February 10, 2015

on the phone with my kid sister, who happened to answer when I called the landline at home in maryland. seventeen seems, in abstract, such a dreamy age, no longer a kid but not yet an adult; seventeen makes me think of summer and ponytails and small, delicious secrets. the truth of seventeen is more straightforward and less romantic: kids with acne who find themselves expected to make large choices about their life path only months after they even learned to drive; kids who haven't figured out how to manage their hair or their emotions.

she tells me that she's considering pulling out of the disney trip she's supposed to be taking with the orchestra. I'd have to miss track practices for weeks, she says, and none of my friends are going, and I'll miss all of spring break. but I can't get the money back. how much? I ask. four hundred, she says. 

I can't make the decision for you, I say, but let me tell you: my senior year I auditioned, on a lark, for the small spring musical, a stupid ripoff of a chorus line that took place in high school instead of in a dance audition. I unexpectedly landed a role. I was dating a theater guy at the time. spring track season was about to start and I found myself having to choose. we were frustrated at our track coach and, god, I don't even know what the deciding factors were, really, but I chose the musical. I don't remember a single thing about the experience except that the character's name was Dawn and I sang two lines and they sat in a terrible place in my voice (the passagio, but I didn't know that then) so I more or less had to yell them rather than sing them. I missed my final season of running and I know now that it was the wrong decision, that I should have stuck with what I loved. I tell her that sure, she'll lose four hundred bucks, but is that really the deciding factor? or should it be?

we keep talking for awhile, until finally she walks back to find my mom. but before she passes the phone over, she says, with surprising sincerity: thank you for your opinion about spring break. nobody else will really tell me what they think I should do. 

it's a glimpse, I think, of a relationship to come. it feels like something close to real sisterhood. 

I injured an adductor muscle last monday (a groin muscle, for the layfolk among you) and in response my entire left hip structure has been tensed up and miserable for a week. it seems to have triggered that old physical response that I dealt with for years -- chronic hip pain -- and since I can't remember or don't know how that got better, I'm in an old familiar place. I had forgotten how intrusive it is, how frustrating to be unable to find any position that feels better. sitting makes it worse. standing makes it nominally better but is exhausting and untenable in the long term. so I just nurse it along. my relationship to running right now is manic: there are days where I run seven miles on a whim and other days where the thought of having to go run brings upon a massive sense of dread. I think maybe it's just february. everybody hates february.

edited to add: I just remembered. homeroom. the name of the stupid high school musical was homeroom. utterly forgettable in every way. I don't suggest looking it up.

February 8, 2015

day 404

"A friend of mine from Santa Fe went to visit Roshi when she was up in Minnesota.

She said to him, "I'd like to study Zen."

He said, "It's no big deal. Here's a book." He lifted a book off his desk. "You can either fling it down or place it down, like this." He demonstrated placing it down. My friend said the way he placed it, the book became a real being.

"That's all," he said, and smiled.

The tricky thing about Roshi was, the things that were extraordinary about him, you couldn't copy. They came from within him. What you wanted in him had to come from within you. You could get up at four-fifteen A.M. a few times to get to the zendo by five to sit with Roshi because you wanted to be noticed by him or to be with him, but you couldn't keep it up for those reasons, especially since it didn't impress him. Finally, you had to give up all that. You had to do it because it came from inside you, because you wanted to do it, whether he was there or not. And then it even became empty of that. You just did it because you did it."

-- natalie goldberg, long quiet highway

day 404: a big breakfast, a day spent curled up watching movies and napping, and then dragging yourself out the door for one easy mile that you are not remotely feeling. and then it's a mile in and it turns out you're feeling fine so you think you'll just keep running for awhile, and the air smells like wood smoke and then pizza and then bacon and then rain, and the stars are unexpectedly out, the clouds illuminated by an unseen moon. is there lightning? it seems like maybe there is a very occasional flash of far off lightning. you decide you might as well just do your long run today after all. you don't have music, which these days is unusual, so it's you and your wondrous, surprisingly content, quiet, grateful mind. the miles are easy until they are hard, and then hard until they're over, and all of this is completely the point. you run a little past where it hurts, because that's how muscles grow: by breaking down and then mending the weak places until they're strong.

instead of one mile, you run seven. life is unpredictable that way.

