Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Back to Basics Tour

Listen, I'm not going to tell you guys, again, about the eternal reassessment going on in my head, because fucking kill me already with that noise. Maybe I'll tell you a little . . . But seriously, I want to bang my head against a rock to make it stop. I laugh at myself, I want to punch myself in the nose. I laugh, I cringe.

Did you guys see Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium? It was almost a great movie. It had great potential, but didn't quite get me there. Anyway, in the beginning Natalie Portman's character was a child pianist prodigy who has turned 23 years old and is still at the same level of brilliance that she was as a kid -- which is beautifully brilliant nonetheless -- and she explains to Mr. Magorium, "I'm stuck." He goes, "To my floor?" (har har). And she says, "No, as a person." I sucked in my breath a little at that. Because she was stuck and she wasn't; she was to her own and others expectations and she wasn't because she was still magical. I feel similarly. I'm not stuck as a person -- I feel very viscerally my own constant flow of magic that I create -- but I feel there's a cog going on somewhere. It's the reason for the NEVER ENDING EVALUATION/REEVALUATION I put myself through. My personal problem is that I often feel things need constant tweaking towards perfection, when, I may just already be there. I'm there in most all areas; it's this creative cog I feel most. It's the want to just do good and create beauty ALL THE TIME. That seems strange sometimes, when I look outside of myself. When, you know, I'm putting myself under a microscope from yet another, outside angle. Where's that rock?

Oh and I busted my knee. Yup. I was so pumped for the Tri training that in my gung-ho'dness, I did something to my knee. It isn't anything super definitive to me; there was no popping or exact sprain. Husband thinks I have tendinitis, which I don't compute well. It's sore in a certain spot in the front. It almost feels like a bruise. There's a little swelling and I know instinctively that if I don't rest it, it could be chronic. Husband barked, "Rest, ibuprofen, work on your core until you're better," and I said, confused, "Ok," and then I sat in the chair for quite a while wondering why my body felt a bit broken. The hip and now the knee. I kicked myself for taking for granted my athleticism thinking I could take it off the shelf whenever I felt like it, slip it on and GO like I've always done no matter how long between athletic uprisings. And I spent a long time coming to terms with this -- coming to terms gingerly so it wouldn't turn into an excuse. I didn't want to admit that at 40 maybe I have to approach how I put my body to work differently. Maybe I can't just bang out training five days a week all of the sudden. Apparently. So, I've postponed the triathlon, to one in September, and I'm going to rest and then start from the beginning and work more on strength and core work and build it all back up; muscles, joints, wind. Age 40 means different but like hell does it mean dead.

I'm doing some new experiments with my diet too. Husband joked that by the time I'm done, I'll only be eating seeds, kale and one kind of fruit. I'm back to more raw foods because I know -- I know like no other knows -- that a raw plan heals a body. The recovery when on raw is undeniable. I'm also going gluten-free for a bit to see how that goes. I know too that gluten can build as a toxin eventually. I think it can work against good digestion. This does not include sprouted grains/breads because the sprouting process destroys natural gluten. And lastly I've been experimenting a lot with more homemade stuff. I'm on a Back to Basics Crusade because the excess packaging of shit is pissing me off as is all the bullshit that everything is processed with, vegan stuff included. The chemicals and additives and other extraneous crap and bullshit -- ug, I'm so over everything. And not for nothing, but homemade stuff tastes like a million bucks. The freshness and flavor is a good slap in the face.

A couple weeks ago, I started with jam. I got a canning kit and made a big batch of organic strawberry jam. It was ridiculous. My girls couldn't believe how it good it was.

I also recently got a Soybella Soymilk Maker after reading a fantastic, instructional post from the beautiful and wise Julie Hasson. I followed all of Julie's suggestions such as soaking the soybeans overnight and rubbing the beans to get the skins off to insure a less "beany" taste, and ta-da, this morning I made this:A quart of soy milk was made in about 15 minutes after a night of soaking beans. I added 3 TBSPs of agave a pinch of sea salt and a tsp of vanilla. The taste is still a bit different than commerical soy milk, but I know that's because we are so used to stuff that's processed to high hell. I will gladly get used to this slight variation because I realized if I keep this up I would spend pennies on the dollar by making instead of buying soy milk, not to mention cutting down on all the packaging and waste. The Soybella also makes raw nut milks -- fresh almond is my all-time fav -- and I can't wait to try that next.

