The livin’ is easy …

OK, so baseball season doesn’t officially start for a few more days, and the last frost date is still two weeks away, and I can’t wear white shoes for at least a couple more weeks, and … you get the idea. But it’s officially summer here at the Hippie Headquarters in beautiful Red Fork, Oklahoma.

Here is how I know: Tonight, as I was getting ready to leave to go out to dinner with some friends, Scout launched into a barking frenzy that was spectacular even by her standards. I finally hushed her up just enough to make out the unmistakable strains of canned calliope music.

That’s right, kids. The ice-cream truck is back.

If I hadn’t been heading out for dinner, I would have gone dashing out the door to buy one of those ice-cream sandwiches made of two giant chocolate-chip cookies with ice cream in the middle and miniature chocolate chips all over the outside. Because they are absolutely heavenly … and they taste even better when you buy them off a guy driving a pink cargo van with pictures of ice-cream bars stuck all over it. 🙂

Another sure sign of summer: I’m dragging my butt out of bed early tomorrow morning to go on a long run with the Fleet Feet crew. I didn’t sign up for the marathon program this spring, because I didn’t think I had time to train, plus Suzanne and I were going to run together on Saturdays, plus I didn’t want to run another marathon until fall. But I’m definitely going to try OKC, and Suzanne is out of town this weekend, so I e-mailed my coach to find out how far his group was going to run tomorrow, where they were going to meet, and whether they’d mind if I made a special guest appearance.

As luck would have it, they’re doing their longest training run of the season tomorrow. Dunno if I’ll do the whole 20 miles with them (I was planning on 15 tomorrow), but hey … what’s another five miles between friends? If the conversation is good enough, and the weather is pretty enough, and the course is interesting enough, I might just run the whole thing. I stocked up on Carb-Boom the other day, and I’ve got a new pair of shoes, so you never know.

One more sign of summer: The Cubs’ season opener is Monday in Cincinnati.

Hooray for summer!


Jill Carroll freed

It’s not often that something blogworthy happens at 7 a.m., but just as I stepped onto the treadmill this morning at the gym, I glanced up at the TV in front of me — which was tuned to CNN — and learned that Jill Carroll had been released.

Carroll, an Iraq correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, was kidnapped Jan. 7. This morning, she was talking to reporters and looked healthy and calm.

Christian Scientists all over the world have been waiting, like little kids anticipating Christmas morning, to see how Love would be demonstrated in this situation. The outpouring from people of every imaginable faith and every imaginable background has been just phenomenal. Click here to read some of the messages people have been sending.

For more on the story:

Daily Kos

And now, for the moral of the story:

Don’t pick on a girl who works for a paper run by people for whom miracles are just another day at the office. 😉


Bombalurina (a practical cat)

My feline friend was waiting for me when I got home from church this evening.

She greeted me as I got out of the car and followed me to the door. I offered her a little bread and milk, which didn’t impress her. She politely sampled it, confirmed that the bread was stale, and then sat quietly, staring at me through the door.

Here is the difference between dogs and cats: Dogs take commands. Cats give them … in the same firm tone that humans normally reserve for dogs.

Bombalurina, as I have taken to calling her (she’s too young to be a Grizabella, and you can’t call a calico Jennyanydots), sat on the porch, sending me telepathic orders to go find a can of tuna for her. She punctuated her instructions with the occasional plaintive mew just to make sure I didn’t try to ignore her.

I found the tuna, opened it up, and put it on the porch for her. She rewarded my obedience by allowing me to pet her a little bit while she ate.

I still can’t figure out where she belongs. She doesn’t have a collar, and she doesn’t seem to have a home … but she looks healthy and doesn’t appear to be malnourished, although that could be the result of my neighbors free-feeding their cats on their front porch.

In any case, she’s a pretty little thing, with huge amber eyes and a beautiful dark calico coat. Utterly charming. As far as I’m concerned, she’s welcome to stop by for dinner whenever she wants.



I forgot to report this yesterday, but when I came home from work yesterday evening, the hyacinths in my front yard were giving off the most wonderful fragrance. I could smell them as soon as I got out of the car. They reminded me of lilacs or something. It was so wonderful that I couldn’t resist picking one of the little florets and slipping it into my pocket in the hopes that its lovely fragrance would permeate my coat. (It didn’t work, but I was hoping it would.)

Today was pretty. I didn’t really see anything new outside, but the sparrows outside our front door at the office were obviously enjoying the nice weather. I think they have a nest somewhere under the awning out front, because they are always flitting around out there.


The defiance of the long-distance runner

You know you’ve been away from double-digit mileage too long when you actually start to crave the taste of Carb-Boom.

