Friday, September 29, 2006

Back in Town

I'm home. We were in the Show-Me State. I will Show-You some pictures from slap-in-the-middle of Missouri, just as soon as ye olde Hubstere downloads 'em.

We were on the road for 14 hours today, including a side trip to the top of that big arch in St. Louis. I'm tarred as can be. Good night.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Out o' Town

Hubster and I have been out o' town for several days, and computer access has been spotty. That's why I haven't been posting and why I owe a bunch of people e-mails that I probably won't write until later this week.

It's been a good week, and I'll write about it in more detail later when I get home. I've managed to run every day, with this morning being my long run (somewhere between 8.5 and 9 miles). I haven't managed to practice piano because there's no piano where I'm staying, but I will get to play some this afternoon. Yippee!

That's all for now. Later, y'all.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Running Update

Stay tuned ... piano and writing updates to come.

I never wrote much about the 5K I ran last Saturday. It was fun. I was so full of energy--both nervous and excited at running my first race ever. I resolved to stick to a comfortable pace--one that allowed me to breathe comfortably--which means about a 10-minute mile for me. My goal was to finish the 5K a tiny bit faster than that: 3.1 miles in 30 minutes.

I found that it's hard to stay at a comfortable pace, though, when people are passing you up!

Funny story: When they were telling us to line up for the race, they said for "elite" runners to get at the front of the line. I made my way to the back, then asked a random runner, "So, is this where the non-elite runners are supposed to be?" Simply trying to make a self-deprecating joke, I was! But boy, he looked insulted. He wouldn't even answer me. Oops!

I came out 164th out of about 265 runners (including men and women), with a time of 28:17. I was proud of myself. I also now have a PR (personal record) to try to beat!

Monday I ran eight miles, and my legs felt so tired that I took Tuesday and Wednesday off. Did some weight training (nothing too intense) on Wednesday, then ran my speed intervals yesterday. They totaled about 7.1 miles. My legs are tired today.

There's something wrong here ... my "long run," the longest I've ever run at once, was eight miles. My "speed intervals," a routine I got from a Runner's World's workout for beginning runners, take me just over seven miles. Odd.

Now that I've increased my mileage, I've also discovered some of the downsides of running: blisters, rapidly-aging gym clothes (I desperately need to order new stuff from Title 9), and sports-bra chafing--ouch!

I'll be on the road a lot for the next week, but I'm hoping to run five miles on Saturday. That'll total 25.1 miles for the week--a record for me!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Loud Librarians

Is this a trend where you live? I'm at the Asheville-Buncombe library downtown, working on my editing job, and a librarian at the main desk is yapping away, very loudly I might add, on the telephone. She's talking library stuff--it's clearly a work-related call--but her voice is carrying clear across the library. Another librarian is talking to a patron nearby, and Librarian #2 is talking even louder, possibly because the first librarian's voice is so loud.

I am a longtime library-goer. Noisy children are occasionally a problem, sometimes a big problem--particularly when their parents won't tell them to be quiet. Recently, loud adults have become more of a problem. They just talk like they're outside on a city street. I want to give them my best evil-librarian glare, put my finger to my lips, and hiss, "Shhhh!"

But I wonder, would the loud librarian resent me if I did that to her?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Priorities and Medication

OK, so I started on medication about a month ago because my mind was on its way out the door. I'm "normal" now, but ... not so normal. Weird things are happening. My priorities have changed completely.

For one thing, I've turned into Susie Homemaker. Seriously. I'm vacuuming twice a week, changing the sheets on the bed twice a week (the cats sleep with us and are serious shedders), and finding great delight in planning and preparing meals. Tonight I rearranged our living room and wondered if it was "okay" to rearrange a room in a certain way just to make everything look new and different--and not because the rearrangement makes better use of the space (because it definitely doesn't).

We had company for four days, and I spent a huge chunk of that time cooking, cleaning, and planning activities. And I enjoyed it. I liked being a servant. I even refused help. I've heard women do that all the time in the kitchen, but I always thought they were just being polite. But I didn't want help. I seriously wanted my guests to simply relax and not have a care in the world.

