About Me

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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Monday, June 29, 2009


The Blair Family of Park City, Tennessee

Fall of 1900

My granny is the infant in her mother's lap

She was born December 7, 1899

My granny was my unconditional love giver. She lived a long life filled with every kind of pain and joy. She shared both of those with me. She did not see me through rose-colored glasses, but loved me anyway. She was a woman who was ahead of her times in many ways. She also steadfastly refused to modern up in other ways. She was both intelligent and educated (for her time and station). She was a quilter whose hands were busy with needle and fabric always. She sewed from necessity - she had a dozen children to dress. When they were grown and gone, she sewed Barbie cothes year-round to give to all the granddaughters at their birthdays and Christmas. The woman handcrafted Barbie slips, bras and undies and then repeated the process times 20!

I couldn't possibly blog about Granny in one fell swoop and be done with it. She lived 87 years and I had her for 34. That story can't be quickly told. So I shall do it in bits and pieces.

You see in the photograph the Blair family. Martha Snyder Dugan Blair (my great-grandmother) gave birth to 14 children. You see the 4 who survived. The two boys in the back are the Dugans. Their father died. Martha loved him deeply. The man in the picture is John Blair. He is the father to Granny and Uncle Ralph standing next to him. Martha did not love him. Granny always said, "Well, if she didn't love him, I wonder what that makes Ralph and me?" No, Ralph did not blink when the camera shutter snapped. He was blinded by the measles at about 18 months of age. He was a wonderful, fascinating man and I'll blog about him, too, but this is about my granny.

The Blairs were poor as Ralph and Granny always told it, but they also stressed that they never went hungry, never went without coats against the cold, always had shoes. There are numerous portraits and snapshots of them, so they obviously visited photographers when they went to town or when one came by. They look decently (not ostentatiously) dressed in the photos. They lived rurally. They were not farmers, but Martha kept chickens and a cow, maybe a pig. Oddly, for I have a very rich oral, written and photographic family history, I cannot tell you what John Blair did for work or money. I know absolutely nothing about him. None of his dozen grandchildren ever laid eyes on him.

Granny was the youngest child and Martha was about 40 when she was born. Martha pampered this only daughter and loved her dearly until, as Granny told it for 87 years, she (Granny) began to have opinions of her own. Martha was made of stern stuff, and you don't see the possibility of a smile on her face in the photo. Not even feminine softness. She did not tolerate differences of opinion well. Uncle Ralph never married until he was 58 years old and Martha had died. She wouldn't have approved of anyone, so he didn't take it on.

I have many, many Granny anecdotes to tell, but I think I'll end this post with some words about the end of her life and how good she was to me. A plain talker, my Granny would take on difficult subjects without fear. There came a time to talk about her mortality. I am a bit of a phobe (all right, in my younger years I was hugely phobic) about hospitals, illness, funerals. She knew that well. For about the last 5 years of her life, she told me many, many times that ours had been the best relationship of her life and she did not want me hanging out at a hospital or seeing her for the last time at a funeral. She gave me permission not to go through that. Over and over again.

She fell and broke her hip minutes after the Broncos lost the Super Bowl in 1987. Aunt Pat teased her after surgery the next day. "Mother, you didn't have to throw yourself down just because they lost." She seemed to be doing well. Until the pneumonia came. She was on a respirator and could not speak, but she was alert. The relatives were called in. Granny adored Ex. Not just because he was my husband. They just clicked. Ex went up to the hospital bed. "Granny do you recognize me? Do you know who I am?" Blink. Blink. "Do you know who my wife is?" Blink. Blink. "Do you know why she is not here with me to visit you?" Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink.

She held on for 2 weeks. Aunt Pat called at 2:00 a.m. to say she had left us and joined Grandpa. I called Ex who was in San Jose at training. He had just been hired by the union. He was devastated. I went to the funeral. He needed me. I grew from it.

In my ears right now: "When It's Springtime in the Rockies". My Granny loved that song. I learned to play it - for her - for my first piano recital. She made me a blue dress to wear with a big satin bow on the back.

Something that charmed me today: A sweet exchange of very early e-mails, that reminded me I am loved and cared for.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Waiku No. 483, Seeking Peace & Tranquility

Massage tonight, hot
stones, no conversing with her.
BlackBerry off. Peace.

Photo credit: J. D. Morehouse

Insomnia visited, so I read my new marathon walker's bible for a long time. I now know what interval training is (for walkers) and the 4 different workouts I need to alternate to reach my goal.

I know how to eat so my body will feed itself from my fat stores and my carb stores, leaving enough carbs to fuel my brain, but also feeding from fat so I don't hit the wall. I can pretty much control whether I do or don't hit the wall.

I have a regimen of stretches that put those stretches I previously loved to shame.

My maximum heartrate is 170. I know which routines to use on the days I need to perform at 75% and 80% and 85% of my maximum. I understand how this is done!

I don't know why some days my feet plod like ducks' feet, but I know something to try next time they do. For someone who has walked as many miles as I have, I don't seem to know anything about walking. Mostly, I do it all wrong. At least for marathon walking.

And I think I can do this! I don't have to have walked a marathon before I walk the marathon, but I have to have had some long walks. Maybe 20-22 miles like TOB suggested.

I'm very excited. I feel more powerful because I have knowledge and there is a plan set out for me. 16 weeks of training and then a month to just keep building on it. I like things set out on a calendar - I like the visual. It's comforting to me. Something that surprised me: this marathon walking guru encourages complete days off sometimes. I don't think that will work for me, but he recommends it.

Learning new things . . . . it's a beautiful thing!

In my ears right now: ZZ Top ~ Deguello

Why I like it: ;)

Something that charmed me today: E-mailed praise for something I wrote from someone whose opinion matters the most.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Other Bicycle Misadventure

At 18, I was keeping body and soul together by living in at a foster home, helping with housework, cooking, shopping, laundry, yard work, the mountains of paperwork involved in fostering minors for Los Angeles County, and general mischief. It was a place with all kinds of dynamics for potential disaster and disgrace. The parents were a regular Joe Iowan displaced to southern California and his extremely unusual French Moroccan wife. They had two young adopted children, although they were in their early 50s. Gary was 5 and Arlette was 3. There was Limes, 18. And 8 adolescent males ranging from 15 to nearly 18. There were more intrigues, attractions, connections and fallings-out than one can imagine. And these "parents" were oblivious. They'd go off for long weekends or mini-vacations, leaving Limes in charge. Come on, it was 1971. What do you think went on when an 18-year-old was left as the "adult"? Ours was known as the party house.

None of the fostered young men owned a car. A couple owned bicycles. On a warm afternoon, I asked if I could use one of the bikes to take Arlette for a ride. She was an adorable child. If one were a doll designer, one would want the face to look like Arlette's. I'm ashamed today to say I thought it was OK to put a 3-year-old on the handlebars of a bicycle and pedal her up and down a blacktop alley. Helmets weren't yet heard of, at least by me. She giggled and we chatted and I took her up and down the alley for probably half an hour.

The German Shepherd showed himself after we'd been at it for awhile. I'm not a big fan of dogs, and particularly not big dogs. It began to lope along just behind us to the right and I didn't care much for that. I said nothing to Arlette, but I was a little concerned because he kept steady pace with us and seemed aggressive. He wasn't going away. At the point in the alley where I was the farthest away from home, two other huge dogs joined the Shepherd and started circling us. They took turns snapping at the back tire. I was having trouble landing on what I should do.

I pedaled hard toward home, thinking I'd holler out for some of the guys to help us. Drew near the House of Mirth where some dozen people lived . . . nobody in the yard! Kept pedaling fast and hard, back and forth, yelling at those miserable dogs as much as they were snarling at us. Arlette didn't seem to notice anything. The dogs were leaping into the air just at the back tire, snapping . . . . pack animals seem to get more excited as the chase progresses. Not that I'm a dog psychologist.

On my umpteenth zoom toward the house, there were suddenly a number of home dudes in the yard. I screamed out my plight and caused a little commotion. Young men scrambled everywhere, whooping like warriors, picking up rocks, a broom, a rake and a chair to shake or throw at the dogs. I hoped no one would hit Arlette or me. But one of the guys seemed to keep his head - this was Ex. I saw him gesture to one of the others, "come with me". They stepped out into the alley and I aimed toward them, slowing the bike. From their perspective we had to look pretty frightening - moving bicycle, frightened child, frightened chick and a maelstrom of mangy curs. Ex executed a pretty nifty yank of Arlette off the handlebars and swiftly handed her to the other young man.

