Monday, July 27, 2009

I'm putting my brake pedal down

July 27, 2009

Dear Kate,

I am writing to you today to register a formal complaint. We’ve been together almost 7 years now. I believe the time has come for me to air my grievances, because apparently change isn’t inevitable after all.

First of all, let me state for the record, that I do appreciate your verbal loyalty to the Honda family. I’ve overheard you many times tout Honda’s reliability as well as our quality of service. Unfortunately, such comments fail to materialize into actions of appreciation. I cannot reciprocate a similar positive sentiment in reference to you, Kate Kneifel, my fateful owner.

Let me take a moment to remind you of my current list of achievements:
•provide great gas mileage
•continue to run smoothly despite the missed maintenance checks
•my body paint hasn’t rusted, chipped or cracked in light of the fact that I’ve only been through a car wash a handful of times.
•my engine doesn’t rev, clunk or tick

Yesterday was the final straw. Now, I understand I belong to family with children. And to be completely honest, I even like your kids. I try to take the crumbs and broken Happy Meal toys that litter my floor all in stride. They are, after all, just children. You my friend, are not though. By all typical accounts, you are an adult. Spilling that entire jug of water in my trunk and then just leaving it over night to stink me up, well it is no wonder I reek of mildrew this morning!

I huffed to myself in total indignation when you turned up your nose this morning and whined, “What is that horrible smell?” That smell is your carelessness! I have to be with myself all day long. You just pop in and out. Imagine my frustration with your high pitched complaints!

Do you think it’s easy being parked here in your garage next to your husband’s immaculate car? Don’t for a minute think that a Lexus is too classy for mockery. I won’t bore you with some of the rude comments that are made after your close your mudroom door. But that car has a mouth on it.
All I’m asking for is a little respect, a shred of attention given to my upkeep now and then. Seven years of service should amount to at least a monthly car wash, maybe even an air freshener or two. Open up my trunk and air it out, vacuum my carpets and give the windows a wipe down.

I’ve nobly ignored the remarks of your “other” car for long enough. I can’t hold out forever. To be completely clear, let me put this in terms even you can understand. I would hate for you to find yourself hours away from home on a call for work, only to discover my timing belt has gone out and there you are, alone and stranded.

I’m not here to hand out threats. As always, speaking as your loyal mode of transportation, I am simply looking out for your best interest. I’d hope you would return the favor and start doing the same for me. Who knows how long I can endure such treatment without dire consequences? I look forward to a bright new future in the coming weeks.

Sincerely yours,

2002 Honda Civic

ps-Some owners name their cars you know. I am particularly fond of the name Candace. Give it some thought.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


I’m getting ready to go to a yoga class this morning. My feelings surrounding yoga are mixed. I found myself interested in yoga after Elizabeth was born. When she was about 3 months old, I fell in our walk in closet while taking off my jeans. I just lost my balance. As a result, I slammed my head against the molding of the door and landed squarely on my tail bone. My doctor informed me that I had cracked my tail bone and prescribed some heavy pain killers. The pain killers made me feel loopy, so I stuck to ibuprofen and continued to run. Cracked butt bone or not, I was determined to whittle my backside and stomach down to it’s pre-pregnancy state. And like all unwise decisions, my persistent running exacerbated the problem. My hip flared up in protest. I ended up in physical therapy and unable to run for half a year.

I decided to take up yoga instead. I did what I always do. I hit the library. Scanning the shelves, I checked out everything I could find regarding the practice of yoga. The whole idea appealed to me. Concepts of peace, acceptance, not pushing, embracing your breath, were all ideas a new mother like myself could use each day. The books pictured tight, lean, mellowed out Gumbies, bending their bodies with blissful serenity. I’ve always wanted to obtain such a humming sense of peace and grace in my body. Speaking as someone who can’t even take her jeans off with ease and grace, I knew yoga would be a stretch (no pun intended).

I read the books, checked out videos, bought my own sticky mat and practiced at home. Yet each time I tried to bend, reach, and follow my breath to embrace the yin, the yang begged me to put on a pair of boxing gloves and jab the crap out of those buzzing black flies of anxiety thumping against the carefully placed screens in my mind.

I’ve gone back to yoga since then at different points in my life. When we were in China I brought along Rainbow Mars and her yoga videos. (Yes her name is actually Rainbow Mars). The routines helped combat jet lag and the intense stress of the trip. I figure my difficulty in fully embracing yoga means that it probably has something to teach me. I could use a little mellowing out for sure. So, Josh has taken the kids to the park and I will try this yoga class. We’ll see what happens. Hopefully I won’t twitch at any point in the class.

