Monday, January 24, 2011

Dancing with the stars...and the moon...and the snowflakes

The past two weekends I have taken advantage of J's agreement that in exchange for my efforts during the year and a half he was in Vail, I can pick a morning each weekend to head up the mountains and ski. 

It's been kind of great.  The first time it was kind of overcast, so the light wasn't the greatest, but conditions were good and I had the supremely peaceful and exhilarating experience of being the first of the day to glide down a run and make fresh tracks, all alone.  Yesterday was even better, because I knew the mountain a little bit more and knew where to go and where not to, plus it was a gorgeous sunny day with bluebird skies and plenty of fresh powder. 

One of my favorite parts of the day is the drive up.  Which may sound odd, given that in order to beat the traffic and avoid turning a 1 1/2 hour drive into 2 or 3 hours, I leave at 6 a.m.  And that's not starting to load the car up at 6.  That's pulling out of the driveway at 6, when there's still at least an hour of darkness left. 

But it's beautiful darkness.  Quiet.  Clear, crisp air, with the moon and the stars looking bright and sparkly. 

And I've always liked driving at night.  There's a woman in my office who, before becoming a public interest lawyer, was a commercial long-haul trucker.  I don't know that I could do that for a living, but sometimes I can sort of see the appeal of doing a job that allows you so much alone time.  In college when we made the 20 hour trek from Charlottesville to Key West for spring break, I would take the graveyard shift, driving from 2 to 5 in the morning.  There's always wonderfully random talk radio on at that hour.  Or you can listen to old blues and just think.

A dark car is also a great place to have crazy intimate conversations.  I once drove home from law school with a guy that was from the same home town.  We left late and drove at night because he had a late class or something like that.  He was a friend, but we didn't know each other *that* well.  But sitting in the dark with someone without actually looking at them, while you watch the world go by, has a way of breaking down conversational walls.  The darkness takes on a velvety protective quality - and you end up telling all kinds of deep dark secrets.  Which we did.

The weekend morning trek up the mountain has the feeling of a pilgrimmage.  I head west and by the time I've hit the highway, I'm part of a community of other locals, awake at an insane hour, drinking coffee, carbo-loading on Pop-Tarts or breakfast burritos, skis strapped to the roof of the car.  I sometimes mentally pull back, like a movie camera, and in my head I can see the cars, white and red lights all in a line, heading west and up, to the snow. 

I drive along, marvelling at the beauty around me but also deep in my own head.  I admire the twinkly Christmas lights still up in Empire, which reminds me of Christmas morning, which makes me think of Zeke and Josie opening their presents, which makes me think of Zeke and Josie generally and how cute they are, which makes me think of Zeke's new skis and how cool it will be when he can head up the slopes with me and we can ski together, which makes me think of my cousin's kids who can already ski, which makes me think of my cousin and her husband who are currently on a trip in India, which reminds me of high school -- my brain skips around and skips around.  Until I'm jolted back by the sight of the sun rising over the mountains as I wend my way over Berthoud Pass.  The sky's blackness gives way to streaks of pink and white and orange, and that feeling of being ensconced in my own little coccoon dissipates. 

A half an hour later, I'm in the parking lot.  I open the car door to start putting on my ski pants and getting my gear together.  A blast of 5 degree air hits me in the face, and my day begins all over again.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cool Tricks Converge

Zeke's newest Cool Trick (TM Yo Gabba Gabba!) is answering the phone.  He's pretty good at pushing the right button and saying "HELLOOOOO??" in his cute little voice and then handing the phone to me saying, "it's Mimi!" 

His other big Cool Trick is counting up to very high numbers. 

He counts everything.  Everything everything everything.  Cars we pass when we're going somewhere, chicken nuggets on his plate, animals in his picture books, toys in the bathtub.  Everything. 

Yesterday we got one of those automated phone calls from a company offering credit card services or something.  Zeke answered the phone.  J had been getting Josie dressed and got to Zeke (and the phone) in time to hear Zeke say enthusiastically, "oh, OK!"  and then press the number "1."  Apparently it was one of those, "if you are interested in becoming a customer, please press '1'" dealios.  Because, numbers!  His favorite thing in the world!  He kept pressing different numbers and then finally got bored and went to do a puzzle.

I'm just waiting for the paperwork to arrive letting me know that I've got a new line of credit on the house.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Just before the elevator closes, he scoots on.  One of the building security guys.  We nod "hello." 

After a few floors of silence, he gives me a big grin and says, "This sure is Stock Show* weather, isn't it?"

I assume he's referring to the fact that it's fucking freezing outside.  But I have no idea why any particular kind of weather is better or worse for the Stock Show.  Though I guess if it were really hot, it would be kind of yucky and smelly and sweaty being around all of the livestock, but they hold it in Denver in January, making extreme heat unlikely.  Anyway.

I give him a strained smile, chuckle and say, "Right."

It's times like these that I seriously wonder if I suffer from some sort of personality disorder that makes me antisocial.  Because it never occurs to me to talk to strangers unless I have something productive to say, like, "your keys are about to fall out of your pocket" or "excuse me, is that seat taken?"  I have conversations in my head all the time, to the point that occasionally I'll start having them out loud without even realizing it, so I've never really needed small talk or chit chat to fill the silence of an elevator ride, because it's so noisy in my brain already. 

Plus I much prefer being alone to being with people.

Not that I don't like people.  I love my family and my friends and I enjoy spending time with them.  But I take enormous solace from quiet time by myself -- quiet time that I rarely get. 

