A Letter to J in Indiana

I used to fret over a mess in my inbox. One of my goals last year was to make it a weekly ritual to empty the darn thing completely. And while that is a lovely sight to see, I haven’t had an empty inbox since February 4, 2014.

Such a specific date, you may notice. Surely there is a story behind this, you may think.

There is.

Sometime last summer, I subscribed to the Listserve. Thanks, Justine! It’s an email lottery with (as of right now), 24,556 subscribers, each of which has a chance to win every day. The prize is a single email sent to everyone else. So every day I get an email from someone, somewhere.

My absolute favorite came on February 5, titled a change in my life. In its entirety:

for a long time, i needed the attention of strangers on the internet to feel good about myself, but i don’t anymore.

have a good day,

j

Indiana

This single sentence is the most profoundly hopeful message I have ever read. Every time I read it, it affects me again as strongly as it did the first time I read it. On the rare occasion I briefly ponder what I might write about if given the chance, I think how could I ever come close to this?

Thank you, j, for your words. Thank you for encouraging me every day with your message of change.

I only wish that you had included an email for me to thank you directly.


Book Lovin’

A while back, Abbi from Where The Wild Things Are shared a book challenge:

Rules: In a text post, list ten books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take but a few minutes, and don’t think too hard – they don’t have to be the ‘right’ or ‘great’ works, just ones that have touched you. Tag ten friends, including me, so I’ll see your list. Make sure you let your friends know that you tagged them!

I’m with Abbi; rules are for fools! Although I will make it text. I just won’t tag. Feel free!

Occasional spoilers. Duh.

  1. God Emperor of Dune, Frank Herbert. This was easily the first one to come to mind; a friend posted on Facebook recently asking what’s the most powerful novel we’ve ever read. A close second is Children of Dune, since Leto II is my favorite character from the series. But I chose God Emperor because I admire Leto II. Oh, he’s undoubtedly a monster, physically and emotionally. Look at his casual ghola disposals. But just because he had to sacrifice his humanity, and ultimately, his life, to prevent the extinction of mankind doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy himself a little here and there. Powerful indeed, especially to someone who lives with fear as a constant companion.
  2. We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver. I mentioned this book last year, in a Q&A for Ian. The movie does not do it justice, y’all. The suspense and conflict are so beautifully written. It’s a marvel.
  3. Watership Down, Richard Adams. I want to say that almost everything I learned about warfare I learned from this book, but that feels silly. I mean, it’s about rabbits, for crying out loud. But it feels true.
  4. Demon, John Varley. I do have a penchant for series. Once I get into a story, I don’t want to leave. Again, it was hard to choose which one of the trilogy has stayed with me the most, but Demon I’ve read the most, and so Demon it is. I would dearly love for Mr. Varley to let us know how Gaby does in her governance of the wheel.
  5. A Planet Called Treason, Orson Scott Card. I think this is an interesting choice because the book was re-released as simply Treason a few years ago, with some mostly PC editing. Every time I read the newer version, I still notice every altered word choice. The original was the one I learned so well, and love so much. Another world I would be thrilled to learn more about. I quoted it here.
  6. The Last Battle, C. S. Lewis. The final installment of the chronicles of Narnia. I still cry, even knowing what’s going to happen, even knowing that the end is a beginning.
  7. The Waste Land, and Other Poems, T. S. Eliot. This is the book I brought with me on my road trips. This poor, tattered little paperback has seen a lot of miles. This is the one I recommend the most, if you’re only choosing one from this list to read. Read this one. The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock is a favorite of mine.
  8. The Waste Lands, Stephen King. I loved The Dark Tower. I should correct that. I loved the first half of The Dark Tower. The third book is where the real story gets going, when the three have been drawn, when the gunslinger has been maimed. And Blaine is a pain.
  9. River God, Wilbur Smith. I’ve only read this one two or three times, so one of the least read on this list, but it’s an awesome book. As is the rest of the series.
  10. Tiger Eyes, Judy Blume. I just found out this week that this book was made into a movie in 2012, and I watched it on Netflix last night. A very faithful adaptation, by the way, although the blue Subaru was changed. I read this over and over as a kid.

