FLASH vb : to burst suddenly into view or perception; to appear suddenly <an idea ~ into her mind>

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Reminiscence of Last Year

When I get ready for the day I take a little time. Probably not as much as most people, but still, some. But when I exercise in the morning my routine consists of rolling out of bed, blurrily eating a bowl of cereal, then throwing on my clothes and shoes and heading out the door. I don't look in the mirror any longer than it takes to put in my contacts and I definitely don't open my makeup bag or pick up a comb. I find that if I let too much time lapse between getting up and going exercising I just don't do it.

One particular morning last summer my routine was just that-roll, eat, dress, run (out the door, not an actual run). I decided to go for a bike ride since the day was looking so nice. As I began the ride I was feeling pretty good, pretty impressed at the speed I was keeping, only briefly acknowledging that it had less to do with my own ability and more to do with the fact that I was riding downhill. Then, the killer of pleasant bike rides hit. Wind. I struggled through it as I hit the very gradual uphill climb that comes through the park near my home at the time, turned and headed for the bike path. This was a steep climb where I was on the lowest gear possible, still clicking my handles in hopes that there might be something lower than 1 and 1. No luck. Finally, I made it to the top and to the point of this story.

Even though I'd reached flat ground, I was still huffing and puffing so I kept my gears the same. I was still laboriously peddling when I saw two joggers coming towards me. As they gracefully loped past I saw they were two teenage girls in cute running outfits, one in short shorts and a t-shirt, the other in sleek black from head to toe. Short-shorts had her hair up in one of those bun/ponytails that deceivingly says "I only spent 30 seconds on this" when in actuality she probably spent 30 minutes on it. The other girl had gorgeous long hair that looked freshly straightened, and both their faces were covered in makeup rather than sweat.

I'm sure they were nice girls, but the brief encounter made me humorously aware of my own appearance in comparison to theirs. While they were looking pretty, I was wearing some old grey cutoffs that had once been pajama pants, turned into raggedy shorts during a Missouri heat-wave (a.k.a the whole summer). On top the ensemble consisted of a red t-shirt underneath a too-small purple jacked I'd zipped up to the chin to keep my cell phone from falling out of the pocket. To top it all off I had on a geeky helmet. Safety over beauty, right? I was laughing at how "the kids these days" have to get dressed up even to exercise and feeling pretty good that at twenty-five years old I'm past that stage when I saw down the road an elderly lady riding her bike. She had on some sweats, a zipped up jacket, and a helmet and was pedaling slowly against the wind. I thought, How cute, that'll be me in 50 years. Then I realized, wait a minute, that's me right now!!

It was a very enlightening bike ride.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Dilemma of the Disposables

I did it.  I washed a plastic plate today.  And a plastic bag. 

I used to chuckle at my grandma who would wash and keep the plastic spoons and plastic forks the aunts and uncles had brought to the family dinner precisely so she wouldn't have to wash the utensils.  I would roll my eyes at my mom (sorry, Mom) when she would wash out the Ziploc storage containers for later use.  All the while, I would be thinking, they're disposable!  They're supposed to be disposed! 

This was much like how my mother (again, sorry, Mom) would never want to use the airconditioning in the car.  We needed to save on gas and this was the best way to do it, so we would roll down the windows on steamy summer days rather than feel the cold refreshing blast of the AC.  All this did for me was mess up my hair with those gusts that blew into the car, and make me think about the day when I would have my own car in which I would run the air conditioning year-round!  And I would throw away all my plastic spoons!  Surely, this was the height of really living!

Now, years later, with a year of graduate school underway and another to pay for, a baby coming in months, and just the cost of life in general, I'm beginning to see that the height of really living can be expensive!  Where, when I was younger, I admired those who bought brand name, I now count as heroes anyone who can show me how to find a bargain.  I clandestinely envy coupon clippers (having not been able to even come close to mastering this deceivingly intricate art) and religiously study blogs whose topics are all things thrift.

