Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Another buzzer to the joy center

Whilst in Chicago, I stayed in a very nice hotel near the lake and was 100% determined to get in a C25K run along Lake Shore Drive. I brung my shoes and workout gears, and I publicized my determination just to make it harder for me to back out.

Unfortunately only from the perspective of my goals, the folks and I managed to fit in drinks at Naha and dinner at Frontera Grill the night before. Now, Naha's specialty cocktails are something to behold and even more to bedrink, and to apologize for receiving my credit card with a hasty, "Thank you, sir," the bartender and his manager distributed a wealth of house-made truffles, and Frontera more than lived up to its billing, to the tune of two appetizer plates, some agua de jamaica, and a shared strawberry agave-shortcake plus hot chocolate. I got back to the hotel feeling calorically overendowed, and thus it was that I made a great mistake the next morning.

I ran without breakfast. Without coffee, even. And it was raining.

So boring story short, it sucked rat. I was puny. My legs felt even more like cement than usual, and I felt as though my engine was running on fumes. I kept moving for about 40 minutes, but very little of it was even at a jog. Fail. FAIL. I sogged back toward the hotel and resigned myself to sorrow.

As I squelched toward the lobby, the doorman at the hotel ("Tony," said his badge, though I'd usually call someone of his age Mister LastName rather than by his first name) hailed me: "Miss. Miss! Someone left something for you!"

The folks being at another hotel and La Mère a fearsomely early riser, it was possible. I altered course.

"Can I get your name, just to make sure?"

I told him.

"Yup," he said, nodding. "Doorman named Tony said this was for you." And he reached into the valet stand to pull out a bottle of water.

I burst out laughing, taken off guard and charmed out of my shoes. "Bless your heart!" (I get Southern when I'm surprised.) "Do I look that bad?"

"Nope. Look good. But like you need this."

I went upstairs grinning my face off. That's probably not the classic runner's high, but I'll take it.

A warning letter to my Exilim, and then wedding stuff

Dear camera,

We're learning to make peace with one another, you and I. I no longer leave you in a jacket pocket before taking a nap on the beach; you no longer attempt to take pictures of my purse's interior when a stray housekey gets frisky with your on button. I figured out how to white-balance some of my pictures; you've given me some good low-light shots despite my fumbling. I thought we were cool, little camera. But we have to talk: flashing a picture of a full battery two seconds before you give up the powerly ghost does not constitute advance warning. And doing it right before I have the chance to get some unglaubich shots at a pan-Slavic wedding reception? Well, you can see why I felt hurt. But I'm trying to move past it, little buddy. We've had such good times, and if you can just communicate your needs more clearly, I'm sure we'll have some more and that I won't have to take a crab mallet and do anything regrettable to your autofocus.

With conditional affection,

Per Orthodox tradition, the choir lurks on high and discusses everyone's outfits while the guests assemble; once the groom shows up, the director usually insists that they work for a living. I had a cute dress and my most fabulous pink shoes, which I can wear only about once a year, because they hurt like fire and sin.
We suffer for the occasional "daaaaamn, girrrl," even if it's only in our own heads and mirrors.

You want pomp and circumstance at your wedding, I'm telling you, go Orthodox or go home. Rings, crowns, handfasting, candles, you name it. The crowns are for glory and martyrdom and making the couple turn their heads verrry verrry slooowly.

Drinking from a common cup. They say there are no atheists in foxholes, and there are probably few prayers like those of a woman in a white dress drinking red wine from a cup she's not holding herself.

The groom's side at this wedding instituted a whole pageant-sash thing that I haven't seen before, but it helped those of us who didn't know who was doing what, because it meant each member of the party was labeled by role and national affiliation. "Ah, you're the best man! And Serbian! So you're supposed to know where we get our shots of slivovitz after the ceremony!"

"Oh, the slivo's being poured by the inhospitable dingus who won't share it with anyone he doesn't know? You'll be hearing about this again."

And then there was accordion music and flinging of coins and great being-radiant on the parts of the bride and groom.

"May you see your children's children, like olive shoots around your table."

Monday, June 22, 2009

No fluff today

I had a silly post lined up for this evening, including some shots from the wedding I was at last weekend, but getting a stream of phone calls from people worried that I was dead in a horrible Red Line wreck means I'm not in the mood. For the record, although that's my regular commuting route, I wasn't on the trains and I have a reliable way home. Be well, you guys; not everyone is okay.

