More of This Please

I took this picture this morning before school. Arch was up early, got dressed and then ran outside to shoot hoops sans hoop. He loves to play basketball or soccer and will spend hours in the driveway bouncing balls against the garage.

I keep looking at the picture, trying to get inside it. I want to experience that feeling of lift off.

Lift off

Our Friends

I’m trying to figure out the best way to write this post. Should it be a list? Or just quick notes? Or maybe start with the thing I told Fancyhats the other day — that I feel completely full by my friends.

I have the most ridiculously wonderful girlfriends. Many of them are old friends, and some are new friends who, by now, are old friends. Some are the friends you text with all day. Some you see here and there. Some live in California, which doesn’t seem right, but WHATEVER. I will get over that at some point.

I don’t know how to collect these moments with these remarkable women to convey how my days are peppered by these people who are smart and kind and wicked funny. But my days are. My email inbox. My texts. Occasionally I get a call but most of my friends, like me, dislike the phone so we don’t really know what to say.

Yesterday, lunch with a dear friends and her daughter who I might just put in my purse and take home with me. Today, lunch with another dear friend whose daughters are too old for me to put in my purse.

And those California friends who feel just next door so often and then I get confused when I can’t just pop by and see them.

Our friends expand into our neighbors too. We live between two very old people. Arch wanders into their yards and houses most days. One neighbor is in her 90s and has recently suffered a stroke. Arch goes over there each day for a “special hug.” That’s what she calls it. She says, “May I have my special hug?” And he gives her a hug and chats with her for a while.

On Sunday our other neighbor had his dress military uniform on. He’s in his late 80s and had been to a funeral. On better days, he gives Tyler a PBR whenever he sees him mowing the lawn. Tonight I watched as Tyler went over to him to give him a ride in the convertible. I watched my husband help our neighbor into the car and help him with the seatbelt.

It’s a hard world. Some of my friends are feeling the pinch of this and I want to make it better for them. All I can offer, though is the fact that my friends make me feel full, and inspired. It doesn’t make their worlds easier, but I hope they all know that I’m in their corners rooting them on.

Chicken Troubles

Jury duty was a thing I hope to never do again. I sat on a criminal case that ended up with a conviction. I don’t know if it’s related, but I’ve been having nightmares every night since jury duty.

IMG_3732But, in more dire news we’re having chicken problems. Our older, bigger, most reliable egg-laying hen Trixie has gone broody on us. For non-chicken people, this means she sits in her nesting box all day every day because she thinks she’s going to hatch a chicken. This would be great if she had access to a rooster and had laid a fertilized egg. But there are no roosters here and she doesn’t even have any eggs under her because Fancyhats risks his fingers to remove them from the nesting box while she’s sitting there. If you’ve ever tried to touch a broody hen, you know this is something fun. And also scary because the chicken puffs up and starts growling and hissing, much like a cat.

Without Trixie around, Yeti has stopped laying too. Or she’s laying somewhere we can’t see so we’re not getting eggs from her and Cruella is just plain broken. She’s never once laid an egg. Basically we have a bunch of lazy hens. When we started keeping chickens we had three reliable egg layers and now we have these three jerks. Except Yeti. Yeti isn’t a jerk. She’s sweet. The other two are about to be relocated I tell you.

I know we can break a broody hen by suspending her in a contraption, but that’s not really in the cards. Now we’re just going to keep pulling her out of the nesting box and reminding her that  (guess what!) no roosters. Only eggs for eating. Or I’m going sneak an Ameracauna egg under her and get a good chicken again.

I Have Jury Duty!

For two whole days I have jury duty. Two days! Of sitting in a room with darkened windows and gray walls and stained carpet. Oh the humanity. Fancyhats has requested that I not text him with every single observation I have about my fellow jurors and/or the people I will be judging. I hope I get on a small trial, frankly. It seems interesting, or maybe it isn’t.

I also rode my bike here. In Portland it takes me less time to ride my bike downtown than it does to drive a car. I swear, I want to kiss this city sometimes.

So far I have no observations about my fellow jurors. They all seem like normal people except for the person who heated up what smells to be a Chef Boyardee meal in the common microwave. Dude! It’s 8am! And the person sitting near me who has all of her notifications on LOUD. She just sent an email, by the way.

For this hour’s blog post, I thought I’d review a two books. YOU’RE WELCOME.

