the class, I worried that I hadn't planned enough. Instead of adding onto my class plan or trying to throw in last minute yoga sequences, I had us all do the class in slow motion. We moved from pose to pose with long deep breaths, sometimes holding a pose long enough for a brain to start asking "how much longer?" Then I'd make them continue to hold that pose for two more breaths. It was a good class. Forcing my students to slow down, forced me to slow down. This sort of just reset all the things inside me that felt crooked. I woke up Thursday morning and thought maybe, just maybe, I might survive this week. 

There is something about a week that tries to eat you whole that really makes you find gratitude in the small things. I am thankful for Michael, who went to the DMV to get my tags renewed. I am thankful to get a nanobody experiment to work this week for super resolution microscopy. I am thankful for the Sprint guy who helped me activate my new phone. Really, though, the thing I am most grateful for this week is the reminder to slow down and move with focus and awareness. Sloths have to be the most mindful creatures, carefully placing each foot/paw down on a branch before curling their long claw fingers around to hold on. Have you ever watched a sloth do that? Even the act of clinching the paw to wrap it around the branch looks like an act of mindfulness. I mean, sure, they move slow because of their low metabolism, but that's also the reason they have to be very mindful of each movement they make. Each movement expends energy. The more energy expended, the more food they need. Then it just because a cycle of expending energy to find food to expend energy. I need to be more sloth-like.  

Oh...and I am always, always, thankful for you.

 

MARCH WHOOP-DEE-WOO

Every year, each member of my department fills out a NCAA Men's Basketball bracket. We tape them up to a wall and there is a complicated point system for determining who wins the brackets. I don't know anything about basketball, but I fill out a bracket every year because it's kind of fun. Especially if your bracket does well and you know nothing about basketball. We don't have a prize other than bragging rights. It fosters camaraderie. My bracket is already dead seeing how I picked Virginia to win the whole kit-and-caboodle. Any way. That's March Madness for you. There's always some big surprise and upset.

This year I thought I'd shake things up around here and make us all fill out brackets for the NCAA Women's Basketball Championships. Actually, the more I thought about it the more I wondered why we never filled out a bracket for women's basketball before and I got a little irritated. Now to be fair, I don't know anything about women's basketball either except U.Conn is THE team. I don't watch basketball because it makes me nervous. I get so anxious watching the ball move from one end of the court to another that if I don't turn it off, I will need to take drugs. That being said, I fully recognize the amount of work and skill that is required to be a good ball player. It is an intense sport no matter what gender is playing it. So I kind of felt like our lack of filling out women's brackets was bullshit, but when I went online to get a printable bracket for the Women's Basketball Championship, I had the hardest time finding a printable bracket. I found interactive brackets, but an actual printable one was not easy to get ahold of. The one I did end up printing is kind of crappy. The spaces for writing in teams are small and confusing. They really just don't make it easy to follow the Women's Championship. 

And this made me mad. 

Why is it that women's sports, in general, are ignored? I mean, women play just as hard (at times harder) and as intensely as men in these sports. A number of the WNBA players are mothers. New mothers. They're juggling babies while getting their bodies back into playing shape and traveling across the country with that baby. I read an article from 2015 about Taylor Hill, a guard for the Mystics. Her son was a one year old at the time. The team checked into their hotel on Tuesday for a Wednesday game. In the time after checkin and before the Wednesday game, Taylor unpacked her luggage, fixed baby bottles, changed diapers, attended practice, planed and hosted a birthday party. These women work hard off and on the court, but still Women's basketball has yet to bring in the hype and endorsements equivalent to Men's basketball. Women's basketball is not the only sport to fall victim to this either. Just last year the women of the U.S. Soccer team, sued the U.S. Soccer Association for equal pay. From 2012 to 2016, the women's national team played 40 to 50% more games than the men's team. And they make less money than the male players. 

The argument for not paying women in sports equally comes down to endorsements. Not that the college players get any money from the endorsements, but it does set the precedence for professional sports.  "Well... the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship just doesn't bring in the outside money like the men's does." So maybe it's time we start voting with our money and promoting women's basketball. The more we turn our attention to it, the more advertisers will want to be involved. Sports related TV channels will make it easier to follow the championships and they'll come up with a better printable bracket. When I made the announcement to the group about filling out a women's bracket. I was met with very mild enthusiasm, but they filled out a bracket.  One person said "but no one cares about women's basketball." I looked at that one person and said "we do now!" 

