28 September 2010

a prayer of thankfulness

The tree stands tall,
a smidge taller than the other trees around,
like a pre-schooler standing on her tippy-toes
so she's the tallest one in the class picture.

That very top part, that taller tip of the tree
shines like a crown:
golden leaves
ruby leaves
emerald leaves.
Regal in the cathedral of the sky.

On an early morning run,
I pass the tree
and I release a sigh of thankfulness.

For leaves and cathedrals
and for the color blue,
for pre-schoolers and for how my legs move,
carrying me forward into the day,
as I pray in sighs and inhalations.

27 September 2010

in which i am too smart for my own good

Somewhat inexplicably, I signed up to bake for two separate occasions this week.

Normally, this wouldn't be a problem:  is baking ever a real, heart-wrenching problem?  No, and actually, some people, perhaps me, bake as a way to deal with heart-wrenching problems.  There's nothing that a spoonful of creamed sugar and butter won't fix, and I'm not one of those people worried about eating the raw egg in cookie dough.

My baking problem this week is more with my schedule.  I'm leaving on vacation on Friday morning, and I made a 22-item to-do list last night of what needs to get done before I leave.

When you have 22 items staring you down—and a day job your boss apparently wants to be at, mixed with an evening schedule that makes you question your self-described introvertedness—the time you need to bake something starts to look implausible. You start to feel like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, running around with a pocket watch, chattering on about how you're late.

After making the to-do list, I slotted each of those 22 items into various lunch hours and before-work hours.  The baking got stuck in the post-evening activity time, a dangerous time for me.  Once 9pm comes, I don't think I should be trusted with the precise proportions needed for baking.

Last night, though, I had a brilliant idea:  I could make brownies from a box.  This idea maybe already occurred to you as a way to save time, without having to stay up past my bedtime or skip over important {but time-consuming} details such as pre-heating the oven or letting the eggs come to room temperature.

Maybe it's a pride thing, this fighting the urge to bake a mix and call it good.  Ok.  It's obviously a pride thing.


I would like to say that it's also a practical thing:  I have armloads of apples to use from my apple picking, if-I-could-I-would-hug-fall experience, and I have this amazing French apple tart recipe.  Practicality and Frenchness is a beautiful combination that I try to put on display whenever I can.

Also, add item #23 to the list:  use apples so they don't go to waste.

So an apple tart:  that took care of one baking commitment, and I decided to go the easy boxed brownie route for the other commitment.

{I keep boxes of brownies and cakes in the back of the pantry for such a time as this.  I may like baking and cooking, but I'm no culinary superwoman:  there are times when I just want it fast.  This is why you'll also find beans and weenies in the back of the pantry, for those nights when I don't want to cook.}

Enter the challenge:  I didn't have any eggs, and the brownies needed water, oil, and one egg.  That's it.  So simple.  But sometimes, I like to make really simple things really complex, I guess.

I thought about my options:  re-arrange the carefully slotted schedule so that I could bake these brownies after buying eggs.  Or use a little kitchen science to substitute.

Of course I didn't go for the option that involved waiting and patience and re-arranging my schedule.
No, instead, I thought:  eggs are a leavening agent.  They aren't in there for flavor or to make the dry ingredients become more you know, batter-ish.  The egg is just to make the brownies grow a little.

Baking powder is also a leavening agent, and I learned a few years ago from my Cooking without Mom cookbook {yes, that's the real title, and yes, that's how I learned to cook} that you can substitute 1/2 tsp baking powder for one egg in batters.

Smiling to myself about my smartness and ingenuity and how well I was going to get through this busy, over-scheduled week, I mixed the baking powder into the brownie mix, along with the water and oil.

45 minutes later, I learned that I am too smart for my own good.

And that an egg-less brownie mix is not so good.

I was folding laundry and ironing, and the whole apartment smelled like Betty Crocker had moved in.  When the timer went off and I pulled the pan out of the oven, I saw that the brownies looked like something that would make Betty Crocker gnash her teeth and then glare at me.  She'd probably also rip off her apron and throw it at my face.

The brownies were a goopy mess, and no, I shouldn't have left them in for longer {lest you're thinking I was hasty in judging my own brownie disaster}.  The edges were burnt, and I know a brownie disaster when I see one.

Moral of the story:  don't overthink the brownie mix.  You don't have to be Julia Child every time you touch a pan.  Just get out the water, oil, and egg, stir 40 strokes like the box tells you to, and move on with your life.

Also, don't run out of eggs.  Ever.

