Wednesday, December 31, 2008

No need for steel toed shoes anymore

"What we really need is for Nike to start making steel-toed tennis shoes for you."
-My mom, when I was little, on the way the way to buy me yet another pair of shoes.

For the entire first 14 years of my life, I wore white Nike tennis shoes almost exclusively. I had some kind of patent leather or loafer shoe for church and dressier occasions, but other than that, I stuck with the shoes I loved. Even in the dead of summer when the heat bears down with such force that even the flowers bow their heavy heads, I wore tennis shoes and socks everywhere I went. This sounds like a fairly easy arrangement for my mom. I like Nikes, she can just buy me a pair when I need one and no big deal. The problem arose with the fact that I was a pretty busy kid and pretty rough on my clothes and shoes. So, she ended up purchasing her share of Nike shoes over the years, dozens of pairs over the years I am sure.

I love tennis shoes, running shoes, cross trainers, you name it. I realized this to a greater degree today as I churned away on the elliptical machine, watching the feet of those lined up in front of me on the treadmills. The woman with the white tee-shirt and red hair, she has the 07 Brooks Trance on. They changed the shoe that year. It used to be a favorite of mine and now no longer works for me. The girl with the hot pink shirt and black baseball hat that is running up in front row, she's got the neutral Brooks Radius on, 08.

As a kid, I did what every self-respecting child does when wearing a new pair of tennis shoes,gleefully turning to face my mom I would say, "Watch how fast I can run in these!" As I took off running at top speed, I smiled with amazement. What a great pair of shoes!

I'll need another new pair of shoes soon, and even though I know it isn't reasonable or true, I secretly hope that each new pair will make me a swifter and more graceful runner and athlete. What I really want more than speed is the thrilling belief of speed, just to get that first sprint in, the one that starts as soon as you step out of the doors of the store and ends at the door of your car in the parking lot.

To feel my heart thumping hard within my chest cavity,and look down at my brilliantly white pair of shoes and turn to whoever is with me declaring, "Wow! Don't these shoes make me fast?"

"Oh yes!" the person would proclaim. "The fastest I have ever seen you!"

(My current pair of shoes, Brooks Radius, now discontinued)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A break from baking

Last night I gratefully tucked myself into bed at 8pm, early by any standards, including my own. This morning I rolled out of bed at 4:45, anxious for an hour by myself. Sliding the leather recliner back it was just the warm lights of the Christmas tree, some highly sugared and creamed coffee and my journal, hanging out together in our family room. After 35 minutes of carefully pasting the words of each concerns across the landscape of the wide lined paper, I felt as if I may not have solved every issue, but at least they now stood obediently before me, lined up like wide-eyed preschoolers, ready for the next set of directions.

I love National Public Radio, but lately, I find myself turning it off. It feels as if everywhere I turn a company is laying off thousands of people, personal stories about how these struggling families plan to make it through the holidays stings with the realization that we ourselves stand only a few feet from that line. Have we saved enough money? Are we living simply enough? The questions begin their familiar dance. I take a deep breath and pray that both Josh and I keep our jobs. I switch from the news to Charlie Brown’s Christmas album.

Today, the kitchen fills with swirls of vanilla, cinnamon and lemon as I make yet another loaf of sweet bread for the teacher gifts this year. The dishes pile up in the kitchen sink, somehow reminding me of the huge drifts of snow the plow left behind in Minnesota. As a child, I couldn’t wait to get my snow suit on and play, “King of the Hill” with the other kids on our neighborhood. We would find the biggest mound of snow, usually taller than my eight year old self, and take turns being the king. The king stands at the top of the hill, and all the other players take turns pushing the king until he or she falls over. I loved being The King, but I also loved the tumble off the hill, rolling in the snow, only my cheeks feeling the bitter cold air, the slow drip of melting snow on my skin.

The dishes in the sink remain unchanged as I write, the batter hardening with each passing minute. Sweetie, our appropriately named kitten, sleeps with her head tucked into my hip on my lap. Ice coats the streets outside the office window. They are slick and hard, a winter armor, the type of conditions that begs for elderly hips to be broken. It is a perfect day for baking.

