Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rocky Mountain High...

It feels great to be back in the camper van again.

Yesterday, I got up and on the road within 30 minutes of the target time I'd set for me to leave.  That's about as good as I get.  I left at 8:30 AM, and made it to Golden, CO shortly after 6.  Joe and his friend Ty were supposed to catch up with me to spell me, but they didn't have as much luck getting out of town on time, and I ended up beating them here by about an hour.

Western Kansas got long and boring.  (Surprised?)  Thank goodness for Colby.  That's right.  Out in the middle of nowhere Kansas you can find.... a Starbucks!  Caffeine!  The shot carried me through.

I was about 30 miles outside of Denver, and still hadn't seen the mountains.  I was beginning to wonder what was up, then took a closer look and realized that the bottom layer of clouds wasn't clouds.  Wound my way through the tail end of rush hour traffic, doing my best to focus on cars instead of mountains, and got to the campground without trouble.  The park we're staying in is run by the city of Golden.  It's small, smack-dab in the middle of town, and is a pretty little place.  It sits next to a stream; the bathrooms easily pass muster - what more could I ask?

I laid down around 10 last night, and didn't open my eyes until 5:30.  5:30???  That's what I thought!  I've been getting up at 6:30, and didn't make the time change.  That was fine with me.  I laid there, snuggled in a bit deeper, and cracked my eyes just enough to watch the world brighten.  I finally turned the heat up around 6:30, (you don't expect me to get up in a cold camper, do you?)  and got up around 7.  A beautiful way to wake up.

The first part of Joe's test this morning went very well.  Unlike the fitness ordeal of the first three tests, the test for 4th is actually kind of fun.  We met a friend of mine who lives in town for lunch, came back to the campground, took a nap, and then I went for a bike ride.  (Have I mentioned I miss life in the camper van?)  It's been a beautiful day.

Where do the ducks come in, you ask?  As we were standing around outside this morning, waiting for the test to start, I noticed a commotion at the other end of the parking lot.  Mama Duck was trying to shepherd her babies across a busy street, and someone got out of their car to stop her.  (Which is where I came by and took the picture.)  The gal had Mama convinced to stay in the parking lot until animal control showed up - and then she wouldn't move her brood.  I didn't realize it, but the animal control officer told me you can't just catch the ducks and move them.  Mama knows where she wants to go, and if it involves city streets, well, that's just too bad.  She'll try to bring her brood across the street.  Unfortunately, I don't know how the story ends.  When I left it, the ducks were ensconced beneath a parked car, the animal control officer had received another call and had to go, and I had to get back to the karate test.  I'm hoping they either all made it safely across the street, or Mama decided to take another route...

Monday, May 28, 2012


From the first time I watched my kids go through the black belt testing process, back in June, 2001, I've had a love-hate relationship with the process.

It's not a bad thing to test one's limits, especially in the 'controlled' environment of the black belt tests.

However, at every test I've seen, I get angry at the leaders.  They let testosterone and an overdose of sadism and control rule over common sense.  They are in charge; they will allow no dissenting voices.

They do not take into account the willingness of those testing to do ALL that is asked of them - whether it is in their own long-term best interests or not; especially those getting their first black belt.  Needless injuries happen.  I've spent months healing from my own tests.  Those testing get caught in the fervor and spirit of the moment.  They are on an adrenaline high, and pain comes to the fore only later. 

The leaders, who have all been through the tests, should know this, and should be watching those testing - to push them to their limits, but not beyond.  Instead, they push them for the sake of pushing.  They push the fittest to their limits, which is well and good - but in doing so, they carry along the older, the previously injured, the not-so-fit, and those good people push themselves to the point of injury so as not to seem weak.

As my instructor once said, "The contortions people will go through, to get a four-foot strip of black cloth with their name on it, is amazing."

This morning, while my knees ache in sympathy with those I saw barely staggering out of the gym Saturday morning, my heart is proud of my son.

He was doing the pre-test for his 4th degree belt.  For 4th, this is the hard part - the actual test will be in Colorado next week, and will be easier than Saturday's ordeal.  The test started at 9, and ended at 1:30.  He was moving almost constantly that whole time - and he did it!  He approached the activities with the same stolid endurance he learned as a construction laborer.  Don't reflect on what's done, or try to look to the end - you'll only be distracted.  Focus only task required of you now. Time will pass, the test can only last so long.

