Wednesday, May 13, 2015


NOTE TO SELF:  Do not send an email detailing your latest freakish fall/injury to your sister thinking she'll find it funny.  Instead she will call at one in the morning insisting she's taking you to the emergency room because she has no sense of humor.

I honestly thought she'd roll her eyes at my continued clumsiness when she read this:

Subject:  Ugh!  I did it again...

Actually, this wasn’t MY fault exactly, but I had another weird fall/injury.  Do you guys remember when I was a senior in high school and one day after school I got this weird pain in my chest and fainted?  I was on my way into the kitchen and grabbed the side of the doorway and the next thing I knew I was on the floor?  (And Ginger the dog was there in my face looking all concerned?)  Well, I did THAT again.  I came out to the kitchen between innings of the ballgame.  I took a sip of pop and then got this horrible pain in my chest.  I’ve had that happen before, but it’s usually just very brief pain, almost feeling like an air bubble or something.  Anyway, this time the pain was excruciating and wasn’t letting up and I put my hand on the refrigerator to steady myself, kind of doubled over because of the pain.  Next thing I knew I woke up on the floor, with my head right in front of the sink.  I sort of flailed around at first because I was completely disoriented and couldn’t figure out if I was dreaming or was really looking at the kitchen ceiling or what.  I pulled myself up, but I had horrible pain all through my neck and upper back and I was dizzy.  Daisy came running in so I don’t know if I landed with a loud thump or if I was making noise passed out or what.  I got to my feet and all I could think was that I needed ibuprofen for my  neck.  I wasn’t sure if I hit my head or just landed on my back.  I kind of staggered over and got the meds, but I was half out of it and not really steady on my feet.  I swallowed the pills and was kind of leaning on the counter when I realized my teeth were out of whack, with my lower ones thrust forward like a bull dog.  I felt them and they all felt loose on the bottom.  I got to the bathroom and in the mirror they were visibly loose and a little bloody.  I’ve slightly chipped one of the front teeth (more just made it kind of uneven on the bottom, not like a big piece out or anything) and a couple of the top front teeth are all rough on the inside.  For the next half hour I kept spitting out little pieces of my teeth like grains of sand.  The only thing we can figure is I fainted and went face first into the fridge, maybe snapping my neck forward in the process.  (A couple of the magnets were on the floor.)  Not sure how I fell since I ended up flat on my back.  Wish I had video footage of it just so I could know what the hell I did.   I guess it’s also possible I snapped my neck when my head hit the floor and my teeth jammed into each other, but I don’t seem to have any pain or lumps on the head itself.

The Vulcan said he’d work from home tomorrow and take me to the dentist if I can get an appointment since I doubt I’m going to be able to turn my head in the morning with the way this feels right now.  He also wants me to go to the regular doctor, but I’m afraid he’ll send me for a couple thousand dollars’ worth of tests.  He was Googling around and thinks maybe this is what I have:

Apparently a lot of people on Reddit complain about it.  I’ve certainly had that catch in my chest before, but this is only the second time I’ve ever passed out from it.  He kept quizzing me on other symptoms to make sure it isn’t heart-related, but there really wasn’t anything.  Just that really sharp pain in one spot. 

I should have known better.  My sister was hysterical and insisting you don't screw around with heart pain and she was coming over.  I don't know if you've ever seen the episode of The Andy Griffith Show where Andy and Barney are trying to forcibly remove Ernest T. Bass from Mrs. Wiley's house, but if you have, that's what it would have resembled (see it here at the 21:25 mark).  I would not have gone and sore neck or no I would have put up a kicking fight.  (Ten years ago when I went I was stuck there for eight hours and swore I'd never go again unless I was missing a limb.)  I finally had to put my husband on the phone to reassure her he was confident it wasn't my heart.  Then I couldn't fall asleep, so I'd like to publicly thank her for ensuring a woman with a busted neck and busted teeth was also going to be getting her kids out the door on three hours of sleep.

