Monday, October 31, 2011

Best (Worst?) Halloween Story Ever

My children are named Simon and Theo, and not for The Chipmunks, though we acknowledged, even at the second birth, that this connection would be made.

One Halloween, we went so far as to dress them as their chipmunk namesakes. I, Amy, was the remaining chipmunk, Alvin.

At thrift stores I found long turtlenecks in red, blue and green. For Simon I found black glasses (which would complete a Harry Potter costume a few years later), and for me, a red cap.

However, the costumes didn't feel finished with only these suggestive hints toward the characters. I tried shading with brown makeup to highlight chubby chipmunk cheeks, but the look still wasn't complete.

Teeth, I thought. The defining feature of a chipmunk is its teeth.

Once again I experimented with makeup, thinking I'd black out all but their front two top teeth. The makeup for this was waxy and wouldn't stay stuck. I'll just buy teeth, I thought.

I drove to several costume shops and quickly determined that their stash of brown with crowns wouldn't do.

At the last store, a saleswoman approached me. By now I'm tired of this hunt, so I come right out with it.

"Do you have buck teeth?" I ask.

She opened her mouth to answer, and I saw that she did.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Sacrament of Work

There's an element of vulnerability in each of the jobs I do that sometimes shatters me.

The ex-offenders entrust their stories to me, the playwright, to find ways to communicate them to a broader audience. Today I heard stories of stabbings and molestation. And repentance. I am the keeper of these stories.

For my book project, I've been given the journals of a woman who died in a car crash. That her former husband would hand me this tall pile is humbling, and to read her private thoughts a sacred act. I met with the man who killed her because he would do anything for this family. He willingly gave me his very difficult story. Molestation. Murder. And forgiveness.

At the gym, one of my jobs is to clean exercise equipment. I know so many of the people who use these machines, their habits and schedules, that when I clean, I can picture who I'm cleaning for. I wipe away the sweat and dirt and make it new, for them.

A man I didn't know, running on a machine the other night, lied to me about his daughter's age. I caught him on it but tried to keep friendly, insisting that she could exercise today but not next time.

Later, as I cleaned a treadmill near him, he struck up a conversation. I stood holding my cleaning rags and talking; this posture, somehow, undid him.

"I'm sorry I lied," he said. "I'm so ashamed."

"It's okay," I said.

"I'm so ashamed." His family came back into the room. He had to leave; he moved toward the cleaning station in order to do the expected quick wipedown after his workout.

"I'll clean it for you," I said.

"No. Are you sure? No, I'll--"

"I'll do it."

I sprayed down the machine, and all that wasn't clean was wiped away.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

This Pill, Broken For You

I'm reading The New Yorker today and in a theatre review see the name of an actor I once knew. This happens here and there for those of us in the business: You're at the movies, a face appears onscreen, and either you yell out the actor's name right then in your surprise, or else a vague feeling of intimacy sweeps over you, ultimately giving way to the memory of communicating this guy's five-minute pre-show call in the shower. Stage managers spend a lot of time with undressed actors.

Throughout the 1990s, I worked in Pittsburgh theaters. For one particular festival, performers were brought in, sometimes with their own stage managers, and this was the case with the actor whose name came up today. With the other shows I'd usually call cues from the booth, but D's stage manager insisted that he sit up there, and that I wasn't really needed.

Then he ran up and down the aisles swinging a thurible of incense while chanting. I opted to sit offstage and keep quiet but available.

D had arrived in town wearing a neck brace and requiring extra care after a minor car accident, but he was performing well. He was funny. He filled his one man show with characters he could play with comic soul and depth, and I sat absorbed off left until the moment when he walked toward me--not entirely odd--and kept walking.

I froze. This was one of the main professional theaters in town, not some little back alley joint, and an actor doesn't leave the stage of his one person show. I'm not to be needed. The incense was intended to prevent moments like these.


I may have asked some clarifying questions in my horror. GREEN?


Then he calmly walked into the lights.

I dashed backstage, ran through the green room, burst into the dressing room. The green pill was there, as promised, but it was small. Cut it in half? How? I tried. It was crumbling.

If a little green pill is worth walking offtstage for, every bit of powder counts, I figured. I can't keep sawing.

So I used my teeth.

I stretched my lips out of the way and bit down. Then I stood offstage with the moist remains cupped in my hand.

D finished a character and headed toward me again. I raised my hands to him with all the solemnity of a Catholic priest. He took the pill, this shadowed figure backlit by the stage, his face in my hands. And then the show did go on, as it always finds a way to do.

Later that night, I would learn that D's neck pain hit him midshow, and he was grateful for my efforts. His stage manager thanked me for going against his wishes.

