Thursday, September 29, 2011

This Is Becoming One Of Those Tennis Blogs

This morning I arrived at our away tennis match at about 10:00. It took some doing to find the right place--huge neighborhood, twelve tennis courts, scorching sun. As I walked into the pavilion, I noticed that our opponents in line 5 were drinking Bud Light from cans.

Reader, this was a curiosity. You just don't see this in the Thursday morning ladies' league. Maybe the Sunday "Business Women" league, as they're called, maybe they're drinking beer at their matches, but they also wear pants, ride sitting astride, and work outside the home. I wouldn't put anything past them. Probably the evening men and the mixed doubles are imbibing too. But Thursday ladies? Popping open a cold one before their match? Notable!

(Also I just have a thing about beer in cans. I think sometime in the past my father implanted the notion in my brain that it is unladylike to be seen drinking beer from a can. My issue.)

When my partner T got there, I was like, don't look but look over there. And she was like, oh how funny! And I was all, I've got a good feeling about this, maybe they're not taking this seriously and we can beat them!

Ah, no we couldn't. They carried their beer cans (and a spare for each of them) to the court when we began to play. And they beat us 6-1, 6-4.

We did a bit better in the second set, I kid you not, because they were getting drunk. T sidles up to me and goes, "Play fast, they are getting tired." And they were, but not tired enough.

Maybe we should have had a couple drinks too.

After match point, they hugged us (beery and cheery) and we walked off the court to see that our coach had come to watch. Oh embarrassment! And she told me that my ground strokes looked good but that I was frequently out of position. And then I loaded my plate with what I thought was some kind of spanakopita or Greek side dish but which turned out to be a dip. It was incredibly rich. I was like, "Is this egg?" And my partner said, "I think it's ricotta." So I ate half a pound of fat and drank a diet Gatorade. Good grief.

Then I drank one of their beers.

For every minute of this, it was so hot. So so hot. I looked cute but that was little consolation.

Okay, it was some consolation.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Just Like Elle Woods Says, "ME!"

Y'all. Y'ALL. You've heard me mention that I'm learning tennis. My second season in a ladies' doubles league just started a couple weeks ago. I am not good. But lately I have been trying, you know? Not just going to practice once a week, but playing whenever I get the chance and with whomever will play. Inspired by the US Open, I even bought a new racquet. Because shopping is how we get better at things.

And today my partner and I won our match! Like, a real match that counted and everything! This was a first for both her and me.

I will now tell you all about it.

My partner today, God love her, is a sweet girl who nobody really wants to be paired with. I think this is because, despite playing a bunch, her play is very erratic, and she doesn't really want to run after the ball. Problemo. I've only played with her once before, but my expectations for our performance were not high, so I went there this morning planning to have fun and not stress about it.

Sociological footnote: Our match was an away game in one of the neighborhoods discussed in that book Searching for Whitopia from a few years ago, by Rich Benjamin. He defines a "whitopia" thus:
A Whitopia is whiter than the nation, its respective region, and its state. It has posted at least 6 percent population growth since 2000. The majority of that growth (often upward of 90 percent) is from white migrants. And a Whitopia has je ne sais quoi — an ineffable social charisma, a pleasant look and feel.
The book is about the political and social meanings of the whitopia phenom, and it's well worth a read. I'm surprised I've never referenced it. Have I? Because there is a whole chapter on our county (winning!). Our opponents' neighborhood is one of the little havens mentioned. Indeed, it is a nice place with nice ladies in it.

End of footnote.

So we are chatting with our opponents and warming up, and it becomes clear that they are a stronger player and a weaker player. This is common at our level of tennis as the captains are trying to ease newbies into the game. We start our first set and we are pretty evenly matched, going toe to toe on each point. My partner and I held it together and won the first set 7-5. We were pumped.

Their strong player was a bit better than me, and the weaker girl was a bit better than my partner. So how we took that set, I didn't know.

Sometime early in the second set, it dawns on me: Every time I had the chance, I could hit it to the weaker player. Duh! And this wasn't evil! It was strategery! She was more prone to mistakes than her partner, so I hit to her as much as I could. Lobs, volleys, groundstrokes. The stronger player was wise to this strat, of course, but she didn't muster any way of stopping it. And it worked, we crept ahead a couple games.

By this point all of our teammates had finished their matches and had fixed plates full of food, and were sitting watching us, cheering us on and witnessing all our flubs and moments of glory.

Then the other girls kind of upped their game, and we made some mistakes, and suddenly we were tied 4-4 in that second set. My partner was getting tired. I knew this because she kept telling me, "I am tired," and "I can't breathe," and "ALTA rules say we get a minute-and-a-half break between games." I thought, "Crap, if they win this set, we will have to play a third set, and I will have to get someone else to pick up Hank at school. It is time for this to be over."

