Thursday, August 25, 2011


I've known for some time that I have allowed myself to get really out of shape.

Alright... stop right there - don't you dare sit there thinking 'oh, please! you look fine' which is usually the response I get when I say that. Believe me, there is a VAST difference in being thin (which I'm definitely lucky enough to be without a whole lot of work) and being in shape.

I used to walk a 3.5 mile trek every day at the fastest speed I could muster without it turning into a jog... I don't believe in jogging. Mixed in with that, I was pretty consistent about also doing about 45 minutes of yoga in the evenings. I would venture to say that was probably the best shape I have been in post high school track. And then I started dating Roger.

It was WAY more fun to talk on the phone til all hours or go out for dinner and a movie than it was to keep any sort of schedule, and so I let my daily walks turn into a couple of times a week... which turned into once a week... which eventually stopped. At some point even Roger, who was just crazy enough to enjoy running, let working out go by the wayside in exchange for snuggling on the couch. I'm not going to exaggerate big time and say the pounds packed on, although a few did, but my flexibility, my endurance, and just the ability to keep my heart rate down while being over-animated for my students started to slide.

The indicator that has really done it for me though is my legs. I'm not referring to the chicken-like stature of my lower limbs but the "squish" factor. Over the course of 4-5 years my lower half has developed... "squish"... a mixture of "fluff" and a lack of muscle tone.

With not a whole lot to fill my evenings, if and when I actually get to leave the school, I decided about a month ago to join a gym. I purposely picked one that catered to my lack of motivation and ability to keep a schedule outside of the band hall. :) After a couple of weeks of huffing and puffing my way through half-hour elliptical sessions, I actually arranged my complimentary training session, after which I was conned into hiring a personal trainer for the semester.

A semester...

Tonight was my first official workout with the trainer chick, and there are about 2 muscles in my body that are not revolting against me in some form, and those are in my mouth. Although most of my projects become long-term projects (my bathroom wall is still 2 different colors like it was 2 weeks ago), I am embarking on a true long-term project that I am fully committed to, if for no other reason than because I am financially bound to actually attend. While the majority of the tasks I undertake are aesthetic and purely for visual pleasure, I think it is fitting that in this time of life-changing growth and new development I take on Project:Me to be healthier, feel better, sleep better, and "treat" myself in a way that is generally more worthwhile than the occasional 89 cent 5 layer nacho from Taco Bell, which I freely admit was my dinner last night... yum... fake chili... :)

No pictures to follow... unless of course I find a visible muscle.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


It’s been six months on my own. I finally feel like I have a “normal” groove and fit into my own life again. I find I am both relieved and sad that life feels “normal”. Everything about my day to day has been a rollercoaster for so long that having no significant worry or tragedy looming over me is almost bizarre. By no means is life stress-free! My job has my every thought and ounce of energy booked through Thanksgiving, but that is a stress I know how to handle.

I have several pictures of Roger and I on the piano from the memorial. I have to admit I haven’t stared at them in quite a while like I used to. But yesterday I happened to look in that direction, and my eye was caught by a picture of us from before we were married, looking so carefree, relaxed, and happy. I literally felt my heart flutter, that same rush of adrenaline you get the first time you’re kissed or in those early stages of a relationship when a simple look is enough to make your stomach fall. But sadly, it wasn’t a tender thought or loving memory that brought it on. It was the realization that that all just happened!

It’s not like I ever forget; how could I. But I am constantly reminded after however brief or long a period of calm that I just went through the most horrific shit storm and that all the wonderful and crappy moments of the last four and a half years were MY life. I am both deeply embedded and extricated from my own reality, and that is a strange level of consciousness I must say.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Painting with a Twist

What do you with 2 gallons of an impulse paint purchase of two colors that you swore you would love in your toilet room only to discover that not only do you hate it but you also realize you have $50 in paint that you will never use ANYWHERE?

You create a $68 masterpiece!!!

Earlier this summer I found these rugs at Ikea that I decided I must have. They are teal shag rugs with shag thick enough to be worms that feel wonderful under your feet and are favorites of my doglets. In fact, I wasn't sold on keeping them until I saw how much Lucy and Scarlet loved curling up in the shag. The problem with the rugs was that I don't have that teal color anywhere else in my house, so they looked very out of place. Not only that, but the teal made my bathroom cabinets look even more yellowy than before which was why I finally mustered the energy to paint them. The result is the picture below. 

You can just see the teal rug at the bottom. In case you forgot what they looked like before, here is the horrible picture from a month or so ago:

Soooo much better in my opinion. But again, there was the problem with needing a repetition of the teal color somewhere else in the bathroom to make it cohesive and not out of place. My stupid idea was to paint my tiny toilet room with the back wall in teal and the other 3 a lighter shade from the same paint chip. OMG, that idea sucked... I'm not even willing to show you a picture of what it currently looks like. Maybe that will be tomorrow's project. 

