Finding your footing…

“i am defeated.  Utterly defeated.”

Words that have rarely left my body…

Completely infatuated with the idea of resurrecting the old motorcycle, i ignored the reality of it.  Blow the rust off, rebuild the power train, and ride that nasty looking beast for a few seasons.  Why buy a shiny new bike, when i’m just going to drop it?  Learn to ride on a clunker!

Ah, there’s such a glorious metaphor!  “That old thing still has a few miles left in it!”

Fuck the metaphor.  Next time, the metaphor can push the stalled piece of shit uphill through an intersection teeming with rush hour traffic. 

It ran last season, and i put some miles on it.  Rode it a bit into the spring and summer.  Sluggish, though, and bogging down.  Dropping it back at the shop before the 4th of July, i said “i’m pretty sure one of the carbs is gummed up”.  Two weeks later, my mechanic informed me “It’s the points and the air cleaners”. 

Two weeks after that, he took it for a test ride and said “Running better, but still sluggish.  We think it’s the carburetor” to which i replied “no shit? i’m stunned, shocked and amazed…”

Two more weeks?  “Running great, but there’s a problem with the charging system.  Stator is bad.  Good news is that it’s still under warranty, so we’ll send it back to the dealer for a replacement…”  Two more weeks of me nagging intensely by phone?  “It’s ready.”

Driving it from the shop last night, with Studley in the chase vehicle, we made it two blocks before it stalled the first time.  Pushing it from the intersection, i got it restarted.  Another half mile to a gas station. 

Definitely had more zip, as i had to be careful to avoid popping wheelies from a dead stop.  Full tank of gas, and another two miles before it took the final mechanical dump in heavy traffic.  i managed to push it into the parking lot of a gas station and avoid getting splattered on asphalt.

Called the shop, and handed the phone to Studley as i yanked off my helmet.  The stream of angry obscenities began to flow.  “Come and get this deadfuckingbike, you incompetent motherfuckingbastards!”   Studley’s translation: “The bike’s broken down, about 2 miles from the shop.  You’ve got to come pick it up. She’s pretty upset…”

Waiting for the parts manager from the shop to stop to pick up the keys, i realized that it was going to be damn tough to make our planned backpacking venture.  Sent a text to our hiking guru, BG, to let her know there’d been trouble, and we wouldn’t make it to the trail head as planned.

Defeated.  Tears.  What’s the definition of “trailer park mentality”?  “One bad damn decision after another.”  Guilty.  i did this.  No one else responsible for this stupid mess.  i can afford a reliable motorcycle.  i was stupid.  Fuck the dream.  This was a bad idea.

After handing off the keys to the guy from the shop, the angry tears drying on my face, we started the drive homeward.  Looking at the clock, i wondered if we could still possibly make the hike.  Maybe with a late start, but we could still get in the weekly conditioning hike… and it would be a far better use of my evening than moping.  In the absence of anything else, moping was going to be my default condition.

After some pretty serious scurrying, made it to our respective homes, packed up, and arrived at the trail head at the appointed hour.  Meeting BG in the parking lot, we explained the disappointments of the afternoon, and started up the trail.

Some quiet time as we hiked let me crawl even further in my head.  Tuesday?  It would have been Dad’s 88th birthday.  i kept hearing his words “The measure of a man isn’t how he deals with success, but rather, how he deals with failure.  Anyone can handle success!”

“God damn it, Dad!  Let me wallow! Stop crashing my pity party!”

It was hot and sweaty.  There were hills to climb.  Hills to descend.  i had to focus on my feet.  BG was right behind me as i started down a steep grade and felt myself slipping. 

“Small, mindful steps” said BG in a calm, steady voice.  The words that had gotten her through some treacherous rookie hiking adventures.  Paying it forward to a novice.

Good advice for hiking. 

Good advice for sorting the shit in your head, too.

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Fashion Sense?

When asking a friend with a beach place in North Carolina how he weathered the latest hurricane, i was instead regaled with a lovely tale of stupidity…  

A fashion industry icon, living in posh digs in Manhattan, was doing his best to heed the hurricane preparation recommendations.  Emergency management guidelines encourage residents in the path of a hurricane to “fill the bathtub with water”.  

Filling his tub with several cases of Evian bottled water, he just simply didn’t get the point of putting the bottles in the tub. 

