Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Real Closet Experiment

Last week Brendon organized our shed. The little tiny building in the corner of our scruffy lot houses our rakes, shovels, and one non-functioning lawn mower.

It was a biologically satisfying for both of us, because he got to be the king establishing order in his armory, and I got to see the caveman organizing the few twigs and rocks we have in our tiny cave.

Also nice because I can easily find whatever garden implement I need with ease. Why is it so delightful to open a closet and see everything so perfectly assembled and in its place?

With a contented smile I opened the shed door and reached for a rake...

And encountered a buzzing fly so big that I swear the whole shed moved when it did.

It was covered in thick hair and had a huge head with--seriously, I'm dead serious--antlers.

I got closer to see if it had tags or a brand or something; surely this was a an escapee from an exotic animal ranch.

No. He was just a massive fly that must have been trapped in the shed when Brendon first worked on it. He's spent the past week feeding on whatever critters were in that shed, growing huge and fat and hairy.

I moved closer and thought about shooing him toward the door. He buzzed angrily and fell on his back, doing the turtle move as he struggled to right himself.

Disgusted and fascinated, I watched. Suddenly he got back on his feet and...looked at me. His huge eyes were extra-creepy in that big white face.

I backed out of the shed, rake in hand. And I left him in there. The world was not ready for such a creature. And frankly he made me nervous.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Nature: It's Natural

Texas is winning.

Rather, the natural environment is winning. And that's in the obvious contest between what landscaping I try to inflict on my own yard and what Nature does itself, on its own, here in Texas.

On gorgeous days like today it's hard to believe there could be a world outside of Texas, so I am going to say that the beauty of nature is simply Texas itself. Laugh all you want, you who didn't experience today's perfect perfection out here in the Hill Country. We'll forgive you because you don't understand.

I drove out to the Pedernales State Park yesterday, just on a whim. (No, ha ha, actually it was in my car! Ha ha ha...yup, I'm having some Shiner while I write this, you lucky dog. You'll get all kinds of hilarity from me now!)

Actually, it was not even really on a whim, not even figuratively. It was more in an attempt to alter reality.

Now doesn't that sound diabolical? Deliciously so! Mwah ha ha ha.

Because the reality is that I am not an avid sportswoman, not a preppy Muffy always at the ready for a spot of tennis or a quick romp with nature. Yes, I just did a marathon, but tell me, gentle reader, is this the grimace of a natural athlete? I think not.

why do those douchebags take photos of us after 5 hours of running? WHO looks good at this point? 

So I went to the state park because I, in a moment of identity crisis without husband or marathon, decided I was the kind of person who just hauls off at a moment's notice and goes hiking.

I guess that's better than deciding I'm the kind of person who bungee jumps or dances on a pole for a living...both of which are extremely risky behaviors; the former is clearly a good way to catch some scuzzy disease, as I have NEVER seen someone cleaning a bungee cord, and the latter is simply dangerous due to gravity).

So yesterday I was a hiker. I packed up the Yaris with a cooler of beer and water, a backpack, and dug out my old hiking boots--

--purchased for a Patagonian hiking trip over 5 years ago and only used once since, and that was because a hurricane makes for too many puddles to navigate in flip flops.

And I drove out to Pedernales Falls.

Is there anything more situationally humorous than when your momentum for doing something spontaneous wears off...before you've done it? Yeah.

While an hour prior I had been giddy about wearing my hiking boots and packing a cooler, crawling out into the hill country in heavy traffic really took that outdoorsy wind out of my sails. Two-thirty, three o'clock...maybe I wasn't such a nature enthusiast after all. I could be home watching Hulu. I could be shopping...

No! No, I am a veritable REI advertisement! I am a photo shoot for Ralph Lauren yachting! Traffic opened up and I was flying up and down the gorgeous hills of central Texas. With the perfect wind in my hair and a big grin, I communed with nature. (From my vehicle.) And then I pulled into the park and surveyed the stunning beauty.

If you haven't been to the Pedernales, it's kinda hard to describe the falls side of the park. In other places you may camp and wade in the river, but at the falls it's kinda like a waterfall/river combination. When it's really dry like it's been, there are less falls & you can't hear the roaring rush of the water from far away like when it's saturated. But it's still pretty stunning nonetheless.