Relief hit me pretty hard as I watched the home dude carry Arlette inside. My feet were on the ground steadying the bike, but my knees were knocking. I saw Ex turn back toward me after handing Arlette off. The noise from the dogs was deafening and I could smell them. The world kind of stopped for a moment and that's when that German Shepherd took a flying leap ~ the animal bit me sufficiently to remove a piece of my 501s and my glutes. Ex executed another pretty swift move, just as the pack of my protectors descended on the pack of dogs. He yanked off his T-shirt and wrapped it around the middle of me so my humiliation could not be seen by the others. He went with me to the emergency room and sat in the hallway while I was stitched up.

I married him 7 years later and had a child with him 19 years later. He was in my life 32 years - by far the longest of anyone I've ever known. Our divorce was ugly, but I have to give him this: he was a good man to have around in a pinch.

In my ears right now: Judy Collins ~ Who Knows Where the Time Goes. I owned that album when the dog bit me.

Something that charmed me today: the picture above that looks like a huge dog is about to devour a child . . . . is actually a beloved family pet trying to get to the bubbles the child is blowing.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Waiku (um, Walku?) No. 1, Through the Glass Wind Chimes

Quiet, dark, alone,
no more my music playing.
Walks now are "training".

I don't want to appear completely derivative, so I'll give credit where credit is due. Thanks to The Old Bag and Doozyanner for the haiku/baiku seed. Most of my life I've been called Type A, tightly wound, perhaps even controlling . . . it's nice to see something that amuses me and put my own twist on it. I don't need to own the patent on everything.

In my ears right now: Precious Stones, of course. I blogged about it. Now I'll play it obsessively for days. The Bruce Willis tune, ". . . when I loosen up and down inside, de feets starts to slide . . . ."

Something that charmed me today: David, in staff meeting, giving the home dudes a delicately worded dissertation on bathroom etiquette. We all share just one.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Precious Stones

A soft spoken British lady called to request a carpet cleaning. Hers was a good address in the city. It was a smallish job - 2 or 3 rooms with some pet issues. On the appointed day, Cesar and Troy headed out to do the job.

Chirp! went the BlackBerry. Cesar, teasing with his voice, said, "Limes, this is the job I wish you had come out to with us." "Why's that, Cesar, what's up?" "This big house is full of pictures of the Rolling Stones. Everywhere." Said I, "Oh, some big fans, huh?" "No, Limes. Personally acquainted." Silence on my end for only a moment while I gathered my wits . . . "Cesar, if they've shaken Mick Jagger's hand, I want to shake their hands!" "No, Limes, they're much closer than that."

I scratched my head for quite awhile wondering what they'd stepped into . . . . they finished the job and chirped in again. "Limes, we're done and headed back in. They've sent you a gift!" And then he refused to say more. I was on pins and needles. What could this be?

When they strolled into the office, grinning evilly, they had a stack of CDs in their hand, one of which is for me. Here's the story, it's mine and I'm sticking to it.

A very British man with the unlikely name of Marino De Silva, is a music producer who has done a lot of work with the Rolling Stones and their immediate circle. It is very apparent that he has free, easy access to them individually and as the Rolling Stones. You're looking at his wife, the soft-spoken British lady, on the cover of Precious Stones and Other Assorted Gems.

This CD is the most fun I have ever heard. It features all current and past Rolling Stones in some role (including Bill Wyman) except the expired Brian Jones. It features a number of (my conclusion only, don't take this to the bank) studio musicians who are very intimate with the Rolling Stones. The juxtaposition on this CD is that the studio musicians are singing lead and people like - oh, Mick Jagger - are singing back-up. It is fun, it is humorous, it is intoxicating.

Track #1 is Mick Taylor singing a great "Twisted Sister" tune. Where did they pull him from? I don't recall. Brian Jones had died and they pulled Mick from ??where?? I think he was barely 21. I wouldn't have known what he sounded like at the time. Now I do. He sounds good!

Track #2 - Keith Richards sounding very Tom Waits-like in a torchy, torchy ballad with a great female, unknown back-up singer, and all kinds of brass from the Memphis Horns. I don't know the Memphis Horns or the woman. Keith has blown out his throat almost as badly as his face. And it's a great song.

Track 3 - some people I don't know doing a really credible rendition of Tumbling Dice. Who doesn't like the tune?

Track #4 made me bob in my chair. A little reggae, nice-sounding thing. The lead singer does it well. It's when his back-up singer pipes in a little ways into the song . . . . well, I do know Mick Jagger when I hear him! He takes a lesser role quite nicely.

There is a track I was prepared to detest when I read about it on the liner notes: Bruce Willis (I do not like smirky Bruce Willis) on harmonica and vocals . . . I'd never like this song . . it's the hottest kind of rockabilly thing I've ever heard with screaming harmonica and actually, a really good singing voice.

My favorite tune on the whole thing is Seven Days, written by Bob Dylan who has apparently never recorded it. Singing lead is Ronnie Wood. My opinion: the Stones should occasionally put him up front, but then what would Mick do, as he can't seem to play any instrument?

There's an unfortunate selection, Cole Porter's "In the Still of the Night". Charlie Watts selected it because that's what he loves, apparently. OK, so be it.

Another little oddity: a final track by Iggy Pop and Johnny Depp. I don't care for the tune, but I'm fascinated by the mix-up on this one CD.

Ironically, I do not care for the cut of Satisfaction. It features said Marino De Silva. He plays a smoking guitar while someone sings words we all know. "Satisfaction." Redone with permission from the Rolling Stones. If we didn't all know the song, I might like it. It smokes and screams and writhes . . . . but in the end, I guess I just don't think anyone should mess with Satisfsaction. It's been done. Leave it alone. Let it be, even.

Anyway, it's a fascinating CD that's played in all of my music makers for months. The home dudes said Marino De Silver was planning to e-mail them notices of events he puts on in town. I asked Cesar if he'd listened to the CD. "No, Limes, I don't really like that kind of music." Note to self: "What kind of music? This is unlike anything ever heard of." I asked Troy if that lady in the belly dancer costume was actually his customer. "Yes, Limes, but the picture wasn't taken yesterday."

In my ears right now: Ronnie Wood singing Bob Dylan's words. "Seven days that are connected . . . she'll be comin' home . . . seven more days, all I've gotta do is survive . .

Why I like it: all the musicians we know are in the mix here, but they're not doing what we expect. It's quirky. Bruce Willis?

Something that charmed me: We've officially hit triple digits and it's still June. I may not love roasting in my own juices, makeup rolling off of my face before my eyes. But this is what we expect. "Unseasonable" is more difficult to handle than "expected". I'm old and I'm crabby. Just dish up what I know and I'll deal with it as well as the next stranger on the bus.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Slow and Easy Sunday and Mother Badger's Musing

Mother Badger, circa 1930

Mother Badger was e-mailing her heart out to me on Friday as the Limes Appreciation Day Circus rolled on. In addition to other things, she had this to say: "I have been thinking about blogs. Pepys diary written centuries ago is still part of literature because it so reflected what was what in those days. I am wondering if blogs aren't going to be in the future (if saved archivally) be history as well. I like reading early diaries and how people lived and thought in earlier days." What does anyone think? Are we doing a baby boomers' written time capsule? Will someone read our words some day and laugh at how quaint we were with our communication devices and our 2009 sensibilities?

And that's as energetic as my head is going to get today. It's a lovely, rather lazy Sunday. The wind screams on and it will be very warm, but still not triple digits. I have enjoyed grinding the coffee beans after the walk and just generally putzing around my home in which I do not spend enough time. Today is "hair" day - every 4-5 weeks I go for the best razor cut in the valley, "half way across town", but a much shorter distance than I will walk on December 6th with TeamPrevention.

I eat oddly. There is every reason for this, and it will be blogged about sometime, but I don't eat like most people eat and I don't eat very much food at all. I have a lot of trouble getting in one quarter of the protein I need, and especially now that I'll be training. (Well, I guess I am training.) There's a recipe from Prevention that I read and thought would be interesting. Tried it out on the Badger who declared it amazingly good. I'd made it for him many, many times before I ever took even a nibble. Amazingly good doesn't even begin to describe it! This is likely what I will serve at the imaginary dinner party referred to in my blog's masthead.

