Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Great Shower Debacle

For that last few years I have been sharing a bathroom with my girls, whilst my husband uses our upstairs deluxe shower, double sink, toilet with hurricane-five-rated-flusher for his own.

Sharing a bathroom with kids presents all the predictable challenges, my new bottle of shampoo is empty—but Ariel's hair sparkles... Every morning the floor of the tub slick with gobs of conditioner and sprinkled with plastic horses—of which all parts are pointy. The bar of soap is mashed into the drain.

Every morning I dash to the shower while the girls are eating breakfast, pick up the toys (when did the floor get so far away?) and toss them in the basket. The basket over-balances and toys and slimy water slide all over the bathroom floor. I pick up the toys (again with the floor being far away) and use one of their towels to mop up the water. Then mop a little farther to get this smudge and that smudge. After the floor is clean, (pretty much) I pull down the shower curtain, which is wrapped up around the bar, and turn on the shower. I dig my fingers into the soap bar and pry it off the floor, trying not to slip as my toes grasp for purchase, then I rinse off the slime from the drain.

I shower.

Good morning, babies.
It occurred to me recently that the girls are not babies anymore. They are older (nearly three and seven) and more sensible now, and they can even go up and down stairs...independently. I'll just get up fifteen minutes earlier and take a shower upstairs in the grown-up's shower, where a bottle of shampoo lasts about four months. So for the last three weeks or so, that's what I've been doing. Sometimes the girls wake up and can't find me, and panic shouting for me. Leaving me to shout back, “I'M IN THE SHOWER… UPSTAIRS. ALMOST DONE!!” (I discussed the change thoroughly, they're just disoriented in the mornings.) Sometimes they wake up early and come upstairs with me, sometimes they sleep through it all.

This particular morning they were awake…

We were all snugged in my bed awake—yes, exactly like a pack of dogs, mmm-hmmm. Then about ten minutes later my alarm sounds. I get out of bed and tell the girls I'm headed up for a shower. I start rooting in my underwear drawer while Boots, garbed in a blanket, slides out the door. Berzo insists on having her warm cocoa first. For reasons too tedious to explain I refuse and tell her that I'll make it for her after my shower. She leaves the room also garbed in a blanket and kicks our cat, Rogue, out of her cat bed and lays in the cat bed, awaiting her coco. Boots is up at the top of the stairs, on the landing, playing with her Furreal dog. Bra and panties in hand, I step over Boots and get hung up in her blanket.

“I'm going in to take a shower, come in if you want…” I say as I disengage from her blanket.

Then I head into our ridiculously huge master bathroom, slide the door open, turn on the shower and step inside. Ahhhh. A little over five minutes later (seven maybe?) I step out and dry off, mopping the towel through my hair and I hear a familiar voice shout, “Amy!?”

“Tricia?!?” What the hell? I wrap up in my towel and go for the upstairs door just as my neighbor gets there. “Is everything OK? Is something wrong?” I blurt out, looking for my girls, who are just behind her with red rimmed eyes looking sheepish.

“Boots and Berzo were outside screaming and crying for you.”


“Yeah, I was sleeping and heard something…”

Sure that something was wrong (e.g. me stroked out on the floor) she ran outside to see what was going on.

“I can't find my mom!” was the statement from the kid I tripped over to get into the shower. Tricia, remembering me telling her about the “I'M IN THE SHOWER!” yelling because they can't find me, she thought, I bet she's in the shower. Tricia brought my girls back inside and could hear the water running. She ran up the stairs and there I was dripping wet, wild eyed, wearing only my towel and my what-the-heck-is-going-on face.

She explained what happened… I apologized profusely for them waking her up and thanked her for rescuing our other neighbors from the same fate...

“That's my girls, humbling me a little more every day,” I said.

Now hanging on the inside of our front door, I diagrammed out a proper procedure for what they can do if they are unable to locate me.

I had been chastising myself lately for being remiss in teaching Boots how to use my phone to call 911, now I'm glad. Instead of my good friend and neighbor, Tricia, it might have been a troop of fireman at my upstairs door… whilst I dripped in my towel.

Hummm, on second thought...

Monday, April 14, 2014

Book Review - Lies of Locke Lamora

Powell's Books · Barnes & Noble
Scott Lynch ©2007

If I were to do a one word review for this book it would be: Badass.

Feel free to stop reading now, the rest of this review is basically fluff, but since I have a particular fondness for writing fluffy book reviews I will proceed.

Oh good, you decided to come along.

Locke Lamora is the leader of a gang of thieves dubbed the Gentleman Bastards. This group of orphaned young men were educated and trained to become masterful thieves by a man called Father Chains. Chains was the Eyeless Priest of Perelandro, the thirteenth of the twelve gods, Lord of the Overlooked. Father Chains was not eyeless.