Since I won't be baking much in the next couple weeks because of the gluten-free experiment, I decided to bake the pugs some vegan doggie treats. I veganized and tweaked a Martha Stewart natural anti-flea doggie recipe. The Sisters Pug loved them.The funny-looking round ones I baked with a bit of peanut butter.
Here's the recipe:

Mami's Summertime Vegan Doggie Treats

1 C. whole wheat flour
1/4 C. wheat germ
1/4 C. nutritionals yeast (natural flea repellent)
1 tsp sea salt
2 TBSP of canola oil
1 clove (or little less) minced garlic (garlic can be toxic to dogs if in excess, which is why I used a little less than a full clove. Garlic is a natural bug repellent, for humans too.)
1/2 C. vegetable stock
peanut butter (optional)

Preheat oven 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or brush with oil. Mix flour, wheat germ, nut. yeast and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Mix minced garlic, oil and veg. stock into flour mixture until well combined. Fold onto a floured surface, knead for two minutes. Dough will be kind of sticky. If too stick add a little more flour, if too dry, add a lil water or oil. Roll out and cut into shapes, big or little depending on your dog's size, and place on baking sheet. If making the peanut butter version, roll dough into a little ball, poke a hole in the middle with the pinkie and fill with peanut butter. Bake 15-20 min. Should be kind of golden. Let cool and then store in a plastic container or left over jar or butter tub.

My next homemade rebellion will be mixing up my own earth-friendly cleaners. I tried a simple experiment by sprinkling baking soda in my sink. I let it set for a couple minutes and then scrubbed with the sponge and wow! Wicked clean.

Gotta get back to my Back to Basics Tour now, and analyzing The Cog of course. Cog or no cog, I am heart-thumpingly grateful for my stellar life, and for you guys too.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mina!

My baby is nine today. My gorgeous, uniquely-brilliant girl. My love child. I love her to the point of panic sometimes. I've always run circles around her to protect her from anyone that might misunderstand her. Too much, probably. I clear her path so she can dance around on it, lost in a beat she made up. Her mind clicks along to a higher logic, her own, and this creams my heart to a mushy pulp. She's so funny, her timing cutting, and so strong - just ask her. It's hard to dive into her black eyes that don't always reveal much -- she can be a Shut-Off Queen -- but when I get glimpses of the silent churning that's going on in there, I see a whole fantastic world. I see unbelievable things. Anything she does is pretty much alright with me.

While Maya fights for the animals, Mina can talk to them.

I love you so much, Mina.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Athletic Uprising, Part 2

First order of business: I lost a bet to Melinda , goddamnit. Her dog, Frodo, entered a bracket into my basketball pool and he had more points than me and my dogs. So, as per the bet, I will wear this shirt today. Lupe is consoling me.

* * *
I just wrote a long post about how my child and teenhood identity was anchored in athletics. I compared and contrasted my level of athleticism now, noting the ebbs and flows of activity throughout the years. I was all but making a graph and power-point demonstration. Then I deleted it. I hate when my writing bores me. I'm also hating the NEVER-ENDING sorting out of things in my mind, on paper, via the blog. Must I be so epiphanal about every goddamn thing? Must everything be so monumental? I can say it doesn't, but that doesn't seem to keep my mind from reeling and endlessly digging for the well of optimal happiness and meaning and purpose and fulfillment and perfect being. Give me a break, mind. Just sometimes.

So, I'm training for a triathlon. A baby one or a Sprint as it's called in tri world. Why? Sparring you some of my violent introspection it's because I want to. I love all athletic-to-life metaphors and every Triumph of Spirit stories, but I'll try to keep those down. Still being able to dig deep; just the simplicity of Being Able drives me nicely now. I learned that during the marathon. The marathon stripped me down like no introspection has been able to do in a while. There was something about dusting off my strength in the solitude of the training and the race that made me feel brave. Damit, I wasn't going to get all sports-spiritual about this. I really can't help myself. But the truth is that I felt like an real athlete again. I trained and I completed. I felt overcome often, but I did it. That rawness cleared away some of this laughable need to constantly reinvent my physical self. I just was. I just did. So, I'm just gonna do a triathlon.

I'm in Week Two of training and it's been a thrill. Training moves me past the ol' I-Better-Work-Out-to-Expel-Demons level. Or the Mmm-My-Jeans-Seem-Tight level. Both of these are legitimate and very good reasons to work out, but those haven't been as exciting as training for an actual event.

