Weekend Coffee Share: Hitting My Stride

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If we were having coffee this morning, I’d invite you to take it outside to the little wrought-iron bench near the entrance to my apartment building. It’s a little chilly outside — it’s May in Michigan, after all — but it’s a beautiful sunrise, and there is always something so peaceful about drinking that first cup of the day outside, hands wrapped around a warm mug while the steam rises and fogs up my glasses.

I used to love sitting on the porch at my aunts’ cottage in these early hours. We couldn’t see the sunrise from there, of course, because the house faced west, overlooking Lake Michigan. Still, the reds and golds of the sun rising behind us would reflect on the water, glittering and sparkling like so many jewels spread out as far as the eye could see.

I am a morning person. I am not an optimist by nature, but I try to believe that every morning brings with it a chance for a fresh start, a new beginning. An opportunity to take a deep and soul-cleansing breath, to wipe away the grainy residue of sleep and occasional dried tears and look at the world through fresh eyes.

Years ago, I would go for a run on mornings like this. I never ran very far or very fast, but I ran. Those first few steps were always clumsy and awkward until I found my rhythm, and I’d bargain with myself. “If I don’t feel better by the time I reach the stop sign, I’ll turn around and go home,” I’d promise.  Then I’d pass the stop sign and tell myself the same thing about an oak tree or a mailbox or some other landmark.

Eventually, I’d stop bargaining. Everything would just sort of glide into place and I could go on auto-pilot. When that happened, I wasn’t running for fitness or watching the time, or even measuring the distance. I was just being. Doing. Moving. And when it was over, my whole body felt stretched-out, warmed-up, energized. It felt as though my body and my spirit fit together perfectly.

I don’t run any more. Some days, walking is almost more than I can handle. But I miss that feeling of fitting inside my own skin.

Oh, this isn’t about physical fitness (or lack thereof). It’s about feeling lost. These past few years, life has felt like those early moments of my morning jogs when I had to keep pushing myself. “If things don’t get better by the time I reach that point, I’ll give up,” I keep thinking, and then I re-set my goal for another landmark. I keep waiting for that moment when things glide into place, when my body and spirit work together perfectly again.

I am restless. I am angry and bitter at times. I am tired.

But as I sit here on this wrought-iron bench with you this morning, sipping away at lukewarm coffee, today feels like one of those long-ago mornings at my aunts’ cottage, when I would take those soul-cleansing breaths and wipe my eyes. It feels like one of my early morning runs, and I have almost hit my stride. A few more steps, just a little farther, and I’ll find my rhythm.

And I guess that makes me an optimist, because mornings like this make me believe that I will find it, that I will hit my stride, and that my body and spirit will work together again someday soon.

That’s what being a morning person is all about.

 

Grouch To Groucho

It’s been one of those mornings.

I had crazy dreams all night.  The last one, the one that woke me up in a cold sweat, involved my riding around Mackinac Island on a tour bus filled with Brownie Scouts and their Troop leaders, all of whom were glaring at me because my child and I were not in uniform.  It was especially odd because the child wasn’t my daughter, and there are no motor vehicles on Mackinac Island.

I woke from that strangeness around 4:30 with a headache so bad that my eyeballs were throbbing.  Lots of hot coffee and two hot showers later, it’s not much better; I do, however, have a vague marketing idea for hot coffee showers.

Would that not be the greatest invention of all time?

When I finally sat down at the computer, I discovered that I have forgotten how to spell.  Anything.  Anything at all, even my own name.  That’s all right, though, because I have apparently also forgotten how to type, along with a few other things that are pretty important to me as a writer.  Working on a chapter in my newest book today, I have called my main character Eric, Kenny, Brian, and George.  All perfectly nice names, but his name is Jayson.

I went back for more coffee and stood at the kitchen window, staring out at my snow-covered yard.  Only to realize, after several moments of absolutely nothing going inside my head, that the bright fluorescent curtains are missing from my son’s playhouse in my back yard, and that the yard is crisscrossed with footprints in the snow all over the place.  Someone has had a wonderful time playing out there in the past few days.

Which is odd, since my kids are with their father this week.

Honestly, I was starting to feel like Arthur Dent in the opening scene of Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, when he looks out the window at the bulldozers circling his house and all he can think of to say is, “Yellow.”

Then, just as I was really settling in to a satisfying round of whining about my headache and bad day all over Facebook, a very dear friend sent me a picture that made my day.

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All righty, then.  I am choosing to be happy.

I am happy because my kids and I are healthy, and we have a cozy little house, with neighbor kids who obviously enjoy playing in my back yard.

I am happy because my new book is coming together really well and I’m having fun writing it.  As long as I can remember Jayson’s name, that is.

I am happy because the new features for my blog are coming along nicely, and I’m excited about the very talented people who have agreed to be interviewed by me.

I am happy because my blog has really been taking off lately.  It’s getting more hits every day, as well as more followers.  The “referral” part of my stats page doesn’t always tell me where they are coming from, but I’m still thrilled to see that so many people want to stop by and read what I have to say.

