Plants First, Fish Next

The original intent of this journal was to chronicle the trials and tribulations of the struggling twenty-something, as I searched for love and happiness in the small city-burb of ManchVegas, NH. Now, I'm thirty-something, I've found love in many forms, happiness in even more, and now the struggle is just... well... life. And finding time to do the million and one things I want to do- including writing.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Humane Society

The other morning I was walking down the block to my car and I hear yelling. Scolding, really.  Who's yelling at 7:20 in the morning?  And at whom?  Glancing up the block I see a woman walking an unleashed dog.  I hear her telling the pup he's a "bad dog" and "nasty."  Two thoughts cross my mind: 1. the dog is behaving perfectly fine, even when not on a leash, and 2. what crawled up this woman's ass?

Her behavior really bothered me.  Seeing anyone abusing their power over another (person, child, animal, what-have-you) really gets to me.  Knowing that a pet only behaves as good as it's owner expects it to, if this dog is really "nasty" and "bad," it's most likely the woman's fault.  The dog certainly didn't seem psychopathic as it plodded along in front of her down the street, sniffing at the fast-food wrappers and other dog shit that litters the sidewalks.  Her crap attitude made me wonder how she treats her children?  Going a step further, what the hell happened to her that makes her feel so powerless she has to take it out on a dog?

I have faith in the goodness of people.  Sometimes it's a difficult, nigh impossible faith to maintain.  I don't like to see the underbelly of human nature, though I know full well it exists.  The only way I feel I can combat it is to believe and expect others to act in a humane manner.  I expect this of myself and expect the same from others.  Not always to act "good" or "appropriately," but to deny evil, hatred, greed, selfishness, the desire to inflict pain on others.  Ok, I still have some issues with selfishness and greed, (there are SO MANY pretty shoes and I want them all to be mine!), but I acknowledge that and work on it every day.

"Goodness," for lack of a better term, needs to be nurtured from without as well as within.  I can see how it would be hard to maintain my, what some would call naive faith in human kind if I surrounded myself with abusers, emotional manipulators, and haters.  I don't.  I feed my soul with the love and care of others who feel similarly to me, who hold themselves and others to higher standards of humanity.

I've stopped reading/watching/listening to the news.  I wish I didn't have to, but the constant reminder that people are out there who don't give a damn about anyone but themselves was leaving me with holes in my heart.  The "feel good" stories weren't counter-acting the crap anymore.  I felt like I was fighting to breath under a tidal wave- why did no one else in the world care?  Why do the people in power not do anything to help?

This woman, so unhappy with herself, surrounded most likely by other people unhappy with themselves and their lots in life, brought my naivite about human goodness into sharp focus.  It also reminded me of why I strive for empathy for those around me.  This woman is either a psychopath or has been so beaten down by her lot in life that she no longer cares for anything but herself.  If I fight for empathy, I know it's possible for anyone to do the same.  I feel bad for the woman, worse for the dog, and proud  that I've fought against the negative forces in my life that I could have so easily given in to.  I drove to work silently thankful for my loving friends and family who help me see the positive (and funny, and unique, and ironic) in every day.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

The Joy of Running

I'm finding it again.  The beautiful weather we had Saturday certainly helped.  Running in a t-shirt and fleece, the sun shining, snow melting, spring scents tantalizing my nose... My Runner chose a course that ran us 4 miles and change, bringing me even with my longest "pre-owie" run.  Some of it was hard, and I was tired at the end, but I did it and I know I can do more.  It was a very emotional weekend, but running in the sun, moving where I wanted under my own power, enjoying the company of someone I care about, putting one foot in front of the other, it became a release, an escape, an oasis, an encapsulated moment of joy.*

This Sunday marks my first race since December.  J.P. McBride's, a 3 mile race and the first of the Wild Rover series.   I'm looking forward to the race and the excitement that an "event" brings to a run.  The only downside is the poor planning on my part that put an annual Luau bash (hosted by yours truly) the night BEFORE this race.  Still, I caught the racing bug for a reason.  I think the performer in me responds to the crowds, the excitement, and the ritual of pinning a number on your clothing.  I know I respond to the competitiveness of running "against" other people, though I'm not really looking to place or win.**

*Forgive me, Grammar Natzis, for I have sinned by overusing commas.  Consider it dialog and cut me a pass this time, k?  :-)
**The biggest issue with being 29 for the next 10 years is that I'm often competing for trophies with 18 and 19 year olds.  That doesn't seem fair.  Maybe I'll have a "racing age" and a "life age."