Eighteen years later, I think to myself that there's no way half a homeopathic pill kicked in before the end of the show, and that the effects were purely psychological. Also, that someone who would walk offtstage for half a pill midshow, and who was convinced it saved him, would have been horrified had he known that someone's saliva was involved.

But what he didn't know couldn't hurt him. Helped him, in fact.

I give full credit to the incense.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I Miss Him

Freddie went back to his rightful owners, and there's no longer anyone winking at me as I pass through the living room. Instead, I must contend with these damned sea monkeys, who swish and swirl and mate happily all the live long day. If the sea monkeys are a music video for Rare Earth's I Just Want To Celebrate, Freddie is Philip Glass--the same thing over and over with only the occasional changeup. His winks were among the few movements of his day. A much more manageable approach to life than the sea monkeys'...or is it?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How To Choose Your Kid's Sport, Part 2

Simon on his bike. Can you read the sign he made and pasted onto his back? "My dad made me do this."

After writing the first post on how my son and I are similar, and the ways I try to help him find a sport now instead of in his 40s, I realized I was a lot like him as a kid.

Never would I have had the wit or chutzpah to make a sign like this, but I certainly didn't take to athletic activity. And what I'm doing now with my son was also tried by my mother: buy the kid some athleticism and grace by enrolling in a class.

Mine was ballet.

Dear God.

The little pink plastic carrier opened at the top, for my leotard, and on the side, near the bottom, to hold my peach silk slippers. I liked the whole contraption. The class I could do without, but I was obedient back then, and did everything I was told. I plied and whatnot, without much flair.

Then one day I no longer had to go. Talk of "missing too many classes," "not allowed."

For years I referred to this as my "getting kicked out of ballet." Now, as a parent myself, I realize this was more about my mom than me. She didn't get me there, and surely I didn't remind her.

The thought counts for something. Though ballet is the last place I'd think to start a backward kid like me, it was among the few options available to little girls in my small western Pennsylvania town. It didn't take with me. Few physical endeavors did, though I would go on to play tennis in high school. Only in my mid-30s, when, in a pilates class, I felt my abdominal muscles contract, would I find the trigger for everything that followed.

Though I'm seemingly following in my mother's footsteps, the similarities end at handing over the money for a class. She would go on to find fault in much of my physical appearance, and I see now that ballet was just the beginning of trying to change me. But I am not trying to change Simon; rather, I'm trying to help him find that trigger to move him toward physical and emotional wellbeing. I'm convinced it lies in sports, for him, because the rest he has down. The comics that litter my dining room table are witty and well-crafted. The substitute lyrics for Justin Bieber's That Should Be Me, written on the spot this morning, were hilarious. He's a good boy.

We'll see how this wrestling business turns out. My little pink box ended up carrying Barbies instead of ballet shoes, and it's just as well, because now I carry a big Converse bag filled with boxing shoes and 12oz gloves. Simon's backpack, when he left this morning, held his shorts for afterschool practice, and I have to wonder what it will hold next.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

One Mean Dolphin Sandwich

Music on the way to a massage: Nine Inch Nails

Music at the massage: ocean waves/pan flute/dolphins

Music on way home from massage: Nine Inch Nails

Monday, October 24, 2011

What I Do With Bananas

As I am unable to reconcile banana carb counts with skin and without*, I choose to go without--which means if I'm packing a banana for my diabetic son to take to school, it must be peeled, then wrapped again.

So I make squids.

Simon's photo doesn't quite capture both eyes of my giant squid, but you get the idea. I hear he's pretty slimy by lunchtime. Realistic!

*Advice on this from you other d-moms would be appreciated. We do 6g per 1-oz unpeeled.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

How To Choose A Sport

There are two types of people in the world: those who watch boxing movies and then want to beat someone up, and those who watch them and don't.

My family splits down the middle.

Simon, 11, is a lot like his mom. He's gentle, and yet you sense a buried fierceness in there. He's strong. At his age, he is unable to harness any of that power, but he's drawn to try.

Only to a point. Also like his mother, Simon suffers from attachment issues, and he's not about to give himself completely to anything he enjoys. Disappointment may come, so why get involved in the first place?

When I first saw him punch, I knew he loved it. I held the mitts for him here at home and encouraged him to keep going. Nah, he said, and headed back for his book.

When he came home from school after a PE class in wrestling, I saw him beam with delight. I got to flip a kid onto the mat! he said. Then he went back to his book.

I stopped in to talk to the PE teacher about the wrestling. Among the list of concerns I had was Simon's lack of body awareness--he's awkward, and doesn't move from his core. Won't he get hurt?

The teacher eased my fears. He told me about his own son, a nonathlete, and how this was a great sport for him. After talking it over with Greg, about how we've got to get the kid in something, how the moodiness is here, the deodorant is needed, he needs an outlet and fast, I signed up Simon. And he was horrified.