And this is why I didn't feel bad today when I washed out the Ziploc bag that had earlier contained my husband's sandwhich.  Just this morning, I had scanned the blog of a thrifty mom who suggested this as a great way to save some cash: washing the disposables.  I will admit, I had to choke back a little of that naive, childhood pride that had said, "When I'm a grown-up, I'm throwing it away!"  One second of letting my mind think about our insurance costs for the month though and I was ready to wash and keep everything!

Yes, I now see the wisdom behind not disposing of the disposables.  I've decided I'm not even going to think of it as penny-pinching, or even thriftyness.  I mean, nowadays, it's all about recycling and reusing, isn't it?  I'm not being miserly, I'm living environmental-chic.   

However, I'm still going to use the air conditioning in the car.  I don't want the wind to mess up my hair.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Playing the Pregnancy Card (As Often As I Can. . .)

I have been absent in writing on this blog for quite some time.  But I have a good excuse.  I’m pregnant.

I’m finding that a person can blame a lot of things on this condition.  Haven’t updated the blog?  Oh, well, I’m pregnant.  Make dinner?  I’m not sure if I can.  After all, I’m pregnant.  Get up before 9:00a.m.?  I don’t think so.  Pregnant women need their sleep.

And that’s what I am. Pregnant.

I have discovered that pregnancy can be a virtual "Get-Out-of-Jail-Free" card.  If I forget to do something, I can pin it on the small fetus growing inside me that’s stealing all my brain power.  If I end up watching Gilmore Girls and Hulu.com all day, well, it’s only because a side-lying position is the only thing that gets rid of my nausea.  A girl can’t accomplish much when she’s supine on the couch.

At the same time, there is some validation in all of this relaxation.  I mean, for heavens sake, I’m growing a person inside my body.  Let me say that again: A person inside my body!  Cut me some slack!  And there is a trade-off to all of this sleeping, lounging, and, ahem, lazing.  It comes in the form of the constant sick-to-my stomach feeling.  The fact that it will be nine long months before I can eat hot dogs again. (Although, to be honest I haven’t craved a hot dog in probably ten years until now.)  I have been robbed of my favorite sleeping position-the belly.  Not to mention the fact that sleep is almost nonexistent with the constant bathroom runs throughout the night which have now become a part of my life.

So, I don’t feel quite so bad about not being my usual, productive self.  Not now, at least.  For now, if I have a bad night, I feel perfectly justified in taking a small (two hour) nap in the afternoon.  And, if the only thing I can stomach at the moment is chocolate cake, I'm going to go ahead and cut myself a slice.  After all, I am pregnant.  And I'm going to ride this wave for as long as I can. 

Now, speaking of cake. . .

(PS At the time I wrote this, about two months ago, I was in a constant state of nausea.  There is a happy ending though.  I'm now in my second trimester and feeling soooo much better!  Still, I am going to have that piece of cake!)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Almost a Grown-up

I wrote this for a magazine essay contest.  The prompt was "When Did You Finally Feel Like a Grown-up?"  This was my response.

Growing up I always wondered when I would finally come to the point where I felt like a grown-up. It seemed like being just a kid was an excruciating condition, forever yearning for the day when you can shave your legs or wear makeup or even use a debit card for the first time. In my skewed projection of grown-up reality, my elementary school-self just knew it would be thrilling to write out all those bills and proudly stick them in the mailbox each month. I would watch my dad deftly balance the checkbook at the kitchen table every Saturday or see my mom prepare to teach her class at church on Sunday. Filling up the car with gas, shuttling kids from place to place, being in control, running the show. These were grown-up things. Surely, I would someday soon pass that age line of demarcation, ushering me into the adult world and qualifying me as a grown-up.

I’m twenty-five years old and I’m still waiting for that to happen.

