Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Feet on FAR

5 years ago I told COnor I'd do the Memorial Marathon 5K  with him. Well it seemed like I always had some excuse for not doing it and I realized that when he turns 13 he will be like "YUK hang out with my Mom no way." So I knew a lot of people who did this really fun 5K last year called Color Me Rad and asked him if he wanted to do it with me. He said "Um Yeah!" So I decided I'd start training with this program my friend told me about called Couch to 5K. Basicaly it starts out with 30 minutes ( hang with me I know its not very entertaining yet) 5 min warm up 60 sec. of jogging, then walking for 90 seconds alternating for 20 min. That didnt sound too tough as I had walked 2.5 miles the day before and woke up feeling fine. 

So I strapped on my tennies ( which I like to refer to as my "FEET ON FAR" a phrase Larry uses when he's teaching water aerobics and you are about to haul ass til the top of your head flies off)
And took off so far so good walking like the chase a toddler speed  along to some Black Eyed Peas then this pretty little voice says "start running" . Now if you know me you know I might like to think I look like this. But truly unless I have something like this behind me Im not really going to run but I can do a little trot. And 60 seconds piece of cake! So then a little panting but Im good still moving.
 Then again "start running" ok Im moving Im moving sheesh.  Starting to sweat and feel kind of hot and then just when I catch my breath "start running. 

 ARE you kidding me? Already? So Im going but not happily and I sound like I need a breathing treatment. I hit pause on the timer down some water start again. Gettin tired then there it is "start running". Im thinking  really I just did that! But I get after it. I can't believe it its only been like10 minutes. Then there she is again I picture this perfect face wearing a headset all cool in her perfect little workout gear sayin "start running". 

RUNNING? Really Im barely able to do it but I kick it up a notch from walking to the mailbox speed to being chased by a kitten speed and it feels like my calves are on fire, my ass is on fire. OH MY GOD IM SO OUT OF SHAPE! Oh thank you Lord I get to walk and Im now walking like Im in one of those dreams where you feet are stuck in the ground and here comes that freaking BITCH "start running" please BITCH ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! At this point I decided that I would have to pretend The Texas Chainsaw murderer was behind me and I work myself up to a hair above the feet in mud speed. Those bleachers are looking good, I wonder if anyone will notice if I fall over on one and don't move for the rest of the day..."start running" "No way you mother f-in bitch sent from hell to torment me why don't you just get a damn cat o nine tails and start smacking me on the back with it....and "COOL DOWN". oh. Oh its almost over, ITS ALMOST OVER. I fall onto the bleacher pour 1/2 my water down the front of my shirt and the other 1/2 in my mouth. By this time Im shuffling along like this but you know what I finished.  And next time I will finish better.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

And the dark goes down to day nothing gold can stay

He pulled up in a old brown beater of a truck with a lawn mower hanging out the back and flashed a big smile with a gold tooth in front. He asked if we would be needin some yard work done and I said sure. That was the beginning of a golden friendship with my pal Clarence.

His house is down the street it looks like Sanford and son because if he saw something that could be fixed or was pretty he always took it home and tried to find a home for it with someone. I have an Italian Chandelier from the 20s and a 1968 bicycle, and a dirt bike he brought Conor that were  "findings " from some of his odd jobs. He always could see the good stuff, the bones...

The people on that end of our block are old families who have always lived there or kids that grow up  leave and come back.  I don't even know how old he was maybe 70?  But he knew everybody and everybodys business.  And he could do anything!  Need your roof fixed, masonry, garage cleaned, yard work get hold of Mr. Clarence. You could always find him somewhere doing something for somebody patching it , fixing it, making it better.

He always had a yard full of misfits and woebegones as well. The men in the neighborhood who were alcoholics or drug addicts trying to get clean. I'd drive by his house going to and fro and there would always be two or three of them setting on his steps waiting for him to come home (along with the stray cats in the neighborhood that he used to feed he'd laugh and say he could hear them calling him from the dusty yard..) he'd always try to find something for those broken men to do with him.  I don't know what he would say to them or how he did it but I know they worked hard and I saw some get clean, stay clean, and mend fences with family that I thought were broken forever. Three years later one of them stood in my yard talking to my husband Larry and I didnt recognize him he looked so healthy and he was in business with his boys.

 Now don't get me wrong Mr. Clarence was no pushover,  one night a troublemaker in the neighborhood approached me in my yard up to no good and Larry ran him off. I told Mr. Clarence about it the next day and a couple of days later he came by my house and said "Don't you worry Miss lady nobodies gonna bother you now."  He would say to the dopers and thugs before he ran them off "You know those are good people down there you just leave them alone." He was the buffer, the guardian, the peacekeeper, our black knight.