I did indeed go to the dentist next day and the x-rays showed no severe damage.  My four front lower teeth are all loose, which means lots of ice cream for me for a few days, and next week I go back to have things rechecked and my chipped teeth sanded smooth.  I also went to the doctor, who immediately knew what I was describing.  He used lots of medical terms, but then said "essentially an air pocket forms" and causes pain and if the pain is intense enough it can make you pass out.  He was confident it had nothing to do with the heart, but he did an EKG just to satisfy my sister who was lurking in the waiting room.  All along I was sure it was nothing serious and was far more concerned about the state of my teeth.  I kept waiting for a couple of those lower suckers to suddenly flop out of my mouth and into my bowl of gelato.  Then, like Ernest T. Bass, I could get a gold one put right in the middle with space on each side so it would stand out better, especially when I'm dancing...

Sunday, May 10, 2015


She started off so cute.
It takes a special kind of sociopath to be upset when her mother likes the Mother's Day gift she picked out instead of hating it.  Foghorn was certain I'd loathe her gift of a skein of powder blue yarn.  Are you kidding?  Yarn?  Me?  Just to taunt her I laid it on thick, saying I'll make a beautiful bear with a blue sweater and hoodie for a little boy in Africa and  she had picked the perfect gift.  That made her so mad she hit me with her tablet.  She was equally disgusted at my reaction to my birthday gift a couple months ago.  She had chosen a sporty headband in what she thought was a particularly ugly shade of blue.  I loved it.  Hey, I was logging lots of miles on the treadmill and this was actually a very useful gift.  She was furious. I told my own mother this past Friday, "You're lucky.  You have me as a daughter.  Look what I'm stuck with." 

Goodies from The Inmates and The Vulcan.
My son, The Professor, put in a little more effort.  Uncle Chester had taken them shopping and, as usual, he wanted to go to JoAnn's.  He started looking at the jewelry-making supplies and then decided I'd like beads, but he looked carefully to find those hideously beautiful 70s colors I love - avocado, tangerine, marigold.  He found ones he thought fit the bill, then handed them over to Chester to actually make into something.  (Luckily she makes jewelry for her own Etsy shop, so this wasn't a daunting prospect for her.)  He also went out with his father the night before and purchased flowers, again in colors that perfectly match my Brady Bunch family room decor.  My husband surprised me with a Steam gift card so I could pick out some games for myself.  My son even reluctantly let me give him a hug, a good day all around.  (Of course, he didn't hug me back, but we can't ask for too much here.)

It's the story of a lovely lady...

Lunch was at my mother's -- roast beef with the trimmings and the traditional Mother's Day strawberry rhubarb pie (with apple pie for the gentlemen).  I gifted my mother five episodes of The Andy Griffith Show for her iPod and two tiny cooling racks, purchased after she made an offhand comment a couple months ago about wishing she had some more of them.  Earlier in the year we both read When Books Went to War about the Armed Services Edition books that were produced during World War II.  These tiny paperbacks, almost like miniature magazines, were distributed to troops all over the world, with new titles printed on a regular basis.  We both enjoyed reading about them and I thought she'd get a kick out of actually owning one.  I'm having a little trouble imagining a 20 year old guy curled up reading Meet Me in St. Louis, but I was surprised by other similar books that were popular among the soldiers.

I liked it so much I made my husband get me one with
Satchel Paige's "how old would you be if you didn't
know how old you were?"
For a good decade and a half now I've been giving my mother baseball-related gifts for Mother's Day.  Many times they're something I've made, such as a felted knit baseball purse or baseball-shaped afghan.  This is one of the few years when handmade wasn't in the mix.  Instead I opted for a new book by Mike Shannon, editor of Spitball magazine, with gorgeous paintings of famous Reds players.   I also read an article a few months ago about a couple of local sisters who started a small business making bracelets out of baseball glove laces.  These Baseball Lacelets are engraved with inspirational words of your choosing and come in a variety of sizes.  I debated several good baseball quotes and finally settled on Yogi Berra's "when you come to a fork in the road, take it."  I knew that line made her chuckle.  My son tried to say he understood what Berra meant, that this was something deep and profound.  I told him Berra was just a little bit dim.  Then he said, "You definitely have to have a fork when you go to the woods with your pic-a-nic basket."  Smartass.

Happy Mother's Day to all!

