Monday, December 19, 2011

Ghostbusters! (or, The Ghost of Xmas Past)

When I started writing this, I thought I had a clear, sharp memory of the events that morning. As I went along, though, I realized something: By the time my brother was in the basement room, my sister and I no longer shared a bedroom. That was why he moved to the basement, so we would no longer have to share.  However, I clearly remember being in the bottom bunk of a bunk bed set my sister and I shared during the events of that Christmas morning.

I am ignoring this inconsistency and writing the story anyway.  I will assume that the reason for the odd memory versus logic problem is that at some point, I ended up in a parallel universe that is ALMOST the same as the one I grew up in, and I have memories from both realities.  My perfect memory cannot be questioned, and the events that morning are not a combination of more than one Christmas morning.




“Leuxra… Leauxra! Wake up!” my brother’s voice hissed at me as he shook me

“What is it-“ I started to say, but he clapped his hand over my mouth. “SHHHH!” he said, louder than anything I was saying.  He leaned close.  “It’s Christmas!” he whispered.

I felt my eyes widen, and I looked around, shoving his hand off my face. It was still dark.

“What time is it?” I whispered.

“It’s early.”

I thought about laying back down. We were going to get in trouble, and I was tired.

“Come ON, Leauxra,” he said, “It’s time to bust some ghosts!” He stood in a superhero pose, and I could see by the nightlight that he was wearing his Ghostbusters T-shirt. It was white with a red collar and red sleeves that went almost to the elbows. It had the ghost symbol with the red line through it, like the movie.

I smiled.

Older-Brother hardly ever wanted to do anything with me anymore. He was a teenager, and younger sisters are remarkably uncool. I kicked off my blankets and swung my feet over the side.

“Come on!” he whispered, “You’ll miss it.”

“Miss what?”

“Just come on!”

I followed him out of the room, tip-toeing through the hallway past my parent's room.

“Miss what?” I whispered again as we went down the stairs. 

I was concentrating on navigating the stairs quietly, which was difficult.  The stairs were steep, with old carpet on them and we had all fallen down them on multiple occasions so I almost missed what he said. 

“The ghost.”

I took another step before I stopped dead.

“Come on!” he whispered, louder now that we were farther away from the parents’ room, “She walks right up the stairs. Come hide in my room!”

"Who?" I said in disbelief.

"Shh!" he said. I had spoken in a normal voice.

"Who goes up the stairs?" I whispered, starting to panic.

"I told you.  The old lady ghost."

Older-Brother reached the bottom of the stairs and jogged back towards his room.

The basement was partially finished, but Dad had recently finished putting in walls and a ceiling and a carpet in the living room.  I caught the glitter or the tree and wrapping paper out of the corner of my eye as I went towards Older-Brother's room, but I didn't stop to look.  I was sure that a ghost was about jump out and grab me from the unfinished laundry room and what would eventually be a bathroom to my right.

The hallway to his room was still open cement, with a piece of carpeting at the bottom of the stairs that had a little metal edge on it to keep it from curling.  Anyone who walked over it made a little clinking noise.

Older-Brother shut the door as soon as I entered, and then rushed across the floor to his alarm clock.  He picked it up and showed it to me.  "It's almost time."  It was even earlier than I thought, 4:15.

I couldn't speak by now.  I didn't want to see a ghost.

"She comes up by my door," I jumped away when he said this, "and then goes up the stairs.  Sometimes, I can hear her walk all the way down the hall to your room, but she usually goes in Mom and Dad's room, in the closet."

I held my hand over my mouth to keep from wimpering.

"You're lying!" I whispered, "There's no such-"

"Shh!" he said, "I can hear her!"

I held my breath.  I couldn't hear anything.  I was about to say so when I heard the sound of the floorboards above our head creaking.  The steps went from above our heads and away towards the kitchen, and then there were little creaks on the stairs.  A moment later, I heard a little click, as if someone were walking on the carpet at the bottom.

Older-Brother and I stared at each other with wide eyes. The ghost!

"She came in my room one time," he whispered, "She was all pale, and see through, and her hair went up in every direction.  Her eyes were like empty eye sockets, glowing blue..."

I tried to ignore him.  Older-Brother had made up stories for years trying to scare me, and would usually end up scaring himself as well.  To this day I am surprised he is not a horror novelist.

He moved towards the door, and shut off the light.

"What are you doing?" I whispered.  My voice caught in my throat and the end of the sentence came out as a little squeak.

I could see him opening the door in the light of the alarm clock, as he stepped into the basement.

"Wait!" I whispered.

"Come ON!" he replied, "I want to see her!"

I kept close to him, wondering exactly how he was going to fight the ghost. He didn't have one of those power packs like in the movie. It wasn't like you could hit a ghost, or outrun a ghost. What was he thinking?

Just as we reached the bottom of the stairs, the light flicked on.

I dove into the laundry room as my father pounded down the stairs. Older-Brother seemed to simply vanish.  I moved blindly to the back of the room, and eventually crouched underneath the stairs.

"What are you doing down here?" My father said.  I looked around frantically, wondering how he could see me. He was using his Someone's-going-to-get-in-trouble voice.

"I was just looking!" I heard Younger-Sister say. She was in the living room, looking at the Christmas tree.

I covered my mouth to keep from breathing loudly.  There was only a piece of cloth between the rooms.

I heard them make their way up the stairs, my sister whining while Dad walked her back to our room.  Relief washed over me.  He hadn't seen me!  I felt almost giddy with relief.  Something soft brushed my hand, and I realized I was crouched under the stairs with the spiders and ghosts, and I jumped out into the laundry room shaking my hands frantically and looked around.

It was dark and I was alone.

I made my way to the bottom of the stairs, and looked back towards Older-Brother's room.  His pale face was peeking out from his door, and he shut it immediately when he saw me.

It took forever to make my way back to my room.  I stepped slowly, trying to keep anything from creaking, and tried to avoid letting my clothes rub together.

I must have made some noise, though, or maybe he was just waiting.

"What do you think you are doing?" Dad said in a loud voice.

I screamed and fell to the ground, twisting my ankle a little bit.

He flicked on the light.  He looked huge from where I sat on the ground.

"How did you find me?" I squeaked.

"Your bed was empty.  Your sister was wandering around and I saw you were missing," he said.  I was surprised he answered, and filed away his answer for future reference.  Next time, I thought, make it look like I'm still in bed.

"I was just... Older-Brother said there were ghosts!" I stammered.  "We heard it!  We heard it at the stairs!"

Dad was sleep rumpled and did not look amused.  "There is no such thing as ghosts," he said, "The house makes noises as it settles.  I've told you that.  You were looking at the presents," he said.

"NO!" I said, "The carpet made the noise!  We were busting ghosts..."

"Get.  In.  Bed."

I scrambled into my bed, pulling up the covers.

"And stay there until morning, or there won't be a Christmas."

I nodded.  "I'm sorry," I said.

He shook his head and flicked off the light, muttering to himself as he walked away.

I huddled under the blankets, only my face exposed, listening to the creaks in the hallway.  It was probably the ghost.  I pulled the blankets closer, hoping they would protect me, and drifted off into a dreamless sleep.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I've Been SO FREAKING GOOD

Dear Santa,

It's that time of year again... You know, when I write you a letter and you pretend you never got it and act all pretend-contrite on Christmas morning?  Yeah.  Well.

Here goes.

I have been so freaking good this year, I don't even know where to begin.