Something is very wrong. I got off medication last time because it had this same effect. It's wonderful not to be severely depressed, but at the same time ... I miss the passion that came with writing and piano. I've had no desire whatsoever to practice Bach, and I'm having to force myself to sit down every morning and write. Once I start writing, I'm fine and focused (and am actually coming up many more interesting ideas than I ever did when depressed). But before I start, my mind keeps wandering to domestic things ... "What color should I paint this room? I sure would love to landscape the yard using lots of rocks. Oh, my. The ceiling fans and light fixtures are filthy. Might as well clean 'em now." Next thing I know, I've wasted a half-hour and still haven't started writing.

I used to crave writing and music. They used to quench a certain thirst, or come close to it. Now I just don't feel thirsty anymore.

It's scary. I'm not being facetious. This really is creepy. I feel great, I'm running and loving it, I'm overcome with adoration for the Hubster, and I'm having guilty thoughts of ... home improvements. And decorating. And having people over for dinner. And making things match.

This is not me. This is weird, wifey, medicated me. But at the same time, it does feel good not to be depressed. I just don't know about this non-depressed person I'm becoming. It's like I'm sitting in a really comfortable chair ... in a furniture store. The feeling is great, but it's also borrowed. It's not mine to keep. I feel ambivalent about keeping it anyway.

But then I wonder ... am I just becoming a normal, well-adjusted person--instead of my delightfully inventive, unpredictable, overly dramatic, angst-ridden, brilliant artist-self? Was the brilliance just an imagined thing anyway?

I'm going to go play George. Once I force myself to start practicing, I'll usually get caught up in it and practice for as long as I need to. It's the motivation--usually not a problem--that's been absent lately.

Drugs are so strange.

Monday, September 18, 2006

I Love Long-Run Days

Long-run days are the best. On Mondays, my long-run days, I don't do intervals or hills or anything that leaves me (too) out of breath. I just run as slowly as I need to and keep running until I've reached my goal for the day.

Today's goal was eight miles. I started feeling a little tired at seven miles, more from the heat and sun than from the fatigue of running. I'm sure I could have gone farther than eight miles, but I don't want to push myself. The run took about 80 or 90 minutes. (I know I should keep better track of my time, but I don't. Oh well.) I'm apparently a 10-minute miler, whether I'm running a "slow and steady" pace or doing speed intervals with slower running in between.

Tomorrow is a rest day. My shins are a little sore (probably from the pounding on the sidewalk), and I have a little blister on one of my toes. It's my first blister from running. I should cherish this moment.

Sigh. Moment duly cherished.

Eight miles is a distance-record for me. The next long-run goal will be nine miles, but I probably won't try it for a couple more more weeks.

And then, one of these days ... 13.1 miles (a half-marathon). One of these days.

Hubster, Hubster. Read All About Him!

My dear, beloved Hubster was featured in yesterday's edition of the Steubenville (Ohio) Herald-Star. You can read the whole article here. There's a picture of him finishing the Long Trail, too.

I love my Hubster.

Tarheel Tavern is Up

Pull up a chair, grab a bite, and check out this week's edition of the Tarheel Tavern at Mel's Kitchen. (And read more than just the tavern ... this is a delightful blog about food for News-Record.com in Greensboro.)

Blog-Slog

Blogging lends itself to cycles--for a while, I'll blog several times a day, and then I'll drop off the face of the earth for a few days. Sometimes I quit blogging because I'm too darn depressed to write anything other than the tormented thoughts that have ambushed me (therefore I don't blog at all ... who wants to read tormented thoughts?). Other times, I'm too busy with "life" to blog.

Lately, I'm glad to say, I've been busy. Our houseguests, who arrived Thursday evening, left this morning. I ran the 5K Saturday. Saturday night was a banquet for Hub's company. Church was yesterday, and then a day hike to Black Balsam. Then I made dinner--baked rosemary chicken, rice, green beans, and ice cream with yummy warm strawberry sauce for dessert. I've managed to do some editing and some reading here and there, but writing and piano have been on the back burner. I've fallen behind on both blogging and e-mails.

Priorities are easing back into their natural order today. I have three novel ideas in my head. One is "TNP," which I started last summer. Another is "NH," which is only a germ of an idea ... but I'm a lot more excited about it than I am about "TNP." (I'm sure this is because germs of ideas are always more exciting than ideas that have been halfway fleshed-out in necessarily sloppy first drafts).