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

New Recipe: February

Barley Risotto with Cauliflower and Red Wine

In pursuit of my goal to cook at least one new recipe a month, last night I made Barley Risotto.  I had picked up the ingredients late last week, then ended up with no time to cook.  Luckily, dried barley is UBER shelf-stable, I always have wine, and cauliflower takes a long time to get nasty in the fridge.

I've never cooked barley before.  I've never made risotto before.  So.... this was interesting.

I used my medium sized enamel-coated cast-iron pot (a dutch oven), but I think this could be made in a stainless steal stock pot as well.  I just don't have one.  Well, I do, but it's currently in the cupboards at Camp, which is closed up for the winter.  It was messy.  Make sure the cauliflower is cut up real small - almost a dice.  There's a lot of stirring and big pieces kept flying out or pushing barley bits out.  Bad enough to have bits all over the stove, but after putting the red wine in, the bits were like little stain-bombs.

The barley took about 45 minutes to fully cook.  I probably used 1-1/2 boxes of chicken stock total.  Also, because I love cheese, I amped that up.  The end result is a strange puce color, but yummy.  Probably could have added salt?  But the flavor was a little... one-note for a main dish.  The cauliflower didn't get the nutty flavor I was hoping for.  Perhaps roasting it first could have achieved that, but I don't think I'll be taking that extra step.  It also made a HUGE amount.  Unless you're feeding 4 people regularly, cut the recipe in half.

The barley made a delicious risotto.  I'll be working with it again like classic risotto, trying it on its own, adding mushrooms or chicken or other types of cheese.  This recipe was a good place to start.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Moving On

After living in my apartment since October, 2004, I'm moving out this spring.

Why?  Well, the neighborhood has never been great.  When Smarty Pants and I were living there together, her car was broken into more than once, and mine was stolen (and eventually found in Cambridge, MA).  There's a lady that lives in the building across the alley who does not take her meds, so in the summer when all the windows are open you can hear her screaming that she's being raped.  She's not.  We called the police the first time we heard her and they confirmed that she's skitzophrenic and often forgets to medicate.  The side street is littered with dog poop and trash.  I've heard children being verbally and physically abused on our streets.  I've witnessed the same children being completely ignored by their parents as they play outside at 11pm.  As I've watched those kids grow up, I see that they are becoming as cruel and stupid as the adults around them.

In my building are at least two questionable men, whom I've named Sketch (Sr.) and Junior Sketch.  Sketch Sr. moved in about 2 years ago, wears a lot of black and camo, sunglasses at night, and used to stand around on the front corner a lot.  A LOT.  Looking, well, sketchy.  I tried to mitigate his sketchiness by saying "Hi," ala Ned Flanders to no avail.  Junior Sketch just moved in to the apartment in the lobby, where he is constantly peeking out the door, and also waiting on the corner in front of the building.  When I pull my car up, he moves to try to get in.  Now, why would you try to get in to a stranger's car?  Unless my car says TAXI on it (which it doesn't), my guess is drugs, prostitution, or both.  Speaking of prostitution, that happens too.  A 40-ish woman with stripper pants, a big bag, standing on the street corner at 10pm... just standing... is not normal.

Oh, and then there was the stabbity.  In October, the night before I left to visit my Dad in PA, a man stabbed another man.  The wounded man ran, fell on my car (which was parked pretty much outside my front door), bled upon it, ran up the ramp in front of the building, then down the street.  I was staying at Face and Mop's the night before, so I wasn't there for the crime, but the entire block was a crime scene when Face brought me home.  My car was swathed with police tape.  We had to get permission to enter my building, and then of course I had to make sure they were done gathering evidence (aka human blood) from my car.  The officers on the scene were laissez-faire about the whole thing, which certainly didn't help me feel more comfortable.

