A Buggy Little Adventure

This day was supposed to be awesome. Bec planned an excellent all day date with her sister Ann and me. Bec and I would start by going to church, then meet up with Ann, head to St. Croix State Park, have a picnic lunch, then hike a 5-mile loop by the river.

Here is how the day really went.

Bec and I got up early, and did what the morning wants people to do. Drink some coffee. Take a shower. Walk the dogs. Not necessarily in that order, but you get it. Then we made the 20-25 minute drive to St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in St. Paul. Some folks would take what happened next as an omen of some sort. We, however, did not. We made it before the service started, so that’s a bonus, but as we were getting out of the car we were greeted by this little gem in the car next to ours:

ZombieBaby

We met up with Ann at around 10AM and headed about 2 hours north, northeast to St. Croix State Park. The foliage was gorgeous pretty much the whole way up Interstate 35, with bright yellow, rustic oranges, loud reds, and sumac turning a dark crimson along the sides of the road. Basically, there was all kinds of beauty everywhere I looked. When we got to the park, we had a picnic on an overlook with this view of the river:

River2

And this view of my delicious Summit Porter:

Porter

But, sadly, that is all we were able to do at this state park, because we were being eaten alive (I mean almost carried away like an alien abduction) by mosquitoes. We got quickly into the car and drove through the rest of the park, like good little lazy Americans, using fossil fuels to see nature’s beauty. We did stop at two other places in the park. One was an overlook where the river looked like this:

River1

I also saw a loon after we heard it diving and splashing around in the weeds by the edge of the shore, because the last place we stopped looked a bit like this:

Marsh

So we drove, sadly, back toward the Cities with only a picnic under our belts. But then Ann had a wonderful and brilliant idea: Fort Snelling State Park! We all agreed that would be a fine time. And it could have been with cool stuff like this memorial for the Dakota Indians who were imprisoned during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862:

Memorial

Or this cool historical marker (I’m a sucker for historical markers):

HistoricalMarker

Or the fine company: HarrisButts

Or the natural beauty of a river island (Pike Island): Clearing

I could have had a good time pretending I was Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn or Becky Thatcher (if she ever got to do anything cool, besides have the hots for Tom), but there were also lots of these little bastards:

So as I said at the beginning today was supposed to be awesome, and it was. I had so much fun picnicking, hiking, and being abducted by mosquitoes… oh, wait… I learned something today: ALWAYS WEAR MOSQUITO REPELLENT WHEN HIKING IN MINNESOTA. ALWAYS. DOUBLE ALWAYS. AND TRIPLE. I kept saying, as we were walking, “This is what hell is probably like. You are with people you love, doing something that’s supposed to be super fun, but there’s one thing really horrible about it. You think all the while, oh, this isn’t bad, but then there are the mosquitoes. These mosquitoes are Satan’s minions, torturing us.” I think I just thought the last sentence of that and didn’t ever say it out loud, but now I am saying it, because it is true.

But I really did have a great time with two fantastic women. In fact, it was one of the most fun days I’ve had in a long, long time. I’m re-learning flexibility. But I’m also learning to WEAR BUG REPELLENT!

Unique by Corby Jaye Roberson

While I was moving things, I found one of my most prized possessions, a poem I wrote when I was in seventh grade. I’m posting it here for the simple fact that if I lose the written copy, I’ll still have this cyber copy. I love how much and how little I’ve changed in 27 years.

Here is the title page:

Unique
by: Corby Jaye
Roberson

Hartford City Junior High
7th grade
April 8th, 1987

Here is the poem:

The world looks down on people like me,
The ones that want to do or be different.
I don’t think that just because I’m different,
That I should be looked down upon, lower
Than people that do the same old thing day after day.

But I don’t really care if the people do look down on me,
Because if I’m what I want to be,
That’s my choice not the world’s.

If everybody did or was the same,
The world would be very dull and boring,
And maybe then people would want to do or be different,
Not the same!

So I’ll just me, because that’s all I can be,
And I don’t care what the world thinks.

Here is the story behind this poem: I totally forgot that it was the last day to submit anything for Young Author’s, so I faked sick during P.E. and went to the nurse’s office. Then I laid on the cot and wrote the poem you have before you. I made the cover during lunch and then turned it in to Mrs. Warner, my English teacher, just after last period. I was as shocked as anyone else when I won the competition at our school and had my poem submitted for the Indiana Young Author’s Anthology, which I never received. I was pretty proud of this poem, and I wasn’t the least embarrassed that I wrote it at the last minute, because it had been rolling around inside of me, since about, oh, kindergarten. Growing up I always felt a bit out of step with everyone else, and I didn’t really care about how out of step I was until the next year, during the same month, when I had a life-altering event happen to me. I don’t really want to divulge that here, now, but I will say that I spent a good portion of the next 25 years trying to get back in step with everyone else. And, well, now I am done with that. So there.

