Monday, September 26, 2016

Peak Performance

It started the way a lot of things do with me.  With a sense of panic and regret about procrastinating for so long.  How come we've never hiked Pike's Peak before?  We've talked about it a million times, but shelved it for more exotic travels.  You'd think seeing it every day would be a reminder to put it on the agenda.  It wasn't.  Because when you see things every day a lot of times you take them for granted.  It was the fact that it's my oldest's senior year of high school, and maybe the last time we can do this as a family, that finally pushed me to prioritize hiking to the summit.  And once I've prioritized something,  (as I'm kinda the idea person, my family doesn't even really have a choice) then it's time to perform.   

To perform at this level, I might finally need to upgrade my nearly treadless Adidas I always hike in for some hiking boots for our first fourteener. 14,115 ft to be exact and the largest elevation gain (7,900 vertical feet) of all the 58 of the peaks over 14,000 ft in Colorado.  But, I wasn't about to buy new hiking boots right before a big climb.  So, I got an idea.  I'd go to a thrift store and get pre-broken-in hiking boots. Except they didn't have any hiking boots, but they did have combat boots which fit me perfectly and were super comfy when I wore them around the house for the rest of the day.  I'm a freakin' genius!

Your mama wears combat boots!
Early in the hike, feeling great I was worried about the kids.  My kid who forgot to pack a fleece, hat and gloves who was given extremely specific instructions on what to pack which I repeated over and over again.  My kid with the bad knees.  The other kid whose feet always hurt.  And the one we weren't worried about at all.  I still worried about that one because I'm a mom and that's what we do.  But, it became pretty clear early on, when they left my husband and me in the dust that the ones we should have worried about was us.

My husband at the 4 mile marker.
Me near mile marker 2.
This is when it started.  About mile marker 2.  We'd completely lost contact with one of the kids who was way ahead of us.  And I had the start of a blister on my left foot we stopped to tape up when we stopped to filter water from a stream because we should have packed more water.  But we were too concerned about our pack weight because we had to pack sleeping bags for our overnight stay at Barr Camp halfway up the mountain.

Aspen grove.
Around mile six we walked through an aspen grove.  By default,  we'd come at the perfect time of year to see the leaves change color in the mountains.  And even though it'd already snowed on the peak weeks earlier, it was all melted now.  When we arrived at camp our lost kid was waiting for us.  There was nothing left to do, but eat, sleep and hope it didn't snow overnight so we could summit the next day. (And stay awake worrying about that kid who didn't pack appropriately and whether we'd have to be airlifted off the mountain for frostbite. Especially after running into other campers who'd just hiked down from the peak and overhearing them talk about the difficulty of the climb and the subzero temperatures with the windchill.)

I did the math.
$500 x 6= $3,000
Ready to start our trek.
After a night of sleep (some more than others) and no snow flurries, we were ready for the most difficult half of the climb.  Unless we weren't.  The boys forged ahead, while we forced the girls to hang back with us.  Even so, we lost them for a bit right around tree line.  Even taped, my blistered foot was slowing me down.  Until my husband had an idea.   While I am normally the idea person, he's the fixer.  And I give him a lot of things to fix.

I'm married to MacGyver.
Blister relief and air conditioning all in one.
Finally, we caught up to the girls shortly after passing timberline.  They were trudging along just fine.  While it was cold, the wind wasn't unbearable.  And between the four of us we had enough shared hats, gloves and other gear for everyone.
The girls somewhere around mile 9.  
The views were spectacular.
The last mile was the hardest.  With a series of steep switchbacks.  But, we all made it and when we got to the top, amidst the mass of other people who'd driven or taken the cog railway up to the top, we found the boys.  And forced them to take a mandatory photo.


While we were waiting in line to get a picture in front of the sign, some older guy behind me asked me if he could cut in front of us.  I think he was joking.  Not that it made any difference.  I didn't care.  I pointed to my pack.  "We hiked this".  We earned it.  Now you sir can wait just a damn minute before you get back in your warm car with the heated seats and drive your lazy ass back down.  That last part was implied.  But, I'm sure he knew that.