Then we won another game and then it was 5-4, and I got to serve. Never before have I really understood the power of being the one to serve. I just felt like I had control. And I swear, I could feel that they were going down. I've never played sports, so this was unfamiliar to me, the feeling of momentum. It's like we beat them with our minds, man. 

And I super enjoyed it. Like, I enjoyed having won, yes. Winning and feasting on the turkey wraps of jubilation, rather than losing and tasting the pasta salad of bitterness.

But what I really loved was the actual act of winning, the doing of it. Playing is more fun when you're winning. How did I not know this?


Then we hugged, my partner and me, and she was like, "God, you're sweaty!" And I was all, "I just drank two liters of water and I don't even have to pee."

It was a pretty sight.

Then I texted like twelve people, including Matt, his partner Lincoln, my siblings, our tennis coach, and my Kindergarten teacher. And as I drove away I thought, "I am going to blog the shit out of this."

Wishing you success in your endeavors today. xo

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Office: Before and During


Hardworking sardines.


Office, cleared and painted
Better, yes?
Ah, I love having an empty room. Going in there is like taking a deep, cleansing breath, or like being in my spirit cave with my power animal. It makes me wonder if we should get rid of 80% of the stuff in our house. I think the answer is probably "yuh huh."

So, all this picture shows is that the old yellow walls have been covered with The Perfect Gray. (Behr's Dolphin Fin.) Those built-in shelves I left white and didn't repaint, but they look much fresher against the cooler color. Same with the molding and trim, in here and in the dining room. White loves gray.

I haven't put anything back in here because I'm having the carpet cleaned Monday. Then I'm on the hunt for a bigger work table than the little writing desk I had in here back in the day. I'd like something big enough that I could put my sewing machine on. There is a perfect vintage library table on craigslist right now, but unfortunately they want money for it. I also need to put all the pictures back on the wall. Finally, some of the crazy fabric panels I've collected will have a home. You'll see more about that.

I snapped this picture because I glimpsed Laura and her buddy hanging out in here, and I realized Laura likes having a cleared-out room as much as I do. What is it about an empty space?

Girls' Hangout

Y'all doing okay? All normal here: school, work, preschool, tennis, chores, car repairs (ugh), Breaking Bad on Netflix. Also preparing meals and futile tidying. You know.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

We're Chill

The fridge guy came right at nine this morning. I was on the way out to take Hank to school, but I left him settled on the floor with a screwdriver.

Then I went to tennis and practiced with my partner for Thursday's match. She is a sweet girl and this will be her first match ever. She is counting on me to guide her. We are in trouble.

Then I came home, half expecting to find the fridge dude still crouched in the kitchen. The coast was clear and the fridge was humming busily. Matt told me that it took the guy all of twenty minutes to diagnose and fix a burned out master board. Or was it mother board? I don't know but it cost $350.

Matt told me that number and I said, "Oh, that's a relief."

He goes, "Are you kidding? I thought that was high. It's a big part of the cost of a new fridge."

Is he not adorable?

Bless him! How he thinks that $350 would go a long way toward a new fridge? I love that guy.

My mom called to check on the fridge and me and I told her, "Matt said the funniest thing! The funniest thing about $350!" We both enjoyed it.

It's that thing of when a man has no idea what something costs but he sure as hell knows what it should cost, you know? Like, in the price and fee schedule contained in his mind. So, pro tip: The way this shakes out is that, if your husband asks you how much a new jacket or duvet cover that you bought cost, you can feel safe in just taking a "1" off the front because then the digits you tell him will accord with his mental money schema. And you don't want to shatter his schema.

Oh Lucy! Oh Ricky!

So as of this moment we are cooling properly, and our food is slowly transitioning back above stairs. I bet that fridge will chug along another several years before it gives us any trouble. I hope the same for all of us. 'Night!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

These Trials Are Sent To Test Us

This afternoon, I opened my freezer and a lot of liquid splashed onto the floor and onto my feet. Startling. It looked to be water from melted ice and some purple juice from a huge bag of frozen blueberries. Except the blueberries weren't frozen anymore. It was 38 degrees in the freezer and a pleasantly cool 46 in the fridge. What the what? I swear that just this morning, everything was fine inside there. I mean, I didn't look at the thermometer display, but my half-n-half felt cool. Coolish. I mean, I don't know, I was more focused on the coffee.

As I write this, it is 69 degrees in that box.

