Sunday, May 26, 2013

What's Right in the World: Holiday Weekends

I'm not into camping, but if I was, it would be in a space-era Airstream.

I've stocked up on sweet corn, sweet cherries, mosquito repellent and wasp bomb - must be getting ready for another Michigan summer.

Memorial Day weekend kicks it all off, even though I was wrapped up in two blankets and shivering overnight. But it's the start of summer, right?!

What's exciting is the projects around the house we have kicked off, painting the shutters, doors, frame and garage doors. Out went the crap shrubs and in its place hostas. The back deck has also gotten a makeover, as out went the picnic table and I painted the deck a beautiful shade of blue. Will calls it the beach. I've pulled some infrequently used deck chairs and put out a cabana rug and hung tea light holders. It  looks like we bought a new house.

Biggest challenge now is to create a decent backyard for Will to play in, and get some living plants growing in sandy, shady soil. Good luck, huh?

But all is not work this weekend, even though I'm typing this from work. We are going to the musical fountain dedication tonight, mom-in-law returns from Texas sometime in the next 24 hours, albeit with a heavy heart. Depending on how Tuesday shakes out, I'm taking Will to the zoo with his class.

Hm. This is more like a typing out loud rather than a WRITW, but the that is also the charm of a lazy holiday weekend, do what you want and keep the sand out of the house.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Why Art Matters: The Making of a Runner

Fashionable race wear.

I am a runner.

Anyone who has been reading knows that it's a big deal for me to type those four little words. And I really didn't believe it until after this weekend's River Bank Run.

After a few self esteem issues and near-disaster runs over the course of the last year, instead of giving up on running as a means of fitness, I sought to find ways of connecting to the sport.

First there was the "persona." I combined my nickname from skating with a little something from the Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack to become the Punk Rock Prom Queen. It made sense to me in relation to figure skating, as you adopt a character when when performing. It also helps me to think of putting an imaginary tiara on so as to hold my head high when the going gets tough.

The other thing I did to focus on being "in" the run was to notice 10 things along my route that I would not otherwise see or experience. What did I see?

I saw my friend Dante complete his 5k race.

I saw an old guy decked out in head to toe Polish garb. I dubbed him the Polksa Falcon.

Coming around Fulton by Grand Valley is the 10k's S-curve, a little switchback from Mt. Vernon to Watson to Front to Butterworth. From my perspective at the back end 12:00 miler pacer group, I was able to see a river of neon-colored humanity bobbing through the course. I even mentioned to the woman beside me "would you look at that..."

I discovered a few pieces of broken glass in a small pothole that street sweepers must have missed. I noticed the glint, like diamonds, in the morning sun. It also made me think of Say Anything, the moment when Diane Court fell in love with Lloyd Dobler, his gentlemanly gesture of kicking the glass out of her way.

The lilacs.

Running through the neighborhoods along the route, I was cheered by the neighbors watching the spectacle go by, and loved the first woman to offer her high five and "you rock!" to me.

The sidewalk chalk statement "YOU ARE HERE" prior to the 2 mile marker at the zoo.

Cold water never tasted so good as it did at the first station.

Winding through the zoo, a puff of wind had petals from the flowering trees raining down on me. Beautiful.

The flowering trees themselves in pink, purple and white.

Heading down Lake Michigan, I was startled to hear sirens behind me and prayed that there was no crisis. It was a fierce battle of the leads in the wheelchair/handcart race. They looked like cooler-than-cool sci-fi superheroes zipping by in their rigs, and they even made a super cool "zwinnnnng!" hum as they sped by.

The sea of humanity as the 10k racers merged with the 5k walkers and it took a little more effort to push ahead of the genial pack ambling along in jeans and flip flops. Still, it was entertaining to see the groups walking together supporting various causes, sometimes in homemade t-shirts. Congrats to the class of '78 on their class reunion and I hope Ariel makes it to summer camp!

The brutality of the last mile. Ugh. But the sight of the ladies I had stayed on pace with helped me make over the 6th street hill and Ottowa's hump. Rocker girl in splatter pants. Hot pink Hispanic lady. Indian woman with doe eyes. We didn't exchange names, but I'm sure glad we had that last mile together and shared congratulations over bananas at the finish line. 

My other inspiration for the last mile? My two dads. I could heart Dave's dad saying "c'mon Melissa, you can do it!" and I could see my dad's grin and hear him say "good for you, I'm proud of you."