Later today, Josh and I are going to play some tennis. So if deep breathing and stretching doesn’t do it for me this morning, smashing a little yellow ball on the courts for an hour should be fun.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


A while ago, I wrote about why I write. Lately, the opposite question has popped into my head, “Why am I not writing?”

A couple of years ago, my mom decided to clean out their basement. Old lamps, aquariums, glass vases, dusty baby toys, and my box of high school memorabilia were listed on the eviction notice. Back at my house I hauled the box into our attic. Peering into it, I scanned the contents: dried up corsages, all four yearbooks, shoe boxes filled with notes passed during classes or between them, and framed pictures of my much younger face coupled with that my boyfriend or a group of giggling girlfriends.

Picking through the box, I came upon the special senior edition of our high school newspaper. The news staff asked many of the seniors what they hoped to be doing in 10 years. Groaning inwardly, I skimmed through the responses, looking for mine. I’d said, “I want to be making a difference.” A cheesier line could possibly be found by watching a Miss America pageant, but I doubt it. I cringed, imagining my fellow classmates gagging on their index fingers after reading my reply. And yet, here’s the tricky thing, perched over that box of memories, the attic light bulb shining above my head like a spotlight, I knew I meant it. Puffing up like a proud mama, I felt pleased with my younger self, cheesy or not.

Somehow after graduating from college, getting married, teaching for five years, giving birth to my first child, struggling through infertility, adopting our second child and starting two different masters programs, I still meant it, I just didn’t want to do it anymore. The difference I wanted was a now a little validation, a bigger salary, more respect and some positive attention. In the sentence, “I want to make a difference.” The main idea shifted from ideal of change in the world to a need for break and some time to think.

So, why haven’t I been writing? Frustration and confusion are not always my favorite topics. I know of people who can convey these issues with a clever sense of humor and wit. I wasn’t feeling it though.

I felt like someone who was walking around with a dislocated shoulder. There were things I could do that wouldn’t make it hurt, but try to throw a ball and YIKES! Step back people. So I just kind of held it and rubbed it for awhile. Except instead of my shoulder, it’s been my purpose that felt dislocated. I’ve been working on the courage to pop it back into place. A couple of weeks ago, that happened. It snapped back in and a surge of relief followed. I still feel a bit sore and am trying to be gentle with it, but my purpose seems to be back.

This fall, I am heading back to my masters program in social work. I don’t plan to stop writing. In fact, I believe I will write more once I am back in school. My goal of 5 rejections for this year remains.  But the fact is, I’ve realized that I need more. I’ve come to terms with the money issue. I probably won’t ever make what I feel I should as far as money goes, and yes, school will be expensive. Gold stars will not be handed out for what I will do. Yet, at the core of who I am, I know I need to do it. All of the other things I’ve played with this year, owning a bike shop, being a bike mechanic, writing for a career, they won’t work for me on their own. They are great as a supplementation, a way to balance out the rest, but not as a means to themselves.

This all brings me back to the initial question, “Why have I not been writing?” Well, I had to snap my shoulder back in place. I had to learn exactly how to do it. I didn’t want to do it wrong and make it worse. The pain could no longer be ignored.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Seven words

I saw this question posted on another blog, and I forget which one. But I thought it was fun...

Describe your current life in seven words:

Searching for some adventure between time outs.

That seems to sum it up. At least for today. Anyone else want to give it a shot?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Next week this week

Imagine you will be sitting down a week from today to describe how your week went. What do you hope you'll be writing?-Writing prompt taken from The One Minute Writer

I went for a run today and my knee didn’t hurt at all. Instead of taking the medium route on my bike ride, I took the long one. I rode 50 miles without having to stop to go to the bathroom. I passed two other riders while climbing a hill and was able to keep a 16mph average even with the wind. I rode my aerobars without the slightest wobble on the bumpy parts of the road. I borrowed my mom’s small digital camera and took some amazing shots on the ride, the white barn, the magenta holly hocks in front of the green picket fence, my own shadow sliding along the road in front of me. I will frame the one of the barn and in our family room. Josh and I exhibited massive amounts of patience with both of our kids and managed to have a few conversations of our own. I did not drink a Diet Coke on that sweltering hot day and SURPRISE, my face didn’t break out. Clear skin is as easy as refraining from Diet Coke for me, which means it is hard. Thankfully, I never formed an addiction to anything stronger. I don’t think I have the stamina for quitting.
I cracked funny, quick witted jokes with my friends, making them chuckle with intelligent humor. I serviced all of my accounts for work AND came to a firm conclusion about my future career path. All of this, while staying on my Clean Eating plan for more than one meal, rising at 5am and getting to bed early as well. Not a bad week.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


