Friday, November 17, 2006

A Very Veg Thanksgiving

The question I keep getting, am I going to let Ivy eat meat, is no big shock to me. The answer, no I'm not going to feed her meat, seems to be a shock to people who ask. Once the shock wears off, I get this question: "Well, you're going to have Thanksgiving turkey, right?" Again, the answer is no. I'm not going to preach on the merits of vegetarianism. Nick and I are both at the point where eating meat makes us physically sick--not because we're so nauseated by the idea of eating dead cows or soup made with what's left over after boiling a chicken, but because our bodies are no longer able to process the enzymes present in meat. Trust me, it's not pretty. So, our precious little Ivy will be raised on a veg diet, including Thanksgiving. So, then, what's on our menu? Oh, let me share!

We'll be having the standard mashed potatoes. In the place of turkey gravy, I'm making a veggie version from vegetable broth. I have my mom's recipie for the same stuffing I've enjoyed every year. I just bake it in a dish instead of up the butt of a dead bird. I've also found a recipie for cornbread stuffing that I'm going to try. Thankfully I'll have mom's version as a backup if my experiment is terrible. I'm giving cranberries a shot too, but what's Thanksgiving without a can shaped cranberry gel? We're having that too. Nick's mom always has baked sweet potatoes with nuts and marshmallows. Since we can't eat marshmallows, I'll use marshmallow cream (no gelatin!). Of course, we'll have pumpkin pie for dessert.

But what about that turkey? I'm goingto do something daring--I'm going to try a tofu turkey. I saw something on the Food Network on them, and hey, it can't be too bad. Just in case, though, I'm making an acorn squash stuffed with rice and veggie sausge.

It's an obscene amount of food for two people and we probably won't be able to eat it until 11:00 at night, when Nick gets home, but we are having our Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Back in My Levis Again

Yes, that’s right—I’m back in my size 2. Ok, so I’ve never been a size 2, but that’s beside the point. I’m in my real clothes again! After only ten days post pregnancy, my jeans fit—sort of. They’re on and they’re buttoned and zipped. I can sit, stand, and do anything else I want in them. That’s all that matters. I still have a bit of a jelly belly, but now that I can work out again, I don’t think it will hang around.

Ivy has had a busy three weeks of life. She’s met both sets of grandparents, been a tourist in downtown Chicago, and been on her first airplane ride. What an ordeal it is to get through airport security with a baby! I’m not sure I could do it alone. It was just a short jaunt to St. Louis and back, so we decided not to check any bags. MISTAKE! We were then carrying two roller bags, my purse, Ivy’s diaper bag, the stroller, the car seat and our coats. The smart thing to do would have been to check as much as possible. Now we know.

Since Ivy is so little and does not yet have her birth certificate or social security number, we couldn’t get her an employee pass or a security document to get past TSA. We’d checked with the airline ahead of time to make sure she was ok to travel, and being assured that she was, we thought we’d have no issues. WRONG! Everyone we encountered who was not employed by Southwest asked what sort of identification we had for her. I actually think she should have been required to have something. I mean, what if we were baby snatchers or something? We had no way of proving that she was who we said she was or even that she was our child.

Once we made it to the metal detector, the real fun started. Nick and I had to completely undress (ok, so I’m exaggerating, but that’s how it feels these days—shoes, belt, the works.), send our stuff through the x-ray, take Ivy out of the car seat, send it through, collapse the stroller, send it through, walk through ourselves and then try to put all of that stuff back on without holding up the line. Whew! I was walking through the airport in just my socks for a while, but we made it.

After a little snack, Ivy fell asleep and stayed asleep until we touched down at Lambert Airport. It was fabulous being able to pre-board. I may have a child every five years just to keep the privilege.

Now that life is returning to normal, I remember just how great it is to not be pregnant. I’m getting more sleep now than before Ivy was born. I have tons of energy and am getting so much done now that I don’t have to sit down or run to the bathroom every fifteen minutes. The best part is that I can now bend over and tie my own shoes! It’s the little things…

Monday, October 30, 2006

Get Some Rest

I’ve survived the first week—actually, the first ten days. So far, this mom thing is a piece of cake. Maybe I have an exceptionally good baby. Little Ivy sleeps at four hour increments at night, waking only once for a short feeding and then it’s back to bed for all of us. It doesn’t make sense to me for Nick to get up with her. He can’t feed her (not yet anyway) so why should we both be awake? He’s the one who has to go to work the next day, so I take on all of the nightly responsibilities.

Labor was easier than I thought too. After nine hours of pitocin induced contractions, I caved and asked for an epidural. Three hours later, I pushed for half an hour and out she came. The worst part of giving birth was the stupid blood pressure monitor! Mine was high, so they took my vitals every fifteen minutes. That sucker clamped onto my arm so tight I thought it would pop off!

Hospitals are horrible places. This was the first time I’d ever been admitted to a hospital. Sure, I’d been to the emergency room dozens of times for car accidents, broken arms, sprained ankles and various other self-inflicted childhood injuries, but all of that was in and out. Ivy was born early in the morning, so Nick and I were pretty much up all night. Once there was a regular room available, we were moved from a labor room to a recovery room. I had yet to sleep a wink, so by the time I was given all of the instructions on how to care for myself during my stay I was ready to pass out. No sooner had I fallen asleep than a horrible woman came in with her torture devices—another blood pressure monitor. Fine, fine. Get it over with so I can sleep. She took my vitals, told me to get some rest, and left. As soon as she leaves, a candy striper brings me breakfast that wasn’t worth eating. I was too tired anyway.

“I’ll be back for your tray in a while. Try to get some rest.”

Rest. Right. That’s what I needed.

A few minutes later, Ivy’s doctor comes in to tell me that she’s doing fine. He’d be back tomorrow. In the mean time, I should get some rest.

I was certainly trying.

Next came my doctor. She poked and prodded, told me I’m fine, but should try to get some rest.

Yes, I’d LOVE to.

The candy striper returns for my tray and wants my lunch request.

The blood pressure lady comes back.

The lactation consultants want to know how breastfeeding is going.

All of them have the same parting words—“Try to get some rest.”

If you people would stop coming in here, maybe I COULD get some rest! But that’s how it went for the next two days. Hospitals are the worst place to get any rest. I can’t even blame visitors—I didn’t have any! It was all hospital people. By the time Saturday rolled around, I was more than ready to go home, have a decent meal and a nice long nap.

Being in the hospital was supposed to be the best part, everyone said. Take advantage of the nursery—no one else will take the baby for so long and you’ll need your rest. Well, home sweet home was the best thing for me. A side trip to Taco Bell for some veggie chalupas and then we hit the hay. I got more rest in that single afternoon than I did during my entire hospital stay. I was so rested, in fact, that we all got up and went to church the next morning. I haven’t needed a nap since I’ve been home. I have tons of energy, but not enough arms. Now that Nick is back at work, I’ve resumed my household duties and Ivy and I are keeping things under control. We’ve been shopping, baking, vacuuming, hanging out laundry—you name it. Next week, I’ll resume my workout. Bathing suit season, here I come!

Friday, October 13, 2006

I'm Being Published!

Yes, that’s right, someone out there thinks I can write! Ha ha! Fooled them! No, really. My obsession with nutrition is paying off. After sending numerous versions out to numerous magazines, The San Diego Family Magazine is publishing my article on cardiovascular fitness. Whoo hoo! I’m expecting it to show up in the November issue. If it doesn’t make it there, the January issue is all about health and fitness, so it should be in that one. Either way, I don’t care. I think they’re paying me for it and I’m expecting all of about $5. (Do I have to declare that on my taxes?) So, if anyone out there in America’s Finest City is reading my crap, the SDFM is a free publication, available in most grocery stores. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Wonderful World of Meat Substitutes

I didn’t become a vegetarian until a little over two years ago. I used to think it would be absolutely impossible for me to do—I’m in love with chicken! Can’t give that up. No way. Well, clearly, I did give it up (although so many non-vegetarians say things to me like “you eat chicken, right? Chicken’s a vegetable.” Um, no.). I often encounter someone that is unaware of my food lifestyle and after the initial shock wears off, they want to know if I miss meat. The answer is a resounding no. I hardly notice it at all. I won’t go into why I don’t eat meat (not now anyway). There are different types of vegetarians. I am what is known as a lacto-ovo vegetarian—I eat eggs and diary but nothing that used to crawl, swim, walk or fly. No chicken, no cow, no pig, no lamb, no fish. (Nick and I went to a restaurant today that basically wanted to know how you want your beef cooked, but did include two of what they called “Meatless sandwiches”. They included fried fish and baked fish. I suppose if you’re Catholic and its Friday, this counts.)

How is this possible, people want to know. How can you just not eat meat? Well, the first thing that a lot of vegetarian how-to books will tell you is to simply eliminate the meat. Try your favorite meals without them. Spaghetti and meatballs becomes spaghetti and marinara. Chicken Alfredo becomes simply fettuccini Alfredo. Burritos are made with beans and eggs benedict is made without the Canadian bacon. That sounds simple enough, but some things just aren’t quite the same. Meatloaf without the meat is just a gooey mess of eggs, ketchup and breadcrumbs. Not the same at all. Enter the meat substitute.

