Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Mini-Post: Mileage Report

Hello all.  Just wanted to let you know I clocked in at nineteen (count them: 19) miles this morning for our Swim for Distance Month, still with half a week to go.  I should easily hit 20 on Friday, there's still Saturday and if I manage a long swim on Sunday, I could even hit the fabled 23.  Either way, I'd say I've earned my t-shirt.  But will I have enough sponsor dough to buy a water buffalo
from Heifer International?  Or at least a goat, some chicks and a hive of bees or two or three?  Well, that all depends on you.  If I haven't hit you up yet, it's just because I haven't personally run into you.  By all means, consider yourself hit up.  Sponsor me by the mile or the kilometer (31.4 so far) and help some poor family in Nepal (or someplace in Asia--you can find the range of a water buffalo here) improve their situation.

So what's it like to swim 23 miles in a month's time, you ask.  Well, it involves swimming just about every day, weather permitting, and frankly, I am TIRED.  I've noticed when I lift heavy things, my arms are sore.  These back to back swims, where I swim one evening and then again eight hours later the following morning, are the worst.  There's just not enough muscle recovery time and the it's like swimming through peanut butter.  I'll be glad to go back to my usual 4-5 times a week.  Yeah, you'd think if you're swimming almost every day, anyway, what's so hard about throwing in two more days and staying in the water longer, but somehow it makes a big difference.  Like the big difference it would make for a poor family to have a water buffalo, and--nah, I already talked about that.

One thing I'm pretty sure I haven't mentioned is how nice it is to be upside down in the water (doing a flip turn) and be listening to Beethoven at the same time. In case y'all missed it, my awesome sister Kristen bought me an underwater iPod last Christmas and it's just been the best gift ever.  I think classical music works best for long sets and rock is best for speed sets, but the important thing is giving my brain something to do besides count laps. I'm already plotting out what I'm going to listen to for the Really Long Swim in September. So thank you, Kristen! and cheers, all.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mindful Swimming

So something happened yesterday that's probably happened about a million times before, but I didn't notice for whatever reason.  Probably because I wasn't being mindful, which, you know, a Buddhist kind of should be.  Ironically, Thich Nhat Hanh's school of Buddhism, which is my particular sect, is All About Being Mindful; my Buddhist name, for Godsakes, is "Deepening Mindfulness of the Source," which is pretty Jedi, when you think about it.

But anyway. I woke up in a bad mood, which happens.  I kind of grumped around the house having coffee and getting ready and so on, and then I went to the pool. There was a New Guy in my lane.  This is not surprising; new guys often show up in my lane because I swim in what we shall call the Slow Lane, with the older guys and the guys recovering from injuries and the guys who, for whatever reason, don't want to swim in the Fast Lane with the ex-Olympians and the 30-year-old doctors and, you know, the kings of the water.  (And they are mostly guys, now that I think about it.  We probably have twice as many men as women.  It's a pretty egalitarian sport, but I bet women have more trouble getting out of the house at 5 am to get to the pool what with kids and pets and jobs and--stuff.)  So the first question that always comes up is, "Does the New Guy know the rules?"  There are a couple of different ways to share a lane--like circling, going up one side and down the other side, or splitting, where each of you stays in one half of the lane. and I could tell this guy didn't know the rules because he was kind of all over the place. In that circumstance it's not very safe to jump in and start swimming because there could be a collision, so I jumped into the water and just waited by the wall for him to come back from the other end so we could Discuss.

And an amazing thing happened.  I guess I never noticed this before because I normally jump in and then immediately push off and start swimming, and in this case I was just holding still, but the second I jumped into the water, the happiness meter started going up.  I swear, it was like watching the mercury increase on an oven timer; I came in grumpy, I jumped in the water, and just by being in the water my mood started to improve.  Never mind the actual swimming.  When I started actually swimming, my mood just shot up.  Sure, exercise and endorphins and all that, but still, this was pretty remarkable.  Instant happy, just add water.