I wear the combat boots around here, mister!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Senior Moments


Earlier this week I went to a college information night at my son's school.  How is it even possible that he's a senior in high school already?  Because it wasn't all that long ago that I was a senior in high school.  And why did I go to college information night and not bring a pen?  Oh.  Maybe because I'm out of practice because it's been 28 years since I was in high school.  Wait...that can't be right.  Maybe math has changed since I was in school and it's only been like 8 years.  I never was good at math.

Thank god you never use high school math in the real world. 
Also, Miss Tzitzis I never regretted dropping your math class like you said I would.
My only regret was not dropping it sooner.

Well, I might have some other regrets about my senior year.  Mostly, my senior picture.  Because look at it.  I didn't go to some fancy studio.  Or get my hair done by a professional.  I know it's shocking, but I made my hair look like a UFO on my own.  It's totally true.  And the caterpillar shaped eyebrows?  They're natural.  I know.  These were my pre-plucking days.  Then there were those shoulder pads that made me look like I was on the football team.  I wasn't, just for clarification.  These, and the fact that I looked like a scrawny guy throughout high school, may be reasons I wasn't asked to prom.  (Don't worry, I did go to prom because I asked a guy from work to take me.)

And that was about the extent of my crazy senior year.  Because I didn't go to a football game.  I skipped out on senior skip day.  The homecoming dance?  Nope.  Insane, epic house parties?  Not so much.  I basically went to school and worked.  Which makes for an extremely clean yearbook for my kids to peruse now, because there's nothing incriminating in it.  Unless "stay sweet" is condemnatory.  Which it just might be.  It gets worse.  My prom date asked me what my favorite TV show was.  And I confessed: 60 Minutes. 

Basically, I was a senior citizen in high school.  

Don't worry, things got really crazy in college.  Like I took the 8am classes.  Because I was totally excited to learn about international politics, the philosophy of religion and Russian at that time in the morning.   I'm not even joking.  I know it's insane.  But really, at that time in the morning there is no line for the dorm showers.  None.  Who's the smart one now, huh?   Not that I was actually smart.  I wasn't.  I was just smart enough to know that I really had to work my ass off if I wanted to completely waste my parents' money by getting a useless bullshit degree in political science.  That's after I changed my major from business, when I realized being successful in business requires math.   That's when I changed my major to politics which doesn't require any math.  It's more philosophy meets current events with lots of drama and backstabbing.  So, it was super entertaining.  Really, it was reality TV before reality TV existed.  Back in the Neolithic Era that was the late 80's and early 90's.  

Don't worry, things really did get crazy when I got my master's degree.  I borrowed thousands of dollars I'd have to pay back with interest to get another useless bullshit degree, this time in Public Administration.  Which is way more boring than political science.  But now, I was married working a full-time job, a part-time job and going to school at the same time.  However, now I was living in Miami in the early 90's, which was the really hot party capital at the time.  Well, I was actually living in North Miami Beach. Which, if you're familiar, is the senior citizen capital of the entire state of Florida. And probably even all of North America.  But bonus, the apartment we lived in was completely quiet after 6pm, after Jeopardy was over of course.  Which was perfect for studying and then getting to bed at a reasonable time so I could be up and well rested for work in the morning.

If only I could go back to high school for some senior moments...
...I wouldn't.   
But, I do have a lot of senior moments in my future...

...when I'm a senior citizen.
Unless I already am one.


Monday, September 19, 2016

I'm an Addict


I'm an addict.  Always searching for my next hit.  I think about it when I wake up, when I go to bed and all the hours in between.  I don't know that anyone knows the true extent of my obsession.  It's the only thing that makes me feel almost normal.  And when I can't indulge my cravings,  I get unfocused, sullen and capricious.  Feeding the very depression and anxiety I'm self medicating to suppress in the first place.

What am I addicted to?  Pole dancing.  Well, exercise really.  But, pole is my favorite form of it.  And I often refer to it as pole therapy.  Because that's exactly what it is for me.  Working out my body helps me to work through things in my mind.  It challenges me to do things that scare me, like confronting my fear of heights.  But, even more deep seated than that, I doubt my capabilities and talents.  I always have.  Pole gives me a chance to prove myself wrong.  And do it alone, because by far the biggest fear I have is people.  Thanks social anxiety.