First of all, I quit smoking on May 20th of this year.  I know that it took a bit longer than I expected when I started at age 17, but you have to give me some props for actually going through with it this year.  Sure, I may have put on a few pounds, but you know, I really doubt that you of all people are going to judge me, eh, Santa old buddy?  Eh?  Eh?

Oh come on, I wasn't trying to be mean.

Stop being a teenaged girl.  Really!  Oh, stop sniveling.  That red suit does NOT make you look fat, OK?

Anyway, can we get back to what's important here?  Me?  OK.

Ahem.

I didn't quit my job, because I am all responsible like that, and I have even temporarily made peace with my lowly place in the world. 

I also didn't kill anyone, so that's also cool, mostly because I would obviously be such a bad criminal that I would be in jail by now if I had.  Not being in jail is pretty good, I think.

So you see, Santa, I feel like I really earned some awesome shit this year from you. 

The presents have been a bit... sparse... from you the last few years.  I'm not judging, just stating the facts here.  Maybe that's my fault as much as yours.  I mean, I'll  bet there are tons of people that ask for winning lottery tickets every year, and you can't give them to EVERYONE.  I mean, you COULD, but that 25 million dollar jackpot would start getting a bit smaller split between the 300 million US residents (something like a little bit over eight cents each, woo hoo, shopping spree!  Um, no thanks).

And I am sure that getting me my pet octopus is a lot harder than I give credit.  They don't live that long, and now that I think of it, I'll bet you DID get me my little cephalopod friend, but she just couldn't survive the ride from the North friggin Pole.  Not a lot of arctic octopuses, I would think.  I appreciate you not leaving a dead animal under the tree, I really do, especially not a shriveled up dead octopus (although the cats would have probably loved it).

So I thought long and hard about what I want this year, reevaluated some things... prioritized. 

I think I have it now.

Just one thing.

It should be easy for someone with your resources, too, so there are no excuses.

I want my very own robot slave/pet/bestest friend.

He even exists.  Like in the real world, not just in science fiction or CGI.

I present, the NAO from Aldebaran Robotics:

How can you NOT have a nerdgasm looking at this little guy?


Like for real, Santa.  I.  Want.

I promise to treat NAO right.  I promise!

Having my own robot minion would make up for a LOT of missed Christmases, just so you know.

XOXO Love,
Leauxra

P.S. If you want, you can still get me that winning lottery ticket.  I know it wouldn't be the key to happiness, money doesn't bring happiness etc etc, but the thing is, poverty doesn't bring happiness, either.  It doesn't need to be a big lottery... just enough to get started on my bid to take over the world.  I'm not GREEDY or anything.

P.P.S. I'm sorry I implied you were fat.  I understand that you are just big boned.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Scent of Pine Reminds me of Capitalism

When I leave work at night, and it’s dark and cold and the roads are icy, I think of Christmas.

The headlights twinkle like stars against the frozen ground, and when I stop at a light and look in my rear view mirror, I see the crystallized exhaust glowing in the headlights of the people behind me. It’s beautiful. It’s almost Christmas.

When I have to shout to be heard over the blaring Christmas music in a coffee shop, and I get this strange urge to strangle something fuzzy, and I want to throw things and make a scene, I also feel myself filling with the holiday spirit. Christmas!

I love tinsel embedded in my clothing, and the sparkly poops I get to pull out of the cat box because the cats just WON’T LEAVE IT ALONE. Even the cat shit is festive in December.

But most of all, it is walking into the local grocery store, past the rows of fresh cut (dead) trees. Their sap (tree blood) is the epitome of Christmas cheer and love to me. The smell of pine is different here than it is in the mountains. Here, it mingles with fried chicken and bakery treats, and wet asphalt, and exhaust, and those over-scented cinnamon pine cones. Even the incessant bell ringing changes the smell, I swear. It gives it a metallic flavor.

I find myself smiling.

When I was in high school, I got a job making Christmas wreaths.

It was a temporary job in a warehouse, but I thought it would be perfect because I could set my own hours. We weren’t paid by the hour, but by the clip.

OK, picture this… it is a wreath base. It is made out of painted green metal wires. Every four inches or so, is a crossbeam of more metal running perpendicular. They are four, maybe five inches long and slightly curved.

To make a wreath, you strip branches off of a tree that has been trucked down from the mountains. It is  covered in snow and sap, and everything you wear here is going to have sap stains before the month is out, but you have to wear your good coat because the warehouse is unheated and icy cold. The floor is cement, and after about an hour, your feet will start to get numb even though you wore your thickest boots.

You strip out a handful of branches between eight and ten inches long, and you hold them in a little bundle. You will have scratches on your hands and arms, even through your coat, and you will develop a fear of getting your eyeball poked out after getting scratches and jabs in your face on a regular basis. This fear will haunt you for the rest of your life, and require you to wear safety glasses when hiking in anything other than perfect brightness.

Next, you place your little pile of pine boughs inside the crosspiece, or “clip” as they call it in the industry, and hammer it closed.

Congratulations! You have just earned twelve cents (minus the cost of the wreath base of course)! Only fifteen more and you will have a wreath, and you can have it added to your pay sheet (there is no payment for partial wreaths)!

I worked at the Christmas wreath place every weekend, and one or two week days a week after school. We were paid weekly, and I faithfully deposited my checks into my savings account. Only one of those checks was greater than $50.

When I calculated it out, I made about three dollars and fifty cents an hour. This was a bit less than minimum wage (which was $4.25 at the time), but I found it impossible to work an hour in a row without stopping for a few minutes to get my hands thawed. In the evenings, I would run my hands under warm water when I got home to loosen the muscles. My jeans would be wet and stiff, and the skin on my thighs numb and pale. Over the course of the evening after work, my legs would slowly thaw, first tingling like they had fallen asleep and then turning hot and red and angry.  After a while, they were chapped all the time.

I was one of the only teenagers working there. Almost everyone else was in their thirties or older. I felt sad for the ones that were obviously trying to make a temporary living making wreaths. There were a couple of family groups there, too that would make dozens of wreaths every hour with their team work, earning extra cash for the holidays, I guess. I would be annoyed with them because they would strip the trees so fast I would get stuck waiting around for a new one to be brought over. Time is money, people!

After a while, the sap felt almost embedded in my skin, and I would smell it in my sweat during PE class.

I worked there for about a month, and made a total of $192. I spent maybe a third of that on gloves, boots, and gas to get there.

I learned that rubbing alcohol will take sap off your skin in a pinch, and that you can be far colder than you think before you are in danger of freezing to death, and that fat gets cold way faster than muscle on your body.

I also learned that no matter what you think minimum wage is, your boss will find ways to pay you less, but sometimes there is nothing you can do about it.

Contrary to what you might think, this is not a bad memory. I made holiday cheer that year.

I will admit, however, that I have a hard time paying over twenty dollars for a fresh wreath when I know how little it cost to make.

Seeing those wreaths in front of the store reminds me every year that it’s time. Get out the booze and hot cocoa, break out the cheesy movies, and unpack the tree. It’s Christmas time!

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Christmas Miracle (For Realsies)

Not too long ago, one of the big boss guys came into town.  Completely at random.  I didn't know he was coming.

I was not dressed like a hobo like usual, but it was close.  The jeans I was wearing were only on their third day, and my fleece jacket covered up the wrinkles on my button down.  I was even wearing jewelry.

I ran into the guy in the cafetorium (yes, I just said "cafetorium" with a straight face.  Shoot me now).