There are wide varieties of edible substances that simply fill in. Vegetarian burgers, meatballs, hot dogs, sausage, bacon (not my favorite, but ok), the list goes on and on. I’ve tried a lot of them and for the most part, they are undetectable to my carnivorous friends and family. So far, most of the vegetarian cookbooks I’ve bought don’t include the meat substitute, so I’m writing my own. I’ve developed a meat-free version of some of my favorite dishes that were previously off-limits to a vegetarian. Maybe someday it will make it to bookstore shelves. Maybe it will just sit on my bookshelf and be an instructional tool for my children. Who knows? At least it’s gotten me to try a LOT of new dishes and experiment with a lot of new foods. I’d never had a turnip or quiona before I became a vegetarian and they’re fabulous! That being said, I cannot master eggplant. Every time I make it, it’s awful. I always pre-empt every new meal with a simple statement: If this is terrible, we’re going out. Sometimes, we go out.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Opening Night

I was jittery on opening night. This could be the moment to make or break us. How we did tonight would determine the success or failure of our plan to cure boredom. I didn’t expect to wipe it out in one night, but a disaster on our first night would mean we’d wasted our time. At least that’s what I thought.
Crazy Angie was not so pessimistic. She was jubilantly sweeping the floor.
“I think I’ve finally got this down, Robin. Take a look at all of my piles!”
She was so proud, I hated to burst her bubble. “That’s great, Angie. Now, if you can sweep them together into one big pile, we can put them in the trash.”
She frowned. “Why would I do that? If I got rid of the dirt, I’d have nothing to sweep up tomorrow.” She went on sweeping. I decided not to respond. I didn’t want to ruin her good mood.
Nick seemed equally in good spirits. Why shouldn’t he be? It wasn’t his business on the line.
“Stop worrying. We’ll be fine,” he said.
“I hope so. I just keep thinking no one will come. I mean, we can’t advertise. How will anyone know we’re here?”
“Oh, didn’t I tell you? Crazy Angie and I took care of that.”
“You did? Wait—what exactly did the two of you do?”
“Coupons.” Crazy Angie butted in.
“Coupons?”
“Yeah, last drink is free.”
“What?”
“Don’t you see? It’s brilliant! No one really knows when their last drink will be, so they’ll most likely not use the coupon.”
“Ok. And just how did you distribute these coupons?”
“We handed them out to people on the street.”
“Great.”
“What’s the problem?” Nick asked.
“Hopefully nothing. I’m probably making a big deal over nothing. I trust you. You’re the expert. If you thought the coupons were a good idea, then it’s fine by me.” But a whole list of problems kept popping up in my head.
“What if we don’t have enough glasses?”
“We will.” Nick said.
“What if we run out of liquor?”
“We won’t.”
“What if no one comes—even with the coupons?”
“Well, then we’ll just have to open all over again tomorrow.”
I frowned.
“Come on,” Nick said. “You’re worrying for nothing. It’s gonna be fine. We can handle this.”
“Ok. Yeah. You’re right I guess. I’m going a little nuts.”
“And we have enough nuts around here.”
I laughed. That was certainly true. “Speaking of nuts,” I said, looking around. “Where is Crazy Angie.”
“I dunno. Maybe she finished sweeping and went down to the lab. She said something about having a special drink for tonight.”
“I’ll go check on her. It will give me something to do.”
Heading down to the lab, I heard glass clinking and what sounded like bubbling.
“Angie? Are you down here?”
“Eh? Hoooo izit?”
“It’s me!”
“Me? I thought I was already here. Oh no! I’m talkin’ to myself!”
“What?”
“Oh! Thank gooness. Iz onlee yooo.”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Nothin’. I’m workin’.”
She was acting strange. Her speech was slurred and her movements were slow and rocky.
“Working on what?”
“Shhhh!” She put a finger to her lips and sprayed me with saliva. “Iz a secret!”
With my spit shower, all of my questions were answered. She’d been drinking.
“Are you drunk?”
“Well, I hadda taste every version. How else uz I ‘posta make this stuff? Sheesh!”
“Great. Well, you’re done now, right?”
“Yep! All done.” She said, holding up her drink triumphantly.
“Good, then you need coffee or something. Isn’t that what cures drunkenness?”
“Nooooo! I doneed it. I’m jus fine.”
“Well, no more drinks for you. You’re underage.”
“Right. We might get arrested!”
“You have about two hours to sober up. I need you normal for tonight.”
“Oh, I dunno if I kin do normal in just two hours. I been workin’ onat for years!”
“Normal Angie, I mean. Got it?”
She gave me a mock salute and we went upstairs.
“What’s wrong with her?” Nick asked.
“Just a little tipsy.”
“Really?”
I nodded helping her to a spot on the floor where she promptly fell asleep. “She’s been tasting the new drink.”
“Oh. Is it any good?” “No idea. I guess we’ll see. She’s the only one who knows what it is or what’s in it. I hope she’s sober enough to remember. She and I certainly can’t be the ones serving or mixing.”
“What? Why not? I can’t do it all—well, unless it’s a total flop.”
“Nick! We’re only sixteen! It’s illegal!”
“I think you need a little reality check. You own a BAR! That’s not exactly within legal limits. If you’re worried about breaking a law, it’s too late. You’ve done it.”
He was right. Still, I felt odd about it. “Well, ok. If you need help, we’ll be here, but I’d like to avoid it if possible. I’d better go check on Angie.”
She was no longer unconscious on the floor, but rather was laughing fiercely.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
“Oh, nothin’ really. I was just remembering somethin’. Ever doothat? Like the time yoo came over ta my ‘ouse wearin’ those glasses? Yoo looked soooo funny.”
I frowned. “That never happened.”
“Yeah, but woudn’ it bee funny ifit ‘appened?”
“I guess. Are you drinking your coffee?”
“Yup.” She turned the coffee cup upside down to show me, but it wasn’t empty, so her lap was now doused in the brown liquid. “Ouch! That’s hot!”
“Let me get you some more. You’d better get cleaned up.” She staggered off and I went to put on another pot of coffee. I just hoped she would sober up in time for the opening. I checked my watch. Just one more hour. Were we ready? As we were going to be, I supposed.

As the hour arrived, I had calmed down somewhat. Nick seemed perfectly at ease, and when our first customer walked in, he knew just what to do.
“What’ll ya have?”
“Whatever you have in a shot glass.” This guy wasn’t picky. Nick pulled a bottle from behind the bar and filled a tiny glass with the brown liquid. The man downed the contents and said, “Keep ‘em commin’.”
Well, ok! I thought. If we had more like this, we were in for a profitable night at least. Slowly, people walked in. As the night grew later, the crowds grew larger. Nothing huge—Nick was able to handle all of the serving. I mostly walked around, looking for something to do, but not really finding anything.
As the night wore on, a steady stream of customers came and went without incident. It was a perfectly acceptable opening night as far as I was concerned. Crazy Angie and I had a lot to be proud of. But where was she? I hadn’t seen her since her strange giggle fit. Surely she was sober by now and as presentable as possible. I went in search of her.
“Crazy Angie?” I called to her, heading down to the lab. “Hello? Are you down here?” Nothing. I searched the entire space, thinking she might have dozed off, but she wasn’t there. Suddenly I heard loud cheers and whistles coming from upstairs. What was going on? Racing back up the stairs, I was in no way prepared for what I found. The crowd had gotten suddenly rowdy. Everyone was gathered in a circle in the middle of the bar. As I got closer, I saw just what had them so excited. Crazy Angie was doing her Authentic Lunatic routine—in the nude!

Friday, September 22, 2006

It's Here!

No, not the baby. Sorry. Fall! Whoo hoo! I have missed the fall. The day after Labor Day, traditionally the end of summer, brought fall to Chicago. Maybe this will be enough to alleviate some of my dislike for my new home. Maybe...

It's been raining and chilly--even a few tornado warnings today. Our leaves aren't changing yet but I know it's only a matter of time.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Coolest Book

Nick and I like to spend time sitting at Barnes and Noble, sipping coffee and reading books we wish we had the spare cash to buy. I came across one on Wednesday that WILL be my next book purchase. It's called 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I'm always hesitant to try a new author, mostly because I'm afraid I'll hate the way he/she writes and will feel like I've wasted valuable reading time when I could have been reading something worthwhile like The Great Gatsby or Moby Dick. I will try a new author if one is recommended to me by someone I trust (which happens all the time) and I'm always glad to have found a good contemporary read. That's how I found Nicholas Sparks and Isabelle Allende. I suppose I just don't trust my own judgement when it comes to new authors. I've often found myself at the library, craving a new story and just unsure of where to look. Generally, I end up finding a classic--can't go wrong there.

But even the classics--there are so many classics that I've never heard of. I've joined an online reading group specifically devoted to reading classics, and while we've often debated what defines a book as "classic", I've read many books I'd have never thought were worth reading such as Metamorphasis, and The Tennent of Windfell Hall. I'd have passed those up on a bookstore or library shelf because I'd never heard of them before.