But, like everything else, there's a dark side to addiction.  When I overdose on pole, I get overly self deprecating.  And I'm already extremely self deprecating.  I know I've exceeded my pole limit when  I start to focus on everything I can't do instead of everything I can.  Which usually happens when I'm working on something that really stretches me that I just can't get. (It doesn't help that I'm a perfectionist with unrealistic expectations of myself.)  Starting a downward spiral.

I'll start to watch even more videos of other pole dancers and compare myself to them.  And I always come up short.  Why can't I do that?  I should be able to do this after 4 years of pole dance!  Why do I get motion sick on spinning pole?  Why didn't I try spinning pole until 3 and a half years in?  Why aren't I more flexible?  Why didn't I start working on my flexibility until this year?  I berate myself; swearing and calling myself horrible names.  (This is the dark side of my addiction with pole that only my husband gets to see.  What a lucky man indeed.)

But, when I have my pole dosage correct, it keeps me off medication.  I've never actually been on medication to treat my depression/anxiety.  But, there are definitely times I should have been.  And I shouldn't have been ashamed of that.  But, I was.  The thing is, I talk about it now.  By "talk", I mean write, because people and all.  And that helps me cope too.

I'll always be an addict.  And I'll always have to balance the dosage on the prescription I use to treat myself.  And maybe some day I'll stop my dubious, toxic self-inflicted behavior altogether and treat myself better.  But all I can do is take it day by day, just like every other addict.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Table for Six


The table is set for six.  I've made a healthy homemade meal.  But, no matter what I make for dinner, every one is pretty much exactly the same.  It's a feast of disappointment, whining, resentment and arguments.  There's always plenty to go around.  Plus there's even leftovers for a snack later.  But likely, they will be carefully wrapped up only to be passively-aggressively thrown in the trash a week later.

Eating dinner together is important for a family to connect.  
I'm sure I read this somewhere.  

By someone who was clearly insane.  Or I must be doing this all wrong.  Because eating dinner together with MY family just makes me want to disconnect from them and eat alone in a closet or solitary confinement.  Both sound cozy.  I'd say dinner is nothing more than a battleground for an intricate power play between my kids for attention.   But, it's more like WWIII with a caterer.   

First, there's the Corrector.  The Corrector is always right.  That's the delusion anyway.   And nit picky.  Oh so effing nit picky.  About everything.  No unimportant, irrelevant detail will go uncorrected.  Not on the Corrector's watch!  

Then there's the Contrarian.  The Contrarian will take the counterargument to whatever you said just because you said it.  And does it with utter conviction no matter how outlandish or far fetched it is even contradicting him(or her)self. 

And you've got to have the Comedian.  Which we do.  The Comedian will try to steal the spotlight from the Corrector and the Contrarian, who are escalating to the point of fisticuffs, by talking over both of them to tell an inappropriately timed, inappropriate joke.    

Lastly, there's the Peacekeeper.  The Mother Teresa of the table.  Head bowed in prayer that it will all end soon and peacefully. The Peacekeeper often asks to be excused from the table first.  Probably because the Peacekeeper is the only one not competing and eating.   The Peacekeeper is officially a saint.

Then there's me and my husband, when he makes it home in time for dinner with all of us that is.  (I can't say I blame him when he doesn't.)  We are the referees.  Most times we'll make the same call about the players and punish them for their infractions accordingly.  But, then sometimes, we don't.  Because sometimes the other ref needs to get a pair of glasses to see the completely obvious foul that just occurred right in front of his face.  WTF?

I have seen the future.
And this is what every Thanksgiving will be like until I die. 
Except for the additional boyfriends & girlfriends at the table.
Who may eventually become sons-in-law & daughters-in-law.
Making it a table for 10.
And, thus, even more complicated.

Monday, September 12, 2016

On Bukowski and Blue Cheese


I admit it, I've never been a huge fan of poetry.  I like raw grit.  I like truth.  Which might explain some of my favorite books:  Johnny Got His Gun and Cancer Ward.  They're depressing.  It's not the fact that they are depressing that draws me to them, it's the raw truth in the stories.  And the fact that many stories don't have a happy ending.  Don't get me wrong, I'm American and I love when there is a happy ending.  But, not an over romanticized, unrealistic Cinderella ending.  I hate that and the romance books that disseminate that drivel.

