Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dragonflies & Other Symbols

You take the pieces of the dreams that you have

Cos you don't like the way they seem to be going

You cut them up and spread them out on the floor

You're full of hope as you begin rearranging

Lovers Are Losing--Keane

They are fantastic flyers, darting like light, twisting, turning, changing direction, even going backwards as the need arises. They are inhabitants of two realms - starting with water, and moving to the air with maturity, but staying close to water. Some people who have the dragonfly as their totem have had emotional and passionate early years, but as they get older they achieve balance with mental clarity and control. They gain an expression of the emotional and mental together.

--WikiAnswers Dragonfly

This weekend has been very busy but also one in which I've done a lot of reflection. I guess since my MIL is dying it brings to the forefront lots of "Circle of Life" stuff. Friday night was great fun with my BFFs listening to music & dancing. I was also people watching quite a bit--sorta wondering what different people's stories were etc. It was the first time I'd seen this particular band without the sociopath in tow but I found that I was ok--plenty of guys to flirt with but I found I just wasn't serious about any of it--which was fine actually.

Come Saturday morning I was getting mentally prepared for the fitness test. I was fairly worried because although I'd been training, both with a personal trainer & running, I didn't know if I could do it. A lot of it was psychological head shit as I knew cognitively, but it was hard to think about it rationally like that. I was wondering if my body could take it, if my knees would buckle, if I'd get sick & pass out, or if I was even ready to test. I arrive at the HS where the test was & I realize that all those folk there, not only for their own kid, etc., were also pushing for me too--it is a pretty tight-knit community at my TKD school. One man, who was testing for his 1st degree in Gumdo (swords), had it down to a science with regard to getting all the push-ups & sit-ups done. He had it paced a certain way so that taking breathers were built into the time limit to complete the tasks. If it weren't for him I'm not sure I'd have made it. But what worried me the most was the run. I had to run 2 miles--this after all of the other tasks that were part of the test, by the way. To most folk that may not seem like a lot, but for me it is a massive task. Again, primarily psychological, but the last few laps were for me extremely difficult. Again, I was accompanied by two women who kept pace with me & urged me through the rough patches--they were just awesome! You were not allowed to break stride at all or you'd have to do the run again--something I really did NOT want to do again. After I was finished, I almost cried because I'd come such a long way in trying to get back into shape & be ready to test. I had done it & so many of the people there said that it was a massive accomplishment that most folk probably couldn't do unless they'd been training themselves (which most had not). I left the test feeling better about myself than I had in quite a while. Still kinda dealing with the junk with the sociopath, etc.

And my BFF(J) & I were able to go wine tasting too. Both of my BFFs were very proud of my test results--calling me before & after to check up. I am so lucky to have these amazing women as friends--I can't say that enough.

Saturday night I just crashed because I was so exhausted but as I fell asleep I was thinking about dragonflies. When the sociopath & I went to Virgin Fest last summer we were sitting down listening to Bloc Party when a bright green emerald dragonfly flew right in front of us, hovered for a few seconds, shining brilliantly, & then zipped off. It was absolutely beautiful & we had talked about that moment a few times during our time together. I was thinking about how things had changed since that time & how I felt like a dragonfly recently--zipping around--changing directions, & moving across the water. I think my next tat will be a dragonfly--not because of the sociopath but because of what it means to me. The water, dragons, & the future.

Today I took my son to see his grandmother. She doesn't have long. She really isn't lucid or too aware, but she did seem to know he was there. I told him that this visit really wasn't for him but for his Granny. He was so good--with his grandfather & his aunt. I was so proud of his maturity & his compassion. He was never selfish--he realized that this visit was for them. I am honored to be his mom when I witness times like this. What an amazing kid. It's tough enough for adults to confront death but for an almost 12 yo it has to be pretty brutal--but he is an old soul & in times like this that fact really floats to the surface. He will see her again on Thursday when I take him back down to Bethesda to see his dad. I offered to bring him down because of the circumstances right now--plus I don't think his dad may actually have a license anymore. I hope she lasts until then--she may be waiting to see her son. This is such a tough time but I hope my son can remain strong. But if not--I'll be there.

