31 October 2007

All Over But the Gimping

Meg and Laini have managed to do it again. The hospital is where I magically didn't end up this weekend, though I was fully prepared to if necessary. This weekend was the 32nd Annual Marine Corps Marathon, also known as the 1st Ever FireCat Runs 26.2 Miles At One Time and Manages to Not Break Kneecaps (Her Own or Anyone Else's).

Here's the general time line of the marathon, by pee break:

4:40 AM, Room 909: FireCat wakes up and thinks, What the hell am I doing? while shuffling to hotel bathroom.

5:30 AM, Hotel Lobby: FireCat exits elevator and decides she has time for a nervous pee before leaving for the start line. Gnaws on stale bagel and drinks remaining Gatorade.

6:00 AM, Hotel Lobby: FireCat heads for Metro with shivering parents in tow to see her off. Makes it all the way to Runners' Village at the Pentagon before she actually needs to pee from her morning tea and Gatorade. Legitimate peeing experience.

6:30 AM, Start Line: FireCat lines up at porta-john for "one last pee." Lee is amused.

7:00 AM, Start Line: FireCat gets back in line, behind Len, with uneasy feeling in heart and familiar cramping feeling in uterus. Copious swearing begins as she rummages in her snack-ass shorts for tampons. Lee is sympathetic. Len and Holly are amused.

7:50 AM, Start Line: Wheelchair start gun goes off as FireCat lines up for the menstrual peeing deluge. Not legitimate peeing experience.

Mile 8 (?): FireCat heads for the nearest opening porta-potty door and nearly runs into Lee, who is exiting. Lee is sympathetically amused. Not legitimate peeing experience.

Mile 11: FireCat and Holly meet FireCat's parents waving proudly and taking photos. Rummages in dad's backpack for a Clif Bar and a tampon. Manages to insert each into proper orifice at the appropriate time.

Mile 13.5: FireCat ditches Holly on the National Mall in search of porta-john. Legitimate peeing experience.

Mile 17: FireCat exits porta-john number three and nearly runs into Holly. Non-LPE.

Mile 22: FireCat sees porta-johns just past bridge, but also sees sweep bus still chasing her. Decides to hold it and run.

Mile 24: FireCat sees a mirage in a finisher's space blanket that turns out to be Len. Toddles full-tilt at him, hollering, "Lennnn!" and hugs him. When asked by Len, "How you doing?" replies forlornly, "I gotta peeeeee!" Len is beside himself with amusement, enough so to retell this story to everyone he sees at Carpool later that night. FireCat earns new nickname: Mad Marathon Pee-er. Endures countless hours of peeing references directed at her. (Side note: only an event run by the USMC would have toilet paper remaining after 30,000 people at Mile 24. God bless the US Marines.)

And for the record? I only stopped to pee ONCE on my way home to Three Feathers. So there.


Lee meeting me at the bottom of that last hill and saying, "For those last 200 yards, as you go up the hill, I want you to be thinking about ass cancer."

Mile 22: "CECIL!!!"

Mile 24: "LEN!!!!!!!"

Somewhere in Palisades, getting a good luck snuffle-kiss from the world's most adorable husky.

Also somewhere in Palisades, pointing out to Holly a rather elderly woman in a housecoat and slippers who'd come out to perch on her railing (or walker? or cane? we can't remember. but she was old and stooped), waving at said woman, and having her wave back and holler, "Hi, S_____!" Realizing that even if she had been able to read my shirt from there, what it said was "FireCat". Truly weird, but cool.

Realizing that I can run and eat a Clif Bar at the same time.

Coming up that last hill after "ass cancer" and realizing that, though I wasn't crying, both of my parents were.

The announcer reading my shirt aloud over the mic, and assuring me there would be cookies up ahead. (getting home and finding out that my mom made my favourite orange-glaze cookies!)

Getting looked in the eye by a newly minted Marine as he was presenting my finisher's medal and having him say, "Oorah, ma'am. We're proud of all of you." Marine, we're all proud of you.

Two words: Dutch. Baby.


Getting my period at the start line at 7:00.

