Thursday, January 27, 2011

Inspirational, So They Say

The folks over at Career Overview have been so kind as to deem this one of "60 Truly Inspiring Blogs for Stay-at-Home Moms." How sweet!

Really, what a nice gesture. My thanks to the editors who took the time to read some of this site and figured it was worthy of some love.

I appreciate it.

Posted by Tere @ 1/27/2011   | | | links to this post

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Dog He Never Knew

I was just reading this post, written after Zoë died. I remember how sad I felt (devastated is a better word), and in this post my sadness was specifically about how just a couple of days after her death, Max was already forgetting her and would eventually have no memory of her. Those two were such pals, they adored each other - and the loss and and the way he'd never remember her were too much for me.

It was interesting - bittersweet - to come across this post today. Just yesterday Max and I were talking about Zoë. Of course, he doesn't remember her. He wasn't even two years old when she died. But he sees her pictures throughout the house and regularly asks me about her. He enjoys hearing me talk about her, the stories about how she used to love him and watch over him, about how they would play together every day. He has a lot of questions about her death, not fully understanding how she could be sick if she wasn't old, wondering if she's in heaven. This part always makes him sad, and I have to bring the conversation back to the fun times they shared.

Sometimes when he's talking to others, he'll bring up his dog Zoë and speak of her knowledgeably. To those who don't know us well, it could seem like she just died or something, like his memories are real and recent. I think he's doing that thing where you *remember* something only because you hear about it regularly. But here's the thing about our chats about Zoë: he ends each one by telling me he loves her. And he believes that. He has no memory of her but he thinks of her and wants to hear about her and considers her his own, and as far as he's concerned, he loves her.

This isn't the same as the real deal, that he would remember her, but this is very sweet to me. I'm touched that he thinks of her, that he takes the time to talk about her and thinks she's someone special in his life. My Zoë has a small space in my boy's heart, and this goes a long way to ease the sadness I felt when I wrote that post almost four years ago.



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Posted by Tere @ 1/19/2011   | | | links to this post

Monday, January 17, 2011

Salvation in a Little Blue Ball

I drop my bag on the floor and take my place on the court. The sun is warm, at a comfortable angle. There's the typical park noises - children laughing, yelling, squealing; men playing soccer in the field; tennis balls thwack, thwack, thwacking behind me - but in my immediate area, there is silence, and this is exactly how I like it. There is no one here but me, though in a half hour the remaining three courts will be packed and there will be a wait to use them.

I stretch my legs and step up. My mind is a jumble, trying to shed thoughts and just focus on this. And this, this is something new to me, something I'm not skilled enough to do but am nonetheless compelled to try. This is a challenge that promises to give me two things I desperately need: good exercise and relief from pain.

I took up racquetball about seven months after my marriage ended. On the surface, this was how I chose to address a problem that had been bugging me for a long time. I knew I needed to develop a regular exercise routine, but the problem for years had been that there was nothing I could muster even a smidgen of interest in. I'm not an athletic person, and I've never found any appeal in exercise. The gym - and I've belonged to gyms, on and off, for about 13 years - is a terrible, terrible place for me. I hate it. Every visit was torture, a completely unpleasant and repellent experience. Other options - biking, running, whatever - turned me off as well. I actually love biking, but it kills my knees. And running - gah. Running is (with no disrespect to my close friends who are all into it) completely pointless to me. Swimming is great, and it was my regular exercise during my pregnancy, but I apparently don't love it enough to stick with it, especially since I don't have my own pool to swim in.

Racquetball, though, had long held my curiosity. It seemed challenging and fun and like a good workout. I'd played tennis as a child and loved it, but I needed something that I could do by myself, without having to depend on anyone else, and racquetball seemed close enough to this. And given that I have a park with courts down the street from my house, and that all I needed was basic equipment, I thought it'd be easy to explore and see if I could stick with it. By the time I made my move, I was really committed to doing something. It was just time to take the right steps to develop a routine and do something good for my health.

But like I said, I decided to take the sport on months after my marriage ended. I was not in the deepest part of my pain, but I nonetheless felt a lot of pain and anger and needed some kind of distraction to help me cope. And the surprising thing about racquetball turned out to be that it was more than a distraction; it was a kind of therapy I'd never known but very much needed. Afternoon after afternoon, it was just me on that court smashing that ball with all my might, running around, trying to follow the ball and get a good rally going. I shed boatloads of anger and frustration smacking that ball. I lost myself in my efforts to learn how the ball moved, how it could fly or fall based on which wall, and where on that wall, it hit. I found more than relief: I found healing. Even now, almost two years later, if I take to the courts when I'm feeling frustrated, a good hour or two of jumping and hitting all over the place does me a world of good.

I went into this blindly - no research on the game, no hanging at the courts to see what it was about. I just showed up one afternoon and started to play. Almost immediately, people would ask to play with me, which really annoyed me at first but which I've come to understand is a regular thing among the players at my park. At first, I hated being approached because really, couldn't these people tell that I wanted to be alone? I wasn't there to make friends or flirt, or to actually play with anyone. But that's the culture here, to challenge each other. It's also a way to actually play when the courts are packed and there's a wait: approach people and join in.

My irritation was also a mask for my embarrassment at how bad I was. I mean, these guys (and they're all "guys" - I am one of like three or four women who play) are good. They're hardcore. The majority of them are Latin American and recentish arrivals from Cuba. They play regularly and play hard - with strategy and strength and skill. So how do you go up against that? It's mortifying, and I - for many, many months - handled it by being brusque and refusing to share the court.

