Sunday, August 28, 2011

Lucy Dance

Yesterday I participated in a yearly ritual...the stomping of the grapes at the winery where Brian and I were married.  Each year the owners invited their patrons to a big party to celebrate the harvest.  They also encourage you to dress as Lucy as she looked in the episode where she also stomps grapes.  If you are a brave enough man, you can be a Luc-hee. 

Last year, I went for the first time with several good girlfriends.  We were attempting to take my mind off of Brian's diagnosis and impending treatment.  It was the most fun I had had in a long time.  Perhaps since the day I got married at the winery. 

When you pay at the door, you get a wine glass specially made for the day.  You choose your table and take it all in.  There are Lucys and Luc-hees everywhere.  Two 5x5 plastic bins are in the center of the covered patio.  It's hot, but the large fans everywhere make it bearable.  The wine starts flowing as soon as the waitress takes your order.  The Irish band begins to play.  You drink.  You dance. 

Caris, the owner of the winery, picks three women from the crowd to start the stomp.  After the short ceremony, then all the patrons may get in line to stomp the grapes.  About 6 people can cram into one of the bins.  The band plays.  Everyone is laughing and having a marvelous time. 

To stomp, you dip your feet into a bucket of water, hike up your peasant skirt and step into the cold, squishy grapes.  Once your friends have joined you, you dance the best you can in the grapes to the music.  Pictures are taken to prove to others that you've done it and for you to remember this marvelous day.  When you have stomped for a few minutes, you get out of the tub as gracefully as you can.  (That is directly proportional to how much wine you've had before you got in.)  Perhaps one or more of your friends has dipped their hands in the grapes and slapped you on the backside or on your front.  You walk a few feet to the edge of the patio where an eager man waits to hose you off.  The grapes are very sticky.  He willingly sprays whatever you ask him to.  He assures you he is a professional. 

The band plays on and the wine flows.  At some point you enjoy a hamburger lunch.  Not a good idea to be hungry and dehydrated. 

When you have had all the fun you can stand (usually after at least one more stomp, maybe more), you go claim your prize for dressing as Lucy...a bottle of Texas Kiss wine, one of their most popular. 

The drive home is full of laughter and plans for next year.  It's a true bonding experience.  And I wouldn't miss it for the world.  It's a day full of smiles, hope and promise.  And it rejuvenates you in a way that it is difficult to come stomp with us next year!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Looking Back

Today was the first day of school.  Brand new 7th graders came to me today, all shiny and full of promise.

Last year on this day was a million miles from here.  I did not meet my 7th graders last year on the first day of school.  It was the day we found out for sure that Brian had non-Hodgkins lymphona...his biopsy day.  Instead of telling 7th graders about how our year would be, what we would study, etc.  I had to tell my shiny new husband when he woke up from the surgery that he did have cancer on this day a year ago.

Today Brian is arresting robbery suspects and he's 2 hours late so that he can keep working.  I was so looking forward to telling him about my first day and about my wonderful new kids, but somehow this is the most fitting way I can think of for him to be spending this day. I hope it's the sweetest overtime he's made in awhile.

In nine days, we will be on a plane bound for Australia.  It's our celebratory vacation.  Remission from cancer for 5 months now.  So, I will be away from my students once again at the beginning of the year, but for a much better reason.

So, I will continue to celebrate life...Brian's life, my life, our life.  It's a great day to be alive!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Got 30 minutes? I do!

This will be a short one...I just want to share one thing.

It's the first day of professional development for the new school year. It was a good, productive day, but I was exhausted at the end. I dragged myself home, completely zapped.

Brian came home just late enough that I convinced myself that I was too tired to go back to school for our family dinner. I felt guilty and we wouldn't be that late, but I was so tired.

I made a quick supper and settled in on the couch, but I was antsy. Perhaps it was missing the dinner, perhaps that Australia is within reach (only 16 days till we leave now), perhaps it was all the changes for the new school year looming. Perhaps a combination of all of that.

What I know is that even after a Blue Moon (or two), I decided that this Monday would not be my rest day from exercise after all. I changed into my running clothes and hit the treadmill.

I told myself that despite my recent 20 minute triumph (no stopping!) that tonight even 10 minutes without stopping would be great. After all, it's the end of the day and I had just eaten not long before and had a few adult beverages.

