My very first skydive.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Attitude 2...or Atti2de

A couple of  noteworthy submissions on attitude by one of my favorite people:

"I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.” van Goethe

Attitude is acting "as if".

But this is my favorite:

Happy Friday!

Thursday, December 1, 2011


The last of the human freedoms is to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances.  
Victor Frankl 

Not too long ago I wrote about running and attitude. I find myself in need of some inspiration as the final days of 2011 are upon us. Here's what I found:

Carl Jung says it's : a "readiness of the psyche to act or react in a certain way".
 Hmm. I need to ready my psyche. Ok, I'm on it.

Then I found this:

This dude needs to ready his psyche too.

My dad would agree with this:
He's big on attitude. In fact he's my 'attitude' role model.

Libby would say this:

And I love her for it.

Several of my students would embrace this:

This is sometimes how I get through my workday:

None of these are the funk-breaking-ass-kicking that I need.

This is closer:

I'm off to ready my psyche for tomorrow.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful 2011

I am thankful for...

1. My amazing family. These four people brought five other amazing people into my life and I love every minute I get to spend with them. We are extraordinarily ordinary.

2. My health-though I don't always take as good care of it as I should.

3. A job I love doing and people I like and respect to do it with.

4. A beautiful and peaceful old farmhouse to call home...for now.

5. The guts it took to finish my MPA.

6. My mother's stuffing-there is nothing like it in the world.

7. Skydiving.

8. Living in a place with four seasons, and enough clear nights to see the stars.

9. My friend Elizabeth who gave me Nantucket, chocolate boxes, the Nike Women's Marathon and so much more.

10. Having loved and lost.

11. My passport, my backpack and all of the adventures those two things provide.

12. My Mac and my iPhone. I love Apple.

13. Self reliance and independence.

14. Running, yoga, hiking, zumba and anything else that keeps me moving.

15. NPR.

16. Josh Groban. (That's not true, I just wrote that to make Libby laugh.)

17. Guinness (a pint, stew, gingerbread, floats...)

18. Monty Python-for never failing to made me giggle.

19. Skype-I get to hear Evan say "Ove you Auntie"- he's working on his L's.

20. George and Saoirse-they don't ask for much but they're good friends.

21. Mostly I am thankful for being raised with a great capacity for love and hope, for always having enough, and for the incredible amount of laughter and courage from my friends and family.

Wishing you and your family peace and joy and a delicious dinner!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I am battling my nomadic nature.

Now that my Master's degree is done I am feeling the restless pull for change. And yet I am not in any position to make many changes, at least not the kind I am used to. For example, I have moved roughly 20 times since I graduated high school. That encompasses 6 states and 3 colleges and 9 jobs. The desire for change is now manifesting itself in other ways. I briefly contemplated getting another cat. You know, shake things up a bit in my little household. I had already squashed that idea when my younger sister gently informed me that another cat would qualify me for "crazy cat lady" status. (She herself has 4 cats, but she's married with two kids so I think they cancel each other out in the crazy cat lady equation.)

I love my job, so I don't really want to leave. It's not where I want to spend the rest of my career so that door always remains unlocked, but I don't think I am ready to walk through it just yet.

This past weekend, Jessica showed me the most incredible property for sale in Middlebury. It's a beautiful old farm house from the 1800's. It has these magnificent (original?) pine board floors, funky pocket doors, and a charming little reading nook. It sits on 7+ acres with a pond, and beautiful woods. But the best part about it is the smaller farmhouse for sale right. next. door. In my dreams, I win the lottery and buy both houses so that I can live in this idyllic setting next to my sister. I could garden, adopt a dog, teach my nieces and nephew how to skate and swim...but I know even in that scenario I would get wanderlust.

So what's next?

I think I need a mini top ten list for the next keep me focused.

UPDATE:Here's the mini top ten...

10. Take a sign language class.

9. Learn how to make crepes.

8. Visit Mary and Cagle in MD.

7. Outline the book Jess and I want to write. (and maybe work on the first chapter?)

6. Find a local half marathon, properly train, and PR it.

5. Get all of my belongings under one roof-which means cleaning out the crawl space and attic at my parents.

4. Pull out all my empty picture frames and either put pictures IN them and hang them up or donate them.

3. Continue to learn how to snowboard.

2. Play Christmas Elf to at least 5 people. (and never let them figure out it was me!)

1. Plan my next trip abroad-even if I don’t have the money to do it for several years.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Trilogy, Trinity, Trio.

I have amazing sisters. And for the 2nd year in a row we got together for what is bound to become a long-standing annual tradition: Sisters' Weekend. Here are this year's highlights.

1. Jojo's scrambled eggs for breakfast.
She makes amazing scrambled eggs. Her kids even prefer them to pancakes. Jessica and I coaxed her into making them for us both days.

2. Walking around the Pheasant Lane Mall-counterclockwise to ensure we saw every store.
With almost military precision we managed to walk past every store in the mall. I have no idea why this became important, but it did. It reaffirmed my extreme dislike for mall shopping, but where my sisters go-I follow.

3. Jessica attacking us with the Pig Popper Doll in Brookstone.
She found this toy:

and proceeded to follow us around the store pegging the little balls at us and then squealing-if you'll forgive the pun- with glee. She wanted to get it for Nella until Johanna reminded her that "shooting" toys may not be the best gift for a 3 year old.

4. Cement-eating pumpkins.
It's harder to explain this one-but Johanna still has her pumpkins out on her front steps. We'd noted how they were a bit past their prime. As we walked in the door one time Johanna tested the largest one's rigidity with her foot and it leaked pumpkin juice all over the steps. The next morning the cement had a huge crater in it. Spooky.

5. Olive Garden.
a. So. much. food.
b. Laughing so hard we annoyed our waiter-he clearly doesn't have sisters....or a sense of humor.
c. Just when we had composed ourselves, something else made Jessica laugh and she spit a mouthful of water all over Johanna and I. Seriously.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Run, Green Bean, Run.

I'm not a great storyteller. But I love stories. One of my favorite NPR offerings is The Moth. They bill it as true stories, told live, without notes. People, famous and obscure, get up on stage and share a story, relating to some overarching theme of the night, to a live audience. They are funny, insightful, heartbreaking and affirming. (If you can't listen to it live on an NPR station because some silly politician took away all of their funding and now you're lucky if they can broadcast anything but classical music, then you can always download the podcast or 'like' them on Facebook to get your fix).