I hiked and photographed and then found a little sandy area to enjoy some sun. It was silent. Birds hovered lazily in the perfect blue sky. Stark contrast with our own little patch of nature back at the Clark Ranch.

I've successfully made the grass in the previous sidewalk area grow, so now we essentially have a green sidewalk in our barren front yard. Ditto the bamboo I planted out back; there is nothing else growing.

Well, except the Mountain Laurel volunteer, which I was delighted to discover. But we must definitely call him a volunteer, because I'd expect far more from a paid and fully employed laurel.

And then back to what Nature/Texas is doing all on her own:

Much better, I'd say.

Not that I'm going to quit trying here in my own yard or anything. After all, I am quite the nature and outdoor enthusiast!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hello, Wall. Not Nice to Meet You.

You know how you read those stories about nice sweet dogs that suddenly out of nowhere bite someone? For like 12 years or so they're just awesome and docile. Then bam, one day they've had enough and they take out a chunk of the owner's calf.

Sunday's marathon was that dog.

No, actually Sunday's marathon was probably more like the beautiful beach morning that dissolves into a hurricane by noon. I should have seen the devastation coming. But no, I was fooled by the lovely and benign beginning.

Really, I had a great time for those first 13 miles. The cool breeze off White Rock Lake soothed me. The people around me were interesting to listen to. Well, in little spurts of conversation that is; everyone was passing me with no problem so I didn't get to listen to lengthy discussions.

That actually kind of got to me at first, so I fell into pace with a really athletic-looking woman. She was just in sports bra and running shorts, and from the back she looked like a lean, experienced runner. She kind of turned her head to the left and eagerly I leaned in, thinking she was going to say something to me.

She proceeded to Farmer Blow over her shoulder.

I jumped out of the way of her snot and scooted off to the side. Clearly an indication that I should take my own pace and leave the fast running to the serious athletes. So serious that they blow their nose into the very air we mortals choose to breathe.

But like I said, I was happy at the beginning. My time even looked good for me to finish under 4:30! Hooray, suddenly athletic and accomplished Shannon!

Enter the biting dog. Or the hurricane, rather.

Oh the wind. Oh the sun. Oh the pain.

Some time between mile 14 and mile 18, all the shade vanished, a nasty headwind stirred up, and everything went uphill. I started noticing myself scanning the horizon for water stations...frantically. I began to feel my thighs and knees in flashes of burning pain. That little rock on my shoe was no longer a friendly stowaway but in fact an evil boulder hell-bent on sabotaging my performance.

And someone strung fishing line across one of the bridges; people shouted at me to stop so they could untangle it first and I did not even process what they were saying. I could see my dear brother waiting for me under a tree at the Mile 20 marker, and that sight was like an oasis in the desert.

I barreled through the line, snapping it in two and gratefully joined my brother and his buddy. They had come to cheer me on and run with me in that hellish Mile 20, a part of the race they ruefully recalled from their Big D several years prior.

In that next 20 minutes, I went to a very dark place. Mikers and Hans got me to Mile 21, where I think I saw my sweet friends again (they had staked out Mile 9 earlier in an awesome show of support). Dazed, I smiled at their signs and spoke some gibberish to them.

Where was the next water station? I stumbled into one somewhere in the next mile and asked how many there were remaining. The sun was blazing and the little boy offering me Gatorade shrugged. I think that was when I screamed at the ladies behind him.

"OH, COME ON! HOW MANY MORE STATIONS ARE THERE?!" Did they not understand how brutal it was? Did they not know that my legs were slowly rotting away beneath me, that the promise of a water station was the only thing that kept me running from tree shadow to tree shadow at that point?

All of the tactics and mental tricks I'd had planned for those last 6 miles were out the window. Shannon was no longer a part of the game. It was some strange other creature crawling along the streets, squinting into the glaring light and randomly walking without even meaning to. It wasn't a matter of pushing myself or of finding reserves at that point. All I knew was that I could rest when I got back to the fairgrounds, so I had to keep going.

And then I saw that damn ferris wheel. The Star of Texas loomed huge and FAR in the distance as I exited that final neighborhood and turned back out onto city streets. I had to get to that stupid awful wheel, and it taunted me in its hazy farness.