Friday, May 8, 2015


I often go around saying I do a lot of knitting for charity because my desire to knit is disproportionate to the number of folks who actually want to wear my stuff.  Besides the people who have enough hats/scarves/mittens, there are those (like my husband) who don't understand why you'd bother to knit a pair of socks when a six-pack of Hanes costs less than the skeins of yarn.  I consider him a man with a complete lack of culture.  And his son adores my knit wool socks and has to be forced to stop wearing them when the weather tops 80 degrees.  I also try to make him understand that striped knee socks don't go with shorts.  But I digress...

About a year ago I got involved with The Mother Bear Project.  This group sends hand-knit or hand-crocheted bears primarily to kids affected by HIV/AIDS in developing countries.  (You can read more about this group and the horrors of the AIDS crisis in Africa for these children here.)  Since some of these kids literally do not have one toy to call their own, The Mother Bear Project was formed to put lovingly made bears into their hands.  Sometimes I wonder how much good I'm really doing.  Obviously these kids' problems are not going to be solved by one grizzly in a skirt, but then I also think that if it can bring them a little joy, give just a trace of comfort, then it's worth doing.

I've donated twenty bears so far and have another six or seven ready to go in the next shipment of ten.  The pattern, which is purchased through The Mother Bear Project website, is based on a WWII-era pattern.  It's a simple design, originally used to make toys for English children being evacuated from areas most at risk for bombing during the war.  The wonderful thing about it is that it's basic enough that any mildly proficient knitter/crocheter can make one.  However, it can also be modified with hats, skirts, hoodies, headbands, flowered embellishments.  If you want to be bowled over, check out some of the pictures in the Ravelry group here. There are some amazingly creative women there.  My donations tend to be a little more basic:

I'm wild about the hoodie! 
Directions on Ravelry here.

I've written previously about my relationship with a once-abused dog named Tristan and his rescuer mommy, Lori.  I've been sending him handmade toys on holidays for three years or so and according to Lori he loves them.  The problem has always been that I hate to make them.  I found knitting dolls to be beyond painful and crocheting them was only slightly better.  Still, I slogged along every holiday because they made him so happy.  When I discovered Mother Bear I was suddenly blessed with a pattern that did not make me twitchy to knit and could be adapted to any theme or season or reason.  He may never get another pattern again.  And I think that's alright with him.  Some recent examples:

The vampire for Halloween.

An Easter ducky

Tristan's brother, Tully, had a recent
medical emergency, so he needed
his own home health aide.

Christmas bear gets the taffy-pull treatment.

If you're interested in crafting for The Mother Bear Project (or making a monetary donation), you can check out the website here.  If you'd like to know about Tristan and Lori, you can check out her dog-lbs. blog here

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Today is the first of the semiannual weep fests known as my children's birthdays.  The Professor turns sixteen today.  For one day at least I'm able to see past the pimples and 5'10" frame, ignore his constant jokes about genitalia, and put from my mind the fact that he's now legally allowed to drive a car.  For 24 hours I remember the little boy obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine, dinosaurs, and aliens.  The kid who compulsively watched Jurassic Fight Club, Monster Quest, and Primeval.  I remember his various short-lived obsessions like being a spy, collecting paintings from antique stores, and wanting to start a Patridge Family-style band (even though none of us can play anything except the recorder and then nothing more complex than "Hot Cross Buns").  

With Grandma-made Jedi robe.
Photo albums in lap, I took a trip down memory lane to some of his past birthday parties.  There were bears and trains and James Bond-themed soirees.  We did Star Wars and U.F.O.'s and Scooby Doo.  This year's theme was "Give Me Cash and Leave Me Alone."  Okay, maybe it wasn't that bad, but it's definitely been low key.  Friday evening Uncle Chester took him for his traditional gift of a rib dinner at Montgomery Inn.  Saturday was lunch at Applebee's.  In the evening was carry-out Dewey's Pizza with homemade cake and presents and no decorations.  His grandmother gave him cash.  We gave him cash and a dvd he picked out -- a double feature of the B horror movies Psycho Santa and Satan Claus, plus a new hard drive for his computer so he has room for all the videos he downloads.  (I pray they're not porn.  Probably are.)

A chic fedora and a briefcase full of spy gear.
 This morning I'm baking another cake for his actual birthday and he'll be taken out for a steak dinner.  I have one surprise gift.  He loves the song 99 Luftballons and I found a t-shirt at Threadless with the same name that literally has 99 red balloons pictured on it.  Thought he might get a kick out of it.  Or, like many other shirts, he'll never wear it and I'll end up stealing it for myself.