Of course, there are times when I’m pretty sure I’ve reached grown-uphood. Just as I watched my mother teach elementary age kids at church each Sunday, now my husband and I are assigned a class of our very own. We’re in charge, but of course realize (very maturely) that the adult thing to do is to teach with love and acceptance rather than authoritarian rule. As a result, the kids feel open to ask about all sorts of things pertaining to my very adult life. Do I shave my legs? Do I kiss my husband? Did my husband have more hair when I married him? All of these things combine to make me feel very-grown up. Almost.

Because there was that time when ten year old Jane said her piano teacher is a better piano teacher than I am, going so far as to question if I’m a professional?! Not sure what constituted a professional piano teacher in a ten year old’s mind, I shot back that yes, as a matter of fact, I am a professional. She even went so far as to say that she, having been on the earth a whole fifteen years less than myself, is a better pianist than me. By this time I was ready to pull a couple of pianos into the cinderblock-walled room and challenge this fourth grader to a duel right then and there! Until I realized that I was fighting with a kid who can’t see over the counter. Not so grown-up of me.

I’m not completely a lost cause though. I am married and, although it’s only been two years since we tied the knot, we have had to face a unique beginning that has helped us grow, both as a couple and as individuals. I met my husband six weeks before he deployed to serve as an Army liaison officer in Pakistan. We were engaged on Christmas day. The next day he left. It was seven long months before I would see him again, just a few short days before our wedding. We had a wonderful two weeks of honeymoon in Yellowstone Park before he left for another eight months to finish his deployment. Spending the first eight months of marriage on different continents teaches a person a lot about communication, patience, and trust. We were stronger after this. I was an Army wife, seasoned by a fifteen month deployment, ready to meet my husband upon his return. Grown-up stuff.

But just before I left Idaho to fly to Fort Bragg, NC where Scott would return, I paid a visit to my dad. Suffering for the last six years from a degenerative brain condition called Pick’s disease, my dad lives in a care center. Although he is almost totally unresponsive now, at the time of my departure a little over a year ago, he could still recognize me and say hello. Sensible conversations were limited.

On this particular visit I found my dad sitting in his wheelchair with a group of other patients by a TV in the main lounge. He had on his Martha’s Vineyard cap, the one I’d brought to him after working there a few summers before. I put my arm around his shoulders and explained to him that I was flying to North Carolina (the place where you grew up, remember?) to meet my husband Scott. For me it was possibly the hundredth identical such explanation, but for him it was fresh. He nodded his approval. I’m flying out tomorrow, I said. We’ll be back in a few months. I love you. Hug, kiss, and I turned to go.

“Be careful.”

I was caught off guard. I hadn’t been expecting these fatherly words and they were made even sweeter by the existence of my dad’s debilitating disease which has slowly destroyed his thinking. Still, he’s my dad. He still wants his little girl to be careful, a knee-jerk reaction of fatherhood even this disease can’t kill. Right then I didn’t feel like a woman in her twenties flying to an Army post to meet her deployed husband. I felt like a kid.

I feel that way a lot around my dad. Oh, there is the adult business of making sure he’s well taken care of. Now, because of the wonderful care he gets at the center, we’re able to allow other aspects of our relationship to take precedence, but when he was at home we were consumed with issues of Medicare, home health, medicines, wheelchairs, etc. Even though I was barely out of high school through this, it swung me into a front row seat for the ride into adulthood. But now, more often than not, though I feel firmly in the drivers seat for the rest of my life, when I’m with my dad someone else is steering and I’m the kid in the back again, wanting advice he can no longer give me. It seems a tragic plight for a daughter to have the form of her father before her, but not be able to reach him. And it is. But again, there are things to learn.

When they told us he had this disease, a discovery it took three years to diagnose, they said that it was common for its victims to become withdrawn and even mean, to regularly lash out. Over six years and a lot of pain, this has never been the case with my dad. From the first day, he has remained the patient, submissive man he has been his whole life, before he was hijacked by this illness. Even though there are days when I wish he could give me a fatherly tip on careers or life in general, his example is really all the advice that I need. It’s what I hope to be when I finally do grow up.