I slammed the freezer door, much like you would slam a coffin lid if you'd just opened it to reveal the daytime resting place of Nosferatu. I said some ugly but necessary words and started mopping the floor with a beach towel. Then I opened the freezer door again and more goo dripped out. More mopping. And fear set in. WHAT DID IT MEAN?

I recalled that one time this thing in the back of the fridge got dusty and that we cleaned it with this really weird brush on a long bendy wire. I wasted no time in hollering for Matt to please come and pull the fridge out of its little alcove and do the thing with the brush. Which he did. But the thing in the back wasn't all that dusty. I had pinned my hopes on dusting that thing with the brush and it didn't look like it was going to make any difference. Matt pushed the fridge back in.

During a lot of this I was kind of wailing. Like, not crying, but sort of vocalizing through the pain. Like, "Oh no, why is it doing that, what do you think, what are we going to do, this is not good, what in the hecks, craaaaaaap, did you say a flat head screwdriver?"

Once the heavy lifting was finished, Matt went back down to the basement to work and left me to deal with the emotional aftermath.

I don't know, when something goes wrong in the house, it gives me a momentary crazy dread. One of my first blog posts ever was about this. For just a second, I panic. Like, my frozen organic berries are thawing out and we will all probably die alone.

Part of the emotional context of this moment is that I've been counting calories the last few weeks, or really now it's counting proteins, fats, and carbs. Whatever, zzzzz. But I have a more, like, deliberate relationship with food and nutrition throughout the day. The foods that work for me--my Greek yogurt, my hummus, my baby carrots--feel like my friends. And my friends were in trouble. (I know, see? Crazy.)

I steeled myself to open up the doors again and was disappointed to see that both compartments had actually gotten warmer. I threw away some things. Then I got reusable shopping bags and loaded them up with everything salvageable. I schlepped it all downstairs and crammed it in the NEW AND WORKING FRIDGE IN THE BASEMENT. Oh yeah. Well there is that. Awful convenient to have that.

But still! Still! If I want something that's kept refrigerated I have to go down there where all those boys are working and get it. Then I have to either use it there or bring it upstairs and then take it back. Insupportable, GAH.

I took a break from my cursing and schlepping to pick up Laura from school, where she had stayed late for chorus. On the way home, I filled her in on the fridge situation. She said, "It will be like Little House on The Prairie where they pack ice in cedar shavings. Or like in the Boxcar Children where they kept their food cold by putting it behind a waterfall."

Yes, we are just like the Boxcar Children.

I called a guy and he is coming tomorrow. Fingers crossed that the fix will be quick and cheap. Because obviously we cannot go on this way.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

He'll Be Here All Week, Please Tip Your Server

While I was having all that cancer treatment last year, nobody else in the family got any routine medical care. I guess I was going to so many doctors, I just couldn't schedule an appointment for anyone else. Matt did not get his physical. Hank did not have his four-year checkup. The dog did not get her shots. (Laura didn't darken the door of a doctor all year either, but she exists on some higher plane of super-awesome health and rarely even has a sniffle.) I did manage to take Hank for one sick visit and you may recall, I wound up crying, so that was excellent.

Now Hank has started pre-K and the school wants his immunization record, and he turned five this summer, so today I took him in for a checkup. He'd just gone for a dental checkup on Tuesday, and I thought there might be some resistance to more doctorin', so I didn't tell him he was going until I picked him up from school. I knew he would ask if he would get an S-H-O-T, and I knew I'd have to tell him he would. I don't remember Laura having this much fear of needles, I'm not sure why he is different.

But isn't it rational to dread getting stuck with needles? Towards the end of my chemotherapy, I remember telling Matt, "I don't mind the chemo but I am just really effing tired of being stuck with needles." Anyway.

We had some time to kill between school pickup and his appointment, so I took him to get a lemonade. We faced each other over a small table. "Will they give me a shot?" he asked. "I am not sure," I said. "But I think they probably will. If they do, it will be very short, and only hurt for a second. And you can handle it."

Thus I laid out all my talking points:

  • It will be quick
  • You are a big boy
  • Sometimes we have to do things we don't want to
  • The shots are to keep you from getting sick
  • I'll be right there with you
  • Then I will buy you some Legos

Okay, that last one wasn't in my pitch to him, because I know that I can and should ask my kids to do hard things without a bribe. I do know this. So I stuck to the other talking points. He processed all of this with equanimity. We went on to chat about his school day and some fun things, and just when I thought he might be distracted, he said, "I am still thinking about the shots. I might cry in there." We talked through it again and I told him that crying was absolutely okay, but struggling or fighting was not allowed, and he agreed. Then we got on the road to the doctor.