But he made it through the first week, with a promise from me that he can be done in a month, when the class finishes. I told him day one will not look anything like the last week. That we can't be good at something all at once. How his wits will save him in a sport like this. That he needs to learn what it feels like to literally throw himself into something and see it through to the end.

My prediction: He'll enjoy it but won't want to do it again, and we'll have to start this process over (we've tried your basic boot camp classes here and there, as well). He likes swimming, but that won't provide the aggression outlet. Boxing requires too much core and legs, and he's not ready. Football, too much agility.

I'm running out of sports that suit his personality, which is where you need to begin. I, for one, could never take up running. People in my circle are always running 5Ks, but I could never run a 5K. This is not a matter of strength or endurance. My mind will not let me do anything hovering on the brink of tedium; ask me sometime about my foray into knitting. The only way you'd ever find me running a race was if zombies were chasing me.

So while any race is hard work, which I would never discredit, running is not the sport for me. Personality and sport must meet somewhere, and mine tend toward power and a higher level of risk. Why do it otherwise?

Simon is 11 years old and 115 pounds. If he leans into me, I could fall over. I've told him that the minute I can no longer pick him up, I'll stop feeding him. (He's got a while--I can pick up his father.)

After watching a boxing clip with me, he exclaimed, I just want to BEAT SOMEONE UP! I really do! He was downright beside himself.

Me, too! I said.

Then he went back to his book, and I to my blog.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

RERUN: How To Get To The Other Side

Hello? Are you there? I've committed to writing a post a day this month. Today, I am full of feeling but out of ideas. Here's an old one that captures some of what I want to say, and thankfully, I've said it already.


The introduction of Roadkill, the armadillo character in the film Rango, is startling: a tire width indentation has cut through his middle, leaving tread tracks, and he struggles for breath. The animation here is more realism than not, and the effect is disturbing. Yet you can't look away, and the view from your seat places you directly into his struggle as he says, "I must get to the other side."

The other side, he's heard, is where enlightenment is to be found. He knows this is a metaphor, even; "We all have our journeys to make." Over the course of the film, the lead character Rango, a chameleon, will find this to be true, and when the two characters meet again on the other side, some wisdom has indeed been gained, the smoke cleared.

The other side, however, is just that, and each creature must return to the side from whence he came. The armadillo, still a bit battered, must hope that traffic patterns align with his stars, and Rango must return to the site of all that led him to his new revelations, one fraught with large snakes and despairing souls brought so low they could be capable of anything.

Even when we've reached the other side, we need to go back.

There is no arriving, then. There is arriving, regrouping, and returning. And you will most likely be battered and bruised as early as the first leg of that journey.

In my bathroom right now there is one butterfly and four chrysalises. We have watched as tiny caterpillars became small ones, then large ones, then fat ones, and as they made their way upward to hang, upside down, for about a week's time. Inside the chrysalis, a caterpillar's parts turn to soup; and in one of nature's most miraculous events, that fat furry caterpillar becomes a fragile, flying thing of beauty.

In the hours after it emerges, the butterfly doesn't yet know what it can do.

And soon, we'll release it outside, where dangers abound.

But the caterpillar can now fly. The next stage of its journey has begun.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Because I Could Get Hit By A Bus

With the insurance paperwork, multiple doctors, a list of prescriptions, school forms and daily tasks, managing a child's type 1 diabetes feels a lot like a part-time job that lasts all day. It's not the only thing you do, but it's something you do all day long, and hopefully, there's a team of at least one working with you. My husband gets cc'ed on any diabetes-related email I write, because he might be the one to get the call from school tomorrow. Any insulin dose change gets written into our log, highlighted with a post-it, and verbally called out to Greg (or virally: You saw the Levemir change tonight, Dear?)

This system of cross-referencing at every turn makes this "job" feel like one I did many years ago. As a stage manager in professional theaters, I kept many a prompt book, which contained all the information needed to run a performance. Light cues, actors' blocking, costume notes...all in there. I was groomed in the "hit by a bus" school of stage management, which instructed us to be so clear as to be able to be dead and yet: the show would go on.

With diabetes, I have to think this way. I have to organize in a highly logical fashion, because Greg needs to be able to make decisions in my absence, and vice versa.

It's a very practical method, if a bit morbid and facetious, but selfless, too. Others come first: the show must go on, your death be damned.

What if we approached every job, every day, like this?

If this is all there is, how might I best spend today? What's best for those left? Have I done the best job I can with what I've been given?

It's tough to sustain this day in and day out, both on the job and as an approach to life. Today, there were things I did not do that I should have, and words left unsaid.

But I'm indoors now, and counting on tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Putting the Personal In Tire Flipping

My left arm will not extend above my head. Yesterday, I couldn't make use of either forearm.

I blame the tire flipping.

