Hoopy birthday to me!

This is me hoop-dancing in my brother’s driveway three years ago and I’m posting this photo to commemorate my birthday because hooping continues to be a gift to my emotional and physical health. I’m on track to hoop 24+ hours this year, the third year in a row.

But I’m not hooping today. Right now, I’m celebrating my birthday with a solo camping trip in Moby (campervan), and it’s no fun hooping outside in winter. Fortunately, it is fun to hike and trail-run and photograph birds in winter, so I’m probably doing one of those things right now. If not, I’m settled inside the cozy van, reading a book or noodling over a new project. (Lucky me, WordPress allows you to schedule blog posts days in advance!)

When I get home, I’ll crank up the music and hoop-dance in my living room while watching birds at the feeder outside the window. That’s some hoopla!

Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful for:

  • My home that is warm while outside, much-needed snow is falling. Take that, extreme drought!
  • A feeling of buoyancy as I return to a new project idea I began outlining in Scrivener last month.
  • Twenty minutes of joyful hoop-dancing that brings me closer to the year-end goal of 24+ hours of hoop-dancing in 2022.
  • My weird friend, Marcel, who greeted me with this stare when I walked into Zippy’s office a couple days ago.

  • Anyone who took the time to read this post. 🌻

Giving new life to old stuff

On Saturday, we waved goodbye to my mother-in-law‘s furniture and miscellaneous items. There’d been an estate sale at the end of September, but much remained. We didn’t want to add to the landfill so put a FREE STUFF ad on Craigslist and let people know they could come from 10AM-2PM to claim whatever they wanted. Zippy and I went early to set up (including our Corsi-Rosenthal Box and free N95 masks) and to vacuum and dust off furniture. When we arrived at 9:15, a pickup/camper with a trailer was already in the driveway. As we unloaded our car, the man got out to approach us but I shouted to him that the doors would open at 10AM. Zippy and I hurried inside to get set.

At 10:00, there was a short line at the door. Turned out, they were all there for the same piece of furniture (which ended up going to the first in line). In the bustle of dealing with those folks (plus the several who came to check out the exercise bike), I lost track of the man in the pickup. A while later, I realized he was still in his vehicle and waved him inside. He came into the house and quietly began looking at what was available. When I asked if there was anything in particular he was looking for (because the furniture was spread throughout the house), I realized he spoke Spanish and not a lot of English. And then it hit me that he probably hadn’t caught what I’d yelled across the driveway to him when we arrived, and quite possibly hung back at 10:00 due to shyness/intimidation/uncertainty. He’d been the first to arrive yet an English-speaking person claimed a lovely buffet he may very well have wanted. I wished I could rewind and avoid the miscommunication.

But there were no do-overs.

After that initial rush of people was over, no one else showed up for our little giveaway. Not one more person. That’s the bad news. The good news? El hombre found much that he wanted to take! We spent the next couple hours loading three sofas, a freezer, two bed frames and mattresses, the exercise bike, lamps, tables, chairs, clothing, and a whole lot of miscellaneous stuff on his trailer and in the camper. The best part? We became so comfortable with each other that Estevao corrected my Spanish. “Uno más,” he said after I incorrectly announced “Un más” while shuttling bed frame pieces to his trailer. Unfortunately, much of my Spanish vocabulary eluded me and I found myself saying, “Lo siento,  no entiendo” more than I would’ve liked, but we managed.  Moving mattresses in narrow hallways and low-ceilinged stairways has a way of unifying people. It was kind of sad saying goodbye.

As Estevao headed out the driveway on his way to Chihuahua, Mexico, I hurriedly took pictures with my crappy phone camera.

I’d felt some anxiety as we prepared for Saturday. Despite the detailed information included in the Craigslist post earlier that week, I was getting emails asking questions about availability, taking stuff earlier, reserving items. Questions that were clearly answered in the post. Zippy and I don’t do indoor gatherings (in order to protect our health and that of others), so the thought of being in a house with a whole bunch of people wearing masks under their noses wasn’t appealing. But Saturday turned out to be a good experience.