The city of Camorr was built upon the Elderglass ruins of an alien race, interlaced with canals infested with wolf sharks and other niceties from the Iron Sea. Duke Nicovante reigned over the nobility and lawful citizens, and Capa Vencarlo Barsavi reigned over the lawless. A Secret Peace existed between these two men, the nobility were to be left untouched and Capa Barsavi would be left to manage his gangs—which he did—ruthlessly.

Locke: “So I don’t have to…”

Father Chains: “Obey the Secret Peace? Be a good little pezon? Only for pretend, Locke. Only to keep the wolves from the door. Unless your eyes and ears have been stitched shut with rawhide these past two days, by now you must have realized that I intend you and Calo and Galdo and Sabetha to be nothing less,” Chains confided through a feral grin, “than a fucking ballista bolt right through the heart of Vencarlo’s precious Secret Peace.”


And this is just the beginning. The first hundred pages ticked by, the next hundred flew, the next three hundred had me up late at night with burning eyes. It found me yelling, “Just a minute!!” as I stole time from Hillsboro to get back to the sultry heat of Camorr. Then in a flash, it was over. I set my book down and said something brilliant like, “That. Was. Aweeesome.”

One Complaint: Alchemy exists in Camorr—and boy does it ever. It is applied to everything. There are alchemical lights, alchemical fruits, alchemical liquor, alchemical drugs, alchemical formaldehyde, alchemical make-up, alchemical toilet paper that removes all poo leaving a scent of roses behind. Just kidding on the last one, but it felt like that.

The rest—golden.

With GRRM like brutality, we lose several favorite characters and favorite villains. I always admire authors who can expend so much effort building characters only to kill them off. It would be like spending months building an incredible sand sculpture, then sending some toddlers to stomp all over it. Then instead of lamenting the lost effort, the artist then goes ahead creates something even better.

The plot gets so tense at times I would audibly sigh with relief when it was over. “Are you O.K.?” I heard more than once. In idle moments, or sometimes not so idle moments, my mind would wander back into the story to figure out where it would go next, or to guess at the fate of a imperiled character.

Backstory is given in small digestible chunks that is relevant to current action in the story. At first the sojourns into backstory was annoying and a little confusing, but either it got better or I got used to it and I started appreciating the context it brought to the story.

Best of all there are more books! Second best of all—this book stands on its own. It did not end in the middle of a story, nor did it, in the last hundred pages, invent a dozen new stories then end… Unlike some other authors I know. (Oh yes, I'm looking at you GRRM and Pat Rothfuss.)

Just kidding, love you guys—beards rule!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Book Review - The Orchardist

Powell's Books · Barnes & Noble
Amanda Coplin ©2012

This is a beautifully written book with a well developed sense of place. The language is lovely, I could smell the grasses mingling with the flavors of ripened fruit and undertones of earth. The long grasses tickled my legs as the warm wind stroked my hair. Sweat beaded and rolled down my back as I worked. I saw this place, this orchard, in full color and vigor. I felt the character's pain and longing, and at times terror. It was a gorgeous set-up for a story.

But the story sucked.

During the first two hundred pages I was absorbed. I felt it was going somewhere. I kept guessing how back story would tie into current developments. I anticipated dramatic plot twists and satisfying turns. (E.g. I really wanted the baby that Talmage was raising to be a descendant of his sister that disappeared when they were kids.)  But nowhere in the three hundred pages that followed did they come. The characters grew old and their story threads died with them. Nothing came full circle. The last remaining character, without ado, sells the orchard—one of the most delicately written characters—which then changes hands several times and eventually runs feral. 

But she dreams about it. Psssht. Whatever.

I closed the book feeling depressed and disappointed. It was fiction, but it could have been real; where a lot of stuff happens, you're frustrated and disappointed a lot, there is beauty too, then you die. I couldn't find the purpose or point to this story.

Not really why I read fiction.

On the other hand, this book is revered by many.  So it's likely that I am just odd.... 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Shamrocks, Leprechauns and Old Friends

Race days are something I enjoy far more when they're in the rear view. For reasons inexplicable, I get really worked up before a race, even the short 5K races I run. It's all so complicated. First there is proper training, then a race day plan, packet pick-up at the convention center the Saturday before, eating and hydrating properly pre-race, then leaving hours before your wave, making your way to through the throngs to the starting line, getting out to use a porta-potty, finding your way back, waiting, waiting, waiting, then finally the blast! Horray! Then five minutes or so later, I cross the start and begin to run.

With regards to training properly; I’m not looking to set any records, but I like to finish feeling good about my performance. I run about three times a week, two two-mile runs and one three mile run. And that's about it. I keep trying to extend those miles but when I do my body says, “Hey WTF? This isn't enough?? OK then.  How about some weird pain in your legs, back or shoulders, or perhaps a little tummy cramping to put you back in your place?!?”