Sometimes I don't feel that I'm a part of the tri experience, like I'm not in the thick of it yet. I feel I'm humbly joy riding it until I know what I'm doing more. The fumbling through the components has been mildly hilarious. Here's a initial review:

Running - I mention running first because it's my weakest event. I'm a whiner-runner. I run. I whine. Historically, I've had a million effective justifications to stop running. I justify why I should stop running during a run. I justify why I should never run again. But I'm always intrigued by and drawn back to the meditation of running. This is the event where I need the most practice. Here's the other thing I love about a triathlon, I have two other sports to concentrate on. I don't have to just run!

Biking - I'm not buying a new bike, yet. I've done a ton of research and I've decided for this first race, Loops (my bike's name) and I will make the best of it. Loops is a hand-me-down Specialized hybrid commuter bike. It was a bit rusty and dented when I got it, but I tuned it up, replaced some things and covered the frame in bumperstickers. Cool. I've taken off the rear and front baskets for training. This probably took off five pounds. I left the bell on for good measure. When I ride, I'm painfully aware that Loops ain't built for performance, but hell no can I in clear conscious invest in a pricey beauty when this first race has only a 10 mile ride. I can't do it. If I fall in love with tri's, we'll talk. I also bought my first helmet ever. I KNOW, don't start. I've never worn a helmet my whole life, and I'll just admit right now that safety is still taking a back seat in my mind to the fact that they won't let me compete in the tri without one. I KNOW I NEED ONE. I got one. I'm wearing it even if I feel like my head is a big penis with it on.

Swimming - I was a good swimmer as a kid. I was on a team though I was very mediocre in relation to the rest of the competative swimmers. My specialty was backstroke. That's probably not a wise stroke for open water swimming, just a hunch. But I did ocean swimming in high school and competed in a mile open-water race so I'm not unfamiliar with what the tri will offer. I haven't swam in a long time though. I've been nervous that after entering the water I'd stroke and kick and stay in the exact same position. I'll be fine, I think. I just need practice. I was not, however, prepared for swimsuit shopping. Trying on speedos was horrifying. Do they make a performance suit for women with HIPS? I stood in the dressing room and stared at my suited body in the mirror. I laughed out loud. Short in the torso, loose in the lats (read, boobs), up my butt, hips escaping the high leg holes, my waist was turned into a tube . . .lord have mercy. I laughed to keep from crying. Can I swim in my workout pants, I wondered? Too much drag? I'm sure my neighborhood Big 5 didn't have the most stellar selection of suits and I ended up with the best-fitting speedo I could find from the sale rack. That's another thing, $80 for a suit? Gimme a break. I considered looking for someone to sponsor me for the race -- until I thought about what I'll look like "competing" in it. I laughed again as I hunched over to peel off the swimsuit. I visualized:

I'll do a thrashing backstroke in a slim-hipped vice of a suit with no chest support that makes me look like a bloated rectangle. After veering off course, I'll revert to a dog paddle/side stroke just so I can finally get ashore. I'll run to Loops, knocked over from having no kickstand, my hips spilling and flopping out of my suit. I'll tug on a sports bra over the suit, slap on my dick-head helmet, slip on my vegan running shoes and shorts without padding. I'll hop on the dented, basket'ed bike where the frame reads things like "Treehugger." I'll ring the bell to let them know I'm coming. I'll ride too upright; sometimes I'll try to lower my head and tuck in my elbows for a more aerodynamic ride. I'll shave a few seconds off my time that way. In my front basket, I'll collect extra Gatorade. I'll reach the end of the ride and hop off Loops -- she'll crash down from the load of the back basket -- I'll rip off the helmet, unclear how to quickly unclick the strap, and as I start to run I won't be able to straighten out my legs which have been molded by the bike. I'll trot along in a strange cowboy gait. I'll whine until the finish.

Aah, yes, the resurrection of my athletic career is in full force, and looking quite glamorous.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Athletic Uprising, Part 1