Red Cross DC, should it move you.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

"A political statement against the lack of joy on the planet"

Sometimes you can't face the serious stuff full on and you need a hit of straight happiness. This is for you.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What a rough beast

I leave the office for one measly extended weekend of eating marathon meals and drinking mighty wines in Chicago, and everything goes to hell, such that by the time I get home o'nights all I want to do is kerflop into bed. Stories about the weekend of feasty goodness and watching TheVoice marry her feller are on their way.

Manny has now been visited by an acupuncturist-cum-chiropractor, who did many woo-type things and left him with a batch of Chinese herbs. The barn staff find this a tremendous source of amusement, particularly the one labeled "for weakness of the hind end." When it comes to horses, I have set aside my usual cynicism about alternate therapies, because some animals genuinely do seem to benefit from them, and the placebo effect isn't the probable cause. Still, I agree with one staffer, who summarized Manny's current regimen succinctly: "He needs to chill the hell out and gain some weight. Dude, the herb he needs is not Chinese." (Except that it maybe is, who knew?)

We had fun, though, with only me and Small Woman, on Grayson, in the class. Pat set us doing mirrored exercises, circles at each end of the ring and then swapping off, which we managed with elan and even panache. Then she had each of us do a Preliminary-level dressage test that she made up on the fly, reading us the moves as we went. I was startled by how hard it was and how well Manny did, and speaking for myself it was also engaging to focus on a variety of moves in sequence, rather than the usual routine of doing one maneuver repeatedly before switching to another.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

But when the wind is westerly

Manny has been colicking lately, so I took Lear back in hand last night. Turns out that while he helped prepare me for Manny's appalling ground manners, those same nasty habits have made Lear seem practically sweet by comparison. That and, of course, Lear has had more time to learn that trying to bite me is a quick way to hurt himself, muahahaha.

But oh lordy had I forgotten what it was like riding a horse whose brain is 50% Skittles. The gate end of the ring is haunted like whoa horsie whoa, though more on Lear's right side than his left, and the arrival, at the nongate end, of a visitor—who was perfectly behaved, quiet, not prone to wave pompoms or do anything otherwise obnoxious to the equine sense of calm—was further cause for ear-pricking and nervous sidling.

There were only two of us in class, me on Lear and Small Woman on Grayson, so we got a lot of work done, even to the point of trying the half-pass a few times. Lear went on the bit maybe 60% of the time, though it was a struggle to keep him there and not periscoping whenever we approached the gate. I sat through two spooks without much event and counted myself lucky.

And then, 10 minutes before the end of class, one of the barn cats happened to walk past as we were passing the gate, and suddenly Lear lost his marbles, all "JESUS CHRIST IT'S A LION GET IN THE CAR OH SHIT I DON'T FIT IN THE CAR"-style. He went up, sideways, and down all at once (so says my memory); I lost a stirrup and the reins and couldn't even manage to grab his mane. He bolted down the ring and zeroed in on Grayson's ass, which of course is prime "kick me" territory. And Small Woman had stopped him dead, for some reason, oh God we were coming up fast fast fast.

My adrenal glands appear to be connected to my drill-sergeant bossypants synapses. Visions of bloody thrashing catastrophe dancing in my head, I bellowed a voice-of-brass "MOVE!" at the top of my lungs and was distantly amused to notice that while I couldn't get my shit together to control the horse, I was yelling from the diaphragm and not shrieking from the throat.

Through all of this, Pat was calmly chanting, "Sit back, relax, sit back, back, relax, let him have his head, sit, sit deep, reeee-laaaax." In peaceful moments, I can accept that it's probably better to have someone giving you solid advice and not adding to the general panic; at the time, though, it feels a bit condescending, like, would you please validate my freaking out here and reassure me that it's scary?

The whole thing took maybe three seconds, and Lear calmed down, I swallowed my heart and coughed it back into its accustomed place, and we did some steady walking exercises to wrap up. Yes, I took Lear back to the Place of Terrible Horror; he flicked an ear and moseyed by it, and I resisted the temptation to smack him stupid for his new blasé attitude. Scare us both out of a week's life and then act as though it's just so last year? Twerp.

With that, I'm off to Chicago. Y'all be good now!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

There is a palm in Gilead, said Jack

Pete Souza's White House photos are an excellent antidote to bad news. He's been posting some wonderful shots on Flickr, well beyond the usual grip-n-grins and signings.

Official caption: President Barack Obama shakes hands with a French veteran during the 65th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France June 6, 2009. The man was knocked aside by the crush of people after the president's speech, and a White House aide brought him over to meet President Obama.
Unofficial caption: Dammit, I'm-a cry.

Miro, Miro, on the wall...