Mustard-and-Brown-Sugar-Rubbed Salmon

2 tablespoons organic dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground sea salt or kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder
Salmon fillets, skin removed
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Press the side of the salmon that had the skin on it into the sugar mixture, coating it evenly. Heat the olive oil in non-stick cookware over medium flame. Cook until the rub dissolves and slightly darkens - don't let it burn! This usually takes about 4 minutes. Flip the fish and cook for about 1 minute more. The brown sugar caramelizes and turns into a shiny glaze. The taste is amazing and it's amazingly simple to make. Think "candy on salmon".

I think we're havin' the salmon today. I'm thinking I'll have some, too.

In my ears right now: Dwight Yoakam, "I Sang Dixie"

Why I like it: I like anyone who gets that crack, almost crying, in their singing voice. Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline, Lucinda Williams, Roy Orbison . . . Dwight . .

Something that charmed me today: Christine was cutting my hair and I was chattering about the marathon. No look of disbelief crossed her face at all. She clearly thought my doing that was within the realm of possibility. She said, "I'll come to the finish line, find your guys and wait for you."

Something else that charmed me today: Sometimes Mother Badger gets busy or doesn't feel like e-mailing, or maybe she just has nothing to say. But we've been e-mailing a lot for a couple of days and she began some discussion about some venerable things and some of her travels and reading. She posed a trivia question to me. She had to provide a hint before I could grasp onto a pretty logical answer. She is 82 (and sharper in some ways than I am). She is so bright and creative and so full of life. She has (still) a good, curious mind. She is a card sharp who plays against others online and likes to find a poker table from time to time. Her mother lived to the age of 102. Mother Badger is probably looking to do better!

Legal Hooky

Pine Creek Pool in a year when there had been precipitation - sadly, not 2009

Photo credit:
J. D. Morehouse

I needed sun on my skin for just a little while, or if not sun, then at least daytime heat. Imagine my surprise to learn that it's as easy as saying, "David I need to be off Wednesday at 2:30." I'd forgotten how to do that! The weather was uncommonly mild and there was a beautiful short hike at Pine Creek to be taken.

One starts out in the desert, but climbs a little into a pine forest environment. There are extremely high mountain faces in almost every direction. The entire hike is peppered with the oddest rocks - colors that rocks don't usually sport, patterns that rocks don't usually come in and shapes that put one's head to the test. Hidden deep in among rock formations, off the well-beaten path and through some shrubs and undergrowth . . . . . is a small, deep lovely pool that is fed year-round by the tiniest waterfall. I've hiked there in the summer when getting there was terribly hot, but being there was wonderfully cool. In the spring, little frogs swim across the surface of the water. One winter, as the Badger and I hiked from Pine Creek pool back to the car, my hands got so cold carrying his tripod that I cried (One of only three times ever that the desert wildnerness has reduced me to tears. Two of the three times had to do with being nearly frozen.).

Although living in Las Vegas is not pleasing, living in Las Vegas does put one on the threshold of a large number of beautiful, natural places. We have innumerable good hikes nearby and a dozen camping places within a couple of hours of the city that we've visited frequently enough to know very well. The Badger has shot pictures of many of these locations for years, through most every season except high summer. I love to give the words to stories. So I'm going to blog a little about our desert southwest in the near future.

For the bulk of my life, I thought "outside" was where one parked the car. I did spend many years bobbing around the world's oceans on my stepfather's sportfishing boat, so I know a lot about ocean environments. That was easy - a chef and four staterooms on board. Now I know about the desert. That's not easy. No part of it. It is harsh in every way. It is beautiful in a way that nothing else is. I was introduced to it at a mature age, when I had developed pretty good powers of observation. I learned about it quickly and deeply. I sport body art that glorifies the desert.

So, Wednesday's hike: it stung to find out that Pine Creek Pool is dry. However, we walked on a bit farther and I found a tiny pond. The Badger was able to photograph some beautiful foliage I pointed out. I'd assumed my favorite position (nose down at the ground, rear end in the air) and was peering into the water. It began to roil . . . what the heezy? Tadpoles! A bazillion of them! And once we'd spotted the tadpoles, the Badger pointed out a few miniscule frogs hopping on the leaves - the tadpoles who'd already sprouted legs, obviously. We lost count of the lizards we spotted. Hiking back to the car, I remarked that the Badger had snapped more pictures than he sometimes does in an entire weekend. The clouds rolled in overhead and he said, "We're getting dripped on." Yep, we were. "Is my new camera getting wet?" "Not much." Hiked on . . . "That's rain!" Yep. He took off his baseball cap and put it on the camera. It did a pretty credible job of protecting that fine instrument, until it blew away during the very last dash to the car.

I was reminded that any time spent outside in the beauty of the desert will fill me up. I may not see the old familiar things I went out there to see, but I will see new and beautiful things. I have the confidence and freedom to say, "Badger, that little vista pleases me. Can you aim your camera and do something with it?" He usually will do so. Sometimes these shots are not up to his sense of fine photography or he'll comment that the light's not right or he can't get in close enough or he can't get the whole field . . . . I'm not a photography scientist. I just know what pleases me.

In my ears right now: The sound of VW gacking up food on the carpet again.

Why I like it: I don't! I buy really fine cat food and she sees the veterinarian regularly. Why do they always barf on the carpet and never on the tile? I need to get some home dudes to my place to clean carpet.

Something that charmed me today: Being in my own home on a Sunday morning, seeing how the sun comes through the blinds. I don't get to spend enough time in my home relaxing and peaceful. It's a quirky little place I'm comfortable in. It resembles . . . . me.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I Wonder . . .

if the day after a party/ celebration is required to be gray, windy, dull or if it just seems that way because it's not party day, full of surprises and bright colors. I had the pleasure of having Cesar hang after the other technicians left to do their work - his first job wasn't very early. We talked of loved ones taken captive by too much Budweiser for too many decades and new loves, old loves, loves that just seem to be part of our personal tapestry even when we try to dry clean them out and our own personal smallness (how limited and just so human we are) . . . he's just radioed in from an emergency same-day-service add-on: a man about 80 whose wife has been admitted to the hospital this morning, but on her way there, had an accident on the carpet in the bedroom. "Limes, this is a sad case. He wants to get to the hospital to be with his wife, but he wants the carpet clean when she comes home. I'm tossing in some extra TLC and not charging him for it. Are you good with that?" Well, yes. That's a kindness we can do. It truly feels good to help out a person who asked for nothing free, but who obviously needs a kindness.

My day started too early. As always, I walked a zillion miles in wind and warm air (except when I walk in wind and frigid air). I'm mastering the Garmin and the heart monitor and that didn't take very long. Mother Badger reminded me yesterday in frequent e-mails that I'm a rather worthy person who can learn to do things quickly and well. That may be true.

The Badger would be about half-way through his 4 hour ride up and back down Mt. Charleston about now. I should add that the climb up Mt. Charleston challenges my Nissan when we drive there to dine at the lodge.

So ~ here I go. The phones are quiet. In the fridge awaits the cucumbers I eat every day of life at 10:00 a.m. And next to them are the cake, the dogs, the burgers, the potato salad . . . never mind.

The Bible just arrived via Mailman Steve. He noticed that I was pretty excited and asked if he'd just brought me money. "No," I said, "you brought me the lessons I need to do something that will give me self-respect." I told him of my plan to walk the marathon and his eyes kind of popped. "Aren't you about my age?" "No, Steve, probably older." "I couldn't do that," he said. And he walks postal routes day after day for probably 25 years. The Bible is a shorter book than I might have thought. I can probably read it cover to cover tonight. A quick blow through all the information and then I'll take it slowly to take it in deeply.

In my ears right now: Precious Stones - it's way out there and will require a complete posting of its own. But I promise it's the good goods. I like it because it's quirky and twisted.

Something that charmed me today: We keep a whiteboard in the office upon which anyone may write any words that they'd like to share. In David's handwriting is a quote I like very much, "Our favorite attitude should be gratitude."

Friday, June 19, 2009

What David, Michele and the Home Dudes Did

My workday did not start out happily. While brushing my teeth, the BlackBerry chirped. One of the home dudes asked the worst possible question (worst because I always know the question that will follow it - "Can I take the day off?"): "Limes, we busy today?" We are. I can't spare anyone because of the way the routes are configured today. "I have kind of a, sort of a family emergency." I told him I needed him to work, but that I'd let him get through his three short jobs and not add anything to the end of his day. "Ten four," he replied.

