Stretching the Gray Matter…

A ray of sunlight streams through the window in the small space that is my study. Dust particles in the air seem to dance in that stream of light as if in appreciation of the sun finally making a grand appearance after many dreary winter days. It may only be for a few moments, or with any hope, hours but still, all shines happy in this moment in my room…which clearly needs tidying and a good swipe of the dust cloth.


Alas, I don’t have the energy even for a vacuum cleaner.  I’m still tired from an out-of-the-usual experience just the other day.  The fact that I’m not a spring chicken anymore is ever clearer to me, even as I acknowledge that part of my tiredness (and feeling older than I really should) is due to a marked change in my fitness regimen.  I’m not sure what label to give it because any word I would use would be negative and counter-productive to living in a more bliss-full state… (e.g. lazy comes to mind).

My out-of-the-usual experience involved three hours in the swimming pool.

And heavens no…I did not swim for three hours (those days are long past!).  I would most likely still be in bed if that were the case!

So, it’s not news that last year was spent dealing–or trying to deal with–getting through to my wayward adult son.  Ten months of trying to help him help himself left me depleted both emotionally and physically. Add to that house projects and other family issues, and a robust work schedule for Rocket-man (nothing to complain about there for sure, but still….)  all of which made Rocket-man emphatically proclaim:  It’s time for a little fun in 2019!”

His first action for the new year was to book a scuba-diving vacation.  It’s been over ten years since I last donned a wet-suit.  That was for an impromptu afternoon scuba adventure in Hawaii where Rocket-man was attending a work-related conference.  Prior to that it had been seven years since we had been on an actual scuba diving vacation.  Naturally, I was game for my husband’s plan however not without a healthy amount of reservation mixed with a sprinkling of fear.

“It’s been over ten years since we’ve been scuba diving.  “My wet-suit probably won’t even fit now,” I said.  “….and besides, we’ll need a refresher course of some sort before we go.”

“Nah….it will all come back to you on day one of our dive vacation….sort of like riding a bicycle,” said the Ph.D. dude who has many more dives under his belt than moi.

So, we are in the basement rifling through our scuba equipment that has been stored in boxes through two moves.  “Clearly we need to get our gear serviced before our trip,” says Rocket-man as he carefully inspects his regulator.   Meanwhile, I look at my wet-suit noting the size tag: medium.  Hmm.  Yeah, right I think to myself as I steal upstairs to try it on as Rocket-man continues going through the gear.  With some struggle, common with wet-suits, I try it on and am amazed that I can still zip it up.  Standing in front of the large floor mirror I regard the image before me.

“It is what it is.  It’s not my best post-menopausal look but it could be worse,” I whisper with a rueful grin.

Back downstairs, Rocket-man has gathered the equipment that needs to be serviced.  I hold up my BCD vest.  It’s black and purple and looks no worse for the wear after being stored away for so long.  “I don’t even remember what BCD stands for,” I say to my husband.

“Buoyancy Control Device,” he answered.


“So what does this do? I asked pointing to a long, rigid hose on the left shoulder of the BCD vest.

Rocket-man does not give me a “you’re a dolt” look but I can see for a moment he is perplexed that I don’t remember something so…well… basic.  “That’s the BC inflator hose.  You know, to inflate the BC for…

“…yes, duh….buoyancy,”  I reply.   “Okay….still, as you can see, I would feel more comfortable if we spent some time reacquainting ourselves with all of this.  Maybe you don’t need it, but I certainly do.  I won’t feel one bit comfortable in the water without a refresher class.  And, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that it’s not particularly safe to go open water diving without knowing what the hell you’re doing.”

“Okay,” said Rocket-man.  I’ll schedule a class through the dive shop.  I’ll do it with you so you don’t have to go it alone.  You are, after all, my beautiful dive buddy.”


Then, for a few minutes he patiently goes over the five basic parts and functions of the diving regulator, that critical piece of equipment which enables one to breathe from a scuba tank.  Inquiring minds can check out this useful link:

As you may have surmised by now, the three-hour pool session was our scuba refresher class.  I was excited to be at the pool with gear in hand, that is…until I learned that  a pop-quiz would be the start of our session!   Real test anxiety called for calming breaths.  A voice in my head said go with the flow; don’t resist.   Still, when I got to the section on Dive Tables and determining surface intervals and bottom time, I choked.  Literally.  I mean, look at the table for yourself and tell me if your eyes don’t glaze over!  I missed more than I am happy to admit.  Even my Ph.D. dude missed a couple of questions.

PADI: Recreational Dive Table

Crushed, I thought that surely it would be further downhill from there but luckily going over the tables with the dive instructor helped to slowly stretch the good old gray matter and things started to make sense once again; with weeks to practice with the dive table over various scenarios before my trip I’ll feel more than prepared.  In addition, I passed most of the underwater skills on the first try!  Even one that I struggled with years ago during my open water scuba certification, Mask Clearing.