Yes, there were lots of emotions being in my mother-in-law’s nearly empty home, watching it become even more empty. Knowing we’d never again gather there as a family brought tears. But Zippy and I got to spend time with a kind, properly-masked man who saw a use for items we no longer wanted or needed. He was breathing new life into my mother-in-law’s belongings.

Days later, I keep thinking about Estevao, hoping he had a safe journey to Mexico. It wasn’t until he was in the driver’s seat that my brain kicked in and I remembered “¡Buen viaje!” which I shouted too late. He probably didn’t hear my words, but I hope he felt the sentiment. I wish him nothing but the best.

Our first Corsi-Rosenthal Box

A while back we offered to build a #CorsiRosenthal Box for my sister-in-law’s 2nd-grade classroom because Covid is airborne and we wanted them to stay healthy. After she figured out where she could put it in her classroom, she gave us the go-ahead. There’s a rush on furnace filters so it took a while to find some in stock and then we had to wait a bit for them to arrive.

And then we got to work. Zippy did most of the main construction and I took over when it came time to pretty-ify the device. I wanted it to look less like an invasive machine and more like a welcome member of the classroom.

I used our kids’ old ZooBooks magazines (and yes, I absolutely did get lost in looking at photos and reading some captions) to create three panels. They should also lower the noise a bit, too. It feels good knowing they’ll have clean air in their classroom and I’m hoping other teachers will see this and want one of their own.

 

 

 

 

We’re going to build one for us next, but we learned something we hadn’t foreseen: cats want to scratch on the box. I had to chase Marcel away as I worked, so maybe we’ll have to place ours higher, on a table or something. After I got him to stop scratching, he got busy climbing in and out of the box the filters arrived in.  But that’s kitty behavior I can get behind.

A little magic for this Monday

The morning we had to leave the Routt National Forest, we went down to the pond where the light was soft and golden.  I got up from the boulder to wander with my camera and heard a chip chip chip coming from the willows. Tiptoeing, I moved closer and closer still, scanning. Who was making that sound?

After about ten minutes of quiet stalking, a sudden movement caught my eye. A bird alighted in a pine tree. I quickly aimed the camera into the shadows and took a series of photos, not sure what I was seeing or whether I was even capturing an image. And then the bird disappeared again.

When we returned to our campervan, I downloaded the photos. Not great images, but hopefully enough detail to identify the bird. With Stan Tekiekla’s BIRDS OF COLORADO FIELD GUIDE on my lap, I studied the best image. Some kind of warbler?

Wilson’s Warbler.  July 14, 2022

I glanced down to consult the field guide which had fallen open on my lap. Right there in front of me was the Wilson’s Warbler page and the photograph looked exactly like my photo! Exactly the same, except my warbler’s tail is up and Mr. Tekiela’s image is much sharper.

I’m smiling as I remember that moment of recognition because it truly felt like magic. And I don’t know about you, but these days I’ll take all the magic I can get. As the sticky note on my bathroom mirror says, MAGIC WELCOME HERE.

Bolder Boulder 10k recap

Yesterday morning, the alarm went off at 4:45 a.m. (I was already awake, lying in the dark wondering if it was almost time to get up) and it was officially race day! We live 45 minutes from Boulder and had to allow time to get to a friend’s where we’d park our car while she drove us to the starting line.  (RTD usually has shuttle buses but due to a shortage of drivers, they cut the service). On the drive to Boulder, the sky had darkened and the wind picked up, so I changed from a short-sleeved to a long-sleeved shirt. Minutes later, the sky cleared and the wind died down. Hooray!

My last Bolder Boulder was in 2016 and I was eager to run. The familiar sound of slamming porta-potty doors made me smile as I warmed up on side streets while Zippy waited in line to drop our bag at the mobile locker. He was still in line ten minutes before our GC wave was set to start, but I was determined to start with my wave so ran ahead to get in place. Volunteers held ropes and signs denoting the G, GA, GB, and GC waves, and I bounced on my toes while listening to Olympic gold medalist Frank Shorter (the official starter) announce participants’ birthdays and other notable information such as the 90-year-old (!) woman in the G wave who was running her 32nd Bolder Boulder.

