July 26, 2008

Spontaneous Date Night

Yesterday morning, I left for work with the expectation that I'd be going out that night with a girlfriend. I had the date wrong. When I got home, I walked the dog and then read a while waiting for Jrex to get home. For all I knew he'd be in lab until late. I was content to read so it didn't bother me either way.

He came in at 7:30 with fast food dinner in hand, happily surprised to see me. Normally, if we're both home, he cooks, I clean and we eat together sometime between 8 and 9:30 pm. Obviously, that ends up filling the evening. Here it was 7:40 and we'd both eaten.

"Let's go see Dark Knight!" I suggested (strongly). He agreed.

Three hours later we were both a bit shell-shocked. It's an amazing movie, but the pressure and intensity never let up. The movie does a great job capturing the darkness of humanity, but also the thread of hope that brightens the darkest hour. In classic post-modern style, the good guy isn't all good, Batman has his selfish/insecure sides; Heath Ledger made the Joker a sympathetic character in the midst of total amoral chaos. By the end of the movie you see them as separate sides of the same coin. Both outsiders, both alone, both driven by a need to change the world. Just in different directions.

It made me even more sad that Heath is dead. He was obviously an extraordinary actor. I wonder how playing the Joker impacted him. The role seemed so dark, so all consuming; what was happening in his mind after such a movie? I'm reeling after only two and a half hours, what happens after months of inhabiting that zone?

The movie left me wondering what choices I would make in an extreme situation. I'd love to think that I'd only ever choose the good, but I have enough darkness in me that I can't assume that. It seems to shock many of my non-Christian friends when I say that I believe anybody is capable of anything. If one's idea is that everyone is basically good, then I guess that is a shocking concept. However, I believe we're all flawed and given the right circumstances, we could fall. That's one cool thing about the Bible: it shows each person's weaknesses. Israel's greatest king, the man after God's own heart, was a liar, a backstabber and a thief. Jesus' closest follower was a coward when all was dark, stuck his foot in his mouth all the time and yet was 'the Rock'. I stand in the company of the broken and I'm glad. I just wish Heath had found light when all seemed dark.

July 24, 2008

Potential New Addiction?

My sister has been trying to lure me into the forest. It may have worked:


July 20, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Last year, my friend Lovey and I started an adventure birthday tradition. In terms of love languages, we both value quality activities. Both of our spouses enjoy quality time, but for Jrex, that can look like making a nice dinner and talking at home. For Lovey and me, it involves leaving the house.

Last year she arranged a day that included a horseback ride (the first one ever for Jrex and Lovey’s husband Dovey), lunch in Saratoga and a cruise around Monterey Bay. Then for her birthday, I packed a gourmet picnic (three cheeses, heirloom tomatoes, crackers, pancetta, wine). We drove up to San Francisco, rented bikes and rode over to the beach near the Presidio. With the setting sun lighting up the Golden Gate bridge, we feasted, laughed and then booked it back to the bike rental shop before nightfall.

This year, I took it to a whole different level. As I mentioned before, after our Yosemite trip, I realized I miss climbing. I’ve been scrounging up partners from Craigs List and from church, but I really wanted the option of my husband as a climbing companion. He doesn’t like climbing in the gym and we’ve speculated it might be better for him outside. For my birthday, I told him I wanted to climb with him. We considered which of our friends might join us and I thought we might be able to persuade Lovey and Dovey (they made up the names themselves!).

I asked if she thought they’d be up for it. She gave me a maybe, so I researched hiring a guide; it turned out to be expensive. I emailed and told her the price and said we could go kayaking in the Bay instead, if that sounded better. After careful consideration and conversations about Dovey’s fear of death by climbing, they said yes.

We went out this morning.

Our guide seemed very stern and impatient at the beginning. As we picked out shoes, he kept glancing at his watch. Once up at Cathedral Rock, he took us through belay basics and safety checks to make sure we were all up to speed. He’d hung up one rope and said he’d do another, depending how we did on the first one.

As we started climbing, cheering and harassing each other, the guide warmed up and began to laugh with us. Turns out he has a masters in counseling and was a dean at a local community college, but took a year off to go for it as a climber and now as a guide.