Now, I've found the answer! I've found the book to tell me what to read next. As I sat flipping through it, I felt so proud for having read a nice handfull of these books. Most were in college, but not all. A few were even recent reads. However, as I flipped through, I realized that several of these books were sitting on my shelves at home, unread. I have a copy of the Hunchback of Notre Damme and The Woman in white, (which I started in college, loved, and just never finished.) that I've never read. I started to think, "what am I doing wasting time in a bookstore? I've got to get home and get reading!"

Now that I know what I should be reading, I feel so far behind! Gotta get crackin'!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Old Friends

Last Friday, I attended the ten-year high school reunion of Central Visual and Performing Arts High School's Class of 1996. What a blast! It's really a fluke that I even got to go. The reunion committee couldn't find me. They were looking locally and under my maiden name. They didn't find Amy, my best friend, either. She was local, but now a Smith, and therefore a little tough to find. A friend of ours just happened to be at an event that used the same photographer that I used for my wedding. The photographer posted the photos on his website. When my friend went looking for her own photos, she found mine. Not many Schleichers around, so when she saw that name, she must have recognized me. There I was, in all my wedded bliss. We'd been emailing ever since. The reunion committee found her, I guess, and she found me. Isn't it funny how things like that happen...

It was more fun than I'd thought to see everyone and hear about their lives and families. Of course, everyone was excited for me when they noticed my own growing family. With Amy's own baby due three days after mine, we were known as "the mommies" and every picture with one of us also has the other. I guess not much has changed since high school. We were best friends then, and still are today.

Amy and I used to joke about being pregnant at the same time. When she got pregnant with Megan, her first daughter, I was planning my wedding. She told me I'd better hurry up. Two years later, we're both facing "surprise" babies, one almost on top of the other.

There were so many people I re-connected with at our reunion that I wish I'd had more time to chat with. I felt a sense of pride towards some of them--not that I had anything to do with their success, but just a general feeling of happiness for them, that they were doing so well. Some had abandoned or at least laid aside the music and art that was our focus in high school. Some, like me, had jobs that paid them to do what they loved then and still love now. I'm always happy for someone who's been able to realize a dream.

Now that I've been found, I'm looking forward to 20 years. I wonder where I'll be then...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Plan

About three or four months into my vegetarian lifestyle, Nick and I went to my grandmother’s house for a family gathering. Just about everything served had meat in it. No big deal. We were new at this and a lot of people simply weren’t aware of it. I was sitting with one of my aunts and my older brother, eating when my aunt took notice of the lack of meat on my plate. When I told her I was a vegetarian, she said, “You can’t do that.”

My brother laughed. “Don’t tell my sister she can’t do something.” He’s right. It only makes me more determined.

I am my own person and no one knows me better than me. A close second is my husband, followed shortly by my mother. I suspect that she doesn’t like me at times, but at least she knows me. Isn’t that true of all mothers? I also don’t think she’s worried that I won’t love my children or that I won’t be able to cope with labor or motherhood. She knows how tough I am. She knows that I won’t let anything get in my way. (Mom, if you’re shaking your head at my assumptions, give me a call and we’ll talk.)

I am not worried about motherhood or labor. I can handle it. I can. If I couldn’t, then I’m sure the Good Lord would have foreseen it and prevented my pregnancy. After all, women have been doing this since Eve. She’s the cause of all of this labor pain stuff. I’m not worried about lack of sleep. I’ve never been one to sleep much anyway (what a waste of time!). I’m not worried that I won’t be able to breast feed. That’s what these things are here for. I will make them work. I’m not worried that I won’t be able to stand washing cloth diapers. They’re free once you buy them and my mom made it out ok, so I can do it too.
I know that there are women out there who have had horrific labors and really needed their epidurals. I know that there are women who tried desperately to breastfeed and just couldn’t do it. I know that cloth diapers are a pain and disposables, while expensive, are worth it for some people. That’s great. You’re all good moms and I would never presume to say otherwise. You know you better than I do, so I can’t say you did anything wrong or right, just as you can’t say I’m doing anything wrong or right. This is me. This is my space to say what I have to say, whether anyone likes it or not. I’m not saying that I won’t change my mind. I may get through one contraction and decide that this is it—no more pain. But I’m going to give it my best shot to go it alone, drug free. Breastfeeding is important enough to me for several reasons to make it work. I will make it work. I may decide that cloth diapers aren’t worth it. I doubt it. But I may. It’s important to me to give it my best shot. My mom did it. I can do it. It can be done. I’ve only come across one impossible thing in my life—dribbling a football. Not possible. I’ve tried. Oh, and that licking your elbow thing. Can’t do that either.

This is how I plan to deal with these things. (Key word here is plan.) It’s like a birth plan. I have a list of things I’d prefer to happen or not happen during my labor. Everyone not essential to the moment should stay out. No episiotomy. No pain medications. No strapping me to the bed. No c-section. Dim lights. Clothes on. My own music. Just Nick and me. This is what I’d like to have. Now, I know that babies have their own way of doing things and he/she may decide that it doesn’t want to enter the world headfirst (very wise outlook on life). It may be five and a half weeks late like I was and be 15 pounds. In either case, I may be in for it. Fine. We’ll do whatever we have to do. But that doesn’t diminish the importance of having a plan.

Don’t tell me that I can’t go through labor unassisted by drugs. Don’t tell me I won’t get enough sleep. Don’t tell me I can’t use cloth diapers or breastfeed exclusively. Don’t tell me I won’t go back to work after my baby is born or that I can’t have more children than is sane. I can. Trust me, I know me very well.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

One Morning...

