Jet

When I was 9 we lived in some apartments in Salem.  I was not happy there.  The other children did not like me and would not play with me.  I spent most of my time reading.  When I wasn’t reading, I was trying to get the other children to play with me. When they would not, I would hang out with local dogs and cats and imagine I had friends who were mostly horses.  As might be apparent from this and has been mentioned elsewhere, I was somewhat peculiar.

Our apartment complex was surrounded by fields.  A few years after we moved away, the fields were mowed to put in a GI Joe store, Bi-mart, and strip malls.  Ugly places.  But when I lived there, the fields did too, filled with scrub trees and brush high enough in which to make forts.  Our apartment had a patio that faced the main road, which was lined with oaks.  There was also a tall, thin oak in our patio area.  On this tree, there were often buggy creatures.

One cool, fall day while sitting on the patio breathlessly discussing my latest gymnastic championship with an imaginary sportscaster, I noticed a movement on the tree.  Always curious about things of this sort, I went over to investigate.  The movement was that of a fluffy, brown-and-black striped caterpillar.  She was crawling rapidly up the tree.  Bump.  Flat.  Bump.  Flat.  On she moved to some unknown destination.

I was utterly enchanted.  A friend!  I picked her up and placed her in my palm.  She rolled into a small circle, the two black ends of her body touching.  I walked over to a lawn chair and sat down, waiting.  Her fluffs were kind of prickly, but also kind of soft. She had a shiny, black hood for a head at one end of her oblong body.

Eventually, she wakened and began crawling up my palm and onto my arm.  I picked her up to turn her around.  She rolled back into a circle.  We continued like this for several minutes.  She would begin crawling until she started to get too far up my arm, then I would move her back to my palm.  After several rounds, I placed her on the table on our patio and watched her inching crawl.

This caterpillar was fast!  I knew if I did not keep an eye on her, she would soon be gone.  She was so fast, I decided she needed a fast name and decided on the highly original Jet.  I loved her.  I wanted to keep her until she grew into a butterfly.

I went into our apartment and began to rummage around for a jar.  I placed Jet into a bowl on the kitchen counter and located a small jar with a lid.  I took the jar and Jet out back and looked for some nature-like things with which to furnish Jet’s new home.  I found some leaves, sticks, old brush, and a few dandelion flowers, and arranged them carefully in the jar.  Then I placed Jet inside and twisted on the lid.  I then, however, began to worry that Jet would suffocate in her new home, so I reopened it and went back into the house to locate a hammer and nail with which to create a ventilation system.  I found the tools and headed back outside once again.

A short time later, Jet’s home was properly aerated so she would not suffocate.  At this point I figured she might also need hydration, and went in to get a cup of water, leaving Jet in the jar while I did so.  When I returned, I placed some droplets of water for her on a leaf.  Jet crawled around the minute space for a bit, and then just stood there on a stick.  I thought perhaps the home was boring for her, and brought her out again to play.  This went on for a couple of hours until my mom came home from work.  I showed her Jet and Jet’s new apartment before she began making dinner.

That evening, as I sat and watched television with my sister, Jet sat with me in her jar.  I would take her out to crawl, then return her to her house.  Finally my mom pointed out that Jet might be tired.  I agreed and took her upstairs to my bedroom window sill for the night.

The next morning, upon awakening, I immediately went to Jet and her jar.  She was not there!  I looked and looked, but there was definitely no fluffy, black-and-brown caterpillar in the jar.  I ran hollering into my mom’s bedroom, sobbing.  Jet is gone!  She isn’t here anymore!

My mom looked into the jar as well.  Then she pointed to a soft, brown cocoon.  See that?  She made her cocoon. So fast?  I could not believe it.  I looked skeptically into the jar. Lo and behold, there was a  cocoon!  In my frenzied excitement over the missing caterpillar, the cocoon had completely escaped my attention.  Part of the reason may have been because the cocoon was much smaller than Jet had been, or so it seemed.  It was about the same width, but only about half the length, and it was light brown.

I kept the jar in my bedroom for the next few weeks.  At first, I checked it constantly to see if a beautiful butterfly had emerged.  As time progressed though, I began to wonder if maybe Jet had died in the cocoon.  The grass and leaves shriveled up, and the jar looked decidedly bleaker than it had when I created the nest.  The cocoon looked so light and fragile, I wasn’t so sure Jet was still alive.