Just minutes before our start, Zippy joined me, and one minute and 50 seconds after the GB wave took off, it was our turn. BAM! That was the last I saw Zippy because I took off (he’s more of a bicyclist than runner), but we saw the same sights along the way.

  • The trampoline where participants were invited to bounce and flip (a woman did a backflip as I ran past).
  • The belly dancers (two different groups of them).
  • The bands. The solo musicians. The Elvis impersonator.
  • The cheerleaders. The dance-school girls that included a tap dancer and hoop-spinners.
  • The families in lawn chairs shaking cowbells. The kids with super-soakers. The baby in the onesie doing “the worm” on the sidewalk.
  • The brewery handing out free cans of beer. A woman with a huge pan of bacon. The group handing out doughnuts. The woman tossing marshmallows (when Zippy ran past, he instinctively put up a hand and ended up catching the marshmallow which he carried until the next aid station where he downed it along with a cup of water).
  • The slip n slides for which runners lined up for their turn to slide on their stomachs through the water before returning to the race.

The course winds through neighborhoods and while running, I scanned ahead to note whether the next turn was a Right or Left, and moved accordingly so as to cut the corners as close as possible. There was also the constant negotiation of choosing the shortest route around other slower runners and walkers, and despite those efforts, my Garmin reports I ran 6.31 miles rather than the official 6.2 miles. Precious seconds lost along the way! But the hardest part of the race for me was the stench of fabric softener that wafted off runners’ sweaty clothing. Fabric softener is air pollution for the chemically sensitive and several times I thought I’d throw up. Fortunately, I didn’t.

And then I was on the final incline into the CU stadium and the finish line. Here’s a screen grab from the stadium video (I’m on the left in white hat, black shirt, and blue shorts):

The video gives you about 15 seconds of your run into the stadium and Zippy pointed there were several moments of me being grumpy-face as I got boxed in by slower runners, but my overwhelming emotion was happiness. I was almost done running a strong race!

And my smile got bigger when I saw my time . . . 55:05. I’d hoped to run 55:00 or under (and would’ve made it had that little kid not cost me precious time when he grabbed the water cup intended for me at the aid station, forcing me to wait for the volunteer to get me another!) But it turned out my performance landed me in eighth place in the F59 division (of which there were 160 participants) which means I get another medal! Zippy also performed well, walking one minute between four of his miles, and we soon met up past the finish line. We masked up to go inside the field house where we collected our snack bags and a beer for Zippy, and then headed back out into the sunshine to stretch and snack.

It was a good day.

Intuitive heads-up

This morning I followed my routine of tapping into my intuition and writing the received message(s) in my journal. Sometimes I ask a specific question about a writing project, such as help with a title or guidance on which new idea I should pursue next, while other mornings I ask for “the exact right message for right now.” This morning’s question was the open-ended “right message” request. The response?

Running on trails
be careful where you put your feet

Well, that surprised me because (1) it seemed weirdly specific and (2) the response felt ominous. My brain instantly went into panic mode: I’m going to fall! Again! [Note: I have scars from various falls over the years and am currently preparing to run the Bolder Boulder 10k on Memorial Day for the first time in years, and when I ran it in 2008, I fell on the trails a week before the race.] My first thought was DON’T RUN ON THE TRAILS! But then I quieted my brain and listened for my intuitive voice which said it would be good for me to run on the trails rather than the boring old streets.

So, I got ready and ran up the street to the trailhead. When I got on the trail, I talked to myself: The intuitive nudge wasn’t an omen, just a reminder to remain mindful. I tried to relax my body as I repeated my trail mantra: Feet on the ground, feet on the ground.

Photo by Grégory Costa of someone younger & blonder than me!

I ran up the first hill and along the ravine, following the trail to the bottom and then back up the other side where the trail is even more narrow as it hugs the top of the ravine. Feet on the ground, feet on the ground. And then, I screamed and jumped sideways toward the upper slope because there on the trail was . . . A RATTLESNAKE.