I turned my playlist on my iPod, specially chosen for this workout and away I went.

30 minutes later, I stopped running. That's right. Not only did I do more than 10 minutes that was my goal, I did more than the 20 the day before.

I cannot describe to you how flipping great it felt except to say that I felt invincible when I finished....sweating like a pig, scarlet faced, raccoon eyed from my sweat, but INVINCIBLE.

So, I jog on to my 5k goals. No more wagging for me, y'all. I am a runner.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Looking Back

It's been a year now since Brian's diagnosis.  A year. 

He's been in remission for 5 months.  This year has been so full of stress, I can't believe it's only been 12 months.  It seems like an eternity in so many ways.

Brian feels great.  He even passed the city's physical fitness test for a bonus check.  And it's not for cupcakes.  I'm so proud of him.

We are leaving for Australia to celebrate in 2 1/2 weeks.  We can't wait.  It's going to be so wonderful.

I looked back on the first posts on this blog today.  We were so full of trepidation, everything was so unsure.  Now we are full of possibility once again. 

I had to laugh about the comments I had about Brian losing his hair.  That's what freaked me out the most last year.  Do you know that not only did he not look any different to me without his hair, I didn't realize his eyebrows had fallen out, too?  He was my Prince Charming like always.  It wasn't until he had to have his driver's license picture remade (with no hair) that I realized they were gone. 

Now when I see the few pictures we have where he has no hair, it startles me.  He really does look ill to me.  (Sorry, baby.)  At the time though, we were so focused on remission being the only option, I only saw Brian.  Not his hair or lack thereof.

He's still going every three months for his follow up chemo.  No side effects or anything.  Just trying to make sure this awful stuff never comes back.  His hair came back exactly the same color...just a little more wiry.  Ever so slightly wavy.  He was adamantly against it coming in curly.  It cooperated more or less and he has lovely eyebrows once again. 

So, just as I promised in the intro to this blog...despite everything that has happened in the last year, we have been true marshmallows...we refused to be squished.

I look forward to this new year with no illness (for either of us).  We have so much more that we want to do.  Stay tuned!

Dear Kim

Dear Kim,

I know it's been a very long time since we talked...even longer since we've taken a run together.  But I wanted to take a minute and thank you.  As one of my coaches, you helped me so much.  And I have not quit. 

The bleeding ulcer and resulting anemia derailed me for quite awhile.  My last 5k was in January.  But I still asked for and was given a treadmill for my birthday in April.  That just happens to be when I started feeling sick.

But, I refuse to give up.  You wouldn't give up on me those weeks we ran together.  And you helped me not give up on myself, no matter how long it took me to finish a "run."  Because let's face it, I was doing a whole lot more walking than running.  I still pretend you are right there beside me. 

This summer, now that I feel better, more normal, I have started running again.  Thank goodness for the treadmill.  I work up enough of a sweat as it is.  I can't imagine trying to run outside right now!

Badger doesn't trust the treadmill.  He barks at it; Bear trys to lay between me and his brother to protect me and Badger from himself.  He is so patient. 

Gradually I have added more time to my running.  Very little walking for me now.  Today I hit 20 minutes without stopping.  Me!  20 minutes of running!  I had a total of 23 minutes today.  I feel like Wonder Woman.  I am still slow, but as Julie reminded me today, I am WAY faster than my couch. 

I won't lie; the nagging anemia will zap my afternoon energy because I spent so much on the run, but it's not enough to stop me.  I love the feeling of succeeding at this...finally.

I refuse to give up and I know that when it's cool enough, I will be ready to RUN a 5k.  So thank you for making a runner out of me. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Amazing Things

I woke up to rain this morning.  RAIN!  Brian has to work this morning, so I made coffee and sat on the back porch with the dogs taking it all in.  The creek behind the house is full least temporarily.  The birds were hopping about the branches of the trees.  Even a grasshopper didn't bother to hop to a dry place on the porch.  It was glorious. 

There is a commercial on television that asks, "What's the most amazing thing you've ever seen?"  It always makes me pause.  I'm not sure what I would count as THE most amazing thing I have ever seen, but this morning might count as one of them.  Too many days without rain and so much heat in a Texas summer will make a person think so.  It was almost disorienting. 