My childhood existed before there was an internet where one could go and look up the incubation time for caterpillars, or what kind of butterfly or moth would emerge.  I had gone to the library to see if I could find a book about Jet, but was not successful.  I had no idea how long it would take for her to grow.  Little did I realize that Jet would be wintering with me for months.

One morning the following spring, upon wakening, I went immediately to the jar, as had become my habit.  I never expected a change because it had been a very long time since she had moved into the jar and turned into a cocoon.  But this morning was different.  The cocoon was spliced neatly up one side.  However, I could not see any butterfly inside the jar.

Having been fooled once into thinking Jet had left, I was not so easily deterred this time.  I took the jar into another room where the light from the windows was much brighter than in my room.  There, among the dried leaves, grass, and dandelions, was a brown, spotted moth.  Jet was not a butterfly, but a moth!  I thought she was beautiful.  Her wings seemed still to be wet and not completely ready to fly, so I left her in the jar while I went to school.  After school, I took the jar and placed it outside with the lid off so she could fly away.  Later when I went to see her, she was gone.

Since thinking about Jet recently, I went and looked up this type of caterpillar on the internet. Somewhere along the way I learned they are often called woolly bears. I played with many more such caterpillars throughout my childhood.  In my recent research, I discovered that the moths that grow from woolly bear caterpillars are called Isia Isabella, or Tiger Moths.  I love it that these creatures who brought enchantment to my life as a girl share the same name as my youngest daughter. I also learned that I had created just the perfect habitat for little Jet to cocoon for the winter.  They like cool, small, dimly lit spaces with dirt, leaves, and dandelions, and once they are ready, they will hunker down until spring.  My cool window sill was to the west under some trees; the jar an ideal woolly bear habitat.

Interestingly, there are legends that the woolly bear can predict whether winter will be more or less severe based on the thickness of their stripe.  Some believe that if the woolly bear’s stripe is wide, winter will be mild.  If the stripe is narrow, winter will be severe.  Others believe the narrow stripe arises from more moisture, while a wide stripe comes from dry conditions.  Considering wet winters are also often severe, these two lines of thought seem in corroboration.

I don’t remember what the weather was like the year Jet wintered with us.  I lived in Oregon, so it was likely a wet winter. Compared to the many woolly bear photos I have now seen, hers was a narrow stripe.  If this one woolly bear’s stripe was any indication, perhaps the legends about the woolly bears are true.  All I know is that she was an interesting companion and brought happiness to an introverted and often lonely child, and she gave me something fun to look forward to.

Here is a photo of a woolly bear. This one looks exactly like Jet did.

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Winged Gods and Goddesses

Little girls and horses. I think part of why girls fall in love with horses is to have someone big on their side, someone on whom they can fly. I fell in love with horses before I had a logical brain, then they just lodged there, between the myelin bulges. Later when I actually acquired a horse, they were my escape from a reality that was less than. Horses were my winged gods and goddesses, flying on four legs. I was naive, silly, and fearful, but with a horse I could forget all that and imagine anything. And I did.

Before a real horse actually came to live with me, I would ride my imaginary horse along next to the school bus in the morning and again in the afternoon. Galloping freely, jumping driveways, mailboxes, shrubbery, and drainage ditches; along we would glide. As the flattened shadow of the bus crawled in among the deep spaces, lengthening and shortening according to the landscape, I would fly over them, stopped by nothing.

When I was fifteen, my dad the auction-hound bought a thoroughbred off the track. He was handsome in the way of thoroughbreds, so we named him Prince. He was a nearly black bay, a Sam Savitt thoroughbred, with perky ears and an unruly mane. He watched the world sideways, as if to ask, You talkin’ to me? I love thoroughbreds; love their minds, their impossibly long legs, the way they are fretful because they can be, but give them an opportunity and they will prove what they are capable of.

As is often the case with thoroughbreds who have been racehorses, Prince was damaged goods. Something had happened to one of his legs–I can’t recall which one now–so he was not able to jump. However, he could still be ridden, and he could certainly run. I would ride him bareback, my skinny legs clinging to his slippery back, and canter around the field below our house.