And yes, just like Abbi, I could easily list a hundred rather than ten. Maybe I’ll do that one day. Just title and author.

 


Being Present

We’ve all done it, seen it, or heard about it.

That one piece of trash that doesn’t get picked up.

You step around it, on it, over it. You make pass after pass with the vacuum, wishing and hoping. You say it’s not your job. You wait for the wind to blow it away. You ignore it.

But sometimes, it’s something else. Maybe not an emotional attachment, more a sense of everything having a place.

Or it just reminds you of the Millennium Falcon and you enjoy that bit of extra cheer in your day.

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I passed this gum wrapper in the bowels of the mall for almost three weeks. I could have picked it up and thrown it away, but I didn’t. For all I know, I’m the only one who noticed it until it was swept away.

I’ll admit it; I grew fond of it. It became a friend to greet when I went to storage for champagne flutes or desk accessories.

Little spearmint Falcon, you may not have made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs, but I knew you were there. I hope the trash compactor sent you to a galaxy far, far away.


Cosmetologically Inclined

I love explaining things to Abby–most of the time–because she pays attention, and I’ll shortly hear her putting my explanation to use. Of course, it’s also terribly funny when she screws it up. Like when ‘don’t let the bed bugs bite’ became ‘good night, don’t let them bugs bite you while you sleeping!’ She does finally have the hang of ‘my dogs are barking,’ though.

Wednesday she was watching me put makeup on, and pointed out that my makeup brushes look like paintbrushes.

20140711-184742-67662362.jpgThis was one of my first sewing projects.

I agreed, and told her that some people do in fact call putting makeup on ‘painting your face.’ I don’t think that one sank in.

When I went to work that night I thought out a post about makeup, and I was surprised to see that Chloe had a similar idea at the same time. Obviously, I didn’t get around to it then.

For a person who needs storage for a number of makeup brushes, I don’t really wear much makeup. Many days it’s nothing, or only powder and mascara. When I do go for more than that, I have one item that I adore: CoverGirl Natureluxe foundation. Not sponsored, but do send me freebies, CoverGirl!

So, Natureluxe, loose powder, blush, and mascara are my basics. Where my girliness shines through is eyeshadow. Eyeshadow is almost as cool as nail polish. Hence the variety of brushes. I need a set for light colors and for dark colors. Duh. Wouldn’t want black or purple in my silver or white. If you’re looking for a gift for me, nail polish or eyeshadow is generally a safe bet. The brighter or wilder the better.

It’s like I’ve come full circle in my makeup habits.

My mom’s rule was no makeup until you’re 13. I was so excited the day she took me to the store to buy my first makeup. She stocked me up on Almay, but with limits. I got pressed powder, light blush, mascara, and sheer pale pink lipstick. No foundation, no liners for lip or eye. I was also clearly informed that daytime mascara meant top lashes. Bottom lashes were coated on special occasions only. Around 16, when I got cooler, I was all about those bottom lashes, all the time. I continued until last year, when I read somewhere that blah blah women over 30 shouldn’t use mascara on their bottom lashes because it draws attention to fine lines, or some gibberish like that. Fortunately, I don’t have much of the fine lines, but it was actually a relief to have a reason, however nonsensical and ageist, to ignore those bottom lashes. So I’m back to special occasions.

Go figure. A fashion magazine helped me feel better about myself. Take that, patriarchy!

My mother is actually not a big makeup person herself, but back then, all she wore was Merle Norman. She would not be caught dead in a drugstore blush, no ma’am! Something she doesn’t care about anymore, not that she wears makeup very often now.

My sister has never been a fan of makeup. I could probably count on my fingers the times she’s ever worn it. We’re like 10 Things I Hate About You with our ages reversed, but since I’m the older one it doesn’t matter.

