Saturday, April 24, 2010


I felt wrapped in a blanket of fatigue this week.  Despite my efforts just couldn’t shake it off.  Even though I am at an age where things are a changin, I’m usually pretty stable.  But this week, it was ugly.  I went into quiet mode, don’t talk to me mode, I hid to protect my love ones and other human encounters from the gloom.

The bike revived me last night.  Finally! I took off by myself out the country road, just about 2 blocks from my house.  About 1 minute down the road, the chains came off.  I must have looked silly, helmet askew, bent over grimacing to get the darned things back on. Got it done and off I continued through the hills of Sonoma County, breathing periodically labored at each new steep grade.

About 10 minutes into my ride, chains came off again.  Back off the bike, I proceeded with the now familiar tug of war, my oil stained hands evidence of the struggle to get the chains back on the spikes. 

I pedaled on. The hills challenged, but the beauty of the fresh green grasses, inspired me to keep going, to complete the loop from start to finish.  Passing several dairies along the way, I ignored the stench of manure from the cows.

Further along there was a spot in the road where my dad many years ago was sure there was a dead body.  We actually believed him and went on a hunt to find it!  Our search fortunately encountered an unidentifiable decomposing animal, a squirrel perhaps?

Five miles into the ride, I passed the stable where my daughter took riding lessons when she was in her “American Girl” phase. It made my heart ache with a longing to be that young mother watching her innocently posting, riding high on the huge animal.  I remembered the joy and trust in her seven- year old face as she rode the horse around and around the covered stable, never tiring of the repetitiveness. I remember trying to hide the anxiety in mine.  It was a sweet memory. I biked on. 

The route we take every day to work, the blackberry patch we raid every year to make jam, the hills we hike to enjoy the spring wild flowers softly passed in and out of focus with every revolution of the wheel.

The cool air, the setting sun, the almost painful beauty of the countryside began slowly to replace my blanket of fatigue with some kind of unidentifiable peace.  A kind of lightness that my spirit was craving, a blessed relief, until the chains came off a 3rd time! The metaphor of the chains did not escape me.  The laughter ensued and rang for only my ears to hear.

I try to be happy.  I have every reason to be happy.  And most of the time, I’m incredibly happy.  Last night, I found that hour of relief that lifted the veil of gloom. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


My husband absolutely, visibly, without a doubt cringed today when I suggested we clean the snow off the car with a dustpan.  He also could not hide his disgust when I used a knife to open the tough plastic on a container. It also bugs him when I turn the ladder the “wrong” way to climb onto the rafters in the garage.  I like the way the ladder closes this way and could instruct the manufacturer on what, in my opinion is a better design.  I think it annoys him that I want to get into the rafters in the first place.

He sees these actions as careless mishaps, blunders, or taking “short-cuts”.  I see them as resourceful, making due with what’s available, or not wasting steps.  Why go for a pair of scissors in the bedroom when there is a knife in the kitchen, even if it does come a little close to my nose on the upswing? Perhaps that’s the difference between males and females.  That extra X chromosome women have carries more genes on it than that wimpy Y, thus giving females an advantage on things that the guys think they have the upper hand in.

His motto, “anything worth doing is worth doing well” My motto, “get the dang thing done”.

I love my husband.  I really do.  And if the truth were known, sometimes I do take those “short-cuts” just to amuse myself with his reaction.  I can be very immature, that’s for sure.

So, today, as he was hanging some new draperies, I couldn’t resist instructing him on how to use his eye to hang the draperies straight.  Who needs a level when the eye sees the truth?  Three hours and many a patched hole later, the drapes look fantastic!  

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Worm Food: Liver For Planaria! By Gary

The early morning empty nester routine at our house has evolved into a graceful dance in which each partner knows the moves and timing of the other. What was once a chaotic, unstructured series of events that included coffee brewing, showering, dog feeding and lunch making has settled into a comfortable pattern with all expectations fully known.  I pre-program the coffee the night before and deal with the morning 'open'. This includes feeding the dog, getting the paper and making lunches. I also produce Teresa's perfect cup of coffee (three sugars, heated in micro for an extra 16 seconds). She waits for this in bed before tackling the day and hopping in the shower. My payoff for this is 15 minutes of quiet time with CNBC, two newspapers and an adoring Fox Terrier gazing at me less than 24 inches from my face. It's a good trade, though.