You know how things keep popping up in your life over and over again?  And you're like what the hell does this mean?  That was Bukowski every time I was looking for a book.  There was his name staring back at me.  Alright.  Fine.  I surrender.  You win.  I'll read you.  But, only because you're supposed to be raw, gritty and I can get your work for free at the library.  Which is exactly what I did.   I placed a hold on several of his books, but the first to arrive was You Get So Alone at Times That it Just Makes Sense, one of his later works of poetry.

And I hated it.

Sure, there were probably two poems in there that I actually liked.  But, the others were abhorrent reminiscences of an old alcoholic misogynist.  Not only that, his poems were flat and uninspired.  Which had a really weird effect on me.  I needed to know why Bukowski was so revered.  Because it just didn't make any sense to me.  Making it clear to me that I needed to read even more Bukowski.  Even if I was doing it against my will.  His novel (actually a memoir with the main character's name changed to Henry Chinaski), Ham on Rye, was waiting for me on the library shelf. 

And I loved it.

In context, his life and where he came from, his poetry made sense.  The way that blue cheese (which I hate) makes sense when you pair it with port (which I also hate).  The contradictions complement each other and make something bigger and bolder than the individual components.  And it just works.  Making it clear to me that I needed to read even more Bukowski.  Even if I was doing it against my will. Again.  This time I'd give his earlier poetry a try with Burning in Water Drowning in Flame.  

And I hated it.

Sure, there were probably two poems in there that I actually liked.  But, the others were still abhorrent reminiscences of an old alcoholic misogynist.  Not only that, his poems were flat and uninspired.  Appreciating where he came from and why he became the person he was couldn't make me appreciate his poetry.  I'm just going to have to accept that I have a love-hate relationship with Bukowski.  And blue cheese.





Thursday, September 8, 2016

Professional Narcissist


With digital cameras and social media, everyone's a narcissist nowadays.  Or rather, everyone misuses the term narcissist nowadays to mean someone who takes too many selfies.  Too many selfies being completely subjective.  As subjective as the people who take them with many subjective reasons for doing so.  Anyone can be a narcissist, but not everyone is a professional narcissist, promoting their career with photos of themselves.

You may think you know what the world's oldest narcissistic profession is, but you don't.  On second thought, if you guessed the world's oldest profession, I'll give you that.  Even though, I was talking about a more mainstream profession that's actually legal.  Ok, I'm talking about real estate agents.

Think about it.  Long before anyone else had their photo on a business card or their face filled a ginormous billboard next to the highway to promote bail bonds, there were real estate agents. Teasing their hair high to the heavens, caked with make-up looking absolutely nothing like the person standing in front of you with a plate of warm cookies at the open house.  So, technically, that makes them the first catfish too.

I've spent a lot time over the years wondering what the hell buying a house has to do with what someone looks like?  And I still just don't get it.  I've probably wasted years of my life pondering this.   It just doesn't make sense.  Like the way pictures do with other professions.  I mean, if you're a hairstylist, I'm going to judge your skills by how your hair looks.  I'll expect to see a full body shot of you in spandex if you're a personal trainer.  Dentists, your teeth should look like a box of Chiclets if you want my business.  I want to see you stuffing your face full of food porn if you're a chef. Actually, I'd prefer to see a video of that one.

[And if you're a writer, tell the story behind the picture.  Like the above picture of me was taken about a year and a half ago on the morning my oldest was scheduled to take his driver's test.  I think it displays my inner conflict about my son taking to the road solo while also capturing my disdain over impending rising insurance costs pretty accurately.]

I think what all of us want is an authentic glimpse into someone else's world.  To know that the hairstylist has bad hair days too and that's why she wears a baseball cap sometimes.  The personal trainer hates running as much as I do.  Although I don't know if that's even humanly possible.  That maybe dentists don't actually floss every day.  They don't right?  And that the gourmet chef pigs out on a Big Mac every once in a while too.  I swear I saw a McDonald's bag in the garbage can in one of his photos.

Or maybe we all just see what we want to see.