“Maybe it’s to protect them from potential hurricane damage? Keep the bottles from breaking? I don’t know… I just don’t get it.”

pic found here

The Living Dead

The elevator speech. It’s a classic business training tool:  “You’re in an elevator with a venture capitalist, and want to sell him on your whacked-out business idea.  Tell it.  No fluff, just get to the punch.”

We also see a version of this at awards banquets.  The “biography” – where the award recipient is recognized via slide show and narrative.  It’s a life story of sorts, with photos – where we are told more about how a colleague lives outside the workplace.  What are his hobbies?  What does he value?  What’s the wife look like?  Kids?

Last weekend, i had the opportunity to spend a few days with two cousins.  We’d made a pact at the last funeral to spend time together when we weren’t in the midst of planting a loved one.  And so we did!  The weekend was a delicious mixture of adventure and exploring a new town, catching up on current events, and sorting through our shared familial demons.

My cousin, L, is a free-spirited woman, leading an eclectic life.  She’s a columnist for her local newspaper, works as an administrative assistant at a school, has successfully raised four children, and finds time for some off-the-wall hobbies and interests.

As we wandered city streets, gabbing about odds and ends, i learned that one of L’s hobbies is to serve on a committee of volunteer historians in her hometown.  Specifically, they spend time documenting the lives of people buried in the town cemetery, with ‘residents’ dating back to the civil war.

Each year they research ten dead residents.  From these facts, they craft a five-minute script.  During the month of October, they host tours – local actors, wearing custom-made, historically accurate costumes, then tell the tales of the dead.

The script must be factually accurate, but at the same time, sufficiently engaging to hold the interest of those attending the tours. 

“We are giving a voice to the dead”.

She admits, there’s a bit of inconsistency in the quality of the scripts, and sometimes the performances are a little uneven.  Some writers focus on dates and events – “I graduated from the Naval Academy in 1867 and earned my commission on November 12th of that year” may be factually correct, but not exactly the stuff that keeps you riveted in your seat.

pic found here

Giving voices to the dead.  A different approach to living history. 

It certainly triggers another thought experiment…

How would you want your life story told a hundred years from now? 

What would your story be if it was solely based on research by an amateur historian?

Bird brain

For over 20 years, i was part of a close-knit technical community.  Seeing the same faces at meeting after meeting, conference after conference, friendships (as well as a few adversarial relationships) formed.  

Attending a round of drunken debauchery workshop in New Orleans a few years back, my pod of Dawg Boyz was doing our very best to support the local bar-based economy. 

Two colleagues, Charles and Greg, were avid bird watchers, and trying their best to call it a night to allow an early start to their birding adventure the next morning. Being one of the more emotionally mature folks at the table, i taunted them for being big pussies and wimping out.  

Greg:  But we’re going to be getting up at 4:00 am!  We can’t stay for another round.

daisyfae:  Aw, c’mon, you big stinkin’ baby.  You’re acting like a girl!  

Charles:  You don’t understand – this is quite serious business, and we need our sleep.

daisyfae:  Right.  Looking at birds is extraordinarily taxing.  How hard can it be?

Invariably they stayed a little longer – but only after i took the bait, and agreed to join them in the hotel lobby at 4:30 am to get schooled in the fine art of birding. And i did.

As it turns out, much of the ‘early’ was necessary to support their ritualistic search for coffee and donuts prior to the actual bird watching.  The drive to Lake Pontchartrain took another 45 minutes. 

i was still drunk from the night before napping in the back seat, while they drank their coffee and gnawed on donuts.   We entered the wildlife area, and i perked up a bit, attempting to pay attention and not welch on the bet. 

Parking and wandering down a few paths, we sat quietly and waited.  Charles kept making this annoying “pishing” sound – some sort of bird call.  Eventually, as the sun was just rising, they got quietly excited, looking here and there through binoculars.

Charles:  Pretty sure that’s a juvenile Wooble Nibbler*.  Can you see the tail markings?

Greg:  No, but it looks to me like a female Amber Bock*.

They tried to teach me.  i tried to listen and learn.  But it just wasn’t my bag…

As we were driving back, they continued to try to explain the joy they found in “collecting” birds.

daisyfae:  But you’re not really “collecting” them.  You’re just looking at the bits and parts of the bird and identifying it.  i don’t get it.  In my world, it ain’t collecting unless you bag ‘em and tag ‘em, then either put a carcass in the freezer or hang it on the wall!