We both had some trouble with maintaining neutral buoyancy during our three hours but even the instructor admitted that one pool session wasn’t going to help us achieve that certain drag-less grace in the water (e.g. no flailing around with hands and legs potentially kicking up sand and/or bumping into other divers).   It is one of the harder skills to master and needs, first and foremost correct “weighting” of the body combined with particular attention to breathing through inhales and exhales.  Our instructor assured us that by day two in the water during our scuba vacation we’d be hovering practically motionless horizontally and streamlining our bodies effortlessly and efficiently with the style and grace of an elegant sea creature.

After class, as I showered and then rinsed the chlorine off my wet-suit, I thought about how important it is, as we age, to keep stepping out of the box, even for an afternoon.  Body and brain were stretched and tired but there was a beautiful satisfaction in knowing that I did not resist…I just did…and that buoyed my spirits for the rest of the day.

After class, as we hauled our gear and tired bodies to the car, Rocket-man, without provocation from yours truly, admitted:

“You were right Cristina.”

“What’s that you say my dearest? ”

“You were right to insist on a refresher class.”

How blissful to mine ears!

Clearly Commando

I stood at the spot for a good ten minutes. I was hoping she would return.  Perhaps I should give her another five minutes …maybe she’ll emerge from around the bend at which point I could wave her down…..

I thought of walking in the direction she went but given the myriad of paths she could have taken I’d be wasting my efforts not to mention that it was turning out to be another scorcher of a day.  The Poodle was already panting heavily from the short distance we’d covered so far.

“Well, that’s unfortunate,” I say to The Poodle as I bag my good intention and we continue towards home. “I’m sure she would have wanted to know that little piece of information.”

As I walk home I think about my preference and the flak I sometimes receive from going against the grain as it were.  I’m okay with that but it’s interesting how my preference irks folks.  I suppose It’s all about them wanting to show how “right” they are.

Okay, I am SURE you’re scratching your heads… in….Where in the world is she going with this?

So as I walked The Poodle this morning I spotted a woman out cycling.  She had just turned the corner not far in front of me.  I’ll admit to feeling wistful in that moment.  I haven’t been in the saddle (cycling) for a year now.  Between the move, family issues, and all the home repairs  going on (not to mention feeling just a wee bit depressed over being miserably out-of-shape) there just hasn’t been a good time.

As she cycles by I turn to look at her and it’s then that I see….

Oh my! That is particularly bad. In fact, the worst I have ever seen.

She should know.  How could she not know?!

Someone needs to tell her.

Which is why I stood for over ten minutes hoping she’d be cycling back in my direction.

Alas, I did not see her again.

Perhaps some of you die-hard cycling folks know what I’m referring to.  In fact, I’ll bet my next paycheck (Oh…wait…I’m not working now)….well, you get my drift.

So for those not in the know…..

Her cycling shorts were COMPLETELY threadbare in the back.  And yes, the material was so worn thin that you could see her derrière, bare as the day she was born.

In a nutshell:  The cycling world is somewhat divided on the issue of wearing undies under cycling shorts.  Those in the “commando” camp assert that its more hygienic to go sans underwear since there is a chamois pad that fits close to the body which is specifically designed to absorb sweat. It’s thought that wearing underwear doesn’t allow for sweat absorption, which may increase one’s chances of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI).    But really, their most compelling reason is to prevent chafing in the nether regions.   While I can absolutely attest to the merits of these arguments, the other camp–those who do wear undies– mostly women, simply feel more comfortable, modesty-wise.  If rides are short, wearing undies is more convenient when changing from bike shorts to other attire if, for example, you’re heading into the office.  In addition, that extra layer keeps bike shorts cleaner which means fewer trips to the washing machine, with an added bonus that your bike shorts lasts longer.

I’m sure you’re chomping at the bit to know….

Which camp am I in?

Suffice it so say that I’ve tried it both ways–from 100 miles in the saddle to ten, and I still feel more at ease with undies on.  With all the miles I have put in the saddle, I have never had a UTI.  Saddle sores?  Well…of course, but who hasn’t?!  Still, chafing is entirely manageable since I use plenty of Butt Butter (yes…folks, that’s what it’s called).  Multiple and generous applications of butt butter definitely helps keep the chafing down.

Butter to prevent chafing in one’s nether regions….


And why, might you ask, don’t I prefer the favored commando approach?

My personal preference is to strike a balance between modesty and function.  Obviously, I could have plenty of pairs of cycling shorts/pants in my cycle drawer and I could (and do) closely inspect them for wear before putting them on.  Still, I’ve seen far too many butts due to thread-bare cycling shorts.   I honestly don’t want the unintended consequence of barring my buttocks–as lovely as Rocket-man thinks it is– to the world.



An unintended consequence of going commando…..