***

Today I finally got to Ulta for my birthday freebie–my birthday was in May, but the salesgirl entered it as June, so I got my coupon a month late. I guess it makes sense that I can’t change my birthday on their website. They wouldn’t want to give out birthday gifts to everyone every month. We browsed a bit, but the best part was when Ian dropped my Nicole by OPI Lay It On The Lime like a hot potato to grab something by the register while I was still perusing Essie clearance. He found Deborah Lippmann Across The Universe. This is a color he’s kept an eye out for me for years. Nobody carries it here, and it kind of became a quest for Ian to find it locally instead of on Amazon. Thanks sweetie!

So here you have it–my most expensive bottle of nail polish and my free CK One mascara.

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I’ll try the mascara tomorrow. Top lashes only.

Now, to remove L’Oreal Now You Sea Me and replace it with glittery goodness!


Goodbye to Bruce

Today we said our final goodbyes to Bruce after a week at the animal hospital with kidney failure and esophagitis.

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We love you, Brucie. You’re a good boy.


The Search for Sandals

I had some pleasant news when I went to work on my birthday–a new dress code for summer! Hosiery is no longer required, capris are allowed, and best of all, open-toed shoes are approved.

Sandals. I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with them over the years. When I was young, I would have killed for a pair of huaraches. Maybe I should take a step back a little further.

Dress shoes. I remember my first pair of ‘grown-up’ dress shoes. They were maroon Mary Janes, but the kicker is that the strap was hinged, so I could flip it back for the appearance of a lovely strapless flat, which made me feel so adult. Oh, how I loved those shoes. They were a turning point in my footwear wardrobe.

Over the years, I went through phases: Docs, K-Swiss, Birkenstocks, minimalism, chunky heels to exaggerate my height. Overall, I did gravitate towards shoes that I didn’t see anyone else wearing. At least, for my clubbing shoes. This began to spill over into my athletic and comfy shoes as well.

I would seek out sales and clearance for my clothing, but didn’t balk a second at paying full price for some fancy footwear. I was all about Gadzooks and Journeys and Fashion Bug. My favorite pair looked like the Candies mules that were in all the fashion mags in the 90s.

But wait, this post is about sandals. I was not good at sandals. I had a pair of horrible white leather rubber soled chunky heeled things. I had a pair of red jelly heels–I did love those. But I didn’t open toe. And I never got those huaraches. I don’t know what changed, but suddenly, with the advent of the ‘summer fun dress code,’ I must sandal. My feet need to be free and experience the freshly air conditioned mall air under those hot, hot skylights.

Now, the dress code. Black, white, or gray. Open toed but ‘if it goes between your toes it is not allowed.’ Okay, I can do that. I hate flip flops. Heels must be one inch or less and backless shoes are not permitted. Heels, check. Backs–that may be an issue.

Gladiators are so in, but my ankles are not identical. Due to a mishap several years ago, a tendon in my left ankle is not where it originally began its tendon life. So tall and strappy can be a problem. Surely I can find something I like anyway. Even with my wide width.

The dress code memo got me all worked up, so we went shopping. No dice. I haven’t had a sit-down job since 1999, and my feet show it. Anything with a wide enough toe box is too long. But I found some slides.

I spend hours at work facing the ‘50% off all sandals’ banners at Payless. I eyeball the window displays when I’m not busy. I see some interesting new things that just might do the trick. We go shopping again.

Oh, Vanessa. I love you. You are one of the pairs I’ve been longing after in the window. You fit perfectly! But wide width is only available in brown.

We continue the search. At this point I’ve only tried on about eight pairs. Including Laguna, that floral print skyscraper pump that Abby said were so me. And the cork wedges, even though I despise wedges, because the elastic is oh so naval. And the Ronaldo, in coral. Tetian, you should come in wide width as well. Stardust fits fine, but all I feel is emptiness.

Shoe Carnival disappoints. I don’t try on anything because nothing calls out to me. You only have two pairs that meet the dress code anyway, and those are uuuuugly.

Lane Bryant, you’ve always been there for my fat ass. Be there for my wide feet. And you are. Kind of. Je t’adore these ankle straps, even though my feet are showing so much skin they feel naked. But my choices are too small or too large; I need a half size and you only have whole. Le sigh.

Target. Still no dice.

Another day, another trip sandal shopping.

The other Lane Bryant location which is holding a 10 for me at Ian’s request is closed.