Half an hour later, the BlackBerry chirped as I drove to the office. Same home dude. "Limes, I don't think I can physically work today. I'm already at the office, but I can't do the work." A couple of terse exchanges along the lines of "You're killing me, home dude" and "Go home if you can't work", a couple of clipped "Ten four" transmissions, and I pulled into the parking lot. Not happy. Stomped kind of hard up the stairs in my boots. Saw my reflection in the door as I flung it open a little too hard - the jaw was sticking out pretty far . . . to see this:

Quickly rearranging my facial features, I managed a schoolgirl squeal and embarrassed them all! They'd gathered early to arrive before me and have everyone present (except today's stinker). I started the hugs, and embarrassed them worse. Asked them to pose for pictures with me - the room got deadly silent and they all looked down at their shoes . . . . it's good to be the only hen in the barnyard! Have I said that before?

Chatting later, I said that I knew we were having a BBQ, but I was surprised by the decorations. They said David had been planning for days saying, "Limes is sentimental and has this thing for dates . . . . . " Have I said that before? I have the best seat in the house. I know I've said that before!

Midday, here comes a deliveryman from Edible Arrangements - a gift from David's family personally. Look at this - I've got enough good food (truly good food, not fried Twinkies) to share with a friend! Melons, grapes, chocolate covered strawberries. . .

The BBQ was fired up, beans and potato salad from Famous Dave's, a lovely cake with a sweet inscription, kind words all around. I learned that David and Michele (the boss's boss) had sneaked back to the office last night to decorate it for me. And then . . . a presentation: greeting cards with truly lovely sentiments written by a wonderful group of people, a Barnes & Noble gift card and some cold hard cash. I'm tellin' ya, I'm just exactly where I am supposed to be!

In my ears right now: the sound of laughter. After we ate, Matt and Cesar brought Pedro the boar out of the barn to join the festivities.

Something that charmed me today: the whole day. Better than a birthday - I didn't have to get older.

Blogging for Bucks!

How good does work life get? I broke down and asked for a partial day off this week - took an amazingly wonderful hike with a friend who shot photos of the most striking scenes . . . but we'll let him tell that tale with his pictures of the day.

Friday, June 19, is my two year anniversary with the company. I've been here considerably longer than anyone except David and he doesn't count - he owns it. We are the founding father and mother. I have already said I have a memory like an elephant and I'm sentimental, as well. So June 19th means something to me. The day I landed where I am supposed to be right now.

I was treated to the sight of David and Troy struggling up the stairs with a brand new gas BBQ grill . . . we're havin' a party in honor of my two years! I'm instructed to book no late jobs, and everyone has been invited to bring spouses, children or whomever might add something to the festivities ~ we're going to have fun! Our deck looks wonderfully inviting. There's even room for dancing. I've got good Sony speakers for the iPod, if only my playlist won't scare them all . . .

Also carefully orchestrated to launch on my two year anniversary: the company blog! I'm going to be paid for blogging! David wants lots of activity on the blog, daily posts (maybe twice daily), engagement with customers, friends, and family. I have 8 million things to write about as I've written the content for four of our five company websites and know whereof I speak/write. I'm a certified carpet technician, so I can talk the talk [we know I can't walk the walk, I'm little, but I'll do all right). Hmmm . . . what shall it be first? Cookie cutter carpet repairs? Appropriate pH levels for cleaning solutions for good quality wool rugs? No, I believe I'll debunk all the urban legends about pet urine in carpet and how to eradicate it. There is a reason the home dudes call me the PhD of Pee.

Help me! I'm blogging and I can't stop. The paychecks aren't written, the bank deposit not made, we have no phones because the bills were not paid . . . oh come on, I'm kidding. A little bit.

In my ears right now: My favorite early morning newscast. Meteorologist Sherry says we're going to become more "seasonable" beginning today. Here we go. I wonder how long until we see 115 or more?

Something that charmed me today: My boots. It's my anniversary. I want to dress differently in honor of the occasion. I have a pretty cute little blue dress. Sometimes I forget I'm a girl, amongst the home dudes. So the blue dress, and my cowgirl boots from Brazil. I haven't had them on my feet for more than a year. Today they're made for walking.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Photo credit: J. D. Morehouse

I featured a photo of my beautiful cat Dylan on my second blog post. I've wanted to show off the lovely Virginia Woolf, as well, but that has proved problematic. I have only a very pedestrian digital camera and am not a skilled photographer. Virginia Woolf is entirely shiny black with only the beautiful yellow-green eyes for contrast. All I can capture is an image of a black blob.

The Badger owns a stunning new camera and has the experience and skill to use it. I pressed for a session of shots of beloved Virginia Woolf. The Badger likes to aim his camera at all manner of subjects, so he generously agreed, but commented, "She won't cooperate." I replied, "No, she won't, but let's try it." A date was set.

At the appointed time, VW proved as difficult as predicted. The Badger finally had to photograph me holding her. It is a nice enough picture. We retired to the dining table for a meal and VW proceeded to jump onto pieces of furniture where she does not belong.

Badgers are not known to tolerate nonsense. He picked up his camera, strode to where Virginia Woolf was perched and got the lovely shot above. Then he snarled at her, "Cats aren't supposed to be up there," and snapped another photograph.

So who's afraid of Virginia Woolf? I guess anyone who clicks on the photo to the right. She didn't appreciate The Badger's remark, apparently. She looks like the cat from the evil place. Some camera!

In my ears right now: another Starbucks collection - Mile Marker 383. It's good. It features some artists I recognize and some I don't. I recommend it.

Something that charmed me today: VW's photo making her look like the cats on the greeting cards with the outrageous eyes.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My Ship Sets Sail

Although I'm blogging with a number of true cyclists, I am not one myself. Make no mistake about it, I spent countless hours in childhood riding fast down the street with my ponytail flying behind, streamers flapping. But I didn't bond to the bike and I haven't ridden one in years.

The summer I turned 6, I broke my arm badly in several places. It is humid in Salt Lake City in the summer - there are frequent afternoon thunderstorms. Casts in those days weighed approximately what the limb they encased weighed. It was a pretty unpleasant 8 weeks. I got the only whack to my rear end that I can ever recall when I was discovered behind the garage with a stick down that cast, scratching at the miserable peeling skin. And worst of all, as school was letting out, there had been bicycle talk as in "you shall get one this summer" - plans that were postponed when the arm snapped. By the time the cast came off, it was already my birthday which means already time to return to school.

We lived in a duplex. Lorri Christensen, next door, had a cute little squatty pee wee bike with training wheels upon which she shot around the neighborhood like a streak. I was green with envy. But there was to be no pee wee for me! Although my dad liked to think that he was in every way different from his Depression-era, thrifty parents, the apple didn't really fall too far from the tree. So we started the tango of the bicycle. He determined I would need only one bicycle in life and it must carry me across all ages, heights and purposes. Since he always expected me to quickly master anything, there would be no silliness such as training wheels. A bell and a basket would be allowed - those were sensible accessories. Enter one big bike. One might even say a manly bike.

Our driveway was about a mile long. When Dad brought the bike home, he demonstrated its operation. The bike seemed to fit him very well. He was 5'6". Mom got on the bike for a showoff spin. The bike seemed a little large for her. She was 5'2". Finally, I was urged to mount the bike and let her roll. I quickly proved to have no natural talent for it. I wobbled dizzily from side to side. I had a terrible time trying to make the thing roll in a reasonably straight line. The thing was so large I felt like I had saddled up an early velocipede and it was really very heavy. Finally, however, with lots of encouragement, I found my balance and my nerve. I was pretty OK on that bike. I was no Lorri Christensen. But I was deemed safe enough to leave the driveway and take it for a spin on the sidewalk of South 6th East.

My maiden voyage was timed for Dad's return from work one evening. In my bike basket, I had made a bed for my Tiny Tears doll - she was all tucked in with her bottle, her diaper and the doll quilt my Granny had made to match the quilt she made me. Feeling pretty sturdy, I started out in the driveway near the garage. I rode that mile down the driveway (no, of course not literally - it was just very long) and sized up the arc of my turn onto the sidewalk. There had been no rehearsal of this. I was flying without a net.

Whacked the front tire of that bike (with which it was believed I could not have hit the side of a barn) dead center into the huge wooden telephone pole, thereby ejecting Tiny Tears into the middle of South 6th East and myself onto the sidewalk gouging holes into both knees. Both parents tore up the driveway in my direction. "Limes, you can't whack into things with your bike, it will get damaged." Um, OK. "Limes, you've broken Tiny Tears' head open." Damn.

Yes, of course there were many happy years spent on a bike doing the normal things kids do - ride in packs, ride in solitary, ride to the store, the pool, school, a friend's home. But my start on the bike was inauspicious and my final voyage on the bike was notorious . . . another story for another day.