Why does this remind me of the holidays?

It started out as a nagging half-memory.  What was it?  I searched through some of my old writing. Something... I know there was something...

After about an hour, I finally found this little unfinished piece, written at the end of 2001. I call it, "A Christmas Miracle".Let me take you back a few years.  Back when I worked the night shift at the illustrious Copy Whores (the name of the business has been changed to protect... the, ah... I'll be honest.  I'm not protecting anyone here.  I just like saying the word "whore"). 

-----------------------------------------------------------------

I drooled on myself at work the other night.  How embarrassing.  I wasn't even tired.

I was just standing there, happily and mindlessly bookletizing a manual for a client. I turned to stack some of the books in the finishing tray and felt the surprising numbness of another paper cut.

"Son of a-" I started to say when dri-i-i-p.

I was so shocked by the saliva stretching out of my mouth and the soft splattery noise that it made on the books that I didn't close my mouth or wipe my lip for a second.

I searched in my line of sight for a tissue or paper towel, and found none.  I decided that my sleave would have to do.

Wait a minute..

Wait.

I couldn't see my drool splashes anywhere.  Maybe I had imagined it... maybe, I hoped...

I saw a spot of darkness on the front of my shurt and looked down.  How long had I been drooling?  Was I just standing there pouring spit out of my mouth the whole time?  What's next? Peeing my pants because I forgot to hold my bladder?  Passing out because I forgot to breathe?

I blotted at the dark spot on my shirt with my sleave, hoping that it hadn't soaked in yet, and managed to make the dark spot look darker and twice as large.

"Great," I said, "I look like... I look like a drooling idiot."

It's OK, I thought, It'll dry before anyone sees me.  I mean, who comes into copy-whores at 3AM?

I glanced at the counter, and jumped.

There was someone there.

Swallowing to make sure I didn't drool again, I put on my best customer service smile and threaded my way through thecopiers to the front counter.

"Hi!" I said brightly, "Is there something I can help you with?"

He stared at the front of my shirt with old man eyes as I approached, saying nothing.

"Sir?"

His eyes traveled slowly from my chest to my face, looking vague and lost.  I wondered if he was senile, maybe an escapee from the retirement home down the block.  It had happened before.

I was about to speak again when he said, "I heard the same Christmas music when I was in here yesterday."  His voice was soft and gravelly, and virtually expresisonless.

"Yeah," I said, wondering who I should call. The police, maybe?  "They have it on a two hour loop starting on October 1st.  I think they are trying to drive me crazy."

His eyes sparkled for a moment, as if to say, "Driving you crazy?" 

I continued rapidly, "I have a 10 hour shift so I hear the same stuff five times a night."

He nodded, looking forlorn.  "Nobody writes new Christmas music anymore."

His eyes wandered back down to the drool spot on my shirt as he spoke, and I self-conciously reached my hand up to fidget with my necklace and block his view.

"So," I said, trying to change the subject.  "You were here last night?"

He nodded. "You were talking to yourself."

"I-" I said, "I don't really remember.  It's possible, I suppose."

He smiled, "I figured you were daydreaming."  He glanced out the window as if realizing it was actually night time and maybe "daydreaming" was the wrong word.

I gave a strained chuckle "I suppose I do that, now and then," I said, "So I don't get too bored.  You say you were here yesterday?"  I could feel my eyebrows knitting together.

His eyes were amused, "Well, I am kind of hard to notice if you aren't looking for me."

I frowned.  It was actually strange that I hadn't seen him come in.  He was barrel chested, taller than me and had the whitest hair and beard I had ever seen.  How exactly was this man hard to notice?

We stood in silence for a moment, studying one another.

"Well," I said, "Was there something I could help you with?"

"Nice of you to ask," he said.  His voice seemed stronger with use, "But I'm fine.  You can go about your business."

"OK," I said, feeling awkward.  "Let me know if you need anything."

"Sure," he said, smiling.

"So," I said, not wanting to leave him just yet, "So... you come here often?"

"Every day," he said.

"And what..." I stopped.  I was going to say, "And what do you do here?" because I could see he wasn't carrying anything, but maybe it was rude to ask.

We stared at eachother again, and then he pointed at my hand.  "You're bleeding," he said.

"What?"

"Your hand."

I looked down.  Oh yeah.  The paper cut.

"Excuse me," I said, "I had better take care of this."

I backed up a few steps.  He didn't move, just stood there smiling.

Finally, I said, "Bye," and turned to walk to the back room to clean up.

"Be seeing you," he called after me.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

So that's it.  There wasn't anything else written down.  I remembered there being more to the story, but I was tired of looking.  Maybe I just imagined finishing it.  I know what happened though.

Dude at the counter was Santa Claus. 

And he gave me what I wanted for Christmas that year.

I got RIFed (that's a the initials of "reduction in force" turned into a verb for those of you who don't speak corporateze.  We don't say "laid off" in corporate land.  Such negative connotations!  Just like we say "nonconforming" instead of "broken" when referring to warranty parts... focus groups say it's better!).

All the joys of an unexpected extended vacation, none of the guilt of quitting!

Sure, Santa and I have had words since then (dude will NOT give me that winning lottery ticket I keep asking for, or the pet octopus), but at least I know he's real.

So anyway.  Bringing this story full circle:  Big Boss Man was in town.  The dude actually referrs to himself as "the big dog" or "the big kahuna".  For real.

He came to town and no one would tell me why.

I pinged my ex-boss in chat a few cubes away:

Me:  Did you know the Big Boss was here?
Her: Oh, yeah, I was in a meeting with him.
Me: How did I not know this?  No one told me I wasn't supposed to dress like a hobo this week!
Her: Sorry, I forgot.
Me:  Now I keep thinking I'm getting RIFed. 
Me: And then I thought, That would be awesome! So I probably won't be.
Her: LOL.

So cross your fingers, everyone, and maybe that Santa won't be a dick again this year.  Let's all hope for a Christmas Miracle!






Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I Write! Words! Words in Sentences!

So yeah. Wrote a book and all.
Not to toot my own horn or anything, but TOOT FUCKING TOOT.

Ahem.
Seriously though guys, I have to say that I learned a lot in writing a novel in a month.

First of all, I really really really want to be a writer when I grow up. Almost as bad as I want to be an evil wizard.

Second, writing can be a group activity. The more awkward it is, the more you will get done in order to block out your real life situation. I wrote almost five thousand words in three hours one day because I was so uncomfortable.* 

*I was sitting at a table with a couple of students. I was completely weirded out by hanging out with high schoolers who were half my age in a setting where they were my peers.  I tried to relate to them in some way, and instead ended up rambling on like a huge dweeb. At one point, the girl asked me if I had kids or was planning to have kids. I said, "Yeah, probably not. For some reason I can imagine having teenagers, but not children." "Ew," said the boy, "That's a disgusting image." I didn't mean give birth to teenagers, but there was no going back. If I refuse to look at them, maybe my embarrassment would go away. Type type type.

 I always thought I liked silence for writing. It turns out I like to listen to music.** And I have bad taste in music.*** I will never be hipster now.****

**It started out that I just wanted to block out the surrounding sounds. The sound of a computer game, the sound of that couple over there arguing about leaving hair on the soap, that guy taking that order, that girl who just spilled her coffee... I know, great material, and blah blah blah, but mostly it was just annoying. So I put on my iPod and set it to shuffle, much as I do for work.