Rack Room has the same brown-but-not-black issue. But they did have huaraches. And I don’t like them anymore. Although the Crocs huaraches were super comfy.

Super Target has an even smaller selection than regular Target.

It would seem I am destined to sneak around in my backless slides and cross my fingers the district manager doesn’t show up and notice.

And Ian is sick to death of sandals.


Birthdays Past

May is such a busy month for us. My birthday, Abby’s birthday, Ian’s birthday. Mother’s Day, Stepmother’s Day. My brother’s birthday, my parents’ anniversary. Our anniversary is the beginning of the cray (I’ve just learned that the last letter of the alphabet does not work on my keyboard) season for us, since it’s April 29.

My birthday was a Monday. Which kinda sucks, cause we have to get up early on Mondays. But it’s cool. We got up, Abby got dropped off, and we went for a hike with all the gadgets Ian gifted me: compass, pedometer, and hydration pack. We took the other side of the orange trail this time and found a geocache! I took a blue plastic fish, and Abby got a small rock. We left a pen and a free pass to Sci-Port–we weren’t really prepared for geocaching, but we’ll be adding some little things to my pack before our next trip.

When we left, I decided I wanted cheese fries for lunch. Not just any cheese fries, fries with nacho cheese sauce. I still don’t know where I had the fries I was craving, but we went to Trejo’s where I enjoyed nacho fries. We stopped at a plant sale on our way home for naptime. I’m not the plant person, so don’t ask me what we got. They’re green.

I went to work because I hadn’t requested the day off, because I like this job so I don’t care if I work on my birthday. Surprise! My manager and assistant manager got me a present, a gift box from Bath and Body Works.

And I had a Fiery Hawaiian for dinner, no roasted red peppers because ew. I picked it up and finally got my insurance premium refund from my previous employer whose primary product I cannot type because of that last letter of the alphabet keyboard problem.

Abby went to bed, and we watched The Crow. Good birthday.

That Thursday I received my Stepmother’s Day gifts, including an engraved bracelet that says ‘Abby Loves Mom’ and a jewelry box that says ‘Dad Loves Mom.’ Don’t worry, I didn’t have to engrave them myself.

That Friday Ian and I enjoyed our free Ruby Tuesday birthday burgers. While we were waiting for them, Ian bought me a keychain from a deaf man who was pleasantly surprised when we signed ‘thank you’ to him. I don’t think he gets that very often.

The next Monday was Abby’s birthday, and oh my, but she had a good one. Ian won a Facebook contest for a discounted bounce house, so we got it for four days for $49, including an upgrade to the next larger one since a school let a kid in cleats jump on the small one we were supposed to get.

So, bounce house, swimming pool, my parents, Ian’s parents, Ian’s brother and his girlfriend, an adored family friend, and a Barbie cake. I don’t think she’s ever had that much excitement in one day. We even had Olive Garden for dinner since that’s Abby’s favorite place to eat–although she didn’t eat her dinner, as she was falling asleep at the table from the aforementioned excitement.

We tried to go light the paper lanterns that my mom had sent to our house, but it was too windy for them.

The next day was my parents’ twenty-fifth anniversary. I’d engraved a frame for them, and my stepdad sent Ian a picture from their wedding that we printed out and put in. My mom was very happy, and surprised that my stepdad had been in on it.

The next day was my brother’s birthday. We called him and were surprised to hear that he was happy and at peace with the world. This is not a statement one hears from this brother. He had a job interview at Banana Republic the next day *cough* hipster *cough* and was pretty much okay with graduating in December instead of this month.

That night we went to a nearby sports complex and sent off some of the paper lanterns. Maybe eight of them, out of the twenty my mom ordered. They took a long time to catch fire, and then another while to fill with hot air and float off. The second to last did not fare too well. It started to float off, but tipped in a gust and crashed to the rocks. I braved their treachery in the dark, in sandals, to retrieve its remains. One side was burnt, so Ian put it out and we bagged it up to toss. We’d expected to hear about some reports of UFOs the next day, but now that I think about it, I didn’t hear of any.