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Pause in the Action

Turns out that I won't be sailing this weekend. Actually should spend a little time with my BFFs since we actually haven't hung together for what seems like at least 3 weeks or so. Also have a lot going on in town too--my former mother-in-law is very sick with pancreatic cancer & the chemo has been stopped. She is in Hospice at home so I need to take my son to see her in Bethesda on Saturday because it appears her time is drawing near. I've been trying to prepare my son for the inevitable & he appears to be handling it fairly well but he'll need to see her before she loses the ability to know who everyone is, etc. My biological dad passed from cancer & the end was not pretty. He needs to see her before she looks too sick & scary. I have always had very mixed feelings about my MIL. She has always made excuses for my ex's behaviors & really never supported us when we were married but I've always maintained a cordial relationship with her--even with some fondness for her traditions. She is very British. I can appreciate her love of the Holidays--she used to cook amazing meals--love her Cottage Pie in particular. We've certainly had an interesting relationship through the years--I think she's come to appreciate me quite a bit recently since her new DIL is such a poor excuse. Ah well. At least my son will always remember her with only positives. My ex is flying in next weekend to visit her & he's planning to see our son as well so at least a visitation will happen since my son won't be going back out to Illinois anytime soon if the grandfather continues his 4 pack a day habit.

Another reason to stick around is the fitness test for my Black Belt test. I have to pass this in order to test on June 20th for my second degree. It consists of 150 push-ups, 150 sit-ups, 100 yd dash, a 50 m duck walk, & a 3 mile run. I am a little bit concerned about this--my body may not be able to do this but I guess I gotta try....

And maybe we may be able to squeeze in a little wine tasting too--haven't been in a while. Oh--and perhaps tonight going to see a great band at the 8X10--Papa Grows Funk. I really haven't done much to help my social life recently--except drink like a fish at the Miles. Which, if I recall, wasn't exactly a good way to meet new men when you are acting stupid. Note to self: don't do that again...

All this after TKD class too--maybe I do have a lot to do this weekend after all.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

West on Wednesday

Can't seem to go too long without getting back out on the water. Back down on the West River, doing the Wednesday night races. My son & I climb into our car & high-tail it back down to Galesville to hop on board again. This crew is so good--like clockwork--makes my fumblings on Sunday look, well, like fumblings...but here is where I'll learn & then apply. I am just grateful to be included--my son as well--he just loves the experience. And, bless them, they didnt give me too much grief about my altered state on Saturday night after the race.

We had light air but we did very well--second place. I love it when things go well. I was back in the pit--getting to know this boat a bit more & what I need to do to be better on the team. My son, also enthusiastically, was up on the fore-deck helping with the spinnaker. Turning the marks were particularly good--the driver just made it so smooth. Too bad it was such a short race but again--just being part of this talented crew is worth it--& I get to join them again on Saturday for the Shearwater Twilight Race--Yehaw!!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Flying the Chute

Miles was a blast! The boat I was on was very old & really couldn't point much but the people who "own" it for their friend really want to learn to race so it's a good place to start. There were five of us: the "owners", a woman who is just learning how to sail, another man, & me.

I wasn't too sure about this race because as I mentioned the people weren't that experienced & neither am I; racing that is, which can potentially be a dangerous thing with a huge piece of equipment like a sailboat & 18-20 knot winds. Thankfully they had an experienced guy on board, at least for the race down to Miles. What I didn't know was that he wouldn't be racing back---

Going down was amazing--great wind, those of us who had some experience did well & there were no issues at all. Our start & the second leg, were most probably the best part of the race for us. We really did nail the start--even better then a couple of the more seasoned racers in our class of old Catalina 27's. Even though we came in dead last in our class, we weren't the last of the fleet to get to the Miles River Yacht Club. Most of the Cal 25's were behind us & a lot of the PHRF class boats came in after that. One of the most beautiful sights was on our downwind leg of the race--all of the spinnakers behind us, spread out across the bay--just a phenomenal picture.

We arrive & raft up with the other Catalinas & Cals along the bulkhead. Let the partying commence! And it was a massive one! My other boat was there--the SR-33, so I went on board to visit them & was immediately handed one of their regatta specials so now I was already a two-fisted drinker...needless to say, sailors are a loud bunch & it was a roudy night until 3 AM. There was a band & plenty of another sailing special: Dark & Stormy. This consists of Gosling's dark rum & ginger soda. It was not easy getting on & off boats when drunk--I wouldn't recommend it actually. Our outboard made it impossible to just step off onto the bulkhead so I had to hop onto one of our neighbor's & then step off--at 3 & 5 AM it is NOT fun. Of course we all woke up with massive hangovers & had to get ready for our gun at 10:40 AM.

Racing back was an adventure--especially for me because besides the folks running the boat, we'd lost our most experienced crewmember & the other woman didn't know how to sail at all. That left me as the only one who could remotely handle the sails in the pit. Which meant I was the one who was going to fly the chute. The start was a downwind run too. The gun meant getting the kite up & set to go. I was very nervous & hugely stressed--hangover was a thing of the past. All I can say is that when you are in control of such a massive & beautiful sail & you are able to fly it well--there is nothing more satisfying. It was just spectacular! It is just extremely hard to do. My shoulders are killing me now--but I wouldn't trade the experience for the world. And on a boat with a more experienced crew, I never would have had that opportunity.