A snow drift hasn’t appeared out by the curb, so instead, I’ll be The King of the Kitchen Chaos . An economic crisis you say? Banished by my royal hand! (At least from my mind for the next 2 hours.) With my mighty powers I will dismantle the dirty dishes and turn a goopy, sticky mess into a tasty treat for all to slice and enjoy. The best part is… I won’t even need my snowsuit.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Tanning Bed Story

I spent all day yesterday listening and waiting for a comment to spark my interest. I worked all day and heard nothing remarkable. I finished working late. I was determined to work out anyway and bought a G2 Gatoraide at my last Target of the day, purple, my favorite flavor, and gulped it down on the way to Cardinal. By the time I arrived, changed into my workout clothes and hopped on the spin bike, my blood sugar felt semi-normal. Plus, I knew Josh had my favorite chicken burritos waiting for me when I got home, good incentive to workout and get home.

About 15 minutes into my workout, a rather large, short man wearing a canary yellow tee-shirt walked up to me. “Hi!” he said a little meekly, holding up his hand in more of a “I come in peace” sort of manner than a wave. Pulling an earpiece out I lifted my eyebrows and said, “Uh, hi.”

“I just wanted to come over and say hi, “ he began, shifting his weight back and forth from one foot to the next, “I didn’t want things to be awkward you know…”
I had absolutely no idea what this man was talking about. He seemed a bit wired and his eyes were bloodshot. He stood about 5 feet 3 inches tall and almost that much wide. The guy was huge, not fat huge, but painfully stretched and highly veined skin, huge. Blinking rapidly, he smiled up at me, it looked as if he also had dentures.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t think I know you.”

“Oh, are you not the girl who walked in on me in the tanning bed the other day?”

Yikes. “Um, no, that wasn’t me.”

“Well, you know, I didn’t think you saw me totally naked or anything, right? But I wanted to make sure it wasn’t weird between us or anything, you know?

Two things occurred simultaneously at that moment, first I thought, “Did he not just hear me say that it wasn’t me?” and “Oh my gosh, brain, please do not send me an image this guy naked.”

“Well, that wasn’t me. “ I said again, with a bit more force. He looked a little disappointed. I tried to smooth it over a little for him. “ You know what? People think I look like someone else all the time. I cannot even tell you how many times someone has come up to me thinking I was someone else.” I laughed at myself, trying to put this guy at ease and get on with my workout.

“Well,” he said, sticking out his hand, “I’m Jerry.”

“Okay,” I guess he wasn’t ready to go quite yet. “I’m Kate.” I said shaking his hand.

“Well, you girls all look alike at your age, with your hair and everything,” he said without smiling.

That’s just what every woman wants to hear isn’t it? Not that she stands out in a crowd, but that she looks like a clone of the one before her.

He went on. “It was pretty weird you know, you walking in on me. Not a big deal though. I just didn’t want things to be awkward. After all, it wasn’t your fault really. The guys at the front desk are the ones who messed the rooms up.”

“Yep, I imagine that would be pretty awkward.” But mister, I thought, I did not walk in on you. I am not your lady. Take a look at me. Do I look tan to you? I have never even used a tanning bed before. I wear 50+ sun block and still get burned. How about you take this conversation up with this fathomed bronzed woman later and we’ll both be on our way? Please, this is exchange is painful.

“Sooo…” he continued, spreading his hands out in front of him, palms up, “Just let me know if you need anything at all…” still, not walking away. “If you need anything, you just let me know.” What would I need from him I wondered?

“Alllllll-right,” I answered putting my ear piece back in and taking a deep breath. He was finally leaving. Out of the corner of my eye him I saw him walking up to his buddy with a big smile.

What the heck was that? I thought.

At least it colored my day with a bit of interest, no matter how uncomfortable it was.
What is the take away lesson here? Save your skin and keep your clothes on people. Or at least lock the door.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Damn the clam

Kate's Rehab list:
Goal #1-Find a doctor who doesn't speak in a condescending manner and is willing and able to listen to what I have to say.

DONE! Thanks to my friend Kim, I found a doctor who listened, is a runner, and spoke the words I wanted to hear, "It may take awhile, but we'll get you there."

Goal #2- If my knee happens to, "take awhile" to heal, I'll find a good physical therapist to get me there.

And TA-DA! Throw your hands up in the air people... also completed! His name is John Schmitz. I am posting his blog to my favorite blogs so if any of my female Indianapolis Runners need a physical therapist, they can just look him up. The blog is called "In Motion".

Many of the exercises John wants me to do are listed there on the blog. They are all stabilizing exercises. IN regards to my body, let's just say that my stabilizers suck. My stabilizer muscles have been slouched on the couch, watching The Wheel of Fortune and claiming disability for about 18 months now. If you were to place my stabilizer muscles on a continuum where Arnold Swarzenegger sits perched on the strong end and Pee Wee Herman hovers unsteadily at the weak end, Pee Wee and I might have to duke it out for last place.