These are some of my favorites:
Mike Destefano: Both "Franny's Last Ride" and "The Junkie and the Monk" are amazing.
Mike Birbiglia: "Sleepwalk With Me" -You'll never say Walla Walla, WA the same way again.
Brian Finkelstein: "Jewish Blood, Irish Heart"-He spends a weekend with one of the Chieftain's and makes you wish you had his luck.
Steve Osbourne: "Mug Shot" Thick NYC accent, incredible story about being a police officer.

I looked for links to these and others, but some I only have on podcast so I can't help you out. (If you simply must hear them, let me know and I'll make you a "Moth Mix" on cd-cause I am that awesome.)

The story that prompted this post is called "Green Bean Queen" which thankfully you can watch right here: Green Bean Queen.

It's time to start running again. And there are all of these old tapes that start playing in my head about how hard it is, how out of shape I am, blah, blah, blah. I challenge myself to stay positive and focused but it is good to be reminded that we all should only ever be the best little green bean we can be.

Me and one of my favorite fellow green beans, Nike Women's Marathon, 2005.

Next up is Pub 317's Run to the Pub in Bozeman, MT with another fellow green bean, Kim.
13.1 miles to a pub on St. Patrick's Day.
That's my kind of race.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Married, Dead or Crazy.

Funny story.

Not really 'ha-ha' funny. More 'oh, sweet Jesus, is this really my life?' funny.

So, I'm driving back home after visiting my mum in the hospital, I was lost in thought and weary from travel and worry. My cell phone rang, forcing me back into the moment. It was an old boyfriend-well, boyfriend may be too significant of a label-we dated for a brief time many years back. We've stayed in touch on and off given that since we both left CT, we haven't lived anywhere near one another, and he is a submariner in the Navy and spends six months out of the year underwater. There were a hundred reasons why it didn't work out, distance being the least of our differences. He is a lovely guy, he just wasn't the guy for me. But he very much wanted to be the "the" guy for someone. And so when he called the other day, it was to tell me that he was going to propose to his current girlfriend. (He even texted me a picture of the ring.) Even though I was genuinely happy for him, I have to admit, I was surprised that he wanted to share this news with me before he had even proposed. I mean, I know his sweetheart will say yes, so telling people isn't a gamble. But think to yourself a're in love and you want to spend the rest of your life with this person. You pick out the perfect ring, you start planning the perfect moment...and before you've had a chance to ask your beloved for his or her hand in make the all important phone call to...your pseudo-ex.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not jealous or disappointed and I don't feel like I missed out on anything-I am perfectly happy that he is happy. However we are merely acquaintances now. I don't even think he actually knows that much about my life anymore. Perhaps he just needed someone to be happy for him. And that someone got to be me. Ultimately, this is par for the course in the bizarro world of my romantic life.

So I share this strange conversation with my sister and she just chuckles. I tell her that, with one exception*, everyone I've ever dated will now be married. She says "Really?" I think for a minute and then I reply "Well, you know...married, dead or crazy." And we both burst out laughing because this is absurdly true.

This remark isn't meant to be irreverent of the amazing man I loved who lost his life. And it isn't even meant to disparage the man I loved who was later diagnosed with a debilitating and cruel psychiatric disorder. It just highlights the supreme amount of ridiculousness that has defined my love life.

Jessica swears that I'm due for a nice, normal relationship.

To be honest, I'd happily settle for being the last to know about my ex's nice, normal relationships.

*For the record, the 'exception' told me that he and his girlfriend might as well be married, but it's not a priority for them. So I'm counting him among the unhitched for now.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The List

I love lists.

Grocery lists, Christmas lists, chore lists, work lists, book name it. There is a profound sense of accomplishment for me when I get to cross something off. I'll make lists mid-project just to cross of the tasks I have already completed. Many years ago, my very dear friend Kim inspired me to make a list of things I wanted to do before I died. This was long before the movie "Bucket List" came out. She made a list of four things she wanted to do when she was 9 and accomplished almost all of them before she left college. They included:

Driving to Florida
Going to Alaska
Hiking the AT
Biking to Maine (which she did with her mom when she was 11!)

My own list has 10 things on it (Thank you, David Letterman). I think this is circa 1997...

1. Complete an advanced degree (Master's or PhD.)
2. Own a home in Ireland
3. Skydive
4. Parent a child
5. Run a 4:30 Marathon (Amended after I ran my first one)
6. Set foot in all 50 US States and all 7 Continents (only 7 states and 5 continents to go!)
7. Write and publish a book
8. Learn another language
9. Hike the VT Long Trail
10. Be invited back to speak at my alma mater (Castleton State College)

Skydiving was the first thing I checked off of the list. In fact, if you watch the video of it, you can hear me verbally check it off when I land. (Who knew that these years later I would feel compelled to go back and do it again and again.)

I can now say that I have completed my Master's degree and therefore another check mark. As I look at the list I see how monumental some of them are-own a home in Ireland? Right. We get paid so much money working in education that it should be noooooo problem. Yet, I don't have the heart to remove it. These are my dreams and I want to remember I had them rather than water them down with what only seems plausible.

Recently, I was talking to my sister about this list and lamenting that the one that seems the most unlikely (yes, even more unlikely than owning a home in Ireland) is 'parent a child'. I'm almost 40 and the old ovaries ain't what they used to be. And her response was one of the most generous things anyone has ever said to me. She commented how much time and energy I spend with my nieces and nephew and said "you know, in way you do parent these children." It's not the same as actually being a parent and we both knew it, but it was such a gift for her to see me in this way and to be willing to share that role with me in a small way. And if I don't have children, I might someday feel like I could still check this off-but we'll see how Nella, Evan and Callie get through their teenage-years first.