My alarm went of at 3:00 in the morning. I jumped out of bed and smacked Tweety on the head to shut him up. I crawled to the bathroom and stepped on the scale. 152 pounds. Almost there. It was December 11, 2003. I had five days to loose those last two pounds. I was going on a cruise to Mexico with my boyfriend, Nick and his family for Christmas. I’d never been on a cruise or to Mexico and it would be my first Christmas that I wasn’t spending with my parents, but it had motivated me to get off my butt and into the gym. I was certainly not bikini ready in December. I’d gained about 30 pounds since college and had lost 28 of it in the last several months by prying myself out of bed at the butt crack of dawn and limiting myself to an insanely restrictive diet—but it was working. I ate 1000 calories a day and burned 1000 calories on the elliptical every morning. My apartment complex had a 24-hour gym and I usually had it to myself in the mornings. Sometimes I’d run into a European soccer fan who was hogging the TV in the early morning, but generally, I was alone.
My mornings started by dragging myself down to the gym and heading for the tanning bed. That was 20 more minutes of sleep, and that’s how I convinced myself to do it. Just make it down there and you can go back to sleep. I rarely slept, but I usually made it down.
As I was pumping away on the machine, I heard the door open behind me.
“Hey,” a girl said, walking over to me. “you might want to lock this door. My sister was down here a few hours ago and she was almost raped.”
“Oh my gosh!” I said. “Is she ok?”
“Yeah, she’s fine, but they guy lives here. He has one of those things on his neck—you know, those voice box things.”
‘A tracheal implant,’ I thought.
“Just be careful, ok, hon?”
“Ok. Thanks.” Wow. A rapist, right her in my apartment complex! I hopped down off of my machine and locked the door behind her. Now I was on alert! Every sound got my full attention, but I was back in the workout zone. I kept my headphones and the TV off, and relied on my magazine for entertainment. I was only about 15 minutes into my workout—a long way to go. I started formulating a plan. If something happened, if he came in here, I’d just pick up my things and walk out. I wouldn’t give him the chance to catch me off guard. I’d just leave. No way was I going to let some psycho with a voice box get to me.
As time went by, I started to relax. Nothing was going to happen. It was just after 4:00 when I heard a knock on the door. As I said, I wasn’t always the only person at this time of day and I didn’t feel right keeping people out. It was a 24-hour gym, open to all residents. ‘I’d open the door,’ I told myself, ‘and if it’s him, I’ll just grab my stuff and leave.’
I got back down off the elliptical and went to the door. It was a solid door, but the walls on either side had windows. I tried to peak through the blinds, but couldn’t see who was at the door. I unlocked it and opened it. It was him. Standing in front of me was a nearly naked man, dressed only in boxers, with a tracheal implant. His face was young, younger that mine; his features were soft—like an oversized twelve-year-old.
I just stood staring at him for a moment. He starred right back, meeting my eyes. He was at least a foot taller than me and bulky—fat, I’d say. I snapped back to reality, telling myself to just pick up my things and go. I walked right back to my machine and picked up my keys and my gym bag. Turning around to leave, I nearly walked into him. He’d followed me and was standing inches from me. His hand reached out to grab my arm.
“Don’t you touch me!” I screamed and punched him in the chest. My fist hit him with a thud, but didn’t seem to do much. He barely flinched, his hand continuing to reach for me. It seemed to move almost in slow motion—isn’t that what everyone says?
“Don’t come near me!” I yelled at him, punching him harder with my fist, first the right, and then I dropped my things and swung at him with my left. It was a wild punch, but not without purpose. I hit him square in the jaw. His face turned and he staggered, but his expression never changed and he never uttered a sound.
I stood firm, my fists balled, and my eyes on fire. He backed off slightly, but that arm came after me again. This time, I took advantage of his bare feet. I stamped hard on his toe and brought my knee to his gut when he hunched over. One last blow to the face, and he was on the floor.
I stood over him, pointed to the door and yelled “GET OUT!” Surprisingly, he obeyed. Once out, I ran to the door and slammed it behind him, locking myself in. I was shaking, though with fear or adrenaline, I don’t know. I waited, looking out the windows to see if he was still out there, cursing myself for not bringing my cell phone. I was trapped in that room, until he decided to leave. I couldn’t see anyone outside, and if he was out there, he wasn’t making any noise.
Finally, I heard a door close—the door to the stairs that led up to the third floor where I lived. The apartment complex was one big building that wound around like a maze. When I first moved in, I needed a map to find my way down to the mailboxes and leasing office. I lived at the far east end, about a five minute walk from the lobby.
I reasoned that it was unlikely he would know where I lived. If he’d already attacked one woman before me, this was random. I could stay on the first floor, run down to the east end, leave the building and go up the stairs to my apartment from the outside. Gathering my things, I decided to try it. If I opened the door and he was still there, I’d lock it again and wait. If he was faster than me, well, I had a few more punches and kicks in me.
I opened the door a crack and looked around, I didn’t see him. Opening it further, I saw that the hallway was clear, and took off for the east end. I ran the whole way, not stopping until I got back to my front door. Once safely inside, I locked and bolted my door. My knees were shaking, but I couldn’t sit down. I had to keep moving to calm myself down. What should I do? Should I call the police? He didn’t hurt me. I did more damage to him. What about the other girl? What if he was still down there waiting for someone else. Yes, I should call the police. I reached for my phone.
“911—what city is your emergency in?”
“Mission, Kansas.”
“How can I help you?”
“I was just attacked in the gym at my apartment complex.”
“Are you alright?”
“Yes.” I gave her my address and phone number.
“An officer will be by in a few minutes.”
“They’re coming here?” Of course they were! They’d need to take a statement or something. Isn’t that how it works? When I hung up with the operator, I looked around my apartment. It was a mess! I couldn’t have the police coming here and seeing things like this! I started picking up the clutter. Living alone had made me a slob. Rushing to shove dirty clothes in the laundry, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I was still in my gym clothes, sweaty and smelly. This would never do. I smoothed out my hair and put on some deodorant and a t-shirt. That was better. I’d barely had ten minutes when the police arrived.
Three officers stood outside my door. I let them in and told them what had happened, punches and all.
“So, you hit him?”
I nodded. “Three or four times, I think.”
“Wow. Ok. Well, I’ll need you to write all of this down.” He gave me a few pieces of paper and a pencil and I started writing the incident out. Two of the officers left after receiving garbled, static messages from their radios. When I’d finished, the third looked it over.
“Ok. We picked up someone downstairs. You’ll need to come down and identify him—make sure he’s the right guy. You ok with that?”
“Sure.” I was surprised at how cheery and pleasant I was. Shouldn’t I be a blubbering girly mess by now? I hadn’t shed a single tear. We walked back down to the lobby.
“Boy, this is a long walk!” he said.
“Yep. But it wakes me up.”
“What were you doing down there at this time of day?”
“Just working out. That’s when I normally go.”
“Really?”
“Mmm hmm.”
We reached the front stairs and I was astonished to see teams of K-9 units. Huge German shepards were walking around on leashes, sniffing everything.
“Wow!” I said. “Those are big dogs.”
“Yeah, they smelled him right away.” The officer and I walked out the front door. A police car was parked in front of the lobby. He was sitting in the back seat with his hands behind his back, looking at me through the window.
“Is that him?”
“Yeah,” I said nodding. “That’s him.”
“Ok. We’ll have someone drive you back up to your apartment.” He signaled for another man who was the only one not dressed in uniform. “This is Captain Brady. He’ll take you home.”
“You must be freezing!” he said. “Here, get in the car where it’s warm. It will just be a few minutes before we get going.”
It was much warmer in the car and I was glad to stop shivering.
“So, you must be a morning person,” he said.
“Yeah, I’ve always gotten up early.”
“So, what happened?” I gave him my version of the story. “Yeah, we got that call from the other girl around midnight. Thing is, there was nothing we could do at that point. When you called, well, we figured we’d better get down here. The dogs smelled him right away. Came right in the front door and took off for the bathroom. He’d been hiding in there. We’ll get the security camera footage when everyone opens up in the morning.”
Security footage? I didn’t know there were cameras in the lobby. That made me feel better. I wondered if there were any inside the gym, capturing me throwing punches.
Safely back in my apartment, I looked at the clock. It was 6:45—I was going to be late for work. I called in and left a message.
“Hey girls, it’s Robin. I’m going to be in a little late this morning. I’ve been entertaining the entire Mission Police Department. Don’t worry, I’ll give you all the details when I’m in. See you later.” That ought to get their curiosity up. I hurried through my morning routine and made it to work by 8:30.
Our office was far too large for just the four of us. I worked at a small advertising agency in North Kansas City. We’d rented out one large room and just set up our desks along one wall. We were preparing for growth!
“Oh my gosh! What is going on?” Crystal, whose desk was next to mine, was practically bursting with curiosity.
“You’ll never believe it. I was attacked.”
“What? Oh my GOSH!” By now, everyone else was crowding around, digging for details. I told them the gruesome story right down to the last detail.
“Wow. You really hit him?”
“Yep. My hand is seriously sore. I saw a news van sitting at the end of the driveway this morning on my way in. I wonder if it will be on tonight.”
“So, what’s gonna happen to him?”
“I dunno. They said they would call me and let me know where he was going to be. I can’t imagine that they’ll release him. At least not today. If they do, I’m not going home.”
We chatted for a while about the whole thing, but when the phones started ringing, we got back to work. Around noon, the police called.
“He’s going to be held over for his arraignment, but we’ve also put in a restraining order against you and the apartment complex, so he won’t be allowed back there.”
“Ok. Good.”
“Would you like someone to call you if and when he’s released?”
“Oh, yes. Thank you.”
“Can I ask you something?”
“Sure.”
“What were you doing down there at that time of day?”
I sighed. I was getting tired of this question. “I’m down there every day at that time. It’s my normal time to workout.”
“Hmmm. Well, you need to be more careful.”
That set me off. “No! Don’t tell me I need to be more careful. You tell him he needs to think twice before trying to put his hands on me. I think I took care of myself pretty well. I WAS careful. I locked the door, I was aware of my surroundings and I hit him before he could hit me, so don’t tell me I need to be more careful!”
“Ok, you’re right. I’m sorry. We’ll call you if anything changes.”
“Thank you.” I hung up. I was more upset now that I was after the incident. How dare he! I was proud of myself for the way I handled things and I was not about to let someone tell me that I was in the wrong for being up and about at early hours. It was a 24-hour gym. Three o’clock in the morning is one of those 24 hours. I had every right to be down there. He had no right to come after me. Yell at him! Don’t lecture me. I’m not the one who needs moral guidance.
Throughout the day, I got calls from friends and family who’d seen my apartment on the news and called to tell me that there was a rapist living right next door to me.
‘Yes, I know. I’m the one who beat the crap out of the guy.’
‘That was you?! What were you doing working out at 3am?’
‘Burning calories.’
‘I’ve always thought you were nuts to get up so early. I guess you won’t be doing that anymore.’
‘Says who? Why shouldn’t I? They caught the guy.’
‘Well, still. It’s too dangerous to be doing that.’
I gave up arguing after my mom, dad, grandmother and brother all called to ease their minds about my workout schedule.
I went to bed angry at everyone. The psycho (who’s name, I learned, was Marcus Bell), the person who called to tell me that he’d be staying in jail for at least a few weeks, and every one of my concerned family members for lecturing me about when it was appropriate to work out. Had I been asking for it? Had I done something wrong? No, I didn’t think so. But should I be trying to avoid trouble and nut jobs who attack women in the early morning hours?
The next morning, Tweety awoke me with his shrill buzz. I gave him a smack and rolled out of bed. I threw on my gym clothes and headed down to the tanning bed. It was 3:45 am.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I Am a Westerner



This is my favorite photo of Nick and me. His brother, Danny took it at the beach on Thanksgiving Day in 2001. I was living in Kansas then.

I miss the West. I miss the beach and the smell of the ocean. My high school creative writing teacher would be laughing if he read this now. I once wrote a poem about how much I hated the ocean. I miss the palm trees and the seagulls (though we do have seagulls in Chicago). I miss the mountains and the dry dessert and the purple sunsets.

There's a kind of romance about going West that I think only American's can feel (unless there's some other country out there with a frontier history like ours). Coming back to the Midwest feels like a step back--like tucking my tail between my legs and retreating. That's not what happened, of course, but that's how it feels--suffocating and heavy. I am not a Chicagolander. I am not a Midwesterner anymore. I may not be a Californian but I am definitely a Westerner.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Testing

Pregnancy requires a lot of tests. First one to find out if your pregnant. Then another to find out if the first one you took was accurate (sometimes a third to confirm the second). Next is a blood test to confirm the previous two or three you took. Yep, you're pregnant. Ok. Now the real testing begins. Vial after vial of blood is sucked out of your arm which will be tested for everything from anemia to HIV. A few weeks later, more blood to test for a barage of genetic tests--this one you have to agree to take. Finally, comes the fun part--the ultrasound.