We do now!

 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

I've had to shift my own yoga practice around since I've started teaching yoga again. Instead of attending the evening yoga class on Wednesdays, I am now going to the noon yoga class. Not a big deal, it's just that the teachers are different between the two classes. Again, not a big deal because I'm super fortunate to have access to some awesome teachers. The lunch time yoga teacher is wonderful and funny. She seems to share my philosophy on yoga and how it should be a joyful practice. The down side is that I don't get to see Shannon, the evening yoga teacher as much as I used to. Shannon is the first yoga teacher I met when we moved here and I have been attending her Wednesday evening classes on and off for over five years. In that time, she encouraged me to volunteer at a private high school for underprivileged teens, seen me struggle with grief, and she nudged me back into teaching. We have both learned knew techniques in teaching from each other and I never in a million years would have done a yoga workshop without her insistence and support. You should read the letter of recommendation she wrote for me when I applied to teach at the Y. It says the most amazing and kind things about me and she wrote them with such sincerity that the Y believed her.

Scheduling has made it so our paths don't cross too often anymore and it had been some time since I had seen her face. So, I sent her a text asking her to meet me for lunch because I missed her face. We met for lunch yesterday at Eden Alley, a vegetarian/vegan restaurant that I love but hardly ever get to go to. Then afterwards, we went for a nice long walk outside. We talked about everything from relationships to yoga schedules to how to make the world a better place through yoga. It was so good and so easy. It would be a no brainer to say that I am grateful to have a friend like Shannon, but what I am really grateful for is the time we took for each other yesterday. It is really easy for me to let things (people) slide away. I'm not usually the one to instigate meetings and events. I guess, in a very passive aggressive way, I tend to assume that everyone has more important things to do than meet me for lunch.

I am thankful I took the initiative to cultivate this friendship. It also reminds me how difficult it is to make friends after you've reached a certain age. It is easy with busy work schedules and maintaining old relationships to not notice the need for new friendships until you move to a new state and a new town where you don't know anyone. Yesterday's lunch reminds me that I need to reach out and cultivate new friendships. Cultivating friendships is not my strong suit. I feel like I do a poor job of cultivating current relationships. It is a weakness I recognize and I want to work on this. Since I'm about to turn my garden into a patio, I need to grow something. It might as well be friends.  

I am thankful for my one day of scooter riding this week. I am thankful for beets and beats. I am thankful for my twenty minutes of meditation in the mornings. I am thankful for simple pleasures. I am thankful for you. 

A BOLT IN THE TIRE

Last week, I hit a pretty awful pothole with my right front tire. It was so loud, that I was pretty sure I had broken my car. I was hesitant to mention any of this to Michael. Just last month I said something about never having the brakes looked at on my car that is now five years old. Five minutes after saying this, my brakes started to make a weird sound. I was pretty sure that if I said something about hitting that pothole, my whole tire would just fall off the car. I was riding in the passenger seat on Saturday, when I could hear a wub-wub-wub sound coming from the tire. So I asked Michael if he could also hear it. He said it sounded like it was coming from the driver's side front tire, but then I confessed to the pothole incident. He still thought it was coming from his side of the car. It sounded like I had flat tire, but the tire pressure light was not on. Finally Michael said "That's it! I'm pulling over right now." He got out of the car and had me slowely roll forwards and backwards while he inspected the tires. Turns out, there was a bolt with a washer lodged into the front driver side tire. The amazing thing is that the tire was not leaking air, nor had it blown out while we were driving it around. 

Yesterday, I told my therapist that I was finding it really difficult to not be a crankpot all the time. I told her I didn't know what was wrong with me, but I just felt out of sorts. Dr. Mary then had me read a passage from Buddhism Explained describing dukkha. Dukkha is suffering and this passage likened dukkha to a wonky wheel. For example, let's say you have a wooden cart with one wheel that sits crooked. The cart still rolls as you pull it; it just doesn't roll smoothly and makes the cart harder to pull and steer. Dukkha is a wonky wheel. You still experience joy, but there's always this underlying layer of suffering. You will always have this layer of suffering until you figure out what is causing the suffering and eliminate it from your life. I have a wonky wheel, a bolt in my tire. It always comes back to wheels.