It looks as though I'll sail with this boat again, but the folk on the SR-33 want me for some of the longer races too so I may have to switch off. I think this is a good thing because I can get the experience I need with a seasoned crew & apply that to the novice boat. By the end of the season, I will have an super racing skill set. Next up: Wednesday night in the West River, & Leukemia Cup amongst other potential races....I am loving all this sailing!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Miles, BayBay!

So I will be racing in the Miles River Race this weekend. I am so psyched about this opportunity. The Miles is a beautiful river where one can find St. Michael's--another gorgeous town on the Chesapeake. The race is from Annapolis to the Miles on Saturday & then a race back on Sunday. In between there is, of course, a party.

I am racing on a Catalina 27 this time & the crew will be sleeping on the boat--hmmmm...close quarters here especially with all the racing gear--sails, lines, etc. Most probably NOT the most comfortable. But at least we can hop off & use the head onshore when we arrive. And a shower in the morning before we leave. This is my first time doing a multiple day race over a longer course. Eventually I'd like to be able to do a Newport/Bermuda Race so this is a good start. At least on the longer tacks we can relax--sort of. It won't always be a crazy rush with the sails & riding the rails. Also different is that I'm racing in a class of all single types--in this case all Catalina 27s. Before I was racing in a PHRF (Performance Handicap Racing Fleet) class. For those who are interested:

PHRF Rating System
Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF) ratings are based on the speed potential of the boat, determined as far as possible on observations of previous racing experiences. It is the intent of PHRF handicapping that any well equipped, well maintained, and well sailed boat has a good chance of winning. Handicaps are adjusted as needed on the boat's performance so that each well sailed boat has an equal opportunity to win. This is the fundamental concept. PHRF ratings are not intended to reflect skipper and crew capability. Ratings are not adjusted to encourage a poor or careless skipper, and conversely, no rating adjustment is made to penalize proficiency. Intensity of competition and the influx of new and aggressive sailors require each skipper to maintain consistently high performance in order to place well.

I can't wait--my head is not on current events but somewhere out there near Annapolis. It is massively exciting as well as a super opportunity to continue to hone my crewing skills.

Hoping for fair breezes....

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Just a Passing Thought

Sometimes things rear their ugly selves. I happened to be listening to my ipod on the way to pick up my kid from the folks & this song was playing just as I had a moment of weakness. It just made me smile cuz it rang so true.....

Everytime we make a plan you find a way to show-up late
You lost your time, you say: relax baby don't lose your mind, well you put me on
Don't you think I noticed when you strolled away to take that call, said out of state
You faced the wall, your voice felt faint yeah ya' put me on

She might please you, miss whoever
She might lead you to think you're too clever
She'll deceive you, you best forget her
Cause whoever miss whoever is she ain't me

--She Ain't Me by Carrie Rodriguez

Now I feel better.

Not a Bene"slow" this time!

Yesterday was the SCC Spring Regatta. I was fortunate to be crewing on a Beneteau that was fast. Or at least we did an awesome job. The wind was a steady 17-19 knots which was perfect this boat & the tactician really had a great feel for the course, the flood tide, & the wind. We flew!

There were two races & we were up against a few Js which can always prove hazardous. The first race was particularly exciting because one of the Js almost plowed into us. They didn't even see we had the right of way & didn't give way even after our helmsman screamed "STARBOARD!" about a million times. We had to switch course to avoid collision & then & ONLY then, he saw us--we lost about 5 boat lengths on the leader & we were never able to gain it back after that fiasco. Our protest flag went up right after that & then at the conclusion of the first race, the tactician called in the formal protest to the committee boat. Very much an adrenalin rush. Great fun.

The second race really couldn't have been too much better--if the first race was a practice for the crew, this one was excellent. We made very few mistakes--I was in the pit again so I'm getting used to the spinnaker now. I used to race non-spin class so the spinnaker is pretty new to me--but there is nothing more beautiful than watching a perfectly flown kite....

As it happened, we took second for both races so the skipper was quite pleased with us.