These were the self-imposed limitations muttering in my ears this morning as I struggled to convince myself to get up and go for a run: “It’s too early. You need more sleep. You can’t run 10 miles. You haven’t run more than five miles since November … and you walked half of that five-miler you tried Saturday. You haven’t had any breakfast. You don’t have any Gatorade. You haven’t been drinking enough water. You’re going to get woozy. You’re going to pass out. You’re going to hurt yourself. You always get too hot when you run on the treadmill. You can’t possibly run 10 miles today.”

That little voice of false limitation is the same little voice that chases every marathoner through weeks of training. It gets up early on long-run days and prances along in front of you, whining its hateful little sing-song about how this is too hard and you’ll never make it. It whispers lies about blisters and dehydration and The Wall while you run, and it wakes you up in the middle of the night with aggressive mental suggestions about muscle cramps. It uses all sorts of dirty tricks to try to make you believe in it. You continually have to tell it to pipe down, because you’d never finish if you let it keep yanging at you.

I silenced it this morning with 10 strong miles on the treadmill (adding a tenth of a mph to my speed every 15 minutes or so, just to rub it in) and a poem I’d learned as a child and then forgotten until today:

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,
Listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me —
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.

— Shel Silverstein

I’m 33 days from 26.2.

Bring it.


What diet?

The weather was nice today — much warmer than it’s been the last week or so. We spent the afternoon at Cain’s Ballroom, listening to my young friends Emma Jane and Marina Pendleton perform with the Roundup Boys. The girls, who play fiddle and mandolin, were very good, and Ron is crazy about Western swing music, so we had a good time.

I blew my diet to the tune of 2,500 calories today. We spent a good bit of time on Route 66 today, and I just couldn’t resist the lunch buffet at Ollie’s … or a chocolate-dipped ice-cream cone at Toppers in Bristow this evening … or a sandwich, chips and sweet tea at the Rock Cafe in Stroud. But that’s OK. I have just about talked myself into running the OKC Memorial Marathon — for which I have not even begun to train — so I am going to be doing some serious running and cross-training over the next few weeks.

This means that my definition of the word “diet” is about to change.

To a non-runner, the term “diet” means something like “Atkins” or “Slim-Fast” or “less than 1,500 calories a day.”

To a marathoner four weeks from another race, the term “diet” means something like “Can I get a side of pasta salad and an extra roll to go with those mashed potatoes? Hey, Pal — whaddayou lookin’ at? It’s called ‘carbo-loading.’ Let’s see you haul your skinny little butt 26.2 miles, and then you can come talk to me about your precious Dr. Atkins.”

It’s good to be a marathoner. Pass the Ben & Jerry’s, would you?



Suzanne and I went jogging on the river trail this morning. Songdog came along. He was a handful — I haven’t had time to walk him much lately, so he was full of pent-up energy — but we had a good time anyway. I sprinted with Song all the way across the pedestrian bridge to work some of the goofiness out of him. On the way across, I saw a couple of herons near a sand bar or something in the middle of the river. They were beautiful. We also saw plenty of Canada geese along the west bank of the river. Song was disappointed that I wouldn’t let him chase them.

I wish I’d had my camera to get a picture of the seagull that went gliding over the river under a cloud that was sort of splitting the sunshine into all these distinct shafts of light. It was really beautiful. So were the redbuds in the arbor garden.

We encountered a huge flock of mallards with shiny green heads somewhere near the spillway, and we were just about finished with our run when Suzanne pointed out a bright red cardinal flitting across the path ahead of us.

By the time we finished our run, Songdog was so tired that he wouldn’t even look at me — he just curled up on the passenger’s seat and looked pathetic as I drove home. I gave him a drink of water and then sent him off to take a nap in his crate.

Ron and I grabbed lunch at the Blue Dome Diner, which has awesome food, and then we went to the Country Store — ostensibly so Ron could ask some gardening question, but mostly so I could pet the ducklings and goslings and chicks that were all huddled up under heat lamps in there.

You can’t believe how cute those baby birds are. I’d have taken one of the goslings home if not for the fact that all goslings are defective: They start out all cute and fuzzy and sweet, and then one day you look up and they’ve turned into big, hissing, biting, noisy, obnoxious geese.

When I was little, my parents would take me to the city park to feed crackers and stale bread to the ducks. Unfortunately, the pond was also home to a flock of nasty-tempered geese that would come running at us with their heads stuck way out in front of them and their mouths open like they wanted to bite us. They’d hiss and charge at us until I ran away, screaming and sobbing hysterically for Mommy and Daddy to make them go away.

Nasty creatures. I’m glad we don’t have any geese.


Nothing doing

I’m sure glorious things were happening outside today, but I wouldn’t know, because I was stuck indoors. We had computer problems at work that kept me tied up through lunch, all afternoon, and well past time to go home. I finally got out of the office at a quarter to seven.

