Monday, December 17, 2012

Unreserved Enthusiasm

There are so many things to love about kids.  Their enthusiasm and their spunk can be rather contagious.  We should watch these kids more so as we can learn a thing or two.

For example, each (and every) time one of my Yahoos phones a friend to request some play, that friend will arrive faster than The Flash.  Not as fast as The Flash, mind you, faster.  It goes like this:

"Hi this is the Yahoo, is Joey there?"  Brief silence while Joey is summoned.  Phone is fumbled, dropped, picked up, and fumbled again.  "Can you come over?"

We stand in silence as Joey races around, finds the parents and asks permission.  Joey gets back on the phone, hollers a boisterous "Yeah!" then.... one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand... arrives without shoes or coat and a half-eaten dinner mulling about in his chaw.

I love that.

When was the last time you had that kind of unreserved enthusiasm?

Sunday, December 02, 2012


Since my brain needs exercise, I've been forcing myself to exercise. I force myself into some exercise clothes, then I force myself into the car, then I force my car to the gym, then I force myself into the gym, and finically, I force myself onto either the escalator machine or an elliptical.  It's a small miracle when it happens, because it is so not my idea of a good time.

To pass time during these exercise-machine torture-sessions, I read.  I'm rather amazed at the kind of reading I can do.  Perhaps it's not all torture?  Perhaps.

Here's a run-down of what I've been ready while schlepping about, just like a rat on a wheel.


City of Ember
by Jeanne Duprau

Doon Harrow, a pipes worker, and Lyna Mayfleet, a city messenger, are a couple of 13-year-olds living in an underground city.  Lyna stumbles upon a secret set of instructions; instructions that direct the underground dwellers out of the dark and dreary.  Ember is running out of power and food so Doon and Lyna are all over it.  They depipher the secret message – which really did need deciphering because Lyna's littler sister tried to eat it – and find the way out.  But a way out to what...?

This book is entertaining and great for what it is – young adult science fiction.


The people of Sparks
by Jeanne Duprau

During this City of Ember sequel, Doon and Lyna have rescued the Ember folks (also called Emberites) from the inevitable doom of their underground living.  Above ground, they discover that the earth and it's many civilizations were destroyed by war.  Emberites follow Doon and Lyna to a newly formed town called Sparks.  The Sparks folks take them in with reluctance; worried that their limited resources could barely take care of their own, let alone the addition of 400 refuges.  Squables over resources and a few egomaniacs nearly get them into another destructive war, when – Surprise! – Doon and Lyna save the day (again!) by stepping in making peace.

Another thumbs up for what it is.  I hear there are two more in this series.  I shall check 'em out.  Also, this book was returned to the library with a considerable amount of sweat dripped upon it's bind.  Maybe you can check it out and see!  Or smell.  Whatever.


Helping Me Help Myself
by Beth Lisick

Lisick, like lipstick?  That's what I say each time I read that Lisick last name.

After a rowdy New Year's celebration, Beth, a self-proclaimed self-help skeptic, decides she should make some resolutions for once.  She decides it's high time she do the splits, a lofty goal indeed.  But then she decides to add to it – why not devote an entire year to the teachings of a few hit self-help gurus?  Okay!  Fun!

The first month Beth spends with Jack Canfield's "Success Principles," where she develops the ritual of reviewing the day each night, then she spends a month with Stephen R. Covey and his "7 Habits of  Highly Successful People" stratagem.  Covey stresses character development and she likes that.  After studying some go-get-'em theology, she decides maybe it's time to exercise and books a cruise with Richard Simmons.  All of this is followed up by some financial fantasies with Suze Orman, astronomy in the form of "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus," and a few other dandies, including the one and only Deepak Chopra.

At the end of the year, Beth says she grew some, but it was difficult.  She never learned to do the splits though.

I loved this book.  It was heart-felt and hysterical and honest.  I'm a Lisick like Lipstick fan.


by John J. Batey, MD

This one is a few hundred pages about how exercise is good for your brain.  Hullo?  Duh!  That's what I said throughout it's entirety, while reading each detailed test and trial.  It is rather interesting, however, to see how exercise affects the brain biologically.  Basically, exercise keeps norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine floating about in the brain space longer, so as it can be used for longer.  As it turns out, the longer you exercise, the longer the neurotransmitters keep floating.  Totally explains why I'm a distance junkie.


The Screw Tape Letters
by C.S. Lewis

In this series of letters, C.S. Lewis spends some time as Screwtape, a disciple of satan, wherein he instructions his direct report Wormwood on the angles in which to tempt their "patient" from converting to Christianity.  Screwtape has many ways to twist, turn, and distort with the use of family, love, war, and even the guise of selflessness.  None of it works and they lose their patient to the Enemy.

 "What is He up to?!" They say often about this Enemy.

Being a Christian, I found this very interesting and rather mind-bending.  I'm curious to hear what a non-Christian might have to say.  Definitely a "read again" and my copy is marked up to the max.  With both pen and sweat.

Everybody Into The Pool
by Beth Lisick

While in New York, Megan arrived with a copy of "Helping Me Help Myself."  See above.  "You should read this," she said.  "Her writing style is a lot like yours."  Imagine my thoughts.  Megan just said that I have a writing style.  Wow.  That is something else.  Megan is kind of a big deal, what with her prose prowess.

While reading "Helping Me Help Myself," I felt nothing but flattery.  Beth is funny.  Am I funny?  Beth combines words in a clever fashion.  Do I combine works in a clever fashion?  Beth is a great story teller.  Am I a great story teller?

I've tried not to let this writing style mention go to my head.  Honest.  But Megan did it again.  Using the medium of text, I asked Megan if she'd like the book back or if she'd like me to pass it along, as we are known to do with books.