Crewing on all these boats has been incredibly interesting. Sailing people really are a motley crew--no pun intended--really! Usually a bunch of guys, & maybe a few women. At least one of the men is old & has been out in the elements forever--raced for thousands of years--heavy smoker & drinker, but you can't ask for a better crew member with this guy--put him anywhere, he knows what to do. Always a bunch of young bucks just out of college getting ready to do offshore stuff, some married guys who are escaping, & the owners--married--the only other female on board. And then there's me--there aren't a lot of me's out there--kinda like the marrieds but not, & kinda like the young bucks but not entirely because I have much more responsibility in my life than they do... It is much harder to crew on a boat when you're the only female--I'm finding I like when there's at least one other woman on with me; it makes it easier to relax. I always feel like I'm being judged way differently when I'm out with a bunch of men. Everyone I've crewed with so far has been incredibly nice though & I've really enjoyed meeting all these sailing folk.

I would like to find a boat to call home though...I guess that will happen eventually--yesterday was very odd because BOTH of the other boats I crew on raced too. One was in our class & we beat the pants off 'em & the other was in another class but I saw them a few times while we were getting ready to start. I'm beginning to get to know the other boats out there--at least by name. I look forward to meeting the other crews too.

I love all this racing I'm doing, but my shoulders, knees & butt are killing me....moving on the tack is hell on the knees & butt; especially with the Beneteau dots on the deck--OWIE!!

Did pick up a decent Musto jacket at Annapolis Performance Sailing before racing--& it really came in handy early on. Now I gotta get the pants so my knees will be saved.

Looking forward to my next opportunity to get out there--hope to crew somewhere for the Miles River next weekend....

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Finally, I Breakthru

Being sick is no fun...I think I've said that before. But because I was sick I missed out on racing last night. I felt pretty awful having to tell my kid that we couldn't go. He was pretty recovered but I had a temperature & was alternating between shivering & sweating. I don't like grinding to a halt. I lose my momentum & usually it forces me to have to actually re-evaluate things in my life. Like actually think about my circumstances, etc. And when I'm sick, I usually don't think nice thoughts about myself. Instead of the glass half full which is my usual frame of mind, I tend to wallow in the half empty zone. I was determined not to go there because all it's been recently is the ongoing bleh-dating conundrum. And the still oft-quoted advice by well-meaning folk of "You have to be happy being alone first." This from people who have been married for years. Truth be--I am happy with myself--work in progress, but still I am VERY different from where I was even 1 year ago & am still moving forward. I wasn't racing a year ago, wasn't riding a year ago, not on the verge of earning my 2nd degree blackbelt a year ago...just because I don't have a partner in crime right now doesn't make me any less of a person. But even as I say this, and after a conversation with a co-worker who happens to be very pretty, way younger than me, & has no prospects either, we both agree that being alone at times sucks. Not all the time, but sometimes, & we are both SICK TO DEATH of people telling us to be ok with ourselves first. So it ain't just me.

I was moaning on my death-bed about the unfairness of not being able to race when I just happened on an HBO series that was pretty cool. Even if the setting happens to be right next to South Africa. Specifically, Botswana. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency in case you haven't figured it out. It is way cool. In fact, my son started watching it as well & he became massively addicted too. Not only does it give a window into completely different culture than our own, but it puts things in perspective. What's important.

Racing on Saturday. I WILL be there. What's cool is I'm crewing on a boat that's racing against my Wednesday night boat. Very interesting....can't wait! Party afterward.....

Monday, May 11, 2009

Where There's A Boat...There Ain't Me (Right Now)

I wish I didn't feel like crap. If I felt any better I'd be excited about this week. As it stands, all I can do right now is crawl into bed & hope that this cold thingy passes fast because racing with a cold totally sucks! I have the Wednesday Night races at the West River & then racing on Saturday out of Annapolis. I want to be well which is why I'm curtailing tonight's activities at taekwondo. Both my son & I are suffering--he didn't even want to see Star Trek yesterday! Of course this nasty spring weather hasn't helped one bit & also racing in the cold ain't too much fun either..along with the cold.

Additional disappointment was the fact that my parent's boat wasn't ready for Mother's Day either after all the mishaps with the hull paint, etc. The sails needed to be rigged & that didn't happen until today so yesterday was spent high & dry with nary a sailboat to board. I was only able to stare at them wistfully from my folks' balcony in the inner harbor. And as much as I love the pics my cousin posted on Facebook about the Antigua Sailing Week, I so wish I was there too--it looks like it was a blast. Can anyone tell that I'm jonesing for a sail?