I need to put gas in the Starlight Express, but it isn’t the only one running on fumes this evening. I think I’m just going to finish this pan of pasta, drink a bottle of water, and go to bed early.

In the absence of a “what’s going on in the yard” report today, I’ll give you an update on the challenge I undertook earlier this month.

On March 8, I reported my plans to shun chains and franchises for a period of one month. I’ve been doing pretty well with that. I thought groceries would be a real challenge, but I’m doing Slim-Fast right now, so I’m really only fixing one meal a day, and the S&S Market has enough options to keep me fed. The S&S also sells gas, so I haven’t had to go corporate for fuel here in town.

I have cheated only a few times: Things got crazy one day last week, so I picked up sushi at Wild Oats instead of holding out for a trip to Asahi (which was on the opposite side of town from where I needed to be), and we didn’t have the option of getting picky when we went to Austin last weekend — we had to settle for a Super 8 because the Austin Motel was booked up, and our lack of familiarity with the route deprived us of the luxury of holding out for mom-and-pop pit stops on the way down and back.

Overall, though, this is turning out to be much easier than I expected. I have so little interest in fast food that it’s no sacrifice at all to sit down to a plate of tikka masala at Desi Wok or fill up a plate in the buffet line at Talking Drum, and our trip to Austin was only enhanced by our trips to Rosie’s Tamale House and Threadgill’s.

I needed a new coat the other day, so I went straight to Grumpy’s Garden and bought that cute little Janis Joplin coat I’ve had my eye on all winter. Even after you factor in the half-hour I spent shooting the bull with Shawn, I spent far less time (and probably less money) in the store than I would have if I’d gone to the mall.

And as I expected, the slightly higher prices at mom-and-pop businesses — which don’t have the advantage of buying in megaquantities the way Wal-Mart and the other behemoths do — have been offset by the fact that I don’t have a million unnecessary objects and diabolically clever advertisements scattered in my path to manipulate me into spending money on things I don’t really need.

Could I avoid chains entirely for every purchase I make for the rest of my life? I doubt it. Sometimes you just can’t find what you need anywhere else. But am I finding it much easier than I expected to adjust my schedule and my habits to put a much higher percentage of my disposable income in the hands of Mom and Pop instead of McCorporateMart? Absolutely.

Stay tuned. I’ve got a couple more weeks left on this experiment. I imagine I’ll learn a few more things and make a few more adjustments along the way.


Snow, ladybugs, and Lifesavers

Snowy day

This is what my yard looked like when I left for work this morning. I wanted to get a picture of the redbuds covered in snow, because they were really beautiful, but I was in a hurry to get to work and didn’t have time to stop and shoot anything. It was so warm that none of the snow stuck to the streets, and by mid-morning, all the snow had melted. If you slept in, you missed it, but if you were out and about this morning in Tulsa, you were witness to some moments of striking beauty.

Speaking of moments of striking beauty, I have to share a cute story with you about how a friend of mine restored my faith in humanity without even realizing it last night.

In the middle of one of the hymns at church last night, my friend Brad went dashing up to a pew a couple of rows in front of him, swept something off the back of the pew and into his hand, and took off with it, much to the amusement of the people around him.

I couldn’t tell exactly what he was up to, but when I asked him about it after church, he explained that he’d seen a stray ladybug crawling along the pew and was afraid it wouldn’t find anything to eat inside, so he rescued it and went running out into the cold to put it in a flowerpot.

His simple gesture of kindness was so beautiful that it almost made me cry. I’ve been sort of fussing over the sorry state of affairs in the world lately — every day, we’re surrounded by images of wars, violence, hatred and injustice of all kinds — and wondering if humanity will ever manage to get over its hangups long enough to figure out that its only purpose for existence is to express love and beauty.

I decided that if there are people out there who will stop what they are doing and go running out into a cold night to protect a wayward ladybug, then yes, there is hope that we’ll get it together one of these days.

As I was standing in front of the mirror with another mouthful of wintergreen Lifesavers this evening (yeah, I know — I am waaaay too fascinated with this phenomenon), I had to laugh at myself. “You dork,” I thought. “You’re 30 years old, and you’re standing here amazed at a junior-high party trick you’ve probably done a thousand times in the past without realizing it. You just didn’t know those tiny flashes of light were there, because you weren’t looking for them, you didn’t believe in them, and you weren’t standing where you could see them.”

It struck me that Brad’s effort to rescue the ladybug last night in church was the metaphysical equivalent of a spark in the dark: a fleeting expression of love that probably happens more often than we realize, goes unseen by most of the world, and doesn’t appear, at first glance, to be terribly significant … but if you’re standing in the right place and watching for it, it will appear for you, a pretty little flash of light in a world that can sometimes seem dark.

May we all learn to see — and to make — sparks in the dark.