26 February 2012


I don't like being in the woods alone. I love being out in nature, in the wind and the sun and the shade, but when I venture into the woods, I prefer that other people be around. You just never know what - or who- might be out there.

It took me most of the afternoon to decide that I actually was going to go climb the little mountain outside town. Alone.

I was relieved when I pulled into the parking lot and found it half full of cars. (Any hiking spot in State of Happiness that is within close proximity to a metropolitan area is going to be full of people on a non-freezing, non-raining day.)

It was perfect: there were just enough people that I walked alone on significant portions of the trail, but I still encountered a person or two going the other direction every few minutes. There was no long, silent stretch to make me nervous.

I walked steadily up to the top. Up on a rock, I sat facing the half-hidden sun, eating my snack of pistachios. And then I turned around and walked back down, cursing myself for wearing shoes I like in the mud, but exhilarated by the fact that I had gone out into the woods without accompaniment.

25 February 2012


Sometimes I'm not sure how we managed to keep warm when I was a teenager in the Mitten. We bought our coats for $50 at Meijer, and they were filled with some fluffy polyester filling. We layered on cotton sweatshirts underneath. I had an ancient pair of wool socks, and sometimes I wore those skiing, usually with other, regular pairs of cotton socks that made my ski boots nearly too tight to close. Our gloves were from Meijer, too, and there was nothing fancy about them, except maybe the fake leather strip across the palm that kept a tow-rope or shovel from destroying them.

Now I bundle in high-tech, wicking gear, and still the wind bites when I leave the shelter to cross-country ski back down to the parking lot. Still my fingers are numb inside my expensive gloves.

On the drive back, I told my car-mates about the red bib-overall snow pants I used from the time we got back from Liberia until after college. They had belonged to my Uncle T., and at some point he left them at my grandma's house. Probably because they had a hole in the knee. I literally wore them for more than a decade, over those old-fashioned waffle-weave long-underwear pants, and over jeans or sweatpants, too.

I remember, one day, over at my friend D.'s house, as we were getting ready to go skiing, putting on the red bib-overall snow pants and looking in the mirror and saying, "I have hips!"

It's funny how that happens, sometime in those teenage years. It was the first time I'd noticed them.

24 February 2012


My hands smell like metal, despite the fact that I washed them thrice after I got home.

Some of my fighting class and my (former) kung fu class went to a shooting range tonight. We got a short lesson in How Not To Kill Yourself Or Others, and then we were lined up in the booths in the short range with various types of handguns in front of us.

I didn't quite arrive on time, because I had gotten stuck at work, so I didn't actually learn much of How Not To Kill Yourself Or Others, but I have a brain, and I've been taking fighting class for a year and a half now ("Line of fire! Line of fire!"), and I caught the part about how to unload the gun(s), so I was fine on that.

Less fine was the fact that I missed the basics of how a gun actually works. Only a few minutes after I arrived (late), I found myself in a little booth with an unloaded revolver and some bullets.

.357s, I think.

This was not quite like the single-shot shotguns I have fired, with Papa K. loading and handing me the gun.

I got the bullets into the gun, and the instructor told me, just as I did it wrong, to pick it up before I put the cylinder back into place.

But it all worked out, and after that revolver I shot two 9 mm semi-automatic handguns, and then two .22 caliber revolvers. One was tiny and light, with very little kick, and the other one was so heavy that my arms started to ache by the 10th round, but it had a laser scope, and it was quite thrilling to watch the bullets fly exactly where you pointed them.

For all of my bluster and bravado about these things, I was nervous with the first gun, which means it is probably good that I deal with them in the safe context of a shooting range instead of running into a gun someday in real life.

By the end they had to drag me away, kicking and screaming.

(Oh, I was just the last one shooting, scrounging up a last few unused bullets. Beg or borrow, not steal.)

23 February 2012


I walked outside for a while today, in the sunshine. I need that. I need more of it.

I suspect that I am not the only one, in February, who dreams of the tropics. I dream of sunshine so hot that I have to seek out the shade. I crave it like I crave sleep, at this very moment.

Instead, my mom and I bought tickets to Amsterdam. For spring break.