**For some reason I was listening to Coldplay a lot (please don't ask me why I have not one but two Coldplay albums. Please, just leave it), even though my Rob Zombie was a bit more appropriate to what I was writing. I took out my ear buds and the teenagers at my table were talking music. The cool girl (with the perfectly shaped head, I could tell because it was shaved) was arguing with the boy. They were obviously friends, and possibly trying to act cool in front of me.  Or maybe they were really just that in to music.  Anyway, the girl was arguing that Nickelback was the best band in the world because they were so diverse and played so many genres. All I know about Nickelback is that Detroit tried to get them banned from playing at some game for the NFL, and lots of people seem to really hate them. Lots of people also hate Coldplay, though, so maybe that means I would like them.  

When Boyfriend and I were in Flagstaff after our Grand Canyon adventure, we went into a convenience store so we could get some beer. I was paying and I handed the guy my money. "And you get a nickel back," he said, "Ha ha ha, that's what's playing right now! Nickelback!"  I smiled politely. He could get away with sounding like a huge dork because he looked a bit like a biker, all big and tattooed up. Come to think of it, he also had a shaved head. On second thought, I could never be a Nickelback fan.  My head is oddly shaped, and I would just end up looking like Lonnie the banjo boy in Deliverance if I shaved my head according to this apparent Nickelback convention.  Best to stick with my current plan of not even knowing what they sound like.

****Not that I would want to be. Being hipster is so yesterday. I didn't want to be hipster before any of you ever even heard of hating hipsters.

 I killed a lot of characters in my book, but the only one I feel bad about is the kitten.

No one can ever see this book. At least until I do a massive revision. I still haven't read it. I am a little bit afraid to.*****

***** No really. I tried to read it, and I couldn't stand it. I couldn't stand reading it. It made my head hurt. I don't know if it was that bad or if I am just sick of it. I've started writing a children's book instead of editing my current book. I think I'll wait until January when I'm depressed anyway, before I look at it again.

It is easy to mix up rural Nebraska and rural Kansas in your head.****** I might need to change the seasons or something, as I think I used the layout for the Nebraska house in a scene that happened in Kansas. Damnit.

****** Especially when you have never spent any time in either place, only driven through, as God intended.

All stories that take place in Kansas should have tornadoes. Its better than a deus ex machina when your plot is getting stale, only better because the situation is not resolved, but made worse.*******
 *******Seriously, I seem to enjoy torturing my characters a LOT.  What does this say about me as a person?  I am thinking it is a good thing that I will not procreate. 

I seem to like writing about things burning down. There are multiple fires.

It is possible to write a novel in a month while working full time and commuting (but it might make you crazy then you'll and over italicize the fuck out of your next blog post). 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Musings on Commutings

On Thursday, December 1, those jerk mereorologists decided to give us a winter storm.  They've been warning us for days that they were going to do it, but I kept hoping they would back down.

I hate that they can never do this on a weekend so that I can enjoy it.  I love to play in the snow. Instead they set it up so that the worst of the storm is during my morning commute.


OK, I made this with Paint, but this is basically what it looked like outside (those dark blobs are supposed to be trees in the distance).

I made a list in my head of the things I saw as I drove, and tried not to white knuckle it.  The night before it rained, and then snowed, so it was a bit like driving around on an skating rink.  I kept expecting sweepers to run outside and and polish the ice in front of the cars like it was some big curling contest.

  1. Car off the side of the road, less than a mile from where I get on to Highway 287.  There is a grassy area between the north and south areas, and at that part, it is a little divet in the ground.  The car had its hazards on, and a guy was sitting inside with his head on his steering wheel.  I rubbernecked as much as I could without crashing until I saw him sit up.  He was talking on the phone.  Oh good, he wasn't dead and he had a phone.  I didn't have to try to figure out if I should stop to help him.  I'm not sure I could have stopped without crashing.

  2. There was a black newer-model Saab on the side a few hundred yards from the one and only light on this stretch of road.  It also had its hazards on, but no one was inside.  There was no obvious damage, and it is still on the road, partially in the lane.  Did he run out of gas?

  3. I saw two more cars on the neutral ground between lanes, but I couldn't see much more than their roofs as I was in the right lane.  I decided it would be better drive slow and let the SUV fuckers speed by after I fishtailed a couple of times.

  4. Traffic came to a stop, with many skids and slides from everyone.  We were pushed into the left lane, and then into the turn lane by a firetruck blocking both lanes.  There are two tow trucks with cars loaded up behind him, but not much else to see.  No fire at all.  I am always kind of disappointed whenever I see a fire truck and no fire, and I feel guilty about it.  The cars did not look too badly damaged, but I could only see one side of them.

  5. There was a pick-up truck with an S.Cargo top that drove off the right side of the road, went through a field where he left muddy tracks, and apparently did a donut.  There was a police car with lights flashing parked above, and I could see the officer scrambling down the embankment.  He needed snow boots as I could see the snow sticking to his socks. There was no one in the truck.

  6. Just before I got to my turnoff on Highway 66, there was a red car, again in the middle.  I was just wondering how many people off the side I missed as I drove by because I was paying attention to the road when I saw this guy:  A man in a suit is sitting inside the red car looking pissed off.  I had to slam on the brakes after that and felt my car do the little heart-stoppy-slidey-slidey because the car in front of me was going less than 15 miles per hour.  Asshole. I didn't crash, though, thank the gods of the anti-lock brakes.

  7. When I got to Highway 66, I had a couple miles to decide if I wanted to go through town and deal with the other drivers, or go west a little and skirt around town and go through Hygiene.  I went for Hygiene, and I saw a Isuzu Rodeo do a 360, then catch itself and keep going as though nothing were happening.  The driver, a woman in her late 30's or early 40's was laughing maniacally/hysterically.  The teenager in the passenger seat appeared to be texting.  I am not sure if he noticed that anything happened.

  8. In Hygene, where the speed limit is 30 all the time, I was going just under 30 when a large pickup truck decided to tail gate me.  I took my foot off the gas and allowed myself to go slower and slower.  I just assumed he wanted me to drive slower, or he wouldn't be so close. He turned at the single four way stop in town, his back end skipping about.  He may have looked angry, but it couldn't have been because of me, could it?

The snow let up a little bit when I got to Hygiene, so I pulled out my camera to take a picture of my commute (yes, the truck was still behind me here, so I was going maybe 10 miles per hour).  Sorry it's blurry.  Or rather, it's a really clear picture of the streaks on my windshield.  I was kinda distracted at the time.

I arrived at work about 40 minutes late, but in one piece, and decided immediately that I was going to go home early.  It's all... weathery out, so I was allowed.


See?  My artistic rendition of the landscape wasn't actually that far off.  And yes, I know it's blurry.  I was kind of, you know, DRIVING at the time.

I felt a little bit like an asshole going home early, as most of the roads were pretty clear.  Then I hit a patch of black ice and the only reason I stayed on the highway was that I happened to be driving in a straight line at the time.

It is a disconcerting thought that I sometimes risk my life in order to sit in a cubicle all day.

P.S. It snowed again on Friday night and Saturday morning.  I drove my car up to the mountains to go for a hike.  Why is it so much easier to brave the shitty weather when it's something I want to do?





Thursday, December 1, 2011

November

It turns out, November is over.    Freaking showoff month all speeding by...  Just like those little kids did during the Turkey Trot.  I had to keep myself from shouting discouraging words.  Run Forrest!  And that one old lady, but she was like, super fit looking and stuff, so she totally shouldn't count.