But another amazing thing this morning was my workout.  After sleeping through most of June (stupid anemia and ulcer), I am running again, and I am finally able to make it really count.  I am running better than I ever did.  It's hard for me to believe, but I was able to run for 15 minutes without stopping this morning.  Three days ago I was excited about 11 minutes without stopping.  I ran more than I walked today for the first time ever.  I'm not fast even when running, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter.  Fall and winter 5ks here I come!

One last amazing thing that I shall not be witnessing today, but am indirectly benefiting from is the opening of the In-N-Out Burger in Fort Worth.  Brian is directing traffic there this weekend from 7 am to 1 pm.  Now, I did call it amazing, but I mean it in the shaking my head kind of amazing.  In-N-Out Burger is paying the officers ridiculous amounts of money to keep traffic flowing as Fort Worth discovers this "new" fast food.  I have no doubt it's a tasty burger, but the frenzy over this seems a bit much.  Now, that hasn't stopped me from instructing Brian to bring home one of these magic burgers.  I refuse to wait for hours in a drive thru, but I probably should see what all the fuss is about.  He will already be there, after all. 

And I did burn all those calories on the treadmill already...

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Summer of Toad

So, I watched my nephew for most of the summer for my brother.  Free are welcome. 

It was quite an education for someone with no children and honestly, limited experience with small children.  I'm used to the 12 year old set.  That's my day to day audience at work.  Much different when they are 5, it turns out.  And 12 year olds who think they are 21, by the way.

My nephew, Zachary, quite simply is pretty awesome. 

1.  He loves music.  His favorite song is "Crazy Girl" by the Eli Young Band.  He knows every word.  And woe be to you if you change the station by accident when it comes on. 

2.  He loves animals.  He is particulary in love with our cat, Azalea, who does not return the feeling.  He tries so hard to make her love him.  Unfortunately, he has the opposite effect on her.  She runs for the hills as soon as she realizes he is in the house.

3.  He loves Looney Toons.  Some of my favorite memories are of watching Looney Toons with my dad on Saturday mornings.  To my chagrin, they no longer have them on Saturday morning cartoons, however, they are to be seen in abundance on the cartoon networks.  And Zachary is unique, as in all things...his favorite is the "Bird Runner"  probably known to you as the Roadrunner.  He will watch a whole hour of cartoons just hoping for one "Bird Runner" cartoon. 

4.  He entertains himself.  I haven't felt well this summer...still trying to get ahold of this anemia.  But that hasn't stopped the little man from finding ways to entertain himself when I was just too tired.  He stays close by and plays with his cars.  He is quite compassionate at age 5.

5. He loves cars.  All kind of cars.  He loves to play with Matchbox cars.  He has hundreds of them.  He critiques peoples' rides as we drive along.  His favorite brand of vehicle is the "JimandCee" .  You might know them as GMC.  That's the kind of truck his daddy has. 

I had a truly fun summer, though sometimes being a guardian of a 5 yr old with no real prior experience could really be trying. 

There are smudgy little finger prints all over the back of my car---windows, doors, you name it. 

He knows no strangers and offers up all kinds of information to them.  Example...telling the lady with the West Highland terrier at the vet the other day about when he was sick with an upset stomach and diarrhea.  Haha.  Kids.

He just busts out with unnecessary minute he's quiet and completely calm.  The next minute he's hissing and yowling like a cat with his tail on fire. 

He torments my dogs.  He calls it "playing with them." 

He is a bottomless pit already when it comes to eating.  I can only imagine what feeding the boy will be like as he grows up.  Chicken nuggets and Go Gurt are his current favorites.

He can't go to the store with you without begging for you to buy him something...preferably a new Matchbox car or two.  He also can't watch the commercials in between cartoons without begging for the crap that's advertised.  "Will you buy me that?"  was the chime that marked every quarter hour.

I almost hated the sound of "Toad" by the end of the summer, but he's so darn cute, you can't.  He will look up at you and smile and say, "I love you, Toad, " spontaneously.  Who wouldn't melt?  Well, I did...every time.  I don't know what that says about me as a potential parent..hopefully sooner rather than later. 

So, the summer is over.  And I already miss the little dude...unnecessary noises and all.  This summer spent with him was a rare gift...kind of like the rock he presented me with when he was 18 months old and we were exploring outside.  He doesn't remember it and never will, but I still have the rock. 

It may have been free daycare for my brother, but for me, it was the opportunity of a lifetime.