Death of Bees

We’ve covered my love of books set in Scotland. For years and years, I loved anything set in England, and then I realized that Scottish books are really what I want — it’s all tea and all grit all the time. The English books have genteel moments. The Scottish books are all down and out. So. Death of Bees. This book is set in Scotland and it had that thing that some books have: they’re addictive but still a bit irksome. The premise of this novel is two young girls have buried their parents in a shallow grave in their backyard. I’m not giving anything away because it happens right at the beginning. I just couldn’t quite get past that premise, but I also couldn’t put down the book. All three of the voices were superb and the writing was excellent. But ugh! That plot point. The end suffers from the same drama as the beginning. I wish the characters had been put into a different position. I think the writer and the characters would have both thrived with a bit more of a challenge.

The Interestings

Have you read the reviews of this book? People love, love, love it. I’m reading it now and I love, love, love it. Jeffery Eugenides reviewed it and he loved it too, which is gracious of him when you consider his nauseating remarks on women writers. And when you consider that The Interestings is what the Marriage Plot believed itself to be. The Interestings is epic and tiny. Wolitzer covers huge swaths of time and reflects them in the minutia of her character’s lives. I’ve laughed out loud at several passages and feel an ache for these characters. I want to read this book slowly and spend more time with these characters. So excited to be reading it.

Up next:

Life After Life (EEK!) 

The Flamethrowers 

The Dinner

 

 

I’ve Seen My (Dream) Future

We all have a dream life right? The one in which jobs and school and very necessary things don’t matter at all? Well, I had a chance to step into mine on Saturday. We went on a drive to the Columbia River Gorge. The Gorge is ridiculously beautiful. Just stupid pretty. If you’ve not been there, well, I’m sorry. My fellow Portlanders know that it’s just an hour’s drive to the Gorge and so why not head out there for a day? It was in the 70’s this weekend and so Fancyhats and I had a date and went out there because when he asked me what I wanted to do for the day, I said, “drink a beer in the sun.” What better place than the Gorge?

In one of the little towns that hang in the hills around the Gorge, we spotted a flaky white sign, half hidden among ivy and a few more signs for the local mechanic and various unions. It said “Brewery and Farm.”

We headed up there and sure enough it was a shack and a small family farm sitting on the edge of the hill nestled among trailers and people living off the grid. The young family that ran the place was just a mom, dad and child. They’d made gardens and kept chickens and had goats and sheep as well as a greenhouse.

We ordered beer in the little shack and wandered around the property. It was so beautiful and I want to live there. I say this, but I know small town life is not really what I want. But the silence and the darkness at night certainly is. And more sunny days. This weekend is rain, rain, rain. And next week too. I think Portland’s spring is what separates the Oregonians from the Californians. I’m still so much of a Californian. These April showers better bring May flowers, and maybe some chocolate cupcakes.

The view from the brewery.

The view from the brewery.

Belly up to the bar.

Find a seat.

Find a seat.

Chickens - check. Beer - check. Mason jars - check.

Chickens – check. Beer – check. Mason jars – check.

Horseshoes.

Horseshoes.

Fancyhats told me not to move. I wanted to sit up straight, not like I was about to take a nap in the sun, which was what really going to happen.

Fancyhats told me not to move when he took this picture. I wanted to sit up straight, not like I was about to take a nap in the sun, which was what was really going to happen. But he told me to hold perfectly still — all slouchy like.

Si Se Puede!

I know all of you are wondering what happened to C. I know that all of you were just as traumatized as I when I found out it was her last class. Well, rest assured friends, C is now teaching the Wednesday Crazy Fitness Hour of Sweat and Pain permanently! When she came into class with this announcement, we all cheered. I didn’t mean to cheer. I meant to cry out in pain. But I cheered because, let’s be honest, C is awesome.

I really want to know more about her and her life. How did she become so damn strong and bossy and funny all at once. She’s like my personal Sheryl Sandberg. I’m totally inspired by her and also terribly confused at all of the muscles and shouting.

So last week we had a sub in C’s class and everyone was wondering where C was! All we knew was there was an emergency. We were worried. I thought maybe it was her family. Does she have a family? Did she leave town? Is she abandoning us for some other gym where people aren’t quite so floppy everywhere?

This week she came in and announced that she was going to tell us what to do and not do the exercises herself because last week she’d had surgery. In fact, she had two herniated disks replaced in her neck. But there she was, in her workout clothes, ready to lead class.

“I MISSED YOU GUYS.” She shouted at us.

We shouted back: WE MISSED YOU TOO!

And so class started and sure enough C was in front of the class shouting at us and telling us what to do. One of her favorite expressions is MIND OVER MATTER! She kept shouting it at us today and there she was, living proof of mind over matter. Surgery won’t stop her from getting our asses in shape.

I feel lucky to have C in my life even if it is just an hour a week. She kicks my ass in person, and for the rest of the week, I have her voice in my head encouraging me to keep going, to stay strong, to suck it in and, of course, tighten my glutes.