That's right, kids, once again, I ran when no one was chasing me.  For over THREE MILES.

And I paid for the privilege of getting tagged and monitored like a harp seal.  I paid money.  Happily.

No, really, I'm not crazy. It was kinda fun.

I could even breath (mostly)!  And I didn't fall down!

 No, really.

So, there are a few things I would like to point out on my little "results" picture here.  First, my chip time and my clock time are thirty seven seconds off.  We arrived early so we could have started off in the front, but Boyfriend pointed out that fewer people would pass us if we started in the back.  He's so smart.  So it took us thirty-seven seconds to cross the start line after the gun went off. 
I was in 719th place, and it turns out you do NOT get to stand on the podium for that.  Those jerks are so elitist.

I was one place off from being exactly in the middle as far as placing compared to all the girls in this race, and slightly better than half of the people in my age and gender group.  Win?

BUT.  The important thing here:  I was 719th place overall, and 323rd place among women... that makes me faster than like, 203 men.  Those guys totally got "chicked".  And no, I don't care if they were over 85 and under 10.  I BEAT YOU, SUCKERS!

So, that is an improvement of over six minutes compared to last year.  See?  I am not completely lazy.
And screw that photographer!  I showed up in ONE picture, and I was in the background of some other lady so I'm all blurry and cut in half.  Boyfriend wasn't even in ANY pictures.  Really?  Seriously?  No one standing at the finish to take pictures?  Nothing?  Just one lady sitting on the ground at about the halfway point so that she can be SURE to get the most awkward and unflattering picture possible? 

Great.  Thanks.  I'll spend my $4 elsewhere.  (PS I actually stole the picture from their site and cut out the little bit of me that's in the photo.  Well, I also cropped out my huge ass, but you get the idea.  Please don't turn me in to the copyright police.  I would have paid for it if they had a picture of my victorious finish.  Or a picture of me in focus.  Jerks).

This years race was a actually a pretty pleasant experience.  No.  Really, it was.  I'm serious.  Other than the lack of pictures, it was fun.  Will you stop trying to get me into that straight jacket?  I am not crazy.

There were a few things that contributed to the overall awesome:
  1. The weather was pretty nice:  Mid 30's and windless.  For 8:30AM in November, that's pretty spectacular.  Warm enough to not die of hypothermia and have your nose hairs stab you when you breathe, but cold enough that you don't really sweat the whole time.
  2. My knees no longer hurt.  I can jog pain free, even if I am jogging very, very slowly.
  3. I achieved (barely) my personal goal of jogging faster than eleven minute miles.  So basically, I won.
Some other things happened in November, too. 
  1. I finally got around to getting the tires on my car rotated after noticing that one of the tires was mostly flat when Boyfriend and Mom and I got back to the car after hiking.  You know, miles from anywhere (we didn't die, the car didn't explode, and the tire was not damaged badly, so it wasn't too bad).
  2. I rewatched the Lord of the Rings Trilogy for the first time in a really long time.  For some reason it didn't have the same emotional impact, and I kept saying things like "I wish I could quit you!" when Frodo and Sam were staring lovingly into one another's eyes.  I'm such a jerk.
  3. I got new running shoes.  They were discount bargain shoes and they are my favorite shoes EVAR.
  4. I wrote a novel.
 So yeah, overall, a pretty boring month.  Not much to report...

What?

Oh, that?

Yeah.  Ahem.  (Buffs nails on jacket lapel).  Why yes.  I am a novelist now. It's no big thing...


OMGWTF SO FUCKING AWESOME!

Final word count:  54,569 words written and a novel in the month of November.  Now I just have to mold it into something worth reading...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Congratulations! You are Fat!

OK, you didn't think I could resist blogging for a whole month, did you?


I will be the first to admit that I’ve been Bad Attitude Girl at work lately. That’s kind of like Bat-Girl, but without the stupid cape and ears, and I don’t fight crime.

Aw, fuck it.  Ears are cute.

I usually eat lunch with a certain few coworkers. We are all survivors from the call center, and even though we’ve al l moved on, we remain close. Like a work family. Or maybe a gang.  Hooligans, maybe. The Ex-Smoker (most of us) Gang. Watch out or we’ll shake you down for your lunch money. We’re like the bad kids at work. We do things like race up the stairs, and walk on the benches outside and play on the exercise equipment instead of exercising on the path outside. We’re baaad.

Anyway, I gathered the gang members that were around and headed to the cafĂ©. We had to kind of rush it a little bit, but I noticed that they set up the benefits fair off in part of the cafeteria. I walked through the booths, and picked up a glasses repair kit from the vision insurance people, which is funny because I don’t wear glasses anymore, and headed back to my desk.  I can't help it.  I'm like a hoarder for free stuff.  Free stuff makes me feel good for about 10 seconds, and I needed a little pick-me-up.

Today I received my “biometric screening” for my insurance. It is a voluntary thing, and something I would generally skip if they didn’t pay me. But apparently, if I do this, plus do some other things, and then some other things, and jump through a few hoops, and maybe promise my firstborn son or something, they will give me $300 a year off on my health insurance. Woot.

So, I decided to go ahead and do it.

I knew that I had put on some weight, but I figured I it would be worth the humiliation so get back a little of the money that gets taken out of my paycheck. I have to do something to slow my wage erosion, after all.

“Hi! How are YOU?” said the lady behind the curtain.

Let’s back up and establish the scene here… Part of the cafetorium was sequestered off for this assessment. I had to schedule my time slot a week in advance, and I arrived promptly at 10AM. The instructions said I was supposed to fast before I got there, but Fuck. That. You don’t want to see me hungry, dude.

Anyway, I got there, filled out some paperwork, and then sat with the other bored employees for about 30 minutes while the insurance people scrambled to catch up. They may have overbooked slightly, or maybe they were just that slow.

My name was FINALLY called, and I went back behind curtain number 2.

When she asked me how I was, I kind of grunted, noncommittally. “OK, I guess.”

“You guess?” she said.

“Uh, yeah.”

She got a little huffy with that, apparently, everyone is supposed to be happy to be here and get their finger pricked by a total stranger.

Since I had eaten, they were just going to test my cholesterol (apparently normal, shhh! Don’t tell anyone! This is secret info, dude!) My waist circumference came out to 32 inches, which I was pretty happy with as it is 2 inches smaller than last year. I got to put “DOESN’T SMOKE” in the little check box and feel all proud and shit.

And then came the part I had been dreading.

Height and weight.  Well, more the weight part than the height, but they measure them both at the same time so they are linked.

I apparently grew a quarter of an inch from last year. Go me! I am 5’8” now! But the lady wouldn’t tell me my weight (that bitch!) because it was super duper secret, and they weren’t allowed to say any of the numbers out loud and blah blah blah. God I hated her.  Do you ever hate anyone for no reason?  Just me?  Never mind.

So I was sent back out into the cafetorium to be bored for another 10 minutes before I was brought to a little standalone cubicle to discuss my results with another random stranger who was way too happy. Seriously, where the fuck do these people come from?

The front of the packet said, “Congratulations!”

Opening the packet, everything was green green green (which I assume is a good thing), except for the BMI and Body Composition %. They were yellow. They both said, “Overweight.”

Thanks, biometric screening. I knew I had put on some weight, but I really didn’t need to hear it. “Congratulations, you fatass! Lose some weight! Look in the mirror, thunder thighs!” (And actually, my actual weight was lower than I anticipated, coming out to 173.5, which is 6.5 lbs lighter than the last time I got on a scale and had a psychological meltdown.)