Which I must admit, pisses me off. I spend so much time lifting to AVOID injury. Apparently, according to John, I did a lot of the right type of things, just maybe a little bit too aggressively. Did I mention that this man is diplomatic? Thus, I am yet again presented with a recurring theme, push and push and push and crash.

Now, John assigned a set of exercises for my knee. Your Grandma probably does these exercises at the free aerobics class in her retirement home, things like leg lifts and "The Clam", which is essentially laying on your side and lifting your knee a few inches up towards the ceiling.

I am not knocking Grandmas here, because, let me tell you, my butt is totally sore the next day! John is quick to assure me that these exercises are not easy if you do them correctly. Still, there is no glory in "The Clam", I am here to tell you that first hand.

Except of course, for the fact that practicing these exercises seem to be working. I think my stabilizers are at least off the couch and throwing away the crumpled candy wrappers right now. I continue to hope physical therapy will get me back in my running shoes and out on the street again. I really miss running longer distances. I'll "clam" all day if that's what it takes, even if your Grandma could do it better.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Read at your own risk

Disclaimer: The following passage you are about to read contains perhaps inappropriate confessions regarding my own insecurities and narcissistic qualities. Read at your own risk, understanding that you may well find yourself angrily yelling at your computer screen, “Get a grip girl!”

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been toying with the idea of scraping the whole blog project and just closing up shop. I share this not as a means to dredge up more supportive comments from friends and family to “Keep at it,” but just truly as a confession that has been nagging at me mercilessly. For those Catholics out there, you can understand the freeing nature of a one on one acknowledgment regarding your short comings. As an active Catholic parishioner in college, I chose to give myself a confession session for my 21st birthday. What does that tell you? I bet therapists far and wide would have a hay day with that information, such an act on the eve of my legally permissible alcohol purchasing adulthood. I still remember Father Dan laying his warm dry palm over my bowed head and absolving me of my mistakes. Whether or not I needed the priest for the wave of peace that followed didn’t matter, I felt resolved.

I find that I am not sure just what the function of this blog is. Is it a place to practice writing prompts, a forum to appreciate the comings and goings of everyday life, another mommy blog, or just a place for a mediocre type of self promotion. “Hey, look what I noticed today? Aren’t I clever?” Originally, it served as a motivation for me to write each week, a goal to post something, anything, to the blog to just keep me plugging away.

And yet, now it feels like an excuse, a way to put off actually working hard on writing a piece to submit to a publication. I tell myself that I’ll work on something more next week, it’s Elizabeth’s birthday, the holidays, I don’t feel well, etc. I’ll just throw something up on the blog and put forth more effort later is what I tell myself. Unfortunately, “later”, as so often is the case, has yet to arrive and present me with a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates.
The reason isn’t complicated. It has everything to do with pride, fear and lack of follow through. I’ve started and stopped so many things in the last few years. I started a masters program in special education, only to find that perhaps that was my mom’s dream, not my own. I then went on to pursue a masters in social work. I found the classes inspiring, my brain on fire, neurons happily zipping across the barren dessert of my stay- at- home- mommy- mind, and yet a tiny nagging voice wondered if I loved school or the new professional field?

In the process of my own self discovery, and the various masters classes, I started writing, stretching past the daily journaling, to hopefully, something more substantial. As a result, this summer I decided to take a year off from the social work program and take a stab at writing, see what I could do with it in twelve months.

My confession is this, so far, this is it. Right here, this is what I’ve accomplished. I’ve blogged, entered one writing contest, taken a writing class, in which I didn’t finish my story, sat down and wrote a list of goals with Josh, and then crossed off only the “easy” ones.

I don’t know. I keep going through this crazy back and forth, wishing no one knew that I was even trying this, feeling so embarrassed, willing exposed by it all. Like a crabby night nurse with aching legs and swollen feet, the question, “What the hell am I doing?” makes the rounds of my consciousness quite a bit lately. And then there is the opposite desire, wanting so badly to push through it, kick the nurse in the skins and remember my own tendencies to throw temper tantrums when things get hard. To remember how easily I succumb to pity parties, in which I marinate myself in home-grown self-absorption and gain 3 pounds of anxiety weight.

So that’s where I am. I don’t quite feel resolved. I guess the blog is no Father Dan. I have to hope that the better side of me wins out, that I kick some shins, wrap up the party and get to work. But then again, I still have Christmas shopping to do…