It’s Just A Game

Last night’s Super Bowl game was thoroughly disappointing…in fact, it was downright abysmal and I voiced as much a number of times via text messages and Facebook posts.  Unfortunately, my team did not win. It wasn’t just a loss by a few points…it was a crushing defeat.   I’m OK with that….really.  In fact, though I’m unhappy that my team was trounced, I’ll admit that it must feel pretty darn cool to be the winners–it’s the Seahawks first Super Bowl win and I feel happy for them…really.

Some folks (and they shall remain nameless) get downright despondent after their beloved team loses a game.  Not me.  Remember…I care not one whit about the sport.  And yet, I found myself cursing like a sailor just ten minutes into the game!   And, by 20 seconds after the start of the second half I had removed my vintage Broncos t-shirt, throwing it in total disgust on the floor (uncharacteristic of me) and replaced it with my favorite yoga sweatshirt.  You’d think the sweatshirt with one of my favorite yoga teachers logo on it would have somehow magically enveloped me in a cocoon of peaceful, loving serenity.  Nope.  Though I stopped watching the game, I could hear it from the kitchen.  I kept throwing out an expletive or two as I listened to the game from the kitchen while preparing dinner.  I’m chopping onions with an intent to kill.

Whoa Nelly I say!  Not good! 

I realize in that moment I seriously need to chill, memories of my encounter with the evil green mandoline are still fresh in my mind (the tip of my index finger still has no feeling folks!).

It’s just a stupid football game, I remind myself.

Rocket-man was even more animated.  The Eagle Scout in him rarely uses inappropriate language.  He too was becoming increasingly exasperated with the Broncos.  He yelled at the T.V. for most of the game:

“Stop panicking.”  “Get your heads into the game!”  “Get the ball down the F-&$#! field!” ….and finally…more than once:

I Don’t get it. Denver was the highest scoring team in the history of the NFL during a regular season and now they are shut out in the first half?!  Incredible.

I even lost interest in the Super Bowl commercials by the third quarter of the second half.  And the half-time show?  In my humble opinion Bruno Mars literally rocked it.  He sizzled and sparkled in a lovely retro kind of way.  It was thoroughly enjoyable….that is, until the Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) came on the stage, all shirtless and screaming incomprehensible lyrics.  I didn’t care for the Mars-RHCP teaming and it wasn’t because of the show of “aging” skin (RHCP’s front man Anthony Kiedis is 51 years old but you’d never know it, all that inking aside, if you know what I mean).  He’s got nice muscles but he (and the rest of the band) should have kept their shirts on, in my humble opinion. Fashion-policing aside,  I simply didn’t like the music.

Nice muscles dude, but should have kept the shirt on....IMHO

Nice muscles dude, but should have kept the shirt on….IMHO

So now this football season is officially over and folks I couldn’t be happier!  I’m practically dancing the jig as I write these words.   I get my Rocket-man back…sort-of; he’s gone again on business travel over the next two weeks.  And, with any luck I’ll get a bit of my figure back (I’d be thrilled with just a five-pound loss) now that the chips, dips, cheeses, nuts, and other football food staples will be banned from the house.

Yes….there can definitely be a silver lining in the face of loss.  There is bliss in that!

The Year of the Horse?

It’s the year of the horse, according to the Chinese zodiac.  And though of course we are not Chinese, we were keen to participate in our own way, in the spirit of the Chinese New Year.   To that end, after a round of errands yesterday, we decided to eat Chinese.  Mind you, that’s not easy in the South.  It was much easier while living in Northern Virginia and Southern California to find good Chinese cuisine.

Year of the Horse

Year of the Horse

My first experience with Chinese take-out food was in Virginia after I turned forty.  I was dating Rocket-man at the time.  I’d almost swear that he lured me into his heart through many orders of egg rolls dipped in spicy mustard, Szechuan chicken, and Lo Mein dishes of shrimp and vegetables.  I was like a kid in a candy shop the first time he brought Chinese take-out home.  Egg rolls, won-ton soup, fried rice, noodles, spicy green beans and broccoli and two different main dishes (usually chicken or beef). I practically squealed with delight while devouring every dish.  Rocket-man even got me to regularly use chop-sticks.  Chinese take-out became a Friday night ritual and remained so for several years… until our next move.   In California, Friday nights were often a tug-of-war between Chinese take-out and pizza.  Often the later won out as there was a great pizza place just down the street from our townhouse.

So here we are in “middle earth”…Huntsville, Alabama.  I’ve complained to my sis…and anyone who would listen,  about the lack of really good places to eat in this town.  In California, there were so many good restaurants to enjoy….almost too many to count.  Here?  It’s not for a lack of trying folks…we’ve only found two places we routinely return to.  Haven’t found a Mexican place yet.  We love Mexican food so we tried the Mexican restaurant close to our house that everyone raves about.   Gag and awful are two words that immediately come to mind to describe that meal.  Another restaurant crossed off the list!  We’ve tried the Chinese restaurant down the hill from us curiously named “China Cok (um….yes….we think they misspelled something).  That experience?  Marginal at best.  Thoroughly disappointed, we haven’t gone back.

