Thursday, March 24, 2011

Right. So this is the week.

Long ago, when I was buttayute...I couldn't believe that when it was finally going to be time to party like it's 1999 I was going to be twenty eight years old.  I specifically remember being in someone's car (carpool style - I hadn't been kidnapped) driving to gymnastics in Santa Clara, California and doing the math to figure out just how old we were going be when the year 2000 rolled around.  And following up the math with a feeling of total relief that such an old age was forever away.

Oddly enough - I feel much the same today.  Being twenty eight seems forever away.  Except now I'm on the other side of it.  Whoopsie.  How'd that happen?

Everyone keeps asking what I'm doing to for the big 4-0. 

Sometime over the last twelve months, I made the decision to barrel into it.  I mean, I figured there were two options - panic, cry, puddle into a ball OR just get into it like I've gotten into so many other things.  Now, don't get me wrong - I would absolutely prefer to panic, cry and puddle into a ball.  But history tells me that this is usual pretty inefficient.  Although no one will ever convince me that it doesn't just feel damn good sometimes.

Several months ago, I decided I'd have a party - but of course, I live in a small townhouse - so the thought of putting more than  five into it makes visions of sardines creep into my  head.  I started shopping around for places to have a party - restaurants, bars, etc...but had other visions - ones where we were all jam packed somewhere trying to chatter while the basketball was on.  Or getting stuck with the 'it's only my second day' server who wouldn't know much about the menu, let alone how to handle a large group.

Then like manna from heaven...a good buddy volunteered her house. Her actual real house - like a grown up house where she has a husband and a toddler and dogs and a mother-in-law.  Mind you, she was more than one glass of wine into the night at the time the offer sprang from her lips (and I'm not so cruel that I didn't give her an out on Sober Monday).

And there you have it - in just a few days, I will be having my very own surprise party.

Oh - did I mention it's a surprise?  I mean, yeah, I know about it - but still, I love a good surprise.  It's just that no one can usually pull one by me.  So I'm helping the cause by arriving...then leaving...then arriving again in case anyone wants to yell, "Surprise!".

I've been sprucing up Skipper's Dream House (I never claimed to be a Barbie) and trying to teach the cat to have scentless poos.  I've been to Target more times than I care to admit thinking about things that might be useful.  Unfortunately, 50% of the time I then get distracted by something else and forget to pick up what I went for.  This is why I still have no ingredients for s'mores.

And of course everyone wants to know what my gift of choice would be.

Here's how I know I'm aging.  Gracefully, even.  Because there really isn't anything I want.  Or, more importantly - need.  So I decided to do an 'in lieu of' gift.  Just like they have in the obituaries.  Is that weird?

There's this animal ranch in New Hampshire - Rolling Dog Ranch - that I've followed for the last five years or so.  And by followed, I mean I've laughed, cried, admired, prayed for, obsessed over, stalked - yeah, pretty much any of the above on any given day.  They send a twice weekly blog email that keeps me smiling 90% of the time.  The other 10%  of the time it makes my eyes well up while I try to hide from my cube neighbors by leaning way forward.

Here's two folks that left corporate America just over ten years ago to open a place for disabled animals to thrive.  They've broken all the pre-determined rules on what should happen to disabled animals and shown the world that just like with people - there are no disabilities that should hinder an attempt at the good life. 

These are the people I think of when I think of celebrity.  And the ranch is what I've chosen as my 'in lieu of' gift recipient.  I was super nervous to email them to make sure that was cool.  And when I got a return email - well it could have been 1979 and Shawn Cassidy was knocking on my door, I got so giddy.

I'm not even going to attempt to list all the animals I have gotten to know through the ranch over the past years.  They are all on the website though - if you like feeling warm and fuzzy, you should check it out. 

I can only imagine what Steve & Alayne's friends and family thought when they said, "Yeah, we're quitting our jobs and buying a ranch.  Where we'll keep blind horses.  And wobbly dogs.  And cats with missing limbs.  Oh - and maybe we can find some that are both blind AND deaf - won't that be fun?"

I feel an automatic connection to people who throw caution to the wind.  Which is ironic, because I'm not that good at it.  Maybe I'm impressed with their bravery.  Maybe I'm jealous of their cahoonas.  Maybe I secretly want to be them.

I do know that if I ever win the big one - I'll be opening my own version of the ranch here in the south.  For dogs and cats and horses that prefer homemade biscuits and collard greens (don't worry, Dad, I'll also get you a new motorhome).