So, the Master's degree is done, and I'm left to wonder what to do next. It was really hard to finish, much harder than I thought it would be. When I first submitted the final draft of my thesis I had this panicked thought that maybe I would be like those retirees who stop working and drop dead. (God forbid, I celebrate. No. I have to go to the dark side.) I spent so much time working on the degree and worrying about working on the degree that when it was done, I was afraid my body would go into shock with all the time I had on my hands. But tonight as I finish the last component- a PowerPoint for my thesis presentation-I'm surprised at how emotional I am. There were several moments in the last two and half years when I thought I might not be able to do it. I'm pretty smart, but academic work has never come easy to me. I'm too right brained. And I'm a bit of perfectionist. Not the high-functioning kind that really does everything perfectly. I'm more of a intense-fear-of-failure-so reach for-perfection-and-thereby-shoot-myself-in-the-foot kind of perfectionist. This time, it almost cost me my MPA. Oddly enough, there is something incredibly liberating about actually failing-facing and embracing it. The world didn't end, everybody who loved me before still loved me, there wasn't any drama attached to it at all. It just was. And as much as it sucked, it wasn't so scary anymore. I picked myself up and went back to work. And the next thing you know? A big 'ole check mark.

And so I am thankful for my list-for all of the hope and fear it represents.

I think I'll start working on that 4:30 marathon.

Apparently, Kim and I also made lists of the the things we wanted in the "perfect man". I found mine written on a bar napkin (which will tell you a lot about my state of mind when I was writing it):

Must have a sense of humor, and think I am funny.
Preferably tall and strong (not Ah-nold strong, just 'capable' strong)
Loves to travel
Knows how and willing to cook
Willing to hold hands in public
Ability to hold long, interesting conversations
Knows when to work and when to play
Must be gentle and kindhearted and sarcastic (yes, I actually wrote this)
And lastly, must have nice eyes.

Reading it now, I think I have a better chance of having children than meeting this person. If I ever have a daughter, I will advocate for imagination and fantasy, but steer her away from fairy tales. It's so much better to love the imperfections, and yet nearly impossible to make a list of them.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Every streetlight a reminder...

After working for almost 5 straight weeks to train our student leaders and to open the College in the midst of the worst tropical storm Vermont has seen in almost one hundred years, I was ready for a break. After a little more than 48 hours with the most energetic child I have ever known...scratch that...she is one of the most energetic human beings I have ever known, my body didn't feel like I'd actually had a break, but my head and heart did.

As I was driving back home late on Sunday night, I threw on an old mixed CD I had made seven or eight years ago, and hadn't listened to in a long time. One of my favorite things about mixed tapes or CDs is that they often capture a time and place in my life better than any journal or blog could do. Like so many things in my life, if I like it, I will listen, watch, read, eat, or do it over and over and over until I'm bored with it. So each CD is a commentary on who I was, what I was doing, how I felt, etc about that moment in time. I have one mix of Sting, Matchbox 20, Third Eye Blind, Frank Sinatra, and the Rolling Stones that I listened to over and over during my road trip to Montana to visit my sister in the summer of 2000. Whenever I hear Desert Rose or Motorcycle Drive By I can smell the smoke of the forest fires, see the Tetons, and recall rolling around on the floor laughing with my sister. (If you know my sister, you can feel free to ask her about the time I tripped on the stairs up to her apartment....and well, I'll let her tell you the rest. It was so embarrassing, but so funny-and just one of the many reasons we were rolling on the floor laughing.) And don't even get me started on the Destinationless tapes...White Rabbit by Jefferson Starship, Diet Cokes, Marlboro Lights and one of the best friendships you could ask for...but I digress.

The CD I was listening to during this drive home had some BoDeans, Coldplay, Radiohead, Billy Bragg and The Killers on it and I had titled it "Making Dinner" which brought me back to the time I first met Voldemort and I was still a bit smitten. More than that, it reminded me of time when I was feeling strong and directed-life had resumed a sense of normalcy after the death of BL. And then came track 14. I knew it was there and yet wasn't expecting it. One of my favorite songs ever-one of the songs I have never become bored with-Nightswimming by REM. You were hoping for something more profound? Well, I put this song on almost every mix I ever made.

It takes me to so many different places in my life I feel like I must have been singing it since childhood. It really started with late nights in Wilder at J's apartment in the early 1990's, where I escaped some of my teen angst and quietly rebelled against my goody-two-shoes image by smoking cigarettes and staying up late. (I know, right? I was sooo out of control.) That whole album, Automatic for the People, represents the beginning of my journey down the road less traveled-off the path everyone thought I would take. Perhaps that is why it is so profound for me.

The road less traveled took me to Silver City, New Mexico. While most people in their late teens and early twenty's re-evaluate their world with alcohol, weed or some other recreational drug. I decided to become a flower child. If you know me now, you just choked back your laughter. Its ok, I understand. But I was a flower child who didn't drink or smoke pot. I just bought a lot of second hand clothes and stopped shaving my legs. And I spent a considerable amount of time at the Mimbres Hot Springs Ranch, a modern day commune tucked away in the mountains of southwest New Mexico. The families that owned the land built their own houses, grew their own food and had some of the most incredible and luxurious outhouses I have ever seen. They also had natural hot springs that they had tapped into and built small pools around so you could soak all of your cares away in the dry southwest air. When the spring water was too hot, you could hop out and jump into the cool, refreshing waters of the small swimming pond adjacent to the upper springs. And because we were flower children, we swam naked.

It always felt liberating and scandalous at the same time. Like I was completely comfortable in my own skin (indeed, I was only wearing my own skin) and yet I knew that this person would be unrecognizable to my friends and family back home. When and if I spoke of it with them, they rolled their eyes, smirked as though they thought I was trying to be subversive, or shook their heads...sometimes all three in the same moment. I couldn't explain it then, but for me, this song illuminates everything that swimming in the pond at the Ranch, under a clear night sky full of stars was to me.

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night.
I'm not sure all these people understand.
It's not like years ago
The fear of getting caught
Of recklessness and water.
They cannot see me naked.
These things, they go away
replaced by everyday.

You, I thought I knew you.
You I cannot judge.
You I thought you knew me
This one laughing quietly underneath my breath.

It occurred to me as I was driving home, listening to this song, how in those days and nights at the Ranch I was the most pure and authentic person I could be. I wasn't less full of doubt, I just embraced all of the possibilities with less calculation.