It was pretty clear that this would be my first, and last, bird watching venture with them.  And that was fine with everyone in the rental car. 

Passing an old shed along the one-lane road, i nearly jumped out of the window.

daisyfae:  Hey, stop the car!  Did you see that?  Back in the weeds next to that garage!

Charles mashed the brakes, and i rolled down the window, squinting in the morning light.

daisyfae:  There it is!  Looks like an old flat-fender Willys Jeep!  Back up so i can see the grill and doors – need to figure out if it was a military or civvie… Jesus, i don’t think i’ve ever seen one un-restored in the wild!

* not actual birds, of course, but i obviously was paying no attention at this point.  The buzz was wearing off, and the hangover settling in, and i was thinking about my coffee still sitting in the cup holder back in the car…

What’s Missing?

Sweet summer evening, sitting out on the patio of a favorite local drinking establishment with my friend, Studley McRocklegs.  After the crushing heat of June and July, we’ve hit this amazing run of high-pressure blue skies, low humidity, and perfect temperatures. 

We were waiting on the rest of the Tuesday night crew to show up. i tipped back in my chair, listening to the sound of a slow train rumbling by, and looking at the Charlie Brown clouds in a dusky evening sky.  

My brain, in an unusual state of quiet, asked me the following question: “What’s missing?” 

Studley was off in his own brain somewhere, when i tweaked him with the thought experiment.

daisyfae:  OK.  i’m going to ask you a question, and i want you to answer with the first thing that pops into your head.  No filters.  Ready?

Studley:  Let ‘er rip!

daisyfae:  What’s missing?

Studley: In my life?

daisyfae:  What popped into your head?

Studley [tiny puffs of steam coming out of his ears]:  A jumble… Lots of things…

daisyfae:  Start to untangle it.  What’s on top?

Studley:  This sounds too new agey, but “inner peace”

daisyfae:  You’re restless?  Not settled?

Studley:  I’m just not through it yet… Still sorting some things out. 

daisyfae:  What else is there?

Studley:  Absolute financial security.  But I guess no one has that…

daisyfae:  What else?