A big, fat snake that appeared to have recently consumed a large meal. As I carefully moved a bit closer to verify it was a rattlesnake, it lazily flicked its tongue while the rattle on the tip of its tail remained silent. That snake was not at all bothered by my presence and I halfway expected it to let out a satisfied belch. When it didn’t, I wished it a good day and thanked my intuition for the heads-up.

My entire body relaxed after that interaction, and I ran loose and fast with the knowledge I wasn’t about to trip and fall. New wildflower blooms caught my eye as magpies, meadowlarks, towhees, and a lone mourning dove serenaded me throughout. It was a glorious run that I would’ve missed had I allowed my panicked brain to override my intuition. Happy Monday to me!

Joyful running

Despite my website banner that declares me a “Writer…Runner…Birder,” I haven’t run much over the past five months. A combination of things (notably fatigue resulting from the multiple collective traumas we’re experiencing) has kept me from lacing up the running shoes. Today, I discovered the perfect way to ease back into my much-loved activity and this easy-peasy method requires only two things:
1) a dog
2) snow piles

It goes like this: you run until you spot a patch of relatively clean snow. Then you pause while your canine friend flops onto the snow, plows her nose and forehead through the white stuff (doing the “submarine”), and concludes by rolling on her back to joyfully kick her legs in the air. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Example of Emma’s preferred cooling-down method on hike.  June 12, 2019.

My soon-to-be patented method accomplishes two things:
1) it allows your heart rate to calm down so you’re not tempted to quit
2) it cools off the dog and feeds her enthusiasm for the running

Try it, you’ll like it!

Emma and I ran a total of 2.5 miles this afternoon, taking many, many snow breaks. It wasn’t fast and it wasn’t far, but we’re both feeling the good kind of tired that follows a workout.

Emma napping while I stretch, post-run.

Sunday Confessional: lost and found

Today I took advantage of the last day of warm weather before the coming week of frigid temperatures and spent time outside cleaning flower beds. The last several years I’ve kinda been on a gardening strike and let things run wild. That laziness plus the neighbors’ enormous, beautiful pine trees that loom over our yard, distributing tons of boughs, needles, and pine cones, resulted in quite the mess.

In fact, as I excavated the debris I came across something I’d temporarily forgotten was there: our cat Lebowski‘s grave marker. I’d tried in vain to locate it in January when Zebu was here. Even though I knew where it was, I couldn’t find it beneath the layers of needles and cones. That saddened and made me feel a bit disloyal to my feline friend. So when my hand brushed against the slab of flagstone this afternoon, I experienced a moment of confusion followed by a flood of memories.

Lebowski was a wonderful cat.

The Dude in June of 2009

This photo is a bit misleading because he was an indoor cat although I let him outside with me now and again for supervised outings (and he spent his final months outside with me as much as possible). What isn’t misleading about this photo is that The Dude was a very large fellow.

I’m grateful to have located his grave again. Unfortunately, the words and dates we’d inscribed on the flagstone have worn away, but the marker is now in full sight and I intend to keep it that way. In honor of our magnificent Lebowski, temporarily lost and now found again.

Welcome to my worm bin

It’s Saturday which means it’s time to feed the composting worms. Translation: time to chop up food scraps. Because my wrists are sore (probably from shoveling very heavy snow this morning), Zippy kindly offered to do today’s chopping.

February 12, 2022

Zippy? Um, no. Those chunks are still much too much for my worm friends.

“I think you over-chop,” Zippy said in response to my thanks-but-no-thanks. “They can handle bigger pieces.”

For sure, the worms can handle scraps this size. But bigger pieces take longer to eat which gives mites more time to lay eggs on the scraps. And that scenario only results in one thing: more mites. Yuck yuck yuck. Mites are my least favorite aspect of vermiculture and it’s worth my time to expend way more effort prepping worm food than anything I make for my consumption.

So, off I go to chop some more. The mites won’t thank me, but the worms and I will be grateful.

Some good stuff

I met my goal to hoop-dance for 24 hours in 2021! While hooping for approximately an hour each day ended up being a bit much, the experience was mostly joyful. My official stats are 1,446 minutes: 24 hours and six minutes of dancing in the spin. One entire day of this exceedingly difficult year was devoted to an activity I love. 