Let Me Introduce You to Jackson Brodie

For at least three years, my sweet husband has been telling me to get a new bike. During spring, summer and part of fall, my bike is my main form of transportation. For nine years, I’ve been riding my sweet Bianchi Milano, which is actually an eight-speed cruiser, not really a proper commuting bicycle. It’s heavy and reliable, much like a Volvo.  And much like an old Volvo, it eats gas in the form of my energy.

But each time Fancyhats told me I really needed to get a commuter bike if I was going to commute, I sighed and said that I couldn’t give up my Bianchi. It takes me everywhere! It’s my noble steed!

But it’s spring now and so I spend too much time looking at bikes online and daydreaming about the day I own a Sweetpea. So there I was looking at bikes and specifically Bicycle Magazine. They rounded up the top commuter bikes of 2012. I came across the Port Townsend by Raleigh. I dug in and did a bunch of research. The consensus was that it’s a reliable, strong steel-framed bike that’s good for a daily driver and light touring. In biking lingo, it means I could throw a rack on it and haul around my groceries, work clothes, etc. and still have enough power to ride up the Broadway Bridge to work, and up Williams home. Yes, when I bike to work, it’s uphill both ways.

And, it looks great. My Bianchi spoiled me for cute bikes. It’s the reason I just couldn’t bring myself to get excited about a Surly Long Haul Trucker, which is what (it seems) everyone in Portland commutes on. The Port Townsend is a comparable bike to the Surly and it looks so cute.

Port Townsend RaleighSo I started looked for a Port Townsend in Portland and wouldn’t you know it, there was one marked down at a bike shop a few blocks from my work. It’s a 2012 model and they needed to clear it out before the 2013 models come in. I took it for a test drive and I knew it was the one. So, I took a deep breath and bought it.

I commuted for the first time on Tuesday and I was scared, friends. I went so slow. The Port Townsend is so much lighter than my Bianchi and I can feel every bump. And it’s fast. It has 18 gears, which I’ve never needed before. And it’s got drop handlebars, again something new. Also traps on the pedals. So many new things to get used to!

I’m learning how to ride this new bike. The ride to work was a bit scary, the ride home was awesome. I need to ride it more to feel as comfortable as I did on my Bianchi. Lucky for me, we’ve got some days in the 70’s coming up.

And you know I’ve named it. Raleigh’s are British bikes, and this one is stylish and a little bit goofy and a whole lot sexy. And so… Jackson Brodie is now at my service.

Two Books: Lean In and Gods and Beasts

NEW BLOG POST ON FIVE PLATES!

We had a houseguest this weekend, which I love. I really do love having visitors to Portland. I always try to give the Portland experience like V gives the LA experience. With good stories, history and great food. And no visitor darkens my door without a trip to Salt and Straw. Oh Salt and Straw! But that’s not the point of this post. The point is for me to pretend that I’ve had enough time to pick up a book over the past three days. I have not, but! But! I’ve been reading some good stuff prior to this weekend.

Gods and Beasts I love Denise Mina. I got hooked on her books thanks to her character Alex Morrow. Morrow is somewhat beaten down Scottish detective who’s streetwise and also compassionate. But I fell in love with Denise Mina thanks to her Paddy Meehan character — a young journalist. I love that Mina isn’t afraid to portray her female leads with all of their faults. There are no raven-haired beauties in these books. If you read male crime fiction writers, you know that every book has a raven-haired beauty. Gods and Beasts features Morrow, with a cameo from Meehan. Morrow is now a mom to twins and even by her own admission, she’s lost her edge. She smiles kindly at suspects and doesn’t have the sharpness that I’ve come to expect from Scottish police fiction. The book is good, but it’s not Mina’s best. But it was a pleasure for this Mina fan to see two of the leads cross paths in one book.

Side note to my fellow Scottish fiction lovers: Death of Bees was recommended to me. I’ve not started it yet, but it looks great. Also, KATE ATKINSON’S BOOK COMES OUT NEXT MONTH. Kate Atkinson is my favorite author of all time. Now you know why I needed to shout at you.

Lean In Sheryl Sandberg. This is a tough-talking woman and she’s is wicked smot. I’ve been reading this one slowly and I’ve been so impressed by her at every turn. She knew she needed to write a bulletproof book and she addresses her critics often. She collects anecdotes and studies of women in the workplace so that it’s all in one place: All of the times I’ve suspected that I’ve sold myself short and all of the ways in which the business world is stacked against women. It’s all there. She’s got facts, and is never afraid to share her own mistakes. It’s a tough book to read because there’s not good news. But I do wonder if she’ll address the idea of meaningful work. Perhaps all of these women drop out of the workforce or lean back instead of leaning in because the work isn’t more important than being at home. She’s got a tough job at Facebook, but I also can’t imagine that I’d want that job. How is Facebook helping people? Perhaps it doesn’t matter and I’m totally missing the point.