In my ears right now:
Rock-A-Bye-Baby, in memory of Tiny Tears

Something that charmed me today: finding a picture of Tiny Tears from my era, when their heads were hard plastic and would break open if she were slammed to the ground.

Angst Rippling Away

Photo credit:
J. D. Morehouse

Barnes & Noble was a bust last night. The one square foot of shelf space dedicated to fitness and exercise was occupied by books on only Pilates, Yoga, and losing one's "mummy tummy" after childbirth. I went home and ordered my marathon walker's bible online, paid extra for quick shipping and expect it soon.

When insomnia visits, I've learned to go to peaceful or pastel places in my head. When I try to resolve world hunger or global warming or peace in the Middle East, I ensure that I'll never drift off. I never get those things resolved, either.

So last night, sleepless, I tried to think whether I'd ever taken anything on like this walk. And I have! And I was good at it. I exceeded the expectations I had of myself and that anyone else had of me.

I have a memory like an elephant and I'm sentimental. I can give you the dates that most important life events occurred. I have a friend who celebrates April 8, 1968 with me because that's the day we met in person for the first time. People wonder why my cool big belt buckle sports "1968". Because it was a momentous year for me.

Twenty years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play and I learned that I was pregnant for the first time in my life. This was startling news to me as we had tried to make that happen for more than 18 years, it didn't happen, Blue Cross and we threw an awful lot of money at fertility treatments that had no effect, we gave up hoping with much regret and moved on, accepting we'd have no child. I now had a career that ate up to 20 hours of my day 6 days a week and my huband had the same career with the same hours, except he worked throughout the entire state of California. We weren't home much! For me, the age of 40 was not too far distant.

This pregnancy was harrowing. I was pretty sick pretty much of the time for nearly 10 months. Lots of time in the emergency room. I was scared of every part of it. Scared I'd lose Amber and never have another chance. But mostly, I was scared of childbirth. I'd grown up hearing the horror stories and the glory stories from all the women relatives and friends. I knew that 100,000 women could tell me how it was for them, but not how it was going to be for me. The thought of being an old first time mother lying screaming (read this "looking foolish, not admirable") made me cringe. So what did I do?

I got myself educated. Lamaze classes, every book in the world, a TLC network series. I told my husband and my girlfriend who would join us at the birthing center what I wanted and needed from them. [Note to self today: educate yourself so you'll enter the endeavor from a standpoint of knowledge, if not experience!]

One of the best things I've ever done in a long life occurred during the 36 hours of labor we shared, Amber and me. I used what I had learned and it was effective for me. I only failed to breathe through two contractions, saying, "I can't. I'm too tired." Each of those was so bad, I quickly huffed through the next and all of the rest of the contractions. In a highly dramatic finish, Amber's heart became distressed after 35+ hours and she was delivered some 18 minutes after Dr. Zucconi said, "We're going to the OR, stat." I talked to everyone in the OR throughout that C-section. I'd been logical throughout. I didn't forget how to use the tools, tips and tricks I'd learned. I gave birth to a human being who was nearly as large as I was at the time.

And that puts a little 26.2 mile walk into perspective. Learning to do new things well is a thread in my tapestry.

In my ears right now: Benson Bird tearing the holy Ned out of the cage fixtures. My voice hollering, "Little dude, stop it. Do not tear up the parakeet palace."

Something that charmed me today: Thinking about Dr. Zucconi coming into the exam room to say, "You're pregnant. I have never said this with such surprise to any patient." The ex-husband letting out a war whoop of pure joy. Me sitting stunned and wondering what just hit me.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cloud of Negative Energy

I had a bit of a bad spell during the 24 hours I call a weekend. Down on myself thoughts. A pity party of one. Besides beating myself up for hours about the marathon and all the reasons I won't succeed at that, I finally landed on how ugly I am and that's when I knew the party was over. The only remaining thing to land on in a snit was "I'm fat."I snarled at the cats, struck out at a friend who didn't deserve it, and generally behaved badly.

Finally, deciding sleep was a good idea, I died out and woke up more myself this morning. Not that "myself" is all that wonderful, but you understand . . .

My friend says that fear or anxiety are symptoms of not having enough information. The tips from TeamPrevention are helpful, but I feel like I don't have a knowledge base about marathons that is either deep enough or wide enough. But I know how to Google and I know how to buy books, so a stop this evening at Barnes & Noble is in order. I've found a couple of likely books and I intend to own them today.

I wonder if any of you who have trained for an event - maybe even a marathon, who knows? - would ring in on this: before I arrive at the Start Village on December 6th, should I have already walked a marathon at least once? Or do I simply train, going farther, faster, harder and go that morning whether or not I've actually ever done 26.2 miles?

In my ears right now: the lovely voice of David, Jr. David has the most wonderful son - he's out of school at U.C.Irvine and has come for his first visit this summer.

Something that charmed me today: David, Jr.'s head popping up from the stairway. I got hugged, too!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Monsoon Season Has Come Early This Year

Flat, heavy gray skies and unfamiliar humidity . . . temperatures are fully 10-15 degrees below normal and my favorite woman meteorologist says this may be the first June since the weather has been recorded where we may not have one day that reaches 100. Driving to work on a north-south street, I was able to rubberneck at Red Rock. It was rather surreal because all the rock formations that are so familiar were right there. But all the vivid hues had left and only gray remained. Blech!

Mother Badger e-mailed throughout the day yesterday. She's cleaning out "stuff" again and has many things to send to me when the Badger goes to Phoenix next week. He doesn't know it yet, but she intends to fill the Prius for the return trip with everything he takes down (includes bike and everything cycling), a set of dinnerware for 8, a set of water glasses for 8, various and sundry other items . . . and an upholstered chair. Badgers not being known to tolerate nonsense, it may be awhile before I see those gifts.

Mother Badger also found a venerable thing to send me - a 1930s-40s salt and pepper set. She is a good woman who has treated me well always, and she listens to me. She pays attention to what I like. She offers good advice, but doesn't tell me what to do. She does not try to run me. Thank you, Mother Badger.

I took the heart monitor for a walk today. It would be inaccurate to say I actually used it. I'm not frustrated (yet), but I know I need to familiarize myself with it. I made the momentous decision to leave the iPod back for awhile. I have other things that require my attention on the walk now. The iPod can go along once in awhile. Once I have balanced the intricacies of walking, heart monitor, Garmin, BlackBerry, keys, and water I plan to start walking some parts of the marathon course. There are parts of the city I'm not as familiar with, and I can't begin to envision all those miles on the Strip. It will be closed to car traffic, of course, but what about all the human traffic? It's bustling there 24/7.

I issued an invitation that was accepted - the Badger will join me for a long walk tomorrow. I hope for some sun, as I am rather a hothouse flower. At some times of the year, I walk in darkness, go to work in darkness, go home in darkness. I am craving some sun on my skin. When we walk, the miles zip by - we're pretty harsh on odd people that we see, and we solve the world's problems, at least in our own minds. On Sunday walks we almost invariably see a middle aged couple who ride motorized bicycles. Their legs move, but one can hear the motor humming. The Badger has much to say about motorized bicycles. Some of his remarks are unprintable.

There you have it: a meandering stroll through my cluttered head this morning. I need to get busy. We hired a new, young home dude yesterday - business is hoppin'!

In my ears right now (an echo, it's not happening live): A hideous TV ad I saw yesterday. Cheap Trick is coming to town to concert Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, backed by a full orchestra. The tickets are "bargain priced" at $65, $80 and $95.

Why I like it: I don't. Call me a purist, but I'm thinking that nobody needs to touch Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It's already been done, and admirably. John Lennon said it couldn't be done live. He would know.

Something that charmed me yesterday: The hour I spent on the phone with a rep for QuickBooks. He helped me install a new version and extract all of my old data, placing it into the new version. He was a young Scottish man, talking to me from Dublin. I kept asking him questions so I could listen to the accent in his replies.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Certified Carpet Technicians

If you've ever had a bad carpet cleaning experience, you were probably visited by the Splash & Dash Boys or the Wet 'n' Jet Crew. Perhaps they pulled up in front of your home in a pick-up truck with a Home Depot machine in the back. They advertise impossible prices on telephone poles. They don't have office staff, business licenses, insurance. They don't know what they're doing to your property. That's not how we roll.

We're advertising now for some new home dudes. Times are better and we've ridden our core group of "stayers" hard for months. It's time to return to full staffing and we're looking at some new service vehicles to add to our fleet. We're looking at conservative growth. As applicants come through the door to be interviewed, I realize I've developed a good eye for those who will and those who won't meet our standards.