Lately, I've been trying new approaches to my exercise routine. A little P90x here, some basic grunty strength training there. Raw, straightforward lifting no longer does for me what it once did, and though I've lost strength, I don't miss it a bit. I often spend my Y time on power routines, hence the tire flipping. It's only a hundred pounds, so I thought I'd do a 3 minute round. Then another. Then I couldn't use my forearms.

After not vomiting, I wondered how it is possible to kick my own butt. Shouldn't it be like tickling--impossible to do to yourself?

When I design workouts for my husband, I know to avoid anything he might find tedious. I need to throw in supersets and some crazy stuff no one else in the weight room is doing. That's why it's called personal training--you tailor it to the person.

One of my coworkers saw me arrive to take his shift one day not long ago and declared, "Train me, Amy." I'm looking at him--young, big, soccer player, rides a motorcycle to work--and made some quick assessments. One, he's an athlete. Two, he's a bit of a wild man in need of excitement. Three, he just got out of school for personal training and doesn't need me instructing him in your basic moves.

Before you know it, I've got a barbell loaded up and standing on one end, and a fellow trainer is commenting, "Now that's a broken nose waiting to happen."

I knew he wouldn't sue me, and I knew he'd love it, which is why I chose the exercises I did. I was right on both counts.

Now I'm prepping to train a woman I don't know well. She's told me the muscles that give her trouble, and she names these with remarkable precision, due to her professional field. She's had some injuries, and I need to take it easy with her.

No tire flipping. No one size fits all.

So even though I'm the one you find in the weight room hanging upside down off the back extension, I can't be asking that of her. I'll keep things controlled but challenging, and be ready to adapt when necessary.

I like being imaginative and unique, but I realize the need to pull out your basic meat and potatoes once in a while.

With maybe a little gourmet dish on the side.

There's a smaller tire near the hundred pounder, after all. A minute wouldn't hurt anybody, right?

blogging every day, trying not to be like this

Monday, October 17, 2011

Meet Bobby, Frank, Fred and Charlie (RIP)

Just hours after Dottie's departure, we saved these sweet little mice from the jaws of some cagebound rattler. You call 'em feeder mice, we call 'em pets; a buck seventy-five's worth of utter cuteness.

(Charlie, seen here in the food dish, died during the night. Ah, but do not grieve for him; he lived a short, eventful life.)

(blogging through November but trying not to be like this)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mr. Rogers Was Right

Here's a reprint of a post from November 2009. Some of the details have changed--I'm now nearly 41, and my dress size keeps shrinking--but the essence of what's here is still on my mind today.


Since 1985, English musician and musicologist Clive Wearing has had what neurologist Oliver Sacks calls "the most devastating case of amnesia ever recorded": a memory span of mere seconds. Along with the present his past has slipped away as well, including the memory of meeting his wife, Deborah, and falling in love with her.

Yet emotional memory provides Clive with a basis to remember Deborah at a fundamental level, as Sacks writes in "The Abyss" (The New Yorker, September 24, 2007):
For many years he failed to recognize Deborah if she chanced to walk past, and even now he cannot say what she looks like unless he is actually looking at her. Her appearance, her voice, her scent, the way they behave with each other, and the intensity of their emotions and interactions--all this confirms her identity, and his own.
To Clive, his wife was more than the sum of her parts, and was, in fact, unrecognizable in parts; but taken wholly, she was Deborah. The essence of the woman he loved was something Clive could never forget.

It's a moving story, and it's helpful in getting amateur actors to understand that a simple posture change does not a character make. Yes, you may need to lower your voice, thrust out your jaw, and slouch a little, but if these traits fail to converge into the core of a character, your portrayal will not ring true.

Off the stage, I find the story reassuring.

As a mother about to begin her fortieth year, I think a lot about identity. As a woman down to size 4 from an 18 (Greg says I'm "every woman in the world" to him), I often wonder about what's left when you strip the non-essentials away.

Attending my twentieth high school reunion last year was interesting in this regard, as was my short sojourn on facebook. After 15, 20 years, you are distilled down in the minds of people from your past, and it's surprising what they'll think, say, and expect. That's a book right there, but I'll just say that the Distillation of Amy was mostly positive, leaving me pleased, if somewhat bitter ("If you all liked me so much, why didn't I have more dates?").

On Monday night at the homeless shelter, I noticed three things:
1. nobody laughed at my jokes,
2. my deep thoughts were quickly bypassed,
3. everybody was glad to have me there.

Reconciling these observations took some time, I tell you. I like to think that at some level I'm funny and interesting, and if pressed I'd say these qualities make people want to be around me, if they do at all. Take away a small-busted gal's sense of humor, and what's she got?

But here was a roomful of people who liked me for me.