We do the Harrison Ford "do not even" finger-point all the time in my family. The Obamas: They're just like us! Except with an organic garden and some nuclear codes.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

It comes like windows breaking

Summahtime! I loves me the sun and the energy it brings, if not so much the ambient humidity and strange storms that wake me up in the early morning hours with a noise like bowling balls being dropped into a car compacter.

The sunlight is helping with my effort to keep on track with workouts, too, grumbles about the warmth notwithstanding. I'm grimly determined to run in Chicago this weekend, partly to stay with the C25K program and partly to offset the caloric potential of the festivities, which, since it's a wedding hosted by Serbs, probably include hepatotoxic doses of hooch and staggering amounts of good food (I'm not clear on the reason—the proximity to Greece?—but Serbian cuisine beats the hell out of most other Slavic culinary arts). Anyroo, things keep ticking at Big Sexy Gym, where I'm getting in treadmill time, yoga classes, and weights classes on a semi-regular basis. I'm still taking the all-levels yoga class, and what I learned last night is that when the teacher sets the heat above 80, even my toes sweat. Now that's inner peace.

What with all this healthfulness, and working with another pediatric survivor, it's been percolating in my brain for a while that enrolling in a long-term follow-up clinic is long past due. There are a couple of local options, one at Johns Hopkins and one at Georgetown (fellow survivor goes to Dana-Farber, but if pressed she might admit that having their patient coordinator schedule her appointments around Red Sox games is part of the appeal), but since I can walk to GU, I've decided to start with them and see how it goes.

Today I got a call from the NP in charge of the program, and she talked me through some basic history and what kinds of tests they'll want to do before sitting me down for a strategy session with an MD and a social worker. It sounds like it's time to get comfy in overstarched arse-baring hospital cotton: To start with, I'm supposed to line up tests of my bone density, lung capacity, cardiac function, and blood counts, plus the ever-popular squarshing of the boobs. All of which I should've gotten done earlier, but survivorship is an emerging field, and in my day (creakypants), patients weren't automatically fed into a follow-up system once they'd cleared the five-year remission checks. At least my optometrist has been checking me for cataracts, which are a potential side effect of steroid treatment (...huh), and thanks be to all the heavenly powers that I'm spared a GI series.

As we ran down my current fitness regimen, the NP asked, "Got any lung impairment?" Beats me; my problems with running might be that and might just be that I've never been too consistent about cardio work, because it's harrrd. She gave a cheerful verbal shrug: "Well, I'd bet you've got some damage, but as long as you're not working until you pass out, go ahead and keep exercising. It's really important for your long-term health." Me and my sweaty toes say thankya, sort of. No free passes in this life (except on bench presses, which she told me not to do unless I want to tease the fates, and as I look back over the last 18 years of doing bench work, all I can say is oops).

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Offered without comment

Chi-infused t-shirts. Don't worry: The energy infusion doesn't wash out in the laundry.

Friday, June 5, 2009

I should not use a brother thus

Update from a stormy night: Manny has stopped rooting and is now trying to figure out how to go on the bit. You can tell, because when he's cued he grinds his teeth on the snaffle until it sounds like someone's trying to start a mower in the ring. Our conversation Wednesday night went grangh grangh grangh YOU'RE ON THE BIT YAY HERE'S A BIG RELEASE GOOD BOY grangh grangh. It's as though he spends the days after each lesson thinking about what he was asked to do, then the next time, eureka, what's next. [ETA: D'oh. I need to check into this a little more.]

Unfortunately, his mouthiness continues to be a problem; he bit the ever-living shit out of one of the instructors while she was standing in his stall (she didn't have him on a lead rope, and she wasn't looking at him, two big mistakes with this particular horse and, really, any horse you don't know well). She didn't try to yank her arm away, so instead of a gaping exsanguinating wound she's got a perfect set of teeth marks in her inner forearm. Yikes. The barn is planning to move him away from Sterling, whose stall-proud shenanigans aren't helping Manny's whole "my food mine mine mine MINE biting you now" attitude. In the meantime, they've taken to saddling him before students arrive, always leaving his halter on while he's stalled, and plastering warning labels on his door. For my part, I stay well out of reach until I've poked his haunches away from me with the end of a dressage crop or a longe whip. We also did some of his de-aversion ear-petting therapy during the wait on crossties; 20 seconds of that, and his whole body relaxes, then he sighs deeply, leans his head into your chest, and commences to lick and chew like a Monty Roberts demo vid. Very cute.

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Jon Stewart, my other crush boy. No horse connection, just love.