I was in the Netherlands at the beginning of April in 2003, and it might just be the loveliest place for spring.

It's not like that one European vacation some US Americans take in a lifetime. Not when you have uncles and aunts there. It's just visiting family, and you can do that over and over.

I do not, by the way, understand US Americans with their two to four weeks of vacation a year. How is that okay? How will they ever see the world?

I feel trapped by this, and not just in February. The world is waiting for me, and every day while I do the same thing over and over, the world is spinning without me. I feel trapped outside of time, and yet time is passing too quickly. I need to get back to it.

20 February 2012

whoops and hollers

I had a clumsy day yesterday. Nothing was safe.

I myself fell out of the passenger side of a car. I am still not quite sure how it happened. I opened the door to get out and just sort of slithered out and down.

On the beach, I pretended to pull a boy down toward the shore as if to go swimming, and ended up popping his finger out of joint.

In a restaurant, I took off my coat and whacked the guy next to me at the bar.

It wasn't just my body that was clumsy.

After the couple sitting next to us left, I said, "That was interesting. I assumed they were married, but neither of them had a ring on. They seemed kind of old to just be on a date."

"Uh," my date said, "they were my age."


Later, when the woman on the other side of him was showing us pictures of the sunset on her phone, she joked about a book that explains how to use that phone.

"Oh," I said. "I know someone who took a whole class on that phone. But she was in her fifties."

Out in the car, he said, "You do realize that woman was in her fifties."

"Which woman?"

"The woman who you told about your friend who took a phone class being in her fifties, as if that implied that she was old."

Is there a deep hole anywhere around? Because I probably dug it, and I'm sitting at the bottom of it right now, needing rescuing after I fell right into the very pit that I myself dug.

The beach, though. Oh, the beach. Everything was shades of silver and the sun through the mist and the white fringe on the waves. It felt like escape.

19 February 2012


I made a whirlwind trip up to Gone West today. It was the first time I'd ever driven Universe City - Gone West - Universe City in one day, although I did the reverse four or five times while I was getting ready to move down here.

I do love that city. Every time I am in Gone West, I look around and marvel at how great it is, and wistfully imagine living there again.

And so I was surprised, late at night, just getting back to Universe City, to turn onto the road that is my way home from work every day and catch myself thinking, "I'm so glad to be home."

13 February 2012

they let me use sharp tools

On Saturday, SHO and I went to refurbish trails in a local park. This involved large hand tools, which we all know I cannot be trusted to handle, but somehow I survived with only one minor toe smashing that did not even leave a bruise.

I generally only cause serious damage to myself, fortunately, not to those around me. This is the only reason I would ever even consider putting myself in the vicinity of a large hand tool. I don't mind hurting myself, but if others were at risk, I would have to reconsider.

We have used enough hiking trails that it was probably time for us to put in some work on them, anyway, and I never miss a chance to work on some physical labor project with others.

What? I'm actually serious. I loved building houses down in Mississippi when I was in high school. I am the only person who gets excited to show up at 8 in the morning to help people move (the donuts are only an extra bonus). I actually miss the work projects that I did in high school and college. It's partly about doing hard work that has visible results, and partly about the camaraderie of working with a group.

We got to work with the following tools:
  1. Mattock (Code Name: You Only Thought I Was a Pickaxe).
  2. McLeod (Code Name: I Scorn Mere Rakes).
  3. Some super heavy tamper thing to tamp down the trail. This one, of course, was the one I dropped on my toe. My hiking boots saved me, though.

I am, in fact, excited about the tools. My life has apparently been just that boring lately.

It was cloudy all morning while we were working outside, and then just as we left the mountain, the sun came out, of course. Oh, Cloudy State of Happiness. Why do you want to kill me with your gloomy winters? Your little glimpses of sun just tantalize me and make me remember why it's so amazing to live in the tropics.

PS. I made Valentine's Day cupcakes to bring to work, and I ate myself sick on the frosting. Will I never learn?

I guess not.

12 February 2012


"Did you really just order a Tom Collins at a Mexican restaurant?" B. asked, after the waitress, whose first language was clearly Spanish, left to attempt to convey my order to the bartender. (I don't think "Tom Collins" is the easiest thing to remember or repeat if English is not your first language.)