Much as I like to define myself by my wit, intellect, or deltoids, these women respond to something deeper at the core of who I am. It's humbling both to have your best traits ignored and to be appreciated anyway. Humbling, healthy, and right on.

(here's someone who says it best)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Goodbye Dottie

I will be the first to admit that I've used the term "evil" when referring to our bunny.

And that maybe on occasion I've let her out to "play" in the backyard until a neighbor knocked on the door to report that "the bunny has escaped." This only happened two times. Maybe three.

But I meant it when I told my son that sometimes, when we love someone, we have to let them go. We have to do what's best for them, which may not be what we want. And maybe I didn't bring up the parts about them coming back if they were really yours, etc.

Dottie first came home with us about five years ago, while Greg was traveling in Uganda. Internet connections were spotty, and I remember getting out a short email that said, "And by the way, we have a pet." Dottie unofficially became Simon's pet, arriving right when he needed something furry to hug and hold. She stayed in his room at our first apartment in Grand Rapids; I have pictures of him reading with her on his lap.

When we moved to our new house, we tried giving Dottie her own little room in the basement, but soon we realized that the furnace was sucking in bunny fur and spreading it all over the house. Somehow, our animal allergies weren't triggered back in the apartment, but here, both Greg and I really suffered. Dottie moved to the garage.

In good weather, we'd move her outdoors for the day. But in winter, she stayed in the garage. You don't send your kids to play in the garage in Michigan in February. Dottie was fed and cared for, but we couldn't give her the time she deserved. Too, the kids loved her, but it began to be an "in theory" love that Greg and I noticed wasn't fleshed out with any action.

So when our new neighbors asked us some bunny care questions, I told them to hold off on that purchase. I talked to Simon and planted the idea that with winter coming, maybe Dottie would have a better life with them. We had approached this topic last year, but he wasn't ready. Again, I let him make the decision.

Days later I was ichatting with Greg, who this time was in Ukraine.
"Remember how, when you were in Uganda, we got a pet?" I wrote.
"Uh oh."
"No, it's all good."

The family came today to get Dottie and all her earthly belongings. I apologized for her long nails, but they didn't care--the young girl just wanted to brush her fur, and the dad dreamed aloud of specs for the cage he would build. He told me of their fenced-in backyard, and the room waiting in their basement. And does she like the peel of apples, or just the core, or should he peel some slices?

She'll be fine. As will we; Simon knows he made a good decision, and frankly, he's grateful to be relieved of cleaning duties.

Plus, I promised a hamster.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Your Friday Sea Monkey Update

Big mommas: running the place
Babies: growing faster than you can say, "But where's its crown?"
Stud monkey: expired

Thursday, October 13, 2011

In The Stars For Me: A Man

SCORPIO (Oct. 23 - Nov. 21)--You've been looking forward to promoting a certain idea for some time, and today's evolution tells you that the time is now.

I had read my horoscope not long after saying this to my coach: "I need a man."

While on the heavy bag, a girl approached me. We had been partners last week, and I liked her--tall, thin, peppy, with a pleasant demeanor. She had boxed just a little in Ohio before moving back here.

"You ever street fight?" she asked me.
"No," I said.
"Really. Why--have you?" I couldn't quite picture it.
"Oh yeah. Twelve, maybe 15 times. You can do anything in a street fight--claw, scratch, pull they hair."
"And what's that like?"
"It feels good. That's why I took up boxing. Because when I street fight, I make sure I win."

Next thing I know the coach is asking me if I can spar the next night. I couldn't. Woulda been with hair-pulling girl. She's working hard on technique, but I can't imagine that her do-or-die instincts are fully knocked out quite yet.

"How about a man?" I said to the coach. It's not unheard of to spar males with females, but in my gym you don't see it. I hadn't had an opponent for awhile because the female contingent was limited. Now that more are showing up, the coaches are looking to me to spar them.

Some of you might be wondering why I consider it safer to spar with a man than a woman, no matter how crazy she may be. Because craziness is key--I'm not sure what she might do, and if the coaches would catch her beforehand. Things happen fast, and it's her instincts I'm worried about, not her motives. Whereas we had one girl step on her opponent's foot, holding her in place while she snapped her head up. Could have called it an accident except hmmm, she did it again.

Generally speaking, the guys in our gym are the most dedicated of the sexes. They're the ones jumping rope, sparring intensely, getting their roadwork in outside of gym time. A few are smart enough to know how to control their power with someone like me; if they do this, my game will step up a good deal in order to meet their fancy footwork and combos.

It's just what I need: A man. The coach said he'd think about it. But I'm pretty sure it's in the stars.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Amazing The Stuff You Find Online

Happened on this photo from the conference I taught last year. Participating in my theatre exercise here, in the foreground, is Doug Berky, a very funny guy.

Also found this video, wherein I wave my hands a lot when I talk. Must be those Italian genes.