If you'll excuse a moment of parental pride, Joe was among the fittest.  He looked good.  Once he got home and showered, the natural high carried him through the rest of the day; the remains of it still linger this morning.  He earned that high.

Congratulations, Joe!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Some Days...

Some days, I don't know how I feel any more.

Is it possible to be simultaneously grateful to be alive and on the mend, and in a funk?

Friday, I went to the doctor to get pumped up again.  I thought the size of my new girls was pretty close to where I want them to be - I've been able to wear my bras since the last time he added some fill, two weeks ago - and so asked him about it before he added any more fluid.  Sure enough, I am close enough.  No more fills.  My pec muscles have been thanking me all weekend. (Yay!)

It was very surreal.  I was standing there debating the fit of my bra with some guy I barely know - and it felt normal-ish!  No funny vibes, we could have been discussing the best socks to wear hiking, nothing sexual about it.  Maybe that's part of the problem.  I still think my breasts SHOULD have SOME sexuality attached...

I look in the mirror and don't see anything resembling what I had before.  They look normal enough once I add my bra and a shirt, but the picture in the mirror is still pretty grim.  Instead of breast-shaped things on my chest, I have a couple of half-round water balloons attached to plastic plates.  (I can usually make me smile by jiggling them...)

and it strikes me, again, that while most of the trauma and drama are over (thank Goodness), I'm still months away from whatever my new normal will be.

He PROMISES me that the permanent implants are better, much better.  Not near as much jiggling, and no plastic plates.  Surgery is scheduled for July 12th.  This surgery will be much easier on my body and mind; he tells me I'll be back to work in two weeks.  Physically, the surgery is pretty minor.  No deep cuts necessary, I'll leave with all the body parts I came in with; the water balloons gone and replaced by silicone gel - which at least pretends to sorta-kinda move like normal tissue.  I have no idea of what to expect emotionally.  I suspect it'll be the same sort of mixed reaction I had to Friday's news.  Hallelujah, and oh, dear!

I try to focus on the positive, but some days, I just can't seem to zero in.  I can't get past the tight band across the front of my chest; I'm tired of being tired.

This, too, shall pass...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

To Walk

Several years ago, I was in California, taking care of my aunt and uncle for a spell.  He had broken a hip, and was in the mid-stages of Parkinson's disease.  While I know some grow angry and bitter, his sickness had turned him into one of the sweetest men I've ever met. 

She was dying of cancer, and was not in the best space while I was there.  One night I got quite angry with her.  As is my habit when I get angry, at the first opportunity, I put on my walking shoes and got out of there.

I walked for about thirty minutes, then came back feeling much better.  calmer.  ready to let bygones be bygones.  No one mentioned the argument again, until bedtime.

I customarily put Uncle Jim to bed while I was there.  That night, as I was tucking him in, he looked up at me and said, rather wistfully, "Isn't it wonderful?"

"Isn't what wonderful?", I snapped, not as over my snit as I liked to pretend.

"To be able to get up and walk.  Just because you want to.", came the reply.

Instantly the remaining bubble of my anger was gone.

"Yes, Jim.  It is wonderful.", I replied, and I meant it.

Until that moment, I had taken my ability to walk freely completely for granted.  It is wonderful.  I want to walk, I stand up, I walk.  The same would never be true for him again in this world. 

Uncle Jim walks freely now.  He has moved on.  His words often come back to me when I'm having a pity-party for one.  and always, my hurts seem a little smaller, of less import, as soon as I recall the conversation.

"Isn't it wonderful?"

Saturday, May 12, 2012



I've been fascinated by the concept this week.  Like love, it's a many-splendored thing.

Since my sojourn in the camper van, I've taken it less for granted.  Its availability is not a given on the road.  Some of my favorite nights were in the campgrounds where it wasn't available.  When night fell - it fell.  In the darkness one night, I looked out across a valley, and was able to distinguish a single light more than a mile away.  The stars were incredibly numerous and beautiful, like I remember from growing up.  I definitely appreciated my flashlight (mobile electricity!) when it was time to hike to the bathroom.

Electricity can be incredibly powerful, making the leap from high in the clouds to the ground in bold and jagged light that can be fear- or awe- inducing, but can't be ignored.

Electricity can be the spark you feel when you kiss someone special - especially that first time.  I swear you can feel the current leap between your bodies; telling you that THIS is someone to pay close attention to.