Fuckers.

So anyway.

Maybe I should have a better attitude about it all. I mean, I learned that my blood pressure while stressed out and trying not to throttle anyone is 102/72, and that my cholesterol levels are “desirable”. I also found out that they checked my glucose even though I didn’t fast, and I was still within the normal range (which is shocking with my all-sugar diet).

But the fact of the matter is, I hate everything, and this biometric screening was just the topper.

I keep trying to turn my frown upsidown and be all happy and optimistic and shit, but every time I get to my desk at work, a little piece of my soul dies.

Sitting down, I opened up the little eyeglasses repair kit that I took from the vision insurance people.. It was pretty nice, a little screwdriver with multiple heads, and a magnifying glass.

I took out the magnifying glass, and magnified my keyboard, which is always gross. But the lens was all plastic and warped.

What the hell, dude? I am never going to be able to start a fire with this shit (not that I have the urge to burn anything down or anything).

Really, it's probably a good thing that I failed their "biometric screening."  I don't know exactly what they were screening for, after all.  They might just be looking for some good candidates to join their legion of the undead.

 

NaNoWriMo Update:  My word count as of  7:31 PM on November the 9th, is 18061. I am just under 2 days ahead of schedule.  That's a lot of words!  I have come to completely distrust my narrator, and I have huge fear that I am going to go back and read this on December 1 and the whole thing will look like it is written by a forth grader.  That's OK.  Keepin' on Keepin' on.  I am almost to the zombies, and everything will change, but first I have to write the bit about kittens.

Friday, October 28, 2011

UPDATED: "Some Day"

So, after working out for 9 weeks, and trying dozens of different classes, I have managed to gain yet ANOTHER 5 pounds, jack up my left foot so bad it hurts to walk, pull SOMETHING in my groin, and get a blister in a place that has NO FUCKING BUSINESS getting a blister, I think it may be time to re-evaluate my goals.

I may be going back to good old fashioned running, where I can sweat and puke all on my own, thankyouverymuch, without some overly muscled fitness guru telling me to "COME ON!  PUSH IT!  YOU CAN DO IT!" and basically egging me on until I hurt myself.

I know, I know, it isn't their fault.  I could have leaped off the dammed spin bike and stomped my foot and crossed my arms and said, "ENOUGH!" 

But I didn't.

I could have thrown my water bottle at the boom box during the zumba class that nearly ruined my life and stormed out of the room in a huff instead of trying to shake it shake it shake it, and permanently injuring my pride.

But I didn't.

Instead, even though I have been eating LESS, and eating more healthy (healthily?  healthililier?), I have gained another 5 lbs.

What.  The.  Fuck.

This brings me up to... 180 lbs.  I mean seriously.  That sounds like a lot.  It got me eating a ton of cantaloupe in the hopes that I would get Lysteria and maybe FINALLY stop the madness.

But what, really, is in a number? I mean, besides all of my self esteem and willingness to try anything new? (HOLY SHIT 180? REALLY?)

So...

I am hitting the reset button here, and making some new damned goals for November and saying "fuck you" to September and October.

Goal #1: I will not get on the scale.  Not the crappy old one in my bathroom, not my mom's fancy digital one in her bathroom, not the professional looking doctor scale at gym at work.  Not. Getting.  On.  Why?  Because every time I do, I get really depressed, eat an entire fried chicken and a bag of fun sized Baby Ruth bars, and drink a six-pack of beer.  And not light beer, REAL beer.  That's why.

Goal #2:  It's about a month away.. Thanksgiving.  That means the Turkey Trot is coming up.  There will be no Turkey since my parents went all vegan on me last year (Depressionfest 2011 right there,guys), but we can still go a-running on the big morning of what USE to be my favoritest holiday ever.  Goal #2 is to beat my Turkey Trot time from last year.  Sure, I am 15 pounds heavier than last year, but last year I had an injury that made running almost impossible. 

This means that instead of working out for socks, I will now work out for my self respect.

Ummm. Wait.

That sounds kind of bad.

OK.  Let's try this thing over again.

Goals for November:

  1. Find a way to actually sleep at night.  This may involve running a lot during the day.  Or at all.  I hear that exercise helps you sleep.
  2. Find a way to deal with stress that doesn't involve eating, or quitting my job. (This might tie into the whole "running" thing again.  And hiking more).
  3. Run the Turkey Trot in less than 39 minutes.  Yeah.  39 minutes was my time last year.  I really should be able to beat that.
  4. Write a novel.

Wait, what?

Oh, yeah.

I forgot to tell you.

I signed up for NaNoWriMo this year.

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). 

No.  For serious.

I signed up to write a novel in November.

No.

Really.

I did.

Because sometimes I think that everything that is wrong with my life is caused by the fact that everything I am planning to do with my life, I am going to do "some day".  Yeah, remember that time I was going to write a book?

Yeah.  I didn't.

Fuck. 

That.

I am writing a goddamned novel in November.

"Some day" is the month of November, kids.

50,000 words, 30 days, and I will have a rough draft.  That comes out to 1666 words a day (about).

I need to prove to myself that I can do it.  It doesn't  have to be good, it just has to be done.

So what I am saying is... I might not be around much in November.

I may not be able to keep up with my bloggy friends.  I may not be writing many posts, or commenting on the posts of others.  It isn't that I don't care.  It's just... well...

I kinda sorta need to write a book right now, and go for a run.




P.S.  Do you want to be my writing buddy at NaNoWriMo?  Email me, and I will send you the details.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Reason I Called in Sick on Wednesday

"Up!" she shouted.

I was sweating, maybe groaning a little bit.  Shit, I can't do this I can't do this I'm going to die, this is the longest five seconds of my life!

"Down!" she said.

"Uuuuugh," I groaned.  My feet kept spinning the pedals while I tried to catch my breath, but it was no use. 

"UP!" she shouted.

I thought, FUCK YOU, BITCH!  YOU AREN'T THE BOSS OF ME!  I CAN'T DO THIS!  AAAAAAH!.

I stood up again, maybe a half an inch from the seat, and kept my mouth shut.  I didn't have enough strength to go further.  I was going to die, I was going to explode,  I HATE YOU I HATE YOU I HATE YOU I HAVE FUCKING COUNTED TO FIVE WHY ARE WE STILL FUCKING STANDING?

"Down!" she shouted.

This time I thumped down with an audible grunt.  I wondered if I was going to have a heart attack.  That would show them.  Making me exercise.  At least I would have an excuse to stop pedaling.

This was my first ever spin class.

If you don't know, a spin class is where you sit in a semi-circle of stationary bikes while trying to follow the lead of an incredibly toned and muscular woman, while surrounded by other sweating and grunting idiots who thought this was a good idea.

It is the latest in a long line of fitness classes I have joined at the wellness center at work.

Normally, I am not much into these types of group fitness classes, but I keep being drawn in by the idea of free socks, so I keep going.

Free. Socks.

And I have learned some valuable lessons:

  1. I hate zumba.  A lot.
  2. Classes that have an "X" in the title are hard.
  3. Anything with the words "body bar" or "bosu" are also going to be hard.
  4. Pretty much, any class is going to be hard, and make me feel weak.
  5. Everyone has a price.  Mine is socks.*
*Thanks, Tim, for pointing this out to me recently.

I, so far, have managed not to cry in any of these classes.