Why didn't I move out earlier?  Because my apartment is BEAUTIFUL.  Well, ok, the kitchen counters are a little meh.  And it needs new carpet.  But it has 12 foot ceilings in the living room and master bed room and 8 foot tall windows.  It's custom painted from when Smarty and I first moved in with warm colors.  The rent is reasonable (though not as cheap as it once was) and the heat is free.  The building is a landmark, as it's a converted Catholic School that was built in the late 1800's.  There's storage, laundry, and off-street parking.  It's 0.9 miles from my home to work.  Emotionally, this is my first home.  It's the first place I made my own; the first place I really settled.

A few pics from the place - excuse the clutter I've been bustling about the last few days:

Still, the decision to move has been made, and while it will be difficult to leave the space, it will be easy to leave the neighborhood.  Where am I going?  Well, I'm likely staying in ManchVegas.  The rents here are good.  The whole reason I'm moving is to get into a better neighborhood, so actually KNOWING the neighborhoods will help.  Ideally I'd like to be in a place with some character, something that's part of a house on a quiet block where I can put my trash and recycling out at the curb, maybe have a balcony or a bit of yard.  And I'm spoiled - I want heat to be included since I've never had to budget for it.

My lease is up April 1st.  I can stay on as a tenant at will (for an extra fee, of course) for as long as I want; I have to give 30 days notice before I vacate.  I'm looking to see if there's anything for April 1st that I'd want, but I'm happy to move May 1st too.  Part of the issue is that I'm SO freaking busy in March that I have no idea when to look for apartments.  Also, after living in a place for 5 1/2 years, there's a lot of purging and packing to do.  Finally, I have to paint everything white again, which is stupid, as it looks awesome and they could totally rent it out as-is.  But they already told me they'll charge $200/wall to paint, and I'd rather keep my $1000+, thank-you-very-much.

So, who wants to join the painting party?  Food, drink, and painting supplies provided by the lovely host, labor and music provided by you.  Anybody?  hello?

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Back in the (Training) Saddle Again

Running Partners

With permission from my excellent PT staff, I'm back training again.  It's hard.  Sometimes to the point of being demoralizing.  The first time I did a mile and change I thought I would die on the last hill.  2.5 miles was similarly killer.  Mentally I accept that this is where my body is after taking such a long rest, but emotionally it's a very difficult pill to swallow.  I get into my head, think about how much I lost and how far I have to go....  then it's a downward spiral.  My chest gets tight, the tears sting my eyes, my teeth clench... none of which actually contributes to my running.

The other night when My Runner and I were out on a 2.5 miler, he made a good point (this happens a lot....).  He asked what I was so worried about.  Getting re-injured is my biggest fear.  "Before or after the half-marathon?"  Well, either, really.  "You have to pick one," he pushed.  Well, if I have to choose, it would be before.  I don't have any races scheduled for weeks after the half.  I don't care if I drag my mangled limbs over the finish line as long as they CROSS the finish line.  "Then focus on the smaller races.  Increase your mileage slowly.  If you have to walk to finish the races, so be it.  It beats not being able to even toe the line."  He was right.  I've been worrying so hard about the half-marathon, but I have FOUR races to complete before I even do that. 

I'm working on a new training schedule.  It's all very informal now.  It's been suggested that I track my miles here so I stay accountable, but I'm reluctant.  Partly because I PROMISE THIS ISN'T A RUNNING BLOG.  Partly because maybe I'm not ready to be accountable.  Maybe I'm afraid to really see how far behind I am in numerical form.  It will solidify my feelings of defeat. 

I'm also afraid I'll get hurt again before the next race.  In fact, I did hurt myself again on Saturday.  Luckily, it wasn't lasting and I was able to rest it and run on Sunday, but it was scary and frustrating enough that I couldn't hold back the tears.  Sure, it hurt physically (tweaked my quad when I slipped on ice), but mentally I felt so defeated.   I'm afraid I'll get so frustrated I'll want to chuck the whole thing.  I'm afraid I'll never find running fun again.  I'm afraid My Runner will get so fed up with my negative attitude he'll stop wanting to run with me.