One afternoon when Prince had only lived with us for about a month, I decided to take him for a ride down the driveway. Ours was a legendary driveway. We actually had to walk a mile, one way, to the school bus, regardless of the weather. Rain, shine, snow, sleet, you name it, no matter what, we did not get down that driveway by any means other than our legs. Down the long hill into the curve over the creek, up the steep curve, down the long, rocky stretch under oaks to the west and a pasture to the east, then through the gate at another bend in the creek, around the corner, and down the last flat stretch for another half a mile. This portion ran under a cove of cottonwoods. Once while walking to the bus a bird pooped in my sister’s hair. I imagined the birds up in the trees, taking careful aim and firing. We would see poop land nearby as we trudged toward the bus. I laughed hysterically when one finally hit.  Melanie did not laugh. She was mad and she hit me in the arm for my glee. It was worth it because it wasn’t me.

The day I rode Prince down the driveway, it was severely overcast, but not yet the sort of gray where the clouds seem almost to meet the earth in their desperation to drain. The light was nearly fluorescent, and cold. I threw a small snaffle bridle on Prince, hopped on using an old tractor as a mounting block, and headed down the hill. We walked carefully along the rocks on the first part of the road. Prince was not wearing shoes and the rocks along the beginning of the driveway until it met the long flat place were large chunks, uncomfortable to bare horse hooves. Where I could, I guided him into the grass along the edges to protect the soles of his feet.

As we headed down the long stretch downhill, I felt the itch to run him, but I was also afraid. We hadn’t had him long and I wasn’t riding with a saddle. I did not know if I could get him to stop if he started to run. Yet I was an overconfident rider. I believed myself capable of so much when it came to horses and my family did nothing to disabuse me of this notion.  Ignorance is bliss, obviously. If I had only any clue then what I know now. But I didn’t.

As we met the straight, flat place, I squeezed him into a real gallop. He was only too happy to oblige. I felt his energy surge forward, the strength of him move under my narrow thighs. Too late I realized just how fast he would run and what little I meant, perched there on his back like an organ grinder’s monkey. Wrapping my fingers into his black mane, I held on for dear life and screamed.

Rock. Cold. Fear.

The wind rushing at my face ate the scream right out of my mouth. It didn’t make a dent. I lowered my head and wrapped my arms around his neck. Wind lashed my bare arms icy. I had read of landscapes passing in a blur. Now I could see what this meant–the landscape really was blurry.

In spite of the speed, in my brain it was as if time stopped, like a narrator hovering above, watching a train veer off its tracks. First the engine, then the cars, and finally the caboose, whipping like a snake’s tail where it didn’t belong. There she goes, I thought. See the horse galloping? See the skinny girl holding on? I cannot fall from here. I will not live if I fall from here. I must stay here until this horse stops running. But how can I make that happen?

Yet the road at the end of our driveway was coming, and across the road there was a fence, then there was a field, and Prince could not jump, so at some point the train’s tail would whiplash and there would be a problem. On and on we thundered and I actually settled in. I was not falling off and had joined the rhythm. But there was an end. What if someone was driving on the road as I came to meet it? I controlled nothing. If a car was coming at the same time we were coming then there would be severe damage.

No car, just the road, hooves sliding on cement, then mud, grass, fence, and crash. I hit the ground with magnificent speed, I rolled over onto my shoulder, Prince rolled across me and up and continued to run, reins flinging wildly around his neck. I sat up and screamed and screamed and screamed. Prince slowed. I screamed and screamed and screamed. Only there was something about the cold light and the wide space that made the screams seem small and insignificant.

I could see far up the road, see a car, see it drive along, slow, then continue. It did not stop so I screamed again. Prince had trotted back over towards the fence, away from me, but not far. Another car moved along the highway. It slowed beside Prince, then sped along, then slowed as it saw me. I screamed and screamed and screamed. These sounds were so tiny, escaping me. I felt like I was putting all my lungs into the screams, but they were silent in the wind. The clouds moved closer.  A drop of rain landed in my hair and then another. I realized my left shoulder was screaming too, in a different way.

The car cruised by, long and slow. Then it stopped and backed up. The people disgorged from all the doors. A gold sedan. I was rescued.