Realizing at certain points that I could actually SEE the bus.

Having to pee every four miles because that's what my menstrual cycle does to me. (It's the opposite of water weight, I guess).

The wind. Yeah. Really could have done without that. Nuff said.

Realizing that I need to start wearing different running shoes, because there's no way my feet should have started to hurt before I got to the Mall.

Having to leave Holly. Although watching her ear explode was kinda fun, once she reassured me she wasn't going to fall over.

Learning about the specific patellar tendons and ligaments in a very new and very concrete manner. (Pun possibly elocuted.) I mean, I always knew they were there, but I knew it in a very abstract sort of way.

Having to use handicap bathroom stalls for the next 36 hours.

Having to decide whether to do another before Country Music Marathon in Nashville in April, or just train really hard till then.

18 October 2007

And Now, Back to World Domination

(sorry, Meg, that was such a great line that I had to steal it for my title)

My official first act as Queen of the World, even before I change my title to Emperor;
Even before I enact a global Marshall Plan for the world's children, so that they can have access to free education;
Even before I announce ice cream as a food group and decree Wednesdays an international holiday;
Even before I throw everyone the hell off Antarctica and give it back to the penguins;
Even before I establish the Fourth R in the "Three Rs" of elementary learning: Reading, Ritin', 'Rithmetic, and Recyclin';
Even before I staff my cabinet with Wangari Maathai and Julia Butterfly Hill as Ministers of Trees, Kailash Satyarthi as Minister of Playing with Kids, and Pema Chodron as Minister of Just Being;
Even before I host the world's biggest homecoming party in Tibet for the Dalai Lama;
Even before I figure out where in the sun-dappled garden I would put my papasan Emperor throne;

there's one small order of business that needs to be addressed.

Before any of this stuff happens, and happen it will in my new job as Queen of the World, I know a guy in New York who gets his dog back.

(photo (c) Romano)

17 October 2007

More Fun With Typos

Funniest typo ever in one of my student papers this afternoon. Actually, second funniest, as the first funniest typo ever was last fall when Adam, a lovable intelligent young man who can't spell for shit, accidentally spell-checked the gospel of Jesus into the gossip of Jesus not once but twice.

This one? We recently read an excerpt from "The Ethic of Compassion" by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Courtney accidentally titled her response paper to it, "The Ethnic of Compassion." Doubly hysterical because, of course, the Dalai Lama is Tibetan, and because Courtney is the only black student in class.

Politically incorrect, but funny as hell.

13 October 2007

It's Kangaroos All the Way Down

Recent in-class exercise in my Basic Writing textbook:

Add a simple sentence to each sentence below, then join the two simple sentences with a coordinating conjunction to create a compound sentence with proper punctuation. The first one has been done as an example.

One of the sentences in the exercise:

4. Kangaroos carry their young in pouches. _________

A favourite student's response to the exercise, complete with diagrams, corrections, and an illustration (by me):

"Kangaroos carry their young in pouches, but no one carries the kangaroos."

Best. Sentence. Ever.

12 October 2007

True North

When I was a little girl, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, you always got the same answer: "An apple tree." And yes, I was serious. Of course, I knew that I couldn't grow up to be an apple tree. Even at three or four, I knew the difference. Apple trees did not have to wear galoshes to stand out in the rain. Still, time after time this was the answer I gave. Maybe it was because it struck me as odd, that even at this early age, I knew I was a writer. I could see my future, just as clearly as I could see those yellow boots streaked with rainwater and the quiet man with the dark beard with whom I would share my house. I knew this sight was a gift; I knew not to question it; and above all, I knew not to say anything that might jinx it.

Thirty years and umpteen hat-changes later, I have finally found that writer, though it honestly never dawned on me that she would also be a teacher. When I graduated from my master's program, I basically had two options if I wanted to stay in my field: become a prolific poet immediately, or get used to teaching. Neither of those was an option. I knew that, even if I would one day have it, that steel-grey spark of brilliance that makes one a writer, at 23 I was too young to have handled it. And I also knew that teaching terrified the sweet crap out of me.