So in keeping with our desire too enjoy a Chinese New Year meal we made the trek across town to a place we knew for sure would be above marginal, P.F. Chang’s.  Yes!  Middle earth has a P.F. Chang’s and despite the fact that it is a franchise that offers a blend of east meets west Asian cuisine and therefore not the most authentic representation of Chinese cuisine, I was thrilled to know there was one in town (and there is only one); we’re not living in total hicks-ville I told a California friend months ago….we have a P.F. Chang’s after all.

We dined on noodles -for longevity–and dumplings—for prosperity, so all good things in our lives should be covered for the Chinese lunar year.  I’m not sure what we could have eaten to insure good health but I’m not greedy…two out of three ain’t bad.

Astrology aside, this is also the year of the horse in another aspect, albeit in the world of sports.  It’s Super Bowl day!  The Denver Broncos are set to take to the field against the Seattle Sea Hawks in just a few short hours.

Those of you who know me are probably wondering… what’s happened to Cristina?  It’s no secret that I am not a football fan.  Except for the occasional Army-Navy game I’m known to leave husband and home on football game day, preferring to spend the four hours over a grande non-fat Latte, a biscotti, and a stack of books at Barnes and Noble.  The Super Bowl is different.  For years I watched it for two reasons only…the commercials and the half-time show.  Super Bowl commercials are pure entertainment –some sentimental, some bordering on the risqué, some particularly raunchy, and some uproariously funny.  And, the half-time show never fails to offer “water-cooler” discussions the next day…or, as it happened with Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction”, years later.

For the past ten years I’ve been a rather passive participant in the big game day.  Instead of watching football, I’d busy myself in the kitchen preparing a meal or sort out closets or some such mundane task but I’d stop whatever I was doing to watch the commercials and the half-time show.  This year though, I’ve pledged to actually watch the game.  I’m sure Rocket-man is thrilled with this bit of news…not!  Actually, he will be just a tad annoyed since I’ll be peppering him with questions about the different plays and calls; I know, and care, so little about football!

So what prompts the change in my behavior this year?  Don’t worry….as far as I know I do not have some life-threatening illness clouding my judgement.

In a word…..nostalgia.

I spent a good chunk of my life in Denver, Colorado.  There are many memories associated with my years of living there.  It’s a place where I’ve loved and lost, deeply and profoundly.  Where I spent the better part of a very painful childhood. It’s where I put myself through college, where I married (the first time around) and where I gave birth to my first child.  Colorado is where I made my first real childhood friend and though we endured a sabbatical of sorts due to life’s complications we found our way back to each other and are still connected to this day.  Enough traumatic events happened while living in Colorado and yet I still want to go back and with a bit of luck, I’ll be able to do so come this summer.

So, in the spirit of the Colorado chapter of my life, I will be watching the Super Bowl tonight and hoping of course that it is indeed, the year of the horse.

I'm wearing my vintage Denver Broncos t-shirt!

I’m wearing my vintage Denver Broncos t-shirt!

Go Broncos!

Temporary Insanity

Auburn "Tigers" Rule

Auburn “Tigers” Rule

“Go, Go, GO,”  I yelled at the movie-theater-wide-screen T.V.  I’m out of the leather recliner seat I’m engulfed in, in our friends über cool entertainment room, jumping up and down.  With one second left on the clock Auburn scores the winning touchdown, clinching the SEC– West title.  I am clapping like a wild-woman and doing the victory dance.

Moments later I am downing a celebratory shot of Captain Morgan’s rum with eight other people, seven of whom I don’t know from Adam.  The other fifteen or so folks (also mostly strangers to me) weren’t so happy.  Most of them are sulking on their bar stools or other chairs in the huge family room.  One was hurling expletives but he’d had one too many.  I’m assuming that once he sobers up he’ll be nicer.  Sad….but nicer.

So I’ve got this feeling that those of you who know me are just a tad worried.  In fact, I’m sure you’re all scratching your heads:  What in the world has happened to Cristina?  Trust me folks….I don’t even recognize myself.  This is not Cristina.  I’ve never met this version of Cristina before in my life.   The Cristina I know positively does not like football.  Ask my hubby.  He’ll tell you in no uncertain terms; the game has been a source of many…um… disagreements…shall we say…between us.  Cristina also does not “do” shots….let alone shots of rum (well, only one time and that was during a trip to St. Thomas many moons ago).   I’m sure my mamma’s head is spinning and it wouldn’t be about the rum.  Mamma is like-minded about football.  We’re of the soccer ilk thank-you-very-much.  A tad more civilized, IMHO, than huge, over-inflated men wearing tight clothes, enormous helmets, and black paint on their faces crashing into and on top of one another forming one mountainous heap, over and over again… after a silly shaped little brown ball.