The Toothpaste Won’t Go Back in the Tube

I’ve been in Minnesota for about seven weeks now, and I can say that I am growing to love it here. I have a great job at Cairbou (or the ‘Bou, as they call it here) that provides me little stress (except financial stress, since I only make $8 an hour), and I have free time to run, bike, and spend time with Bec doing things we love. I start swimming on next Monday night at 8, and I am mostly relaxed. The past seven weeks hasn’t been easy—make no mistake—but I have learned a lot about who I am and where I am going. Yesterday I received a care package from a friend. In it was a map that said YOU CAN GO YOUR OWN WAY in big letters. Another little reminder that this move has been good for me. Don’t get me wrong; I still miss my friends and family very much, but I feel hopeful right now that I am becoming someone I can live with for the rest of my life.

One of my big goals for moving here was to be able to get in touch with the me I used to love and respect, and to shed like a used up exoskeleton the me I had become, the bitter, sad, angry, short-tempered, and otherwise not very gracious me. I would say for the most part, I have rediscovered the person I want to be, but there are moments where the old me rears her ugly head. I got very angry with a poor unsuspecting woman at the license branch, this morning I got into a fight with Bec over some utility bill envelopes, and I’ve argued with a couple of friends over really petty and stupid shit. These moments wouldn’t have even phased me six months ago, because I sort of lived my life in combat mode, almost living my life for the argument, or to prove my rightness in every situation. Ridiculous. Embarrassing. Wrong.

I look back, and I wonder how I even had any friends with the way I acted most of the time. Maybe I am hyper-critical of myself and my actions, but I desire to be a person who ushers peace and grace and love into this world, and I certainly wasn’t doing much of that. In these “old me” moments—though they are few and far between in the past month or so—when I see myself acting short, or being an asshole, I am embarrassed about my present actions, and I am saddened by the fact that I had become a person whose first response was fault finding or misplaced anger.

I’ve started trying to stop making excuses and start making amends. It’s almost like I am in attitude AA, and I am trying to find those people I’ve wronged and try to apologize or at least let folks know that I am aware of how I was, and sadly occasionally still can be, because I’m finding that this is just like any other sinful (I hate that word sin but I don’t have a better word for it) behavior, in that, I can’t just make it go away.

When I think about how our personal conduct affects others, I am always transported back to a children’s sermon, one of the better ones, that someone gave at Grace UMC when I was in high school or college. I think the person giving it was Shelly Neal, but I can’t be sure. Anyway, in the process of the children’s sermon, the person speaking squeezed an entire tube of toothpaste out onto a paper plate. She then said, “Okay, kids, now put it back in the tube.” They tried various methods, but to no avail. She said, “Um, yeah, it doesn’t work.” If you’ve ever tried to put toothpaste back in the tube, because you squirted out too much, you already know this. If you follow the children’s sermon illustration, you’ll understand that what we say and do is like the toothpaste. Once it’s out there, it can’t be put back in the tube. Basically, I am trying really hard to be a person who doesn’t squeeze the tube unless what is going to come out of the tube is true, kind, necessary, or helpful (Bernard Meltzer). If what I am about to say or do isn’t one of those things, I am trying to avoid saying or doing it. Living this way, for me, is a struggle.

*

In the fitness realm: I was doing really well with running, but my hours bumped up, so I had to readjust. On Monday, I start a Whole 30 for the month of September, and I start swimming on Monday and Wednesday night, as I said above, so I plan to get back to the running and biking more regularly as well. I’ve lost 15 pounds since July 11 when I moved here, and I mostly attribute it to reduced stress and better eating. I’m looking forward to Muncie 70.3 for next summer, and I know it will be fabulous.

EDIT: I am not doing a Whole 30. I don’t want to. :)

A Reason to Drive to Minnesota to Throat Punch Me: Fitness

If you needed a reason to come to MN to throat punch me, here it is, and I even give you permission, rather the encouragement, to do it. Please, please, please, if I ever say I am going to quit swimming, biking, or running, or if I say I am just going to take a short break from it, get in your car, drive to Newport, Minnesota, and kick my ass. I’ll even give you gas money. If come to throat punch me for some other reason, you’re on your own with the gas money.

That being said, I’ve started running again, very slowly and methodically, but running none the less. I’ve just finished the second week, the second day, of the Couch Potato to 5K program, and it was glorious. I’m hoping to only have to use the guided program for a couple more weeks before my body is just back in the groove of this thing I love. I’m doing most of my running on this trail, The River Bottoms Trail, parts of which are contained in Fort Snelling State Park. The section I am using right now is the part that starts in Mendota, and it’s flat as a pancake, beautiful along the river, and packed dirt so it’s very forgiving, not like concrete or asphalt. As I get better and faster again at running, I’ll explore some of the other parts of the trail, too, but they seem more technical and I don’t want to risk injuring my knee again, so I want to be good and strong before being too adventurous. The waiting is torture. My favorite part of running is careening down hills and skittering back up the other side. It’s a beautiful childlike feeling, but for now I’ll be a 40-year-old who’s afraid to get reinjured.