I thought the cloud of the impending shots might make him sulky for the whole visit. Au contraire. These two young, pretty medical assistant girls were hovering over him, doing his work-up and his vision and hearing screen. In the warm glow of their attention, Hank became positively suave. There was nothing like him. They exclaimed over his weight and stature. He beamed with pride. When he identified all the pictures on the eye chart, and they praised him, he did the little dance that a football player does in the end zone.

And then, THEN the lead girl held up a little paper cup and explained to Hank that he was going to give them a urine sample and how to do it. He said to her, "Um, what's your name?" She said it was Stephanie. He said, "Stephanie, be warned, because my aim is not very good."

Yes he did. May lightning strike me dead if those were not his exact words. I mean, asking her name first?!? Like a drunk ladies man at a bar, "C'mere, what is it, Stephanie? Lemme tell you a little somethin'." The girls just absolutely lost their shizz. They were doubled over laughing. I threw my arms up into an exaggerated shrug so that all of heaven would see that I have NO IDEA where this kid gets this stuff. I mean, "Be warned"??? He is beyond, I do not know. I just drive him around.

And he just knew he killed with that line. Killed. That room was his.

That's why it was so sad when he still had to get shots. Poor buddy! All his charm and suavité couldn't save him. When the doctor came in to do her portion of the exam, he looked at me and said, "She doesn't have any shots in her hand." I told him it was still to come. And when the medical assistant came back into the room with the little tray, I held him on my lap. She was quick, but with three shots, there is plenty of time to cry out in pain and fear. The first one takes you by surprise but by the third one, you know it's coming. I hated it for him. She had the band-aids on in a flash, but he was still crying, crying like his feelings were hurt.

I said, "It's over, see? It's all over!" And he said, "I was brave but I still feel horrible!" This caused my heart to break yet more. And let me mention that Hank still doesn't have the /r/ sound, so what he said was, "I was bwave but I still feel hawwible!" The nurse said that one of the injections would make a sore lump, so I felt like I'd lied about how it would only hurt for a second. And I felt pretty hawwible too.

Then he managed to stop sobbing and tell his preferred lollipop color, and then we were on our way. In the car, after we discussed his band-aids and his pain levels and the likelihood that I would have to carry him everywhere, he said, "Since I was so brave, could I maybe get a toy?"

Reader, I wish I could say that I held to some good yankee common sense Protestant line about how we don't get toys for doing the things that are expected of us and blah blah, but have we met? Hi, I'm the mother who drove straight to Target and let him pick out a Lego police car. It was miraculous to see the way his soreness disappeared as he ran toward the toy aisle. Later on, though, the soreness was back and he is like an awful Tiny Tim in a community rep production of A Christmas Carol. I dosed him with tylenol and he asked if he could sleep on a cot in my room tonight and I SAID YES OKAY?

Except for all the pain and crying it was a pretty awesome day, really. How is your back-to-school going?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

We're Calling It "Industrial" Right Now

There is Matt in his basement lair. It is his birthday today. The celebration of this event, however, has to be postponed, as he is too busy today to turn another year older. The guys are burning the midnight oil down there. Week before last, we got the basement to the white box stage that you see here, and then Matt and the boys moved in. They were dying to get out of the little room. So the basement still needs a lot, but Matt said no more until they meet their next deadline. It's working fine for them right now, it's just a little stark. It's a million miles better than it used to be, though. It's like a real place now. There's a there there.

One chilling thing, though, is that in the bathroom down there? The toilet seat is up all the time. And they don't even care. Men.

And there's weird soda in the fridge down there. The other day, Hank wanted to go down and say a quick hello to his daddy. And he was gone a long time. I called down the stairs, "Hank, whatcha doing?" He said, "Nothing!" And then there was a pause in which he apparently decided to be honest. "Drinking a drink called pineapple Fanta!" he crowed, with sugary joy.

So I'm counting calories these days and it's all going great, but tonight I went down there to visit with the boys and try to pump up morale. You know I'm a one-woman USO. But they didn't need my help, they had Mexican takeout and a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Then I got busy chatting and somehow ate a lot of cheese dip. It's a chamber of horrors.

Tomorrow night we're going up to the mountains, and we'll celebrate Matt's birthday (and our anniversary) properly up there. I clearly remember the first week I met Matt. It was his birthday then too, as it was our first week at college. Someone in our dorm gave him a child's toy Sheriff set as a gag, and I volunteered to be handcuffed to him. True fact.

So my August BeckBloPoMo has come to an end! I really, really enjoyed it. I loved sharing stuff with y'all and hearing back from you. Looking at my post count, it's clear I missed a few days in there. Eh, close enough? But I hope y'all have had a good week! I confess, I don't say this often, but I am exhausted. Love y'all, B