I turned into a tunnel, oh sweet blessed DARK tunnel! If only I could curl into a ball and live there forever! Hidden from the torturing sun, that tunnel is the only thing I recall with any pleasure in those final moments.

If Brendon and my brother hadn't been at the finish line, I would have just walked to it. Heck, I might have just quit. But I knew they would be there and that there would be cameras, and heaven help me if the documentation of this thing, The Finishing, showed me walking across. Many scientists would probably call what I was doing just really ugly walking, but I swear I was running.

And then it was over. Four hours and forty three minutes later, I was done. Mikers and Brendon collected the pieces of Shannon that were scattered about, drove them away from the race, and reassembled her to be cleaned and fed some Amy's Ice Cream back in Austin.

I got my medal, I forgot to pick up my cool Finisher shirt, and I finished. It was extremely hot and windy and hilly, and I had no idea what it would be like to combat these things at miles 21-26. If friends and family hadn't done so much to cheer me on, there's a fair chance I would have never made it to the ferris wheel.

If I'd actually gotten snotted on by that lady in the beginning, I definitely would have quit.

It was rewarding for sure, but I had kinda thought it would turn me into some sort of superhuman athlete. But no, I can't fly, nor do I have a sixpack. In fact, all I have is a weird sunburn, a sense of accomplishment, and some soon-to-be-missing toenails. Not exactly Lance Armstrong material.

Eh. Who cares. That delicious feeling of I did it is still quite satisfying. Probably so much so that I'll never have to do this again.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Taper Madness and the Bidet Question

Wait, what?

I thought that running was the whole point of this marathon business.

But here I am in the last days before Big D Day, and everything I read says I'm supposed to be on my bum more and more in these final hours.

Is this like how some engaged couples suddenly sleep in separate beds the last weeks before the wedding?

Or like being extra frugal right before vacation? Holy cow, I want to splurge!

I jealously watched people on long runs this week on Town Lake. Trotting around the 4 mile loop just once was not what my system wanted, and I looked longingly at the nerdy packs of water and supplies the Distancers carried around their waists.

I wanted to run up and grab their sweaty arms and ask, "How far are you going??! TELL ME ABOUT IT!"

I think there were some babies in strollers covering more mileage than I. Ever been envious of a baby? Yeah, it's a strange new sensation. Muttering "damn baby" to oneself kinda makes you feel like a douchebag. It probably should.

But now I'm starting to get the jitters. What if my muscles totally deteriorated within these few days of rest? Why couldn't I have just done one 10-miler this week? Will my legs really remember how to keep going for several hours tomorrow? AARRRRGHHH!!!

I've gone to the gym to swim. This doesn't count as anything too physically demanding though; I paddle up and down the lanes with my face and hair well out of the water like the prissy princess that I am. Even the stoic elderly Asian lady in the lane next to me puts on a cap and gets fully wet for her water aerobics, as does the large-bellied Italian dude on the other side.

So I princess-paddle until my fingers wrinkle, jump in the sauna to at least work up a proper sweat, and then head back to the office. I still don't feel like I've exercised, and all I can think about is running.

I've got it. I've got the Taper Madness--the insanity that sets in the week before the race when you're allowing your body to rest (when you "taper" your mileage).

Come on, I'm not even a real runner! This is not something I should be experiencing. The Taper Madness is for the real athletes; secret runners like me should enjoy this time on the couch.

No. I've gone insane. And I didn't think there was going to be any relief...until my friends managed to give me a seated ab workout.

This is the email chain I returned to at the office one day. I've given my buddies aliases here to protect them from implication in this slightly off-color conversation held from our various places of employment.

And here's a brief background so you can truly appreciate the humor.

Babycakes: Knows more about the English language and then general trivia than anyone I know. So when she poses the original question, it really points out how mysterious this bidet issue really is.

Lurv: Works for AIDS Arms in Dallas and dedicated part of her life to teaching deaf students in Kenya. I know, pretty awesome right? Lurv has had more exposure to parts of the world and societies than the rest of us. Due to the nature of her current work she tends to know a lot about, um, sexual beliefs and practices than we do.

Redhot: Historically asks the funniest questions. It is because of her that we looked up "sex waffles" on

Hot Dog: Her nickname is Hot Dog, and that should be enough explanation right there.