And I’m getting there. There’s the proverbial weight gain that seems to come as a built-in special with marriage that both myself and my husband are experiencing. This struggle with calories and the constant debate on whether or not I really should eat that waffle cone filled with peanut butter and chocolate are concrete reminders that I am no longer a teenager, nor do I have teenager’s body. Other things clamor for attention as well, like which health insurance plan do we go with? Will we really save that much money with the maternity option? And when should we start a family? And when we do, which doctor should we use and on what side of the fence will we fall with the whole immunization issue? Are our investments safe and when will the economy rebound? If these don’t make me feel grown up I don’t know what will!

I do know that there is a happy side to this grown-up thing. I finally have my own car. I don’t have to go to bed at 7:30p.m. I can vote. I have a best friend-husband. My appreciations have deepened and my world has become larger than Saturday mornings with Bayside High. And even though I never imagined a world extending beyond that, it does and it keeps getting better. In this big world I’ve discovered that there is no age line of demarcation and being able to shave your legs is not a qualifier for adulthood. Everyday experience is the thing. At twenty-five years old, I’m more grown up every day. I hope I can say the same thing when I’m sixty-five. And I hope I keep growing forever.

But right now I need to go pay the power bill.

Mmmm, maybe I’ll read a little Harry Potter first.

Friday, January 8, 2010

One Blind Mouse

It’s an interesting thing to be a medical mystery. My eyesight has been horrible probably since birth. My eyesight was recognized as horrible when I was four years old. I came home from the eye doctor that day with a pair of pink glasses and for a few years all was well. But my vision kept getting worse and pretty soon my lenses were almost as thick as the PB (no J) sandwiches I carried to school with me in my pink Popples lunchbox.

It was determined I had rapidly growing nearsightedness and so, at the ripe old age of six, I was given hard contact lenses which would hold the shape of my eye and hopefully reduce the speed of the degeneration.

After I got used to putting a piece of plastic in my eye every morning, I found that I liked contacts. They made me an anomaly, the only first grader to wear them. My friends’ favorite game was to look at my profile, trying their best to see the line of my contact. I knew I could always wow them with the “plunger” I used to pop the little things out of my eyes. Holding my hand three inches from my nose and telling kids, “I can see to here clearly,” always elicited “ooos” and “ahhs.”

As my eyes have continued to worsen, albeit at a much slower rate, the novelties of plungers and nearsightedness have worn off. Especially when my own eye doctor is amazed by my horrible eyesight. It always grows a patient’s confidence when her doctor looks at her chart and says, “Wow, you really can’t see, can you?”

The last time I ventured into his office and tried to order new contacts the receptionist looked at my contact brand name as if it were written in a foreign language, perhaps the one spoken by the Ewoks from Star Wars. I had to explain that the reason she hadn’t heard of them is that my contacts have to be specially ordered and custom made since the prescription is so powerful. I wasn’t sure why we were having this conversation since I’ve been coming to this office for the last twenty-two years of my life and ordering these particular contacts for at least five.

It was better than my previous attempt at ordering contacts. At one point I had decided to try a different eye doctor who came highly recommended. When I attempted to order contacts from his office, the receptionist finally called me in defeat a week later and told me I would have to order them myself. She had never heard of my brand and had exhausted all her resources trying to track them down.

These are the things we medical mysteries must deal with. Even though it is a pain at times, I always remind myself that the real mystery is the fact that I can take a flimsy piece of plastic, stick it to my eye, and my near-blindness is transformed into perfect vision. I’m grateful for that mystery. It allows me to read the obscure and unheard of brand name on the box when I’m trying to order new contacts.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mission: Organization. Kind of.

I believe we all have an inner packrat which always comes under closest scrutiny at the New Year when resolutions are to be made. For some, that packrat may be as small as the tiniest mouse, while for others, it may more closely resemble the R.O.U.S.’s (Rodents of Unusual Size) from the movie The Princess Bride.