I was 13 weeks pregnant when I had my first. By this time, I was still looking like myself. I had a bit of a tummy, but not much. I had, however, experienced the frequent running to the bathroom every half a glass of water. I wasn't holding my liquids well. So, the doctor telling me to drink a litre of water within an hour of my ultrasound was a bit frightening. But, I managed it.

The test itself was exciting. We saw fingers and the heart beat and all of that stuff, but when the technition tried to do measurements of the head, baby kept moving around and hiding him/herself. What does the tech. do? She pounds on my stomach, trying to get baby to cooperate. Not exactly the most comfortable thing for a woman who's got to pee. But here, the benefits of seeing the baby make it worth it and soon after, I can head to the bathroom.

The glucose tolerance test--now, that's another story. At 25 weeks, I'm CONSTANTLY hungry. It doesn't take much to fill me up, but when I'm hungry, DO NOT get in my way. Give me food and give it to me NOW! Unfortunatly, for the glucose test, I have to fast for twelve hours. That used to be no big deal for me. I'd forget to eat all the time or be too busy to stop for lunch or dinner or whatever. Not now. A twelve hour fast is half a day. HALF A DAY! That's like skipping three meals in a row.

Ok, fine. I stopped eating at 10:00 PM. That means I can go to the test site at 10:00 AM. I've been told not to drive myself, and since getting Nick out of bed before 9:30 is impossible, this is perfect timing.

I actually felt ok. We drove to the test facility and got there just before 11:30. By this time, my tummy is rumbling and I'm glad that this test takes only an hour. One more hour and I can chomp down on the protein bar in my purse. As I wait to be helped, my hunger is reaching uncomfortable. Finally, it's my turn. The lady behind the counter looks at my doctors form and tells me,

"You'll have to come back at 1:00."

"What? Why?"

"Well, this is an hour long test and we clost at noon for lunch."

"What?"

"You'll have to come back."

I am not irritated. I am preparing myself to jump over the counter and strangle this woman.

"I have been fasting for 13 hours. Now you're telling me that I have to wait three more hours?"

"I'm sorry."

"You're sorry. Well that's nice. It's nice that I can't eat so that you can." I practically threw the pen she'd given me to sign in with in her face and walked away. Nick knew better than to say anything. He just drove me to the Butterfield Pancake House and bought me breakfast like any good husband would. We would not be going back at 1:00.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Birdwatchers


Our new apartment in Chicago is quite different than any I've ever lived in before. It has lots of windows with very wide windowsills. The cats are big fans of those windows. They remind me of my grandfather with their ability to simply look out the window for hours. We live on the first floor, which is where I've been fortunate to live for the past three apartments. Wildlife in Chicago, and the Midwest in general, is quite different than in San Diego. In San Diego, the only things I remember in abundance were the snails and the seagulls. We have neither of those here. What we do have are squirells, robins, and bunnies. They're crawling all over our lawns and are therefore highly visible when anyone or any cat looks out a groundfloor window. My desk sits just in front of one of these windows. We have blinds that cover the windows, but of course, that doesn't stop the cats from trying to get as close to the glass as possible. It's a bit noisy, listening to them try to step through the blinds rather than under them, so we keep them pulled up about six inches or so. There's always a nice gap for the kitties to sit in. I try to keep the desk neat and clean since Nick and I have to share it. It becomes rather difficult when as I sit typing or writing, a flying furball comes leaping over the couch, lands on the desk and prepares to pounce on whatever it is that's roaming around outisde the window. Generally, a few things get knocked over. On occasion, I get a few more typo's than I'd planned (paws aren't concudive to typing), and need to refill my water glass sooner rather than later. We have a jar of change on the desk (stupid toll roads!), which routinely gets spilled all over the desk and floor. What's most amusing to me is they way the cats watch these small creatures. They act as if they're ready to leap right through the screen (and no doubt would if they could). They have no thought for the fact that they're sitting right on my hands or my book or whatever happens to be in the way. They perch up on their hind legs and wiggle their butts back and forth, ready to leap, yet knowing that they'll never get through the glass before that tasty morsel gets away. Oh well. It keeps them entertained!

This is a Test


I'm trying to add a picture. Is this working? Whoo hoo! It worked. This is Nick and me at Disneyland about two years ago. I think it's the Alice In Wonderland ride or something.

A Better Desk Chair

That's what I need! That's it! That will make my desk more compelling. Sure. That's what I tell myself. This isn't new. And it's not my unique problem. All writers face this, I'm told. Sure, when we're young and full of ideas, nothing can keep us from the solitude of our minds and the privacy of our journals. But now, as an adult, faced with more time that I want to have, I have nothing to say and no desire to write it down. I want to have written, not to do the actual writing.

I used to dream about what it would be like to stay home and do the cooking and cleaning and have all of this time for my writing. Now, since I've stopped working, I HATE IT! I'm bored most of the day, hoping that something interesting will be on the Food Network or that my old faithful, re-runs of Law and Order will be on USA or TNT. Most of the time, they don't disappoint me. I have hours of time in which I could be writing. I have a part-time work-from-home job that PAYS me to write. And yet, it is the last thing I want to do. Laundry is much more exciting. Those dishes are annoying me. This carpet is filthy! It needs a good vacuuming.

It's worse when Nick is home. I so rarely see him that I feel guilty doing anything but something with him. It can be anything--vegging out in front of the TV. Going to the gym, playing with the cats. Anything we can do together. We can not both write. (Besides, if he ever decides he wants to be a writer, I'm going right out and getting my pilots' license--that's my dream, pal! It's bad enough that he used to work for the bookstore that I tried to get a job at in three different states!)

I tell myself that at my old job, I would sit at my desk for hours working. Why can't I do that now? Well, I say to myself, it was that fabulous chair. I had a great desk chair that probably cost a hundred dollars. My current chair was probably twenty bucks. Not exactly the best thing to sit on. Even now, my desk sits empty and I'm on the couch. Thank goodness for lap tops and long cords.

Sigh! Well, I've procrastenated long enough. I should get some work done. My 250+ CD collection needs alphabetizing.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Joys of Motherhood--Almost

I've been married just about a year and a half. I know I've said it before, but it's truly the best thing in the world. I recommend marriage to anyone who's found someone as fabulous for them as my husband is for me.

In our early newlywed days, people were always asking us how we liked being married, and when they heard how wonderful things were, they were quick to rain on our proverbial parade.

"That won't last."
"I remember those days."
"The first year is like that."

Well, I'm here to say that if the first year is the hardest, then the rest is smoothe sailing. The second year is so far, better than the first. We're still deleriously happy. Much happier now than even a few months ago--we're having a baby.

To put it bluntly, our lives are completely different now than they were when we got married. Nick is in an entirely different career now (airplanes and not books) and I'm not doing much work at all. Our Chicago apartment is much bigger and less expensive than our San Diego apartment. So far, the only thing that's the same is the weather. I don't know who said it was awful in Chicago. I can't tell the difference yet. We've spent the better part of my 21 pregnant weeks apart and now that I'm finally home, I'm adjusting to an entirely different lifestyle.

When I left my fabulous job at Burnham Institute for Medical Research just three weeks ago, I managed to secure a part-time position with Burnham that I could easily do from home. I had every intention of getting a full-time job when our move to Chicago became definite, but at that point, we didn't know we'd be a family of three in just a few months. Since I have a conscience and a nagging sense of duty, I could not continue a job search for more than a few months. It just didn't feel right keeping something so huge from people that I was asking to trust me to do a certain job to the best of my ability. Since Nick and I discovered that financially, we'd be fine on one income, I decided that once I moved to Chicago, I'd take on the household duties full time and after the baby was old enough (or I was starved for adult contact enough) I'd go back to work wherever I could find something that suited me.

Great plan, don't you think? Well, we certainly did--and still do. It just seems that most other people think they know better than us and aren't as optomostic as we are. I tell them I'm going back to work after the baby is born. Here's what I get:

"No you won't."

"Yes I will. I don't think I could not work."

"You won't want to go back."

"I think I will. I like to be busy."

"You won't go back."

"Yes I will."

"No you won't."

At this point, I'm tired of arguing with someone who clearly seems to think that they know me better than I know me. Throw that on top of all the pregnancy advice I get, and I'm ready to swear off human contact for the rest of my pregnancy--except for my husband, of course.

Isn't it amazing how people who've never had kids are suddenly experts on pregnancy? What's worse is that they all contradict each other.

"Morning sickness is over by noon," says one. "The nausea is much worse at night," says another. And neither of them are parents, or worse, they're both men. I can appreciate that many men experience some of the same symptoms as their wives during a pregnancy, or at the very least, they've had to live with it. But, I'm sorry guys--you have no idea how my pregnancy will go. Every pregnancy is different and therefore, telling me what will help or what I should do is irrelevant and unnecessary. Let me worry about which side to sleep on or how much caffeine I can have. I'm keeping track--don't worry. Don't look at my butt and tell me that I'm having a girl or determine by my breast size that I'm having a boy. In fact, don't look at my butt or my boobs at all--talk to my face.