Sure enough, she came back shaking her head.

"I'll have a raspberry daiquiri," I said, aiming for something clearly displayed on the menu this time.

It arrived a bright Valentine pink, not a normal raspberry color.

"How is it?" B. asked.

"It tastes a lot like a snow-cone," I said.

10 February 2012


A while ago, I had a brilliant idea that the best way to prevent myself from eating the entire box of chocolates in one sitting every time I had a box of chocolates was to purchase my chocolate in the form of mint chocolate covered espresso beans from Trader Joe's.

Mint chocolate covered espresso beans are really delicious, especially the bigger ones with a higher chocolate to espresso bean ratio.

They also make me a little bit sick after I eat more than four of them, possibly because straight espresso beans are a little intense. This, I figured, was a natural way to prevent myself from eating the whole box. If you feel sick, you stop eating whatever is making you sick, right? This was my assumption.

I seriously underestimated the severity of my need for chocolate on a dreary February Friday at the end of a week of more demands than I could possibly meet.

09 February 2012

point 3

Three things, at random:

1. I jammed my toe again at fighting class today. That makes about four times in a year and half, which makes one or the other of my big toes constantly not quite mobile. This time it was because the guy I was working with meant to throw me down as part of the scenario we were working on, and I didn't know that, so I grabbed at him when he tried to push me down, and then we both went down, and somewhere in there I jammed my toe. The adrenaline got me through until after class, when I realized, huh, it actually really hurts.

2. My bathroom contains increasing numbers of ants. This is odd, because there does not appear to be anything edible in the bathroom. Even the things one might suspect - toothpaste? mouthwash? - do not seem to interest them. They just keep walking along the back of the counter where there is nothing for them. Nothing. I don't know why they persist.

3. I am starting to build quite the little collection of Valentine's Day envelopes and parcels on the table by the door. Heh. Presents for meeeeeeee.

07 February 2012


I have always been a baker, not a cooker, but lately I have started cooking. Admittedly, most of my cooking so far involves baking-type endeavors: enchiladas (self-explanatory), chicken soup with dumplings (dumplings steam, but they are bread-like).

I cannot actually make a recipe as described in the recipe. That would be far too easy. Everything wants a little sea salt sprinkled on top, or some chives thrown in, or a bit of coconut for flavor. My two usual magic ingredients, depending on the flavor of the food, are vanilla (doubled, if the recipe already calls for it) and pepper.

Yum. Pepper.

My roommate had a large pepper grinder full of peppercorns when I moved in, and now it is almost gone. Considering how seldom she has been here near a cooking hour since I moved into this house, I am pretty sure that entire grinder of pepper has gone primarily to my taste buds and the taste buds of those lucky enough to partake in my baking and now my cooking.

I added pepper to the dumplings in my soup tonight, and a healthy amount to the soup itself.

I am the only one who has tasted it so far, but it is delicious. It is perfect for this kind of rainy winter night, when you need something hot and comforting and gentle to keep you going.

06 February 2012

fall right

I can feel the winter drag in my approach to fighting class. I am going through the motions.

This has consequences when I spar against the instructor who doesn't know how to hold back. Last Thursday, I kicked him, and he grabbed my leg and pulled up, toppling me over. Fortunately for my inability to fall, I fell too fast to fall wrong. I fell perfectly, and I popped right back up.

The winter drag is getting into everything. It is 9:41 right now, and I'm fretting about being late to bed.

05 February 2012


Some people threw a ball around, somewhere.

I am fuzzy on the details. There was some amazing cheese and salsa dip that had my primary attention.

That is all.

04 February 2012

cold sunshine

The sun occasionally deigns to appear in our Universe City sky, and today was one of those days. People were out in swarms by the river. Kids ran up and down on the playground. Bikers called out, "On your left!" as they swished by. Families loitered in the middle of the bridge.

At the restaurant where last week we huddled inside watching the overflowing river, this week we sat outside in the sun with cold drinks. I rolled spicy tater tots through an excessive plate of ketchup.

The cold set in, though, as the sun went down. Cold nights are the price we pay here for sunshine in winter when the clouds that usually insulate us like a down blanket drift off and expose the sky.