Yet there I was Saturday night….wearing an Auburn T-Shirt, cheering an Alabama football team (and a college one at that!) and eating tummy-upsetting “poison” party food.

It gets worse folks!

The night before I was at a Songwriters Series venue in downtown Huntsville. The series features the songwriters who penned country music songs that became hits.  Yep…country music.  I haven’t told my mamma about any of this mind you.  She’d likely want to send in the cavalry to rescue me from living in middle earth (I know one particular California friend for certain who wants me outta here!).  Or, mamma probably thinks I have been abducted by aliens and was experimented upon, then plopped back down into the city of Huntsville in the middle of the night with an entirely new alien-infected brain.


You see, I grew up on classical music: Bach, Beethoven, Mozart…etc.  And while my musical tastes have significantly broadened, particularly during my undergraduate years, it stopped abruptly short when it came to country.  Country music was…and still is for the most part… like nails on a chalkboard to me.  It’s that wretched slide guitar that makes my head want to explode.  I’m convinced that would be a better form of torture than water-boarding.  Moreover, country music lyrics are thoroughly depressing;  After two songs I feel like throwing myself off a bridge.

My Rocket-man hubby loves country music.  I usually have to ask him to switch stations when I get into his car because he’s listening to country.  Thankfully he complies in an instant….he loves me so!  When we moved to middle earth the first thing I did was search for a classical music station on the radio.  Good thing I didn’t have high expectations because I had no such luck.   This is middle-earth after all; no Trader Joe’s, no Whole Foods, no selling of the spirits on Sunday until after noon, etc.  Happily Spotify saved me; it’s made daily life here more enjoyable that’s for certain.


odd as it may sound (and it is thoroughly odd to me)….some country music is growing on me….kinda like mold.  Hubby would describe it as “boiling the frog” phenomenon.   In the seventeen months of living here I’ve  been to the Songwriter series a total of four times!  And on Friday, as I sat by my hubby enjoying a glass of wine, listening to the four songwriters sing their country tunes on stage, I’m shaking my head in wonder in a moment of reflection while toe-tapping to the guitar beat.  Yes indeed.  Rafe Van Hoy who wrote for LeAnn Rimes and Dwight Yoakam, among others, is going to town on his turquoise-colored electric guitar (that would be GEE-tar) and I am swaying back and forth to the beat.  Oh God.  Not only that, I went to a Trace Adkins concert and swooned like a school girl!  What’s up with that?

I’ll reiterate…I don’t recognize myself.  Oh My God…maybe I was abducted by aliens!  

Before long I’ll be wearing blue jean overalls! 

I fervently hope that if I get to that point my sis or my “Evil Twin” in Northern VA will force an intervention and slap me silly to my senses.

For now, I’ll plead temporary insanity to going nuts over a college football game.  It was ONE day folks.  Trust me….this WILL NOT happen again.

Well….”HOLY COW”…..

Not for another 364 days anyway.

A Heartfelt Thank-you….

It was just a moment. One of those blink-of-an-eye kind of moments.  OK…more like  two blinks…

I saw a Facebook post this morning from a dear friend who I haven’t seen in some years.  She’d participated in a 5K race and won in her age group.  She’s six or seven years older than me.  She said how blessed she felt to be able to run again.

Oh boy….you know what’s coming…..

That green-eyed monster that lays dormant most of the time within me stirred…just a wee bit!

Me...running in my last JFK-50 mile race

Me…running in my last JFK-50 mile race

I could almost feel green goop seeping through every pore in my body.  It lasted only a moment folks.  I’m OK…well, sort-of.

I commented something to the effect “Way to go” and truly, I am happy for her.   She’s had her share of issues over the years to include a serious chronic illness that has dogged her for the better part of thirty years.  After she was diagnosed, she had a “pity party” (as she put it) that lasted a couple of weeks.  She then kicked herself in the tush and never looked back.  She kept running and despite health issues that sometimes derailed her, she is still at it after all of these years.   While I am  thrilled for her the reality for me cuts deep. Structurally, I am done; I cannot keep running into my golden years as I had planned on doing.  So yes….the green-eyed monster rears its ugly head now and then despite my best efforts to keep it knocked out into another universe.

Anyhow, a quick summary about my running mentor-hero who just kicked ass in her over 60-age group….

I’ve called Sue my “wind beneath my wings-hero” for many years.  She was instrumental in giving a wounded soul wings to fly.  And, Yes…her title is ripped right out of that Bette Midler song; it arose somewhere along mile nineteen during a marathon we ran together in 1990.  We crossed the finish line together in freezing temperatures, holding hands..and waving our little American flags to honor the service men and women (including her husband) who were serving in Desert Storm.