Babycakes: Guys, why are bidets common in Europe and not America? For some reason a Google ad about bidets popped up on my Bed, Bath, and Beyond email, so this is not out of nowhere. I promise.

Lurv: No idea...random! Haha. I can't say I've ever used one.

Redhot: There was one in our hotel room in Montreal. It came in handy the morning I was hungover, but other than that, I had no idea how to use it. The faucet faced down, so how would that work?

Lurv: I think you fill up the basin or something?

Rehot: oooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhh

Babycakes: Hmmm. Clearly they don't work like I thought. However, I am too nervous about Googling at work.

Lurv: I googled. Shall I copy and paste? I've definitely googled weirder things here.


K: It is generally understood that the user should sit on a bidet facing the tap and nozzle for washing the genitalia, and should sit with back to the tap and wall when washing the anus and buttocks. For a thorough cleaning, the user should use a hand to scrub the area with soap after wetting, then rinse. A dedicated towel or wipe is often available for drying.

Thanks Wikipedia.

Babycakes: Why can't you just wash yourself in the shower? I don't understand this separate device business.

Lurv: I think it's for times when a full on shower would be inconvenient, perhaps. Do Europeans have bidets in public bathrooms? I haven't been to Europe in a long time. Unless you count the Amsterdam airport, which does not have bidets in public bathrooms.

Babycakes: Unless you are a prostitute. I can see how a bidet would be handy in that line of work.

Redhot: Wait. As a courtesy beforehand? Because I’m pretty sure that won’t help. I have a feeling Katie’s about to tell us.

Babycakes: Or between clients. If I was a "john," I think I'd want that.

Hot Dog: tears. tears.

Lurv: Hahaha. I mean...if you're and they always have a "strange but true" question and reguarly it's someone asking if they wash themselves immediately after sex if that can prevent them from getting HIV, or from people who are HIV+ asking if they wash themselves before if that can prevent it. Frightening

Babycakes: Who else has a gmail ad for as a result of this chain??? LOLOLOLOL.

Lurv: I have "Water wash in toilet $25 - install in minutes!" that includes video,, shower soap ad and comfort clean bidet. Yes. And at the top an ad for energy efficient bidets. Awesome!

Hot Dog: I've got "Buy Bio Bidet Online!"

Lurv: Now I have ads for barn and fence paint, dairy farmers, "Mepron: Raise Milk Yields" and horse boarding and lessons. Wha?
And - whoa - this at the top: Cow Seras - Call 888-373-7601 for Free Samples - of High- Quality Fetal Cow Serum!

Hot Dog: hahahahahahaha. Lurv, i can HEAR you saying that. awesome.

Lurv: Saying what, high quality fetal cow serum? Hahaha.

Redhot: omg, I’ve been in meetings for an hour, and this was awesome to return to. I wish I had access to Gmail :(

Redhot: OH, p.s., the next email above this in my inbox is from Corporate, titled “Email Security Breach.” Seriously for a split second I thought the bidet/prostitute/disease convo had gotten me in trouble.

And that was the conversation.

Now my abs feel super strong from so much laughing, and I am no longer feeling like such a couch potato. Thanks, friends.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ode to Bran

O muffin, bran muffin
my face you are stuffin'
You're not like blueberry
nor McGriddle-scary
Nay, vaguely nutritious!
(with fruit bits suspicious)

You hide in the bake case
with your pastry goods plain face
And offer me choice
o'er the cinnamon voice
of those damnable buns
(yeah you know the ones
with their thick tasty frosting
BIG calorie-costing)

But I never did pick you
and it's made me thick, true
So today I begin
to atone breakfast sin

You don't look too pretty
and your texture is gritty
but your flavor's self-righteous!
Have another? I might just!

I ignore all the barbs
from the elite Anti-Carbs
and scarf you right down
with nary a frown
For you'll be the sweet engine
of the race--did I mention?
I'm running the Big D
(yes, my senses reneged me)

That distance sounds grueling
But with bran muffin fueling
I'll take on each mile
With a branny bran smile

So, muffin of bran
let me tell you again
you're all I've been needing
for my morning-time feeding
You're now my new favorite
This breakfast? I'll savor it!