I fall somewhere in the middle.

I do like to think of myself as a fairly organized person. I'm a Real Simple magazine addict and I'll watch any HGTV show that holds a promise of organizing tips. I'm a huge proponent of de-junking and un-cluttering life. But, you wouldn't know this if you looked at the secret stash of stuff I've been keeping at my mom’s house since moving out on my own over five years ago. I've spent a lifetime accumulating souvenirs of different events and they all currently reside in my mother’s basement.

When I was younger I filled up my room with stuff until it was overflowing. Then, just in time, my brother got married and I took over his room in addition to mine. If Harry Potter had lived at my mom's house he'd just have had to stay in the cupboard under the stairs because there would have been no room for him in my second bedroom among the Rubbermaid storage totes that stacked to the ceiling.

So, I made it my goal to condense the thirteen boxes and one trunk down to a more manageable number. The goal was to end up with one large tote and one small which I probably should have admitted to myself is unrealistic, but I was determined to try.

And actually, it was pretty fun to go through all that stuff and remember some good times. I found a doll my dad gave me, notes and summer girls camp stuff, and stories I wrote in the second grade. I also discovered things that leave even me wondering what in the world I was thinking keeping them.

For instance, I still have in my possession my mouth guard from seventh grade basketball, complete with the mold of my teeth still attached. I also have my “Don't Use Drugs Ever” sweatshirt from Indian Hills Elementary School. (I'm keeping this one!) In one trunk I found a box of random magazine clippings and a mildly disturbing drawing of a woman with a body proportion problem and only 3 fingers. After looking at this picture which I drew as a four year old, no one can be left to wonder why I didn’t pursue a career as an artist. I have binders filled with baseball cards, meticulously organized according to league and team, with a special stash representing my fifth grade devotion to Manny Ramirez. Another box represents my sixth grade devotion to the singing group, All-4-One.

After sifting through these funky items from my past it has become clear to me that my inner packrat is out of control. It’s time for an intervention. Of course I need to de-junk and get rid of some things. But where do I start? After all, that Lego man with the missing foot could come in handy one day. Right?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Where Did I Park?

Do you ever do this? Park your car, go inside a store, then come out and realize you have no idea where you left your vehicle? For me, this is a frequent occurrence.

Yesterday, for example, I parked and went inside the store to grab a few groceries. I usually make a mental note of where my car is just so I can avoid the embarrassing event of getting lost in search for it, but this time the parking lot was relatively empty so I knew there would be no chance of forgetting where my car was.

When I came out I was thinking over my mild guilt at never having any loose change to donate to the bell ringers who stand outside of shopping centers this time of year. I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going, but was absent mindedly headed in the right direction, flipping through my keys so I would be ready to unlock the door the moment I got to the car. I had been walking towards a grey mass that, from my peripheral vision, I had assumed was my truck. When my eyes zeroed in on it I had a sudden moment of recognition that this was, in fact, not my truck, rather, one that did not resemble it in any way except the color.

I stopped short and had that flash of awkwardness, thinking that now I was going to have to make an about face and go search out the truck that was really mine. I did it quickly, hoping to draw as little attention to my blunder as possible, before I located my vehicle, jumped inside and sped away.

Unfortunately, this is merely one of many such happenings.

I’m not sure why I can't ever remember where I’ve parked when I come out of a store. Whenever I exit a building, I begin walking, in bold confidence, to where I know I’ve parked the car, only to find that it is indeed not where I’ve parked the car. I then end up wandering frantically through the lot, hoping that I can find it before too much attention is drawn to the girl in the red coat who is aimless pushing a shopping cart around, up and down the rows.

I don’t quite know how to solve this problem. Obviously, my method of mentally marking my parking space is not working. Perhaps some type of tracking device attached to the car would work. Or maybe homing pigeons. Although, that could get messy.