Sunday, May 30, 2010

Another Reason to Run

My children are Philistines to my cultured 80s musical ears. They care little for my playlists when they see the album covers that include really high hair, men wearing lipstick and strange arm dancing.


I don't really listen to what they listen to. I do monitor it, and I know it's not "bootylicious." There's no bumping and grinding going on. I mean I hear it and I know they like it but it all sounds the same to this old lady. Autotune and really obnoxious harmony and a lot of fluff. But whatever. They can like what they like. I remember teasing my parents for their out of the closet love for Roberta Flack. Yeah.

So, when I run, I celebrate, because I can listen to whatever I want. If I want to play one song on loop gosh darnit, I will. Sometimes, when I run, I sing a few words. Out loud. Imagine!

Saturday I went for a nice long run and I had it all set up.The perfect running playlist. All my favorites, hand pecked to cheer me on and distract my mind. Started out with a little Adele, because her voice is smooth and rich and makes me feel invincible. Next up, "Desire" by U2. This is the perfect song. For anything.

I won't bore you with the entire playlist but in my little head, I connect with these songs. They make the miles pass by unimpeded by thoughts of how flipping hard it is. My head goes into the music and Freddie Mercury is suddenly reminding me that I'm the champion. The champion! Bono, in his gorgeous rasp of a voice tells me we're one. He says we have to carry each other. This alone is enough for my mind to focus not on running.

Matt and Kim, well, they kind of get on my nerves because they come on at the end of the run, and they tell me "don't slow down." This causes two reactions. One, it pumps me up. Two it makes me want to slow down. I don't like people telling me what to do. Then, and I'm a tiny bit embarrassed to admit this, I simply must hear Christina' Aguilerra's "Fighter." Talk about invincible. That song is like a kick in the teeth to all the junk we carry around. Listening to that song at the end of my run makes me feel faster, lighter, and stronger.

When I arrive back at my front step, stretching out the old calves, I've done something important. Something good for myself. Something no one can take from me. Something I gave myself, and will give again. And the music I take with me is like another part of that treat. Isn't that what art is supposed to do? To call us out of ourselves and into the world. To be enjoyed once and again. To be plumbed for depths, to skate along the surface.

At some point I will need to make a new playlist. For now, I'm rocking and running with this one and loving every mile.

Like Attracts Like

This year for Memorial Day we told our daughters, ages 12 and 10, they could each invite a friend to come with us to the lake. I admit, I may have had an ulterior motive besides just being the coolest mom ever; I knew they'd bicker less if they were preoccupied with their own selection of people to hang with. Which meant the odds of me being able to read, alone and quietly, on a sun-drenched deck on the shore of a glorious lake, would increase.

This is to be encouraged.

Today we took four giggly girls and the 6-year-old brother on the lake for some boating and tubing. The perfect plan: the boy doesn't really like to tube and the girls each prefer to tube a different way. As each set of girls boarded the tube and held on, I was struck by the types of friends my kids make. They have chosen well and wisely and in sync with who they are, inwardly, on their deepest levels.

The eldest is a talker and thinker. When not tubing, she peered through binoculars identifying birds and explaining to anyone in earshot what they were, what they eat, why they live in Oklahoma. She says things like, "That would be preferable," when asked if she wants to go slower. When we tell her we can go faster she says, "Be that as it may..." the ellipses meaning, "Don't you dare." Her friend's preferred method of tubing aligned directly with hers. They wanted moderate speed, few bumps and really just a pleasant ride. Kind of like two 12-year-old Miss Daisies.

Younger daughter is a straight up thrill seeker. Girl loves to run, jump and play. There is little intellectualizing about her life. She just loves to be. She is almost always happy, she gathers friends like fallen leaves. Her heart is open and alert to everyone. And the friend she brought with her? Same. They giggle and tease, they kick the soccer ball, and they can't go fast enough or high enough on the tube. They wanted to hit the biggest waves, hurl around the most severe corners, jump and flip and finally to fly off into the water.

What parent doesn't love to watch her kids enjoy life? Sometimes, I think that when we get to the lake, leaving "real life" behind, we see a distillation of our kids. I caught a tiny glimpse of this today as they navigated their way through the waves. I am thankful for their differences, for their emotional capacity to befriend and to love, and the vigor of their lives.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Hate to Love: My Dubious Relationship with Running

First let's be clear. I'm not sure what I do is actually running. It's more like a mildly paced shuffling kind of jog thing. I have "run" off and on for the better part of the last 12 years, starting just after I married my husband, the former cross country coach.

Those early days were heady. We were young. We were fit. We had energy and drive and time. We had one kid who sat happily in the jogger pointing at butterflies and flowers. We'd go for miles and chat. He'd give me pointers on technique, like hold to hold my arms to I don't waste energy.

These days, energy is in short supply. I will do anything to conserve it. Like sleep. However, we also have three very active children and a dog who poops under my sewing machine if he doesn't go out. I'm fairly sure this is a not-so-passive-aggressive retaliation. What I wonder is, "Why me? Why am I the one he punishes for not going on a run. There are other runners and walkers and poop picker uppers in this house."

But I digress.

The point is for a while I really hated running. The dog is like a manic toddler scooting from one pile of detritus to the next. I'm pretty sure he had the 52 ounce bladder installed by QT because he sure stops a lot. Which means I stop a lot. Which means 3 miles takes quite a time investment.
I try. I really try to give him the first mile to do his business. This, I think, is a reasonable compromise, but one I'm not sure he got the memo. So sometimes on mile 2 and 3 I get a little testy with him.

Again, digression.

If I can stop thinking about him, I like where my mind goes. It goes to that place we all have, where ideas pump like blood, where pieces of troubles shift into place like puzzles suddenly closer to solving. It's the place where the vigilant censor takes a vacation and I think all the things I don't say out loud, things that might not be for public consumption in polite society.
It also feels really, really good to hang up the leash and get on with my day.