Without going into great detail, let’s just say that the day involved the following quotes:

“Hmm…my pants just split! Well, I’m wearing black underwear, enjoy.”
(Lovey let me borrow her spare pants)

“Nice butt mantle!”
(Dovey established a new signature move)

“Um…there are a lot of spidery things here! I don’t think I like going first . . . Hey, there’s a rock over my head, what do I do now?”
(Lovey managed to scramble up the chimney like a pro)

“Where’s the triumph?!”
“I have to compose myself first.”
[three second pause. Arm fling. Click!]
(Lovey and Dovey showed us a whole different level of adventure photography)

“I like outdoor climbing ten times better than the gym. It’s great to have more than one way to get to the top.”
(OTRgirl gains a potential climbing husband!)

“We’re going to lunch at a biker bar? I was not properly informed of the details of this trip!” (we all enjoyed Alice’s restaurant, where, in addition to many bikers, there were also horseback riders and a Tesla driver)

All in all, especially if Jrex and I start going outside, one of my best birthdays yet! (And I still have a week to go before my real birthday. I love spreading out the fun!)

July 18, 2008

The Geek Reigns!

My company has an annual training week. We're required to take at least four hours of class. I took a writing workshop this morning that felt like a return to 8th grade--grammar, punctuation and spelling--but, it was great! She included all kinds of tips about things I knew intuitively, but couldn't articulate.
  • If you substitute 'he' for 'who', and 'him' for 'whom', you can usually figure out which one to use.
  • All singular verbs end in 's'.
  • First and second person use a plural verb (I like, you like), only third person uses a singular (he likes).
  • Either/or and Neither/nor: the subject closest to the verb determines plurality (Neither the brothers nor the sister wants the toy. Neither the sister nor the brothers want the toy).
  • Singular indefinite pronouns (any combo of every, some, no, any with body, one, or thing) require singular verbs. (Everyone should improve her writing skills.)
At the beginning of class, she passed out a test. When I came back to the department, I told Gentle Man and British Boy about the test. They both wanted to try it. I ran back out and got copies. As we went over the results, the writer on our team came over and asked to take it as well. We all sat around and did grammar for the fun of it! My score tied with the writer on the team.

(Blows on fingers, polishes them on chest)

Did you enjoy the process of learning grammar in school? I've never had it feel as fun as it did today. I remember getting marks off because my words were outside the margins, red ink that had NOTHING to do with what I was writing about. Why are the worst teachers often the ones in intro 7th and 8th grade subjects?

July 16, 2008


My Dad will fall out of his chair when he reads this, but I watched the All Star game last night. Jrex is a big Yankee fan and it was the last All Star game for the old Yankee stadium. He got home early to watch the game and then planned to do some work from home. I played 'good wife' and made nachos for dinner (piled with avacado, peppers, chili, jalepenos, onions, chili and cheese).

The truth is, I sat there and read James Herriot's, Dog Stories, but I did look up whenever Jrex gasped or yelled. It's a good thing there are replays!

He fell asleep in the middle of the 13th inning (at 10:30 PM our time). Then I felt obligated to watch so I could shake him awake for anything exciting. I woke him up for bases loaded, bottom of the 15th, one out. He caught the excitement of the final run. I enjoyed the crowd shots showing kids sitting loyally next to their parents as their eyes drooped and their heads bobbed lower and lower toward sleep. The game ended at 11 pm our time, which means it was 2 am in NYC. Crazy!

One definite perk of being on the West Coast: not having to stay up through the night during baseball season.

July 13, 2008

For the last two weeks, I've been in an annoying mode where I just want to avoid my life. No time with God, minimal time with Jrex, minimal time or effort at work. It felt like a relentless pursuit of false rest to the point where my spirit felt as dry as the local creek beds. On Friday as I rode home, I threw up a flare prayer, "You've got to change this! I can't stand how I'm acting!"

No fireworks or bolts from the blue, but Saturday, I woke up and wanted to spend some time with the Lord before launching into my busy day. Again, nothing profound. Just a reminder through Psalm 27 to hide in him and to find real rest in his presence.