Personally, I want to see the inside of the real estate agent's home.  With dirty dishes piled in the sink,  beds unmade, heaps of laundry on the floor with a thick layer of dust on the dining room table and dog fur tumbleweeds blowing through the entry way.  Just like my house.










Monday, September 5, 2016

The Truth About Festivals


Every Labor Day weekend in Colorado Springs there's a hot air balloon festival.   Sounds quaint doesn't it?  But, it's not.  It never is.  Festivals are horrible for one very important reason.  Because they're festering with people.  Crowds of people, drawn together to appreciate something that they can't even see through the damn crowds of festering people.  Hope you packed binoculars.

Also, I hope the festival you're going to is free.  (Although, as you know, nothing is truly free and we'll get to that.)  Because why would anyone pay $20 to go to say,  a Renaissance festival?  That doesn't even buy you food or parking.  What does it get you?  A free juggling show and a sunburn?  I can't say.  Because I've personally never been.  Which is a benefit to you, if you're into that kind of thing, because my absence means there's one less person between you and the juggler.

I admit, sometimes it's hard to resist a free festival.  It's F-R-E-E after all.  But, it's never free.  Even if you score free parking ten blocks away from the festival. Because when you get there you're going to be thirsty from hoofing it there.  And then you'll remember you forgot to pack your water bottle because you had to leave the house at 6am to score the free parking 10 blocks away from the festival to get there in time to see the balloons before they take off at 7am.

But, more than likely, you're not going to get out the door at 6am.  You think you will.  And then you'll hit the snooze button 3 times.  Then you'll forget you have to let the dogs out to pee before you leave the house.  Then at least one kid you're forcing to go with you won't be able to find their shoes. Or they'll need to shower because they're teenagers and could see someone they know there.  Whatever the reason is, you'll be running late.

When you do get there, the venue will already be swarming with people.  People who are, apparently, more organized than you.  But, you'll call them anal because you're bitter.  Then you'll find yourself standing in a ridiculously long line for a bottle of water that's $5.  And you haven't even had your morning coffee yet, but the coffee line is even longer than the bottled water line, so screw that.  Plus, if you have the coffee you know you're going to have to use the dreaded porta potty.  The funny thing is, you've deluded yourself into thinking you can avoid it.  You can't.

Now the kids are whining.  They've actually been fighting since they woke up, it's just that you're more awake now, so it's more annoying.  Now it's time to force them to go see the balloons close up before they take off.  Because this is what we came for dammit.  The closer you get to the balloons, the more you get accidentally bumped and elbowed by random strangers who don't acknowledge your existence, let alone, apologize.  Is there anything more annoying than that?  Maybe the fact that you can't get a good picture of anything.  Not the balloons.  And definitely not your family.  Wait....where is your family?

When you stopped futilely trying to take a picture, they wandered off somewhere and didn't tell you.  You try to call them on their cells, but no one can hear a phone ring over the whooshing of the propane  filling the balloons and the excited crowd.  So, you're forced to push your way through the throng of people to find them.  You're so pissed off you're completely oblivious to the balloons lifting off.  Missing the one that floated right above your head in what would have been the perfect photo.  That's when you see your family.  Standing at the edge of the lake, watching the balloons sail by, smiling and taking it all in.  Which doesn't make you happy that you found them at all.  Just more pissed that they ditched you while they enjoyed it, oblivious of your absence.

Your irritation is exacerbated by the fact that you're so hungry you feel like you're going to throw up.  So, you need to get some fried dough in you to settle your stomach.  Which is like the most counter  intuitive thing someone could do.  Because after you spend $45 in fried dough to feed your family and scarf it down, you're going to need to use the porta potty in the most urgent way.  Which, of course, is on the other side of the festival grounds.  To get there you'll need to wade through the salesmen handing out fliers and pencils advertising their insulation, windows and/or siding.  

When you finally get to the shit shack just in the nick of time, or so you think, there's a line.  This can't be happening!  But, yet, this is always the way it happens.  When you do finally get in there, on the last day of the festival, it's heinous.  And there's no toilet paper left.  And it's not even one of those new fangled ones with a hand sanitizer dispenser.  Shhhhhhhhhhiiiiiiiiittttttttttttttttt!  That's when you'll remember the truth about festivals.

Festivals suck!








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