26 September 2010

an apple a day

Until today, I had never been apple picking, a sad, shocking fact when you realize how much I talk about pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin patches, the glory of leaves changing colors, and wearing sweaters.

A few weeks ago, I set some seasonal goals for myself, the most important one being:  pick apples.

If any frolicking in an apple orchard or drinking apple cider happened concurrent to that, that would just be a bonus.

I really just wanted to pick a bushel, or perhaps a peck {if I could figure out what that is}, of apples.  While doing so, I wanted to sing "I love you a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck" from Guys and Dolls.

Today, I picked half a bushel of apples, of Jonathan and Empire apples.

I did not sing because I was kidding about that part, but I did drink apple cider and I was wearing a hoodie and my friends and I laughed loudly and often as we lugged our half-bushel of little apples across the orchard, all under a crystal blue sky.

I think I'll make some pie out of sheer americana and excitement from getting to check off a goal.  Because seriously, what else am I going to do with all these apples?

24 September 2010

on grammar: i'm not josie grossie anymore

Today is National Punctuation Day, and I hope you've planned a party, perhaps one involving a banner that uses all forms of punctuation.

I think the most difficult punctuation mark to use on a banner would be the semi-colon; it's so refined and gentle, a place for a thoughtful pause.  The point of a banner, however, is usually not to encourage you towards a thoughtful pause.

Banners are more:  OMG!  It's National Punctuation Day?!??!  Let the nerdy jokes begin.

Ok, that's not a very catchy banner.  Good thing my job isn't making banners.

My official job title is Editorial Director, which instills fear in people that I'm constantly judging them on their grammar and use of punctuation, making this a very apt day for me to say:  I am not judging you, people.

I'm not laughing at you in my head.

I'm not keeping a list in a secret journal of ridiculous mistakes, all with the hope of publishing it one day so that everyone else can laugh at you.  (10 points to whoever can come up with a pithy title.  Also, I will credit you in the book.  Oh, wait.  I'm not writing that book.  Right.  Forget I just offered you 10 points.)

And most importantly, I'm not going to correct you mid-conversation.  Can you imagine this?

You:  "So me and my sister...."
Me:  "My sister and I..."
You:  "Yeah.  My sister and I was going..."
Me:  "My sister and I were going..."

And on and on with the interruptions.  That story would take hours to tell, and it probably wouldn't be all that interesting if you had to keep starting over, even if it involved incredibly exciting things such as a Sasquatch or whitewater rafting on the Colorado River while being chased by a Sasquatch.

I would be bored by the end of it, and you'd never want to speak to me again:  how is that a good ending to a friendly conversation?

I must confess, though:  I used to correct people on their grammar.  This was in high school, and a lot of things you do in high school fall under the category of "please give me incredible amounts of grace for this."  This applies to dresses worn to Homecoming dances, people you chose to date, and any mixed tape you made at that time.

Then the movie Never Been Kissed came out.  You know, the one where Drew Barrymore plays a geeky reporter who has to go back to high school for a story, and well, she's never been kissed.  Hope I'm not giving away too much there.

The movie goes to great lengths to show how socially awkward and geeky Drew is, and there are multiple scenes where she corrects people's grammar and then does this definition-of-geekdom snort.  Snorting always softens the blow of being corrected in public.

When I saw that movie, it's not that I thought I was looking at my future:  if I continue correcting people's misplaced modifiers, I will end up like Drew's character, Josie {and everyone called her Josie Grossie in high school.  Thank heavens my name doesn't rhyme with anything gross.  At least I don't think it does.  I assume if it did, this would've been discovered in elementary school, when everyone gets horrible nicknames.}.

It's more that I saw how rude you come across when you correct someone on a little tiny thing like using the word "hopefully" incorrectly.  It's not a kind service to humanity; it's showcasing yourself by pointing out someone else's mistake.

So my best friend and I—yes, she corrected people, too, at times {we were a fun pair to be around, obviously}—made this pact: whenever one of us corrected someone {or laughed at them, even if we saved up the laughing for later}, that person would have to say, in her worst Drew Barrymore impression, "But I'm not Josie Grossie anymore!"

That pact actually worked.  It's exactly the kind of nerdy thing that would work for two girls who were a bit too attached to their grammar, usage, and mechanics textbooks.

So.  Happy National Punctuation Day. 

Im not Josie Grossie anymore.

23 September 2010

only a branch

I thought I'd show you my abide Post-it Note.  And now you can see that it's actually a more complex, fancy Post-it Note than I lead you to believe in my cubicle life ramblings.