I have fallen for this Beth Lisick like Lipstick.  She is equal parts cynic and home-spun softie.  (Like me!  I'm equal parts cynic and home-spun softie!)  I'm on the verge of writing her some fan mail.  Thought I'd start by telling her about how Covey died from complications brought upon by a bike wreck while Spouse was in the hospital because of – get this – a bike wreck.  Woa.  Right?

"Everybody Into The Pool" is a collection of True Stories (!) that range from Beth's San Francisco upbringing during the height of the Hippie, to the period she spent living among drug dealers and junkies near the mission.  This one, again, is hilarious and honest.  My favorite?  She was walking out of her warehouse "pad" while some kid wouldn't let off the heroin pushing.  The kid just kept at it.  Without thinking, Beth turned around and whispered "SPFD.  Keep walking."  Or something like that.  The kid left her alone and Beth was feeling proud of herself until she bragged about it to her roomies.  The roommates freaked and they all decided it was time to move, cause, like, those drug dealer types are known to kill people 'n stuff.

There you go.  Six books on an exercise machine.  I really like this book report stuff.

I don't know which is more disturbing, six books on the machines or the fact that I really (I mean really) like to do book reports.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Lost My Dickens

This year has scared the Dickens right out of me.  Which is a bummer because everyone needs some Dickens.  Dickens is a genius.

You might think I'm about to wax Scroogey – you know, due to the  Season of Christmas and it's attached Season of the Scrooge – you might think this.  Today, however, I'm not talking about Scrooge and his array of set-your-ass-straight ghosts.  Today, I'm talking about the mighty Dickensian invention of "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

Let's get that bad boy in it's entirety, shall we?
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way."
Isn't that brilliant?  Yes it is.  In fact, if I were a judge at the Literature Pageant, I'd crown that hot 'n tarty piece of verse the Miss Universe of Literature.  Or Mister – if that's how you like your tarts.

This year has been great in so many ways.  But in other ways, it has been unbearable.  The Yahoos are healthy and smart, we have a nice house and nice food.  We have cars that work and money saved if they break down.  Spouse has a great job and my job has blossomed into the McDreamy of tax jobs.

We live in a great town with an even greater row of neighbors.  Luxuries around here abound.  We are taking piano lessons from the best and Spouse bought us a grand piano to match. We have heat and air; electricity and water.  We have more clothes than we know what to do with and three full bathrooms, complete with a lifetime of mold.  And if all of that doesn't seem overly improvident, add two – count 'em – two plane rides for the family in a year's time.  We have everything before us.

Then there's me, who in this year's season of darkness, has lost hope and allowed the winter of despair to swallow me whole.  That winter of despair is a scary place.  It has scared the Dickens right out of me.  It's not sadness, really.  It's just... nothing.

So what's the trouble?  Well, on the surface it seems the problem is running, and the lack therof.  I've spent most of the year injured and haven't been able to run.  My mileage for the last few years has been in the ball park of 2500.  This year I'll be lucky to make it to 1000, and that counts walking the Yahoos to and from school.

I mull over the situation often.  I spend a lot of time alone, so naturally, I mull.

Is my "identity" attached to running?  Not really, I tell myself.  (Other than I have a blog and a nickname with "run" in it... har har.)  I don't require that people know I run.  I don't include running or races or anything running-related in any conversation with those who do not run.  I don't hang my medals for show, or boast of any PR, and my car will never have a running sticker on it.  Ever.  I'm kind of weird about stickers on my car anyway.  As if I want complete strangers to know anything about me.

Do I miss the races?  Not really.  Racing isn't really my thing.  I'm not all that great at it.  It's great to meet new people, and become reacquainted with those you don't see often, but the racing is not essential.

Is it the friends?  Yes, it's the friends.  Not going to lie.  I miss the conversation.  I miss knowing what is going on in their lives.  I miss the giggles and the things we'd see while most were still asleep.  I miss the problems we'd muddle through and the many available solutions.  I miss the various insights and I even miss some of the arguments.  I spend a lot of time alone.  I work alone.  And now I exercise alone (if you want to call it that.)

Is it the endorphins?  Yes, it's the endorphins.  Running produces dopamine.  I need dopamine and I'm getting none.  I also have this fairly extreme hormone problem with which no one in the medical community seems to be able to help.  "Here take this!" they'll say, and "Here take that!" After 20 years of taking side-effect-inflicting thises and make-it-worse-than-ever thats, you give up.  "It's only two weeks!" they'll say.  "You'll be fine a few days!"  One doctor even said, "I feel bad for your husband."

Those two weeks? They add up to SIX years so far.  Six.  And we're just getting started!  And the feeling bad for the husband bit?  Spouse gets a nice long break from me every day.  Barring an out-of-body moshing, such an amenity is not available to me.  'Sides, I cook him dinner and service his dickens.

Running has always kept that in check.  Running provided that extra push needed to get me through the rough patches.  It's worked like a charm for 15 happy years.  Tragically, this luscious 'n loving endorphin elixir has been MIA for close to 10 months.  What's worse, is I'm feeling okay now but the prospect of a re-injury has terrified me to the point where I don't dare start again.

See?  Dickens has been scared right out of me.

So what do I do?  Great question.  There's nothing anyone else can do (and if you try you'll find I'm less than affable.)  I just have to figure it out.  Replace the despair with hope...that's what I need to do.  That, and figure out how to put back my Dickens after it was scared right out of me.

Perhaps I'll start with "A Tale of Two Cities" and a book report.  I guess I could also find a "Christmas Carol" showing.  But I'm all like, "Again?  Like, I have it memorized."