And then this photo, which my husband says looks like I'm flipping someone off.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Category Can't Contain This

Lisa over at The Glowing Edge has my blog listed under "Women and Sports." Girlboxing has me under "Boxing Blogs." And D-Mom Blog has me as a D-Mom, of course: a mom of a type 1 diabetic.

But when I signed up for National Blog Posting Month in October, those categories didn't exist. Their list includes health, hobbies and anonymous foaming. I went for "Humor."

Looking now over the posts of the last 10 days, I'd call about half of them funny. Like, if there was a funny meter, the arrow would point just past the middle.

There are a couple sad ones, like yesterday's; thoughtful ones, like the one about my theatre work with former prisoners; and then a few I read later and wonder why I chose to bring up that topic in public.

I'll work on the funny. In fact, I'm saving one of my funniest stories for the last day of this month. It's Halloween-themed, but my kids make me tell it to them all year round. So stick around, you.

blogging every day whether you like it or not

Monday, October 10, 2011

A1celebration (under a dark cloud)

The body's report card validated our work: Theo's A1c level was 6.9 today, down from 8.3 three months ago.

Good control of diabetes prevents future complications, and this number proves we have good control. We were patted on the back for our work. I felt really proud sitting there with my healthy son, a big binder spilling intensive insulin therapy worksheets onto my lap.

Good control prevents future complications. Control + genes = risk for complications. Genes are unchageable, which is why our endocrinologist focuses his efforts on control. He's a brilliant man. He talks more about the books my kids are reading than diabetes, and I really like him for that.

At an appointment the day after our diagnosis, the nurse had to step out of the room for a moment. I picked up a brochure from the handful of materials we were to take home that day, and just as she reentered the room, I casually flipped it over to read the back. "Uh uh," she said, gently taking it from me. "You don't need to be thinking about all that right now."

It was a list of all the health problems that could happen to my son. She was right; day two was not the time.

I took her cue, though, and avoided this talk for a long while. I held firm to the good control rule. I'd will the complications away with my math and diligence.

Until last week, when Theo had his diabetic retinopathy exam. He looked good, which the doc said he would use as a baseline before seeing us back in a year. We'll be like this next year, I knew, because we have good control.

"We'll avoid eye problems because we have good control," I said to him with confidence, not even bothering to phrase this as a question.

"Uh, no, unfortunately," he said. He kindly explained that the exams are held to catch and treat problems early. He looked me in the eyes and pretended they weren't filling with tears.

Today, at the endocrinologist, after a discussion of the children's book series The Time Warp Trio, I asked Dr. P about diabetic retinopathy. He gave me a thorough view of all sides, reassuring me that our good control would indeed make a difference.

And then he reminded me that none of life is completely in our hands.

When you spend every day counting every carb in everything your kid eats, it's hard to believe you're not God. And yet there are days when we do everything right, and his blood sugar runs high or low with no explanation.

Keeping all these charts are life's games that we must continue to play, but might not win. And yet today, we'll celebrate our small victory.

blogging every day in October

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Saturday, October 8, 2011

My New Boxing Gear

Initially I had chosen some cheaper gloves, but when they didn't fit right, TITLE Boxing hooked me up. I love you, TITLE!

These gloves have both gel and foam, which protect my old lady hands. I went back to regular wraps (instead of gel) with them, though, and suffered, at least in one hand. Let's blame it on my powerful right, shall we? Because I like the gloves. And all the coaches were jealous.

These shoes are listed at TITLE as boxing shoes, but they came with a tag that labeled them "wrestling." My man at TITLE--yes, they treat me as if I, a beginning boxer, am I major account--told me they're for both sports. The extra ankle support takes some getting used to, but I'm tired of the tread on my usual trainers grabbing the cloth in the ring.

And I couldn't resist the wasp on the bottom of this shoe, but once I owned them, the metaphor tripped me up. Do I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, or simply smoosh them with my new shoes? Either way: badass. Shiny and badass.

And finally,

When I've been boxing, I tend to bob and weave a lot--with my car.

Maybe I should ask TITLE about this.

(for National Blog Posting Month)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Favorite Lines from James Thurber's The 13 Clocks (so far)

"He wore an indescribable hat, his eyes were wide and astonished, as if everything were happening for the first time, and he had a dark, describable beard."

"'If you have nothing better than your songs,' he said, 'You are somewhat less than much, and only a little more than anything.'"

"'Half the places I have been to, never were. I make things up. Half the things I say are there cannot be found. When I was young I told a tale of buried gold, and men from leagues around dug in the woods. I dug myself.'
'But why?'
'I thought the tale of treasure might be true.'
'You said you made it up.'
'I know I did, but then I didn't know I had. I forget things, too.'"