Rain, rain go away.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Anthropological Fish Study

Scene: Contrived on-line dating local party/meet n' greet for ages 35-50

Characters: Me & M, various tubby over 50 balding dudes, 1 decent-looking sailor, 2 or three other seemingly decent guys

Act One: I really didn't have any expectations & I wasn't too disappointed. We arrive a half hour too early & hang out at the restaurant bar. It appears that another guy was too early too & was sitting listening to our convo while we had a glass of wine. My friend was talking about my various activities & how she thought that was great & I was talking about hoping that meeting a man like the sociopath wasn't the best I could get. It just sucks that we had so much in common & enjoyed together & yet, so far, no other guy has come close. Maybe at least I will meet some cool sailing buddies with all my racing activities. But, I digress. So we were eyeing the guy at the bar & figured he was a bit odd but not that bad looking so we were hoping that the other guys would be at least on par with him. We decide to mosey on over to the anthropological study begins.

Act Two: We walk in & are immediately assaulted by the number of pudgy obviously-older-than-50 year old guys. There really was only ONE guy I would be remotely interested in & as it turns out he was a sailor from Annapolis. He seems to zero in on the two of us as well & the three of us have a nice conversation with him. We can't decide which of us he liked, but as he really was the only guy of interest, we walk over to a table to talk. As soon as we get there, we are surrounded by about 4-5 other men. They are at least within the appropriate age but do nothing for us on sight. My friend says one of the guys grew on her though but he didn't ask for her number. He DID tell us that sailordude was a player though. Seems that a lot of the guys who were there go all the time. They all know each other & their business. Like which chickie has a crush on which dude & how he doesn't like her but has a crush on her friend. It wasn't really my scene & my friend & I decide to leave. Sailordude walks us outside but also didn't ask for either of our numbers. Ah least I learned that that kind of social singles party just ain't for me....just a bit discouraged though==like I said, I truly hope that balding & pudgy isn't the best I can get....they're all game fish--throw 'em back!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

OW, OW, OW--Sports Injuries

I need to remind myself that I'm not 20-something anymore. I love to ride but I found myself on the ground with the wind knocked out of me tonight. I was going over a fence & was riding a new horse so I wasn't as sure about his jumping style yet, so he jumped big & I was left (which I hate). I thought I had it--thought I could remained balanced, but SHIT!! Off I fall & hit my head & my ass. I know my ego is probably more bruised than my ass but I HURT! Ah well--the hazards of doing lots of sports. Now I'm not sure if I'll be able to spar tomorrow in Taekwondo because my head is sore as well as my hip. If I can't spar then that may be a problem since I am getting ready for my 2nd degree black belt test in June & need all of the practice I can get. Plus I've committed to racing every other Wednesday & would miss the sparring next week. Again, the complications of doing many different sports. I'm just thankful that I can do these sports--but maybe I need to remember that my body isn't as forgiving as it used to be...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Racer X

Another weekend down & once again sailing figures prominently. Back down in Annapolis--becoming my new home. Never used to venture there very often but now I'm finding myself there quite a bit. I think however that I might try to see what's around in Baltimore for racing too--the driving is a bit of a pain. I spent part of the day in Annapolis pricing out foulies...whew...I really wish I still had my old ones because gortex Mustos are a wee bit pricey for my blood. There should be a poor sailors' donation store where those who can afford the latest Mustos etc., can give their old gear to those who can't. Since I haven't been racing for a while I need to re-outfit. I don't need to have all the latest gear, but I do need some specialized stuff, especially in this very rainy spring we've been having. I did leave with a pair of Camet shorts so I guess I did OK. I would have to pick two of the most expensive sports: sailing & horseback riding. Ah well....

My son & I were supposed to help my folks with their boat. It was scheduled to be put back in the water on Thursday but the marina messed up the bottom paint so now they have to wait. We were going to get it squared away for the season--cleaning, doing minor repair stuff but I guess it will be next weekend just in time for Mother's Day. Perhaps we'll get it to a point where we can take it out for the holiday, providing it doesn't rain. My folks are decidedly fair weather sailors--cruising all the way at this point. But my dad was quite the racer back in the day--Annapolis was his home town. So if all goes well, the Beneteau (or Bene-slow as some of the racing folk say) will be ready for the season soon--not sure how patient I'll be on that boat after all the adrenaline these past few weeks but at least I'll get to sit & watch the scenery--something you NEVER get to do when racing.

With all this emphasis given to my various activities & also to my son, I really haven't had too much time for socializing with men--other than the crews on the boats. Interestingly, some of the comments I've fielded from potential dates have centered on the fact that I'm too busy. "How can I fit a man into my very busy life?" Jeez--I guess they expect me to be waiting around for them or something; pining for the fjords apparently. So NOT me--if I'm not involved with someone I am a busy woman. And when I am involved, I will make room for that person. Just maybe the next time 'round I'll make sure he's worth making that time.