Sometimes he'd  be doing the yard or just  driving by and then sit on the porch steps with us and talk for a while about what things were like when he was young and growing up on our street, how things changed though the time and he watched it all. He was a comic and a storyteller and Dr. Phil all rolled into one. An hour after hanging out with him and his gold just rubbed off on you and you felt good about life.

He was on a job last week and started to feel bad so they called an ambulance and he walked out to the truck and they worked on him a bit and as is so like him he didn't want to be a bother and offered to drive himself to the hospital, and then died. His big golden heart just wore out.

No more to see my friend hail me from the side of the street or roll by and tease me about how pretty I am with my red hair or pat Conors hand and tell him he's so proud, or Hey Larry lets smoke a ciger soon...And I can't seem to not cry as I drive by his house....

I think now of him and even through my sadnessI smile because I see him. There he'd be in the sunshine grinning that gold toothed grin around his grizzled beard and looking like a African pirate with his bandanna tied around his head, cigar clenched in his teeth and saying "  Miss lady you gonna need some work?" and I knew it was spring time.

The buzz of a mower, the smell of fresh cut grass that will be Mr. Clarence telling me its spring....
Heres one to take you home Mr. Clarence ....

A Piper to the end

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

We have always lived in shall we say COLORFUL neighborhoods. And by that I mean they were not dull.  At our first home we bought in 97  we had local bike nights where harleys would flood our street going to the bar, a gang wake one street over, someone shot in the butt in the yard across the street, walking traffic from the bars down the street . Yep I got horn swoggled a couple of times into giving bus fare, gas money, a bag of groceries. But I got used to seeing certain people and loved my neighbors. The musician who would have rehearsals and the music would come out of his home and we could sit outside and enjoy it, or the lady next door who played the mandolin and sang, the kids walking home from Horace Mann every day that we watched go from toddling along holding Moms hand to running along trailing papers in thier fists. Our neighbor Mike who after watching my husband and our friend working out together walked down to our house one evening and did martial arts and sword work with them in our front yard.

 But its not just people who make up our daily routines and neighbors, there are animals too.

When we first moved to our house we are in now I would take Conor to school and if we passed the school bus stop we would see not just the kids but a big black dog sitting out there no matter the weather. If it was raining they would all be on a houses porch, but there she was every time.  Conor calls her his "Good luck dog". One day we drove by and there was a group of big boys standing around her and she was rolling around like a puppy playing in the grass funny to see such a big dignified dog do that...

Looks good for 16 doesnt she?
This is Candy our Good Luck Dog
I always wondered what her story was so one night I saw a group of men walking down the street (while I was driving by) and she was loping along with them. I started up a coversation with a man in a ballcap.

Me: Hi is that your dog?

Him: Yep Thats Candy she's been my dog a long long time.

Me; Is she very old?

Him: Yeah she's sixteen.  I had her since she was a pup her and my boys grew up together. She's a good good dog. She don't need a leash or anything she's a good girl.

After that I heard lots of stories about Candy. How when they first got her  they had no fence and she hated being on a tether and she acted mean so they just let her off and thats when she became the neighborhood dog.  She has been the caretaker of the bus stop kids forever. Even tho her boys are all grown up she still does it. She has her routine, every morning at sun up she gets up and walks about two blocks up from her house and around the corner to the bus stop for the school where she hangs out with the high schoolers, then jr high, and finally elementary kids. Then she makes her way down the street towards her house where she visits with the neighbors a long the way who feed her some biscuits. She ambles over and sees her across the street neighbors and then finally if its a nice day she lays in the sun on the driveway for awhile.
This summer after I took her picture ( I lured her in with a dog biscuit which she gently took and then held in her mouth til I quit petting her)  she joined Conor and I on a walk and walked us all the way home, sat for a bit then turned around and headed the two blocks home.  She has seen much this Dowager of the Hood and I look forward to seeing our good luck dog daily.
Sometimes I worry she will be hit by a car we get more and more traffic on the street she crosses to go on her morning constitutional. But she would not want to be held back from her life. So I pray and I hope when she goes its peacefully laying in the sun after one last trip to the bus stop with the kids...
Thank you Candy your my favorite "neighbor".

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Climbing the ladder slippery rungs

Things could have been different. I could have not picked up the Gazette and seen the brick house with all the windows. I could have believed that because the deal fell through twice we were not supposed to move. I could have not been at the picnic after we moved where a neighbor asked why my son was not in school at Wilson, a school I had driven by and seen, an arts integrated school with  drama and music  and wished he could go to but thought was not in my district, and caused me to fret over where he would end up...

But thats not what happened.

