Sunday, May 31, 2009

Brushes & bubbles & car washes: Oh my!

I drop off my son at volleyball practice and think, "Hmm. I do believe I have time to get my car washed."

So I pull into my old fave place. I expect the person with the clipboard will approach me, as he always does. He will write down my license-plate number, as he always does. He will ask what sort of wash I want, as he always does.

I'll look at the choice and pick the same. Yes, as I always do. He'll say: "Fragrance?" I'll say, "Um....lemon-lime."

Today though, I was one of only two cars there. Nobody approached me with a clipboard; instead, I was signaled to drive to where the vacuuming usually began. There, a friendly fellow with a belly and a mustache told me the name of the place had changed, and so had the manner of operation.

"You stay in your car as it's washed from the outside," he said, gesturing to what has always been the secret cleaning tunnel where the car-wash drivers went. I looked and saw larger-than-life brushes and tsunami sprays of water. I knew I was in trouble.

"What if I panic while I'm in there?" I asked, only half kidding.

He laughed. "Oh, it's fun!" he assured me. "You'll see those big ol' brushes descending on your car and all the soap suds and it'll be really great!"

I knew I was in trouble. Still, I smiled (albeit nervously) and slowly drove to the entrance. The sign blinked: "Foot off brake. Put car in neutral."

I did as told. And then -- omigosh. Here they came. Huge brushes descending on me and my car. There was no escape. None. No one would hear me if I screamed. If I rolled down the windows, soap would no doubt fill the car and my lungs. Either way, I was doomed.

So I did the only thing I could. I squeezed my eyes shut, leaned onto the passenger seat, and I called my sister Susan.

"You are the only person in the entire world who will appreciate what I am going through," I said, laughing so I wouldn't start to scream or sob.

She appreciated every bubble, every swipe of the guillotine brushes. She stayed with me. After about three hours (ok, three minutes), I began to see, quite literally, light at the end of the soapy tunnel.

I felt as if I had just been on a roller coaster: Terrified. Shaking. Vowing never to do that sort of thing again.

As I was sitting outside, saying survivor prayers to the heavens, I watched a man get out of his fresh-from-the-tunnel car. He looked a bit shaken. I tried to make empathetic eye contact, but he was focused on merely putting one step in front of the other.

And, no doubt, vowing to keep a bottle of Windex and a roll of paper towels in his car. Cheaper than a car wash and, yes, far less terrifying.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Heart-rate monitor's working again!

My running buddy, who doubles (usually good-naturedly!) as my adviser for all-things-technical, was a bit befuddled when I told him my heart rate monitor wasn't working.

"Didn't you just put a new battery in -- a battery I gave you and you still owe me $5.43 for?"


"Did you clean it, inside and out?"


"Let me take a look."

So he did what I hadn't -- synced it with my Forerunner. Yes, a "well duh" action for most people with a bit of technie sense...

Anyway, it worked. That was last week and it STILL works. I'd forgotten how much having that bit of information helps my running. So now, not only can I keep track of how fast and far I'm going, now I also know how my heart is functioning while I run.

It's a Garmin Forerunner 305, by the way, which is priced pretty well at

I'm actually pretty pleased with how fast and how slow my heart is beating. I guess my annoyance when I first started monitoring this stuff has really helped. Hooray.

Wait. Shhh. I hear something. Some mildly irritating whisper in my ear. Oh yeah, it's that again. That mantra. Something about uh...patience (especially with myself) being a virtue.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Porch-sitting mull: Life is too precious to be petty

I sit on my front porch as I write this. An old dog's at my feet. A little black cat paws frantically at the window, eager to be out here with us.

There's one sip left in the wine glass my left hand can reach. The breeze blows ever-so-slightly, though the longer I sit here, the noisier it gets. I'm thinking in a few minutes I need to take the sheets off the clothesline before the rain starts.

But first, I need to mull a little bit. About death, about life.

I just got off the phone from a close-to-an-hour call from an old (as in from elementary school) friend. John's beloved uncle & namesake died early this morning from that horrible ALS (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig's disease). He was 73; he would have turned 74 on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

Not three hours earlier, my sister called to tell me about the death of (bear with me here) the husband of our brother-in-law's work partner. After dinner last night, Diane's husband dropped dead of a heart attack. He was 55.

Two weeks ago, the father of my other brother-in-law died. He was 86, and had outlived his own father by 23 years. Still, Nick's death was still sobering and sad.

Meanwhile, one of my nephews graduated from college. His older brother was offered a job -- a good job! My Charlie is playing in a volleyball tournament in Richmond, Va. My niece, who received a masters degree a week ago, is getting married next weekend.

And somewhere within all those life events is me. Me, who has silly, often petty misunderstandings with people I care about.

What to do? Pet the dog, drain the wineglass, let the black kitty out if he promises to sit on my lap and not run away. To hug my Charlie when he gets home; to bleach his stinky knee pads. To cry at my niece's wedding, and to dance at her reception.

Mostly, to put it all into perspective. Which means, in part, to keep trying to be the person I need to be, and would like to be, and to prefer to think of myself as actually being. And please oh please, to remember what matters.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Runnng with (not like) a greyhound. Or two

I ran with a greyhound Thursday night. Not like -- with. And not singular, but plural. One, two, three. But thankfully, I only held the leash of two at the most, one at the speediest.

My running buddy and his wife adopted two of last night's running team a year ago from Greyhound Adoption League of Texas (a.k.a. GALT).

The other, Chick, the curly-eared cutie you see here, is one of their two foster hounds.

As we all ran at what I considered to be a decent speed, Chick (yawn) barely broke out of a trot. When she or one of the other two did let loose, it was a beautiful thing to see. We forgot our own panting to watch their gentle breaths as they loped ahead of us.

It was a night with the slightest of stars and the mildest of breezes. And there we were, lucky to be leash-holding spectators, mesmerized by these beautiful canine creations moving with such ease, and with such God-given grace.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

I saw my dog as a puppy today

After four-and-a-half heavy, humid, breeze-less miles, my run was almost over. Just a half-circle around the park by my house and I was done.

As always on a Saturday morning, soccer-playing kids filled the fields; younger ones climbed on the jungle gym. People and dogs of all ages ran and walked the park's circumference.

I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention to those sharing the concrete path. But when I saw a woman -- more accurately, her dog -- I did a double-take. There was my Sally, my soon-to-turn 12-year-old dog, as a teen-ager.

Her eyes were clear; the black of her coat ebony, the white like snow. Even her collar was pure red: Fresh, unfaded, new.

Her whole body moved when she walked. She was eager, curious, attuned to every movment around her. I said a quick "hi" and her ears perked up as if she couldn't wait to hear more.

I turned around once after we passed. The dog's tail was still wagging, her head looking back and forth.

When I got home, Sally was lying on the rug in the living room. She lifted up her head when I came in, and wagged her tail when I called her name. These days, the black and white on her face and on her feet make gray. Her red collar is almost pink. But she is loyal, she is kind; she is smart and she is sweet.

I cannot make her curious; nor can I make her eager or young, and I am not sure I would want to. I am, instead, grateful for the dog Sally was and, more importantly, for the one she is.

I'm going to buy her a new collar today, one that is red and fresh and new. When I put it around her neck and scratch her head, I know she'll wag her tail. She'll sit when I give her a bone and, though she doesn't have the energy to walk around the park, she'll lie down at my feet when I read on the front porch, as happy to be close by as I am to have her there.