I gave up my flower child status a long time ago. I routinely shave my legs and can't imagine swimming naked with people I barely know. But I love that for a brief time I was that girl because she taught me so much about how to live my life. And I am grateful for a song that helps me capture that moment when I need a little reminding. I hope you all have that song.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Jumping out of planes...let 'er rip!

I love learning new things. Today's lesson was about ripping dvds to my computer so I can post them to this blog. By most standards, my computer is ancient. I like to call her Granny Mac. The OS is old enough that I can't download much in the way of new programs, but I'm not ready to drop the $$$$$ for a new one.

I know two people who use Macs and who rank high on the technical competencies scale. If I were a wealthy woman I would keep them both on retainer as my personal MacBook Pros. One of them is a friend of Jess and AJ's. Our interactions are mostly through Facebook and he usually answers my questions before I finish typing them. I'm telling you, it's handy. The other is someone I have known for over 9 years-someone who made me laugh at a time in my life when I thought I might never find anything funny again. When I first met him, he was rarely serious. He knew how to work hard, but when he wasn't working he was always playing. Enough so, that I didn't always take him seriously. When he came to help me connect my personal computer to the network of the college I'd just started working at, I was nervous about something going wrong. I remember saying something like "I want to trust that you know what you are doing, but please don't break it". He looked at with annoyance and in a voice that made me feel like 4 year old said "I don't break computers." I knew then that I had met an IT guru.

Between the two of them I finally figured out how to pull...err..excuse me rip... my skydiving videos off of the dvds and load them here.

Coincidentally, this one is of my very first tandem skydive. Guru #2 worked on VSA's website and traded his hours for my jump. Told you he's pretty great.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Conversational Drought

Being an ardent Vermonter who loves her home state, you might expect this post to be about the destruction and losses we've sustained this past week. I've seen the pictures, watched the videos, heard first hand accounts from friends who lost a little and those who lost a lot. I've ruminated on the fact that a few days ago it would have only taken me 2 hours to get to my parents in the event of an emergency. The fastest route to them now is about 5 hours and I have to go further south before I can go north. But a whole post ? I can't do it-i just don't have the words.

Instead I'm writing about something only slightly less tragic-my social life.

I'm beginning my 4th year at Little Tiny Vermont College-and for the better part of the first 3 years I did four things-ate, slept, worked and completed grad school classes. To be honest, until recently I've been fine with my limited activities. When I moved back to Vermont in August of 2008 I had just left Philadelphia-a place that was too loud, dirty and crowded for me. I had also ended my relationship with a man I'll call Voldemort. ( Trust me, it fits.) Peace, quiet, the green mountains, my family and a chance to shake off a bad relationship were just what I needed.

Now I am starting to feel the effects of a life spent in my office, and mostly talking to 18-25 year-olds. I love my job, love working with young adults as they figure out who they are, and what they want to be when they grow up. But the other day one of my staff members read the Beloit College Mindset list for the Class of 2015 and one of the items referenced the fact that River Phoenix had been dead for 20 years. One of our students said "who is River Phoenix?" and I almost cried. And not because I am missing River Phoenix...but because it made me officially old. Old in the eyes of people I spend 90% of my time with...including my staff. We are such a tiny school with less than 65 full-time employees- most of who are married, with families and who don't actually live in Bennington. Even my professional staff members are under 25. They are smart, dynamic, talented and funny women, and we have great conversation but my efforts to connect with them have become more and more challenging. Case in point-last year we were sitting at the table in the caf and one woman jokingly made a reference to the line "Dingo ate my baby". I asked her if she had seen the movie. She looked at me somewhat perplexed and said "What movie?" I said that they line she just used was from A Cry in the Dark. She laughed and said she heard it on Saturday Night Live and thought it was a joke made up by the show. Not her fault-she was only 2 years old when the movie came out.

And just because it's funny-here's Elaine doing it on Seinfeld:


Having been insular for awhile now, I am faced with the daunting prospect of crawling out of this cocoon and finding people who understand my cultural references. I'm not even talking about dating-which is a whole other blog post I have no desire to write. I could just do with some adult conversation over a real bottle of red wine. The kind that costs more than $7.99.

I said to a friend that what I really need is an intellectual prostitute. I would pay good money for someone who listened to NPR, read the Journal or the Times, was responsible for their own bills, and knew that "dingo ate my baby" was funny because of Meryl Streep. Someone who didn't make me feel like being 38 was truly ancient. (This was going to be hard enough to accomplish in Bennington as it was-but now that every major road in VT that went 'somewhere' is impassable, I will likely have to airlift in my scholastic escort.)

It doesn't help that I'm not exactly a social barfly. Butterfly...barfly-whatever. Either way-I know I gotta use my wings if I'm going to find what I'm looking for.

So if the next time you see me, I corner you to discuss some seemingly random, slightly esoteric topic, just humor me and say "Can you believe River Phoenix has been dead for 20 years?"

And if you quote Stand By Me, I will probably buy you a nice bottle of red wine.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Murphy O'Meyer is a nice way of saying...

for fuck's sake! (It's funnier when my sister, Jessica, says it.)

Anyway...the expletive will make sense in a minute.

A few weeks ago we had the most amazing reunion for the families that grew up on Perkins Place in the '70's and '80's. Almost 50 people gathered at one family's lake house for an afternoon of good food, swimming, laughing and remembering. There were 7 of the original families, with each family bringing at least 3 generations. These people were my "it takes a village to raise a child" family and seeing them brought back so many memories.

It's not often these days that at age 38 I can have a conversation with someone who has known me for 35 years, but my lovely friend Janice (Burns) Lawrence was the first friend I had on Perkins Place. She and I can go months without talking and pick right up where we left off. In fact, when I arrived at the lake house (her mom and dad's house!) she came right over and couldn't wait for me to get out of the car to give me a hug-there is such love and history between us.

After we hugged one another, another friend snapped a photo of us side by side. That photo is what prompted this post because it has left me a little bit speechless. I knew I wasn't taking good care of myself this summer. I haven't been running as much as I planned and I haven't been cooking at home very often, but still...I had no idea that this was how things had "shaped" up. And so I say...Murphy O'Meyer!