Yes, this is a two Post-it Note reminder:  that's how much I need to hear this message about remaining calm, about how I'm not, nor do I need to be, the center of attention.  The Big Deal.  The Envy of Those Around Me.

Bonus with this:  you can see my art skills.  I certainly don't want to brag {that would go against my declaration not 3 seconds ago that I don't need to be a Big Deal}, but I definitely have the drawing-a-tree thing down.

Should you ever come to my house {and you're always welcome...unless it's past 10pm.  My early-to-bed-early-to-rise body shuts down then, and I a1a)
start not making much sense, and b2b) am more likely to get snippy with you.}...so should you ever stop by at a previously-approved hour, you'll see that trees figure prominently in my artwork. 

I just finished a painting that's a close-up of a tree.

In one of my favorite paintings—the only one I've ever titled—I painted a tree that has just one little bud on it.  It's called "Hope Springs."

I've written about trees, too.  You can read this thing I wrote for my church's blog, and you'll see yep, once again, there I go with the trees.

Do you ever look back on times in your life and realize that there was a theme running through it?  Like very obviously running through it?  You're not sure how you missed it when you were living it, but hey, daily life sometimes has a nasty habit of obscuring all but the most mundane {until you look hard enough past that}.

It was only this morning, as the beginning of a poem about a tree came to me while I was running, that I realized that trees and branches {and all the accoutrements of trees} could be called a theme of my recent past.

I think it's the strength and changeable beauty combined; I think that's what is drawing me to trees right now as an image of reassurance

Think of it this way:  a lot of us, me included, have trouble adapting to change.  But when I see the first burst of autumnal color—when I see those first few leaves starting to turn—I can't help it: I am excited by that change.

I know it may sound silly, but once you realize that you can be excited by change, you start to see seasons of transition a bit differently.  You start to see the beauty and the bursts of color.  You start to see the leaves on the ground {which you know should represent death} as proof that change can be invigorating...if you kick through it hard enough.

This is a very spare explanation of my current tree obsession, but I hope you can see now why a Post-it Note with only a branch on it can help me handle the hard days at work.

22 September 2010

cubicle life

I have these little signs up in my cubicle.  

They're mostly to keep me motivated and focused and calm, but I think there's also some little vestige of my high school self:  I loved decorating my locker.

The whole locker decorating concept was so pivotal to BHS culture that we had a special night for it every year, a night that ended with a dance.  And any high school event that ends with a dance is clearly important.  If there was a crowning involved at some point, then it was doubly important.

Anything written on a Post-it Note in an office is also clearly important, at least if you're in my office.  Or maybe just in my cubicle.

I hear that there are these incredibly useful technological advances that allow you to track your task list on a computer, but me, I'm an old-fashioned girl.  Give me a hot pink Post-it and a good pen any day over that dinging reminder on Outlook.

Besides, once you finish a Post-it Note task, you get to crumple it up and throw it into the recycle bin.  Win-win-win {the last win was for the environment}.

However, looking at your to-do list, even if it's on a tiny piece of paper {and tiny always implies cute and less overwhelming}, can, at times, feel de-motivating.

Task upon task.  Post-it Note upon Post-it Note, and once you start thinking along the "it's just one thing after another" line, it's not that far down the line before you're thinking:  I wasn't made to be in a cubicle.  I wish I had a door.  Oh, for the glory of walls that go all the way to the ceiling—walls that block out every itty-bitty piece of conversation in this office.  I wish someone besides that movie Office Space had let me know what office life is really like.

And you see, those are unhelpful thoughts.  But like most unhelpful thoughts, they pile up before you realize what's happening.

The day is going along well until you step outside for a short break and the air feels cool and warm at the same time because it's just barely fall.  You sit down on the one bench near your office building and you think about how you feel like you missed the summer.

Then the back of your brain starts nudging you about your to-do list, just waiting for you back in the cubicle, and bam, you're at the bottom of one of those football tackles, struggling to breathe and holding on to the ball.

This is when I turn to my motivational Post-it Notes to pull myself out of the pile.

I have two main ones that remind me that I'm more than my job and that my to-do list isn't actually a balance sheet of my worth.

Motivational Post-it #1

Not everything:  checklists and to-do/must do and projects and catch up/follow-up and details and big picture and...and...and...

Not everything is dependent upon today.

That's a lot to fit on a Post-it, I know.  I write very small {and quite neatly, might I add}, and I used several Post-its for this one.

I could probably accomplish the same idea with a Post-it saying "Chillax, Kamiah," but I don't know if the cool kids are saying chillax anymore and besides, my way sounds more poetical.