We were army wives when we met; me a young major’s wife…she a seasoned Lieutenant Colonel’s wife.  I had just arrived in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania–fresh out of a three-year posting in Stuttgart, Germany.  After settling the house in speedy good military wife fashion I was quickly falling into that all too familiar hole of darkness.   One day, just weeks after my son started kindergarten, I’d decided that I’d had enough of sitting at home on my butt wallowing in loneliness.  I drove the six miles to the army depot where my then-husband was assigned, with my 18-month old daughter in tow.  I was going to shake up my day and put my baby girl in the child care center for an hour so that I could go for a run.  I was still quite the running novice then, having started in earnest in Germany but only months before I found out I was pregnant with my daughter.  It was time to get back into the swing of things and start the whole running thing over again.  I’d never put my son in a child care center and I remember feeling extremely guilty for dropping my daughter there on that very first occasion.  Of course, she cried; she was going through a separation anxiety period.  Fortunately, for the both of us, this period was exceedingly brief.  Honestly, at the time I didn’t feel like I had a choice; something dark was bubbling to the surface of my being and I had to do something.  There’s a story behind it all but it’s not important now.  It took some years and reflection to be able to say with absolute certainty that the decision I made that day saved my life.

So the ritual started.  Two to three times a week after my son was off to school I’d drop my daughter off at the child care center around 9:30 a.m. and go for a run.  The child care center was located down in a little valley of sorts on the depot.  My course was a short one, only about two miles, but it was very hilly.  I’d huff and puff up the hill and once at the top I’d have to stop and walk a bit to catch my breath.  I’d continue on for a mile more before turning around and then literally flew back down the long hill.

For the most part I was the only one out on the roads at this hour. That is, until one day I noted another person running.  She was petite –all of size 4, I’d guess– with a white baseball cap, a blonde pony tail peeking out from under her cap.  I’d see her in the distance, running down the hill and then she’d disappear off the main road.  I’d wonder where she went but didn’t think of following her. She was clipping along at a good pace; she looked like a serious runner.  I still wasn’t very confident about my running abilities, nor my  navigational skills (I didn’t want to get lost on post) plus I was worried about getting back to my baby girl in a timely manner.

Some weeks later there was a military wives social of some sort.  Minutes after arriving I recognize the blonde runner (as I referred to her); she’s talking to a group of women near the food table.  I can remember being self-conscious in a flash.  She’s so pretty I thought. Her blonde hair was pulled back into an elegant french braid and she was dressed to the nines.  I suddenly felt like a German frump.  I may as well have been wearing ugly brown “sensible” shoes with white bobby socks, and a burlap bag for a dress. I felt completely out-of-place and (not uncommon) thoroughly alone.  I thought about leaving… after I soothed my soul with a piece of cherry pie and a cup of coffee.

The blonde runner was making her way to me….

Oh no!  Shyness (or was it fear?) enveloped me.

“Hi, I’m Sue.  I’ve seen you running.”

“Well….um…I’m not really sure you could call that running.  I haven’t been at it for very long and, well, I am new to the area….I’m just trying to keep my head on straight since I’ve got two small children.”

In an instant everything changed.

Was she really saying “let’s meet for a run.”?

So, I started running with Sue (or “Miss Sue” as my kids used to call her).  Miss Sue and I would meet several times a week and before I knew it I was running a three-mile distance with ease.  Sue even got me to sign up for a local race and that’s when the running bug really bit me.  I didn’t stop running….for more than twenty-five years.  It was Sue that gave me the confidence to sign up for my first marathon in 1989.  After we had run a ten-mile race (the Army 10-miler, if I recall correctly)  she said I was ready for a marathon.  “Um….26 Miles….are you nuts?”  “It’s 26.2 miles,” she said.  Oh…that’s just insane!

But the seed was planted….

Before I knew it Sue and I were training together (she even got me into weight training).  Three to four times a week we ran six to eight miles together and then on Saturdays we added on to that with long runs that took us around the depot’s beautiful little lake…through neighborhoods and out along a stretch of highway towards Shippensburg, working our way up to an eighteen mile distance.  We talked about everything and nothing during all those runs.  We talked about our kids, our husbands….our hopes and our fears…our dreams…our failures and our successes….We talked about food…lots of food talk!  We laughed and we cried (well….I cried. Sue does not have tears due to Sjogren’s).  We talked about politics and events both local and overseas.  We were thoroughly convinced that our country would be better off with women like us running things in Washington D.C.

I should also mention that I also started working for “Miss Sue” during those years in Chambersburg.  An avid health and fitness enthusiast Sue had submitted a proposal to run and manage an Army fitness program on the depot.  She crafted the “Fit-To-Lead” fitness program and before I knew it I was getting certified as an aerobics instructor and teaching classes at the depot’s gym facility.  Let me tell you; This was about as far out of my box as I had ever been.  I’d never in a million years would have ventured into the health and fitness industry if it hadn’t have been for Sue.  I’m forever grateful for her support, guidance, and belief in me…especially when I didn’t have that belief for myself.  Looking back, I think it was because of Sue that years later I pursued a graduate degree in health promotion management.  She planted the seed, believing I could fly… and then my husband helped make sure that the seed took root and flowered; he was there to make sure my fear of failure would not make me quit.