I will never be a thin woman. It's not in my genetics nor my body structure. I spent my formative teenage years full of angst and insecurity over this fact, but as an adult I have much more love and respect for myself. So I am not going start blogging about weight loss and how I am waiting to become the skinny 'me' who is stuck inside of the chubby 'me', because the truth is I know I am beautiful right now. But I can't run marathons like this. And while I could skydive, I'm pretty sure my instructors would have to bend in half to adjust to my fall rate. But what bothers me about this image isn't the fact that I am overweight, it's that I am unhealthy. And that's not something I can live with-literally and 'figure'atively. (Sorry-I like corny puns. Deal with it.)

So it's game on.

More mental carbs...less actual carbs.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day 2011

I finally did it. AFF level 1? Done.

I give much credit to my sister and brother-in-law for finally getting me off of the ground. In the morning, before we went to the drop zone AJ was imitating Nella by jumping up and down, screaming "Blast off". I don't remember why she was doing it, or why he thought it was a good idea to imitate her, but it left Jessica and I in fits of giggles-which only encouraged him to keep doing it. In the video, over the roar of the wind, you can hear him say it to me when I turn to 'check-in'. It is just one of the many ways, they made this more fun for me (as if having more fun jumping out of a plane were possible!).

With one small hiccup-AJ gave me the pull sign and I thought he was telling me to straighten my legs-the jump was ideal. Of course we landed in a field about a mile and a half from the drop zone which meant I owed beer. (See HERE for skydiving-beer-owing-rules) But Julia drove AJ's big-ass turbo diesel truck out to pick us up so we didn't have to trudge back in the heat, lugging our parachutes.

It was such a great experience I almost wished that I hadn't invested all of my skydiving money in Jumptown.

One of my favorite moments after the skydive was watching Nella Gale do her very special salute to the plane. I wish I had this on video because it's so fantastic. Every time the plane takes off she kicks her leg up in the air and claps. One of the other skydivers taught her this maneuver and the best part is that she does it whether anyone is watching or not. In this way, she is truly one of them.

I hope, someday, I am too.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Very Bold Move

Today I did something very bold and mental carb-ish.

I canceled my Netflix subscription.

Wait, you're not impressed? Okay, let me explain.

When I finally moved off campus last summer I had to cut costs and one of the first things to go was cable. I like TV and goodness knows I'll watch it if it's there-it was free on campus but I couldn't justify $60-$100 a month for Comcast or Direct TV for the few hours I might squeeze in each week in between work, grad school and the small slice of a personal life I try to maintain. My concession was my Netflix subscription. I have a Wii so I can stream movies and old TV shows through it-and it was enough. (Well, mostly enough-I still miss my guilty pleasure of NCIS, but in the scheme of things, it was ok.)

Then we had this long, cold, snowy winter and I...ahem...becameabitofanaddict.

What? Oh, you didn't quite understand me. Let me try again.


Ok, fine.

I said- I. became. a. bit. of. an. addict. (You should know my head is hung,slightly, in shame and I am not making any eye contact as I type this.)

It's true-it was awful! I watched so much junk. I OD'd on Glee, Veronica Mars, Monty Python's Flying Circus, Battlestar Gallactica, Ken Burns' Civil War and Baseball and a lot of PBS' Masterpiece Theater. (Downton Abbey and Sherlock were actually quite excellent. You should check them out. Really good acting and good storylines...c'mon just try it. What-are you scared of little PBS? Everyone is doing it...oh wait, sorry about that-I'm only a couple of days into recovery.)

It started to become very apparent that TV had taken over my life, or at the very least, had become a huge obstacle to getting a lot of other important things done. Too much telly meant I didn't get enough exercise, I stopped being as creative, and I became more insular than I had before.

So I made the commitment to watch less and honestly, it was great. I tried Zumba for the first time, I started running again, and I spent more time with the people I love. In the end I discovered that with so many distractions in my life, perhaps Netflix is one I don't need-even a little bit. This feels like a bold choice, in part because I live in the sticks-I don't get cell phone service at my little farmhouse. I have internet but it isn't fast enough to allow me to watch movies or TV online. My DVD player died last year and I never replaced it. If it weren't for my beloved Mac I'd barely be living in the 21st century out here. Okay, that's a bit of a pretentious exaggeration. (My sister Jessica is saying out loud "A bit? I find it moderately ludicrous that you would whine about your Mac.")

And you might want to counter with the fact that I have a Wii, but the funny part is that my house is so old and small, I can't play most of my games without wreaking a bit of havoc.

Anyway, my point is-not a lot of ultra modern technology left here...but I'm finding it liberating. It was a cozy cocoon that served it's purpose for the long cold winter, and I just don't need it anymore.

Especially since this year I am actually learning to fly.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

You can't always get what you want...

Today I am reminded, once again, why attitude matters.

My dad used to share this little gem with me and my sisters. It's by Charles Swindoll.

My younger self often scoffed at it. Charles Swindoll is an evangelical minister which is already at odds with my personal philosophies and he is a white male so I tend to think it's easy to give attitude so much credit when you don't have a lot of barriers put in your way by society.

But my older self, the one who is not as much of a rebel as she used to be, who is sometimes too tired to pull out her soapbox-she has learned to appreciate the sentiment behind his words. "We cannot change the inevitable." It's just another way of saying "It is what it is" and I say that ALL the time.

Today I should be running the 20th Annual Covered Bridges Half Marathon but for the past five days I've been sick- fever, sore throat and complete and utter exhaustion.

It would have been a tough one as I didn't train well-but I could have finished it. It's a hard race to get into and this is the second year in a row I have had to bail at the last minute. So it is through gritted teeth and with a bit of sarcasm that I say, it is what it is.

But deep down I am pissed off. I'm not as flexible as I would like to be. Not this kind of flexible. The kind that allows to me to roll with the punches a little bit easier. I loathe not accomplishing that which I set my intention to do. In the past this has made me stubborn and way too loyal to only one outcome. Years ago I probably would have tried running anyway and then been sick for another three weeks.

Between the lack of jump-able weather (I have yet to make my A jump!), being sick and now not being able to run, I'm struggling to be nimble.

So to counter my rigid tendencies I'm working very hard at reminding myself how much attititude matters-it is my mental yoga. If I keep practicing, the pose is easier to maintain for longer periods of time.