He did get to go to Wilson, and because its a arts integrated school he got to take strings from a teacher who was fabulous and recognized a natural so she placed him with a Cello which was fine with me because I was terrified of screechy violin practice at my house. And because his Dad and I are music lovers
we were very excited for him to get to play. That summer I had him in private lessons.  Not cheap and he never wanted to go. But he did and we managed and he got caught up with the other kids he played with.

And the next year he discovered Drama thanks to a teacher who is on fire for his kids and he gave him extra time  and we made sure he got to go to workshops and camps with our friend Toby who also is The Wizard of Drama ( all her kids are in art and music and drama and doing fine) and loved seeing him bloom.  He gets that creative side from me. That dreamy off in Lala Land, I saw a butterfly and the butterfly was me .... and what was that assignment again?

So he struggled with the real life stuff. The English and math. (Never the reading because he gets that from us too. he's been reading since he could look at pictures. He still loves stories only he reads to us now...)
Ms Sarah and Conor
We struggled too trying to understand how to help him. Parent teacher conferences, parent principal conferences, parent parent meetings, kid parent meetings it was crazy. He had a teacher who just didn't like him or us. So those rungs on that school  ladder they felt a little greasy.

But God is good and sent us a fabulous math tutor and private Cello teacher. He sees them every week and they hold their hands out and pull him along steadily making the way up...

Casady Strings Camp
 His 5th grade year was also the year he toured Classen School of Advanced Studies and tested to see if he could get in academically. He auditioned for the Orchestra. It was nerve wracking. We waited and waited and after everyone else had got their letters we still didn't have ours. I called the school and they had the wrong address but told me he got in so I made a fake envelope and letter and sealed it up and gave it to him after school so he'd be surprised. First he whooped and hollered and jumped up and down and then I saw the relief on his face. He told me later after he told his classmates he got in  his teacher had said "I don't know how YOU managed to get into Classen." So she had to give him a little shove just to keep him off balance but he hung on anyway.

We thought that the summer would be his little oasis before moving up to Jr. High. He got to go to Casady Strings Camp. Of course he didn't want to go and complained the entire weekend before and when I dropped him off then when I picked him up he was so excited he couldn't stop talking about it and how they would be doing a concert at the end of the week.  A beautiful concert where he played with other kids from 11 to 15 and they played Lady Gaga, and Coldplay and Movie theme music while a beautiful breeze blew in over the lake all these kids on a summer evening playing their hearts out it was magic.

I found out he had what felt like a years worth of work for the summer before he even went to school. Books and poems to read, math, science, at least an hour or so every day...I ordered 6 books from Amazon he had to read that summer and downloaded speeches and history and all kinds of things I got a little taste of what home schooling must be like. I had no idea this was just a taste of what his school year would be like.

He went to Drama camp to do "The Sound of Music" and sang "You are 16" like a songbird to a girl who towered over him and never lost his composure even tho the Auditorium was about 100 degrees esp. with all those people and lights. He was so happy and Toby and all the people at camp put their hands around him and helped him back up the ladder a little further.

Making memories 
His first day of school he looked like a Sherpa carrying his lunch/backpack and guitar and Cello two or three days a week and a big backpack the other days. I'm sure he has felt like a Sherpa. School is hard. Not the classes he loves those naturally come easy to him. He's a rock star in those. But his others its hard. We have to work with him on everything. Its like he has to do his homework twice, once with us and once by himself. That ladder starts to rock some.

Its been hard for us all. I feel like a cross between an UN ambassador and a attorney trying to follow protocol and document to make sure we follow the ever changing rules with one of his teachers. After a meeting I understood why he got confused I got confused and I'm a 51 year old woman. All I can say is my next stop may be Crazy Town trying to help him through this class.

The rest of the time I'm like a Roman yelling "Papers papers " at him every morning and afternoon to try and make sure he turns in his homework, lurking on the public school website to check his grades, making him get up at O dark thirty every day so he's not late, writing so many emails to his teachers they probably cringe when they get on the computer.  But most of his teachers are right there at the ladder hands out helping him to go steady glad to be there....

BUT he's a rock star. He had his first private Christmas concert with his Cello teacher and was so excited and happy and of course I was very proud of him playing the classical music and a little Christmas thrown in. He's pretty loose and easy you can tell he's having fun He has his own style as you can see and he throws a little stray cat strut in at the end of his playing.

At his schools Christmas concert it was standing room only. His Orchestra teacher obviously dotes on his" kids" and my Lord does he have a lot of them. They did a  Christmas medley really jazzy and fun , a little ditty called pepperoni, he brags about being able to just walk away and let the kids play without him they are so good at it.

All in all this trip up the ladder? Its pretty exciting. Kind of like a Charlie Chaplin movie. And I thank God everyday for the hands that steady the ladder, that pull him past the bad spots, that help him when he's tired, and cheer when he gets past a rough spot. Thank thank thank you all of you. you know who you are...