Most carpet cleaners come through our door wearing the "Strong Back, Weak Mind" T-shirt. This is not our impression of them. It is their own self-assessment. When we take one into the fold, he is sometimes surprised to find that we require him to engage in a program of continuing professional growth. "Hunh? I'm a carpet cleaner! What the heezy?!?!" A newbie starts out as an assistant technician, rotating through workdays with the various lead technicians. We begin to ask for assessment after a couple of weeks. We usually know within a month whether we've got a keeper. If he can master the work schedule (we're carpet cleaners, we go for 20 hours a day when there is work and we suffer when there isn't any work), can manage the image we want him to project, is strong as an ox, and can learn new things ~ ~ it's time to go to school.

The IICRC is an international independent body that sets industry standards for carpet cleaning and restoration, as well as upholstery care, tile/grout and other hard flooring, water damage restoration and related fields. IICRC master technicians travel the U.S. (and other countries, I am sure) presenting classes, giving exams, and granting certification to those who can pass. We require our home dudes to obtain their initial certification within a year of employment and to earn one new certification each year. Some of our least likely carpet cleaners have passed the tests with flying colors. Some of our most talented have proven to be poor test takers. Many of the home dudes don't learn by reading information or listening to lecture. That makes certification hard for them, because it's earned by two packed days of lecture, a "bible" and a 3-hour test that weighs your retention of every scrap of information covered.

David knew he wanted me to become IICRC certified - he mentioned it in my interview, but I didn't fully understand. I worked for nearly a year, learning the ropes, and we decided it was time for me to go to school. By then, I wanted to go. If I was going to be able to look my guys in the eye, I needed to have the same knowledge base they had. And we reasoned that it would give me power when speaking to a customer on the phone. When it was announced that I'd be included in the next class, the home dudes reacted all manner of ways. Billy said, "I don't think she can do it. She's never been out on a van." [Billy proudly owned the highest test score of any of our technicians at the time. He'd had it a month and had worked for us for 6 months.] Justin rang in with, "When they give the test, I'm sitting next to Limes." Thank you, Justin, I love you, too.

I went to the class and I was a novelty ~ the only female, and I actually interacted with the instructor. The other 24 people (home dudes, all) mostly ate the donuts and were inscrutable. I ate up the information, asked questions and dished with the instructor, as the presidential election was 6 months away and things were getting interesting. I learned about warp and woof, pH levels appropriate to carpet made from any kind of fiber, EPA requirements for disposal of cleaning solutions, and more. I can speak of 12 different carpet fibers - how they smell when they are burned, whether they will go to ash or bead up. Fiber identification! I participated in a demonstration in which a machine nearly threw me across the room. Everyone liked that. The guys weren't so inscrutable while I wrestled the SX-whatever machine. It's OK, I can laugh at myself as long as I don't suffer injury.

Finally, test time. We were each allowed to consult with the instructor about one of the test questions, if need be. He wouldn't give us the answer. He'd repeat the part of his lecture that pertained to the question. I filled in all the bubbles, with pencil, to give my name, the date . . . and I felt my jaw harden and begin to jut out. I determined that I would ace this test. I purposely went slowly through the questions from 1 to 768. I had finished after one hour. The home dudes kept pushing on. For two more hours, in some cases.

I went back to the office to see what havoc had been wreaked on David as he had manned the ship by himself for two days. He: "How did you like it? How do you think you did on the test?" Limes in far more words than appear here: "I really enjoyed it. I'm full of new information." Then a grin and a dip of my head. David: "You intended to ace that test, didn't you? I looked at the clock when I knew it was time for the test. It passed through my mind, 'She's going for the gold!' "

The results took a few weeks. When the envelopes arrived, I opened everyone else's results before my own. Troy - great job! Some of the other home dudes passed by a squeeker. Finally, Limes. I didn't ace it. I tried, but I got 97% - a higher score than Billy's. I'm a certified, card-carrying carpet technician! We talked a lot afterwards about me going out on a van for half a day with various service teams. I wanted to see what they really go through at the customer's door. That would be more powerful information, particularly if I could see a really difficult transaction, but it's proven hard to pry me from what I really do for the company. Maybe, if we ever slow down a little . . .

Many months later we were preparing to move to our lovely new office. We wished to be good citizens, so we cleaned the carpet in the old office as we exited. Cesar and Matt were doing what they do well. I saw no extreme exertion. They clearly handle the equipment well. I watched them mixing up solutions to attack that oily spot over there. I heard Cesar say that someone had obviously used some product on the carpet before us - he could tell that product had formed a chemical bond with the carpet fiber because of the visible ring around the spots.

Matt hollered across the room to me, "Hey, Limes, you always say you want to have a piece of the action. Come on over here and clean some carpet." Oh. OK. Yes, let me try it. What an eye-opener! The wand is nearly as long as I am tall. It weighs approximately what I weigh. Its extraction power is 1,200 psi - it can extract soil from the center of the earth and it is hard to stroke it across carpet. I didn't know when to trigger the cleaning solution - I took my best shot, but I was mistaken. They corrected me, but my first inclination was 180 degrees off. I managed four strokes. (I hurt for days, and remember - I'm no slouch, physically!) They were gentlemanly and just politely chuckled with me. I'm sure they guffawed as they rolled up the hoses. In the next weekly staff meeting, I spoke sincerely of my recently refreshed respect for the home dudes and what they do.

Labor Relations 101 - we try to develop hybrids. Those who are paid for what they know and what they do. Some of them are performing on the highest stage they've ever known in their work lives. I am awed by them.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Zones and Comfort Zones

I had a lot of help rearing my daughter. I needed it. I cannot be everything to anyone. During my pregnancy, I developed Amber's education plan. I had no doubt hers would be an intellect worth developing. Her third parent, Irma (our early life family day care provider), taught her about mud pies. A good thing, because that's out of my comfort zone. Her father bought a large rug with red and black squares and some checkers the size of saucers. At 3, she could play a pretty credible game of checkers, the two of them lying on their bellies on the floor and the checkers an appropriate size for toddler hands. A good thing, because that's out of my comfort zone, too. I was in charge of education, elaborate Halloween costumes I made from the ground up (sometime I'll blog about Pocahontas - I made the moccasins and beaded the dress I made from suede), and themed birthday parties. Those were in my comfort zone. All of us loved her in the best ways we knew how to love. And all of us occasionally had to step out of our comfort zones to do the best we could for a child who deserved to be well supported.

On the day she turned 3 1/2, I delivered my child to the door of a carefully selected Montessori Academy. It was the earliest age she was allowed to start - 3 1/2. I did this with trepidation. It happened that I was seeing a counselor at the time, for every reason. I agonized that Amber would collapse under the burden of "why did my mother bring me to school and desert me?" Paul was good enough to not snicker at me. He said, "No, we think they struggle more with where to hang up their sweaters, where the bathroom is, and which activity they want to try out next at school." Oh! OK. Enough ego, stability and security at age 3 1/2 to know that Mom would return for her that evening, and now, let's get on with all this new stuff.

I had been searching for some new things in life that were just mine. I needed a creative outlet, so I started the blog. I was afraid that my Seinfeldian approach (a blog about noting in particular) would render me a wallflower ~ no one would want to dance with me. But I've learned that the blog (and I) are actually about nothing and everything, and that people pop in and relate about things they have in common or things they want to learn about. I am enjoying it tremendously. Now I've landed on the marathon and I'm dreaming of something else that will be just mine. I am taking better care of my"self" than I had been previously.

I am feeling a bit Amber-like now and I'm not 3 1/2. Aside from all of the 1 million questions about myself and my physical ability to walk a marathon, my resolve, my discipline, I was distressed about the logistics of it. How could I carry enough water? What if I wanted to strip off some layers or add some? What about going to the bathroom? What if I need to eat something? What if I decide I need medical attention? What is the exact route? Nothing about this endeavor is in my comfort zone.

But I'm making progress! I've learned from the Badger's races that you start gathering information by going to the event flyers and website. Now I know where the port-a-potties are located! I know where the neutral water stations are, and they occur frequently enough that I don't have to stress it. At the Start Village at the Mandalay Bay, I can leave my backpack. UPS, one of the big sponsors of the event, will deliver the packs to whichever water station I choose. As long as I have my ID, I can get into the backpack and designate the next place I want it to be waiting for me, including the Finish Line. OK, the light has come on: I'm not in this alone or without support. And I haven't even met my TeamPrevention buds, yet. Maybe some of us can partner up to ease the way for one another!