Last Friday was Ian’s birthday. Traditionally a no-pants day, he donned them because my parents were still here and my sister showed up from Virginia about 930. The best part was the email about two free movie tickets from Marlboro! We’d been planning for months to go see Gojira (see how creative I can get without that letter) in IMAX 3D on his birthday, so how opportune was that! (no question mark, either. Thanks, Toshiba.) My parents left, and my sister decided to stay home and nap since she drove most of the night, so we went to the movies alone.

Ian picked Twisted Root for dinner, then TCBY afterwards since he declined a cake. We all tried the limited time flavor, Indonesian Taro, which I was apparently the first customer to love, or even like. My sister posted about it on Facebook, and I commented that it tasted like personal growth.

On to this week! Abby was super excited to see her auntie when she got here Monday morning, and the two of them were attached at the hip for the next two days until my sister left.

Now I am home alone while Ian is at work, for the first time in two weeks. And it is sweet indeed.

Sunday, we shall sleep in. Then I’ll make something from the leftover cake in the icy part of the fridge.


Home Cooking

Everyone has that one family recipe, right? The one that means home, whether it’s a secret or everyone has their own version. The comfort food that’s always been a comfort food.

My paternal grandmother was my only grandparent who really enjoyed cooking, and the one dish I remember her making more than once is her strawberry-rhubarb pie. She didn’t have a recipe, she just made it, and it makes me happy to think that I’m like her in that respect.

My mother’s specialty–at least, my favorite–is chicken curry crepes. Oh em geez, chicken and onions and celery in a creamy curry sauce wrapped in crepes and drizzled with butter. Love love love.

But that one dish is my stepdad’s tuna casserole. At my parents’ house, it’s his and only his. My mom never makes it. And since he knows how much Ian and I love it, he makes it nearly every time we come visit. He uses Da Vinci wagon wheels, which are, I agree, the best choice. Just exactly the right number of the spokes fill up with saucy goodness. And he usually tops half with sharp cheddar and half with mozzarella. Or one of each, when enough people are eating, because leftovers are just as tasty.

The problem with wagon wheels is that we can’t always find them here. I usually use rotini or medium shells. My stepdad usually brings a couple bags of wagon wheels when they come visit, though.

I asked for his recipe a few years ago, at Ian’s behest, but it’s morphed over time into my tuna casserole.

And now, I share it with you. Just the recipe, not the casserole that’s waiting to go in the oven as we speak.

You will need:
One package of pasta
1/2 stick butter
1/4-1/3 cup flour
1 12 ounce can of evaporated milk
2-4 cans of chunk tuna in water
4-8 ounces of cheese, grated
A sprinkle of Tony Chachere’s, or just salt and pepper for you Yankees

In a large pot, put enough water to cook the pasta of your choice. While that’s heating, melt half a stick of butter in a medium to large skillet over low heat. Once it’s melted, whisk in the flour. Keep whisking, not necessarily constantly, but fairly often. You will smell it when it’s ready, an amazing nutty goodness.

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Your water’s probably boiling now, so throw your pasta in and salt it.

Slowly pour the evaporated milk into your roux, whisking away. It will be lumpy. Keep whisking.

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It will be thick. Don’t worry. You want it to look like pudding. Turn off the heat.

Carelessly drain the tuna. A little extra water will thin the sauce. Shoo the cats who think you’re treating them. Dump all that tuna on top of the sauce.

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Pasta’s done, right? Carelessly drain that, too. I mean, as soon as it’s in the colander, put it back in the pot. You want a tad of pasta water in the sauce as well, so don’t shake it before re-potting. Set your noodles aside for the nonce.

Back to the sauce. Sprinkle your Tony’s on. I don’t put much in because it’s better on. As in after plating.

Here’s my secret ingredient: Parmesan. Just a little bit in the sauce adds so much. Shredded is great, but green can is good. Parmesan is my favorite cheese. A nice wedge of good Parmesan is such an amazing snack. Or meal. Don’t judge.