I severely bruised my shoulder that day, but other than that, I was okay. Prince was none the worse for wear. The only real difference was that for the first time in my life when it came to horses, I had fear. The next time I climbed on a horse, I remembered. I stayed on and kept going, but I could not ride bareback for a month. I would not go on the driveway.  Over time, the fear faded. Horses came back to me as gods and goddesses, my protectors, my escape from a dismal reality.

For some reason, Prince came to me recently. I remembered the merciless run down the long road, the sharp, icy air, the cold, gray light. I remembered all of it except being afraid. In spite of everything, the fear was forgotten. In its place instead was this lightning god on four legs, flashing down the road at magnificent speeds.

No wonder girls love horses. They give us power and help us fly and they do so without brutality. Winged gods and goddesses, indeed.

Growing Up Strange

Perhaps part of why I have not become a pillar of the intellectual community, aside from the fact I’m not thick enough to serve as a pillar, is that while growing up, I did devour books, but I was mostly interested in stories, particularly stories about horses or animals.  As a teenager, I expanded my interest to include books where girls chased boys, but not much really.  I was only interested in those if there was something especially intriguing about the girl–like if she had a horse.

I especially loved horse/girl books where the girl was the underdog who wanted a horse and succeeded through grit and determination in getting one.  I wanted to be like those girls, and I was to the extent I succeeded in getting a 35 dollar Shetland pony.

Once I acquired the pony, I had big dreams for us.  We would win competitions and show everyone it did not matter if my steed was forty inches tall.  I imagined interviews with sportscasters.  I would ask questions then answer breathlessly, as if interrupted in an effort.

Actually, interviews of this sort also extended to my gymnastic prowess.  It mattered not that by twelve, I was nearly five foot eight.  In my mind I had achieved gold in gymnastic floor exercises. I would breathlessly answer these sportscasters as well.

So while I indeed spent my childhood buried in books, I can say without equivocation it was only towards the effort of avoiding other children and immersing myself in worlds far more desirable than my own.  If I happened across a great piece of literature, it was always the result of happenstance.  I had no illusions about reading my way to fame and fortune.

Ironically, if I think of it now as I seek to live so much in the moment, I absolutely did so as a child.  My parents’ chief concerns seemed to be to first ensure we did all of our chores, second that we did not bother them with sibling arguments, and finally that we entertained ourselves so they did not have to.  I was very good at the latter.

I did the chores grudgingly.  We were promised allowances that never materialized and performed jobs I still consider beyond the necessary scope for children.  The chores usually resulted in fights with my sister.  We argued prodigiously over whose turn it was to do what, then raced to be the first one done, if only to prove our superiority over one another.  The race to finish jobs served my primary purpose, which was to either read a book or ride my horse, and preferably both.  Melanie wanted to play with her friends.  I didn’t really have a lot of friends beyond the horses in my imagination, so rushing off to live in my head was my priority.

Before I got a horse I would pretend I had one.  i once cleared my closet, opened one side, and strung a rope across the opening to keep in my stick horse.  I shredded paper for her bedding.

She was lovely.  Her stick was yellow, her fur head white.  She had large, brown  button eyes with long, plastic lashes.  I called her Snowflake.

I spent the time creating this stable, enjoying every minute I did so, imagining the conversations I would have with my trainer over her care.  Again, I played both parts.  As myself, I explained very carefully what would be the best plan for my horse’s future.  My trainer would nod and take notes, her head cocked to one side as she leaned in the stable doorway, loose breeches puffed around her hips, a cap pulled low over her brow, alá Mickey Rooney.

Snowflake stayed in my closet for months.  I was attentive for about two days, feeding and brushing.  Over time I needed my room for other things and the stick horse was relegated to the corner again, her home prior to the stable.

Finally, when I was twelve, I acquired a real horse. Of course, this horse was only 40 inches tall and therefore a pony, but I did not care. She was mine and I loved her.  Her name was Rosie.  She was a bright, red chestnut with a thick, flaxen mane and tail.  But she was tiny.  I rode her anyway.  My best friend Jodi and I both rode ponies.  We made plans together to start our own pony farm as adults, no horses allowed.