January 14, 2015

day 379, or day 14, depending on the math

some things I'd like to do this year: a belated list of things I'd prefer not to call 'resolutions'
but more like 'kickass shit for 2015'

- read 100 books
- do a lot of pushups so that I'm super good at pushups, for no real reason except that it seems kind of badass
- break my 5K PR
- write more
- embrace the imperfect and messy

the imperfect and messy
if you don't know me in person -- and even if you do, actually -- you probably don't know that my biggest struggle in terms of character flaws is that I avoid things when they feel scary. but by this I don't mean, like, biking out to the gorge or dangling off rock slivers

chillin' - alternate view

or any of that stuff. it's stuff like responding to emails or answering the phone or dealing with accidentally overdue bills. basically, it's things that make me feel like I messed up or like I don't totally have my crap together. and it doesn't matter that I totally know that avoiding things makes them worse. it's a classic anxiety loop.

I also -- and this is probably more well-known -- am really bad at publicly flailing at things. I always say that in general I prefer to show up, like athena, fully formed from the head of zeus. this is perfectionism at its ugliest and most crippling, and it stands as a barrier to joy.

so I'm going to try really hard this year to open myself up to looking dumb in public (a thing that certainly I am more aware of than the rest of the people in public), to owning stupid mistakes, to accepting that things are hard before they are easy and it doesn't mean you're dumb. it's okay to look dumb and ask questions. keep me honest, internet.

are super fun. I had one initial day of bangst (bang angst) when I showed up to work with my new hair and nobody said anything which I was afraid might be a tacit acknowledgement of bad hair, but I got over that and they are super cute and fun and make me feel way more different than expected, especially since I already had bangs, just longer, swoopy ones. so PSA: if you feel like chopping your hair off ill-advisedly over the bathroom sink one semi-glum sunday afternoon, go for it, bros.

this weekend is the debut of my hot dog racing costume. I don't know if I've mentioned it so: I jokingly, and then seriously, decided to race all of this year's xdog races in a hot dog costume, because it's hilarious. the first race of the year is a snowshoe race up on mt. hood. my race buddy and two other friends rented a fireplace suite in one of the resorts up there and are going up a day early to go swimming and sit in the hot tub and run and eat and jump on the bed probably. I am looking forward to it with intense relish. the hot dog costume is not ready (it needs ... tailoring, if one tailors a hot dog suit) but I've committed to it anyway.


January 3, 2015

might as well jump


happy new year.

day 368

I made it: a year-long running streak. how many times have I thought about what I would write in this moment? and yet I am mostly without words. in maryland I only ran the trails on one day, in part because I was frequently without a vehicle, and in part because my leg was consistently bothering me (and still is), and also in part because when I come home for christmas I'm lazy and sleepy and I really would rather just sit in my pajamas watching netflix with my sister than do nearly any other thing at all.

the one day on the trail was glorious. so there's that.



I arrived back in portland the night of 12/30: day 364. I had not yet run when I got home. it was 7 PM. I'd been up since 5 AM EST. I was exhausted and lonely. I ran one slow mile. the calf pain I have been carrying around for six months had localized to a point at the top of my achilles, rather unexpectedly, and had hurt for the entire day of travel.

on day 365 I ran 1.4 miles at lunch, more slowly than I wanted because of the leg. I listened to music and wore my hair in a braid and it was sunny and cold and I momentarily choked up, but mostly the run felt strangely uneventful. I had been imagining this ending for the last three weeks, sometimes playing it out in my head as I ran, so maybe I had already lived it. I came inside and one coworker high-fived me and that was that. I was jet-lagged and coming down with a mystery ailment. I left work an hour later and missed by ten minutes the flowers my mom had had delivered as a congratulatory gift. when I found out about that the next day I felt doubly blue; they would have made the day feel a little more ceremonious.

that night I fell asleep at 6 in front of the TV and was woken by jennifer, who had showed up with balloons (after repeatedly trying to text and call to no avail, since I had slept through all attempts). she hadn't known that I had been feeling bummed by the lack of pomp of the last day, so it was especially nice, and probably funny for her since I opened the door in a fleece leopard-print PJ set my sister gave me for christmas, my hair rumpled, half-asleep.