But I have to keep going.

And it isn't just the free socks.

No, really, it isn't.  Not just the free socks.

Spin class was held in the hour before I started work (yes, I came in early for this). 

I arrived at 7 AM.  They all knew each other, and I had a momentary feeling of being the odd man out.  These guys had been "spinning" together for years.  But since I almost always feel like the odd man out, I decided that I would pretend I didn't notice the sidelong looks and whispered asides.  I would tough it out, whatever happened.  It was only 45 minutes.  I would fucking WIN this race, damnit. 

Win it.

About 20 minutes in, I was sweating more than I ever remember sweating in my life, and three things happened at once.
  1. My foot slipped out of the pedal and I was nearly pulled underneath my stationary bike.  I saw my life flash before my eyes before catching myself and getting right again. 
  2. I sat hard on the seat, which was not as soft as my real bicycle seat, and I wasn't wearing bike shorts because they are a little tight these days.  So when I thumped down on the seat, I think I bruised something... er... delicate.
  3. I kept pedaling.
What am I, stupid?

And while my conscious mind was thinking, "OW, FUCK, SHIT! OW, THAT HURT!  GODDAMN, I HATE YOU I HATE YOU, DIE DIE DIE!" and I was concentrating on not saying any of this shit out loud in front of my coworkers, underneath it all, I was determined, no, more than that, I was CERTAIN I would do this, I would finish this class.  Because I have to be in shape.  Because I have to be able to escape the zombies.

I'm serious.  That was what kept me going and got me through spin class.

Zombies.

I showered and cleaned up, and started the quarter mile trek through the building to my desk.

It was a strange feeling, being a few minutes early to work, so I wasn't really paying attention when I started down the stairs and nearly collapsed.  I had to grab the railing to keep from falling, and my wet towel went sliding out of my shoulder strap and fell to the floor.  I hesitated in retrieving it, and it actually crossed my mind that I could just leave my wet towel on the stairs, but good sense and cheapness made me stretch down (without bending by legs) and snag it.

My legs had lost all strength, but they didn't hurt at all.  This may have been a bad sign.

I staggered to my desk, trying not to look drunk and looking like I was really drunk, and pretended to work for a couple of hours.

It hurt to sit, and I realized that on top of the bruise, I may have chaffed my delicates, too.

Ow.

At 10:15, I managed to pull myself to my feet again and wander down the hallway.  A few weeks ago, I had signed up for a free flu shot at work, and I had almost forgotten.  I considered skipping it, but, you know.  It was free and all...

Sometimes I wonder if I would get a full frontal lobotomy if they were giving them out for free at Walgreen's.

Anyway, here are some things I learned while getting my flu shot at work:
  1. Do not wear a shirt that you can't roll up beyond your elbow. Otherwise, you will basically have to strip half naked in front of random coworkers in the Falling Aspen Leaf Conference Room.
  2. Doctors (or nurse practitioners) do not appreciate it when you make exaggerated grimaces when they give you a shot, even if it really hurts.
  3. They also have no sympathy when you say, "That hurt!" in a wounded, tearful voice, even though you went to the extra effort to not say, "That HURT, Fucker!"
  4. Do not, repeat, do NOT realize that you have just allowed a corporation to INJECT SOMETHING INTO YOUR ARM.

I spent the afternoon thinking about how pointless it is to work out so hard when I am going to end up BEING a zombie because I was stupid enough to let them inject the zombie virus in my arm, and that my legs hurt, and my arm hurt, and I want to go home, I won't cry I won't cry I won't cry. 

That night I started to feel sick.  A little off.  Something wasn't right.

My neck was a little swollen, my throat hurt.  I had a headache.  My bones hurt.

Holy shit, dude, I was joking.  I didn't actually think they were making me into a zombie.

Damn.

And that, my friends,  is why I stayed home from work the next day, which was a Wednesday, with instructions to my loved ones to destroy my brain if I started to turn.  I couldn't trust them to finish me off at work.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Apple Didn't Fall Far...

A typical conversation from a typical evening at home:

"Awww..." I said, "I don't wanna work."

Mom: "Me neither."

Me: "I should just quit my job.  I'll be an artist."

Mom: "You've tried that before."

Me: "Yeah, but I always had to get a job, so I have never been a full time artist.  I always want to 'eat' and 'pay rent'.  I should just be homeless.  Less stressful."

Mom: "You know we would never let you be homeless."

Me: "Yeah, but you would be mad at me."

Mom: "Maybe you should just find a rich man to take care of you."

Me: "Mom, I already HAVE a man."

Boyfriend (From the other room where Boyfriend and Dad are playing cards): "Wait, what?"

Me (walking in to the other room): "Mom says I should find a rich husband, but I told her I already had a man."

Boyfriend: "Huh."

Dad: "Well, we're rich in the things that matter."

Me:  "So I can quit my job?"

Dad (chuckling evilly): "As long as you don't mind eating the 'things that matter'."

I guess this means I will be going to work tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Literal Hikes are so Much More Fun than Metaphoric Ones

I started my day our right.

I had a fluffernutter for breakfast.


If you don't know, a fluffernutter is a toasted, buttered sandwich filled with peanut butter (the crunchy kind is best, with as many trans fats as you can find, because they're the best kind) and marshmallow creme spread.  No, seriously, it's a thing.  Normally, it should be eaten on Wonderbread, but for some reason my house only contains healthy all grain crap these days, so I had to make do.

As I chewed on the gooey goodness, I found myself smiling.

In the morning.

On a Sunday.  (I know, right?  What the....?)

But I was happy.  We were going for a hike.  A literal hike, not the figurative mountain climbing that I do at work.

This was going to be awesome.  And I probably wouldn't die.


***************************************************************

We decided that the first day after Colorado's first big snowstorm would be a good day to head up to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Originally, we were going to go up on Saturday night, while the moon was nearly full, but a couple of things stood in my way.

  1. There was a blizzard.
  2. The local brewery was having its Oktoberfest that day, and no one wanted to stay sober.

Me: "But, but, but, the weather is so much more fun when you're out playing in it."

My Mom:  "Leauxra, Oktoberfest."

Me: "But, but..."

Dad: "You can still go.  We're just going to go to Oktoberfest."

Me: 'But..."

Boyfriend: "They have a point, you know."

Overruled.

So we headed out on Sunday, bright and mid-morning after drinking all day on Saturday.


***************************************************************

There was a slight post-apocalyptic feel to the trail head.

We were heading up to a place called Chasm Lake, which resides underneath the 2500 foot diamond shaped granite cliff that is the east face of Longs Peek.  The trail to Chasm Lake follows the same path as the way to the summit, with a turnoff at the holy-crap-you-want-me-to-walk-where? to get to the lake.

Since Longs Peak is the 14,000 plus foot peak farthest north in that Rocky Mountain chain, and because it is the only 14er within Rocky Mountain National Park, it is ridiculous with people all summer.  The parking lot will fill up, as well as the side of the road for a good mile or two downhill.

The parking lot at the Longs Peak trail head.  Where are all the people?

A few minutes later we headed out.

The trail starts around 9500 feet above sea level, and goes up from there, and today, the trail was further complicated by having a few inches of snow on top.  It only took a few minutes before I was not only gasping for air, but sweating profusely.  It was maybe 30 degrees Fahrenheit, and still.

It was really beautiful, despite the minor discomfort of not being able to breathe.  Like a goddamned greeting card.

As we went, we came upon two hikers coming down.