Pregnancy Insomnia

It does not matter when I go to bed, I wake up at 6:43 a.m. every day, usually to pee, then cannot go back to sleep.  By the time my body might consider going back to sleep, it has to pee again.  Pregnancy is so fun.  There is also often the problem of a numb hip or arm.  My middle is so much heavier than I’m used to, it seems to cut off circulation.  I noticed a reflection of myself yesterday while waiting in a line.  I look funny.  I have skinny legs and skinny arms and then this watermelon in the middle.

I am carrying differently than I did with Milla, but this does not surprise me.  Milla obliterated the flat and tiny stomach muscles I had enjoyed my entire life up to that point.  I think she also shifted my guts around.  This baby also seems to like to hang out up in my ribs more than Milla ever did.  My sister complained about her babies (she has 4!!) bruising her ribs.  I had no context.  Milla liked to lie on my pelvis.  That hurt.  I think wherever baby hangs out inside us eventually hurts.  Anyway, this baby moves all over, but she does hang out near my ribs and it is quite uncomfortable.  I push and shove and rub and move her back down.  Lately she has been lower in my pelvis (in fact she’s wiggling there now), but it’s getting closer to birth time.  In fact yesterday was 2 months to due date exactly, so there isn’t a lot of time left.

I do believe I have the sweetest child in the world.  As I sit here I see the little pile of jewelry she made me last night while I was working away on the computer.  She and I were talking yesterday about some girls she met in our building.  They told her they could not imagine having no television (we do not have one).  I reiterated to Milla that I think it’s better not having one, that I never even notice not having one.  The jewelry-making provides an example why.  When we are home in the evenings, or even during the day, Milla finds things to do with herself.  She knits.  She crochets.  She draws and draws and draws.  She makes me jewelry.  When she grows up, I will have all these mementos of a childhood spent doing things rather than staring at the idiot box.  That’s a good enough reason for me not to have one.

Baby One is growing up.

Baby One is growing up.

Baby Two sucks her thumb.

Baby Two sucks her thumb.

Dang Me

So today I pissed off two strangers.  One of them was just plain idiotic and mean.  He didn’t like what I said about Bush and started in on a character assassination of me.  None of what he said had any basis in reality.  None of his assumptions made any sense based on my post.  Among other things, he called me uneducated, stupid, fat, and told me I take no responsibility for my life.  Okay.  Whatever.  None of that is true.  Unfortunately, I took the bait and sent him back 3 emails, one saying my house isn’t in foreclosure, another saying I have two college degrees, and the final stating I’m actually not overweight.  In each case I wished him well.  As the day progressed, I thought a bit more about him and I realized this man is probably a really unhappy person who is undoubtedly completely alienated from everyone.  He is so angry and mean, I seriously doubt he ever listens to what anyone has to say and instead begins every encounter with an attack.  His is the behavior of someone who is not present.  He deserves nothing except compassion because I can safely assume he is miserable.

The other person made some assumptions as well, but at least the tone of “her” email was kinder than the first.  I say “her” in quotes because I do not know what gender the person was because “she” did not give her name.  However she said some things in the message that led me to believe that her gender is female.  She called herself “Tea Rock.”  Tea Rock stated that she knew the person who had been mean to me in junior high.  Tea Rock thought I was the meaner girl because what I said in my story about Kelly was “vitriolic.”  She said she could not believe an adult would say what I had said about what Kelly told me when I saw her some years later.  She was also concerned that Kelly’s children might read my post.

I emailed Tea Rock back.  I told her that Kelly did in fact say the words I attribute to her, whether or not Tea Rock believed me.  I also questioned her assessment of my descriptions of Kelly as vitriolic.  Vitriol means caustic, and while I am certainly critical of Kelly and her actions, I do not believe my words rise to the level of vitriol.  Finally, I pointed out that although I was critical of Kelly, I also offered my belief that something must have been happening in Kelly’s life that she made these choices.  In doing so, I recognized that there is always more than one perspective; this story just happened to be mine.

Because I was contacted by this person who claimed to know Kelly, I edited my post and changed Kelly’s last name.  Hers was a rather unique last name even though her first name is common.  I changed the boy’s last name to a more common one as well.  Their real names aren’t necessary; I just honestly thought no one who knew them would ever care about what I had to say.  I’m not exactly Oprah.