I am happy because my books are selling at a steady pace.  I’m nowhere near bestseller status, but I’m very content at this point to be selling one or two a day.  I’m in the process of making Have a Goode One available through more channels, and things are definitely looking up.

I am especially happy because I just found a Toblerone in my refrigerator.  I don’t remember putting it there, but I’m going to eat it and chalk it up as a gift from the Chocolate Fairy.

What’s that?  You say you don’t believe in the Chocolate Fairy?  Heresy!  She exists, all right.  With her cousins, the Cleaning Fairy, the Money Fairy, and my personal favorite, the Wine Fairy.

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Happy Father’s Day

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Early one Sunday morning a month or so before I married the Big Guy, my father showed up at my place with a box of doughnuts. And when I say “early”, I mean “before 7:00”.  Really early.  Too damn early to be conscious on a Sunday morning.

Especially since the Big Guy had stayed the night.

Now I realize it really wasn’t all that scandalous, not in this day and age.  Especially not since we were both well into our twenties and our wedding was literally weeks away.  But I don’t think any father wants to accept the fact that his little girl is no longer a blushing virgin; and no woman looks forward to the confirming that fact to her daddy.

I immediately went into panic mode and told the Big Guy to sneak out the back door.

“But he’ll see me.”

“Then hide in the bedroom until he leaves.”

“My truck is in the driveway.  He’s already seen it.  He’s parked behind it.”

We just stared at each other.  Finally, I wrapped up in my robe and went to answer the door with as much dignity as I could muster with my wild bed-hair and mussed make-up . . . and quite possibly a visible hickey or two.  We all three acted as though everyone was fully dressed, right down to the wedding rings that weren’t on our hands yet.

I left the two men alone in the living room while I went to the kitchen to make the coffee.  When I returned, they were in the midst of an animated conversation about garbage pick-up day and which were the best neighborhoods for finding “stuff” that was still good, that could be fixed.  In that moment, I had two thoughts: They really like each other and Oh, crap, they are exactly alike.

Dad and the Big Guy continued to get along really well over the next few years, although Dad had a few habits that definitely annoyed him. Most of those habits involved Dad showing up at our house unannounced.

Dad’s third wife kept him on a pretty tight leash.  I still adore her and believe that the two of them really were soulmates, but she had certain rules that he had no choice but to follow.  She dried him out, cleaned him up, and made him respectable; he still had his lapses, however.

Once in a while, he still liked to have a beer and a cigarette.  Stepmom flatly refused to allow either behavior in their home, so he would park his little red truck in different places on our land and spend an hour or two “reading the paper”.   It drove the Bug Guy crazy; he couldn’t understand why Dad didn’t just come to the door and have his drink and smoke in the open.

Dad also hated to give up his junk-picking habit.  He loved to find “repairable” items on the side of the road, but those items were definitely not allowed in his house.  On any given morning, the Big Guy and I might step outside to find a broken rocking chair missing a rung, or a lawnmower in need of an overhaul, or some other such “gifts”.

When he started dropping off rolls of used carpet, the Big Guy insisted that we didn’t want that in our yard.  Instead of taking the hint, Dad started putting it in the ramshackle, roofless shed in the woods behind our house, where local cats promptly began to pee on it.  Between that and the mildew that grew on it every time it rained, the carpet in that old shed began to give off an odor that could overtake the entire street on a really hot day.

Years later, the Big Guy finally got rid of it by asking the fire department to burn the shed as part of a training exercise.

Dad had one truly horrible habit that that really bothered both of us.  He was a morning person, and after he retired from his job as a meat cutter, he started visiting us early in the morning several times per week.  We were both on second shift, so he knew he would always catch us at home without any concerns about making us late for work.  He usually brought doughnuts or coffee or a package of sausage or bacon to contribute to the breakfast that I inevitably cooked when he showed up.

Unfortunately, he also had an odd sort of radar.

Without fail, his morning visits always coincided with the mornings when the Big Guy and I were having morning sex.  Every. Single. Time.  If we woke up feeling amorous, it was a sure bet that Dad was going to be knocking on the door before we were done.

“Whatever you do,” my husband growled, “don’t ever give him a key.”

Dad died peacefully one November evening, after a long phone conversation with his sister.  He told his wife that he wasn’t feeling well and wanted to take a little nap, and he passed away quickly and quietly a few moments later.  We shouldn’t have been surprised; he’d had heart trouble for years.

My stepmother’s niece sang his favorite hymn, “In the Garden” at the funeral.  It seemed odd to cry during the service because he’d been so happy in his final years, and because he had spent so many years trying to make others happy.  As the lovely old song filled the room, I looked up and saw tears in the Big Guy’s eyes and realized just how much the old man had come to mean to both of us.

My dad wasn’t perfect, but he loved me.   He didn’t say it and he had odd ways of showing his love, but at the end, I never had any doubts about his love for his daughters.

Happy Father’s Day, Dean.  I miss you.