In short, I love that the dog needs to go for a run because I like where the run takes me. Of course it liberates me from poop under my sewing machine. But it's more than that. It's one time segment devoted to thought. Wild, free thought.

But don't tell the dog.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Same Difference

In fourth grade, my all time, no holds barred BFF forever and ever was Cindy Taylor. I mean, I'm sure we were in 3rd and 5th and probably 6th, my memory functions half-heartedly some days.

We were so close that we planned our outfits nearly every single day. If we couldn't match at school we made sure to match at church on Sundays. I remember poring over the J.C. Penney's catalog and my mother oh-so-obliging placing the order at Thrift Drug. (Weird, right? They don't do that anymore.) I remember a pink polo shirt and grey shorts. I remember culottes. Yikes!

Some of my happiest childhood days were spent with Cindy, at her house or mine. At camp, at church, at school.

And life intervened.

I hadn't seen or talked to Cindy in over 20 years when through the magic of the internet we met up again. Cindy and I are now busy married moms with lots to do and different lives. But we might still share similar taste.

Cindy checked out gallery of handmade goodies and she asked about one of my bags, and the one she liked best is the one I carry nearly every day. She requested an exact replica, except for one minor change. She asked me to label it somehow that it was from me. How sweet is that?

During my fabric selection, prep and assembly I reminisced. I laughed, all alone in my sewing room, remembering things we did, boys we liked, places we went. I think that's the reason why I like making custom items so much. It's fun to think of a new design and play, but it's way more fun for me to make something very specific for someone just as specific. It gives me time to think through who that person is to me, what the item will mean to them. I feel connected by more than memories.

Yesterday I shipped off Cindy's handmade, custom, exact replica tote bag. I hope she gets as much joy out of using it as I had making it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Most Fun Project

I am not a sentimental person.


When my husband graduated High School, long before I knew him, he was given a quilt. His friend's mom made it for him to thank him for something particularly kind he had done for her son. She wrote a sweet note on the back. He carried that blanket to school, to summer jobs, and into our married life. Twenty years later, we still have that quilt; it's kind of a family favorite. The fabric is worn, parts of the edges frayed in spots. And yet, it's something every one of us loves.

So when my friend asked me for creative ways to memorialize her graduating son's theatrical achievements, it was short jump to memory quilt.

Pictures were scanned, paged were printed and handed over to me. I used the school's colors to trim the squares. In the center, I embroidered his name, his graduating class and his years in Repertory Theater. His acting chops are such that he's been active on stage for all four years of High School and was this year awarded Mr. Theater. Which I think is kinda cool. His friends can sign the blank space around his name.

When I delivered them yesterday (we made two, one for a friend), smiles all around. Like I said, I'm not particularly sentimental but I enjoyed putting this piece together. I thought of how proud my friends are of their son. I thought of his hard work and his passionate pursuit of something he loves. And I thought of his bright future, continuing that pursuit.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Too Busy for Guilt

Soccer practice. It's one of my favorite times. I love watching the girls run and play and have fun and learn and compete. I love seeing the community they build through a shared love for sport. I love the talk time with the other mommies. Always gives me something to think about.

This week a wiry thread of something ugly ran through every conversation. One mom was headed to a Girl's Night Out and needed someone to give her daughter a ride home. She took her time leaving; "guilt," she said.

Another mom had a coupon for a major discount at her favorite store. She wanted to run over and gift herself something. She weighed the pros and cons and worked out her justification for the purchase, wondering if she would hide it from her husband.

I myself didn't want to leave until my husband showed up. I was the drop off driver, he was the pick up driver. I knew he was on the way, I knew practice lasted another hour, I knew he knew. Still, I resisted leaving, worried, feeling guilty that I wasn't standing there, watching her warm-up, shoot, run, drill.

But the word "guilt" spoken by both of these moms resonated through my head, bouncing around like an uninvited guest overstaying its welcome in my head. I walked away confident my daughter would indeed have a ride home, that my husband would show up. Guilt had no place in this situation.

Sure. There are times when a healthy dose of real, true conviction prompts one to confess, or apologize, or change. But this? This was just silly mom insecurity. And I'm too busy for that.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Make a Room Sign

I'm not sure what I've been working on lately, maybe being a wife and mom, but my poor little Cricut has become dusty. So I scanned the message boards, piddled around and started playing again.

I am reminded that I LOVE THIS MACHINE. Today I plan to try making magnets but in the meantime, look what I made for a friend's new niece.
To complete this project you need:
an unfinished sign/plaque/board
at least 2 colors coordinating pain
clear coat acrylic
sponge brushes
a cricut or stencils or stickers...whatever you nee to embellish
brads, stickles, stamp pads

Coat the board with at least 2 coats of acrylic in good heavy strokes. Allow to dry completely.

Using the Home Accents cartridge I cut out stencils with clear contact paper for the swirls in the corners. then I used Plantin Schoolbook with italic letters and cut a stencil for her name.

Place the stencils on the painted, dry plaque and rub vigorously to prevent seepage. No one wants to see that.

Using pink, go over the stencils in nice thick coats, at least twice, drying completely between coats. It is important to leave the stencils on until the paint is dry. Trust me on this. Okay?

Finally, using tall ball setting on Plantin Schoolbook cart I cut out 2 flowers in each color. I stickled the brown leaves and distressed the pink ones with Distress Ink in Burlap Brown. Secure them together with a bronze brad.

Apply two coats of a clear acrylic coating (I like glossy but whatevs). Set aside to dry.

Finally using a good strong glue of your preference, attach the flowers.

Mail it to your friend's new neice. Oh wait, that's me.