And speaking of swimming, how's the swim-for-distance thing going?  Pretty good.  I'm at  19.7k or 12 and a quarter miles.  I still have the better part of two weeks, so it looks like I'll hit at least 20 miles and hopefully 23.  This Sunday I'm hoping to do a double session, or a session and a half, which comes to at least an hour and a half in the water and 2700-3000 meters.  The big 5k swim is in September and I lost a lot of ground when I was out with a month with pneumonia, but we'll see how that goes.  Somebody told me recently that there's a two-hour limit on the 5k swim, anyway.  There's absolutely no way I will get fast enough to swim 5k in 2 hours (more like 2 1/2, maybe even closer to 3) but I can probably swim between 3500 and 4000, and that's a lot.  (Hm, maybe I'll take bets on whether or not I hit 4000.  Proceeds to go to some charity.  Not sure which one.  There are a lot of them out there.)

I have several sponsors pledging me by the kilometer or the mile, with all proceeds going to Heifer, International, but I could always use more.  It's easy; just be around when I post my final tally at the end of the month and send me a check, made payable to Heifer (which is tax deductible and all that) so that I can mail it with all the other checks and a nice letter from everybody.  If I raise $250, we can buy a water buffalo for some family in Southeast Asia, which would be cool.  If not, we can still buy goats and chickens and hives of bees and so on. Farm animals make a huge difference in the lives of poor families and they are not to be eaten, so there's something for the vegetarians.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Good News at a Bad Time

It's been nothing but good news all week.

First, and by far the most important, the Supreme Court threw out Texas's omnibus "make abortion completely inaccessible for most people who live outside the big cities and don't have lots and lots of money" law in a 5-3 split that marked the most significant court decision on abortion since--oh, well, since Roe v. Wade, probably.  Cutting through a mass of legal gobbledygook, the Court stated very clearly that states can't just go around slapping new regulations on abortion clinics to drive them out of business.  Which prompted the part-time Texas governor and full-time asshole Greg Abbott to accidentally admit that's what he was trying to do all along.  Now all we need is for somebody to admit that what anti-abortion activists are really all about is trying to punish women for having sex and we'll start having this discussion in an atmosphere of intellectual honesty.  Which would be refreshing.

Next, a much less significant Court here in Texas allowed the reinstatement of a lawsuit it had pitched out, and in a shocking twist, the Court even admitted that a "clerical error" might have led to the dismissal of the lawsuit in the first place.  It's a small thing, but I'll take it.  It beats the hell out of having to refile the petition, repay the $300-odd fee, re-serve all the defendants (presuming I can even find them again), and all the other stuff we'd need to do if we hadn't been able to get it reinstated.  So kudos to my boss, for good arguing at the hearing.  And me, for writing a good motion.  Rah.

And finally:  I have a new project.  I haven't the foggiest idea what it is, though I'm kicking around a few things, but I have a new project.  I have mentioned Rhett from Jinks, Oklahoma before, but only in passing and not as "the really cool guy I met at the Pen to Press Writer's Conference in 2010 and we're still friends all these years later."  So Rhett is this really cool guy--right.  And a couple of days ago I finally got up the nerve to ask him if he wanted us to write something together.  And he said yes.  Whoo hoo!!  So again, we don't know what we're going to do yet, but we're going to do something.  I'm leaning toward a suspense thriller with lots of blood, chapter cliffhangers, shocking "Game of Thrones" style deaths and the occasional gallows humor.  If you knew Rhett (and you should, because again, he's really cool) you'd probably think that's his kind of thing, too.

So anyway, it's all been good news.  And me?


Let's see here.  On Monday I became elated that a Big Country song was on the radio and a few minutes later started sobbing because it reminded me of my ex, who died recently, and now I'll never know why blah blah blah etc. etc.

On Tuesday, I caught myself driving 80 mph on the freeway.

On Wednesday, I had a complete meltdown at the gym and cried for ten minutes because I was so upset about the way our society treats fish.

And on Thursday, I called my doctor and said, "Something jist ain't right here."