The third is "DM." I got the idea for this story from the Bible and have some ideas about retelling it as a modern tale. An old trick, sure, and a common exercise for creative-writing students. But such a concept has stood the test of time for a reason, and I'd like to try my hand at it.

I need to narrow my focus to one of the ideas for my novel-writing workshop. Three students are submitting material for critique each week. It's not my week, but my week will eventually be here, and I need to have something to submit. I can either clean up a chapter of "TNP" or draft a chapter of "NH" or "DM."

I'll get started on today's segment of editing Jan's book, "TOA." I've found that editing other people's writing tends to help motivate me to work on my own writing.

After that, more novel-class work. Then my long run (goal today is eight miles). Then piano.

Somewhere in that time frame, I'll wash (and fold, and dry) three loads of clothes, vacuum, buy groceries, cook dinner, and clean the guest room and bathroom. Oops. I just realized I forgot to take a shower this morning. Oh well.

Question: How did I ever get it all done when I was working full-time as a tech writer, and then as a teacher?

Answer: I didn't. And it bothered me. I don't like to admit that, but it did.

Back to work.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Friends and Food

Our friends Dodger and Red Dane, who both thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail this year, are visiting. Dodger hiked part of Hubster's cross-country walk with him, was there when Hub and I first fell in love, and came to our wedding, so it was a nice reunion of old friends. Red Dane is from Denmark but has spent much of the last ten years in South Carolina, so she has this charming accent--a mix of Danish and a Carolina southern drawl.

The Tar Heel Tavern's theme for this week is "Around the Kitchen Table." The weather was so nice last night that we had dinner around the picnic table outside. Yummy dinner (click links for recipes): Tex-Mex Black-Bean Dip and chips for the appetizer, grilled hamburgers, herbed potato wedges, and broccoli for dinner, and warm automatic brownies with vanilla ice cream for dessert. (If something is made from a mix rather than from scratch, I call it an "automatic food." I don't usually like to make automatic foods, but Betty Crocker's Supreme Brownie Mix makes some really good brownies in a pinch.)

The black-bean dip was wonderful. Highly recommended for get-togethers with friends, or if you need to contribute something to a party. The herbed potato wedges were perfect with the grilled burgers. I followed a suggestion from a Cooking Light reader and mixed the potatoes with the oil and all of the spices by shaking it all up in a gallon-size Ziploc bag.

I really love Cooking Light magazine. The bean dip and the potato wedge recipes both came from Cooking Light's 1998 collection of recipes. Try 'em out, and enjoy!

First 5K!

Well, I did it. I ran my first 5K race (3.1 miles) today. I knew it would be easy to run a 5K, but I was still nervous; I'd never done anything like this before, and I wasn't sure how hilly the downtown-Asheville course was going to be.

It was a little hilly, but not bad. My goal was to run it in 30.00 minutes, and I finished in 28:17, for a pace of 9.21--not a speed that will win me any awards, but I'm happy with it.

I loved running in this race--it was a foggy 55 degrees (Farenheit), and it just felt good to be in that big throng of runners. Weird because I'm not much of a group-activity person.

Another weird thing--I don't think I've ever been around so many pairs of muscular legs in my life, except maybe at hiker gatherings like Trail Days.

Here I am finishing up the race:



I know, it looks like I'm doing my best pigeon-toed flamingo imitation. I was trying to speed up and wave/pose for the camera at the same time. I'm surprised I didn't fall on my face. The picture is sadly grainy, but we forgot the good camera at home and Hubster had to use his cell phone. (Yay for Hubster, who got up up at 6:00 in the morning to come to this thing with me!)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My Shostakovich is Here!!

It arrived via UPS today! It's published by Sikorski Musikverlage in Hamburg, Germany, so everything is in German. Good thing music is a universal language!

Known as "Dance of the Dolls," "Dances of the Dolls," or "Seven Dolls' Dances," this suite is taken from orchestral arrangements of Shostakovich orchestral works. I don't know which works ... but I will know soon. Just give me some time to research them!

This is definitely an easier collection than anything I've played in a long time, and I am thrilled about that. I sight-read all 22 pages tonight (total of seven miniatures), and nothing in it seems too technically difficult. Ah ... but the interpretation is going to be the fun part! And I do mean fun.

You can hear excerpts from a few of the selections here.

Practiced about two hours yesterday and about three hours today (not including the leisurely Shostakovich sight-read). I'm really working on the relaxation techniques in Piano Practice, so my practices have been slow but, I think, ultimately, importantly, valuable.