Studley:  Ummm…  Better health?  That’s about it, I think… Maybe a dog. 

~~~~~~~~~~

The answer provided by my brain, almost instantaneously:  “Nothing.”

i told him what my brain said in response… and noted that it seemed to take him awhile to come up with his list… which is probably pretty telling by itself.

So, my dear imaginary friends who live inside my laptop…

How would you answer the question:  What’s missing?

Carry that weight…

“Maximum weight in your backpack should be no more than 40% of your body weight.  And you want to start well below that…”

Advice from a new friend, who agreed to coach basic backpacking, and introduce me to the local trails.   My adventure buddy, Studley McRocklegs, is playing along, as we add another skill-set to our adventure toy chest. 

Prepping my pack, i decided to start with twenty-five pounds.  My tent, sleeping bag, and about a gallon of water in a sealed jug was my starting load. i hopped on the scale to weigh the result. 

Twenty two and a half pounds.  Seemed a helluva lot heavier to me, though, as i hoisted it onto my back.

Then it hit me:  this is exactly how much weight i’ve dropped since the beginning of May.  

Damn. i’ve been carrying around a LOT of excess.  With another twenty-five pounds (minimum) still to be shed, i’m pretty sure i’ll feel a helluva lot better by the time i get there.  

And it’s sure going to make the backpacking easier…

Onward…

“I feel happy!”

“I’m not dead. I’m getting better…”

After the latest reanimation of my old Camry following another mechanical meltdown, my feeling was “No you’re not, you’ll be stone dead in a moment.”

With The Girl now living in Turkey, i acquired her Honda.  An actual CAR.  With operational AIR CONDITIONING.  This is new for me.   Over 100,000 miles on it, but it’s paid for, reliable, and sips gas like a supermodel sips watered-down Diet Coke.  

A bad valve, and an un-repairable oil leak are the known defects.  Time to send it to the crusher.  Knowing the flaws, there was no way in hell i could sell it.  Donating it to charity, and taking the tax credit, seemed like the right thing to do.

As i looked for charitable organizations accepting junk cars, i heard a tale of a young girl in need of transport.  She works multiple minimum wage jobs, and takes side projects, to help pay the bills.  She was looking for a cheap car, and not fussy about amenities.  Without access to wheels, she’s been hitching rides with friends, or walking, to get to her various places of employment.  

“Not quite dead yet” indeed. 

i decided to just give her the blasted heap, and hopefully she could put a few miles on it before it takes that final automotive shit.  My mechanic had told me that as long as i kept dumping oil in it, it would likely go a bit further.

Cute Girl [dancing, upon getting a title to a car with her name on it]:  Oh, my god! i can’t believe this!  You have no idea how much we* appreciate this!  

daisyfae: Just remember to keep checking the oil, and i’m hopeful it can keep running for you…

We did a walk around, and i showed her the dents from where The Boy hit a mailbox, and how the passenger side window never quite goes all the way up, without assistance.  We popped the hood, and she checked the oil.  Even asked when i last put tires on it, and how old the battery was… 

As she drove away, it made me happy.  Perhaps the planets had aligned and the old girl had some legs left…

Two hours later, i got a text from her.

Cute Girl:  Thank you AGAIN for your most generous gift!  And by the way, how long has the engine light been on?

daisyfae:  Um… that’s new.  Best get your uncle** to take a look at that soon…

Sending a text to The Boy the next morning:

daisyfae: Pulled the audio gear out of the Camry and it has a new home.  Gave it to a cute theater gal.  Guess it was reinCARnated.

The Boy [30 minutes later]:  The “Twig and Berries”  Act of 1802 states: “bad puns shall henceforce nay be texted before the 16th hour on any weekday….” so you may want to watch those puns because as a god-fearing ‘merican I would be compelled to report you to the proper authorities if you should slip up again.

daisyfae:  But your old car will now be transporting a pod of lesbitarians!  That’s good CARma!  Forgive an old broad her puns…

The Boy:  Are they hot?  They travel in pods now?  I’ll allow the puns, it’s just that waking up to a text with a bad pun is like waking up to a Carrot Top alarm clock, and no one wants that.

Given the glowing engine light, i had a bad feeling that the happy dance hadn’t lasted long, and that she was stuck right back where she started.   But i got a text from her today, answering my unasked question:

Cute Girl:  “Carma” is running beautifully, and has allowed us to see family we haven’t seen in weeks!  Hoping engine light is just an oxygen sensor, but having uncle check later this week.  Have a beautiful day!

They named it “Carma”.  How fucking adorable is that? 

Long may you run, long may you run

Although these changes have come

With your chrome heart shining in the sun

Long may you run…

 

* “we” refers to her and her partner.  The gals work hard, have a young child with them, and her partner has a recently wrecked car that barely runs.  They need wheels.  They probably could use a lottery win, too…

** There’s an uncle with an auto shop… Thankfully.

Driving me nuts…

There has been virtually no progress on the renovations to Mom’s house over the summer.  My niece, DQ has taken extended holidays, disappearing to Florida for about six weeks.  Her husband, BJ, who is responsible for getting the work done, was gone for three of those weeks as well. 

They have also spent a lot of time on the weekends “goin’ off road” in their 4-wheeled mud vehicle down in the hollers of Tennessee. Doesn’t leave much time for work to get done on the house. 

Especially when BJ has to work other jobs to pay the bills – which keep mounting with each additional vacation they take!  DQ and the spawn spend it faster than it can be earned…