(for No D DAY)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Guilt Trip for Greg

A couple of days into Greg's trip to Ukraine, there were guys all over the house. My own two boys, running around playing; a friend, mowing the lawn; and a friend of the boys, whom I found digging. His plan was to extend the nearby creek into our backyard. I stopped him.

Last night I saw that my left headlight was burnt out, yet another reminder of the need for my man in the house:

Shortly after this video was taken, I had the idea to open the instruction manual. It was determined that pliers are not actually needed for changing bulbs. I followed directions, and yet:

Got my hands into the greasiness again. Was getting late for work. Cursing Greg. But then this:

The Chore List: A Non-Traditional Primer

My supervisor, the health and wellness director at our Y, seemed genuinely surprised when I said there's exercise on my kids' chore list. So did someone else, when I mentioned it. Which got me thinking that maybe not every parent pays their kids to do jumping jacks.

It started this summer. I'd been frustrated handing out money at the end of each week though my kids, good ones at that, hadn't really applied themselves around the house. I also didn't know how it was possible for them to feel full from supper after dropping a significant portion of the meal onto the floor below, and leaving it there for the ants to parade through.

At the same time, I was frustrated with myself. There I was, 40 years old, starting a new sport, doing pretty well but knowing I'd be better had I started 20 years earlier. (Reference the recent Mayweather-Ortiz fight; few believed the ancient 34-year-old Floyd could keep up with a man ten years his junior.) Why hadn't anyone got me going earlier?

My kids approach the body as I did for about three and a half decades: arms are for holding books, not barbells. Reading is, well, fundamental; but moving is just as important, especially at their age, and the only way I could make sure it happened was to enforce it rigorously. My younger son has type 1 diabetes, and tends to need more insulin in the summer when school isn't demanding all his energy; this needed fixing (more insulin=bad).

Hence my summer chart, which included the following categories:
How Can I Move? How Can I Help? How Can I Be Smart?

The goal was to accomplish something in most of the categories each day.

How Can I Be Smart? was covered easily with the reading. Drawing, writing, and making things also counted here.

For How Can I Help? I listed possible chores, but also put out the idea that helping others counts, too. When we go to the mentoring program at the boxing gym, we're helping others, even though we benefit, too. When we're kind, we help others.

How Can I Move? included various exercises. The butt-shaking contest we held yesterday, for example, would count here. (I won; the deciding factor was speed.) Other, more strenuous activities were listed, and eventually I had a separate chart announcing The 15-Mile Club. Simon met that by the end of the summer (and, uh, won the prize of a book).

Before bed, we'd fill in the chart by talking through the day. I can't say we got to this regularly enough, but I really liked the plan in general.

With the wide open days of summer behind us now, life needs to be a bit more structured, so a new chart will be revealed today. This one is narrowed down to chores and exercise, because I trust the smart and helping categories are becoming a regular part of their lives. But even the moving is, too; Theo's been spending a lot of free time hopping and climbing, and Simon came home from school after a PE class in wrestling just beaming. "I got to pick up a kid and throw him on the floor!" he said, a big smile on his face.

Then he picked up his book and sat down. It's progress.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Grunting: It's Natural

The kids on the playground were yelling.

"Sounds like torture going on out there," I said to the woman ringing up my soup mix.

"Yeah, that's every day," she said. "Yelling. I wish I would have yelled when I played."

"Never too late," I said, grabbing my change.

I spend a significant portion of my job, somehow, talking about this sort of thing, Usually it's while joking with guys in the weight room: "I knew you by your grunting," I'll tell a guy, because it's true. In a gym, the noises one makes are as identifiable as the voices, both of which I hear on a regular basis. Sometimes we'll debate the validity of making noise. Expressing oneself in this manner is somewhat of a vulnerable act, and it always calls to mind the woman who told me she made no noise during any of her four childbirths. Courage or repression, I wondered.

In my classes, I'm always yelling for my people to breathe during mitt work with me, as it's a natural tendency to hold one's breath while getting that big punch out. Hence the "sss" or "fff" methods of letting out some air with each punch. I'd been doing a pretty good job of making a lot of noise and spit, but lately more noise was coming out. Yells, even. And I'd recall that guys in my gym did a lot of "ha ha"-ing themselves. So I decided to follow my instincts and let it go.

Tonight this got me through some intense mittwork, my trainer backing me into the ropes at the end of the round when I was beat. So I let it out. Primal grunts assisted the work. I liked it. I'll keep this up--it gives me more energy than the little breaths. Probably a mouthguard will get in the way eventually, and maybe someone someday will teach me the "right" way to breathe while punching.

But for now, I'm yelling. No time like the present.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, Greg!

My husband, who is in Ukraine, turned or is turning 45, depending on when and where you read this. When we did a live chat with him this afternoon, midnight struck on his birthday, whereas it was still a day away here.