I have been surprised by how immediately the fervor of the streak has declined. which is not to say that I am throwing in the towel, but I wouldn't have guessed how much motivation I was drawing from the approach of the one-year milestone. on these post-365 days I mostly go out to check off the boxes. I am not into it. I'm also trying to stop this leg from hurting. and january generally kind of sucks.

the homestead

my family has an elf on the shelf, even though my siblings are 17. the sense of humor required for the elf is pretty solidly in our wheelhouse. normally it's my mom who plants him around the house, but when I got home my sister and I commandeered him.




(bonus: admire my world's geekiest senior photo, far left)


my mom got me a hot dog costume for christmas. I had requested it. it's a tale for another day.

my mom's cats are ridiculous.


on the whole the trip was kind of weird and a little bit of a bummer. I always forget how much of the difficulty I have with visiting people and getting out of the house has to do with not having a vehicle. some years I can borrow the '94 buick century station wagon (with wood paneling) but this year it had a radiator problem and was out of commission. my sister is driving now (and I discovered on this trip that driving with someone who's been licensed for a month is FUCKING TERRIFYING for me, as I nearly had a panic attack in the car and tried not to let my sister know; we all have to learn somehow), but her truck also is in need of work and I was hesitant to borrow it. so I was largely housebound, and then we nearly had to put down our 14-year-old black lab, who rather suddenly lost the use of his back legs and who had to be carried in and out of the house by two people for several days. it turned out to be a bad vestibular system problem -- doggie vertigo. he just was too damn dizzy to walk. it was exhausting and I definitely spent the entire afternoon of 12/23 intermittently crying because we felt sure we were going to have to say goodbye to him on christmas eve.

he got better but still required pretty intense care and also had to go out like every forty minutes because the drugs he was on made him have to pee every second.

otherwise I sat around in my pajamas. I saw almost no one. I did almost nothing.

adventures in the new year
I developed some miscellaneous ENT illness upon arrival in PDX. I still don't know what it is, but I do know that it made my tongue hurt and look really weird, which is how I can advise you to not spend too much time looking at your tongue. there's like some sort of semantic satiation that happens, like how if you repeat a word too much it loses meaning -- that's what happens when you keep investigating your tongue. don't do it.

strep? thrush? I seriously don't know. I took a picture but I'm not that big of an asshole. nobody needs to see that shit.

also, I cut new bangs today. living on the edge.


also those are my sweet-ass leopard print PJs. courtesy of my kid sister. my brother got me the new taylor swift album and I love it and I don't care who knows it.

December 19, 2014

airport dispatch

current contents of my purse, which apparently I borrowed from mary poppins

three magazines (outside magazine and game informer, which I like to think are duking it out in there)
three pens
noise-canceling headphones
water bottle
phone charger, ipad charger
a secret santa gift for a oiselle teammate
a bag of chocolate chips
eyeglasses case
battery operated christmas lights

I'm in the Vegas airport on what was already the world's longest layover, now made longer by a plane delay. many singing bells and jingles from the slot machines. I chanced taking a sleeping pill before I knew about the delay, so it's possible that I'll wake up here sometime tomorrow afternoon.

I keep having flashes of panic that I've forgotten to run, when actually I ran at 5:30 this morning. day 353.

plans in maryland include watching british romantic dramas with my kid sister, sleeping, wearing pajamas, making gingerbread waffles. wrapping presents. drinking coffee. what I've been fantasizing about, though, is running the trails: ground hard from the cold, trees bare, streams low. the quiet. maybe a stray deer. the woods are what I look forward to; even though we have plenty of forest in oregon, there's none I know so well.

December 16, 2014

what I've been doing
listening to seemingly hundreds of episodes of the writer's almanac
braiding my hair
endlessly knitting scarves
quietly reciting poems to myself while lying in bed
obsessively making holiday treats, though surprisingly not obsessively eating holiday treats
wearing tights
thinking about all the cool new things I want to learn

day 350
I have been doing a lot of hippie woo-woo stuff with my lower legs and miraculously have been running more and faster than I have in a long time. still baby steps: by "more" I mean "four miles" and by "faster" I mean still 90 seconds a mile slower than my fastest. but all of this is very okay.

I try to imagine how day 365 will feel and I come up short. emotional? normal? no big deal, or an enormous one? (both.) I haven't figured out whether to run alone -- which is how I've done easily 90% of these runs -- or with cherished running friends. probably the latter, so there's somebody to high five at the end. I love high fives.