Yep. After three or four years of being stable and pretty much asymptomatic, I'm suddenly spiking bipolar symptoms all over the place again for no apparent reason.  It's been kind of like having a storm of little earthquakes.  Either that's the fault line settling into a new and more stable position, or it's the buildup to the Big One and who the hell knows which?  So it's been pretty scary. I mean, I like being asymptomatic.  It's almost like being Normal.

However, This Does Happen. Things change, people change, haircuts change, body chemistry changes and sometimes doses of meds that have worked for a long time don't work anymore.  My doc upped my dose of something or other to see if that would help.  (Again, psychiatry is a lot like alchemy; you try a little bit of this and a little bit of that, try to find a good drug cocktail that treats the most obvious symptoms while not killing you with side effects, and if you happen to turn lead into gold at the same time, good on ya.)  So far, I have an upset stomach and I'm more scatterbrained than usual.  Oh, and I had a migraine yesterday, but that could be coincidental.  So I'm typing with crossed fingers because seriously, that's not bad at all.

And so July arrives, not with a bang but a whimper.  July, of course, is Swim for Distance Month for my swim team.  We try to swim as far as possible in the alloted 31 days, and the winner gets some cheesy prize, but I'm never going to come anywhere close to winning because I just don't swim that fast.  I am, however, shooting for 23 miles, which will be tough but doable.  (Think a mile a day for 23 days out of 31.  Again, should be doable.)

Also, I am once again inviting people to pledge me by the mile, the meter, or just generally for the 23 miles, or however far I get.  If you want to toss in a dollar a mile, or 50 cents a kilometer, or whatever you're comfortable with, that would be great.  I'll post regular updates here and all money raised (which is usually not a lot; I don't have many rich friends) will go to Heifer International, which is a nonprofit that helps people in poverty by giving them animals to raise. (Donations are tax deductible.) It's hard to imagine if you live in the United States or anywhere else in the 1st World, but an animal can make a huge difference to a family living in poverty.  A goat, for example, will give milk, which both helps with nutrition and can also be made into cheese and sold.  Also, a goat can get together with another goat and make baby goats, which can then be sold to other families and help them, too. In fact, a pair of goats can benefit a whole village. So Heifer's pretty neat.  I'd love to raise enough money to buy a water buffalo ($250.00).  You know, swimming, water buffalo--sort of follows, doesn't it?

Last thing:  I finally saw an announcement about that 5000 meter race I was going to enter.  It will be in mid-September. Actual date to follow shortly.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Another Saturday Night of Wild and Reckless Abandon.

So it's Saturday night.  Across the globe, couples dance and drink in seedy bars, go to sporting events, throw parties, take in movies, go on wild crime sprees that always end in a Tijuana prison cell, lying on the floor with a nude Barbie doll.  And I?  Well, I'm at Half Price Books.  Typing away.

Why Half Price Books, you might ask.  Well, two reasons.  One, they have free wi-fi, though half the time I'm not able to get my laptop to talk to it (ie, tonight).  There are also lots of tables in the common area, and some of them face the aquarium.  I'm big on aquariums.  I miss my fish.  There's also a little coffee shop that sells fine Italian sodas and decadent sweet things that I'm not supposed to have.  But most importantly, Half Price Books isn't my house and doesn't have a ten-week-old kitten gallumphing at high speed around corners and down hallways, causing hiss fests with other cats and occasionally launching herself at my feet in a brutal takedown attack that's evidently supposed to render me footless (no luck there so far).

Besides, Starbucks is too pricey and when I order something as mundane as a regular coffee, all the overdressed rich women who apparently have nothing better to do than hang out there look at me like I'm crazy.

Mainly, I just like to get out behind my desk and go out into the wild.  You know.  Libraries.  Bookstores.  Coffee establishments.  Anywhere I can sit, look busy, type fast and deflect curiosity.  I used to do my blog posts at Afrah and then one night this like 18-year-old waiter tried to pick me up, not realizing I was old enough to be his mother (which was nice, if a little awkward).  I still go to Afrah sometimes, but tonight I'm at Half Price.  There's no pita bread here, unfortunately.