Post-challenge victory photo. December 31, 2021

And if that’s not enough of a WIN for this last day of the year, right before my final hooping session, we took a walk during the first substantial snowstorm of the year for this part of Colorado (which comes the day after two wildfires in nearby Boulder County as a result of extreme drought and hurricane-level winds).

Emma in her sweater, straining to identify an intriguing odor. 

At this moment, I’m focusing on the good stuff. The array of birds visiting the yard as I hoop-danced this morning (Black-capped Chickadee, Bushtits, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Dark-eyed Junco, Black-billed Magpies, American Crow, Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay) and the glorious feel of snowflakes on my face as we walked three miles around the neighborhood.

Happy New Year! Wishing you much joy. ✨

#HoopDancingChallenge

On New Year’s Eve of 2019, I counted up my hoop-dancing minutes and found I’d danced for 19 hours that year. That felt impressive and I thought to myself “How cool would it be to dance for 24 hours in 2020?” Well, we all know what happened that year and I didn’t hit the mark. Not by a long shot.

Last night I added up my hoop-dancing minutes: 17.5 hours. While that’s fewer minutes than 2019, there are still 8 days left in this year. I’d only need another 389 minutes and, the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. 2021 has  been another extremely difficult year–in some ways much harder than the previous–and I really want to close it out doing something that brings me so much joy.

Self portrait December 24, 2021

According to my complex mathematical computations, I’ll need to average 49 hoop-dancing minutes per day to hit my goal. I just danced for 36, smiling the whole time. Now I’m off to ice my recently de-booted foot so I can get back into the spin later today.

Now you sedum, now you don’t

It’s gray and gloomy today, belying the unseasonably warm weather (which refuses to give us a drop of much-needed moisture!), so I went in search of a cheery image to brighten the day. I selected a photo of sedum that’d bloomed in the front yard last summer.

June 10, 2021

I then went in search of a quote to accompany my photo, but was unsuccessful. Instead, I learned that sedum roofs are quite popular in other parts of the world. Sedum has a very shallow root system and not only that, “The metabolism of Sedum differs from other plants. At night, carbon dioxide is absorbed through the stomata and converted into malic acid. During the day, under the influence of sunlight, the malic acid is decomposed and photosynthesis takes place. The stomata in the leaves are only open at night. During the hot and dry day, moisture loss is minimized.” How cool is that?! And how beautiful is this roof?

Image found here

My new dream is to live in a little cottage covered by a sedum roof.

Sunday Confessional: I invited myself over

It was 35 years ago today that Zippy and I had our first date. At the time, I lived in North Hollywood and he lived in Bakersfield. It was a tough time for me and I desperately needed to get away from my tiny apartment for a day or two, but was living in poverty and couldn’t afford anything. I knew Zippy through my brother (they’d gone to college together) and we’d recently reconnected via several  phone conversations, so I brazenly invited myself for a visit.

Bakersfield is no one’s idea of a getaway, but I was thrilled at the prospect of being somewhere else. When I arrived that Friday evening (knuckles scraped and bleeding as a result of my hand slipping while prying a very stubborn lid off a bottle of the engine additive needed to keep my poor old car running), Zippy suggested we go hear some live music. Chris “Hammer” Smith and his blues harp were at Suds Tavern which was located in the Wall Street Alley. The tiny place used to be a fire station and fire horse stable, and reeked of character. And cigarette smoke (of which I was a contributor, ahem). We had so much damn fun, drinking beer and dancing dancing dancing. During Hammer Smith’s break, we ran across the alley to Guthrie’s Alley Cat where there was a pool table and even cheaper beer, then dashed back for more live music.

Guthrie’s Alley Cat

Fast forward: I ended up moving to Bakersfield for two years (before we moved to Anchorage) and we logged a lot of hours dancing at Suds and shooting pool at Guthrie’s. Turns out, plenty of people thought that alley was in  “the bad part of town” and stayed away. To my mind, that scene was one of the shining lights of that hot, dry, and dusty city. I was thrilled when I met a fellow teacher who shared our love for that alley.