Speaking of those growing body parts, I wish that maternity clothing manufacturers would realize that not all of us mommies-to-be want to show the world our breasts. I've never been small up there and have been looking for ways to deminish my milk providers. Pregnancy clothes, however, seem to assume that all of us were small breasted before pregnancy and now want to show off our new-found boobs. Thank you, but no. Mine are big enough and I don't want to draw attention to them. Full figured women get pregnant too and yes, our breasts get even bigger. All of my developed life I've had to coax male eyes to my face and away from my chest. I know they're not really (always) aware that they're talking to my chest, but if I were flat, there would be nothing to look at. Now that I'm pregnant, it's like my girls are out there to be noticed. Well, they're a bit shy and don't like being seen when they're not fully dressed.

As far as the rest of my pregnancy goes, it's smooth sailing for me. The nausea is long gone. I'm not tired all the time. I have no weird food cravings or aversions and I'm not crabby all the time. (Just bored, now that I'm not working.) In 21 weeks, I've gained less than five pounds, still manage to get in a decent workout and am not eating more than my husband--more often, perhaps, but he can still pack away more of a pizza than I can. Really, the only obvious evidence I have of being pregnant at all is the basketball I've swallowed. Other than that, I can hardly tell.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Another Long Drive


The last time I drove across the country, I had company--Nick and my kitties, Jean-Claude and Oberon. This time, it was just me and the cats. Moving to Chicago has been an adventure. So many changes! As I packed up my car on my final Friday afternoon, I felt horribly lonely as I closed the door to my apartment for the last time. Nick should have been there with me. But he was already hard at work making our new life better for me when I got there.

He hated the idea of me driving all of that way by myself. Not only was I a girl (and therefore unable to ward off strange men and all other forms of danger) but I was ten weeks pregnant (surprise!). Not to worry, I told him. I have the attack cats to protect me. I'll be fine. After all, I'd survived this move before, not to mention a whole other host of life experiences including car accidents, flat tires, dead batteries, getting lost in unfamiliar places, assault, unwanted sexual advances, dog bites, mosquito bites, bee stings--what else was there?

I had my route fairly well planned out. Originally, I'd planned to go north, through Colorado, but the end of March was their snowy season. It would have been fewer miles, but probably more hours as I got stuck in snow. I opted for the road more traveled, and decided to drive through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and finally, Illinois.

I left at exactly 3:45 on Friday afternoon. I'd hoped to make it to Downers Grove by Tuesday at the latest. That Friday, I'd only hoped to make it to Phoenix. That was about five hours away and I had friends there I could stay with--El, Carrie and Jalen. El and I had become friends when we both lived in Kansas City. He moved west about a year before me.

Of course, leaving that late on a Friday put me smack in the middle of rush hour traffic. Five hours turned into eight. Not to worry, however. Kitties and I made it safely to El's house around 12:00 that night. I enjoyed my first night in a real bed in more than a month. What a great night's sleep!

Jalen, who is just about two, absolutely loved my kitties. He tried his best to crawl under the bed with them, but he was just too big. We got as early a start as my body would allow, leaving Phoenix by 8:00. My goal for the day was Albuquerque.

Arizona is a gorgeous state. I went north through Flagstaff, and if I ever have the opportunity to live there, I'll take it. They even get a bit of snow, which seems odd for Arizona to me. Crossing into New Mexico, the kitties started to whine. Actually, it was just Oberon. He makes an awful sound when he's truly unhappy and sounds like he's being tortured to death. All I could do was turn up the radio. When we stopped for lunch, I'd let them roam around the car a bit and have the opportunity to eat or use the litter box.

They were so happy to be out of their cage that I thought I'd give them a break and see how far I could get with them out. I was pulling over at the very next exit. They kept trying to crawl down by my feet or climb up on the dashboard. Once I'd shoved them back in the carrier, the whining started again. I had no idea what was wrong, other than they just wanted to be out of the car. I completely understood. I wanted to be out of the car too.

Three years before, when Nick and I were driving the same route in the other direction, we'd gotten to Albuquerque fairly early in the evening--too early to stop for the day. We'd seen billboards all over the road for Gallup, New Mexico: 2000 rooms! It seemed like an ideal place to stay for the night. We made it to Gallup just about 8:00. There were certainly plenty of rooms, but none of them were worth what we paid. Dirty, small, smelly, and bullet holes in a few windows. Yikes! We agreed to leave VERY EARLY the next morning. I did not plan to stay in Gallup this time around. But I just had to stop there and call Nick. "Guess where I am?"

I made it to Albuquerque around four in the afternoon--far too early to stop. There was a tiny town on the edge of the state line, Tucumcari, that had plenty of hotels. It was another two hours or so. Six o'clock was still a bit early, but if that's what I hit, then that's what I hit.

I pulled off the highway at an exit with four hotels. Pulling up to one, I noticed that the parking lot was horribly full. Finding no space to park, I moved on. At the next, I found a "no vacancy" sign. At the third, I made it as far as the check in desk before I was told that no rooms were available.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"Snow birds."

"Sorry, what?"

"Snow birds--everyone is heading home from their winter vacations."

Snow birds. Nice. They probably did this every year and knew that Tucumcari was the place to stay. Ok. No problem. It was still early. Let's push on and see how much farther I can get.

I crossed the border into Texas around 8:30. Amarillo was about another hour or so away and the next big city. I was getting tired of driving and worried that I wouldn't find a hotel in Texas either. But off in the distance, a glowing Best Western lit my way! I'd just crossed into Vega, Texas--my home for the night...I hoped.

Pulling into the parking lot, I was relieved to find it fairly empty. At the desk, I asked if they had rooms. The attendant looked at me like I was nuts. Of course they had rooms. Hallelujah! The room was modest, but just fine. I slept far too late, but we were on the road by 9:00. As I left the next morning, I saw a sign on the door--no vacancy.

It was actually cold in Texas. I pulled over for breakfast when I got to Amarillo and had to put on a sweatshirt. Somewhere between Amarillo and the Eastern border of Texas, I passed the worlds biggest cross. They aren't kidding when they say that everything is bigger in Texas. I actually considered stopping to take a look, but I could see it just fine from the road. It was certainly big.

I made it to Oklahoma City that afternoon and stopped for lunch. The kitties had been whining all morning and I needed a break from them. The weather was perfect in Oklahoma. But I'd heard from other people at the Hardees that bad weather was headed that way. I called my parents in St. Louis. Yes, they were having some tornado warnings. They looked up my route on the internet and saw that things didn't get bad until Springfield, Missouri. Looking at my map, I decided that I'd shoot for Joliet, MO and just stop there. It might be early, but I'd rather stop than be stuck in a tornado.

Driving through Oklahoma, the whining only seemed to get worse. I tried to turn up the radio, but I'd go deaf before I drowned Oberon out. I opened the window, hoping some white noise would help. After a few minutes, the whining stopped. Thank goodness! I rolled up the window--it was chilly. As soon as the window was up, the whining started again. Hmmm. Could they just be hot? I tried turning on the air conditioning. That was it! He was hot! I turned it on for as long as I could stand it. The instant I turned it off, Oberon was whining again. Fine! I'd rather freeze. I pulled my sweatshirt over my legs and pointed the vents to the back seat. Peace at last!

The skies over Joliet were clear as a bell. Not a single cloud. Maybe the weather was late. It was just about 2:00. I decided that I would just keep driving and stop when it started to look nasty. I made it all the way to Springfield--no weather at all. Bright and sunny.

I found a nice, cheap, Econolodge and pretended that I didn't see the "no pets allowed" sign behihnd the desk. Kitties would just have to behave. It was a frustrating night. I had to keep getting out of bed to pry Jean-Claude out of the window, but we got up early and left by 7:00. It had been bright and sunny the day before. This morning it was completely overcast. I guess the weather was coming. Lucky for us, a few hours later, we were back in the sunshine.

As I drove through Missouri, I thought how ironic it was to be driving my car through there again. Until a few months before, I'd still had Missouri license plates. Now, we were all California. I actually drove right through my old neighborhood. I drove past my old gradeschool, my church, my college--and then right across the river into my new homestate--Illinois.

The drive from there was uneventful. I just pressed on. Making excellent time, I pushed open my front door at 4:30 on Monday afternoon. Nick was home. Finally, I was too.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

My Empty Apartment

My husband has moved on to Chicago. I’m staying here in San Diego until the end of the month or until I find a job. In the mean time, the movers have come and carted away all of our belongings. I’ve saved a few things to make this last month more liveable. I kept one of our TV’s, the VCR and a DVD player. A tea kettle, a set of silverwear, a cookie sheet and two skillets that I plan to toss when I leave (they’re falling apart anyway), a trash can, an air mattress, blankets and clothes. I also have a few books and of course, my kitties to keep me company (the movers wouldn’t take them—we tried).

I thought I had everything I needed. The refrigerator was still full of food, and all things I liked and should be eating. Orange juice, eggs, milk, bread, cheese, a frozen pizza, pasta, and a few random things that I should have made use of when I was still cooking for two—a block of tofu, a box of spinach, a jar of jalapenos, and an unusually large amount of spicy mustard. Oh well.