Still, instead of Swindoll, I am much more likely to break out in song ala Sheryl Crow's beach-y, pop tune: "It's not having what you want, it's wanting what you got."

Or better yet: The Stones. Because if you try sometimes you just might find, you get what you need.

Time to happy-up and focus on what's next.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Happy Birthday YaYa!

I'm so lucky to be a part of this family!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

Sgt. Bryon E. Lane, USMC 1974-2001

I love the life I have now, but I will always remember your friendship.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Sunday. My last day of camp. Today is the day I will finally get to jump out of an airplane.
What's that?
Do I hear maniacal laughter ringing from the skies above?

It's gray, cloudy and, if you can believe it, it's also hazy when I wake up Sunday morning. I've awoken extra early because my father is coming down to get the RV and take it back to VT. He told me he would be here around 9am, which in his world means 8:30am so I know I need to be ready by 8am, just in case. Surprisingly, this time he is true to his word and right at 9am, he pulls up in the enormous truck, built Ford tough, that will haul this rig. Serendipitously, I am putting the last bag in my car. As I close the door, I wave him over.

What happens next is a small turning point in my relationship with my dad.

He very calmly walks me through the entire process of breaking down and packing up the RV for transport. He doesn't just tell me, he makes me do it. Everything from tying the furniture down, emptying the gray (water) and black (sewer) tanks, sliding the extended rooms in, storing hoses and wheel blocks, and raising the support posts. He even shows me how to hitch it to the truck.

Let me say that again. My dad actually shows me how to attach the RV hitch to the truck. And then he says "In case you ever need to haul this thing, now you'll know how to do it."

I have this flash of fear that he must be dying, because the only world I can imagine where he would actually let me hitch AND haul the RV with the truck is one where he isn't here to do it himself.

Don't get me wrong. My dad is father to three girls. Growing up, we were not short changed in the chore dept. just because we were daughters instead of sons. We hauled wood, helped him build things, fix things and take things apart. Hell, my sisters and I used to argue over who got to ride to dump with him. That being said, my dad is stubborn and sometimes he's a my-way-or-the-highway-control-freakish kind of guy. When you add two young, healthy, 6 ft.+ tall sons-in-law to the mix? Well, lets just say when I am at my parents house, I do a lot more housework then yard work these days. In fact, this past winter, my dad underwent surgery on his shoulder. Given the incredibly voluminous snowfall we received this year, I came home as often as I could to help with snow removal. He begrudgingly 'let' me run the snow blower but most of the time he actually stood on the front or back deck and "oversaw" my work. One day I was so frustrated with his supervision that I looked up, pointed at him, and then pointed at the house. He got the message and went inside... and proceeded to watch me from the bay window in the kitchen.

So this "if you ever needed to haul the RV" statement? It's kind of a big deal. When the fear that he must be dying passes, I am actually moved (no pun intended) by it. There is love, respect, and confidence in his statement (If I were his son, I might say that it made me feel like a man. As his daughter, saying that it made me feel like a woman doesn't create the same sentimental effect). But even more than that, there is now an equality between us.

He gets in the truck and says, through the open window, "I love you, kid. Be careful today". He slowly pulls away with the RV creaking and groaning. Just before he disappears from my view, he sticks his left hand out the window to wave goodbye. I just stand there for a few minutes reveling in the fact that I may now officially be a grown-up.

I'm not in any rush to get the DZ as I am pretty sure it will be a no-go for jumping. Again. The campground I'm staying at is way up in the Erving State Forest so the road down is long, winding and absolutely beautiful.

About half way down the road I catch sight of something in one of the trees so I pull over and grab my camera.

No joke, it was a bear. can't see it? No problem. Here's a close-up.

Okay, you got me. It wasn't a real bear.

After this super-exciting wildlife excursion, I make my way to Orange and the DZ. I decide I will stop in and buy a Skydiver's Information Manual (SIM), say hi to everyone and then head back home. The first thing I notice when I walk through the door is that there are two AFF students with their name on the manifest board. I ask Cathy what the story is about the weather and she suggests I stick around until at least 2pm. So, I throw my name up on the board, buy my manual and sit under the shade at one of the picnic tables. A couple of guys are waiting for their tandem jumps and they pace nervously while launching testosterone-laden verbal barbs at one another to prove to themselves that they aren't actually nervous.

A guy wanders over to me and introduces himself as one of my jumpmasters. Dick is older, handsome, really grounded and, as I quickly realize, clearly doesn't get my sense of humor. It's okay, not everyone does but I have to shift gears into being a dutiful student. I pass muster when I can answer every question he throws at me (why couldn't I do that for the exam??) and can walk through every step of the exit and freefall plan. The plane is about to take a load of people up and I'm told that the next flight is flight 4 is next and I am on flight 5.

See, I knew it! I am definitely jumping today! We head over to pick out gear. The jumpsuit is my least favorite part, but I put it on anyway. Then the water emergency kit, the altimeter, the parachute (very important) and then helmet and goggles.

I am now about 15 minutes away from getting on the plane. I see a guy I went to high school with and walk over to say hi (turns out he's a tandem instructor. who knew?). In the middle of small talk with Sean I hear the announcement...clouds have moved back in and they are shutting down flights. I look at Dick and shake my head. We decide to stay in gear for a little bit to see what happens. I sit down on a bench, the weight of the parachute pulling me backwards a bit. After 30 minutes, Dick walks out and looks at the sky. I can tell by his expression that it's time to throw in the towel. I stand up, shuffle back the AFF corner of the hangar and slowly put my gear away. I know that the Universe is rolling around on the floor, clutching her sides from the pain of laughter.

I walk through the office to remove my name from the manifest board. Cathy watches me pick up the eraser. She tilts her head, frowns and says "Aww, honey. Don't worry, it'll happen."

I know that it will. Just not right now.

And it's okay, because my dad taught me how to hitch the RV to the truck. There are only so many giant leaps you can take in one day.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Friday's weather thwarts me completely. Jessica and I have a fabulous time together-laughing until the beer comes out of our noses. It's so rare, now that my sisters have children, that we are ever on our own. I adore my nieces and nephew-wouldn't trade them for anything in the world-but those 36 hours with Jess were serious 'mental carbs'.