To begin preparing to train for the Muncie 70.3 next July, I have decided to run three times a week, bike twice a week, and swim twice a week. I’ve already covered my running plan, so I’ll talk about biking. I’m hoping to rope Bec into my biking program next spring, but we’ll see how that goes. We love going for long rides together, so hopefully it’ll mean spending some quality time together once a week for a long ride. Mostly for now, I’m going to ride a couple of short rides each week, then settle into winter. I hate riding in cold weather, so I’ll be spending some time in the garage on the trainer, which I hate almost as much. Maybe I need to get a cheap TV to put out there to make the time pass more quickly. Such is life in Minnesota as a biker in the winter, but there is always spring.

Finally, I just sent for my community lap swim card. Talk about a super-cool, super-weird deal: the schools in our district open their pools for lap swim for anyone in the community. It costs $65 A YEAR to join the community lap swim program. $65 A YEAR! The pools are open four nights a week, and the one closest to my house is open on Monday and Wednesday from 8PM to 9PM, which is perfect. I can get in a nice swim two nights a week, just before bed. I had registered for Big Shoulders this year, but since I haven’t been swimming, I’m going to forgo my participation and watch my friend Teresa do Ironman Wisconsin. I’ll try for Big Shoulders again next year when I’ve been in the pool more.

Here is what I hope my weeks to come will look like:

Day

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Activity Swim Run Swim Run Bike LongRun Bike
Time 8-9PM Whenever 8-9PM Whenever Whenever Whenever

Afternoon

Getting back into this type of training is much more difficult than just sticking with it could ever be, so please, please, please, heed my offer. If I ever, ever, ever, mention quitting or taking a break, make the drive and throat punch me. I won’t be surprised about it, and I’ll pay for your gas.

*

On a totally unrelated note, people who have very long acrylic fingernails should not be allowed to type in public. Isn’t that so the late 1990s early 2000s anyway? The clicking reminds me of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Bells.” The clicking is maddening. In fact, I think my work is finished here. I’m going to go home and shower, then find a place to get my newest tattoo. Happy Birthday to me.

A New Sabbath Day

I want and need a Sabbath, one day each week that I can count on to be strictly my time to spend with God, family, writing, and art, so the one day I said I wouldn’t work at Caribou is Sunday. Fortunately, Caribou eases you in to a full schedule, so I had yesterday and tomorrow off as well. Today we tried out our new Sunday thing, plan, routine, whatever you want to call it. Since Bec and I have radically different ideas about what we like in church, we’ve decided to have the best of both worlds and just attend two services. First, we get up early and head to St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in St. Paul, and then we head to Awaken Community in Lilydale. It’s a nice balance and nice way to start the Sabbath. And we get to see the children and grandchildren at Awaken, so that’s a pretty nice bonus. After church today, we came home, had lunch, and then napped. We’re exciting, I know.

We (Bec, Ann, and I) spent yesterday going to the Uptown and Powderhorn Art Fairs. We walked forever and looked at lots of amazing arts and crafts. I bought a card for my mom, a birthday gift for my brother, and an anniversary gift for the Combers. And if any of them read this, I just spoiled the surprise for them all. As we walked, I kept thinking about how God has honored my heart’s desire to have time off of work and to have a job I don’t bring home with me. I couldn’t get the image of myself, sitting in one of those booths and selling my own artwork, out of my mind. Even if it’s only a dream for now, since I have just begun sketching, it’s the freest I’ve felt in a long, long time.

For my first little venture back into the art world, I plan to create a set of prints based on this poem by Wallace Stevens. There have been several interpretations of this poem created by several artists in a few diverse cultures. Artist Joan Colbert hand pulled my favorite set of linoleum block prints that is currently in existence. You can see them here. However, I think there is still room for me to add my voice into the mix, because my style of block printing has a bit more texture in the white spaces, and I plan to print both black and white on brown paper, adding some pastel work into the final prints.

*

I got to Minnesota about three weeks ago. Today is August 3, and I arrived on July 11. Just after I got here, or more specifically on my 40th birthday, I made some simple goals, things I’d like to improve upon in my life. Here they are (again): quit smoking and drink only on weekends or not at all; eat primal with one “cheat” day a week; no ice cream; get a job; capitalize on quiet time (read, write, art); and run/walk, bike, swim. Since setting these goals, I’ve accomplished several and am still working on others. I struggle with the ice cream thing. It gives me joy. I’m going to keep eating ice cream for a while. I’ve started adding a brief bit of meditation into my morning routine, and I hope to add it into my evening routine as well. Meditation helps me to quiet my busy mind in a way that nothing else does; I can release my anger and sadness and cultivate compassion and joy through the simple act of breathing.

I’ve created one new goal in all of this, which I mentioned before, but I am going to mention again, and probably keep mentioning. I want to finish the Muncie 70.3 for my second time next July. I want to do it again to prove to myself that I can and to get a better time than last and to just be healthy again. I’ve been running and biking, and I will start swimming later this month, so I know I can do it. I just need to stay focused and remember that I am doing all of this to take care of myself and be well.