It can be measured in micro-volts, used in the pacemakers that help the hearts of so many maintain a steady rhythm.  It can be measured in mega-volts - as I picture those running the speakers projecting the music that is in the background as I type - music being produced a half-mile away.

If you stand beneath high-voltage power lines (or too close to lightening!), you can feel the small hairs on your body stand at attention; alerting you that danger is near.

As my body heals, I get random mini-threads of it running through the skin that used to cover my breasts.  I think it's a good sign; that of my nervous system trying to get back in touch with the numb band that currently runs across the front of my chest.  "Marco", it calls repeatedly; "Marco".  "Polo" comes the occasional response, sending a mini lightening bolt through my system.  (It can be a little disconcerting when it happens as I'm concentrating on a conversation at work.  I try to keep my focus, but it inevitably wanders for just a bit as I marvel at my body's ability to try to heal itself.)


Saturday, May 5, 2012


I think one of the reasons I took a job with the school is that I've long wondered if I have what it takes to be a teacher and thought maybe I would pick up some hints just by being near those who do it daily.  I so admire those who do it well...

Last week, I got a chance to try it for myself - the school had a lot of teachers out sick, and the principal asked me to substitute for the computer class.

I had a chance to talk with the regular teacher, and got a copy of the assignment they were to work on that day.  It was a group project, and the students had already been given the gist of the assignment, so I figured all I had to really do was babysit.

I got there just as the bell rang (thank goodness I wasn't late!), and unlocked the classroom door.  These were seniors - relatively well behaved, and ready to listen.  I stood up front, introduced myself, had a couple of kids wake up the guy who was trying to get a quick nap in (twice), read them their assignment, and broke them into groups to work on the project.

So far, so good.

My tired friend had put his head down yet again, so I sat down near him, put my face about a foot from his closed eyes, and tapped him on the back of the shoulder.  He sure sat up fast!  He explained to me how he'd already started the assignment at home and had two of his three assigned slides done.  He didn't want to work on it during class because he couldn't quite remember where he'd left things.  I didn't buy it, and gave him several options of things he could work on without the slides in front of him.  He brightened up when I mentioned adding sound, and started to work.  A few minutes later, I came back around, (confiscating cell phone number one along the way - I didn't have to say anything, just held out my hand when I found her hitting the keypad.  She knew the rules.)  found him on e-mail, and told him to shut it down.  He minimized the browser tab; I told him to sign out.  Took twice more before he finally listened - all in good humor; I think he just wanted to see what I knew.

He stopped on his way out the door at the end of class, and asked me if I would stop by the class next week to see his slides; he'd bring them in for me to look at them.  I promised I would (and I will!) - and figured I'd done well by him.

My success with him was balanced by the wall I hit with one of the girls.  I'd initially told each group to grab two laptops, figuring they would work on the project together.  When I saw her working on a paper from another class, I asked her why she wasn't working on the assigned project.  She smartly reminded me I'd said two laptops per group, and two others in her group had them.  I quickly amended my restriction, since they weren't going to work together, and told her to get one from the cart for herself.  When I came back a few minutes later, she had her cell phone tethered to the PC, and was checking Facebook.  I held out my hand for it, and she made a big production out of locking the screen while scowling and muttering at me before handing it over.  When I came back to her less than three minutes later, she had e-mail up.  I sat down in the chair next to her and told her to shut it down.  She defiantly looked at me and said, "it ain't hurtin' you none.  I don't see no blood.  Why can't I just leave it up?"  (Here, she gets points for originality...)  I told her that no, I wasn't hurt - but she needed to shut it down anyhow, so she did.

As class was drawing to a close, she stood with the rest.  She looked so sad that I patted her on the back of the shoulder without thinking.  She stiffened and said she didn't like to be touched when she was in that mood.  I immediately apologized - I WAS wrong to reach out without her permission - and told her why I'd touched her.  She just looked straight ahead and didn't acknowledge my response.  I gave her back her cell phone, which she took without looking at me, and she marched out of the classroom without a backwards glance.  ** sigh **  Poor thing.  She must have been deeply troubled to be so rude to a well-meaning, albeit clumsy, stranger.

I have spent some time replaying the hour, reviewing what went right and what went wrong.  Given the givens at the school, I'm sure I'll be asked to fill in again - and hope to learn a little each time about how to do it right.