Follow his activities in Ukraine at this blog, or his general musical musings at his regular blog.

Check out his really cool brainchild of a database and his official website for all things Greg.

And wish this great man a great day!

Monday, October 3, 2011

In A Grand Rapids Boxing Gym The Monday After A Floyd Fight

What I expected came to pass: walk into the boxing gym that Monday, hear loud conversation making use of words like "headbutting," "legal," and "Pacquiao's next."

Floyd Mayweather being a native son, any talk of Saturday's fight was in his favor, the subtleties of sportsmanship drowning in deep loyalty. I'd wanted the opinion of the gym to help pull apart the images replaying in my mind: the knockout punch; Ortiz and his dropped hands; Floyd's empty gaze; the ref looking away. Were they on a break when the knockout happened? And even if the punch was legal, was it cool to do?

Clips are now all over the internet, and I see now that the ref clearly motioned for them to resume boxing. And that Floyd hesitated after that left hook, giving Ortiz enough time to cover, which he didn't take. Bam.

Watching the knockout live, in a theater full of people in Mayweather's hometown, was disconcerting. The break ended quickly, the ref's signal seen by Floyd but few others, which made those final two punches seem particularly menacing. The crowd roared, but my jaw dropped; it felt like watching a street fight. Clean shots. The guy just standing there. Pure, straightforward violence.

"He put it back into the boxing," a friend at the gym said. She was referring to revenge; Ortiz had headbutted Floyd's chin seconds earlier, an illegal move that only cost him a point, but could have slowed his opponent. Dirty fighting. Floyd took the fight back into the ring by waiting for the signal but not for his opponent. Bam. BAM.

That same night at the gym, we ran through stations with partners. I saw that one of the men on mitts was someone I worked with before, who stops by from another gym to help out.

I didn't like this guy.

The person with the mitts calls the shots, holds the power. This man was aggressive with me, probably due to inexperience. I learned a lot from him, but not in a way I prefer. He'd lunge at me. Run at me. Call out a couple of punches, which I'd execute, and then suddenly shove me around the ring with his body.

Apparently I was supposed to fall into a pseudo-sparring mode--I think--but no one told me that. I thought I was hitting mitts. I threw out my right elbow a little, something I never do.

(Fortunately he ended the round by having me punch him in the face multiple times. He was demonstrating how to catch a punch, whereas I was appreciating the opportunity with full-on violence.)

Power: he held all of it.

I told my partner and she took him for me, and I worked with another guy. My friend and I are going to spar soon. She has 40 pounds on me and seven years, but I'm in better shape than she is. The pounds don't worry me, because I trust her. She'll give me as good of a fight as I want, but she won't be looking to hurt me. It's going to be a lot of fun.

It got me thinking back to Floyd. Separate out the boxer from the man, and you may just be on his side. The man used his power appropriately, cunningly, within the rules, something not everyone knows how to do.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sure, Yeah, Why Not.

I'm going to try to write every day this month. I think. Yeah. Maybe I'll head on over to NaBloPoMo and sign up again.

I need an outlet for recording the little moments, such as finding a fake mustache on my laundry room floor today. Events like this clearly need to make their way out into the world.

You with me?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Degrees of Separation

After watching a video of "Even In the Darkest Place," a reading by former prisoners, a man new to the group had a question.

What's the purpose of telling your crime? he asked. I had written it into the script, five men announcing what they did and how much time they did for it. It happens at the end of the play, after you've heard their stories and come to like them.

Some of the men answered him, claiming it's better to get the truth out of the way and let people think what they will. I explained a little of the history, an essay's worth of a story I'll someday write. It all made sense to him, he said, but he wouldn't do it.

My crime is worse than all of yours, he said.

We all think that, Tony, someone said.

But it's true for me, he said.

I have to admit that when I wrote this part into the script, I didn't know how to fill in the blanks. "My name is ______ ," I typed. "I did ___ years for _________ ."

At the first read-through, as the men filled in the sentences, I scribbled in what they said. But look now at that first draft, where I got down only this: "murder." "Twenty-one years." Apparently I didn't take in much after "murder."

Second-degree, though--the man probably caused a car crash while intoxicated, something like that. Very bad, but not intentional. Second degree.

Then came "CSC." I googled it at home: criminal sexual conduct. I started noticing write-ups in the newspapers--men who went after young girls and boys were charged with CSC. I hated them.

And now this: men I've come to respect did something sexual, criminal. Men whose lives have clearly turned all the way around. Men who are repentant. Who did their time.

But what did they do?

And what will I do when I know?

It's precisely why I wrote that part into the play: The audience must face their feelings toward these men now that they know the truth. And here I am, not knowing the full truth, nor what I'd do if I found out.

To rank the worthiness of men according to what they've done: Maybe my crime is worse than theirs.