One shocking visual was the course route - the full marathon. Las Vegas streets are laid out like a checkerboard, with major boulevards being 1 mile apart. When I looked at the route, I could picture the landmarks at the major intersections. It's paralyzing. Coincidentally, at different times during the marathon, I will be walking near my home and walking near the salon where I have my hair cut. So what? That's not news. Except that I am known to say every 4-5 weeks, "I hate driving all the way over to the Hair Attic - it's practically all the way across the valley and back. But I do it for the best razor cut on the planet." Well, folks, I'll be covering that distance and more. On foot.

In my ears right now and I wish it were not: David giving hell to a young home dude who does his job very well, but just can't get a handle on "get up, go to work, get up, do it again".

Something that charmed me today: An item that might bring all of you cyclists and all of us walkers together in peace, harmony, fraternity and community.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Harbingers and Omens (or silly little coincidences)

Pretty funny, as I sign on with TeamPrevention and make a commitment to do something challenging and new (and, therefore, a little scary), all manner of little "signs" are showing themselves to me.

There's a newscast I like each morning when I come in at dawn between walking and work. There's a 50-year-old woman meteorologist who is a hoot, and the (younger) anchors are pretty fun. When one of the roving reporters recently booked a carpet cleaning job (she has an unusual first name and I recognized her voice) I asked, "Do you come into my home each morning over coffee?" She laughed and said "Yes, I am she." There are lots of spots on this newscast about events going on in Las Vegas and it gives me the tiniest sense of community, which is otherwise lacking here - at least for me.

This morning I nearly toppled the coffee cup when I heard - between shower and blow drying, and just after buying the pink slippers - about the Las Vegas Rock 'n' Roll Marathon to be held on December 6th. Hey, that's my event! The promoter was talking, and I learned I'll be joining some 29,999 other souls that day. The focus was on the runners, and probably should be - a marathon runner is a marvelous athlete. But as the Badger pointed out in his comments to a previous post, the walkers would be taking on a nearly 7 hour non-stop walk, and that is probably deserving of a nod.

Later in the morning, Yahoo Messenger announced an e-mail sent by the Badger's mother. Subject line: "You'll Love This!" It was a cute little forward with all kinds of tongue-in-cheek comments about walking, which I'll attempt to duplicate at some point on the blog. I hadn't yet told her about my decision to do the walk, so I popped back an e-mail to say "Mother Badger, please go read my last couple of posts to learn some news." Remember, she provides the subscription to Prevention! She's also been heard to comment that the Badger and I spend inordinate amounts of time working on fitness, but we'll see her reaction. I think she'll be supportive because she likes girls who kick butt. She is one!

Last little funny thing. Our IT engineer went to an electronics expo and, being an octopus, he came back with bags and bags and bags of give-aways. Water bottles, pens, little oddities. He was down to one item nobody wanted. "Limes, do you want a book?" "Hmmmmm, I don't know, what kind of book?" Well, it's not a book, it's a bound journal with a pen attached, elastic closure. Embossed on the cover (you'll know who the vendor was): "Sprint", which is close enough to "walk". It will be my training journal!

I've been noodling around on the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon website. There's a new course this year. They're calling it "flat and fast". This being Las Vegas, there are some interesting little things going on like "run through weddings". Huge party, food, music and beer (what?) at the finish line at the Mandalay Bay. Course time limit? 7 hours. For the walkers!

Tunes in my head right now (I don't really own these, so they're not actually playing and being picked up in my ears): Walk Away, Renee; Walk Like a Man (uh-uh, no way); These (pink) Boots Were Made for Walkin'; Walk on By; Walkin' on Sunshine; Walk Like an Egyptian; I'm Walkin'; I Walk the Line; Walk this Way

Something that charmed me today: A sneaker in development that would allow walking while posting to one's blog ~ ~ if that's what one wanted to do

Full Hands, Full Head

This morning's walk had a very different feel to it. Not so recreational. More serious in tone. After all, I've signed up for a deadly serious walk. And I have 6 months to get ready for it. That sounds like a long time, but I can't let all those calendar pages make a reason for me to go slowly.

I already carry keys, tissues, iPod, BlackBerry, and water. Now some other tools are going along. The Badger bought himself a new Garmin and offered me the Forerunner I've dubbed Old Unfaithful across a few years. It's pretty notorious. Consistently inconsistent. We took out his weight and put in mine. We changed it from cycling to running. I need to familiarize myself with it a bit, but I already understand that its reports will point me in directions I need to go: longer, faster, farther, harder. I've set up the spreadsheets to keep track of my stats. I understand I have to work both my body and my head.

Also courtesy of the Badger came a heart monitor and I understand I'll need to learn about myself in all the Zones - 1,2,3,4 and more . . . I recently read Wheel Dancer's post about "to monitor or not to monitor" - I guess I'm going to monitor. I need to learn more about myself in this way, as I've never explored it before. As the Forerunner already challenges me, I'll start the heart monitor in a few days. It's my hunch that I am somewhat familiar with the zones, but I have called them "just huffing and puffing", "slightly gasping for breath", "I can't believe I can do this" and "dial 9-1-1".

I am wrestling with myself about whether to do the half marathon or the whole enchilada. I believe I know what I'll do. You see, it would be an easy gig for me to do the half. I wouldn't have to work very hard. It's not all that much more than distances I've already been able to do at a pretty good pace, without being in training. But the marathon would be a true accomplishment. A true test of myself. Remarkable for many reasons. Something I never dreamed I could do.

I'm no math whiz, but if it can be managed on the fingers and toes, I can usually land on the sum. I know how long my walks take me now. I know how long it takes to cover how many miles. I began to think in terms of 13 or 26 miles and I realize that I will be on my feet for a long, long time. Everything being equal, and training hard, I'll be faster than I am now. But 26 miles walking still takes awhile.

It flitted through my head that I have people who would come out to support me if I were swimming or playing volleyball. But I don't know how you'd ask someone to come to a marathon and wait. Too long, too far, no way to tell where one will be at any given time. Maybe ask someone to wait at the finish line some 4+ hours into the race. Then it flitted through my head that I will have to provide my own encouragement and kudoes. That will be very new for me.

Very unsettled by the time I got home, I found I'd shaved about 10 minutes off of my usual amount of time in the streets. So I went online and I bought the pink shoes. In all of my life I've only had one pair of shoes that cost more than those pink beauties, but the shoes are ordered. I'll start to wear them in late November.

In my ears right now: Pachelbel - Pachelbel's Greatest Hit. One CD, the same tune rendered by about 20 different artists.

Something that charmed me today: The smoke coming off the Visa card after I paid for the shoes.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Friends in Need and Prevention

The Badger was , indeed, a friend in need. Despite two races in two days, the horrors of the oilfields and a very long drive home, he appeared at my door with a computer under his arm! We made a deal: I'd fix dinner, he'd get me up and running again. He did. I did. My hands were trembling as I reached for the keyboard. After leaving work Saturday, I'd gone without for about 24 hours! I blogged around on the BlackBerry, but I could only look, not post comments or write my own post. It was difficult!

However, lack of a computer forced me to have a different kind of day yesterday. I read more than I typically read. I finally put the multi-disc changer on the Bose. It has remained in the shipping box for a year. I washed off the patio furniture. I cleaned windows. I put all the DVDs and videos into the piece of furniture meant to contain them. Do you think I spend too much time in front of the monitor? I pride myself on never having been a TV addict, but . . . . .

The Badger's mother gives me subscriptions to Prevention magazine and I am also addicted to that. I'm not sure why every bit of it grabs me every time, but it does. On the day that Prevention arrives, I sit down and read it cover to cover. There's always something interesting about pet health care, and the best workouts on the planet. There is always an article that makes one think about choices in life - the way we make our way. Makeup artist Bobbi Brown always has good tips for where not to apply the mascara and what colors not to use if you're over 22 years old. The cooking section always draws my attention and I've learned some of my favorite tricks there (you should taste the brown sugar/mustard rub I make for salmon ~ the brown sugar caramelizes on the fish . . but that's another post). There are sections about vitamin supplements, what new products do and do not live up to their claims. And the last page presents the Reflections of an older, habitually happy and grateful woman (Chief Inspiration Officer of the publishing company) that contain a good deal of corn and I like them anyway.

Often there appears a page that intrigues me. It is about a Prevention event, but it's never anywhere near Las Vegas. It goes like this:

Join Team Prevention Walk It!

Get fit, meet other readers, and achieve a substantial fitness goal. Signing up ensures you an automatic spot at the event of your choice, step-by-step trianing and tips from Prevention's editors and experts, online training tools, a TeamPrevention race shirt, and much more!