Mom vetoed my idea to jump-start the process by getting quotes from others.  She is simply concerned that if DQ and BJ get pissed off, they will say “Fine, we don’t want the house!  Go find some other family members to take you in…”.

There is nothing that can be done to make this happen.  i stopped discussing it with Mom when she said “All this talk is going to make me have a stroke”. 

Got it.  Standing down, Momma.  Just don’t complain to me again about the fact that it’s been two years since the renovations started…

Seems that the 16 year-old, DQ, Jr. now has her driving permit – and of course, despite her complete lack of interest in getting a job and their perpetually stretched financial situation, they bought her a car.  Makes perfect sense!

Mom was unexpectedly bright and cheery when i spoke with her last night – a nice change!  She’d been pretty gloomy after they left her to take care of their two smelly hounds while they played in Florida.

When i asked what she’d been up to, she rattled off all of the places she’s been going – with DQ, Jr. at the wheel!  While driving on a learners permit, she is limited to daytime driving only, and must have a licensed driver in the car with her at all times.  Never mind the fact that the kid has only been behind the wheel of a car for about a dozen hours.  No formal training yet, either. 

Who am i to mention that Mom hasn’t been licensed to drive for about four years?  

(sigh)

This isn’t going to end well.  But Mom has really been enjoying the rides in the car…

more ‘dogs in car’ photos here…

Hoping DQ, Jr. remembers to crack a window if she leaves Mom in the car on a hot day…

30 Days – Part 2

With communal accountability, i was able to make some very gentle adjustments to my habits over the past 30 days.  Re-discovering my ability to focus on reading honest-to-god BOOKS, I’ve cleared three and a half from my reading pile, while re-wiring some of the focus-neurons in my brain.  

In addition, this “seven hours sleep/night” thing has worked wonders – except when it hasn’t (largely driven by opportunities to stay out too late playing with my little friends).  i can now go to bed before 11 pm, and awaken without too much drama at 6 am – and as a result, not wind up dragging my sorry ass to the office late.

Thanks to bob for orchestrating the “accountability” portion of the game – a very clever experiment. We’re going to do it again!  i enjoyed tracking the progress of my partners in self-improvement across the globe.  

The idea came from a TED talk, which is really about trying something new, not just doing little bits of self-improvement tweakage.  But it also emphasizes small, sustainable movement…. So i kept it small…  

Round 2 starts on Monday, 15 August, and if any of you are so inclined, stop by our tracking blog, and let bob know you want to play along!

With another bit of travel in the middle of this one, i needed something portable again.  Not yet ready to tackle learning a language, or anything of substance, i’ve decided to target something that has simply started to annoy the shit out of me.

My arms. They are starting to look like Mom’s.  Which used to whap me in the head when i was a little girl, scampering* around the kitchen.  

Call them what you will – “Bingo Wings”, “Auntie Arms”, “Nanna Wobble”, “Sugargliders” – they suck.  And i am declaring war on mine. 

Using The 100 Push Up Challenge as a model training program, i am committing to 30 days of the program.  Also committing to posting a weekly photo of my flaps.  Not in a corset, mind you.  There is nothing sexy about arm flaps.

Since that’s a 3 day/week activity, i’ll throw in something for alternate days for my ass.  Squats, that is….  Not “sitting on it”.  No photos of the backside, however… even i have my limits, and will spare you the arse shots.

Rather than count on just the communal accountability this time, i did something quite stupid last week.  i have a young engineer on my team who is a former Marine.  He is a rabid distance runner, and is in great physical shape – always encouraging the rest of us to “Move!”  He also shouts “Drop and give us 50!” when someone shows up late for a meeting…

At a group meeting i mentioned to him that i would be starting a push up training program – and that by Christmas i would be able to drop and give him at least 40.  On my toes. And asked him to hold me to it…

Let’s hope my shoulder holds out…

pic found here

 

* “Scampering”?  Did i ever scamper?  Even as a small child?

Not quitting my day job

Over the weekend, i attended a friend’s 50th birthday party.  It was an outdoor picnic, complete with roast pork products, many dozen friends and relatives, and perhaps a few coolers full of beer.  She’d asked me to bring my guitar, and be prepared to drop in with one of her other friends to provide some entertainment.

With my arm twisted so tightly behind my back, it took a full nanosecond for me to say “Sure!”, while simultaneously blowing the dust off my set books and digging my guitar case out from under the spare bed.

Dragging my friend Studley McRocklegs along as roadie for the day, we spent a pleasant afternoon celebrating.  When it was time to set up the amps/microphones, we ran the extension cords, and grabbed a few more beers.  i had a wonderful time jamming with her friends, encouraging crowd participation*, and throwin’ down like a wannabe rock star!

On the drive back, Studley couldn’t wait to tell me about a conversation that occurred while i was performing.

Charlie [grillmaster, full of Bud Light]:  Hey, you’re wife’s really good!  Do you think she could play at our pig roast in September?

Abby [Charlie’s patient wife]:  She’s not his wife! 

Studley:  She loves doing it!  I’m sure she’d be willing to play…

Charlie:  How much does she charge?

Studley:  Nothing, she just does it for fun!  If there’s a roasting pig, you probably can’t keep her away.

Charlie:  She’s good!  Seriously, how much does she charge?

Studley:  Seriously, she’ll do it for free! [grinning] And careful how you ask that, Charlie!

Charlie:  Oh, I ain’t sayin’ she’s a whore or anything…

*Always bring a cowbell.  i never leave home without it…