And how's the writing going, anyway, you ask.  Well, it's been better.  I've been kicking around a small thing that I'll probably go back and work on in a few minutes here, and I've got another thing that's basically done but needs some major slash and burn editing, and there's another one that's almost done but I think I'm going to have to go back some 80 pages from the end, just chop them the hell off and make it all happen differently.  Which I'm not up for at the moment.

The truth is, I haven't been very excited about anything I've written since I finished the increasingly inaccurately named Mindbender trilogy.  (Quadrology? Quintology?)  I've been able to get angry enough to write something Serious (the thing that's basically finished), but I'm not sure I hit the point I'd been trying to make and I'm equally not sure I can make it hit that point, regardless.  I also have a major time crunch that I didn't have during the Mindbender era (swimming) and very little time in the evenings to sit down with a keyboard.  Most of the thing that's basically finished was written on the fly, longhand, between appointments, in waiting rooms and wherever else I happened to be when I had a few minutes.  Which is one way to go about it, I guess.  Transcribing it was a lot of fun, though.  You should see my handwriting.  No, you probably shouldn't.  You've seen what happens when you whack a bug and splatter its guts all over the wall, haven't you?

(By the way, whacking a bug is a big Buddhist no-no.  It's better to usher them outside.  I usually scream for Joan, which is sort of outsourcing my violations of the First Precept.  You know, like the United States exports its industrial pollution by manufacturing goods in countries that don't have the strict environmental laws we have here.)

So I'm here, and I'm gonna try to write something, but in the meantime, I just made a modest proposal that might lead to yet another project.  I hope so.  I'm probably going to shut off my Internet connection now just to avoid having to read whatever comes back, but let it be known that I proposed it.  Whatever it is.

And I hope I get to tell you whatever it is very soon.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

No News

Yes, I know it's been a while since I've posted.  I'd claim it's because the kitten's not sleeping through the night, but she is, finally.  And how.  She does this thing where she runs through the house at full tilt, chases a toy, pounces on one of the other cats (much to their displeasure, but that sure doesn't stop her), and tears around until suddenly she stops, just wherever she happens to be, keels over and falls asleep.  It's pretty amazing. I mean, like 60 to zero in two seconds.  Oh, and for the record, the kitten now has a name, which is Artemis. I think she knows it because her ears prick up when someone says it, but they also prick up when someone says "kitten" or "food" or "toy" or "treat."

No, mostly it's that there's only one thing anybody's allowed to write about right now. and I don't wanna write about it.  So I'm not writing about anything.  Well, except for the stuff that starts out, "COMES NOW Plaintiff GOODGUY and complains against Defendant WEASEL, as follows..."  You probably think I'm talking about what went down in Orlando, but actually, I'm not.  What went down in Orlando will be The Only Thing To Write About for another couple of days, maybe, but then everyone will lose interest, and we'll all go back to our collective digital cocoons, communicate only with people who think exactly the same way we do, and do absolutely nothing about it, just like we did with Fort Hood and Aurora and Virginia Tech and Columbine and San Bernardino and...

No, what I'm talking about is The Election.

Yeah. That Election.

Now, you have to remember here that I'm Not Supposed To Watch The News.  I'm actually under doctor's orders not to watch the news and to stay away from Web sites like CNN and Huffington Post and Yahoo News.  Why?  Because Watching The News Upsets Me.  If I go into my doctor's office and he asks me how I've been and I say I've been a little down, the first thing he wants to know is if I'm watching the news.  And if I cop to maybe hanging around the Yahoo comments section longer than it takes to determine that it's an absolute sewer, he will get this very doctory sort of look, peer at me over his glasses and say, "Don't. Watch. The. News."