We'll be there to help you every step of the way!

Well, that sounds a lot like something I'd like to do. Meet other walkers and Prevention readers (who, like me, would really just be other people interested in a variety of things), visit their 2 day expo and walk either a marathon or half marathon. There are frequently articles about Susie from Maryland or Tillie from Delaware who joined up, were not even fit at the beginning, were not walkers at all, and who were older (sometimes they're even as old as I am) . . . . who followed the progam and walked a half marathon. So . . . . I've got a leg up on Susie and Tillie ~ I've walked for miles every day for years. I burn through good shoes every 4-5 weeks.

I signed up this morning. I'm in! December 4th or 5th I'll visit the expo. Sunday, December 6th, I'm doin' the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon and Half Marathon.

In my ears right now: Dwight Yoakam's Best, with a tip of the hat to Bakersfield

Something that charmed me today: Hitting the "Submit" button when I joined TeamPrevention

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Carpet Cleaner Humor

The technicians are required to keep in close contact with Mission Control. They have many freedoms out in the world and the balance is that we watch them move through the valley on GPS at all times. They must call in from every job at its beginning, tell us the value of the job and then report payment at the end. No exceptions.

When the company was young, we simply communicated by telephone. Everyone had a cell phone to call in on. But some of the home dudes didn't pay their bill, or had a plan that gave them too few minutes, or forgot their phone 3 days a week . . . OK, the company purchased walkie-talkies and required everyone to carry them. Every one of the men caught onto the walkie-talkie thing immediately. I was dumber than a box of rocks. They'd played army in their youth, I hadn't. I didn't like this device. For whatever reason, we used "handles" in the day and the technicians all took rodent-themed monikers. I named myself Dumb Bunny. I like to think none of them would have come up with that.
Then came the BlackBerries and it was miraculous ~ I was a whiz and they were a bit slower. David said, "Well, yeah, it's basically a computer and you're good at that." So the guys helped me with ringtones and I taught them what an Excel spreadsheet was. They showed me the navigation system and I showed them how to e-mail the digital video clips they take with their BlackBerries. It's reciprocal. It's nice. If you teach me this, I'll teach you that.

Rolling around in Las Vegas every day must be surreal. It is an odd place. It is peopled by the best and the worst sorts. We deal with them all. My technicians see things in homes that are enviable, disgusting, lovely, laughable. Once I had a home dude come off of his route, describe something he'd seen and ask me if I thought he should call Child Protective Services. They are offered everything from cold drinks to food, from handshakes to threats to throw them bodily off the property. They are flirted with and propositioned, insulted or asked if they can help a customer out because of hard times. Many radio transmissions include a comment or conversation about the amazing thing they've just seen or the odd situation that just occurred.

They are offered household items frequently. "Hey, Limes, would anybody want a black leather recliner?" "Have you heard of anyone who might want a kitten?" When we clean carpets for move-out, we often arrive at a point where the customer is willing to simply walk away and leave things behind. And traversing the city as they do, these guys see every yard sale there is.

Cesar and Matt finished a job and walked across the street to a yard sale. There Matt, 22, saw an item that so fascinated him, the seller said, "Take it for free, young man, and enjoy it." Returning to the van, Cesar employed his BlackBerry to send me a photo by e-mail, but didn't say a word to me. What I received at my desk:

As everyone else received the photo by e-mail, the radios began to buzz and we all became raucous. Soon I was informed that Matt had named him Pedro and Pedro was on the way in to the office. By the end of the day, I could see technicians shooting up the stairs - their workdays were over and they wanted to meet Pedro. We laughed until we nearly squirted milk out of our noses. A suggestion was made that we mount Pedro out on the barn that Troy built.

Here's Cesar posing Pedro on the barn:

We all cackled for days and visitors to our office were a bit startled at the sight of Pedro resting in a chair near my desk. We began to talk about how we knew we couldn't really put him out on the barn because the elements would quickly destroy him. So finally, Pedro was put inside the barn to lead a dark existence. He continues to startle everyone who goes to the barn for supplies or equipment - he's a pretty big boy and looks menacing in the dark.

My own private source of merriment: Matt is a young man with a brilliant mind. He's a good worker and a great salesman. He's an astounding artist. He is spiritual and both David and I have had many long, deeply philosophical discussions with him. But sometimes something will pop up - things he doesn't know about - that make one just go "What??" I attribute it to his extreme youth. So . . . Matt thought Pedro was a barnyard piggie and had to check in with me to see if the other guys were giving him the business about an animal called a boar. "No, Matt, it's true. Pedro is a boar. Barnyard piggies are pink and smell like baby powder. "

In my ears right now: the sweet warbling of my two birds and the Badger's pair of birds. Sometimes they just squawk. Right now they're lovely.

Something that charmed me today: the Badger's great placement in the race this morning; the strength and confidence he showed going into this race and coming out of it.

Friday, June 5, 2009

My Guys - The Home Dudes

In my work, I am surrounded by males. I'm the only hen in the barnyard. This was not comfortable for me for a very long period, because I had never quite figured the species out. No brother. My father, husband and the love of my life were not good study subjects - they were too close to me to be objectively observed. It was a difficult learning process, but I believe I've caught on. I like this configuration. I've got the best seat in the house.

David is an entrepreneur. He had made a good deal of money in some of his endeavors and decided to open an additional small business he knew something about - carpet cleaning. He is a man who will only do things first class, and his new business was no different. All new everything, the best everything. From technology to service vehicles, from products to staff, it has to be the best. That's how he rolls.

I came along 3 months after the business opened and his office manager was about to move. His ad was not what typically would have drawn a response from me, but he was the only human being I reached that day. All other potential offers required me to e-mail, fax or speak to voicemail. I wanted to connect with a living being. I went to see him that afternoon. He said he would let me know within a few days. He called me an hour later and said to start working the next day. I knew nothing about carpet cleaning, small business, scheduling and dispatching, creating websites or any of the things I do today. He selected me for my broader experience and allowed me to learn the details. He's a good mentor. I'm a good learner.

It's been like that for us. We are both rather difficult and extreme people. We are polar opposites on the surface - our separate experiences and journey - but at the core we are twin brothers from different mothers. We work alike. We think alike. We emote similarly. He has put his million dollar baby business in my hands to manage and he steps away and lets me do so. More recently, on the occasions when I ask him to ring in on something, his answer is usually, "I want you to do what you think is right." It's heady stuff. I've never run a business. I've never even worked for a face, a person. I've worked for corporations and labor unions and places run by boards of directors. More will be written about my work, no doubt, but this post was meant to be about the home dudes.

Carpet cleaning technicians are just like any other box of chocolates and we've been through a lot of them. We've had those who embezzled us and stole our money as well as our innocence. We've had old ones, drama kings, misogynists, hell raisers, ladies men, functioning illiterates, marginal nice folks and some really fine citizens. When the recession slammed us unexpectedly 9 months ago, the last remaining difficult ones managed to pretty quickly fire themselves, to the relief of all of us who were left standing. And now we're a smaller, but mighty band of warriors made stronger by being the ones who stayed in, tightened our belts, committed to stay for the ride. And now we're resurfacing!

We developed a mantra some months ago, those of us who are the stayers. "Just keep doing it as right as we can do it. Under-promise and over-deliver. Be as good as we are - on every job." David adjusted budgets and cut expenses, began to pay some expenses personally and communicated openly with everyone. Soon we were managing a small profit. I became a statistician and learned to predict when we'd have more work - and my predictions are pretty dead on. I stopped going off at impossible people on the phone - I can't sacrifice one job to my sharp tongue. Our technicians became kinder to seniors and war veterans, single moms and assorted pathetics, just to keep every job on the books. They became less willing to leave a job that was going south because it would affect all of us.

We're a snapshot of an American phenom: a small business that held on despite some really dark days. We all adjusted how we do things. We kept communicating. We developed a foundation built on mutual trust and it feels powerful. We've truly become worth more than the sum of all our components. You're going to hear much about my home dudes!

In my ears right now: Lucinda Williams, "Over Time"

Why I like it/her: She's a real tough girl. Tough enough to show us that she could also easily bleed to death from emotional pain.

Something that charmed me today: The Badger's dawn e-mails: the weather conditions, his breakfast, his layers of cycling clothes. He is strong and confident going into this race. The gun went off 7 minutes ago. He's riding now and for another 1 1/2 hours or so. I wonder if the turns in those descents will still be muddy or dry and loose.