So I retreated back into the world of theatre, where I had foolishly spent most of my later teen years thinking I wanted to reside, before I remembered that I hated stay up all night, despised the feeling that other people were wasting my time, was eternally tired of living in t-shirts, flannel, black jeans and battered Doc Martens, and also honestly didn't really like heights--not a good trait for a lighting designer whose job it is to spend ten hours a day perched at the top of an eighteen-foot ladder.

Eventually my divorce with theatre became permanent, in part because of cancer. When my energy was at its absolute lowest in the summer of 1998, I realised that this was not how I wanted to be spending it. And so I jumped ship again, into the world of publishing. Finally, a place I could nitpick to my heart's content.

Sadly, I do not make a very good sheep. I don't respond well to being penned into a cubicle, or following the rules dictated by the sales department, or....let's face it, being told what to do. Baa. I was in and out of academia, library work, and publishing for the next several years. Bucking and straining against the harness the whole time. Then one day, quite by accident, I applied for an adjunct teaching position at the local community college. Yes, the thought still horrified me as much as it ever had, but I seriously needed to get out of my current job before my boss forced me to commit ritual seppuku in the library stacks. Totally to my surprise, I was hired to teach an evening class once a week.

Oh my God. Now what? I'd interned for a semester teaching at the prison out near Airway Heights, and then for a semester at a high school in downtown Spokane (the security was pretty much the same, actually) but I had no idea how to actually teach people, for god's sake. Still, after the first night, I knew that I had found true north. I knew that I was meant to spend the rest of my days on a campus. And I knew it four months later when I resigned to move to upstate New York for a new full-time job in publishing, when I lay in bed after accepting the position and cried until my ears filled with tears, because it meant I would have to stop teaching. I remember mouthing to myself over and over again, "What have I done?"

In retrospect, one wonders how much I might have actually been foreseeing, that night.

Three years and a marriage later, I am teaching again. More or less full-time, though you can't tell by looking at my checking account. I am an adjunct at no fewer than three colleges in the tri-state area. I teach more credits than a tenured faculty member, I have no office except the backseat of my Honda, and I receive no health benefits. I am lucky if I clear $22,000 a year, which is the other reason I live with my parents.

And I consider myself the most blessed woman in the world every time I stand up in front of a classroom. Without these kids, I would be sunk. I would be lost. I would have, indeed, no purpose. If I am not to be a wife, if I am not to be a mother, at least I have 85 charges in my care, who for the short months we are together are for all intents and purposes my family and my closest comrades. We learn all about each other. They tell me their secrets, their dreads, their dreams. And I? I share with them what it is that I love. It's not so much that we know all the answers to everything, but that we are continually engaged in seeking the questions we want to explore.

And that makes everything worth it.

Signs that Aliens Have Replaced My Mother

Whilst maman was in Chicago doing a Class Five decon of my sister's apartment, my dad and I noticed that you could actually see dust built up on the piano. It was a beautiful thing. Sadly, there are no cat pawprints in it, because that would be classic. We mentioned this in amusement to mom, and she said something to the effect of, "I'm retired, I'll get around to it eventually. I have all this free time now." Or something similarly whimsical.

That was the first sign.

The second sign appeared shortly after dad scrawled this note on the aforementioned piano sometime last week:

It was there for a couple of days before I pointed it out to mom on her way to bed one night. The wine quotient may be partially responsible for what happened next, but I'm not sure.

Whoever these aliens are, I hope they never give her back. We're having too much fun with her replacement.

08 October 2007

I Am No One's Mother

But if I were, you can be damned sure I'd be breastfeeding.

(click boob for info or to get involved)

06 October 2007

No Getting Out of This One

I thought I had lucked out on the Scribblings front, because last week involved some pretty heavy paper-grading, and before I could look up it was Monday and there were something like 87 posts listed on last week's topic.

Alas, it was not to be. Meg and Laini are on vacation this week, so there is officially "no topic." Which, in the great cosmic karmic debt scheme of things, means that God is telling me something. I hate when that happens, because I was really in some serious denial about having to fess up.