In the meantime I live vicariously through Steve & Alayne.  Who seem to send me a story at least once a month that leaves me shaking my head in disbelief.  Recently it was about making their own dog food and having to boil like a million potatos every week.  For a gal who can barely boil water - that's high quality stuff.

Maybe my favorite story of all time is about Charlie - who came to the ranch as a blind beagle and left as a sighted one after restorative surgery.  Included in one of the updates was a photo of Charlie after surgery - standing there in front of the mirror checking himself out.  Probably wondering how the ladies resist his charm.

Another string of favorites - and this truly shows that it takes a bit of crazy to do what they've done - last year, the ranch was packed up and moved from Montana to New Hampshire.  Now, think about how stressful it is for you to move.  And then imagine moving an entire animal rescue.  Including the animals.  Who are disabled.

This was a multi month operation that ran from spring to summer of last year.  Now that they are settled on the east coast - I feel somewhat better knowing they are that much closer in case I ever get to visit.  Getting acclimated to a new venue is difficult for anybody.  But acclimating a slew of disabled animals requires a whole new level of patience.  And creativity.  And, did I mention patience?

If you feel so inclined, you should check out their website -

Now back to the party.  If you weren't invited, don't despair.  I did try to use my limited common sense to pare down the numbers since it was being held at someone else's grown up house.  It wasn't personal, I promise.  I also promise to drink a beer specifically in your honor. 

And another several in honor of my 'in lieu of' friends at Rolling Dog Ranch.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Ides of March

I can always tell when March is in full swing because the same thoughts start popping in my head. Of course, when I first think these thoughts – I forget they are repeats. Then later something or someone will remind me that I said the same thing last year.

So here’s a few – now documented in cyberspace so that next year I can try an entirely new level of laziness where I don’t even have to expend the energy needed to think these things – instead I can just reference a year old blog.

Ide One:
Ide really like to stop sneezing.

March is the time (at least here in North Cackalacky) when the weather starts having violent mood swings. One day it’s cold and rainy. The next day it’s sunny and rocketing into the 70+ degree zone. The next day it’s in the 60’s but so windy you spend the evening traipsing around the neighborhood on a search for items missing from the back porch.

I call this flip-flop weather. Because I can dig out my flip-flops from the bottom of the shoe bin and dust them off AND because Mother Nature flip-flops so often I want to offer her a cocktail to calm her down.

Of course, with the sporadic warm, sunny perfect days – many of us run to our windows and doors and throw them open, letting the stuffy winter air work its way out of the house to be replaced with fresh, new almost-Spring air.

We have a limited timeframe here where we can let the outside in. Before too long, we’ll have to switch the AC on in order to keep our furniture from melting in the heat and humidity.

But like clockwork this means I start sneezing on a regular basis. If I’m really feeling like a go-getter, I also get runny eyes, a headache and a constant need to clear the daily pollen count out of my throat.

None of this motivates me to retreat and shut the windows and doors – for some reason the plus of fresh air wafting through my house outweighs the fact that the breeze is blowing dirty tissues of the coffee table.

Ide Two:
Ide really like to be able to walk across the room without my joints creaking or cracking and without my muscles begging me to sit back down.

March’s arrival means the start of the Spring Tennis Leagues. At the end of every Fall tennis season, I tell myself that I’ll practice through the winter. My group has open practices every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday – so the opportunities are there. But then it starts taking me so long to suit up for practice (long johns, sweats, gloves, hat, neck warmer, two pairs of socks, etc) that my motivation level drops in proportion to the number of layers I’m donning.

And then I start throwing out numbers. Like, okay, I’m not going to play if it’s below 30 degrees. Which I eventually bump up to 35 degrees. Then 40. And soon the whole winter season is shot because I’ve convinced myself that it’s probably not good to play when it’s cold and dark. Or if there is holiday shopping to be done. Or if I might do house projects. Or on days that end in ‘y’.

Before I know it, we are heading into March and signing up for leagues and putting together match schedules.

This is quickly followed by a lot of mornings laced with Advil and double doses of caffeine. And a missing ability to jump out of my chair and do anything quickly because it takes at least twenty steps for my sore legs to respond to any type of direction.

Ide Three:
Ide really like to figure how to beat this whole March Madness thing.