Normal trail ediquite calls for the person going down to make way for the people going up.  I was panting a bit though, and I stepped off the trail to catch my breath and let them pass.

"Hi," I chirped, pretending I was not short of breath.

No response. 

"Nice day for a hike, huh?"  I said.

One of the guys said (a little dully), "Yeah."

How the fuck could these guys NOT respond to me?  Look how cute I was in my kitty hat!  And my hiking pants are totally flattering!  

I couldn't understand what their problem was.  If I'm in a good mood, EVERYONE should be in a good mood, right?  Jerks. I glanced behind me as they passed my mom, and noticed they had ice axes and crampons.  Maybe they were trying to go for the summit and were tired.

Whatever.

I shrugged and moved on.

It was around the time that the trees started getting shorter.  I was amazed there is no wind as I had never been here in anything less than a gale force.


It is usually so windy that the trees only have branches on one side (click to enlarge).

We passed some friendly hikers as we broke out above the trees.  They were on their way down.  Unlike those jerks below, they actually responded.

"Hi," I said, "Nice day!"

Female Hiker: "Yeah, it's is gorgeous."

My Boyfriend: "What's the weather like up there?"

Male Hiker: "About the same.  We didn't get far, the trail gets hard to follow."

Female Hiker: "Did you see those guys coming down?  They got lost last night in the storm, ended up staying the night."

Me: "Oh really?  The guys with the ice axes?"

Femal Hiker: "Yeah."

Male Hiker: "Apparently it got really hard to see and they decided to hunker down for the night."

Me:  "Oh."

I felt a little like a jerk for thinking they were jerks after they had gone through an ordeal like that.  And also thankful to Oktoberfest for keeping me out of the snow on Saturday.

The trail became difficult to follow.  Only a few inches fell, but it drifted waist deep in some places, completely covering cairns and the rocks along the side of the trail.  Boyfriend didn't want to walk on the delicate tundra, so he kept plowing through the snow to make a path in the correct place.  Walking took a lot of work.

There s a trail in there somewhere.  I swear.

Things start clearing up as we near the ridgeline, and we passed another pair of hikers.  The man said, "Ahh!  Snow cat! Ha ha!"  He sounded French.

I smiled, not getting the joke.  "Nice day," I said.

French Man:  "Very nice out."

Boyfriend says, "How is it up there?"

French Man: "Longs Peak was teasing us, but she stayed hidden."

I looked up.  I could see where Chasm lake should be, almost, and the clouds were still socking it in.  It looked like maybe they would burn off before we got there.

Our path was towards those big cliffs and jagged peaks.

A few minutes later, I said, "Oooooh!  I get it!  The hat!  Oh!  That's why that guy called me a snow cat!"  I had completely forgotten about my cat-eared hat.

I would like to blame lack of oxygen, but I might be this scatterbrained all the time.

We took turns using the bathroom, which was a 4 foot high pit toilet on the edge of a steep drop.  It doesn't have much privacy, but it does have a spectacular view..

We continued walking into the dramatic setting.  Icicles were being warmed by the sun, and as they melted, they lost their grip on the cliffs above and came crashing down.  At first I thought they were pretty far from the trail, but I realized that I was stepping over some broken icicles on the trail as big around as my arm.

We spread out as we walked, all moving faster, and hoping we wouldn't die.

The final challenge involved climbing up a partially frozen waterfall to get over the lip of the morraine.  This spot is shadowed, and a breeze picked up from the valley below. I wasn't sure if I was shivering from the cold or from fear, but I kept going until we reached the top.

At that moment, the east face of Longs Peak came out for a momentary visit, before hiding behind clouds again.

The diamond on the east face of Longs.

Chasm Lake, not frozen yet.

The clouds moving back in.


We sat on the rocks, trying to get out of the wind, and had our lunch before heading back.

Boyfriend said, "Well, halfway there."

I laughed.  I was pleased we had made it this far.

The way back was faster, and partly spent in the timelessness of walking in the clouds that caught up to us.



The 8.4 mile round trip took almost 8 hours. Yeah, not going to be winning any marathons with that pace.  But I think there are hardly any marathons that I know of that run through drifted snow over rocks.



I went home with a feeling of exhilaration and accomplishment, and a little bit perplexed.

For a long time, I couldn't figure out why I was going back to my cubicle after this.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Zumba Tried to Kill Me

There is a new fitness challenge at work right now.  We're supposed to all try to go to some of the classes that they have, and try them out.

We get free socks if we participate.

Score!

But this means that I have to step out of the box, as it were, and try new things.

It turns out that my abject fear of yoga was unfounded. Yoga's OK, and I kinda like it (I am pretty sure just saying that has caused an imbalance in the universe).

It was zumba I should have been worried about.

Zumba tried to kill me.

No, I didn't have fun, please stop looking at me in disbelief. I left the class sweaty, frustrated, a little bit angry, and with a slightly pulled muscle in my back.

No, I seriously did not have fun, stop acting so surprised. I felt (and probably looked) like I was having a seizure. I don't WANT to "wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle and turn, then shake shake shake my hips". Fuck you.

I will have to admit, though, that the class wasn't nearly as bad as the complete disappointment everyone around me seems to have in my lack of enthusiasm.  I would rather do endless push-ups and sit-ups and run until my feet bleed than go back to zumba.  Sorry. 

Random Coworker in the Class that I Don't Know (RCitCtIDK): "It takes some getting used to."

Another Random Coworker in the Class that I Don't Know (ARCitCtIDK): "I still don't know all the steps!  Don't worry!"

Wait, was I supposed to be worried?  Was I THAT bad?

RCitCtIDK: "I just feel so good afterwards.  Don't you feel good?"

Me:  "Uh.  Heh.  Um...."  I looked around.  "No."

ARCitCtIDK: "HA HA HA, you should come back.  We have such a good time together!"

RCitCtIDK: "I feel so good afterwards."

ARCitCtIDK: "Don't worry, we all had to learn!"

Me:  "Uh.  I'll think about it.  Excuse me.  I have something to do.  Over there."  (Makes escape).

I'm sorry.  I didn't like it.

I am not judging you.  Go do your sexy aerobics.  It's fine. 

I don't do sexy aerobics, I look more like someone is randomly zapping me with a cattle prod.  I kept wondering why I was facing the back and nearly falling off the riser in the workout room.

New rule:  If someone tries to get me to go to any kind of fast paced  dance-type exercise class where my limbs may flail around in random directions and may or may not come in contact (accidentally) with other people's faces, I will say "No."

I have a dexterity of 2 (I really need to talk to my parents about how they set up my character sheet.  I mean, seriously, it would have been nice to have a slightly higher charisma).

I, apparently, have no rhythm.  There are not enough saving throws in the world to rescue me from my own inept "dancing". 

This makes me a little sad.  I HATE it when I am not instantly good at something.  Hate it.

But I digress.  I have been feeling pretty low lately, and I need to keep myself from focusing on the negative.

I need to think about things that I am good at, things that I am improving on, happy happy joy joy no I am NOT FUCKING DEPRESSED, FUCK YOU NEGATIVE THOUGHTS!  I AM HAPPY, GODDAMN IT!  HAPPY!  LA! LA! LA! SKIPPING THROUGH THE WOODS HAPPY!  DO YOU SEE ME FUCKING SMILING?!?!

Happy.

Bitches.

See? 

Positive.

I am a ray of fucking sunshine.

***deep breath***

I think I need to stop with the classes and just go back to running.