Piano lesson tomorrow. Can't wait!

The Suspects

I've been wondering what kind of cold, heartless creature could have hurt Beau's paw. He had a single puncture-type wound, and it was rather large--larger than, say, the claw of another cat would have left. Who could have been big enough, mean enough, and bold enough to injure my little bobcat-angel so mercilessly?

This morning, I found the suspects in a line-up in my front yard.



A fifth suspect was standing boldly on the deck rail. I thought Suspect #5 had a particularly guilty look.



I'd love to find out which one of these turkeys is responsible for this crime against felinity.

Friday, September 8, 2006

The Avowal

"The Avowal," by Denise Levertov

As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.

I've been thinking a lot about what I call "the tension of intensity." I always thought it was a good thing, but there is a fine line between good, productive intensity and soul-draining intensity. This poem, which I found reprinted in Passionate Practice: The Musician's Guide to Learning, Memorizing, and Performing by Margaret Elson, is a reminder that "the tension of intensity" isn't necessarily all there is when it comes to producing music, a novel, or any art.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Piano Blog Updated

I've written yet another long, boring post on my piano-practice blog. I haven't posted there for a while, so I wanted to let y'all know (if you're interested). You can find my latest update here.

Blog Sabbatical Over

I say that my blog sabbatical is over, but the truth is, I'm going to be computer-less and piano-less all weekend. I'm posting tonight and I hope to post tomorrow, but I won't be able to practice or post again until Monday. So I'll write a really long post now ... to make up for my dismal lack of posts recently, and to give my huge audience (ha) something to chew on for the next few days. :)

Enough of that. On to the combined lesson/practice report.

My lesson was yesterday. Deborah played me a Ginastera piece she is working on. She's exhilarated at how everything has unfolded regarding her upcoming concert in Asheville. The local NPR station is now sponsoring it as a benefit, and they're going to take care of a lot of the marketing. She's playing an all-Spanish program (composers from the Americas and Spain), with an emphasis on tango. Just a couple of days ago, the Asheville Citizen-Times ran an article on the growing popularity of tango ... so the local NPR station is excited about a tango piano concert/benefit. Anyway, she played a piece she's working on. It really helps me to watch her play every now and then. She's so graceful and relaxed ... a state and style that I would love to obtain and maintain effortlessly.

We had a "practice lesson" since I hadn't practiced in several days. I spent most of it re-familiarizing myself with the Liszt. It wasn't the greatest lesson in the world, but it was good. Why was it good? Because we're going to change directions (slightly) with the Suzuki/basic-skills aspect of my learning.

I told her that I don't have any problem playing by ear, and I get bored with Suzuki because it's basically a learn-by-ear CD. Once I learn it, she'll add articulation notes, and I'll learn to play it the way she says to. Like a third grader. I practice it for maybe ten minutes the day before piano, and play it at my lesson and it sounds fine. Then I go to the next piece. Boring.

My challenge, rather than the by-ear playing, is in playing and interpreting the symbols written on the page. For years I forgot to notice rests. For years my sight-reading was awful because I never learned to read time signatures. For years I learned a piece best when I could find a recording from it and learn from that, using the written music as a sort of supplement.

So we're going to work on improving my reading and interpretation skills. My sight-reading is pretty good, particularly if I'm sight-reading something for church--something that allows me to improvise and skip over the sticky parts. And I can sight-read simple classical pieces. But I don't know a lot about interpreting pieces according to their time period--where you might add a mordent in a Bach piece, or where it's OK to "play" with the tempo in a Mozart. So I'm going to get a facsimile autograph of the Anna Magdalena notebook, study Baroque style (to start with), and increase my knowledge and skills (and confidence) for interpreting music. I think that will be much more helpful to me than the Suzuki.

OK, on to my practice ...

I hadn't practiced for much of the week, thanks to a Labor-Day vacation and a sliced-up right hand (compliments of my cat). I was able to practice tonight, but I had to put a new Band-aid on my pinky halfway through the practice. It probably won't be completely healed until early next week. It's a pretty deep cut, and on the outside of my right pinky, just where it hits the keys.