Despite trying to navigate through some very dark and challenging bumps in the road of my personal life… including some big mistakes along the way, the three years that I ran with Sue were some of the best years of my life; our runs together saved me, pure and simple.  My children may never know…or maybe even care…how those runs saved me but they should know that I was a better mother for it, despite what they may think.  I could have gone the route that so many do with drugs or drink, or both…but running lifted my soul to a new level (not to mention that I looked like a million bucks back then…sigh). That…and the love and friendship of a wonderful friend…the wind-beneath-my-wings-hero…Miss Sue.

So, with twenty-nine marathons and five ultra-marathon distances behind me…I cannot run now….but each passing day the reality of that “sentence” is becoming a bit less painful to my psyche.   After all,  I’ve got some impressive accomplishments under my belt as well as many wonderful memories….

I’m mighty grateful….eternally so.

Thank you Miss Sue, from the bottom of my heart.

Black and Gold Fever

It’s that time of year again.

I become invisible.

Now before I continue let’s get something straight….I do love my husband. Really….I do….


It’s that time of year again and with it comes just a wee bit more friction that normal.


It’s football season….and I all but loathe it.  I’ll probably go to hell for saying that…

…oh wait…I already live in middle earth….Sigh.

Anyhow….what can I say?  I’m simply not a football fan. Why is that so terrible?  But terrible it is, it seems, to many people to include hubby’s family (and quite possibly hubby too)…who all, IMHO are FAN-a-tics.  It’s in their DNA.  For sixteen-some weeks they are afflicted with a serious case of black and gold fever. But that’s not enough; for the rest of the year they live and breathe all things Steelers,  even decorating their houses year-round in Steelers paraphernalia.  I just don’t get it.   I didn’t grow up watching football (nor sports of any kind).  Frankly, my brother and I were lucky to even sneak  watching the tube way back then.  I’d watch Flipper, The Man From Uncle, or The Six-Million-Dollar-Man on T.V. keeping the volume turned way down low so that my parents wouldn’t catch me and make me return to chores.

Steeler1   I have tried to watch the game over the years but for the life of me I get little enjoyment over watching a bunch of men repeatedly fall on top of each other in a tangled heap of helmets, legs, and big bellies ….all over a silly shaped ball.  OK…I will admit to one thing:  I do enjoy watching Super Bowl games….for the commercials, that is!  For awhile, when living in Southern California, I really thought there was a chance that I’d soften my stance on the whole football thing.    Hubby would have a couple of Steelers FAN-a-tics over to enjoy the game.  I was happy as a bug in a rug cooking up some scrumptious Italian meal that all of us could enjoy during half-time.  But I may as well have been Harry Potter wrapped up in his invisibility cloak…I was invisible!  I’d try to make conversation and would get summarily shushed….”wait for commercial.”   The female FAN-a-tic counterpart of the couple wouldn’t join me in the kitchen for conversation or help.   I usually ended up feeling mighty peeved when our company would break dishes, spill food, and make annoying cracks about my lack of love for the game.  In retrospect, I should have just opened a can of Chef Boyardee and called it a day.

It’s not that I am totally against sports viewing.  My two dearest friends, Harry and Mabel, who live in Texas are avid sports fans.  I’ve known them for almost thirty years.  We spent three years together in Germany and then another ten in Northern Virginia.  I can’t tell you how many times we would get together and watch football….or basketball…or tennis…or golf….or (my favorite) soccer.  Mabel and I would cook up meals in the kitchen while, I might add,  watching whatever “happening” game there was at the time.  We’d have lively conversations–solving the worlds’ problems– while munching on chips and salsa and enjoying good wine.  Now these times I thoroughly enjoyed!  Yep!  I’ve found enjoyment in watching sports on T.V.  I’ve watched basketball games and tennis with interest; I’ve loved watching World Cup soccer…and I’ll even confess here and now that one of my favorite sports-viewing memories with Harry and Mabel was when we watched a Tiger Woods golf game on T.V. We met in their hotel room –wine and chips in hand–during a cycling vacation.  We watched the game, talked about everything and nothing, drank good red wine, and only occasionally oohed and aah-ed over Tiger’s skills.

The FAN-a-tics?  They are just too damned serious about the game.  They can’t seem to do anything but WATCH THE GAME.  Conversation? Only if it is about the game.  If the phone rings…hubby does not answer it.  If the doorbell rings…hubby does not answer it.  If we get an invitation from The Queen herself for tea….hubby would decline, if it conflicted with his game.  Sigh….

