Writing, Running, Being.

The finish line is a shifty Thing and what is life, but reckoning?
Ani DiFranco

Friday, November 23, 2007

my cartwheel

Mrs. Thayer had big frizzy hair and too much blush. Her butt was so big it spilled over either side of the piano bench. We had to drive 30 miles to get to her house and then I had to sit in her dank basement doing homework while Teresa went into the piano studio for her lesson. A toddler Erin would run around the room and my mom would balance her checkbook while tapping her snow boots. Then it was my turn. I hated being alone in there with her. I hated those basement windows that were way at the top of the wall and when you looked out all you'd see was the dirt in the window well and the bottom of the neighbor's house. The glass of water with its disgusting lipstick prints stood beside the metronome atop the piano. They stood there together looking down on me, mocking me as my fingers slipped off sharps and stumbled too quickly through the tougher measures. Then Mrs. Thayer would make me do them over, telling me to focus on the time signature this time and listen to the ticking metronome. She would lean in squinting, crowding my space, invading my bubble so that I could smell each particle of her potent old lady perfume. Begonias and Lilacs. Or whatever flower it is that old ladies like so much... She would shove her swollen hand with all its rings into my middle C position and show me how it was to be done. There was no clock in there so I never knew how much time was left. Sometimes as she was blabbing away about ritardendo or decrecendo, her hand would rise like a maestro and I would strain with all my might to catch a glimpse of the hands on her tiny gold wristwatch. It was just my luck that the thing didn't have any numbers, so if I ever did get a look at the hands I never got an actual time. Just a vague idea that left me more frustrated than anything.

One day Mrs. Thayer left the room for a moment. I don't remember why. Maybe it was to answer a phone call. Maybe to refill her lipstick-smeared water glass. Maybe to take a pee. I really don't remember. All I know is that I, a daring nine year old, was briefly left alone in the piano studio and an urge so strong I couldn't resist came over me. Risk slithered down my spine as I made the decision to do it. My cartwheel.

I did a cartwheel in Mrs. Thayer's piano studio. As soon as I completed my covert little stunt, I scurried back to the piano bench and resumed my studious piano-playing demeanor. No sooner had I smoothed my hair back down and straightened my blouse then Mrs. Thayer opened the door. “Are you ready to try again?” she asked. With adrenaline still rushing through my body, charging to my fingertips, I played a perfect “Allouette” . I finished my lesson with a tiny smirk in my soul. I left Mrs. Thayer's that day with a smug satisfaction. The same smug satisfaction I still feel when I get away with something. Since that cartwheel, there have been few things that I've actually gotten away with. I didn't get away with drinking beer on campus. I didn't get away with driving with expired tags on the Air Force Academy. I didn't get away with parking too close to a fire hydrant in Denver. I didn't get away with unprotected premarital sex.


I do occasionally get away with a free bag of kitty litter because it's on the bottom of the shopping cart. Right now I'm getting away with not having a full-time job. I hope to get away with the payments I've missed on my student loans. But if not, I'll just do another cartwheel when no one's looking. And that will be just as good.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

some thoughts on University Park

On two occasions, completely independent of one another, I have been called a German Shepherd. The first time was by a boy whose name I can't recall in my fourth grade class. The second time was by a girl in my 7th grade class, shortly after the movie "All Dogs Go To Heaven 2" came out. This was years later and at a different school in a different state! That simply can't be a coincidence. I've been carrying around this "German Shepherd Complex" ever since. I hate those stupid dogs. Whenever I happen to be around someone who has one I get all nervous and paranoid. I start sweating and shaking and searching for excuses to get away. It's as if I think the dog owner will pause mid-conversation and say "Hey! I just noticed you kinda look like my dog!" It's absolutely dreadful! When I ring someone's doorbell and dogs start barking my heart skips a beat and I begin praying rapidly "please don't let it be a german shepherd please don't let it be a german shepherd pleasedon'tletitbeagermans
hepherd!" Needless to say, when I am ready for a dog, it will be a Lab or a Husky or a St. Bernard or a Shi Tzu (because I like the name).

Jonas just fell asleep in my lap and Brian just got home so now I can go running sans the jog stroller. I like running at night because nobody else is out. Everyone is at home, finishing dinner. Scraping the last few bites of steak and potatoes into the bowls of their eager German Shepherds. The other night I ran through University Park. I admired all the lovely things I will never have:

A gigantic house on top of a hill with a door that I am not allowed to paint because of the Covenant.
A sixteen-car garage that I could live in comfortably with my family, and store everything I own and use as a painting studio.
A sprinkler system that I would of course only run at night.
Sod (I never liked sod much anyway. It's too pretty, like a wig for the earth, just weird).
A pension.