By the time I'm done with lunches, (of which I shamelessly ask for reviews every day on the ride home) the bed is made, the shower is completely free, the sink area all mine, and the fear of fighting for space, hairdryers or something similar, completely removed. Teresa moves on to tidying up the kitchen, emptying the dishwasher, doing some laundry or some other task outside my area of expertise.

This waltz continues for days, if not weeks, without a hitch, until unexpectedly, and shockingly, I will walk out of the shower to find Cruella De Ville waiting on the other side of the door shouting something like, "HURRY UP, WE HAVE TO GET LIVER FOR THE PLANARIA!!!" This is normally voiced with obvious displeasure and frustration, and incredulously to me, a tone of accusation. Apparently I should have realized this or at least anticipated the possibility that our morning routine was going to be disrupted a microscopic creature's thirst for organ meat.

The ensuing scene at the grocery story would be pretty humorous if it didn't involve me.  It normally finds Teresa race-walking up and down the meat and fish counter in search of the liver 'department'. Invariably, liver is never prominently displayed.  I am normally 2 or 3 paces behind, and still 'in trouble'.  On a recent search she employed the services of a willing shelf stocker whose accent indicated English was not his first language. I cringed as she took the time to explain what she wanted, and incredulously, WHY.  Apparently, 'planaria' is not a common word in the Spanish language, and as Teresa started to gesticulate on how minute these worms are (and how small a portion was really needed--perhaps the size of a dime) I could see that somehow, the time take was going to be added on to my morning transgressions. Eventually she was presented with a three piece, cross sectional one pound frozen package of Safeway's finest. I was going to ask if perhaps the planaria would like some onions frizzled up with that, but thought better of it.

After hustling through checkout, we made it to school with minutes to spare. The planaria would have their liver, would regenerate again and again after being sliced and diced (as they do) and our routine would return to normal tomorrow. The morning dance would again be graceful, until the next call for elodea, perch (incidentally, there is a direct correlation between the stench a fish emits and it's usefulness in middle school dissections) or my all time favorite, an entire cow eyeball. At least these specimens all require an advance order....and I'll be fine if I can just keep track of what Science unit the 7th graders are studying.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Lent's Over!

Lent.  Not my favorite time of year.  The weather is dreary.  The branches are bare.  And, darned if I hate giving up stuff.  I don’t mind prayer.  In fact, I find it soothing and meditative.  Alms Giving is fine too.   Making a conscious effort to do for others is something that should be emphasized beyond the 40 days in the desert.  I’m all for that. But I just can’t seem to take the fasting seriously.

Year after year I trick myself into thinking that what I give up is difficult.  Last year for example, it was candy.  Candy?  Easy.  I’m not at all obsessed with that.  The year before that I gave up desserts.  Also not hard.  There have been years that I would sacrifice breakfast.  Please, I never eat breakfast.  So this year I thought long and hard about my “sacrifice”.  And then it came to me like manna from heaven.

Every day between 4 and 5 pm I’m ravenous.  I raid the cabinets for anything to satisfy the pleasure centers in my brain.  The part that releases those oh so satisfying chemicals that tell me I’m content.  I noticed a pattern that had to be addressed. Chips.  Salty, deep-fried not baked good old-fashioned chips.  That’s what I decided to give up.

Boy has it been a long, wet, cold winter.  I plunged into the challenge with such high expectations.  I strategized on my shopping list.  I avoided treat day at work. I hoped for divine intervention or some kind of sign that God was watching over me.  Here’s what happened.

I did great with prayer.  Daily and nightly I prayed for healing, said prayers of thanks, prayers of petition and intervention.  Quite frequently I prayed for guidance.  And I got it. I was good to go with prayer.  Alms giving came easy to.  I’m pretty much tapped out with the financial output to various charities and fund-raisers.  And, I try to spend as much time as possible doing for others.

Fasting on the other hand continued to be difficult.  Several times I tricked myself into thinking that those “baked crackers” didn’t count.  I hit the nuts like they were going out of style.  And I began adding salt to everything.  No divine intervention here.

I failed, faltered, and berated myself for my lack of self-control.  Is it that hard?  Is it that bad to not really buy into it?  Do I have to be so hard on myself?  Does it really matter? Just couldn’t succeed on any level with fasting.

So today I celebrated Easter with wonderful friends and a loving family and I let it go.  I’ll think about it again next year.