Just yesterday, my pool picks sent out a reverberating *kerplunk* with a large upset (thanks Morehead) and several missed picks (that’s for you PSU, St. John’s… and just about every other team I picked. Really I should blame Charles Barkley. I believed you, dude, when you talked of upsets).

I wondered at some point if anyone in the history of March Madness has ever gone 0 for 32 or if I would be the first.

I can’t tell you how many different modes of picking I’ve done over the years, just hoping to stumble upon something that works. Cutest Mascot? Fail. Alphabetical? Fail. Winning Percentage? Fail. Uniform Color? Fail. Location in relation to the Mason-Dixon Line? Actually, I haven’t tried that – but it does give me an idea for next year. Just doing whatever Sir Charles says? Fail.
Besides the fact that Morehead State beat Louisville, who I had going for a few more rounds…just after the Pool deadline, the biggest rat of all, Coach K, announced that Kyrie Irving was going to be back in the lineup. Nice timing. I suppose you sent a top secret email out much earlier in the day to all your Dookies so you didn’t hurt their Pool chances.

{If you haven’t got a dirty mind, just skip this part. Yeah, so my friend puts on his Facebook that he can’t say ‘Morehead State’ without laughing. Especially since their mascot is the Trojan. It only took me two hours to figure out why that was funny. And then someone suggested it’d be funny if Morehead played Ball State. And then someone else suggested they place Oregon (the Beavers). So, now I can’t say Morehead State without laughing either. Oh – there’s an idea. Dirtiest Team Name.}

Ide Four:
Ide like to stay young at heart forever.

Obviously that always comes up in March since it’s birthday month. T-Minus a week. Really need to dig out that “Things to do in my Thirties” list and get crack-a-lackin.

Hopefully when I do find it, it will say things like: Buy House. Check. Travel like crazy. Check. Raise a lot of money for some good causes. Check. Get to know Raleigh so well you forget you haven’t lived here forever. Check. Make new friends but keep the old. Check. Total one car. Get smaller boobs. Get Lasik. Check, check, check.

And no – I haven’t even started a list for the next decade. Nor will I. I don’t mind the pressure (in fact, if you know me at all you know there’s nothing I like more than an nice organized list. Well, I actually might like spreadsheets more). But sometimes I think when you do put together a list of goals – you focus a bit too much on that and then forget to be proud of the things you’ve done that aren’t on the goal list.

So, there’s your lesson for the day – some of your best achievements may be totally accidental. Just ask my folks…

Ide Five:
Ide like to teach the world to sing. In perfect harmony.

That’s not really on my March Ide list. But for some reason it popped into my head about nine paragraphs ago. And now it’s stuck on a loop, in my head. And now it’ll probably be stuck in yours.

You’re welcome.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

15 Days and Counting

Yesterday I bought myself the first, and I hope last, birthday present for myself.  It was new spark plugs for the Cruiser.  And a tune-up.

Okay, well, that wasn't exactly my idea of a 'Hey - you're birthday's pretty soon, so why not treat yourself' gift.  But in order to make myself feel better about the sudden downturn in my bank account, that's what I'm telling myself. 

I don't know what gene it is that I have that makes me, um, thrifty (oh wait, yes I do, it's from the Mose side).  Except that I pour money into savings 'just in case' - and then when 'just in case' arrives I have to twist my own arms to use it.  So now instead of being cheered by the thought of NOT having my check engine light flashing me anytime I hop in the car, I'm feeling glum and annoyed. 

I, too, would like a tune-up.  Takers?  No? 

The countdown continues.  Granted, most of the world is counting the days to the BIG wedding over in London (note to self:  ask boss if I can work from home that day).  But for the rest of the world - it's the countdown to my birthday.  We are now t-minus two-ish weeks.  I'm not sure when the Today show will be around doing its opening segment from my living room - but I probably should get to cleaning before too long.

Yesterday, I had my monthly call with my Health Coach today.  My company has offered up free health coaches to anyone who wants to better themselves.  I am huge fan of dedicated time during which I get to talk strictly about me - especially when I don't have to pay for it, so obviously I signed up. 

So since November, when I was first assigned my coach, I've had a monthly check-in to make sure I was still exercising (yes), still trying to eat right (yes...not so much trying to drink right though - good thing they never ask) and still making goals for myself (yes, and sometimes I keep them). 

There really is a point to this, I swear.

One of the security questions you go through to talk the health coaches is your birth date.  Yesterday, when my health coach realized exactly what birthday was quickly approaching, he said, "Hey, any birthday that you're still alive for is a good one." 