I came up on the finish line to the Beatles version of "Matchbox," one of the few Ringo leads. My last race? I finished to the Beatles "I Wanna Be Your Man," another Ringo lead. I think my next race has to be completed by hearing "Boys."

I did, however, tear my earphones off just in time to hear the announcer say "---a Garland, Comstock Park!" as I approached the finish line. Sweet.

Oh, that finish line was sweet, and I can't wait to see the pictures. I finished with a double fist pump while internally screaming "YES!" I'm sure I didn't scream it out loud because I had no spit left to form the words.

And tears. Anguish, triumph, sorrow all mingled into one. Dave's dad Phil had sponsored me for the race and was eager for me to accomplish this. He died that morning. Dave had said at 6am that no one would fault me if I skipped the race. Even with a heavy heart and little sleep, I knew there was no way I could or would skip it. I did last year's race for my dad; this one was for Phil.

It was the best run.


On my way to skating on Monday post-race, I was listening to a podcast where figure skating coach Audrey Weisiger enthused on the creative process and how some of the best skaters she's ever seen weren't necessarily the ones with all the accolades. Listening to her words, it struck me: I successfully defined myself as a runner on my terms, by using my eyes as an artist.

I am an artist. And I am a runner.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Typing Out Loud: Women

So many faces.

Seriously world, WTF?!

It is 2013. In this day and age, right here in America, women are being kidnapped from their jobs or being held captive for 10 years and raped, repeatedly. That's not to mention those who are being abused emotionally or physically by their spouses, manipulated and taken advantage of, treated as less than human due to the nature of their culture or religion, denied rights due to political machinations, or made to feel like their entire self worth is tied up in whether the males species thinks she's "hot."

I'm not one for superhero comics, but the world is in serious need of Superwoman, complete with her gold lasso, to whip some assholes in shape.

But what can a common, everyday gal like me do? What are some solutions?

For one thing, be political. Make sure your local politicians know our society cannot tolerate leniency on scumbags who hurt or harm others.

In the workplace, demand worker safety.

Learn how to protect yourself. At work, I was taught non-violent means of de-escalating a patient. With bad guys, all bets are off. Remember those kicking, screaming, biting and hair-pulling knock-down, drag out fights with your siblings? Good, you have some combat training, put it to work.

Pay less attention to the girlie magazines that tell you that you are less than ideal.

Stand your ground on the issues that matter to you most.

Look out for one another.

These are a few of the actions I, as a frustrated middle-aged mid western female, can conjure up.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Playlist: Melllllllooooooow

Tuning in.

It's funny thinking about my parents in the 70s, as they were in their 30s, and younger than I am now. I remember them going out on couples dates and attending parties, the whole ritual feeling terribly sophisticated and distinctly 70s.

I remember them going out with my dad's best friend Terry and his wife Chris, and we girls joining Tracy and her sister in a group slumber party at some one's condo. A condo! The basement had black, white and red diamond linoleum, groovy plastic furniture that reminded me of chess pieces and an upholstered bar with a bobbing drink bird where we stole maraschino cherries and olives. The basement opened up into the back yard with a weeping willow tree that freaked me out, as someone told me snakes hid in the branches. Then Chris and Terry divorced, yet another exotically adult scenario I didn't comprehend, and that put an end to sleepovers in the ritzy condo.

There was also the tiki party - adults only! - our neighbors Tony and Virginia hosted 3 doors away. I thought the tiki lights were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, next to the large, plastic hibiscus flowers. And catering! To this point in my life, parties were made up of family home cooking by committee, the only indulgence being a bakery-bought cake. I watched with fascination as uniformed girls with serene smiles circulated with silver trays to the delight of the guests packed into Tony's beautiful back yard, framed with grape arbors and festive umbrellas. My parents came home from this party with gifts, as each guest was given a travel-sized item to go along with the Hawaiian theme. Dad got a tiny Shower-to-Shower that I played with so much, he eventually gave it to me.

Of course there was a typical bowling banquets, company Christmas parties, dinner parties. Although I was not privy to these swank 70s extravaganzas, I am confident my parents and their friends were not jamming to Zeppelin. Instead, I imagine these K-Tel tunes were rotating on the stereo hi-fi.

Please Come to Boston, David Loggins

I've Got a Name, Jim Croce

Lady, Little River Band

Chevy Van, Sammy Johns

Danny's Song, Loggins and Messina

Annie's Song, John Denver

Magnet and Steel, Walter Egan

American Dream, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Fernando, ABBA

You Don't Bring Me Flowers, Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand

I Love You, Climax Blues Band

Shambala, Three Dog Night

Suavecito, Malo