I just need a little perspective help:  even the biggest task can be accomplished, little-by-little, day-by-day.

Motivational Post-it #2


I was in a small group last spring that read through Andrew Murray's
The True Vine, a thin book that goes deep into the John 15 stuff on how Jesus is the true vine and we are the branches.  He {Jesus, not Andrew Murray} says, "Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can you, except you abide in me."

This isn't going to become a theological, "Oh, isn't Jesus and everything about him and everyone who believes in him...isn't that all just so terrific?" sort of post.

Rather, I simply want to say:  I get the idea of how I'm a branch and how branches are entirely dependent on the trunk {or the vine, in this example} to produce anything.

Those days when I'm feeling antsy about my life, it helps me to remember that I'm a branch and that even though I feel pulled in 32 directions, my main job is to abide.  To rest.  To trust.  To be connected to the tree.

Branches don't have to have everything figured out, and that one word, that abide, on my Post-it Note reminds me of that.

And sometimes, that's what gets me through the day in my cubicle.

16 September 2010

life lessons, learned via running

Acknowledging the notion that this is starting to seem like a running blog {or a blog where I talk myself out of feeling bad about my race on Sunday}, I've written about running again.

If you don't want to read about running again, you can try this.  I promise it's not about running at all. 

If you want to persevere and read about running one more time:  congratulations.  You seem to already have one of the traits that running develops in people—sticking with something, even when you're not sure why.

And that brings me to my point:  Running is notoriously full of life lessons.

There are the obvious ones: discipline, motivation, goal-setting.

These are obvious even to non-runners, as they see a group of runners at Starbucks at 8:00 on a Saturday morning, sweat caked on their faces if it's summer or faces still bright red from the cold if it's winter. They hear the runners talking about how they got up at 5:00 on a weekend to run miles and miles so that they can set a new personal record {PR} in their next race. That's discipline, motivation, and goal-setting on display for everyone with a tall latte to see.

Then there are the less-obvious lessons.

Learning how to reward yourself, even with small things—that's one.

Runners are good at pushing through a long run because they've promised themselves a big breakfast, complete with sausage and five cups of coffee. I've done a manicure/pedicure before as a reward—that was after the NYC Half-marathon in 2008. I went to this little place on the Upper West Side my dad calls Connie Chung's. It's really just called Connie's, but for reason we don't get, he always tacks on the Chung and so that is its family name.

Non-runners may find this illogical and preposterous: why would you run for hours, only to give yourself coffee?

Small rewards do work, at least for very small children and runners.

When I would go to the dentist as a little girl, I would get so excited to pick something out of the Treasure Chest at the end of my cleaning. The stuff in there probably cost a penny to make at a factory in China—we're talking plastic whistles and stickers and pencils with those erasers that don't really work—but it was special because it a) was in a wooden Treasure Chest. It's all about presentation, and every 6-year-old knows that anything in a Treasure Chest is worth it. And b) I enjoyed focusing on the dilemma of what to get while getting my teeth cleaned.

Should I go for the stickers this time? Maybe that whistle shaped like a bird that even sounds like a real bird when you put water in it? These are very helpful, distracting thoughts when you're trying not to think about how someone has their fingers in your mouth.

Runners learn how to re-capture that reward mentality and put it to good use. Now, it's not like I promise myself a new car after every big race: I have just the one garage and then there are the limited financial resources to consider.

Through running, I've learned how to be motivated by small things—and how to really appreciate those small things. This is, perhaps, why I have my list of small life necessities. They're simple rewards that bring simple pleasure, but they help counter the idea that you should always strive after the next big thing. What you have right now, the small joys of the everyday, can bring contentment.

14 September 2010

i fought the wall, and the wall won

"To hit the wall" in running means that, mid-race, you come to the end of your physical abilities.

Thighs screaming like a 3-year-old who's just had her well-loved teddy bear snatched away by a bigger kid {with hands covered in snot} who told her, as he ripped out a little bear eye, that Santa doesn't exist and there's a good chance that the Tooth Fairy doesn't, either.

Joints whining like a 97-year-old who has arthritis and can tell you how much it will rain just and what direction the wind will come from, just by bending his knee.

The labored breathing.  The dry mouth.

The desperate-eyed straining ahead to see if maybe, just maybe if you squint hard enough, you can see the finish line.  And then you can will it to come closer to you.  By that point, you're convinced you have super powers.  I mean, if you can't run anymore, perhaps you've suddenly developed the ability to shape-shift or something.