Well, yes, I suppose that is pretty accurate.  Thanks, Chris - no wonder you get paid the big bucks.

But it did make me think - exactly how long will I keep up this exercise regiment?  Or the watching what I eat routine?  Do I get to stop ever?  Can it be when I'm 40?  Please?

Because I'm sure not turning into a size six at any great speed. 

Which I did point out to my health coach.  To which he responded, "Well, why do you do it then?"

Trick question Chris!  I'm not paying you to make me think about why I want to eat right and work out and try to stay in some sort of shape!  You're only supposed to praise me and tell me how fantastic it is that a lady bordering on Cougartown is so active and pseudo-concerned about her health!

Oh, right, I'm not paying you at all.

After hemming and hawing I finally decided it's because it makes me feel good to make a go at taking care of myself.  And that because I've been doing some form of exercise my whole life, it feels too weird not to at least do something.  Mind you, there are many a days when 'something' ends up being vacuuming.  There are also days when 'something' ends up thinking about what I could do (file that under 'it's the thought that counts').

Here's my general schedule (I say general because when I don't follow this routine, I still think I did):

Three times a week I go to the gym at lunch.  It's right around the corner from my office.  Going there saves me a whole lot of money because if I didn't have that, I'd be on a regular rotation of Target-Ulta-Old Navy-Macys-Homegoods.

Three times a week I play tennis.  Mostly doubles, sometimes singles.  I definitely should play more singles.  I used to play a LOT of singles.  But then I realized how much easier it was to have someone on the same side of the net with you to blame for any missed balls. 

Now you'd think with all that, I'd be so tiny I'd have to shop in the waif's department.  No, not really. 

So clearly the only reason I hit the gym so regularly is because I work with a bunch of lunatics and need some mental outlet that doesn't involve picking up my computer and launching it down the emergency exit stairs. 

But I didn't want to tell that to my health coach in case he recommended a meeting with a different kind of coach.

My brother just started getting fit.  Like a month ago.  He stopped eating carbs and started going to the gym.  I have no doubt he's lost fifty pounds or so.  Jerk.

(Sometimes when I'm writing my blog I realize I've gotten lost in the middle.  This just happened. I thought about starting over....but then realized that no matter where I go with this, you'll still think I'm less crazy that Chuck Sheen)

Maybe there is no real reason for me to work out so much.  I'm not training for the Olympics.  I'm only pretending I'm going to do a 5k someday.  Adidas has yet to offer me a sponsorship for my tennis prowess.  My washboard stomach remains hidden under God knows what. 

Except that it makes me feel good. 
About myself. 
About my life. 
About going back to work after an hour of pushing the limits (or of watching my stories while walking on the treadmill). 
It gives my mind time to decompress. 
Or time to think through some things. 
It makes me feel productive because I can hear my teeny muscles chirping "We're still here!  We're still here!"

Plus you never know when you're going to get chased.

Can I imagine myself keeping it up for another decade to the big 5-0?  Actually, no.  But I'm not going to worry about that right now. 

Right now - I'm going to stay content with what I got. 
I may not be the size six I clearly deserve to be, but at least I still got skills.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Exit Ahead for Mid-Life Crisis

So, this is the month. The dreaded month.
In just a few weeks, I'll be forty.

I really am going back and forth on how I feel about this.
40 (forty) is the natural number following 39 and preceding 41.

There were a hell of a lot of times in my twenties, for example, where I really didn't think I would make it to 40. My life was too messy and a time that far into the future seemed impossible.

And now, almost there.

Notwithstanding being related to the word "four" (4), 40 is spelled "forty", and not "fourty".

I mean, I'm glad I've made it this far. And I wear most of my battle scars with pride - both the physical and emotional ones. They are testaments to being a fighter even when the last thing I wanted to do was to pick myself up and keep going. Also they are a testament to just about anyone in my family who has given me a kick in the ass as needed (always followed by a hug, of course).

The letters of the word "forty" are in alphabetical order; this is the only number that has this linguistic property in English.

On the other hand, there are certainly a lot of things I'd always assumed I'd have done by forty. Even up to about six months ago, I felt like there was still time to accomplish some things.