I thought a lot about this second email this evening.  I found it interesting that Tea Rock was concerned about Kelly’s children reading my post.  It is ironic.  Because Tea Rock purported to know Kelly, then her concern was for Kelly’s children.  What if she had known me, would her concern have then been for my child?  Assuming Milla did not know how I was treated in junior high, how would it be for her to know how it had been for me?  It is such human nature to take the side related to us.  Because Tea Rock knew Kelly, Tea Rock’s concern was for Kelly’s children.  If Tea Rock had known me, I doubt she would have cared if Kelly’s children read my post.  In fact one of my friends commented on that same blog and was cheered by the ending.  Since she had been a bullying victim and since she knew me, she found it “karmic” that Kelly ended up as she did.  I don’t know that I necessarily agree that is was karmic.  Mostly I just think it’s pathetic and sad.  I hope she has moved on with her life.  Tea Rock did say that although she did not know Kelly well, she could not imagine her acting this way.  Perhaps this is an indication that Kelly used her early experiences to grow and become a stronger, kinder person.  Who knows.

I’ve talked to my daughter quite extensively about bullying.  It would not be a shock to her to read a story where her mom was picked on because I’ve told her all about it.  In second grade, a girl in her class picked on Milla.  She went out of her way to exclude my daughter and got all the girls in class to do so as well.  My initial thought when this began to occur was, Oh no. Not again. Not my daughter.  Milla is so much more confident than I was.  She’s pretty, smart, and outspoken.  I actually cried at the thought that Milla would have to go through what I did.

I had cancer last year.  The parents in my daughter’s class made us meals and set up playdates.  They were unbelievably kind.  When the Bully Girl started harassing Milla, I did not have the heart to talk to her mom about it.  It just seemed so ungrateful to complain to this woman about her child when she was making us meals and helping us out, along with countless others.  I gave Milla some tips for handling things and when that did not work, I went to the teacher.  He was useless.  There were many, many other problems in his class besides this one and because of his ineffectiveness in handling the bullying and other problems, we chose to change schools.  We are still friends with students from the school and know children in the class.  Unfortunately, the Bully Girl has moved on to other targets.  It is sad.  I wonder what is happening in her little life that she acts this way.  But while I feel compassion for her, it is still my job to protect my daughter and I did that by getting her out of there.

In spite of everything, Milla seemed to handle the bullying better than I did.  Maybe having a mom to support her helped.  I did not have any such support as a child.  In this situation, I began to understand more fully that the behavior of bullies has more to do with them than with their chosen victims, although this realization did not lessen the pain of seeing my daughter suffer through nasty treatment at the hands of these girls.  It is one of those difficult lessons every parent has to learn; that their children have to live their own lives and experience their own pain and growth.  It is what makes them fully human.

While I recognize that Tea Rock’s perspective comes from her concern for her friend, other than changing the names of the people in question, I did not alter my story.  It’s mine, for better or worse.  Kelly has hers.  Mike has his.  I’m not going to censor my life or experiences because it might make someone uncomfortable.  If I had something to say that would genuinely damage another person I would not say it.  But in this case especially, I think my story provides a greater opportunity for benefit than for harm.  My point wasn’t to punish my tormentors, but to show that we grow up and get past junior high.  Even though we might meet more nasty people later and in fact it is probably a guarantee, we’ll survive it.  And seriously, what’s wrong with that?

My Poor Ass

One of the best reasons in the world not to stop exercising once you have started is that you will have to start again.  It’s hell on the body and seems to get worse as one gets older.  I have always been active, had to be for sanity’s sake.  I just have one of those high functioning, high energy metabolisms and brains that suffer from lethargy.  Luckily, growing up, I had no derth of exercising options.  My parents’ driveway is literally a mile long and I had to walk it to the school bus stop rain or shine, sleet or snow.  My sister and I were like the post office: through rain or sleet or dark of morning (not night, we weren’t vampires) we always had to deliver.  We walked or ran that driveway twice a day every day the entire time we went to school.  Nearly daily we would beg our sweet bus driver Annie to drive us up our driveway.  Her answer was always no.  One year for Christmas she gave me a chocolate N and Melanie a chocolate O.  At least her answer was consistent.  One time a bird pooped in my sister’s hair on the way down.  She was pissed off.  I laughed.  For some reason, we weren’t always cordial during those years. Gee, I wonder why… ?  I used to run the driveway on the way home.  It was mostly uphill and I liked getting home quickly.  I got to where I could run up in under five minutes.  Maybe that’s why I was so good in the 1500 m in high school track.