This wall-hitting thing has never happened to me before in a race—until Sunday.  In fact, just to make sure I was talking about the right thing, I googled "hitting the wall" just before I started writing this.

Wikipedia tells me I'm right.

Also, should you be interested, there's a WikiHow about running up to a wall and flipping that shows up when you google this wall concept.  Google may have been a little off with my search results.

Or perhaps they were just eerily prescient:  ever since I saw Singin' in the Rain, I have wanted to run up to a wall and flip, just like Cosmo does in that "Make 'em Laugh" song.

Google, get out of my dreams.

But back to the wall, which attacked me on Sunday at a half-marathon.  And even though the title of this says that the wall won, I really only said that because it's part of the song I'm parodying. 

The wall didn't exactly win.

That doesn't mean I won, though.

I finished.  It was the hardest race of my life, and I finished. 

A more exact image would be:  during the race, I bumped into the wall.  Hard.  And I was dazed for awhile, but then I figured out that I just needed to turn to the right, and I could avoid hitting the wall more.  I was by the wall the whole time, running my hand along it, actually, for support, but I didn't hit again.

My race on Sunday got me thinking about what I've learned from running.

And yes, of course I'm putting a positive spin on this very dismal experience.  My friends tell me I have a sometimes-helpful habit of pretending to be Pollyanna playing the Glad Game—always looking for that twist of happy excitement you can find in any dismal experience, if you let yourself stare hard enough.  It's not lying to yourself. Nor is it about repressing disappointment, anger, or frustration.  It's about recognizing those emotions are there, but being able to move on from them.

That's what I've done with Sunday's half-marathon.

Was I disappointed?  Um, yes:  I was going for my best time ever, and instead, I got my second worst time.

Am I angry?  I was a bit, but it's hard to know where to point that anger and unpointed anger tends to dissipate rather quickly.

Was I frustrated?  Well, yeah:  I did everything just like I normally do before a race {runners are kind of superstitious people when it comes to pre-race rituals}.  I had pasta carbonara the night before {or, as my mama calls it, poor man's spaghetti}.  I slept well.  I had a banana with peanut butter for breakfast.  I'd put in my time training.  So why, dear body of mine, did you decide to bump into the wall? 

Focusing on all the negative, "Kamiah, you should've done better" thoughts running through my head gets me nowhere but bitter, a place I never want to be. 

So—here comes Pollyana, or as I prefer to think of my streak of optimism, a blend of Pollyanna and Anne Shirley—I've started this list of running lessons.  And I'm not going to give this list now, mostly because it's not done yet, but I just wanted you to know about it. 

And that I had a horrific race on Sunday—but that today, I was smiling on my 3-mile jog.

13 September 2010

field of dreams {or, the one short story i've written}

So I'm not really a fiction girl.  I like reading it.  You don't reference Jane Austen in your blog name if you don't like reading it.

But I'm not much of a fiction writer.  The idea of making up other people frightens me; I'm having enough trouble understanding the ones in my real life.

Here, then, is perhaps the only fiction you'll ever see from me.  Unless I lie to you, which I don't plan on doing.

It's a short story.  A really short story.  A ridiculously short story.  But I can handle made up people for under 1,000 words, it seems.


“Michael, Olivia. Olivia, Michael.”

She had been staring at her sensible shoes, an old Nine West model in navy. They were too practical, if too practical even existed for a true Midwest girl.

When her mom had bought the shoes for Olivia’s senior homecoming dance, she had said, “Those will be serviceable.” Serviceable always made Olivia think of the Great Depression and how farm wives made clothes for all 14 children out of three used flour sacks. That was serviceable, sensible, practical.

Navy Nine West low heels with a tiny bow from seven years ago were, at best, a fashion coup d’etat: it suggested that the Midwest with its Carhartt, denim jumpers, and appliquéd vests could direct the style of America.

Why had Olivia let her mama talk her into bringing these with her when she had moved to New York City? Why had she so easily fallen into the trap set up by the typical Midwestern argument?

“But, honey, you’ve barely worn them. You need to get good use out of them.” In Iowa, it was all about good use; life was good use. In New York City, it was all about the next thing, and things didn’t stick around long enough to get good use.

Olivia was wondering if anyone here knew that she’d bought her shoes in high school from Younkers, the department store non-Iowans don’t know about. They think it’s made up, like Farm King and Farm Fling.

When she heard Mr. McArthur introducing her again, Olivia pulled out the confident yet fake smile that showed too many teeth and that she always used around her boss.

“Olivia, this is Michael. Michael, Olivia.”