This morning Mina came out wearing her new soccer socks pulled high and tight. They were covered in pug hair. She wanted to wear her shin guards to school too. Instead, I let her model them for me, and the bulge from under the socks melted me. She strutted around with tiny, steel-strong legs in her basketball shorts and soccer shins and I wanted to tackle her to the ground and love her up. She started a school soccer league this week. She's the only girl in the league. Today she has practice, and it's all she talks about.
Since last week, I have felt tongue-tied. I'm struggling with words and I feel they only stammer onto the page lately, but I need to sputter about an athletic uprising going on in our house. There's been some unearthing; a few revelations. It's important stuff to us. Husband and I both came from a world where sports was a refuge. Whatever natural talent we had we molded into an outlet, an escape. For Husband it turned into an opportunity to go to college. For me . . .for me, ug -- I have no word-flow right now -- for me . . . I spent hours perfecting an L-shaped shot on a rusted rim, sometimes with no net or a nylon net, sometimes with a net made of a chain. The sound of the chain when the ball brushed through it was a calming chime. I pushed the limits of how much time I would spend on a blacktop. Backboard, chime. Backboard, chime. It was meditation. With a ball and ratty shoes I had unintentionally slipped out from the heaviness at home; out from under someone else's darkness. Banging the backboard, clanking the rim, waiting for the chime; within these sounds I was . . .I just was. With a ball in my hand, I was nothing else to nobody; not a scapegoat, not a filter, not their excuse, not their snag, not their apparent mistake. I was me. A free me.

My girls don't need this sort of rehabilitation from sports. They started on a much higher playing field. But if their natural empowerment, which is so evident already, goes undetected by them, it beams from their whole being -- lights a city -- from what I can see. They obviously could've rejected sports, which I would've supported too, but they haven't. They love it, and I feel we have been able to slip our athleticism into their arsenal of a million other great characteristics.

Maya just played her first season of basketball through a city/school league. She used to play a few years ago at a Boys and Girls Club in the OC. Back then, it was like watching the tasmanian devil in high tops. Most of the little girls at that level froze up with the ball. Some dribbled wildly with their head down until it bounced off their shoes. Some had budding natural talent. And Maya covered every inch of the court in a flurry. She dove for balls and could dribble with both hands. She was the Go-To guy in the pee wee league. Middle school has been different. A lot of these girls can ball well and Maya got down on herself for not being the star even though she hasn't played in years. She has to practice for sure and get the rhythm down again, but nobody can take her athleticism or her heart away. I told if that's all she's got right now, then use it all. She averaged about five steals a game. She jumped and tackled the ball with the biggest players. But mostly, she caught the basketball bug.

Mina's got a case of bball bug too:
And here's the unearthing: The basketball bug has brought Tae Kwon Do to its end.

That's hard to say, and to be honest, the girls' interest in Tae Kwon Do has been diminishing over the last year. We've all known it, but Maya had been very slow to admit it. This month, Maya was supposed to go to the Junior Olympics Qualifier and when there was absolutely zero spark of enthusiasm to train or fight or otherwise, I knew we had to have an honest come to jesus about the sport. "I love the idea making the Jr. Olympics, Mami," she said, "I just don't really know if I love to fight anymore." I smoothed her hair. I said, "The truth is that if you don't love it, the chances of making it are way less. You gotta love it." I asked her why she was ready to let it go now, and she said she hadn't realized how much she didn't love it until she started playing ball again. We're all ok with the decision -- except her coach -- from BD and Sanne to Papi and me. The concept is harder to let go though; harder than I thought. I've seen her do the most amazing things a kid could do on a TaeKwonDo mat. I saw glimpses into the future; how strong she really is mentally and physically. She has moved me many times throughout the last seven years. But it's time to make way for new things. If anything, Tae Kwon Do has taught me this: She really can do anything.

For Mina, Tae Kwon Do had been a bit of a tooth pull. She loved to fight, but she didn't necessarily appreciate waiting months to get into the tournament spar ring. Mina is the type that constantly wants to do something athletic -- non-stop -- play catch in the house, play basketball, see who can throw the tennis ball the farthest, ride bikes in the alley, play handball for hours after school -- whatever it is she's trying to play it. Tae Kwon Do took way more patience that she has. When we said we were thinking about ending Tae Kwon Do, she said without a beat, "Can I play in the soccer league now then?"

Basketball season has ended for Maya now. I asked her what she'd like to try next. Softball had already started. She doesn't want to do soccer, volleyball was filled. There were spots left on the track and field team. She was close to saying no until Mina said, "If there were no more sports to do, I would do track." I told Maya we were just exploring different things right now and track would keep her in shape for basketball. With that -- and a little sibling pressure -- she signed up for track. This was her first week. She's one of two girls on the team and she's the fastest of all of them. Her coach is already sparked by her and I told Maya, "Hey, maybe you'll like this a lot," to which she said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, I'm just staying shape for basketball, remember?" Incidentally, she had a Jog A Thon on Tuesday and she ran 26 laps - 6.25 miles - in an hour like it was nothing.

I was going to tell you about my own athletic revelations, but I'll wait 'til next post for that. I'm out of words for now.