It hurts, sometimes, to see other people’s things. Especially when they are things that are so far out of reach for me. The University Park residents probably worked very hard their whole lives and this is why they can afford beautiful houses and waterfalls. They have so much money, yet somehow I know they would wrinkle their noses at the prospect of replacing the brake cable on their grandson’s Huffy. Maybe I’m just prejudiced. It hurts me, sometimes, to see people who have everything. Especially when I know that all Brian wants is an education and a little space to build some bicycles.

Sometimes when I’m running, a moment passes quickly by and I wish I could decipher it with Galileo’s insight. I wish I could write it with Sylvia’s words. I wish I could sing it with Aretha’s conviction. I wish I could paint it with Pollock’s nerve. I wish I could run it with Shea’s heart and legs. Wish I could top it out with Peter’s strength. Wish I could kiss it with Sarah’s guts. Lick it up with the reckless abandon of a German Shepherd. Sometimes it passes by so quickly and I am just greatful that the night is cold because I can still see my breath. And this proves I am living.

Friday, November 9, 2007

early morning ramblings

I've been thinking about the grand scheme of things lately. Mainly because I like the word "scheme". Almost as much as Brian enjoys "neurotransmitters". So anyway, in the grand scheme of things, it's hard to tell what's important. How do you not fuck up the Present without fucking up the Future? Why do I always have to choose between these two tenses. I like Past because it's over and there's nothing I can do about it. My brain is full of lame chiches right now because the other night we were talking about forks in the road. Once forks are in your head, you start recognizing them all over the place. What if I do this instead of that? What if I go here instead of there? What if I choose black instead of white? (I stick to gray). And you could drive yourself insane with "what-iffing".
Maybe mental health isn't a choice for everyone, but for me it is. I try to make decisions about the way I feel. I could choose to get upset over something trite and then feel crappy or I could choose not to let silly things bother me and be happy. I could choose to feel ugly or I could just avoid the pro shop mirror and like myself all day. I could choose to let myself sink into criticisms and let them drown me, or I could use them as tools to improve myself. This is much harder than it seems.
I have a new expensive mouthwash that claims to kill the bacteria on the way back of your tongue, ending bad breath forever. I think it works ok, but it makes my throat hurt all day. I've been chewing lots of gum lately. Did you know that chewing gum causes gas? It's because you swallow all those tiny bubbles. It seems unfair that I should be forced to choose between bad breath and gas. Two most unattractive qualities. When I asked Brian what he'd choose, he said he'd rather have gas, because at least asses are supposed to stink, and nobody is going to be kissing it anyway. I guess this makes sense...
I've been so distracted lately. I guess because it's easier than being focused. Last night I contemplated immortality as though I had a choice in the matter. I just feel like I need a few more lives to get it right. Then I contemplated death because I do have a choice in the matter and that was just too much to think about while changing a diaper.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed and my brain spins, pen spits, hand slips, heart shits and I'm right back where I started. Considering the grand scheme of things again as though I have a crystal ball...

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

ugly snow boots

So there I was in the shower. Thinking. Just like I always do in the shower. When suddenly I gasped out loud upon realizing that I have done almost everything I have (at some point) vowed never to do. These things include:

wearing Crocs
holding hands in Wal Mart
procreating with someone under the height of 5'10
creating "bathroom art"
reading Harry Potter
becoming obsessed with Harry Potter
thinking like my mom
talking like my mom
going to church like my mom

I've noticed that my hands are starting to look like my mom's and all I can do to prevent their further evolution is keep on biting my nails (and putting off that ring). When I was in the 3rd grade my favorite chapter book was called "Mom, You're Fired!" It was about a girl my age who was constantly embarassed by her eccentric mother. I remember when my only wish in the world was that my mom wouldn't have her jeans tucked inside her snow boots when she picked me up from school. My stomach would ache with anxiety as the final bell rang and I'd gather my books and papers slowly, putting them in my backpack neatly as other kids crammed theirs in and dashed out the door. My heart would fill with mortification at the sight of her standing outside that silver Volvo, waving to me as if I didn't know where she'd be parked. All I could see were those awful snow boots. The shin-high-black-and-pink-g
reen-laced-damaging to my reputation-snow boots with the jeans tucked inside so all my friends could see them.
I hated Minnesota because before we moved to God-forsaken Burnsville, my mom had never owned boots like that. She had always worn normal shoes as far back as I could remember. She wore New Balances in Texas. She wore leather sandals in North Carolina. She wore Sauconys in New York.
My mom's style has since improved. For this, I applaud the ending of the 90's. She now lives in Kansas, where the snow is never deep enough to warrent anything more water resistant than her regular brown teacher shoes. So my question is this: Why do parents get cooler once you move away from them? Why do they turn into regular people just after you learn to disregard them? And how can I ensure that I don't become "that mom" myself?