So, by definition, it would be hard to write about The Election, or anything else I know nothing about.  Unfortunately, I do know a fair amount about The Election, and I didn't get it from watching the news, either.  For example, I'm on Twitter (and you can follow me around at @jenstrikesagain if you ever feel like it).  Plenty of people tweet about The News on Twitter.  They may only say it in 140 characters, but that's really all you need; anything more is bombast and rhetoric.  Plus, people talk about newsy things at the office.  I've more or less got my colleagues convinced not to talk about bariatric surgery, but darned if I can get them to avoid chatter about The Election.

Anyway, I don't have to know a lot about The Election.  I pretty much know what I need to know.  There's a seasoned public servant who has been in several major national and international roles, and has done very well, up against--well, that other guy.  You can probably guess who I'm voting for, even if it won't matter because my state is going with Ted Cruz (and never mind if he's actually still running).  So I know what I need to know.  And I'm not.  Repeat not.  Going to write. About. It.

So that's my story and you won't see it on The News.  And since posts about The Election are both boring and depressing, I'm going to close out this blog post with a picture of Artemis, who has tripled in size in only three weeks.

Friday, May 20, 2016

'Nother Mini-Post: Kitten!

Well, I came home from work yesterday and lo and behold, we have a kitten.  Joan picked her up from the side of the road and took her straight to a vet. She checked out OK. Unless we start seeing a lot of signs around the nabe for a lost kitten, we seem to have a new family member.  No name yet, although we're kicking a couple around. The older cats are hating on her right now, so everybody has to be supervised 24/7 (or else kitten has to be closed in a room by herself, which isn't a great solution).  She likes to play at 2 am and eats like a horse (or a kitten, in this case).   More details (and a name) to follow.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Mini-Post: Damn, I Got Old Quick.

In case anybody wants to know what it's like to jump back into the pool after a month away and a lot of that resting in bed, the answer is, IT SUCKS. I feel like I've gone back in time to the month I started with the swim team way back in '07.  I get extremely tired, I take hits from my inhaler because I get so winded and I actually get out of the water with sore shoulders and arms.  Last Sunday I swam 1800, my longest distance since I started back.  Yeah.  1800.  When I was turning in like 3200 at least once a week and training up to 5000.  If that 5000 meter race were really in July, as originally scheduled, I'd be screwed. The rumor now is that it's going to be in September.  I'd like to say September is no problem and I'll be back to fighting form in nothing flat, but then I also said I'd be over this pneumonia thing in a week and that didn't exactly work out, so I'm hesitant for my brain to start writing checks my body may not be able to cash.

So I realized today that I've gotta do what I've been putting off doing.  I gotta go back to the gym and start lifting weights again.  I'm no Arnold Schwartzenbarfer, but I used to lift weights and it helped my swimming a lot.  I gotta build up those wing muscles.  Luckily there is an LA Fitness right down the street from my office, and if I actually leave on time I should be able to squeeze in a good 30-45 minutes on Tuesday and Thursday nights.  Again, that's leave ON TIME, not whenever I get to a logical stopping point.  I could feasibly work all day and all night for weeks and I'd never get all the stuff done that I'm supposed to do.  But I do keep us two steps ahead of the next crisis, and sometimes that's all you can ask for.  Especially in a law firm.

In other news, I'm going to turn 47 in a couple of weeks here.  This means I'm no longer in my middle forties; I am now in my late forties.  Joan, who just turned 57, is probably laughing at me right now, but the other day it occurred to me that I'm probably past the mystical halfway point, unless I plan on living to be 96.  Yep. Half my life is already in the can and I'm working on the second half.

So what am I gonna do for the second half, you ask.  Well, let's see. I think I'm going to hang around with family and friends as much as possible, share big laughs and small stories, and be as unserious as possible.  I'm planning on a little more meditation and a little less anxiety.  Less sugar, for sure, more fruits and vegetables.  Less wasted time on the news (I'm not supposed to watch the news; it upsets me).  More trips to Austin.  Fewer doctor's appointments.  And who knows, maybe I'll write something.  Else.  Something else.

By the way, it's Mental Health Awareness Month.  So be aware.