I read the news about Stephen Hawking passing away while eating breakfast. Tears splashed down onto my pancakes as I read "It would not be much of a universe if it wasn't home to the people you love." Then for some strange reason, Werewolf of London was playing on the radio. There was Chris sitting in the passenger seat howling through the lyrics and I said "you are not the bolt in my tire." I said it while really trying to believe that was true. This in between Winter and Spring season is the bolt. That first Spring after Chris died, the only thing I wanted to do was ride my scooter. I'd spent the winter unable to muster enough energy to do more than lay on the couch. I wanted something that I knew would be bring me joy. But then I couldn't find my scooter key. I got so desperate that I finally retrieved the spare key from the lock box, the key they told me to never use because if lost it would cost $2500 to replace. At the time, being on my scooter in the sun was worth so much more than $2500.

We are so close to being in scooter season. I went out to the garage to start my scooter and it would not turn over. Sad face. Then Michael hooked my battery up to a battery charger and two hours later, my scooter roared to life. Happy face! Then the temperatures dropped back down below thirty. Sad face. In the years since the lost scooter key, it has always been this season that has made me feel the most out of kilter. Tomorrow, I'm pulling that bolt free from my tire and I'm riding my scooter. 

I WILL PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE

Last week, I woke up at three AM from a dream where I was so angry at Michael for something to do with schedules and calendars. I got up and went to the bathroom, but when I crawled back into bed my brain was too hyped up to go back to sleep. I laid there raging and reliving various random moments of conflict and how I should have said this instead of that. I kicked off all of the covers because I was hot and flipped over to turn off my electric blanket. My period starts in three days. The dreams leading up to this have been off the chain. One night I put on eye makeup and it was perfect, but I only did one eye. The next night I tore my closet apart looking for my elephant skirt and was unable to find it. I know for sure that both were dreams because I am incapable of applying eye makeup let alone perfect eye makeup. I checked my closet and my elephant skirt is still there. 

I started watching the Masterpiece Theater show Breathless and there's this episode where an older woman discovers that her husband is having an affair with the secretary. She confronts him and so he takes her to the doctor where he bullies the doctor into prescribing some serious drugs because of her crazy menopausal symptoms. The woman makes a half hearted attempt to stab the secretary with a pair of scissors, is told she needs to get herself under control, and then overdoses on the prescription her husband forces the doctor to give her. There's a moment before she takes all of the pills when she's talking to an older nurse who is telling her to get her shit together when the woman says that she still wished she'd stabbed that girl with the scissors. It is the most frustrating episode I have seen so far because they keep playing off this woman's rage at her husband's infidelity as just symptoms of menopause. Then I got so mad about the whole episode that I picked up my iPad and threw it across the gym. 

I did not.

I had been basking in a skinny phase for the past two months. I caught my reflection in the mirror while teaching a yoga class and thought "Oh! I look skinny!". A week later my body turned into a bloated up bullfrog. I again caught my reflection while teaching a class and thought "Who is that fat girl teaching yoga? Oh...it's me." I closed my eyes to the reflection and never looked back at the mirror again. Saturday, we found ourselves on the Plaza and Michael sent me to Anthropolgie while he and the Cabbage went to look for shoes. They found me just as I was checking out. The Cabbage put her chin on the counter and told the check out lady "I'm going to be a big sister!" The woman then looked right at my belly and said "CONGRATULATIONS!" I didn't say a word. I just smiled and nodded my head. When the transaction was complete, the woman walked my bag around to hand to me. I guess so I wouldn't strain myself picking up the bag containing two shirts from the counter? It was weird and not the first time someone has congratulated me on a pregnancy. 