Then the rest of the day flowed along on well-oiled wheels. The woman who started our women's group, Only Child, would be having a baby shower in the evening. The women from Super Group (NOT a name I coined, but it will do for now) pooled our resources to get a shower gift for her. I went on-line yesterday to check their registry only to find that the two items in our price range were backordered indefinitely. Yikes! Fortunately they mentioned that they'd be happy with gently used items as well. I jumped on Craigslist and actually found the stroller and carseat from the registry. The posts were a couple days old, but when I emailed, they were still available.

Bought the carseat Saturday at 9:30 AM and then drove up and over the pass to Scotts Valley to buy the stroller. It was in as-new condition. Used once just to determine that it was too small for their toddler. After loading the loot, I stopped off to do a run with the dog (the new harness is working well). Then home for laundry and getting ready.

The shower was fun. We took over part of the back yard at Vino Locale, a local wine bar where Singer Girl works once or twice a week. Our favorite couple from supper club was there. We even had a gang war (verbal only) with Smart Girl, member of a "Foodie Club". Nope, we're definitely lower brow in our supper club. However, one of OUR people made the orzo dish that had the restaurant owner begging for the recipe. Ha!

What I loved about the day was how much I could sense the Lord wanting to bless Only Child and Hedonistic Outdoorsman. They've truly been the reason we have as much community as we do here and they are generous with their time and in offering hospitality. It felt right to be able to bless them with both car seat AND stroller for the price of the car seat. It was SO much fun to just be the Lord's hands for the day. All the details worked out seamlessly and I had fun in the process. I can't even put the right words around it, but it felt like I was in the midst of joyful Bigness.

July 9, 2008

A dog's life

I haven't forgotten my Napa photos promise. The problem is that it's SO much easier to upload pictures to Facebook and write commentary there; it's hard to motivate myself to post the same pictures here. If you know me in real life, you can find me in that crazy land of endless Scrabble games and voyeurism.

Our harnesses came today!

I ordered one that goes around my waist. Basically, it's a climbing harness without the leg loops. It has a water bottle holster and a small bag on the back. The bag fits my iPod and the *ahem* doggie bags. I can attach the leash at the side, front or back. After doing so much work to teach her that I'm the one in front, I was happy to find an option that let me put her to the side. (Sounds so authoritarian, huh? Well, you had to find out sooner or later what I was really like. Dad--no need for comments from the peanut gallery!.

The harness for Muttola is a Ruff wear hiking harness. It has a handle in the back that allows you to lift the dog over rocks or up ladders. Lots of people seem to use it when their dogs are old and have strokes or whatever. She seemed happy when I was putting it on her, but I think it was just the up close attention. When we left the house to walk down the steps, she paused on every third step and looked at me. I could hear her groaning inside, "The indiginity! How could you! What IS this thing?" It took three times as long as usual for her to believe she could actually pee in the thing.

For our run tomorrow, I think I'll see how it goes with her regular collar and train her toward the harness.

Since I've now officially crossed the line (having shopped for items for to wear together with a dog), I can bore you with one more dog story.

Our dog has begun to try to be the boss of the dog park, or at least the big sister. If a puppy is getting picked on, she breaks up the pack. She is adept at a loud, startling puppy take down, and only has to do it once per pup. When we got to the dog park yesterday, only one dog remained. Let's call the dog Duchess. Duchess didn't get up when we came in, didn't run toward the mutt, in fact, she just sat with her front legs crossed and stared Muttola down. With this dog...

*this photo was NOT taken at our dog park . . .

Muttola stopped twenty feet away and then slowly circled her. Eventually they did the sniffing bit and then Duchess sat back down and continued to rule her domain.

That dog left and it was just us for a couple minutes. We saw a guy coming toward the park with his dog lunging ahead in eager tugs. As they came to the gate, Muttola did something I'd never seen her do before. She lay down, crossed her front legs, and watched the gate. The new dog, Brainless, did the same nervous circle that Muttola had done. When Muttola stood up for the sniffy sniffs, she didn't even have to bother with a puppy take down. Done and done with the stare of the Duchess!