So, as much as I need to work on my training physically, I need to work on my mental state.  I have to find the joy in running, overcome the frustration and negativity.  I found personal joy in running; that's why I invested so much time and effort in it.  I miss that joy.  The feelings of defeat can be overwhelming sometimes, but as I run, as My Runner talks me through my feelings, and as I work through my fears, I'm finding that the negativity is lessened.  I still huff like an ornery Clydesdale going up the tough hills, letting out the occasional ragey groan at how tough it is.  I still feel my chest tighten when I let the bad stuff wash over me.  But it's easier to hold the tide at bay.  Sunday, running 3.5miles for the first time since my injury, I actually found myself smiling and laughing during the run.  I felt some joy at running.  It was wonderful, and I can't wait to run again and work on finding that feeling.  My next training goal isn't distance, it's joy.
Not extatic, but moving toards joyfull....

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010


This is the second week I've played two hockey games in a row, even though we're four weeks into the season.  Already this season I'm feeling much more confident about my playing, and I'm having a lot more fun while I'm on the "ice."

The two teams (Nerd Herd on Mondays and Jets on Tuesdays) have pretty different dynamics, even though teams share not only a captain and goalie but also 4 other players (including myself).  Though in general I feel the Jets have a greater number of more experienced players, the team and the league feels like Nerd Herd circa season 3-4: we know what we're doing, so do our opponents, but no one's got a super-gelling team out there.  I think by the end of the season we'll all know each others' style much better, and the plays will come (I hope).

While I love my Herd, the last season and a half have been tough.  We've gotten to the playoffs with good strength twice.  Tasting the sweetness of victory has changed things- some for better some for worse.  I love everyone on the team; we've been together for at least a season and a half, many folks have been on the team since day one or I've known for years (ie decades).  Socially, it's the best group you could know.  However, the last season and a half has also seen a lot of negative energy, in part due to ignorant officiating, and in part to a misdirected competative spirit.  I came out of most games last season sad about my performance and even sadder at the shitty mood of the team.

This past weekend I played hockey with a bunch of the guys in an informal "pickup" type game.  All the other guys were on rollerblades, but since me + wheels = death I played the game on foot.  So, um, you guys, I guess we invented wheels 'cause it makes moving shit around a lot easier.  IE, I ran my ASS off.  But I played pretty well.  Not crazy awesome, but really solid.  Scored a goal, which is more than I can claim for my social leagues.  Got props from some of the guys who have been playing since they popped out of the womb.  I was exhausted by the end of the 4 hours of playing, but so SO happy.  And I realized I knew a lot more about hockey then I had previously thought.  I realized what a rut I was stuck in, mentally.  I realized I should trust my instinct and have faith in my abilities. 

I finally got my head on my shoulders.  All last season I thought I had lost it.  I felt like crap about my playing after every game.  I missed most of the passes, I got upset, beat myself up.  I'm so glad my faith in myself is restored.  I know playing with other people in a different environment has been a big part of this change.  Discarding the negative feelings I was carrying with me, part of which I was pulling in from other people (being empathetic has its advantages - not in hockey).

So.... yeah, my hip's kinda bothering me.  More than it has.  I totally over used it though, it's my fault.  Saturday 4 hours of hockey in 15-20 degree weather, Sunday 16 miles on the bike, 2miles and change running, Monday hockey, Tuesday hockey...  I'm limping like a grandma this morning.  I do my stretches and sometimes even do my exercises, but it's all for naught if I keep overusing my muscles.  I'm working on re-starting my half-marathon training, and I'll be sticking to it.  2 miles is WAY more of a struggle than it should be at this point in the process, but I need to make sure I don't overdo "recovery."

In the meantime.... I'm moving.  Probably in April or May.  It's a more emotionally charged process than I ever thought it could be.  More on that soon.  The storms just gaining momentum and it's hard to see clearly at the moment....

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