Today's race day plan was fairly simple. The girls were coming with us and we were driving to to a Max park-n-ride, then taking the train downtown. We were sure that leaving by 7:40 a.m. would put us downtown in time for Boots' race at 8:50. She was running the kid's 1K Leprechaun Leap. We arrived to the Max in record time but that was all eaten up by our twenty minute wait for the train. I was wondering where the train would put the mass of racers waiting with us. Crammed in with the other anchovies rolling through downtown, I watched our can pass and be passed by the same people walking along the sidewalk three or four times. I couldn't take it anymore, we peeled back the lid, squirted out of the can and swam to the starting line. Charley and Boots just barely got in line before horn sounded for her race.

While Gabs and I were waiting, we decided to use the porta-potty and queued up. The line was a standstill. Then someone poked out from behind the bank and said, “There’s no line over here!” Sure enough there was another bank backed up to ours free and clear. We jetted over and much relieved headed back to wait for Boots and Charley.

Boots rocked her race. She ran the entire 1K distance at a pace, then sprinted the final stretch. That's my little leprechaun. She proudly wore her shirt the next school day. Printed on the back says, “Large, Loud and Legendary”. She read it and said, “That's just like me!” Indeed.

Due to an abundance of butterflies I always mess up the pre-race eating. I'm hungry, but too jittery to want to be full, and definitely don't want to feel sloshy. By the time we get lined up to race, I'm ravenous and thirsty. I brought a gel and water, but neglected to use them with the shuffle.

At this point I got some texts from my friend Sara who was going to run with me today. Sara and I grew up together in the same small town, in the same small school, on the same small sports teams. I had seen her only once since graduation. I was looking for the same tiny girl with bright blond hair, and this taller woman taps me on the shoulder, “Hey, Amy!”

“Sara, holy cow! You're taller!” were my brilliant words to my old friend.

“Um, yep, I grew a little bit,” she said. A long time ago, she thought.

The race was delayed while the cleared out the 8K people, giving us time to catch up with her while taking selfies on our phones, while shivering, dancing to the music, throwing up a wave, and other things they did to keep us entertained while we waited. Finally the horn blasted and we were off! Well sort of.  We were walking, toward the starting line, which seemed like a long ways away…

Due to the crowd, Sara and I lost track of each other right after crossing the start line. We both did a lot of zig-zag running, my watch says I actually ran 3.2 miles, the extra tenth of a mile was all people dodging. It was difficult finding my rhythm for that first mile, then things opened up.

It's on now.

Most corners have people ringing bells, cheering, school bands playing, cops intermittently looking serious and waving at the runners, along with an occasional bewildered pedestrian wondering how they're going to cross the street and not get swept away by the green river of runners.

It is such a rush running in a group like that. So much so that I generally start feeling a little lightheaded around the two mile mark. I hear myself wheezing, so I remember to breath deep and puff out my chest, and carry on.

Then when I'm starting to feel fatigued, the street lifts up in a cruel climb—OK, it's really a pretty gentle climb but it feels cruel at this point. Then the downhill, around the corner, around another corner—yes! the finish line. I turn on the afterburners and I’m surprised to find that I have pretty good juice left.

Then it's over. I stop my watch and check my pace.  8:40 m/m. Whew. Pant, pant, pant. Where are my people?

There they are. All the stress of everything is washed out and I'm grinning. Grinning from endorphins, grinning from the air, grinning from the energy of the crowd. I picked up a crying Berzo from her stroller and we beeline to the chowder and the beer garden. I didn't wear my beer socks for nothing!

The first time I ran the Shamrock Run three years ago, I couldn't imagine wanting a beer after just finishing a race. The thought of it was awful. Reluctantly, I followed my people to the beer garden, got my pint and took a tentative sip. My eyes widened in wonder. It was delicious. The rich flavor warmed and filled my growling tummy. The warmth spread throughout my body, releasing the tension and increasing the feeling of post-race euphoria.

Charley's friend Chris was there after running the 15K. I admired his finisher's medal, a bottle opener—so cool—and tried not to be intimidated by the fact that he ran three times my distance… We sipped and visited, and too soon my beer was empty. We headed out and walked my friend back to her hotel room. It was fun catching up with her. As we said good-bye, I felt a momentary longing for my home and all the people in it. There's this whole other side to me, that is buried under my current life. It was wonderful to unearth that old life and live in it a for a few moments.

The moment passed and for the rest of the day I floated on a cloud. I wore my tee-shirt as proudly as Boots. After all, I have been running regularly through sticky heat of summer, sicknesses, rain, and pain. I got to hang out with 30K of the coolest Portlanders, soak up the glow of my little leprechaun racer, drink the magical post race brew and catch up with a good friend. I'm even happy with my time and placement. Not a bad day, indeed.