The topics these women pick often scare the bejesus out of me, precisely because I have never actually met or even corresponded privately with either of them; and yet, they have a knack for pulling out of my week's worth of emotional detritus and spiritual backwash the single topic I most need to address. In my world, I have a word for that, and that word is usually D'oh! (sometimes, in fact, there are two words, one of which is technically a compound word referring to the aforementioned deity, but I'm digressing seriously.)

In point of fact, powerful is the one word that describes precisely how I haven't felt in a very long time. Longer, even, than most of you would have guessed. To the casual observer, even someone who comes into regular contact with me, I have it pretty much together, considering. I love my teaching jobs (all three of them); my parents and I have an excellent relationship, marred only slightly by the fact that I currently live with them; and I am well on track to beat the bridge and successfully complete the marathon in 22 days.

Even were you to be a fly on the wall in my therapist's office--which I am totally not suggesting, as that would remove several points from my overall coolness factor--you might suspect that I am handling the loss of my husband in a relatively graceful way, with humour and aplomb and only a modicum of bitterness.

You would, in fact, be wrong. You have not had the opportunity to see me biting the steering wheel of my Civic hybrid because a morning's rush hour traffic has put me over the steep edge of rationality due in part to the fact that it gave me an extra twenty minutes to stew over our last conversation. You have not seen me stay up reading late into the night, only to barely be able to open my eyes the next morning, because it is when I turn out the blue glass bedside lamp that the memories come crowding into the empty space beside me in the bed. You do not know that I still sleep confined to one side of the bed, even after running twenty miles, and when a solitary foot strays onto the cool expanse of sheet next to me, I yank it back as if I have been burnt before I discover what is no longer there. You have not counted the number of times I have stopped during the writing of this to gaze at the photograph on my desk, taken so long ago his hair can't even be contained in a pony tail.

People have suggested that there is a kind of power in powerlessness. It's been suggesting that letting go of our illusion of control is freeing, and to an extent I suppose that's true. But I seriously suck at doing nothing. I, like my mother, am not a human being but a human doing. It is true that certain events this summer allowed me to relax my viselike grip on what I thought was the proper way of navigating this situation, and at times I've even been allowed a few moments, here and there, of something approaching peace. But power? No the fuck way. Not happening here in Three Feathers. Sorry. My only sense of power right now comes from running. From shuffling bow-legged back to my car after heaving myself off the grass into a standing position after my post-run stretch. From knowing that, as pitifully slow as I am, not only did I manage to keep myself upright, I am also, somehow, moving forward.

01 October 2007

Things I've Learned While Training for The Marine Corps Marathon

That because 18 miles is hard does not negate the fact that 3 miles is hard. 3 miles is just hard for less time.
That pain is relative, but cookies are constant.
That Gu and Advil can be considered food groups.
What the underside of my naked nailbed looks like.
The difference between "good socks" and "bad socks."
That after 18 miles, anything is funny. Even pain. Sometimes especially pain.
That there are a lot of little tendons in my knee, and I need all of them to depress the clutch the day after a long run.
Ice is nice.
Every inch of the D&R towpath. In excruciating detail.
That most people think I am truly crazy when I tell them what I did with my day off.
That yes, you really can make a sandwich out of peanut butter and bacon. On toast.
That what I thought was out of breath at mile 2 in March was really just getting warmed up.
If it's on your body, it can chafe.
That no matter how tired my legs get, I can still run with my chin. (Unlike my marathon-friend Kat, however, I cannot run on my chin.)
That I'm stronger than my husband thought I was. That I'm stronger than I thought I was. But I'm not stronger than my mom and dad thought I was.
That when I bitch and moan and groan about needing cookies, complete strangers will send them to me, because they're still my marathon-friends.
The guys at EMS lie. Nuun electrolyte tablets make you burp.
How to convert km/mi and calculate negative splits on the fly.
That fartlek is not a bodily function.
That it's possible to tell the weather without getting out of bed, by how your left knee feels.
And that I'm going home with some hardware. Oh yes I am.