We woke up on Saturday to (insert hysterical laughter from the Universe here) MORE gray skies. But it was inconceivable! to us that I wouldn't be jumping at least once that day so we decided to make our way to the DZ anyway. Jessica consumes about 6 of my Decaf French Vanilla Keurig K-Cups trying to ward off a caffeine withdrawal headache. To no avail (I know, shocking, eh?)-so we make the first order of business programming our GPS for the nearest Dunkin Donuts.

When we arrive at the DZ, the parking lot is 1/3 full-the regulars have come for the weekend. As they crane their necks to look up, it is obvious that their withdrawal from blue skies runs far deeper than Jessica's little coffee 'problem'.

People are hanging out at the picnic tables, by the plane, on the orange and blue couches inside and in the office/manifest area. Quite a few people are packing chutes and a few are stumbling over from the camping area, in varying stages of sleepy-ness. I put my name up on the dry erase board with the letter A next to it. That tells them I am here, want to make a jump and it's my category A skydive. I go to find Andreas to see if he has any hopeful news about the weather. I turn my back for a few moments to chat with Andreas and when I turn around Jessica is deep in conversation with someone so I wander out the tables and chairs next to the hangar and turn my face up to the little sliver of sun peeking through the clouds.

When Jessica joins me, she is wearing a bit of a smile-one I haven't seen her in for a very long time. Apparently she ran into one of her skydiving friends, someone she hadn't seen for several years. Throughout the day, I notice that as people chat with us, she refers to me as the newbie, here to do her first jump-but she also refers to herself as a skydiver, one with well over 600 jumps.

This is significant because she hasn't jumped since the birth of her daughter in 2008. I don't need to have a child to know how much being a mother changes you, your priorities, your willingness to take risks with your life. I'm quite sure my sister isn't the first mother to make sacrifices in her personal life in order to manage her family life. I know she can't imagine putting Nella in the position of growing up without a mother just so that she can pursue what she thinks of as her adrenaline junkie past-times. She owns that decision 100% but I also know deep down, she misses the freedom of skydiving and that part of her identity.

It fills me with a profound sense of joy to see her reclaim some of that. It really doesn't matter if she decides to skydive again or not-it just matters to me that she remembers how important it is to hold on to yourself - and - to find your community.

You know...the place where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came...even if you don't get to jump out an airplane that day.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Talking about death while wandering the aisles of Trader Joe's.

While waiting for my older sister to arrive, and too annoyed to sit in the RV stewing about the lack of jump-able weather I made a pilgrimage to the Trader Joe's in Hadley, MA. I love this place more than I can express. (Hawaiian themed decorations, low prices, kitschy ads, and healthy food? I am so there.)

While I am meandering up and down the six or seven aisles that comprise this boutique-y grocery store, Jessica calls me to find out what the plan is. I tell her she should meet me at the campground and she immediately understands that this means all jumping is likely out of the question for today. She expresses her disappointment for me and we move on to discuss how we will fill the time.

After enticing her with the glorious meals I have planned by using the amazing foods in TJs, I tell her that if anything changes with the weather I will let her know and she can meet me at the DZ (drop zone). The reality that skydiving has the potential to be a dangerous sport prompts me to ask her if I have given her a copy of my "Last Wishes". It's not exactly a will but more of a "If possible, I'd like this...". She doesn't think I have so I tell her that the most important thing is that I don't want to be buried-I want to be cremated. This surprises her - I guess she thought I was a box-in-the-ground kind of girl, but she recovers and she follows up by asking the exact right question: where do you want your ashes spread? (FYI-anywhere in the Green Mountains and if possible-the Aran Islands in Ireland).

All of sudden I realize that other customers are looking at me - discussing death in the middle of the store is actually a little weird.

But knowing what I want done with my body, my belongings, my assets, my own little legacy to those I love-this isn't weird at all. I'm only 37 - the possibility of dying now isn't a constant thought. But having lived though the untimely and unexpected death of a loved one, I know that if it -whatever 'it' is- really matters to me then I need to communicate and take care of it now.

So even though I suggest to my sister that we move on to lighter subjects so that I stop scaring the other patrons just trying to bask in the wondrous glow of Trader Joe's, I make a mental note to send her the full wish list.

Just in case.

First Day of School

When you throw out statements like this: "either way I will be the woman jumping out of a perfectly good airplane this weekend" to the Universe, you are practically inviting the Universe to say "Ha!".

Actually what the Universe said was: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

But before I explain that, I should start at the beginning.

I arrived in Orange, MA for Skydiving Camp on Wednesday night. I checked in at the
Wagon Wheel Campground and settled into my parent's palatial RV. If lending me their taveling home wasn't love enough-I opened the fridge to find this:

Three ice-cold Long Trail ales.

(Quick review: Beer=actual carb. Gesture made by my dear father=mental carb.)

Thursday morning, I arrived bright eyed and bushy-tailed for my AFF ground school. Oddly, Jumptown was more like like a ghost town - it was damp and overcast-and the only bit of blue was my lone car in the parking lot. Gray (his name not his palor) greeted me in the office and introduced me to Andreas-my Instructor. I can tell right away that Andreas has been skydiving for a very long time. It's not that he is old, or that his ego is huge (both of these may be true but they aren't evident to me)- it's more that he seems completely at home in the hangar and I sense he could run the AFF class in his sleep. He's comes accross as affable but reserved- content enough to be teaching me about his sport there is something a little overcast about his demeanor. He mentions that it has been a very rough start to the season-not much sunshine, not much jumping. I also know that within the last year and a half they have lost two members of the Jumptown inner circle -one to illness and one to an accident-and I can't help but wonder if there is still the heaviness of grief hanging about. He gives me a brief tour of the place and leads me back to the AFF classroom.

The next 8 hours are spent covering every possible problem one could experience getting on an airplane in order to jump out of it. "Cut away and pull my reserve" became such a standard response that it no longer scares me. Despite the fact that the information I was learning was well outside of the realm of anything I had previously been exposed to, I did really well for about 3/4 of the day. I was right with him through every canopy malfunction, the whole dive flow, aircraft emergencies, hand signals and landing plans. However, when it came time for the test, it was as though someone cut of the top of my head, tipped me upside down and dumped my brain out onto the ground. (Honestly, I feel like I have seen that exact animation in a Monty Python sketch.)