With an askance glance at Olivia, Mr. McArthur schmoozed his way back to the bar.

Olivia’s eyes moved from her own wrong shoes to the pair of shoes a foot from hers. Why do men’s shoes always look the same, acceptably the same? He could’ve bought his shoes in 1951, and it wouldn’t have mattered, not that Mr. McArthur would try to set her up with someone who was old enough to buy men’s shoes in 1951.

Michael had stuck out a hand to shake, and Olivia realized this a split second too late for the handshake to really be comfortable. She switched her drink to her left hand and grabbed his right, trying to extract her mind from Younkers and 1951.

“Hello, I’m Olivia. Oh, he already covered that bit, didn’t he?” She lifted her eyes just as she finished her Ode to Making Inane Comments.

And there was her future husband.

It sounds ridiculous, and she knows it.

Here she was, a successful, independent, sensible woman, a woman who graduated Magna Cum Laude from Grinnell College, a woman who had read 97 of the 100 Greatest Books in English by the time she was 21, a woman who could run six miles, walk the puppy, and make a no-fat, fresh fruit protein booster smoothie for breakfast all before 7am—here she was losing herself in the dream world better left to 15-year-old girls reading Seventeen.

Olivia saw herself standing next to him at the top of a Gone with the Wind-esque staircase. She was in the requisite black dress, a little thing from Prada whose price tag was anything but sensible and practical. They glided down the stairs and into the restaurant. The walls were mirrors, and Olivia saw the two of them reaching into infinity, an appropriate symbol.

Fast forward (so convenient how Olivia’s mind could do that and skip over all the dullness, the normalness of life) to Date #102.

Michael has brought her back to the restaurant with the graceful staircase and cascade of mirrors. They laugh, they eat outrageously expensive yet ridiculously small entrées, they talk about Deep Things.

Olivia can’t actually imagine this deep conversation because she knows nothing about Michael beyond that he has soft, hold-able hands, but in her mind she dazzles him with her wit and intelligence. He dazzles her with a Tiffany’s box.

Before Olivia can stop herself, she’s in Vera Wang white for the wedding. Here comes the bride. I do. Daffodils everywhere. No, maybe daisies. No, definitely daffodils—unexpected. An outdoor wedding. Blue sky. Sage green bridesmaid dresses. Who should be the maid of honor? You may kiss the bride. Mr. & Mrs. Whatever His Name Is. Happily ever after and a honeymoon to Victoria, BC.

Michael lets go of her hand. Olivia is back to reality, to the party in Mr. McArthur’s Park Avenue apartment, to Michael’s intellectual but sweet blue eyes, to his curly brown hair, to his just-crooked smile…Olivia has to stop her mind from running away into twin girls and a baby boy the image of his father.

“Mac tells me you’re from Iowa…”

Oh, no, Olivia thinks, here come the mocking questions about corn, pork, and however did you manage to grow up there?

“I’m from Iowa, too.”

Olivia about drops her drink. It was a match made in heaven.

11 September 2010

run. run. run.

Bad dress rehearsal, good performance.

This normally, of course, applies to the theater {or the theatre, depending on how pretentious and British I'm feeling}.  But I'm taking that mentality and running with it.


As in tomorrow, I'm running a half-marathon, and I just had this horrific 3-mile run.

3 miles.

And it felt like I was running through tar or molasses or cotton.

Or like I was on a road made of tar and I'd just been slathered in molasses and then rolled in cotton. And then fed a 12-course meal {where every course used either a pound of butter or a pound of heavy cream} before being told to take to the open road of stickiness.

Not exactly a shining moment of athleticism.

It certainly wasn't one of those runs that, by the end, I feel like I'm in step with the world and anything is possible. At the end of runs like that, I have enough energy to make a chocolate souffle while wearing an apron I just whipped up. At the very least, at the end of a run like that, I can take on my work day.

Today was not one of those days, and so I'm going with the bad dress rehearsal, good performance mentality.

Running is a mental sport, after all.  In my head while I'm running, there's a lot of, 'Okay, Mia, you can run one more mile.  Anyone can run a mile.  Okay, good.  Now, breathe in slowly.  Fill the diaphragm.  Focus, focus.'

Trust me, it's a lot more fun in my brain than that snippet would imply. I have to admit, while I'm running, there's also a lot of, 'What do I need to get at the grocery store? Why can't I get this song out of my head? Oooh, look at the how the shadows are moving on the path! I love cool morning runs. I'm going to have lots of coffee when I'm done with this. Dang. I'm out of cream. I should put that on the grocery list. Now, what else do I need to get there?'