July 6, 2008

So THAT's what it was!

On Tuesday morning I woke up and it felt like I'd slept on my right arm so long that the whole shoulder had gone to sleep. When I moved, it felt like I had toxic sludge moving up and down my arm and back. Yuck. I went climbing that night anyway. Had no issues with strength and felt like the exercise would help clear out my arm.

However, every night since then, the pain wakes me in the middle of the night and the sludge shifts and attacks unexpectedly throughout the day and it's been miserable.

I still went running with the dog Tuesday and Thursday mornings. (I've been meaning to post about the running thing. Angie mentioned podrunner.com and I downloaded his interval training "First Day to 5k" and have been using it every other day ever since. I take the dog and the 'run' only takes 10 minutes more than walking her would. The sad truth is that running has nothing to do with wanting to be healthy or whatever, it's purely a desire to get the nice lean build that most runners have. Yup. Vanity is a much bigger motivator for me than health. Sad, but true. It also might relate to a quick prayer a month ago or so, "Jesus, you've got to change my mind so I get in shape. I just don't care, but I'm starting to hate how I look." Totally tangential post, the ways God uses our crazy minds to motivate us.)

Anyway, my Dad was still here as I pouted around full of toxic doses of pain, "Did you consult your doctor?" he asked in concern.

"Dad, I live with one!"

I suspect Jrex thought it was a bit in my head and I was being a little over dramatic. Since that would be the first time in our marriage I've EVER dramatized, I don't know why he might suspect such a thing.

Saturday morning, I called one of my best friends. She's a massage therapist and asked me a different set of questions:

"Have you been doing anything on a regular basis that might have added up to the point where you suddenly felt the pain? Especially a new activity?"

Hmm...like running with a dog who likes to think she's The Great Squirrel Hunter of All Time and has to chase after each bugger she sees until she yanks up short on the end of the leash? Do you mean that sort of pulling for 30 minutes every other day?

After her diagnosis, Jrex did a series of muscle strength tests to figure out what I'd damaged. Looks like it's the top of my right shoulder (the deltoid, to be precise). I spent much of yesterday afternoon looking for a hands-free leash system and a good harness for the dog. I now know far more than I ever wanted about weird sports like skijoring and the Iditarod, but still haven't found one I'm ready to buy. She's a weird shape and has a very pointy chest-bone. Most harnesses look uncomfortable for her build.

Now I know I've become one of those dog people.

July 1, 2008

Napa, Part I

OK, so the short, non-photographic version is that Napa was lovely. Not our scene, but lovely. On one level, it was just great to have a weekend together. Mr. Scientist Man doesn't get to take two days off in a row very often. I think I'll just book us in fancy hotels every four months or so just to make him take a break.

I've mentioned before that we both enjoy getting maximum bang for the buck. Napa isn't. Jrex's sister bought us two nights in a hotel room for his birthday present (last Friday, he turned 40!!). It turned out to be $198/night for a basic room with one smallish bed, a kitchenette and a small shower. The hotel had mineral pools and spa services (for more money), but was relatively middle-class and not that elegant. For $89 a night, I would have felt like we were in the ballpark, but not for $200! Of course, "free" was great bang for the buck...

The hotel was in Calistoga which is at the very northern end of Napa Valley. I'll post pics and reviews of vineyards and restaurants tomorrow. Jrex did great research and found family-run vineyards that produced leaner style wines. Many Napa wines have a big, bold fruity taste, but they're one-note strong. We tend to like wines that linger and shift as you drink them. Interesting + unusual=fun.

The good news is that at 40, Jrex isn't planning to leave me for a young, hot nurse or blow our nest egg on a sports car. He says he's been having his "what should I do with my life?" crisis for the last 15 years and doesn't need to have one now. He is ready to wrap up training and start whatever is next (not that it means 'wrap up' will happen for a year and a half or so...but that's 'soon' on a Jrex scale...). The other good news is that we still really enjoy being together.

I feel privileged to have this man as a life companion. I love his wit, his endurance and his desire for off-the-beaten-path adventures.

Happy Birthday, love!