Alas, Suds is no more.  It’s apparently now a restaurant called Two Goats & The Goose and, because I couldn’t find a photo of Suds, I’m including this image to show the exterior (with an accessibility ramp that was not present in the 80s).

Turns out, Guthrie’s Alley Cat is still in business which makes me very happy. All these years later, I’m very glad Guthrie’s was part of my introduction to Bakersfield. Mostly, though, I’m grateful Zippy graciously accepted my self-invite.

Just peachy

Per his Saturday morning ritual, Zippy went to the farmers’ market for organically-grown peaches. The man loves his peaches. A few days ago while eating the last one from the most recent batch, he said (with tears in his voice), “This might be the last peach of the season.”

 

Well, he got another week’s reprieve. But I thought I’d best document these because there’s a very good chance this is the final haul of the season.

Seven little peaches.
Sweet dreams are made of  this.

Thankful Thursday: focusing on fun

A friend who knows my love of birds passed along this 500-piece puzzle after she’d put it together. I started working on it late last night. First, I turned all the pieces right-side-up on the table and took a quick pic which I texted to her with “Let the puzzling begin!”

Her reply: “I hope you don’t get addicted like I did and have a hard time stopping.” 😬

I told her not to worry, that even if I did get addicted, it was fine by me.

Welp, I spent more time today working on this puzzle than attending to most other things on my To Do list. But it felt good for my brain and mental health, so I don’t begrudge the distraction. Plus, it’s birds!

Thankful Thursday: improved outlook

Two hours ago, my innards were a mass of writhing anxiety and I (briefly) considered cancelling out on a zoom call with some local activists. I’d signed up to learn about the coalition they’re putting together to help the most vulnerable in our community, but felt so overwhelmed I thought it might be best to bail rather than run the risk of falling apart onscreen in front of strangers.

Fortunately, I joined the call and am now feeling much better. Possibly as stellar as this Steller’s Jay. (sorry, not sorry!)

Photo by Zippy. August 6, 2021

Seriously, the folks I met with are doing good work and I’m excited to join their efforts. The current global reality is layered with multiple ongoing traumas and much of it is outside my control. But this local effort stands a very good chance of actually making a difference in people’s lives.

I’m grateful that today I, once again, learned it’s much healthier for me to choose taking action over wallowing in debilitating anxiety.

Reward: three of my favorite things

Bees, blooms, and butterflies.

Showy Milkweed and pollinators.  July 9, 2021

I’m posting this photo as my reward for all I’ve accomplished today:

  • Exercise (indoor, again)
  • Revised a chapter
  • Healthy (mostly) eating
  • Finished Shirley Jackson’s LIFE AMONG THE SAVAGES
  • Swept the floor
  • Stayed the hell off Twitter (mostly)
  • Focused (mostly) on things within my control
  • Played with Emma and snuggled with Marcel (and allowed Loki to nap without interruption)

Yes, I’m one of those people who derive great satisfaction from checklists. And they’re especially important to me on days in which I feel very close to the edge.

Well done, Tracy.

Reconnection

Yesterday was spent on the couch reading a book because I couldn’t muster energy to do anything else after the latest mass shooting that took place in Boulder. I am heartbroken and outraged that ten people were murdered and grateful my Boulder friends are safe (although deeply traumatized). One of those friends (from the Sunrise Movement) and I had a video call today. We haven’t had an extensive conversation since last June when he hosted a socially-distanced art build. I still remember the rush of emotions I felt that day when he answered my knock at his door. It was so good seeing his kind face again (through the blur of my tears).

Carl, unmasked. June 7, 2020

When his face appeared via video today, I felt similar feelings. We talked and talked and caught up. He shared his ideas for a new direction he’s considering taking. But it wasn’t until WAY into the call that I clarified he’d already taken steps toward that new direction. As he described the place and position he’d applied for, I got really excited for him because it sounded like the perfect fit. Then, just moments after I said as much, he let out a gasp.

“I’ve gotten an email from them.”

“Open it open it open it!”

They want to interview with him next week!

I’m sharing this here because these days so much feels ugly and difficult and cruel. But not this. Reconnecting with my young friend was wonderful. Witnessing him getting very good news was phenomenal. I’ve been smiling all day.