I've decided to paint the toilet room either the brown of my bedroom or the lighter chocolate-y color of my living room, maybe even a mixture of the two. But I still felt the need to repeat the teal somewhere in there... And find a use for $50 worth of very color specific paint. 

After our region meeting I went to Hobby Lobby and purchased 3 canvases and some green Frog Tape. I taped some designs onto the canvases and started painting. The final product is the picture up at the top. I assure you they are teal and not the blue color they look like on my computer. I really like them! :) And now I can hang them on the wall and incorporate a color I really like without being inundated with teal vomit! 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Irish Photo Adventure!

A Journey in Pictures:

on the Dublin Viking Tour

at Gogarty's Pub prior to the Musical Pub Crawl
the entry stone to New Grange dating from 2000 BEFORE the pyramids

look at the idiots swimming and sunbathing...
Dunluce Castle

the Christmas Card picture at Giant's Causeway

my own picture of Minard Castle from the beach
the rocks washed up on the Minard beach and the clouds hanging like fog in the hills

and as we left, the sun crept through

casting a diffused glow on the hillside

until it was abnormally radiant AND hazy at the same time
a picture taken at the beehive huts that was a complete afterthought, but i really like it :) 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Ashes to Ireland Part III: Home to Minard Castle

After we made the decision to take Roger's ashes to Ireland, I immediately knew at least one place that the ashes must be spread.

On our honeymoon we drove to the small town of Dingle on the peninsula of the same name in Southwest Ireland. Dingle is in the heart of one of the few Gaeltachts (or Gaelic speaking regions) on the island and home to a number of prehistoric ruins from the original Celts that settled the region. Our travel guru Rick Steves guided us via book around the peninsula to 5000 year old beehive huts, fairy forts, and the remnants of potato fields from the famine that can seen to this day high on the hillsides. Mr. Steves then recommended we visit Minard Castle and a wedge tomb that requires a bit of hike. An adventure! :)

Roger and I spent the better part of a day looking for Minard (MIN-ard) Castle and the wedge tomb. At one point, we were on a completely wrong road, going incorrectly higher and higher into the mountains when we happened upon the most cliche of Irish women sitting on a trunk beside the road with a baby in a stroller and a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel. We stopped to ask if she knew how to find Minard Castle. She did, and while she happily gave us accurate directions, we in the process got to hear her lifestory, cooed over her beautiful granddaughter, discussed my sister's own King Charles, and just how curly my hair actually is all before she was willing to part with the directions. It was really sweet and crazy memorable.

After a number of turns on an equally tiny road, the trees parted, and before us stood the ruins of Minard Castle, a tower fort attacked by Oliver Cromwell during the Reformation, atop a hill overlooking an incredibly picturesque sandy beach. The picture above must be at high tide. (Again, not one of my pictures... I haven't uploaded them yet.)

Perhaps more memorable that the castle was the horse. Guarding the fractured tower was an enormous white horse that stood like a sentinel before the opened face of Minard Castle, completely still and kinda creepy. We watched this horse for some time, and at one point we even questioned whether it was truly real. It hadn't moved nonetheless blinked the entire time we were there. It just stood, staring into the cold waters, waiting for the next wave of angry Puritans to make landfall so it could shoot laser beams out of those unblinking eyes. I got lots of really great pictures of the castle and the horse. Roger decided we had to have a picture of him, the castle, and the horse statue, so he started to climb toward the castle. Not more than perhaps 20 feet up was a sign on the fence stating that entry was not allowed, that the castle is condemned and unsafe for visitors. He tried to reason with me, probably more with himself, that he didn't need to go all the way up to the castle, just a little higher, beyond the fence, to get the best picture. Just as he put his hand on the fence, hinting at his next forbidden move, the horse turned his head and looked at us! He knew...

I squealed with delight! :)

Of all the sites we visited in Ireland, the site that for whatever reason captivated Roger's memory and imagination the most was Minard Castle. I cannot begin to tell you how many times he called me to the computer to show me that he'd found the castle again on Google Maps. Only perhaps a week before his passing, Roger called me back to the office to see that there was an updated satellite image of Minard Castle on Google, and so we of course were required to recall the story of the horse and remember an easier time in our lives.

I knew how to get to the castle, but I was so afraid that my memory was going to be along the lines of Monasterboice that I insisted we do a trial run out there while the guys drank beer in town. We, the girls, drove just outside of Dingle and found it in no time. There were quite a few people on the little beach, and I hoped that they would clear before we returned after dinner with the ashes.