My first day alone was a Tuesday. I’d taken Nick to the airport and went on to work. When I got home, I was ready for a nice healthy dinner. What to eat? I opened my fridge and settled on the frozen pizza. Pizza in the oven (with a few of my own additions) and in twenty minutes, I had dinner. I opened the oven door and realized I had no way to get the pizza out. I stood there with the door open for a moment, thinking. If I could slide it onto the cookie sheet—that would work. I got my table knife out and started easing it off of the rack. Eventually, I pulled it out of the oven. Great! Pizza! But I had no way to cut it. I tried my table knife again, and eventually, I had the thing segmented into eatable sections. I grabbed a bottle of water and went to the living room.

My TV is on the floor—along with just about everything else. I got my pillow from the bedroom and plopped down on the floor. Not too bad.

The next night, I ran into other problems. I had plenty of left over pasta from a few nights before the movers showed up. I had no microwave, but I thought heating it up on the skillet would do. I dumped it from it’s Tupperware container and use my fork to stir it up. No problem. But then, I thought, how was I going to eat it? I had no plates or bowls. I couldn’t very well eat it right out of the skillet. I found the Tupperware container and put it back in there. It would work. I’d have to snag some paper plates from the office tomorrow.

I was getting really tired of sitting on the floor. Not to mention, my butt was getting sore. Nick’s mom called to see if I had everything I needed.

“A chair! I could really use a chair.”

“Ok, how about a table?”

“Oh, that would be great!”

“What else?”

“Well, uh, I could use a bowl and a cup.”

So, I went to their house to get a few things and now, I’m a bit more comfortable. I have a beach chair and an outdoor end table. It’s not exactly comfortable, but I only have a few days left. On Friday, I’m off to Chicago! No more air bed and eating off of cardboard!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Moving On

My mother says I'm nomadic. I think she's right. Aside from growing up, I haven't ever stayed long in one place. One summer in college, I moved every six weeks, from one dorm to another. During my five years at SLU, I lived in four different dorms, two different apartments and two different houses. After college, I spent only two years in Kansas City. Now, after three years in San Diego, I'm moving again. Nick has been transferred to Chicago. We're packin' up!

Actually, we're not. His company is paying for EVERYTHING. They gave us a lump sum of cash to pay for 30 days of temporary housing, food and rental car, hired movers to pack us and ship all of our crap...uh, valued posessions... and towed Nick's car.

Our new home is in a little village called Downers Grove, Illinois. It's very midwestern. If you've never been to the Midwest, you can't possibly understand that term and I can't possibly explain it to you. You'll just have to see it for yourself.

What I think I'll miss most about California is the vast number of Starbucks, all seemingly within feet of each other. I've gotten used to them. My Saturday Nights at the airport are also now a thing of the past. Midway does't have a food court outside of security like Lindbergh Field does. I may actually have to go out and make friends.

It's all very exciting, though. So many changes in such a short time. New city, new home, new job (hopefully soon)--everything is new, and yet so familiar. I've done this all before. It's old hat, as they say. Going out into the unknown...

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Bum Glue

Nick works nights.  It’s not something I’m in favor of, but he’s just not a morning person.  Someday I’ll describe the morning routine that gets him out of bed.  For now, let’s just say, it’s not pretty.  Thankfully for him, Southwest has an afternoon shift, which he gratefully signs up for.  

I’m a morning person myself.  With my early start, I’m usually dead by 9pm.  If I am awake, it’s more of a zombie-like wandering around with mere slits for eyes, my arms outstretched searching for invisible structures or obstacles.  

Despite my inability to stay up late, I spend Saturday nights at the airport with my husband.  That’s right—3:30 to midnight on Saturdays, I have my favorite little spot in the food court at Lindbergh Field (right next to the Starbucks) where I park my carcass.  I call it bum glue.  I apply it liberally to the seat of my pants, plant my fanny firmly in a large booth and stay there for eight hours.  It is the most productive eight hours of my week.

I could be home flipping channels or watching what remains of the eighteen hours of TV I watch every week, but why?  Why do that when I (and so many other writers with me) am always wishing I had more time to read and write.  I take my nifty purple bag and fill it with my weekly projects (some time, I’ll tell you about my massive to-do list—it’s color coded!).

I try to read three books a week:  a novel, a book on writing, and some type of Christian study (a novel or book written by one of my favorite Christian non-fiction writers).  Short stories, writing practice, whatever novel I’m working (next installation of the Lonely Wolf should hopefully materialize soon), and of course, my meal planning for the week.  

Bum glue keeps me in the seat.  I can do anything I want—but I can’t leave.  I’m stuck there until the last plane is home.  I have a steady supply of coffee and Diet Coke at my disposal.  In addition, Nick has an average of 20 minutes of every hour when he can come out and see me.  That’s almost three hours of quality time—time I would otherwise not have with him.  Some of our best talks come from the booth where I’ve spread my books and papers.  

It’s not an exciting Saturday evening to most people.  But I can get lost in any number of worlds created by the imaginations of some author—or sometimes my own.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Monday

It's Monday. Just another day. I can't say I relate to people who hate Mondays. I don't mind them. I actually feel like a slug on the weekends, not getting up before the sun or working out. I do get a nice fulfilling Saturday evening when I go to the airport with my husband for eight hours and apply some much needed bum glue (that's another entry all together). But my day doesn't start until sometimes 8 or 9 o'clock! That's at least four hours later than a typical weekday. FOUR HOURS!!! I'm so ashamed...

Monday is the start of a new week. A reason to get out of bed (that, and the coffee). On Monday, General Hospital returns to my day (I just have to know what's going on in Port Charles!). Monday's are days of accomplishment--they set the tone for the week. If I can pry my lazy butt out of bed on time on Monday, I'm more likely to do it again on Tuesday.

Don't get me wrong--I don't wish every day were a Monday. I like wednesday's and Thursday's much better (Those are Nick's nights off). But Friday is sort of a deadline day. I've got to get everything done by then--after that, it's hopeless. The lure of the weekend is far too strong (the lure of my husband is far too strong!).

So, here I am at another Monday--and I'm already ahead!

Friday, January 27, 2006

A Posttive Attitude

My department is moving this week--from one side of campus to another. I'm going from office to cube, from lamps to cold flourescent lighting, and a host of other negative alternatives.

As I got up this morning at my usual 3:40am, I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down to read day 2 in The Purpose Driven Life. I'm not an accident, it says. Well, that's certainly refreshing! That's the whole point of the book--to figure out what I'm here for.

I went to they gym and pounded away 659 calories on the eliptical trainer, reading the February issue of Vegetarian Times. I felt so proud of myself for being able to check off four things on my giant to-do list, all before 6AM.

It's been a difficult week, though this week isn't much different than other weeks. The office move has been stressful on just about everyone. We're all thinking of the things we'll miss about our old space and how demoralizing things have been over the past six months while Human Resources searched for a leader for us. A new boss changes everything and she has certainly made some changes!

There's been quite a resistence. Some of us waited until the last possible minute to pack our things, refusing to help with the "common areas" in our old space. There's almost always a gripe fest going on behind closed doors in someone's office--while we still have them.

As I drove home from my productive gym session, I sang at the top of my lungs along with the radio, not caring how riduculous I looked. Stopped at a red light, I looked at the car next to me. Someone else was having a fine morning, flailing his arms and beating the steering wheel in tune to whatever song he was listening to. I had to laugh, first at him and then myself. I'm sure I looked exactly like that.

I thought about what it is that turns me into a pop singer so early in the morning--the same thing that gets me out of bed when college students are just going to sleep; the same thing that says "you may be in a cube, but it's twice the size of your old office"; the same thing that reminds me that I have a job to do and it doesn't matter if I have to park farther away from my front door or squint under artificial lighting.

I am not an accident. I have a purpose. I'm not sure what it is yet, but man am I excited about finding it out!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Proposal