I abruptly decided to start online dating, stuck with it for about a day and a half, and then changed my mind. I had gotten a surprising number of messages from dudes. it all seemed like so much trouble. I'm starting to wonder if maybe some of us just aren't cut out to have partners.

"I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel."
-- pee wee, 'pee wee's big adventure'

I've never been terribly good at sharing, and I never did much like being told what to do. it's perhaps illustrative of the situation that I conflate 'dating' with 'being told what to do.'

of course, just as I was beginning to settle into the notion that I could just keep being single and who cares, I developed what can only be described as a debilitating crush on an acquaintance. so who even knows at this point.

somehow it's 9 days before christmas. I have never before been this unprepared for it. can we get another month, please?

December 15, 2014

fence repair

What’s the matter with you today
sed John you and Jan fighting?
On no I said it’s not that
it’s a letter I got that’s bothering me.
Must be from the govament
or the insurance, I can understand that.
No, John, it’s not them this time
it’s from a friend.
Did he die or summin?
You aint sed a decent word all morning
I might as well be working by myself
and let you set on the nailkeg
unrolling barbwore

Oh dammit, John,
it’s just a letter that pissed me off,
I said. It’s from a writer who saw something I wrote
about coyotes killing sheep
and he wrote saying that never happens.
He sez what? sez John.
He said there’s no documented evidence
that a coyote ever killed a sheep
unless it was rabid, I said.
And he said my story was a lie
and should never have been written.
He’s a writer? sez John.
What does he write about?
Oh, he writes novels, I said.
Books about cowboys and Indians
and the California mountains.

He sez that sed John
did he? You know
most chickens I known of
is layers and most folks
I known is liars
and most of them don’t know the different
but that don’t get in the way
of their opinions.
It was a preacher
got his first call
to come to our town back home
his first sermon that everbody
showed up to hear
was how all people is good
it aint no such of a thing
as a bad person

he wasn’t in town half a year
before Travis Newberry
knocked up his daughter in the eighth grade
and he was twenty-four by then.
He’d started preaching late
after giving up on farming
and owning a grocery store
must of been too late
he run out of words after bout a year
we had to elect him to office
to give him something to do.
First thing he voted no taxes
and no pay raises to schoolteachers
so they all known he’d be a good one
mebbe governor some day
had to move him out
of the parsonage and into a house
where he had to pay rent
like real people
so they found him a place
out on the end of town
where they could be alone
with that pregnant girl
they took out of school.
It was skunks out there
a mama and four babies
and his wife and that girl
sez oh they’re purdy
let them alone we like them
so he did
by the time she had her baby
they’d killed all their chickens
the Easter ducks and the cats
it was mice and skunks
running all over that place
they couldn’t live there no more
so he run for state office

they sent that girl
off to Christian school
we never heard of her again
and tried to raise the baby boy
but couldn’t do that neither.
He got elected
to the campaign of no taxes
and close down the schools
cause he blamed it all
on Travis Newberry hanging around
the jr-high parking lot
and moved to the state capital
to live and before
they could rent that house again
they had to set out traps
for two months and rat poison
sed they got twenty-four skunks
but nobody counted the mice
it was awful
took a year for the smells
to go off and it wasn’t no hippies
back then to rent it to
they had to wait it out

so he run for Warshington office
six years later
and put the boy in the orphanage
up for adoption
he might of been a scandal
but he didn’t get elected
they made him a judge instead
after that and he’s rich
still there and being so famous
he don’t pay no rent
the state gave him a house
and a car and a maid

but that still don’t mean he known one damn thing
about people or skunks or mice
or preaching or farming or
running a grocery store.
I seen it with my own eyes
a coyote running through
a herd of sheep and killed nine lambs
just to do it
and we set up five nights
in our pickups waiting for him
until he come back
and he killed four more
before we shot him
and that’s nothing to what
Allen Dalley out to Summit lost
that one year when they say
coyotes got half his lamb crop
that’s just a bunch of bullshit
because he done one thing
don’t mean he knows nothing
about anothern
and if he doesn’t know
what he’s talking about
you tell him to just keep his mouth closed
or run for office
that’s what it’s there for
so why don’t you forget about it
and you can forget him too for now
let’s get to work
cause all this is real
not something in a book
and has to be got done for sure
not just by thinking about it
and if you don’t get that frown put in a drawer
this is gone be a long day of work

- david lee