Gently fold the tuna and parm into the sauce. Or not so gently, but surprise big chunks of tuna are a major part of the tuna casserole experience. Once it’s mostly homogenous, pour the sauce into the pot of pasta. Again, fold gently (or not).

Lubricate a 9×13 casserole dish with nonstick spray, then spread your mixture into it in an even layer.

Now for the biggest decision of your life. What cheese with which to top? Tonight we have about three ounces of Colby Jack followed by about three ounces of a Mexican four-cheese blend. I don’t hate on pre-shredded cheese, especially now that it’s either the same price or cheaper than block. Besides, if it’s me plus a grater, there will probably be blood (I keep it out of the food). Not to mention that you’re making a casserole, that red-headed stepchild of dinners everywhere. But hey, to each his own. If you’re grating, do that first. I should have said that earlier, huh? Sorry about that evil laugh.

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If you’re eating now, pop that bad boy in a 400° oven until the cheese is the color you like it. If you’re eating later, cover it with a towel and let it cool down before lidding it up with a lid, foil, whatevs, and throwing it in the fridge. When you’re ready, put the cold casserole in a cold oven, then turn it to 400° for 40-50 minutes.

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Et voila! If you can, let it rest for 5-10 minutes. If not, don’t burn your mouth. Cut it into squares or hexagons or whatever and enjoy!

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One more tip: I have perfected the art of the tuna casserole smash. Once I have my plate, I squish the whole serving with my fork before liberally applying more Tony’s. It just tasteses good that way.

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Today’s Adventure

Today we went hiking at Bodcau. I’d looked up a map of the trails last week-ish, and, while a tad squirrelly, they seemed easy enough. Catch a couple loops and head back, not too far since Abby was with us. Ian found a photo of the map since Safari kept crashing on AllTrails’ site (so no link to that).

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We hit the post office, stopped at Arby’s for some sandwiches, signed in, and unloaded our lunch at the one picnic table at the trailhead parking area. After we cleaned up, we grabbed our water bottles and crossed the street where we laughed at the map on display–the red, orange, and yellow trails had all been sun bleached to a nice lemony yellow. Whoever had shared their photo of the map had obviously been here when it was new.

We lined up in our order, Ian, Abby, then me, and set off. The plan was to start at the left side of the orange trail, the spot nearest the arrow on the map, and make those first two loops before showing Abby the dam, playing at the park a bit, and going home to swim.

Well.

That map is old. Has to be. Highly inaccurate. And yes, the one posted is the same as this one. We got to a bench–a bench, one of three that we found on the orange trail, even though only one is marked–and sat down to see if we could puzzle out where the heck we were. Where the small loop should have been was the beginning of a much larger loop that appeared to be monopolized by bikers. We’d passed it up rather than up-and-down it with Abby. The second and third loops had never appeared.

We shrugged and kept going.

We came to a good sized hill around the middle of the map (maybe?) and discussed turning back versus keeping on. We kept on, and we saw a chair-shaped tree, a fungus, and a splash of feathers.

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The next bench was just around a bend, so we kept on some more. And I pointed out that we’d come to the fence, so this map was crap. The trail headed away from the fence again, but never out of sight of it, and we finally came to the piles of gravel across the street from the office. What?!?

Another bench was near the road, so we took another break for discussion. Ian wanted to take the road back. Abby took his side. I said, ‘race ya! I’ll take the trail.’ I knew I could beat the two of them back even though I had twice as far to go. Ian wasn’t too comfortable with this idea, but he agreed because I was excited about it. Don’t let him tell you otherwise.

And so we parted ways, briefly.

Oh em geez I can make so much better time without a three-year-old. I knew I had them. On my way back I picked up Abby’s feather that she’d lost, along with her water bottle label that she’d peeled off and stealthily discarded. She’ll learn.

The quandary: should I cut off a dogleg or stick to the trail we’d taken out? I stuck, so as not to cause Ian undue concern. Not that he’d know until I got back, but for future reference.

I was seriously enjoying myself, confident that I had this race in the bag. Then I heard Abby piping from the road. I kept one eye on the trail and the other through the trees, trying to catch a glimpse of Ian’s red shirt or Abby’s pink one. No luck. I got closer and saw a red splotch a few feet from the red shininess of our truck.