When I graduated from college, I got a job in Kansas City. Moving there from St. Louis was no big deal other than that it was my first apartment far away from home. My boyfriend, Nick had another semester and would then be going home to San Diego. We’d only been dating for about six months. He was struggling to become a pilot in a post 9/11 world. I drove the four hours back to St. Louis almost every weekend to see him. In October, he’d finally finished all of his flying courses and was heading back home. We decided to have one last weekend together. I drove to St. Louis to pick him up and we drove back to Kansas together. He would fly out of the Kansas City Airport the next afternoon.
During our last few hours we went to a nearby Wal-Mart to pick up snacks for his long flight. Right at the entrance was a display of rings, proudly displaying their price: $9.
“I should buy you a ring,” he said. Amused and pleased, I picked out a purple one—my favorite color. It was very simple. Just an emerald cut “amethyst” and a silver band. I proudly wore it every day, on my left ring finger, certain that someday it would be replaced with something a bit more sparkly. Two years passed and Nick and I maintained our long distance relationship with a trip out to see one another about every three or four months. Soon, I decided that I was never going to get him to move to Kansas, so I’d better get myself out to California. I found a job and an apartment not far from where Nick lived with his parents. It was a rough transition, but we loved being together like a “normal couple”.
His flying career was not going well. He went into the Navy—even having the required laser surgery to correct his vision, but after seven weeks of grueling Officer Candidate School, they determined that he was too tall and sent him home. It was devastating for him. He’d always dreamed of following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a Navy Pilot. But we lasted through it, planning to get married some day. As soon as he could afford a ring, he’d say.
“But I already have a ring,” I always replied, displaying my $9 ring proudly. But he wasn’t satisfied with it. I wore his ring every day, taking it off at night and placing it on the table beside my bed. The silver band had changed to gold and sometimes turned my finger green. Often, I’d find it on the floor in the mornings where my cat had amused himself with it sometime in the night. But everyday, it graced my finger, holding a place for one that I knew would some day be there.
One morning, however, to my horror, the ring was gone. I found my watch on the floor by the table where I left it, right next to my ring. Assuming my cat was the culprit, I searched everywhere around it. I dumped out the trash and crawled under the bed, but still no ring. I was sure it would eventually turn up, but days later, it never had. Oh well. My $9 ring was gone. I tried not to be upset about it. It was just a cheap old ring. But I had come to love it. It was a promise that someday, the man I loved would fulfill. I was on reserve and my ring was a reminder of that. My hand felt empty and off balance without it.
My office was right near the beach. On occasion, Nick would come to visit me for lunch. One such June Thursday, Nick came up to meet me. We went out to lunch and returned to find a deserted office. Most everyone had left early, so I decided to leave as well. Grateful for my spontaneity, Nick suggested a nice walk along the beach since it was so close by. We’d been talking about a day at the beach for a while and now we had the opportunity. I took off my heels and stockings and we walked barefoot in the sand. It was a gorgeous summer day.
After a nice long walk, we stopped to look at the water. The sun was reflecting off the waves—it was beautiful. Nick stood behind me and put his arms around me.
“You know when I first started thinking about flying as a civilian?” He said. “I was at a baseball game with my uncle and I couldn’t see the scoreboard. Laser surgery wasn’t an option then so I knew I’d probably have to find some other way to become a pilot.” I listened closely as he spoke into my ear. After four years together, I’d never heard this story. “That was the first time I’d looked into colleges for aviation. I’ve often wondered why God would put this desire to be a pilot on my heart and then make it so hard. But if I hadn’t had trouble seeing that scoreboard, I’d never have looked in to Saint Louis University. And if I’d never gone to Saint Louis University, I’d never have met you.” He pulled my $9 ring out of his pocket and slid it onto my finger.
Astonished, I said, “you found my ring!”
“No, I stole your ring. I want you to be my wife.” I was speechless. Here was my ring that I was sure I’d lost, back on my finger where it belonged. He took it, knowing I’d blame the cat. He took it so that he could propose with it. He was serious! He was asking me to marry him!
“Of course I will.” We went to a jewelry store after that to get my “real ring”, which he’d had already picked out. This precious little trinket had been a promise for almost four years and he wanted it to be the ring he proposed with. It means much more to us than the 2-karat diamond that now sits on my finger. But there’s still a place for my $9 ring—it’s on the ring finger of my right hand and I still wear it every day.

Friday, January 13, 2006

I thought I was done...

When my husband's Uncle Rick died more than two years ago, we discovered an entire library of books on writing. Of course, I was drooling over them and since no one else really wanted them, they came back to Kansas with me in a very heavy suitcase. One of my goals (not a New Year's Resolution) is to read one of them every week.

I took so many classes on creative writing in high school and college--I thought I'd learned all there was to know. The rest is just practice, right? Maybe...maybe not.

I had a favorite series when I was in high school. Actually, the author has written several series, all historical pioneer-type stories. They all have a Christian theme and most have women as the main character.

I'd gotten the first one at the library and spent many months trying to find the second. Then, one day, my grandma came over with the entire series.

"I've just been waiting for you to be old enough to enjoy these."

What luck! I dove right in and devoured them. I've been working on my own story of a similar time period and decided to read them again, more than ten years later. I'm finding that I don't enjoy them nearly as much, mostly because now, I recognize the writing for what it is--amature. All of the things I'm learning (and have known all along): show, don't tell; don't use dialect unless you're trying to make things difficult for the reader; don't be sentamental--all of that stuff runs rampant in these books.

While I'm glad to have learned, I'm sorry to have lost some childhood friends.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Running Tips for Beginners

One of the things I do as a way to try to get people to read my crap is write nutrition articles for magazines. I'm all out of quality (ok, so if it's so great, why is this blog the only audience I have?) fiction so you're gonna get a taste of my nutritional knowledge. I'm somewhat of a nutrition junkie--loaded with information that I'm unable to use for myself. But if someone wants health tips, I've got my share!

I tried to become a runner. It did not last five minutes. My lungs were about to burst, so I abandoned running for the familiar eliptical trainer, where I still workout for an hour each morning (except Sunday, when I rest). But, nevertheless, I wrote an article on running for beginners in hopes that it would help. Mabye someone can use it.



It looks so easy—you just go—just run. One foot after the other. That’s simple, right? You give it a try. Lacing up your shoes, you head off down the street. After a few seconds, it seems, you can barely keep going. Your lungs are heaving, you have a stitch in your side and your legs feel like they’re about to crumble beneath you. This is impossible. No one can do this for long, you think, just as an experienced runner easily passes you by. So much for that. You toss your running shoes into your closet along with your elliptical trainer, your exercise bike, and your thigh master. How is a person supposed to get into shape when it’s so hard?
Running is one of the least expensive methods of cardiovascular exercise. All you need is a pair of shoes and an open road. The problem with running is that beginners don’t always know the right way to run. Sure, we all know how to run, but we may not all know how to run properly and effectively. There are pitfalls that beginning runners often fall into and end up giving up before they’ve given running an honest effort. They’re simple to avoid and combat if you know what to look for.
Warm Up! Warming up is more important than most beginners might think. Your muscles, heart and lungs are not accustomed to running. Your body may used to walking or sitting for most of the day. You wouldn’t suddenly expect sports car performance out of a mini van. You need to get into shape first. Some of us are so far into a sedentary lifestyle that our muscles complain when we exert even a little pressure on them. We certainly can’t expect them to adjust to the vigorous workout that running entails on day one. Warming up gets your muscles started. It relaxes them and loosens them up.
A simple warm up begins with stretching. Lunge forward on each knee, one at a time, making sure to keep your knee at a 90-degree angle, not going past your toe. It’s ok to rest your hand on your knee to help keep your balance. Next, stand up and touch your toes, being careful not to lock you knees. Abdominal muscles need to be stretched for a good run too. Start with a side bend. Rest your hands on your hips and lean to one side slowly, raising one arm over your head, helping you lean into the stretch. Repeat on the other side. Hold each stretch for about 10-15 seconds. Never bounce a stretch. Finish your warm up with a five minute brisk walk to get you going!
Keep it short and slow. Starting too fast will only tire you out. It’s hard for beginning runners to know how fast to go, and it’s different for each person. You may have to give it a few days to work out exactly how to pace yourself. Try running for one minute and then walking for two. If a full minute is too difficult, you might be running too fast. Keep it at a slow jog until you build your endurance. Running is more than just legwork. It exercises your lungs and heart as well. If you have breathing problems or heart problems, consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Once you’ve mastered the one-minute run, try increasing it to two minutes, with one minute of walking in between. Slowly build your endurance one minute at a time.
Set realistic goals. You’re probably not going to be ready for a 5K marathon after a few weeks of short runs. Marathon training can take months, even for experienced runners. It is important to listen to your body. Don’t try to keep going for two minutes if you’re ready to pass out at ninety seconds. Unrealistic goals will only attack your motivation and increase the likelihood that you will give up with little or no results. Instead of starting with distance goals or speed goals, try frequency goals. Make it your goal to run three times a week for a month. Once you reach that goal, evaluate your progress. If you can easily run for ten minutes or a mile at a time, try making time or distance your goal. If not, increase your short runs. Maybe you’re running for three minutes and walking for one, for six repetitions. Try increasing it to seven or eight. The goal itself if less important that reaching it. Reward yourself when you reach a goal. Once you’ve gotten the hang of things and short runs are easy for you, work on speed or distance goals.
A good pair of shoes goes a long way. Walking into an athletic shoe store can be overwhelming if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. As you’ll notice after your first few runs, running and walking are very different. It’s reasonable to assume that the same shoe won’t be optimal for both. You’d wear hiking boots for hiking and ballet shoes for dancing, right? You need running shoes for running. They offer different support than walking shoes. An experienced sales person can probably explain the dynamics of shoe construction and how each shoe is different. You don’t need to know all of that. Wearing the shoes while you run will convince you. Your shoes should fit snugly (not tight!) and be well ventilated. Your feet are going to sweat as you run and poorly ventilated shoes can contribute to athletes’ foot and foot odor. You should replace your shoes after about 500 miles. If you tend to wear athletic shoes for activities other than running, you might want to buy a separate pair.
These are just a few things to keep in mind. There are a wide variety of running websites, magazines, and books that offer advice for the novice runner. Runners World Magazine is a widely recognized source for beginners and seasoned runners. Visit their website at www.runnersworld.com. For more information on cardiovascular fitness and heart health, visit the American Heart Association at www.americanheart.org.