So, you would think that all of this plus a time change would make me a very ragey person today. Except I knew that all of this plus a time change would set me on a murderous rampage and I made some changes to my routine. First of all, I left work early on Friday and cleaned the house. I mean, scrub under furniture and wash the curtains kind of cleaning of the house. Then, I had Michael hang some shelves in my room which allowed me to free up my yoga storage box. I swapped places with the yoga box and my hamper, placed a blanket and meditation pillow on the box and BOOM! Meditation space. The next thing I did was probably the most difficult. I changed my alarm clock setting from 5:50 AM to 5:17 AM and then I got up out of bed when that 5:17 alarm went off in the morning. Here's what the usual routine generally looks like: wake up around 4 something AM, let the dog out, the cat comes in and drools on me, fall back to sleep for an hour before the alarm clock goes off, seriously consider calling in sick to work, seriously wonder if Michael is getting up, go make sure Michael is up and getting into the shower, crawl back into bed until he's done, seriously consider calling in sick, begrudgingly get up and into the shower.

This morning, I did twenty minutes of meditation and brewed a cup of hot ginger lemon water to sip on while Michael was in the shower. Am I tired? Of course, I am. But I am not as tired as I was before starting this routine. That whole going back to sleep for an hour before having to get up for real was killing me and my sleep inertia was all kinds of disrupted. Every time I fell back asleep, I was resetting my sleep cycle to think I was at the beginning of my sleep cycle, making it harder to get up when it was actually time to get up. Messing with your sleep inertia also leaves you groggy and disoriented for up to four hours after waking this way. I am still bloated. I still had some weird ass dreams last night. But! BUT!!! I feel less likely to punch someone in the face today. 

That' something.

 

THE BIG SQUEEZE

Last week, a coworker sent out a group email announcing the birth of their second child. I had no idea him and his wife were expecting another baby, but was glad to hear that all was well with mom and baby. He attached a photo of their new little girl and when I opened the picture, I fell over. She's perfection. Sometimes when I'm feeling stressed or anxious, I find myself opening that picture to stare at her sweet, sleeping face and feel my ovaries cramp up. Not long after his announcement, another couple I work with who recently had twins had their babies up in the office. They are about sixish months old now and rolly polly and drooling and adorable. The mom handed one of them over to me so I could smell her head and then we all marveled at the evolutionary design of babies. 

At birth, babies secrete a hormone that makes everybody in the room love them. They also look like their fathers. This ensures their survival or at least it keeps the dad from eating the young. The father sees this delicate tiny version of himself and is hit with that love hormone, thus sealing the bond between baby and Father. Even the helplessness of babies is part of evolutionary design. In a paper released in Proceeding of National Academy of Science in 2016, Steven Piantadosi and Celeste Kidd present an evolutionary model of a positive feedback loop where humans are born early to accommodate larger brains. This in turn gives rise to helpless newborns and caring for these children requires more intelligence and thus larger brains. This is how we evolved to our current level of human intelligence. Large brains means helpless babies who need parents with large brains to care for them. I think, in this case, the word 'intelligence' refers to a relative intelligence. Like knowing that fire is hot or that stepping on the sharp end of something is going to hurt. Because we all know that person who flunked out of high school and now has seven children.

You know, I thought all these years that the main reason I didn't want children was because I didn't have what it takes to raise a good human being. Now I'm wondering if it's really because I didn't think I was smart enough to have a child. I've always lacked confidence in my intelligence. 

In the past few years, the sight of babies has stirred feelings in me that were not normally present when I was younger and in childbearing years. I have uncontrollable urges just to hold a baby and talk in a ridiculous baby babble with them. I think about finding ways to bottle that new baby smell so that I can spritz the room with it. I see baby clothes in shop windows and want to buy them, thinking that maybe I could get Josephine to wear them. My body twinges at the sight of their gummy infectious smiles. I try to distract myself by looking at puppies but this inevitably leads to me looking at the adoptable dogs on Petfinder. There may be room in my heart for another dog, but there is not room in our house for another dog. There might be room in both places for a goat. We do have a big backyard. 

I was talking about all of these new babies to Michael and he looked at me sideways and asked "Do you want a baby?!?" I did not hesitate in my answer. I said "Of course I don't want a baby. I'm FORTY TWO YEARS OLD!" I mean, even if I managed to give birth to a healthy baby without genetic abnormalities, what on Earth would I do with it? That new baby smell transforms from something lovely to something very funky in no time. Every time I smell soured milk, I think of my nephew Thomas who was a terribly cute but stinky baby. Also, I am going to retire at a normal retirement age. I cannot afford to retire and put a kid through college all at the same time. So, at least I am smart enough to know that the baby ship has left the docks and is probably sinking somewhere in the Atlantic. And I am really truly okay with that. 