By the time we came back with the guys, there was one final car that was pulling away from the site. The sky was dark with clouds, many of them low enough to appear as fog. We parked opposite the beach. As we got out of the car, an entire herd of cows made their way as close to us as possible, curious as to why we were arriving so late. Joan, Roger's dad with the ashes, and I made our way down the little beach side road to the castle. A brook from an active spring ran between the castle and the beach out into the bay. Roger's dad decided the stream was the perfect spot for his portion of the ashes. I wanted to spread them as close to the castle as possible.

The three of us were very quiet. I found the castle to be as emotionally difficult as the cemetery. This was it. All that remained of my sweet husband was to be released here. The finality of that had not occurred to me prior to that moment. Beforehand, I was happy to be removing the ashes from my bookcase where they had sat for months. Now, the idea that every bit of him would physically be gone, permanently, was more than I could handle. Joan and I cried and hugged. I cried some more. I pretty much cried the duration of our stay down there and part of the way back.

With my first handful, I dressed the hillside. I returned for a second and walked up to the gate with the sign declaring prohibited entrance. As the wind was still, I threw the ash as far beyond the gate as I could. Roger may have not made it past the gate the first time, but he was successful that day.

Roger's father was standing on the little bridge above the stream. Periodically he dropped another handful into the water, watching it twirl in small whirlpools, mix with the current, and disappear into bay. It was mesmerizing. For some time I just stood there, content to watch. I took my own handful and allowed it fall, bit by bit, into the water, physically and symbolically letting go of Roger.

It was perfect. The kids and Dave were on the beach, spreading their last bit of ash. Roger's father had own final moments on the bridge. Joan stood by the stream, watching the ash wash away. I wandered around, trying to memorize everything about this moment because it was perfect. In that second I was positive I had done exactly what he wanted, and I was able to share this with his family.

I walked down to the beach. A barrier of tide driven rocks separated the road from the sand. The rocks were all rounded or ovular from being tossed at sea. Most were black, but there were other stones of reds and greens I had never seen before. I was specifically looking for a rock to take back to my mother when the idea struck me.

I knelt down to write Roger's name deep in the sand. I found 3 semi-flat bottomed rocks and built a cairn next to his name. My nephew Weston asked me what I was building and I explained that the Celts build cairns to mark important spots, and this was truly an important spot. Minard Castle is now the final resting place of a really great man, and I'm proud that we were able to muster the strength (and money) to free him in such a special and sacred way. The kids each found their own rocks to mark their own memory, and as the last stone was balanced we made our way back to the van.

As we drove away from Minard Castle, probably for my last time, the sun managed to filter through the foggy clouds so as to form a hazy column of light into the hillside. Dave noted that Roger must be pleased. I tried to take a picture of how beautiful that indirect presence of light was, but nothing I did rightly captured that moment. Almost as quickly as the sun broke through, it returned behind the clouds and raindrops hit our windshield once again.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Part II: Giant's Causeway

please do not be so sweet as to think i took this picture....
Two days after Roger's birthday we made the "long" trek through Northern Ireland up to Portrush and the Giant's Causeway. I jokingly say "long" because when Roger and I made the trip back in the day, the woman who owned our bed and breakfast was almost horrified that we were willing to drive ****3**** hours up and back in one day. Our response was that we live in Texas.... that's called driving to Dallas.

Giant's Causeway is a natural formation of basalt columns, remnants from volcanic activity, and unique to but a handful of spots around the globe. Science buffs would comment on the fracture lines specific to basalt, but I think it's simply amazing.

The trip to Portrush and the Antrim Coast (home to G.C.) was the first full day of our honeymoon. We arrived in Dublin around 10ish, figured out how the heck to drive on the wrong side of the road, and then made our way just south of the metro to a little town called Shankill where we called home for 3 nights. We stumbled bleery-eyed around Dublin, bound and determined to make our first day in Ireland profitable despite the downpour and flipped umbrella.... yes, my umbrella flip inside-out just like in Mary Poppins on day 1 of a 10 day trip. (I was secretly excited to find out umbrellas could really do that. :) :) )

Giant's Causeway was as amazing as I had read and seen on TV. Roger and I took lots of pictures down there. It also happened to be one of 2 days on our trip that didn't rain. The weather was gorgeous, the sky clear, and all was well in the world. Oh, the days that that were true. That was one of our favorite days on our honeymoon as we got to be adventurous and explore a new country in a car all of our own. I also had the best cappuccino of my life in a tiny internet cafe in Portrush, along with learning first hand that whiskey is as disgusting straight from the distillery source as it is in the US.

We got a bit later start on the way to GC this time with the William's clan. We got there just in time to have lunch at a cafe overlooking the north Atlantic. I was shocked by the number of idiots that felt 60 degrees was swimming weather. The beach was covered in.... idiots... wearing swim suits, emerging from the frigid ocean completely wet and dripping with.... idiocracy... Dude! It was cold! I have a picture of me in my long coat, scarf, wishing perhaps even for gloves while .... idiots... are swimming behind me. I actually called my mom from Ireland to tell her about these crazy peeps.