As a nod to the fact that I took care of the kids by myself for the better part of a year and a half while J was in Vail, J has given me a pass to take time on the weekends to get out of the house whenever I want to (within reason).  So this Saturday morning, I'm going to get up early, drive to the mountains, go skiing for a few hours, and then come home in time to hang with the family and have some friends over for dinner.

J said, "why don't you call Suzanne or one of your other friends and see if they want to go?" 

I thought about it.  There are any number of friends I could call, or I could call my cousins. 

But honestly, the thought of a few hours on the slopes by myself, feeling the cold on my face and the burn in my muscles and the exhiliaration of speeding down a steep hill, without having to talk to anyone or worry about anyone else, is intoxicating.

I'll go it alone.
*The National Western Stock Show is in town.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I've become a statistic -- a cliche of our times.

Last week I had to call the bank that holds the mortgage on our Hawaii house and tell them that I couldn't pay.  Our tenants, who were supposed to be in there for 3 years, terminated a year early (they're active-duty military and have a legal right to terminate early if they get transferred, which they did).  This happened the same week J lost his job.

A financial tsunami, if you will. 

The Hawaii house is in good shape, but it could use some new carpeting and some repairs.  But the money isn't there right now.  Which makes getting a renter in more difficult.  But I don't want to put renters in the house only to have to ask them to leave when the bank forecloses.  And without some kind of loan modification, even if the house is rented, we can't afford the mortgage anymore because we can't get in rent what we pay in mortgage, and with J out of work, we can't afford the loss we were taking on it. 

A financial Catch-22, if you will.

It kind of sucks.  That house was going to be our retirement fund.  Or a place to retire.  Or something. 

But if the money isn't there, it isn't there. 

I'm obviously much more fortunate than many who have to make that call to the bank.  I have a roof over my head, a very reasonable mortgage on my house in Denver, a job, healthy children, etc.  If we lose the Hawaii house, it won't really affect my life much, except to ruin my credit for a time.  But we can survive that.

Oh, well.  I guess we'll see what happens.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Welcome to the Four Seasons. Please don't ever come back.

My dad's brother is in town with his wife (my aunt) and my cousin.  They're staying at the Four Seasons and emailed last week to see if we wanted to come to the hotel to meet them for brunch.  I try to avoid going to restaurants with my children, but I don't see my uncle very often and I haven't seen my aunt or cousin in decades (for reals -- the last time I saw my cousin I was 14), so I thought we'd brave it this time.

The outing started out well.  The kids looked cute and presentable in nice sweaters.  Josie had just woken up from a nap so she was energetic and happy.  It was lovely to catch up with my relatives.

But there's a reason I don't like going out to eat with my children.  They're just too young to sit still without getting restless and fussy.  Occasionally we'll grab dinner at the Greek diner down the block from our house, but we generally only have 20 minutes of good behavior from the kids before they start squirming and wanting to wander around and J and I end up shoveling the rest of our meals in our face while frantically motioning towards the waitress for the check.

At the Four Seasons, which was mercifully uncrowded for brunch/lunch, Zeke did really well.  I packed a bag full of coloring books and crayons and trucks for him to play with, plus the restaurant has cute little puzzles for kids and Zeke is on a big puzzle kick, so he sat quietly and colored and did his puzzle. 

But Josie was full of beans and just wanted to run around and look at everything.  First I followed her around as she ran around tables and looked at the sculptures and tried to find her way back into the kitchen.  Then Zeke wanted me to take him to the potty, so I took Zeke to the bathroom while J followed Josie around.

When Zeke and I got back from the bathroom, Josie was crying and she and J were surrounded by concerned-looking restaurant staff.  Apparently Josie made her way back to the swinging service doors leading into the kitchen and before J could grab her, a waiter carrying a tray of food kicked the door from the other side to open it and smashed her in the forehead, sending her airborne.  She had (and still has) a red welt extending from the top of her forehead to her left eyebrow and was totally freaking out.

We spent the next half hour assuring the nice people at the Four Seasons that we didn't need medical attention.  The restaurant manager came, multiple staff came to check on us, the poor waiter who kicked the door was completely distraught.  We assured them that we didn't blame them, that Josie would be fine, kids get into mischief and it's just life, blah blah. 

And once she calmed down, she resumed wanting to run around, which freaked everybody out to no end.

After brunch, we went up to my relatives' room to see their dogs.  They have little Yorkies that they travel with and we thought the kids would enjoy seeing the dogs.  And little 2 pound dogs wearing sweaters are not really my thing, but the dogs were very sweet, until Zeke got a little too much in the face of one of them and she nipped his hand.  So he started to cry.

We figured it would be best if we cut our losses and went home. 

Zeke ran ahead of us in the hall to the elevator because he wanted to push the buttons.  But he pushed the wrong button at first -- at the same level as the elevator call button, there's an emergency button that I guess you call if the elevators don't work and you aren't able to get down stairs or something. 

We told the people at the front desk about the error so they wouldn't think there was some emergency.  Then we went out and waited for the valet to bring our car.

That's when we heard the sirens.  Apparently, that little button that Zeke pushed isn't just an internal call button.  It summons the fire department.  As the fire trucks pulled up and at least 10 firemen ran into the building with axes and other fireman-y accoutrement, we kept our heads down and tried to act casual.  The valet brought the car, we threw the kids into it, jumped in and sped off, half expecting to look in the rear view mirror and see the entire structure collapse in our wake.

We'll be laying low for a while.