Those stirred up feelings are my body's last ditch effort to remind me of the choices I have made. They are coming at a time when I am also experiencing other symptoms related to perimenopause. My body is taunting me in a way that makes me doubt my decisions even while I mentally stand by those choices. I still come from a generation of women who were taught that having babies defines us as women. Ovaries and eggs. These are the things that make us female. At least, biologically speaking. What are we then when our ovaries are no longer working? There was a time when the older a woman became, the more invisible she became. I don't want to be in the limelight, but I certainly do not want to become invisible because of my age.

I am lucky enough to be moving into this transition during a time in history where there has been a shift in how we view older women. Or that we view older women at all. The forty and over woman is represented in fashion ads and media, not as homely grandmothers baking cookies, but as strong, beautiful and running the business. I'm not saying that cookie baking grandmothers is a bad thing. It's just an unrealistic image for someone like me. The women I know who are my age and older are running businesses. They are strong and beautiful. I was just in a yoga workshop filled with women my age and older who were doing the most intense and demanding yoga poses without blinking an eye or breaking a sweat. We have finally, FINALLY, reached a point in time where ovaries and eggs are not our most defining feature. 

I still might buy that baby sweater I saw the other day and convert it into a dog sweater for Josephine. 

HE'S DISEASED

I received a letter from a collection company recently claiming that Chris owed $89 to someone. I expect that this will still be happening to me in ten years, even twenty. People want their money even if it has to come from beyond the grave. I took the letter out and wrote 'he's deceased' at the bottom. Except then I looked at the word 'deceased' and my brain got confused. I said something like "I feel like I didn't spell that right. Instead of saying 'he's deceased', I feel like it may say he's diseased." So then, I picked up my pen and wrote 'he's dead' under 'he's deceased'. You know... just to clarify. I'm not sure where I'm going with this post. I really just wanted to jot down the above because I found it funny in a sad sarcastic kind of way. 

I've been thinking of a new angle on how to write my story. I thought about writing around my online dating experience. Each chapter could be a date, except maybe not because I didn't really go on that many dates. I do have the first sentence rolling around in my head. Actually it's been rolling around in there for awhile now. As per usual, I just lack the discipline to sit down and write it. In my head, the story plays in a sarcastically funny slap your forehead kind of way. Just imagine a sad widow, slapping a bright sunny smile on her face and trying to make herself interesting for a various slew of men who are either divorced, never married, or married and never divorcing. I really think there's something there. 

I've also been thinking about moving all of the furniture and cleaning under everything. One morning last week, I dropped my earring and it bounced under the bed where my fingers wouldn't reach. I had to use a ruler to fish it out and when I did, it came out with a bunch of dust and cat hair. I eyed the earring with one eye before thoroughly washing it and pouring alcohol all over it. We have mice. They're not getting into the pantry, but still...we have mice. The cat has been earning his keep (sort of) by catching them with the help of the dog. This is what usually happens: The cat is chasing a mouse. Josephine senses this from the bedroom and immediately wants out. I open the door and then the two of them start chasing the mouse. If Josephine catches the mouse, she takes it outside. If the cat catches the mouse, Josephine steals it and takes it outside. At four AM this morning, both of them lost the mouse behind the bookcase. The cat was so pissed off by this that he brought a bird into the house. That he left alive with working wings. 

Really, I am in the mood to clean out everything. Not just the house but myself and I don't mean that I need to drink more kale juice. I'm talking about sweeping out the the creases and crevices of my brain. I'm talking about pulling all of the thoughts and ideas out and setting them down on paper in one giant Chris styled list. I'm talking about making an actual outline for that story and cleaning out a corner of my bedroom for meditation. I've got the most serious case of Spring Fever and I keep thinking of that old saying 'feed a cold, starve a fever'. What do you starve yourself of when you have Spring Fever? Potatoes? Pizza? If you asked me today what I wanted to eat every day this week, my answer would be 'pizza'. I probably need to starve myself of the TV and couch lounging. 

That sounds as awful as taking antibiotics.