Early on, though, an older guy approached me and was basically like, "you suck, I'm going to fix that." I ended up with a coach (guy's been playing for close to 40 years) and a friend. I explained to him that I had no interest in competitive play or anything, and so, we would just meet up to hit the ball back and forth and in the process became friends. He's hilarious and charming and, as a veteran of the local racquetball scene, eager to clue me in to some great tidbits about those who play in the park. He did teach me some techniques and helped me better understand the game and how to use my racquet and how to move around so that I don't look like a flailing fool all the time. He encouraged me to play others, to not be so self-conscious, and while I have indeed done so, I remain very hesitant about that and still prefer to play alone.

(Playing alone is key, at least for a little while. The only exception is when someone I know (i.e., Jevo, my friend/coach) joins me, and even then, I need to have some time alone every single time I play, even if it's just to warm up.)

The whole point of playing, for me, is getting a perfect rally going. When that happens, when I'm able to keep that ball going for a good while, following it no matter where it goes and smacking it back to the wall - it's an incredible high. And given that I'm not completely devoid of a competitive nature, I love doing that when I'm playing someone and I'm able to win the rally (especially because it always seems to catch the opponent totally off guard). It's such a great adrenaline pumper, such a feeling of accomplishment. I love that you can be as ungraceful and unskilled a player as I am and still experience these moments of success.

But the truth is, these last few months have been so incredibly busy that finding time to play was almost impossible. It became less and less a priority, and I felt pretty crappy about that. And yet, I was aching to play. It was so surprising to really miss a sport; I never thought I'd ever feel that way. It was pretty cool, actually, to feel that, to sense the way the feeling and desire persisted, and last week I just couldn't take it anymore: I resolved to wake up extra early on my non-Max weekend and got my butt back on the court.

As I stepped into the court and stood in the sunlight, my hand gripping my racquet, I was particularly aware of the silence. It was very early in the morning, and while a baseball game was already going in the field and one of the tennis courts was in use, right around me it was completely, perfectly quiet. I stretched, bounced the ball and prepared myself: not having played for a few months, I was going to stumble at first. And I did. I kept missing the ball, and I flailed around quite a bit. I just kept at it, lightly hitting the ball back and forth, little by little hitting a little harder, making myself focus on the ball and its movements. Soon enough, it all came together and it got easier. The next thing I knew, I had an incredible rally, a solid five minutes where I was one with the ball, the racquet, the walls. My heart was thumping like crazy, I was a sweaty mess, and I could barely breathe. It was exactly what I needed, and it was absolutely perfect.

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Posted by Tere @ 1/17/2011   | | | links to this post

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Things I Miss

Herewith, a short list of former passions that I very much miss. I miss these things enough to very seriously reincorporate them into my life. Actually, it's not so much that they're gone from my life; it's more that I am not engaging in them as frequently as I want to, or with much ardor. I do believe it's time to change that.

Gardening
I'm a pretty abysmal gardener. I've spent a good part of my life engaged in this struggle between wanting to cultivate beautiful flowers and yummy foods and killing every plant I touch. No amount of reading up on the topic seems to help me improve my skills, as I barely understand what I'm reading. I tend to deal with my plants in extremes, either fussing over them until they die from over-watering or my smothering, or ignoring them so that they die from my neglect. The only recent signs of hope I've had are those granted by my two gardenia bushes, which have been growing and thriving over the last year, and the two bougainvilleas that dried out with the recent cold snap but that I'm somehow (or maybe not, maybe it's all them) reviving. Oh, and I cured a fungus on my beloved mango tree. I'm inordinately proud of these achievements. Maybe this is exactly why I enjoy gardening. It kicks my butt, but, if I manage to do right in any way, the results (and the feelings they elicit in me) are beautiful.

Painting
I suck at this, too. Seriously, I haven't painted in years. It's true that I prefer drawing (stick and ink and pastels, specifically), but it's equally true that my creations tend to be hilariously terrible and so I stay off the canvas and acrylics. Even so, I miss the little painting I've done, and I really miss drawing. Interestingly enough, it's watching Max really get into painting and coloring that's stirred these feelings in me. I have oodles of supplies - canvases, paints, brushes, pastels, drawing paper, India ink, charcoals - literally just a few feet away from me, in my garage. I need to get over my "I only produce ugly stuff" issues and just pull everything out already and get busy with my art.

Aromatherapy
This, I don't suck at. This, I'm good at. Actually, this, I almost excel at. I got way into aromatherapy almost a decade ago, and it's a bit too much a part of my attitude about and approach to health for me to have really abandoned it, but I miss how hardcore I was about it. At the very least, I used to regularly study up on the subject and also regularly whip up blends for myself and anyone who asked me. It was standing in my kitchen last night as I put together a massage oil blend for my achy legs that it hit me that I wasn't doing enough of this, and that I need to get back to it. I have some default practices, blends I regularly make without a second thought. But I'd like to do more, make it as much a habit as it once was. It's challenging, and intriguing, and it ultimately requires a lot of care. You're working with oils that must be accurately dispensed, and you have to know which can be used together, and the most effective and safest uses for each. It's fun chemistry. And every time I make a blend that works, cosmetically or medicinally, I'm a bit awed.

Man, I really miss these things. I've been dabbling a bit in each in recent weeks, planning out some gardening stuff for the spring, drawing a bit on scraps of paper, researching some oils that might help with my allergies. It all feels so nice. And that, of course, means I should dive back in.

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Posted by Tere @ 1/04/2011   | | | links to this post