The heavily ashed cigarette hung out of his mouth at a relaxed angle. He held onto it loosely, tucking it into the corner of his mouth as only a true smoker would. Anyone with less experience would purse their lips just a little too tightly, fearing the small burned hole in their perfectly worn jeans if the cigarette were to fall. I’ve never met this neighbor, but as I drove past his half-mowed lawn dressed in my black pants and wrinkled white blouse, I resisted the urge to pull my car right up to the end of his driveway. For a moment I saw myself carefully placing my car in park, opening up my car door to introduce myself as the neighbor down the street. Upon which, he would turn off his lawn mower, offer me a seat on one of his black rockers on the porch and we’d sit and smoke a cigarette together, commenting on the rain this week. “Great for the lawn, if it could just stay green and mow itself, everyone would be happy.” I would take a long inhale off of the cigarette and nod my head in perfect agreement.

A few weeks ago, as my family and I sat around my sister’s dining room table I made a decision. “I smoked in college.” There, it was out. Now, I waited and scanned my mom and dad’s faces. My sister, already privy to this information, stopped scraping food off the dishes in the kitchen and gave me the raised eyebrow expression. My Dad had just finished telling us the story about his “business associates”, that is what he always calls them, not people from work, or the fellows he works with, they are business associates, period. This particular group of business associates happened to want to end a night at a cigar bar. Dad, who quit smoking years ago, had to decline. “I really wanted to go in there and have a cigar. I really wanted to. I knew I had to go home. There was no way I could go in and say no to all those cigars.”

I’ve actually had more than a few nightmares that I catch my Dad sneaking a smoke somewhere. I find out he never really did quit and I am horrified. My Dad just looked at me from across the table and smiled, “Are you kidding?”


“Wait,” my mom jumped in. “Did you inhale?” Who knew Bill Clinton and I would encounter the same questions someday.

Offended, I answered, “Of course I did!” What kind of baby smoker did they take me for anyway?

My Dad looked at me in total disbelief. Perhaps he was thinking of the famous letter I wrote to him when I was about eight. Growing up, my Dad smoked two or three packs a day. Each morning he would shuffle downstairs wearing his once navy robe over his pajamas, grab a lighter and his pack of cigarettes and head to the garage for the first cigarette of the day.

In the letter, I begged him with my elementary handwriting, to quit smoking. I even included my own little cartoonish fuzz ball creature. The bubble over his round little body said, “I know you can do it. Just think of how proud of yourself you will be once you quit!” With my mom’s encouragement, we folded the letter up and sent it to his office at work. My mom knowingly felt that such a plea would resonate with more vigor if it were to be received unexpectedly.
So he quit. He transformed into a bear for a few weeks, snapping and growling at anything that moved. He quit cold turkey. My hacking cough the pediatrician blamed on the second hand smoke stopped, and my sister and I no longer covered our noses on the way home from church when my Dad would gratefully light up, but not allow more than one window to be cracked open.

I hated it when my Dad smoked. I loved it when I smoked. I still miss it. I miss sitting somewhere with someone and just counting the inhales, how many you have left before you snub it out. I smoked because I couldn’t really drink. Drinking just made me silly for about 30 minutes. Each time I attempted to drink with any purpose, I ended up vomiting. The entire day afterwards was always ruined. Plus, it was pleasurably rebellious for me to smoke. People’s faces lit up with genuine shock when they saw me light up, “You smoke?” they would shriek.

“Yep,” I would answer taking an extra long drag to prove it.

Smoking was my way of saying, “You know what, you don’t know everything about me. I am not as predictable as you think. Don’t label me Miss Goodie Two Shoes. There are lots of surprising things about me. Hang around and you’ll see.” The fear of course was, maybe I am not so surprising. In reality, I am pretty predictable; it’s been my nature for as long as I can remember. I go to bed early, floss my teeth every morning, try to eat a healthy as I can, take my vitamins every day, pray and try to stay on a budget.

So, as I drove past my neighbor, who I don’ t know, on my street and watched him smoke that cigarette while he trudged up and down his lawn, painting those neat stripes across it, I pushed aside the desire to jump out of my reliable Honda Civic to chat and bum a smoke. Instead, I pulled into our driveway, grabbed a pen. Writing down my miles for the week’s expense account, I gathered up my work bag, the file folders stuffed inside, proof of my work for the day, and headed inside.