After Death of Bees, I don’t know what’s next. Maybe I’ll keep re-reading Kate Atkinson’s books. I finished Case Histories and One Good Turn and both are so very good. How does she do it? I do know that I’m either going to kick the dudes out of the house for a day or two so I can read the new Kate Atkinson in peace, or I’m going to let it sit on my shelf, staring at me until I’m ready for something really excellent. Much like I’ve done with Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel.

Words I’d Like Eliminated from Our Vernacular

I was reading a fitness blog the other day. I have no idea why. All I know is that I won’t be doing that again. But the author (a woman) wrote a post calling out “skinny fat girls.” Apparently these are women who are skinny-fat, and according to the blog post, they spend all of their time on cardio equipment.

I read the post a few times trying to understand what I was supposed to take away from the writing. What I learned was being skinny-fat is a thing and cardio exercises won’t prevent it.

And then I started thinking about the words skinny-fat and trying to understand what that means. Really. What is this? How could it be even a legitimate thing. I’ve seen a lot of slender women who aren’t necessarily strong, but one cannot be skinny fat. And then I thought, this is really stupid that someone had a thought and the thought was this: “I know! Skinny-fat!” I believe this same person came up with the incredibly stupid words used to describe women’s body’s below.

Cankles: OMG please, please, please let us stop using this word. It isn’t a real word. And it’s not a real thing. And there’s nothing one can do about ones ankles.

Muffintop: Painful. Infantile. And so stupid. File this one under “baby daddy.”

Passing the pencil test: What about instead of passing the pencil test, we work on passing the running a mile test. Or being limber enough to touch our toes. Or, I don’t know, passing the current affairs test.

Cellulite: I’m going way back with this one.  It’s not a real thing. It’s not a condition. It’s your body being a body.

I know that I’m missing a bunch of these terms. And, frankly, I’m okay with them not coming to mind. Women have enough pressure on our bodies (get your pre-baby body back!) to have to endure made up words and made up things. Let’s not use these terms anymore, if you please.

And I promise to never read another fitness blog again.

I Went to New Orleans

I went to New Orleans and I think I’m finally recovered. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I wasn’t recovering from the normal things people returning from New Orleans need to recover from. I was there for work and putting in 10-12 hour days. There’s something about the central time zone that’s particularly challenging. I think it’s because flights to and from anywhere in the south leave at the crack of dawn. I had the good fortune to travel with colleagues I enjoy and to attend a very interesting conference on the healthcare system, which will be very broken very soon. Fortunately there are smart people who have some good solutions like electronic health records and ways to achieve a one chart, one patient system. My role there was to write down these ideas and film the smart people who were sharing them. Listening to smart people talk about smart things is a pleasure none of us get enough of.

This morning Archie said to me, “My future glory is talking.” I said that becoming a great speaker seems like an excellent glory.

I’m keeping the memories of this trip close and using them as inspiration as I manage the final push for Five Plates. There are bumps and challenges for everyone, but we must be persistant and focused. Even when we want to have a tantrum. Even at 37 a tantrum seems like a pretty good option. And that’s when I go to spin class…

Mississippi River

I walked along the Mississippi River to get to the convention center. I wonder if I’ll ever not be shocked at the amount of commerce that travel on rivers.

French QuarterI stayed in the French Quarter at the Royal Omni Orleans. I highly recommend this hotel. It’s a beautiful old hotel right in the French Quarter. But, it’s across the street from the Supreme Court Building so it’s silent at night. I slept like a rock every night. Loved it there.

President ClintonFor some reason, I’ve now been in the same room with two different US Presidents: George W. Bush and President Clinton. When I was in a room with Bush, he started speaking and they locked all of the doors and no one could leave or enter for the full hour and a half he spoke. In Clinton’s case this week, the doors were wide open the whole time and people could come and go as they pleased.

In both cases, their charisma was palpable. It was superhuman. I’ve been around very charismatic people and it’s absolutely nothing like the charisma that a President projects. It’s scary. Even though I was far away from both men, I had that split second feeling that they were talking right to me. The narcissism that they’re filled with in order to seek that level of approval is almost suffocating.

Backyard ChickensI came home to three laying hens. They’d hidden their eggs under the chicken coop. Because they’re sneaky like that.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.