Our parents NEVER let us stay home from school.  I mean never.  I had chicken pox in 8th grade.  My parents sent me off to school even though I felt like shit and was itching like crazy and the school sent me home.  I dislocated my shoulder after having a horse land on me when it crashed through a fence rather than jumping over it.  Again, I went to school the next day even though I was in my own personal hell.

Needless to say, I got lots of exercise without even trying.  Plus I rode horses and ran on track and was even on the dance team a couple of years (that was a hysterical laugh, I can assure you).  Then when I moved away I kept riding and took up running and basically kept moving for the next decade, again, without really trying.  In college I started swimming.  My lifestyle kept me on the go.

Then I got pregnant and felt like a lumbering beast.  It hurt to move after a few months.  Walking was torture.  Everything I read said that if you’re fit going into pregnancy then pregnancy would be a breeze.  I was fit going into pregnancy and if that was a breeze, being unfit while pregnant must be sadistic torture.  My hips hurt.  My back hurt.  And I was as big as a house.  I’d always been stick skinny and suddenly I couldn’t fit into bathroom stalls.  After pregnancy I had to work a bit to get into shape.  It wasn’t as fun.  But I had the baby and bought a jogger stroller and got back into the swing of things.  I started riding again when she was 5 months old and that made all the difference in the world.  You know, all those people who use thigh masters and butt exercisers should just start riding sport horses.  It’s athletic as hell and gives you great abs, tight thighs, and a butt without much effort.  I’m not talking fat western saddles waddling into the mountains riding, I mean sport horses, jumping big fences and dressage on the flat.  It’s good for the body, I can assure you.  I started using a gym at one point to get strength training because I had always done aerobic exercise.  On all the equipment, I was pretty pathetic, using one or two of the little weight bricks.  But on the inner thigh weight lift, I could lift the entire stack!  Those inner thighs become little killers when you ride sport horses a lot.

Anyway, as is often the case, I digress.  In March 2005, I was jogging and sprained the shit out of my right ankle.  Seriously reamed the damn thing.  This killed my running career for the time being.  I was able to continue riding, but I wanted more.  So I took up biking.  I have kept it up.  I love it.  I put a rack on the back and drug Milla around with me until she learned to ride her own bike.  There’s nothing like climbing hills on a bike with a 30 pound lump on the back of your bike for getting strong, I can assure you.

But for some reason this fall, I just kind of stopped exercising as much.  Last year I had the excuse of stress and cancer and all that shit.  I had to sell my horse a year ago to pay the mortgage so I wasn’t riding.  But in the spring after radiation and everything, I started back easy and it wasn’t too terrible, but it wasn’t much fun either.  And I didn’t exercise as much last summer as I had always before.  It probably had something to do with our miserable ass weather.  It rained most of August.  What the hell is that?  We got sun for June and July and that was it.  We got screwed.  It started raining in August and has basically not given us much of a breather since.  During September I ran, doing interval training where you run like hell for a quarter mile or so then slow down then run like hell again.  But once it really started raining again, that was that.

So what brought on this little soliloquy?  Today I went riding again and it KICKED MY ASS.  I’m tired as hell and although I don’t feel those muscles yet, I can tell from the weakness in my hips, back, and abs that I’m going to be so sorry tomorrow and the next day.  Lucky me.   And a few weeks ago I went cross country skiing.  Again, kicked my ass.  And last summer, when I actually had been doing some bike riding, I rode in the Providence Bridge Pedal.  I did the middle distance.  I think it was 12 or 14 miles.   Not much compared to what I have done almost daily in the past.  Kicked my ass.  All these times, the ass kickings have manifested as my being tired as hell afterwards and sometimes lasting a few days.  It’s like my stamina is cracking or something.  I wonder if it has to do with the stress of last year, which was enormous, of if I’m just getting old.  Maybe it’s both.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that tomorrow my ass is going to seriously hurt and I am just not looking forward to that.