They beat me by eight whole minutes! I don’t know how it happened. He even carried her for three quarters of a mile, and I walk fast by myself. Oh well.

Since we hiked over an hour more than expected, we just took a quick drive over the dam and back before checking out and going home to hop in the pool. Which turned out to be too cold for anyone four and up. But hey, my feet and Abby had a good time in the water.

20140507-003913.jpg Oh yeah, and we saw the aftermath of a landslide. Good times.


These Feet Were Made for Walking

I have not had a good relationship with my body’s abilities for most of my life. I played soccer when I was five, but who knows if I was really any good at it? I don’t even remember winning or losing, and then we moved away. When I was eleven, I broke my left wrist pretty badly, and no matter my weight, I’m physically incapable of doing a pull-up. I actually prefer to do push-ups on my knuckles. I used to be decent at basketball, but I was a poor kid at a rich school where other students had most of the say in who made the team, so tryouts measured popularity instead of skill. I’d given up on basketball by the time I transferred to a school where I would have made the team.

Then, of course, my insides are all fucked up. When I was 21, my kidneys discovered how much they loved producing stones a few times a year. I’m sure I have gout to look forward to one day; my stones are uric acid based, the same as my grandmother’s, and my mother has gout now. Then my lovely polycystic ovaries made themselves known. I even had a nice bout of diverticulitis.

So I never appreciated my physical capabilities, since it seemed that every time I had a chance to explore or exploit them I was consequently denied the opportunity. But you know what? I can do a lot of things. I can juggle, slowly. I can twirl a baton, briefly. I can wield a knife in the kitchen. And I can walk.

I had a major shift in the way I look at my feet a couple weeks ago. I work at one end of the mall, and the deposit gets dropped at the other end, so every night I close up, I hoof it to the back. Obviously, not a long haul by any sense of the word, just a couple minute stroll, but this night in particular I got the feeling that I was actually going somewhere with every step I took. An interesting sensation, not just in my feet and my head, but all over my body. Yes, the surreality of an epiphany while walking the mall, but also a sense of optimistic pride.

I know you know the feeling of starting out and saying to yourself ugh, what a long way to go. For example, when it’s been a long day at work and you’re halfway home and realize that you have to pick up whatever it is from the store, but it also happens to be the eve of some holiday or other that necessitates a gift. I’m thinking of the night before Valentine’s Day one year when I got off an eleven hour shift of pizza-making and had to go to Wally World for toilet paper. There’s no parking, it’s not my regular store so I went in the wrong entrance, the toilet paper’s not where it would make sense to put it, and then there are thirty people on the verge of panic ahead of me in line with their last-minute heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and giant teddy bears. This really happened. All I could think about was how tired I was, how annoying this was, what a long way it would be back to my car, and couldn’t I find a handful of napkins or something to wipe my butt with instead of making this trip?

I objectively remember this feeling, focusing only on my exhaustion and poor, put-upon feet, worn out from sliding around on cornmeal all night. But I don’t think about it anymore, because it’s eclipsed by this amazing feeling of going places. I’m going places! Actual, physical places, not that line of crap promising students hear until it turns into gibberish in their ears.

I can walk with joy. By necessity, it’s certainly still a means to an end, but it’s also become an end in itself. When we’re hiking, even when I’m simply taking my trip to the drop box, I’m doing something. Walking isn’t just an interim period, a commercial break, if you will. It’s an activity with purpose, of which I am consciously partaking.

Walking is no longer something I take for granted. It probably should never have been, as I watched my aunt Morna lose the ability to MS over my teens, but it always has been. It’s almost a dance now. Consider the ground, place the feet, shift the weight, swing the arms, dodge the obstacles. Something so simple, and yet so complex. So normal, and yet so beautiful.

It does feel a little silly to say that I’m proud of myself for walking. In a way, that is what I’m proud of, but mostly I’m proud of myself for noticing. For being present, even when I’m ‘just walking.’ It may have come out of the blue, but I snatched the moment up and continue to hold it close. It feels like more than pride. It feels like healing.


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