This afternoon as I stretched on the living room floor—while watching the Iowa-Iowa State game, the only college football game I bet I'll watch this year—I was encouraged by this dress rehearsal thought.

I'm convinced that tomorrow, just before I start running at 8:30, my body will pull itself together and refuse to feel terrible while running. It will be motivated by how horrible today felt, and it will do better.

I think the massage I promised myself as a race reward will also help with the motivation. I am not above bribing my own body to behave.

09 September 2010

the weather outside is frightful

Typically, I'm not one to skip past fall. 

It was only this morning that I felt deliciously tempted to wear a scarf, one in earthy tones.  Preferably, I'd wear this scarf while picking apples, which is actually something I've never done, but it seems so autumn-esque.

Given my level of love for other things fall {bonfires, apple cider, pumpkin spice lattes, sweaters,  what the leaves look like when the setting sun lights them, pensive rainy days, candy corn}, I'm not sure why I haven't gone apple picking.

I feel a seasonal goal coming on.  Other fall goals may be: bake a lot of things with pumpkin in them and kick through piles of leaves every chance you get.

So clearly, no, I don't want to skip past fall, but I found this poem this morning that I'd written last December.  Even though it talks about snow {and explicitly mentions Christmas}, I wanted to share it now. 

Maybe this means I'm not good at waiting because yes, of course I could just save this until actual snow time again.

But here's the deal: I love seasons.  I love how varied they are here in the Midwest, and I love that they give us all something to talk about, all the time.  A guaranteed subject to fill any idle second. 

Not that we spend all our time talking about the weather.  Some of us also spend time apple picking, apparently.

Re-reading this poem, I could see the snow outside my living room window again.  I could feel the cold blast from opening the front door, and I could hear that silence that descends during a big snow.  The silence that lets you know that everyone else is inside, too, maybe by a fire or under a blanket or making hot cocoa or just watching the snow.

Yes, it's the beginning of fall here, and no, I don't want to miss that.  But for one little moment, I'm going to think about the snow.

Snow was fallingsnow on snow"
One of my favorite Christmas songs
And I think:
   I'll never write something so simply elegant as that.
I see that I:  my eye sees the I.
And I close my eyes to the driving thoughts of comparison.

I open them to

look out at the driving snow.

Accept and marvel:  the sky is
Snow on snow

I need less I.
I need more—

Oh, wow.

07 September 2010

what not to say to a girl

I got hit on at a grocery store on Labor Day by the guy who manages the frozen food section.  It was one of those bulk grocery stores, and I was ordering $900 worth of baked goods.

Don't be distracted by that tidbit.  It's really not a very interesting reason of why I was doing that. 
An interesting reason for that would be:  I was attending a picnic where we were trying to break the Guinness World Record for most cheese danishes eaten while hula hooping. Or roller skating.  And I was in charge of bringing the danishes, a job I would enjoy.

I know:  if I didn't want you to be sidetracked by the massive quantity of croissants and danishes and bagels and pound cake I was getting, why did I mention it?  This is probably what you're thinking right now, and I'm telling you to stop thinking about danishes and $900 and focus on the point here.  I was hit on at a grocery store.

And it started in the worst way possible, the way that can lead only to the girl rebuffing any advances.

The guy said, as he looked appreciatively {in a creepy way} at me—standing there with a box of cream puffs in my hands—"So, how old are you, anyway?"

I'm not one to make qualms and hedge around my age, so I told him.

"Gosh, you sure look good for 28."

Now, see, I think that was meant to be a compliment.  I'm sure he thought he was saying a nice thing.  But the underlying message is:  Wow.  I can't believe you're still able to walk and lift that box of cream puffs at your age.  It implies that 28 is the new 68, when I thought that 28 was the new 18.

{Note:  I don't actually agree with that, but there's been a little ripple in the calm water of the 20-something world in response to a New York Times article on how 20-somethings these days are not growing up like they should and are, in fact, just in some sort of extended adolescence.  My 9 to 5 job and mortgage beg to differ.}

To further botch the would-be compliment, Frozen Food Man kept going.  "It's just that you don't look 28.  I mean...um, you look like you're 20.  I would never believe that you're 28.  You know, I'm 28."

He said that last bit in a tone that implied:  oh my word, we have so much in common!  Both born in the early 80s!  I bet you watched The Reading Rainbow and had Book-it programs at your school!  Plus, we're both in this grocery store today!  It's kismet or fate or written in the stars!  We are the same age and so we are meant to be together.  Forever.