What happened to getting videos
of The Wiggles?
I try not to think about how close we are to high school graduation or dwell on the question of how many years are left when I'll see him on his birthday at all.  How soon before he's too busy with some girl to even show up for his cash or his cake?  Sniff, sniff...  Okay, time to go torture myself with some home videos of a baby in an Exersaucer....

Seems like a week ago.

Monday, May 4, 2015


Should I be embarrassed to say that the main reason I registered for the Flying Pig's 10K race is because of the logo?  Cincinnati is hosting this year's All Star Game and as soon as I saw the adorable little piggy in the baseball cap I knew I had to have a medal of that.

The all-powerful Shrinky Dink charm.
I did not go into Saturday's 6.2 mile race with any great expectations.  In the back of my mind had always been the goal of finishing just under an hour and 30 minutes.  That would require a pace of a little better than four m.p.h. the whole way.  I can walk that fast, but not necessarily for six miles.  And Cincinnati has some hills.  Quite a few hills.  This was not like walking loops around a high school track.  As of Friday evening my personal best time had been one hour, 33 minutes or roughly a 15:06 per mile pace.  To finish in goal time, by the skin of my teeth, I need to average no more than 14:30 per mile.  Ugh...  Yeah, I couldn't do that.  I'd never done that.  Still, Friday night I kept thinking about it.  I even made a tiny Shrinky Dink tag for my shoelace.

I honored my Earthathon team on my racing bib.
My cheering section for the 10K consisted of my sister (the Inmates' beloved Uncle Chester) and my husband.  For some reason my children turned down the chance to get up at six a.m. on a Saturday so we could get downtown and in position for the eight a.m. race.  In fact, my sister regularly stays up until three or four in the morning, so she wasn't running on all eight cylinders, either.  (Even on her best day she's lucky to be running on six.) 

The race's corrals were lined up on Joe Nuxhall Way next to Great American Ballpark.  I was in corral F, reserved for those of us who thought it would take us longer than 1:30:00 to finish the race.  Yeah, we were literally the end of the line.  But we were festive!  There were piggy hats and piggy tails and sparkly tutus, my favorite on a burly 30-something man.  What we lacked in speed we made up for in attitude.  Fearing footage of me plodding along the course would turn up on YouTube, I made myself as inconspicuous as possible in capri pants and the Flying Pig t-shirt.  I have this phobia about going viral on the Internet...  At one point my sister suddenly glared up at a window above the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum before realizing the man looking down on her was actually a poster of Pete Rose sliding into third base.  (Later at lunch she said she felt like she was having a "flaccid assback".  She'd meant to say "acid flashback."  Yeah, she needed some sleep.)

I handed my jacket off to the Vulcan and my purse to Uncle Chester.  They both wanted off the course before the race officially started and they got trampled by a woman wearing a pig nose and sequined pink headband.  As the 4500 participants slowly moved as one toward the starting line, I plugged in my earphones and got my Green Day-heavy playlist ready.  While the handy Flying Pig app allows family and friends to track folks in the real races (i.e., full and half marathons), my cheering section was stuck with the lower tech version of me texting my husband at each mile marker.  As we went over the starting line, I clicked the chronograph feature on my watch and set out to the tune "500 Miles" by The Proclaimers.  So I wasn't really going to walk 500 miles, but at that moment it kinda felt that way.  (Anyone familiar with Cincinnati and interested can see the course map here.)

I walked along for about a quarter of a mile, my legs gradually warming up and getting looser.  Then I did the strangest thing.  I started to jog.  I had sworn I was not going to do my basset hound trot in public, but there is power in the combination of adrenaline and a slight competitiveness.  I began to pass people.  And every time I passed some boney-ass looking cute and perky in her Lycra jogging shorts, I felt a shot of energy go through me and I went just a little faster.  I know, I know.  It's petty and bitchy and juvenile.  Damn, it was fun. 