I honestly thought Direct TV would save the day (and our relationship).  “You can record the game and watch it later, as in AFTER we return from our tea date with the Queen.”  Nope.  It doesn’t quite work that way in a FAN-a-tics world.  They simply must watch the game real-time.   Sigh…… I took to spending game time at Barnes and Noble…enjoying lattes and perusing a stack of books; that was becoming an expensive habit!  Sigh…..

I’ve been with this dear man for just over fifteen years, more than thirteen of them married years. I’ve yet to be able to embrace football, or his FAN-a-ti-cal love for it.  Too me, football may as well be a four-letter word.

Let me be clear.  I actually had no opinion of football one way or the other until just weeks after we started officially dating. We were in a shopping mall on a lovely crisp-cool late afternoon.  We’re strolling through the mall with our Auntie Anne pretzels in hand having a perfectly lovely time together (well…at least I was).  Out of the blue my husband (then boyfriend) yells out “Go Steelers!”  I literally jumped out of my window-shopping reverie (not to mention nearly choked on my pretzel).  I looked around to see that people were…um…yes….STARING at us!   “Do pray tell, what was that all about?” I all but hissed, trying to recover from the shock of the outburst while subtly distancing myself from my boyfriend.

I may as well have asked what color is the moon.

“You see that guy on the other side of the mall walkway” says boyfriend, pointing….Well, he’s wearing his Steelers jersey.”  You’re freaking kidding me….You just yelled at another guy halfway across the mall because he’s wearing some stupid football jersey?  He  tried to explain that’s what Steeler Nation fans do.

I will confess….I thought of ending the relationship right then and there.

Happily, I will say that this yelling behavior finally subsided a year or two into our marriage.  You see, hubby would chant his rah-rah Steelers line literally every single time he saw someone in a Steelers jersey…or a Steelers baseball cap….or a car bearing a Steelers decal or license plate holder….you get the drift.

But, incredibly, fifteen years later here I am.

Yes….Even after a number of scenarios that nearly sent me packing all due to  peculiar Steelers DNA, the last of which involved tricking me (yes, you read correctly….totally unaware) into spending four hours in a tiny hotel room packed with his family watching a Steelers game.  Truthfully, It would not have been nearly as serious a moment if certain of his family members had not decided to make me the butt of their jokes over the trickery.  That was the final straw; seething with fire, it literally sealed my loathing for all things football.  I could barely see straight as I hightailed it out of the hotel which was just off the Pennsylvania turnpike.  I was ready to hitchhike the two-hour drive home with an ax murderer if need be just to be out of the whole FAN-a-ti-cal equation.

I was about to lose my mind; I never knew when the FAN-a-tic in my hubby would strike or when he’d lose all sense of reason because of the black and gold that pulsed through his veins.  I’ll confess to not handling things very well.  At some point I exploded Vesuvius-style, though in my defense, it is the Italian way!   I was at the end of my rope about football and hubby knew it.  He reined himself in over the rah-rah yelling, quite a bit a might add.  I’ll admit to softening my heart (and laughing too) when I’d witness him whisper to himself in sotto voce fashion whenever he’d see a kindred Steelers fan.

Clearly, hubby loved me enough to cut out that nonsense and I am mighty thankful!  I haven’t made a dent in the whole tea with The Queen bit, though I am ever hopeful.

So yesterday hubby dragged me to his friends’ house for college football. “It’s a chance to be with other people” said he.   In Middle Earth-land its all about college football; you may as well throw yourself off a bridge if you don’t pick a team and join in the heavy eating, drinking, and wearing of the colors.

Why on earth would I want to waste four hours on a perfectly lovely afternoon watching a college game?  Well hubby is going away again on business travel.  He’ll be in Europe for a week and despite the trials and tribulations that bubble through the surface in times of stress, I will miss him terribly. Though he is flawed by this Fan-a-tic DNA, I am flawed too…by my loathing of it.  I suppose we are even on this account!  I’d like to get better at this whole football thing but its a huge struggle….

I don't care what you say; it's a weird ball.

I don’t care what you say; it’s a weird ball.

Once again I find myself trying to find that balance within myself….to be true to who I am and who I am not.  It’s times like this when I wish I were like my baby sis; she’s exceptionally good at being a football wife and mom (Go Saints!).   So, I tried very hard not to complain about watching a game in a room full of large men screaming profanity, surrounded by enough fattening food to feed (and kill) a small army.  I ate just one of those sinfully good Rotel cheese cups and kept repeating my mantra “those are poison” in order to not eat any more.  I didn’t drink wine preferring to wait until I was in the comfort of my home either listening to classical music or watching something more entertaining than sports with my husband attentively by my side.

I can’t say I’ll ever love football….or even remotely like it…. but I can this:  My hubby is my home. I’d much rather have my hubby at home on game day…waving his ridiculous “Terrible Towel” and screaming at the set then having him another continent away.