And yes, I get that it's actually kind of him to say I don't look my age.  I'm sure someday, I'll long to be mistaken for someone much younger, but it was his opening volley—you look good for 28!—that stopped me from smiling too broadly at his compliments.

You can probably guess the rest of the story.  He built up to, "So, what are you doing tonight?"

"I'm having dinner with a friend's family."

"Is it your boyfriend's family?"


Ok, I lied.

Ok, that's bad.

Ok, maybe I should've given the guy a chance.  I don't want to make snap judgments and generalizations about anyone, but obviously I did with Frozen Food Man.  I sized him up and decided he was not my size.

I have this nagging tic of a thought that surfaces in situations like this one:  maybe, even though I'm drawn to the suave, Cary Grant type, the advanced degrees type, the well-read-well-traveled type, the works at a desk yet has a creative side type, maybe I don't need that type.

Maybe I need a works with his hands and isn't tripped up by his own intellectual pretensions type.  A farmer, say.  Or the guy who manages the frozen food section at a bulk grocery store.

I don't know the answer to that, obviously.  It's just something I wonder in passing moments:  is my filter filtering out too many people as I play Goldilocks {a brunette Goldilocks but the try-quickly-and-reject idea is there}?

But for now, at least I know I look good for 28.

02 September 2010

where they stayed on their journey to the pacific

At an all-day meeting last week, I did a lot of talking.  Not in a bad, draw-attention-to-myself kind of way, like when you demand and command the center of attention spotlight just because you're talking the loudest.

It was my job to do a lot of talking as I tried to get this group of doctors to work with my company.  Basically, I did a lot of schmoozing, which is a word that sounds exactly like what it means, even though I don't think you'll ever find it in an elementary school language book as a demonstration of onomatopoeia.  Kids don't need to know how to schmooze.

At lunch, one of the doctors said, "Kamiah.  That's such an interesting, beautiful name."

I get compliments on my name a lot, and I always say thank you at this point, as if I had anything to do with choosing my name. Like I came out of the womb screaming, "Go for a distinctive name!  I've already thought of a good one!  What else did you expect me to do in there for nine months?"

The doctor continued, "Where does it come from?"

I get asked about my name so much that I have a standard spiel, a little song-and-dance number I do as I explain my parents' creativity and how smart they were to give me a unique first name to go with my run-of-the-mill last name.

"When my mom was pregnant with me, she read an article in the newspaper about Lewis and Clark's journey to the Pacific.  They wintered in a place that would become the town of Kamiah, Idaho.  She thought it sounded like a good name for a little girl."

I go on to give bonus details about what my name means:  "There are four meanings..."

I sketch out what it was like when my family visited the town when I was 8:  "Well, first of all, we found out that it's pronounced differently.  Also, I was pretty sure they were going to give me a parade, and I remember asking my mom if we could stop in at the local newspaper, just to let them know I was there..."

I talk about how my sister has an unusual name, too, and how we have the same middle name.  For awhile, she requested to go by her middle name {something I, as a punky younger sister, refused to do}, and can you imagine the confusion if both of us had wanted to ditch our stand-out-I'm-sorry-can-you-spell-that names for our very plain middle names?

It's a good spiel, one with enough pitter-patter entertainment that I can get through even the most awkward ice breaking situations.  My name has saved me in such fun situations as:  move-in day at college, job interviews, blind dates, and even business meetings.

However, last week, my spiel went awry during my conversation with the doctor.

As I focused more on choosing my salad dressing, I heard myself say this: "
When my mom was pregnant with me, she read an article in the newspaper about Lois and Clark's journey to the Pacific."

Omg.  Lois and Clark.

Instead of talking about the great explorers of the West, sent by Thomas Jefferson to see what kind of destiny America could manifest, I was talking about the crack reporting duo {and
one of them happens to be a superhero} from the comic book world.  Not being a comic book girl myself, I was really talking about a TV show from the mid-90s.  One that I've been re-watching, thanks to the joy of nostalgia that is Netflix.

And maybe I've been talking about the show a little too much.  Maybe.  You'd have to poll my friends to find out if that's true.

I tried to recover, to go on with the spiel, and honestly, I bet the doctor didn't really notice; she was focused on cutting a piece of cheesecake.

But as I half-heartedly went through my name story, all I could hear in my head was "Lois and Clark:  The New Adventures of Superman" and then the theme music from the show and Lois screaming, "Help, Superman, help!"

This, in case you were wondering, is not the most useful inner dialog to have when you're trying to schmooze.


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