I crossed that bridge at some point...I think...
We crossed the bridge into Newport, Kentucky.  I glanced at my watch at the first mile marker as I fumbled to pull my phone out of its case and text The Vulcan.  It read 13 minutes and change.  Wow, that was well under the pace I needed.  I continued to walk, tossing in a jog about a third of the time.  At the second marker I was still well under pace.  I felt the energy shoot up again.  Could I do it?  Could I actually get in under 1:30:00?  I tried to do mental arithmetic and figure how much my pace could slow and still make the goal.  I gave up as I slurped water at the 2.5 mile station, spilling more on my shirt than I got in my mouth.  My notorious lack of a sense of direction left me wondering why nothing in Cincinnati was looking familiar.  We had crossed the bridge back into Ohio, yet my surroundings still looked like northern Kentucky.  It wasn't until I got to the three mile mark and we started to cross the big bridge that I realized that other bridge had been over the Licking River and we were still in Kentucky.  Yeah, this is why I never leave home without my phone and MapQuest app. 

As we crossed we were saluted with honks and waves from a guy in a cement mixer and the driver of the train going the opposite direction.  Once over the bridge into Ohio I knew I was past the halfway mark.  I glanced at my watch and the time was under 41 minutes.  Holy crap!  I was still on pace.  A little more Green Day, a little more jogging, a little more adrenaline when I lumbered past the skinny bitch in the pink jogging skirt.  Okay, she may have been a perfectly nice lady, but she was thin and had nice legs and probably would have made fun of me in high school, so I used my bitterness to my advantage. 

By mile four we were back near the stadium and the spectators had increased significantly.  So did my anxiety.  I slowed down to a walk again and tried to figure out if I could reach my goal without any canine cavorting.  Then I thought, "To hell with it."  I caught my breath, then went back to my ungainly gallop.  At mile five I texted my husband for the last time.  All that fiddling with the phone and its case and trying to type was slowing me down even more and I needed all the seconds I could get.  I shoved the phone case in my pocket and checked my watch.  It read an hour and six minutes.  A few quick calculations and I realized I could walk the last 1.2 miles at a very moderate 3.2 m.p.h. and still come in under 1:30:00.  I couldn't believe it.  I could make it.

As "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred blared in my ears I started to get worried.  What if I suddenly hit the wall?  What if some muscle decided to pop and I could only limp the rest of the way?  I had visions of me crawling to the finish line as all the skinny bitches ran past me and my goal slipped away.  I started to jog again.  By that point I probably looked like I was wearing ankle weights, my feet fighting gravity with each step.  I chugged up the tiny incline on Pete Rose Way that now felt as steep as Mt. Everest.  The six mile marker was in sight.  I could make it.  I think I can, I think I can...  OK, only two-tenths of a mile.  I inhaled deeply and slowed down to a walk.

Up ahead I could see the "Finish Swine".  I was gonna do it!  I looked to my left and could see my cheering section.  I waved my arms at them and then saw their looks of recognition as they picked me out of the crowd.  I gave them two thumbs-up as I walked past and there are few times in my life when I've been quite that happy.  I intended to just walk across the line, but in my peripheral vision I caught one last bouncing Barbie coming up on the inside.  With a final jolt of adrenaline, I scuttled away from her and across the line.

I tried to catch my breath as a teenage boy put the medal around my neck and another guy handed me a Mylar blanket.  I'm sure I looked like an idiot, smiling to myself as I wandered into the recovery area practically jumping up and down.  I slurped a cup of Gatorade and grabbed a bottle of water.  My cheerleaders were to meet me outside this participants-only area.  I didn't see them, so I took the opportunity to email my mommy.  My official time, I found out later, was 1:21:41.  I honest to God didn't think it was possible.  I didn't think I could move that well if I had a zombie on my ass and a donut truck in front of me.

So, do I consider myself a great athlete now?  Not hardly.  The real athletes were crossing the finish line before I hit the first water station.  It never was about me being fast or good compared to anyone else.  It was me compared to a past me, By-Default-Girl.  I remember trying to do Jane Fonda's workout tape when I was in high school, her second one that had an aerobic section about three minutes long.  I couldn't do it.  I had no stamina whatsoever.  That certainly didn't improve as I got older.  My joy isn't because I did something no one else could do.  It's because I did something I didn't think I could do.  And there's magic in that, I tell you.  Magic.