The first question was so easy I thought it was a joke.

1."Where is the parachute located?"

I looked at Andreas, furrowed my brow and said "Really?" He smirked at me and then gave me a short lecture about skydiving drawing in people from across the intellectual and educational spectrums and that the test was designed to make sure you knew what you were doing. Chagrined, I ducked my head a bit and wrote down 'bottom, right-hand side'. I got the next few right, in part because they were equally as obvious ("arch", "cut away and pull my reserve", etc) But I kind of bombed some of the bigger questions. I knew them, but couldn't articulate them. This frustrated me-as someone who likes having the right answers and it annoyed Andreas-as someone who expected me to have the right answers.

We muddled though and at the end of the day he signed off on my test and essentially cleared me to jump. As much as I really wanted to, I was exhausted so I wasn't completely disappointed that it was still too gray to go up. I mean, I had ALL day Friday, Saturday and Sunday right?

This is where the Universe started laughing at me.

I woke up on Friday to the same weather I had on Thursday. I called Gray and he informed me of that which I already knew: there would be no jumping on Friday.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Practice makes perfect...sort of.

On Sunday, May 15th I treated myself to five precious minutes in the SkyVenture NH Wind Tunnel- an indoor skydiving center. I had been once before and it was fun but I never felt like I got a good grip on stability. With my AFF Course at Jumptown quickly approaching, I wanted to have a chance to practice. Let me just say - it's not cheap. 5 minutes cost me almost as much as a month's worth of groceries, but it was absolutely worth it.

First, I realized that my tandem skydiving experiences combined with a true commitment to just relax made the quest for stability much easier. And second-I had a chance to practice left and right turns using my elbows instead of my hands. (Thanks to Jake and Ryan for your excellent instruction!) If you aren't familiar with skydiving this distinction might not make any sense to you-but trust me when I say it gave me much more confidence going into the weekend of "skydiving camp". say...there's such a thing as "skydiving camp"?~

Yes, and it's for grown-ups!

I made my first tandem jump in 2006 with
Ole Thompson at Vermont Skydiving Adventures (Love Ole, Love VSA!). I jumped just to prove to myself (and my lovely sister) that I wasn't too afraid to do it. When I landed I felt amazing and empowered ... and I had NO desire to do it again. Last summer (2010), for reasons I can't explain, I began to get this inkling that I might want to do it one more time. My brother-in-law, AJ Bowen, is an instructor at VSA and I had floated this idea of going again by him once or twice because this time I wanted to jump with him. One night we were out at the drop zone and he -quite out of the blue-suggests we go for a tandem jump.

I, in my own semi-subtle and semi-girlish way, freak out. I sputter at him every excuse I can muster. He just smiles as he casually swats away each regret I offer him.

Me: AJ, I don't have the money for this.
AJ: Did I ask you for any money?

Me: But AJ-I weigh too much to skydive right now.
AJ: Do you weigh more than 250 pounds?
Me: (A little indignantly) No! Oh....

Me: I'm wearing crocs and don't have any other shoes with me-thanks anyway!
AJ: Hey Jess, can Sara borrow your shoes?
Jess: Sure.
Me: Oh, that's..well, that's great.

And the next thing I know I am 12,000 feet over the Champlain Valley and Pilot Joe is wishing me good luck as I sit on the edge of the plane.

That jump changed my life forever. (Hokey? Yes. I still don't care.)

I found that skydiving forces me to be "in the moment". When you jump out of a plane- the only thing you can focus on is the pure bliss of free-fall and the things you need to do to land safely. Nothing else matters - in that moment. For a woman with a very busy mind, I have never felt so free and alive as I did when I was in the first 50 seconds of that jump. I went two more times that summer, once to celebrate my 4th half-marathon. The last tandem jump I made, again with AJ, I kept my eyes open the whole time. I saw the belly of the plane as we tumbled away and knew that I had to learn how to do this on my own. If life, loss and the
Shawshank Redemption have taught me anything it's that you need to "get busy living or get busy dying".

So here I am, six months later, signed up for skydiving camp at Jumptown. I'm still broke, and weigh more than I am comfortable with -but- I am tired of being cautious and full of excuses.

Right now, this is who I am. And this is the only life I have. You can judge me, and you may not understand it, either way I will be the woman jumping out of a perfectly good airplane this weekend. :)

Mental Carbs?

Yes, the name of this blog is, in fact, Mental Carbs.

What, you might ask, is a mental carb? For me, it represents whatever gets you through the tough stuff.

It all started in August of 2003-I had just moved to New London, CT after two long, and very difficult years following the death of my fiance. And because a new hometown and a new job weren't enough of an adjustment for me- I'd also signed up to run a half-marathon in Virginia Beach in September. In the week before my departure for VA, my very cool boss, Shelly Metivier Scott (she's one in a million, really) wished me good luck and lots of pasta. I laughed and said I thought the actual carb loading would be easy-if she wanted to wish me anything it should be for mental carbs so I didn't psyche myself out of this 13.1-mile run. This amazing woman took me quite literally and had all of our student staff members write good thoughts and well-wishes on ziti noodles. She strung them together and presented me with a 'mental carb' necklace before I left for the race.

It's one of the coolest gifts I have ever been given and it was thus that true Mental Carbs was born. I use that term all the time now-in fact if I ever own a business, that is what I would name it. It represents all of the love, encouragement, hope, courage and determination that we have and need for any challenging endeavor.

As I begin this summer of adventures, including: skydiving camp, marathon training, thesis re-writing, and fund-raising for a great non-profit called the Semper Fi Fund, I take with me boatloads of mental carbs. I endeavor to live in such a way that I make the people who give me these mental carbs proud and hopeful.

Does that sound a bit hokey? Yes, I suppose it does.

I'm okay with that. While I remain fluent in Sarcasm, Hokey is a good language to be familiar with-and to those who have been part of my journey thus far-you have my love and deep respect. I hope you enjoy the stories to follow.

Shelly and I at our last Housefellow Fall Training Dinner (2006). Don't judge my hair, I lost control of it a long time ago.