Before getting to the Causeway, we stopped at Dunluce Castle, a castle that has pretty much fallen apart but with enough still standing that the current renovations are giving a really great picture of how majestic this place once was. The kids were disappointed that the tiny plastic skeleton was no longer in the dungeon... as was I.

Finally, we made our way to the reason for this excursion, the spread of ashes at Giant's Causeway. It was as amazing to the clan as we had described, and we took lots of pictures with my tripod for this year's Christmas card. Roger would think that was pretty cool.

Probably 150 people were milling around on the first outcropping of basalt pillars. You can actually follow the coast for about a mile on a road/pathway that takes you past many examples of this wonder, but the majority of worldwide tourists stop at that first grouping. We decided that we should probably go to the other backside of this cropping to perform our ritual so as not to draw attention. Our intent was to spread the ashes in the ocean, but we also weren't sure how legal this might be.

The GC spread was not nearly the profound moment we had at Monasterboice, but still there was a heartfelt purpose that gave it weight and meaning. I didn't cry this time as Dave opened the ashes. We all took an unannounced moment of silence as I reached into the box. While still unnerving, I wasn't moved to break-down, just slow, mechanical breathing. I took a few steps aside, closer to the water, standing on two basalt stones close to the shore. In my heart, I whispered to Roger. I turned my hand to let the ashes fall into the inlet... just as the wind began to blow.

The ashes took flight, soaring quickly and with purpose, directly into Dave's mouth. Our eyes widened in disbelief. Someone gasped in horror. Dave spit.

How could you NOT laugh? I mean, this is exactly the kind of thing that you would never want to happen, especially to yourself, and yet it was so fitting in this comedy of errors in which we found ourselves... The missed flights, the lost luggage, the standard transmission, convincing the tram driver to accept our Euros in Northern Ireland (a good ole British Pound based country) because we were "poor Texans" as Roger's father described us with a thick slathering of Texas accent. Inadvertently eating ashes is just the next in a line of classic conundrums unique to slapstick or at least a mediocre Woody Allen flick.

Roger's parents spread their ashes more carefully into the cracks of the pillars and the patches of grass growing between. Kim, Dave, the midgets, and I decided to hike a bit closer to the water in hopes of the ash actually making it to the sea. Maneuvering up and down the pillars to reach the water took some skill  and with it was born the quote of the trip from none other than my sweetly naive 7 year old niece:

"We need to be really careful as we spread Roger's ashes... And we need to try to keep Roger out of our mouths."

Oh my goodness we laughed again. The seriousness with which she said it was enough to laugh to the point of tears, which suddenly shifted to actual tears in just another example of these uncanny emotional shifts at which I am now a pro. The last time we were there, Roger was standing on a similar pair of stones taking a picture of a crab in a tiny tidal pool. And here I was, allowing the tide to take him away.

There was one stone about  4 or 5 inches in the water, like a stepping stone, that I wanted to stand on to guarantee water contact. Without going through the long story of my begrudging purchase of Reebok shape-up shoes, it is important to know that I was wearing these crazy shoes with weird balled soles. Dave was standing a few pillars higher, holding the ashes. I reached up to take a handful, and I stepped down and out onto the stepping stone. The ball of my foot made contact and, without my consent, rolled forward, catching a chunk of moss I had not noticed. I lost traction and felt myself falling very quickly, face first, toward the water. I was now on survival-mode auto-pilot. My hand with the ashes planted down on the rock by my foot, surprisingly saving myself from a certain icy bath.

I looked back at my companions, shocked that I was still dry! Their eyes were again huge in disbelief, and we for a third time erupted into laughter. If there was any doubt Roger had a hand in our GC excursion, surely any of these episodes proved otherwise. We giggled and looked back to see if his parents had noticed my almost-horrendous accident. All was light hearted until I heard an "ugh". They were looking down at the rock.

As my quick-minded hands caught my fall, they also slammed the ashes onto the wet stone. Next to my left foot was now a pile reminiscent of instant mashed potatoes.

"Are you going to try to get those into the water or just leave them?"

I dipped my hand into the seriously cold water (idiot swimmers) and washed the ash from the stone. The chill brought me back to a melancholy mindset, and I climbed back up the stone to give the others access to the water. I don't know if anyone noticed my silent tears or if everyone chose to let it be a private grief. Either way, it was a sadness different from the cemetery. It was a sadness more that Roger was missing out on another experience I would more than wish to be sharing with him and less a sadness that he is gone. I don't know if those even sound different to the "normal" person.

I walked back up the hilly, mile hike with Kim to the tram and then our car to find my tripod gone and the van keys missing. Griswold's European Vacation Part Deux...