Forty is the caliber of the bullet in the .40 S&W handgun cartridge

For sure I thought I'd have been married by now. I think that's the killer one - how'd I get this far without getting hitched? Yeah, I was doing stuff. Yeah, I was living. But then somewhere in there I let that one get away from me. When one of my best buds got hitched last summer, months before her 40th, I thought...okay, I still got time. But I'm going to have to have a love-at-first-sight-fly-to-Vegas experience in the next few weeks to beat the mark. Takers? I'm kind of leaning towards guys with beards these days. FYI.

Forty is the number of years of marriage to the ruby wedding anniversary.

And to follow that up, I thought I'd definitely have at least one kid by now. Instead of continuing to be the coolest babysitter in the southeast. Granted I was never keen on the whole popping a watermelon out my my hooha, that sounds like it might leave a mark. And while I appreciate all the 'just adopt' suggestions, unless they start coming with donations...well, that's kind of not a financial option. Plus I still have that whole 'babies get up early' thing to be afraid of.

Forty is the number of weeks for an average term of pregnancy, counting from the woman’s last cycle.

I was pretty sure that by the time I was forty I'd have an actual career - rather than just a job. But I'm actually not convinced that this is a bad thing. Yes, I could be president of this company or that company or at least on the fast track to the top...but who needs that kind of pressure? I imagine with a career I'd have so much less time for my friends, tennis, pets and family. So I feel pretty good about making a paycheck to pay for my fun. However...a bigger paycheck for more fun would not be turned down. Unless it requires wearing pantyhose.

Forty is the customary number of hours in a regular workweek in some Western countries. The song, "40 Hour Week (For a Livin')" by Alabama (as well as their album, 40-Hour Week), takes its name from the standard workweek length.

On the other hand, I've done a lot over in the last decade that I never could have predicted in my twenties. If you'd asked me ten years ago whether I'd ever travel outside the country, I'd have told you to lay off the drugs. There was no way you'd ever catch this gal on a plane for that long. Or willingly in places where I could get lost without the ability to speak the language. But now I have a long list of countries visited and cultures loved. And I'd hop on a plane tomorrow to just about anywhere in the name of adventure.

Forty is the code for direct dial international phone calls to Romania

This year I'm taking spring break to Burbank, California. I'd never have done that ten years ago. But, hey, you meet someone with a house in Burbank who offers up a bed and an open invitation - you take them up on it.

Interstate 40 is a freeway that runs from California to North Carolina

I do have my own, self-bought townhouse, which I am super proud of. At least that's what I tell myself when I'm sending the check each month. Sure, I always thought my 'first house' would be purchased with Prince William or the like. But I did it myself and I have power tools and can change out lights and saw stuff and paint stuff and unclog toilets and I think that's pretty dang impressive. I mean, if William's more into the Kate type, who am I to judge?

WD-40 is a spray lubricant. 40 is also the number of hours it's probably going to take to paint my kitchen before my 40th birthday party guests arrive.

I never have to fight anyone for the covers. Well any human - there's still the dog and cat to contend with, but they really don't mean to hog the whole bed. I can watch whatever I want on tv, eat when I want, be lazy when I want, get up and go when I want. There is something to be said for life on your own.

Forty winks means a short sleep

Let's face it. Forty is everywhere. I can't hide from it. I can't ignore it. It's a coming.

"40" is a 1983 song by U2 from their album War. Which I saw them sing in concert.

The radio program Rick Dees' Weekly Top 40. Rick Dees started out at 680 WPTF - where I worked many years after - but I did get to meet him there at a reunion.

$40 a Day is the title of the Food Network show. Who spends $40 a day on food? Or does that include cocktails?

Red Dye #40 is the name of the food additive, commonly known as Red 40. This is also know as Red Bull for Kids. In my experience. If you don't believe me, load someone else's kid up with red Kool-Aid. Trust me, if you give it to your own kid, you'll be sorry in eight hours when they are still bouncing off various walls.

40 is the number of thieves in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, from Thousand and One Nights (both the numbers 40 and 1001 are more likely to mean "many" than to indicate a specific number). Wait, what? Does this insinuate I am many years old?

40 percent alcohol by volume is what many distilled alcoholic beverages contain (such as vodka). To quote Charlie Sheen, "Winner!"

UB40 is a form for those claiming unemployment benefits in the United Kingdom. The band UB40 was named after this form. Well, right. Now I feel old.

The M40 is a United States military gas mask. I'm almost 40. And I still think farting is funny. I'm assuming this isn't affecting my single hood in anyway,.

I guess it's just inevitable. It's around the corner.

I may as well dive into it, right?

And continue telling people I'm 27.