I spent a total of 120 minutes on the piano tonight. They were some of the most focused 120 minutes I've ever spent at the piano, though a lot of it was "quiet time." I'm reading Passionate Practice by Margret Elson and am really focusing on getting into an "A/R" (alert/relaxed) state before I play, and maintaining it while I'm playing. Easier said than done. I worked on a simple Bach minuet, as directed in Passionate Practice. It amazes me how tense I get when my fingers come into contact with the keys. Almost like a sudden electric current buzzes through me. I used to think this was a positive thing--intensity!!--but now I'm seeing that, while anticipation and passion are important, the "tension of intensity" is not what I want to strive for.

I was more relaxed tonight when I played the Bach minuet. (I started working on it and A/R state several days ago). I managed to play it through without generating a billion butterflies in my stomach, and without tensing up my shoulders. I'm still not "there," but I'm getting closer. Next I followed Robert's suggestion and tried playing measures of a very familiar piece--the Bach sinfonia in g-minor--while maintaining an A/R state. I went one measure at a time, then two measures at a time ... again, I'm not "there" yet, but I can tell that my body is learning to relax while playing.

One observation: when I play using the music, my eyes get really dry and my contacts get scratchy. Very annoying and distracting when one is trying to play Bach. I end up rolling my eyes, grimacing, and periodically squint-blinking. A lovely image, I'm sure. But the reason my eyes get dry is because I don't blink. Or I forget to. The other night, I also noticed that I'm not breathing regularly when I play. Sometimes I quit breathing altogether.

Not blinking + not breathing does not equal an ideal physical state for playing piano. So I really focused on breathing, being relaxed, and blinking while playing tonight. Hard to do. Kind of like rubbing your belly, patting your head, and humming Stravinsky at the same time.

Anyway, I went through my scales and arps and they sounded fine. Skipped over Suzuki (yawn) and went straight to the Bach prelude. Focused very intently on staying in A/R while practicing. I just worked on the first 15 measures or so, but I drilled the heck out of them, particularly the transitions between RH and LH. This piece definitely seems easier than it really is. But after my monster drill session, I had the measures sounding clean ... and I was staying (mostly) relaxed. I kept having to stop whenever I felt my body tense up, then take a minute or two to settle myself back into A/R.

By the time I finished working on the prelude, it was after 10:00. I'm tired. Tomorrow, I'll focus on the fugue and Liszt. I really wish I had three or four hours a day for practicing!

Kitty Communication?

For the last couple of days, Beau has come up to me several times and just rested his hurt (now healing) paw on me for a minute or so.

Then he proceeds to rub up against me and purr madly.

Is it possible that he might be saying "thank you"?

Is it possible that he is the sweetest, smartest kitty in the whole world?

(There is a right answer and a wrong answer to that last question.)

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Running Killed Me Today

I didn't feel like running today. I couldn't imagine that I would run today, but I did. Went to the gym even though it was a nice enough day for outdoor running. I ran about six and a half miles, but it wore me out. I didn't finish with a feeling of energy and accomplishment. I finished with a sense that I'd battered up my poor body.

I am such a doofus. I learned some very important lessons about running and nutrition today.

1. If one has an allergy to dairy products, one should not eat ice cream and/or cheese the night before a 6.5-mile run.

2. A piece of toast for breakfast and a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich for lunch (with a handful of dried apricots for a snack), are not sufficient calories for one who plans to run 6.5 miles at 5:00 in the afternoon.

3. Dried apricots are perhaps not the best snack for one who wishes to run long distances.

4. Drinking coffee all day isn't a good idea, either, even though it may seem necessary for long, focused editing jobs. It really doesn't work for long runs.

I'm one of those people who are said to be "book-smart but not common-sense smart." But even us common-sense dummies manage to learn things, although it often means learning them the hard way. :)

I've Been Remiss

I'm usually such a good little comment-answerer, but I haven't been lately. I've also neglected my practice blog (perhaps this is because I've neglected poor George).

I have so much to write, but no time--very frustrating! Just wanted to let the world know that I've gone through your comments of the last week and responded, and that I'm hoping to blog something interesting (for a change!) soon.

The 100th anniversary of Shostakovich's birthday is in a few weeks (September 25). Any suggestions on what I should do to celebrate? I'm just discovering his music for the first time, and I like it a whole lot more than I imagined I would.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Half-Marathon Training, Week 3

I ran 21 miles last week, including a Monday "long run" of 7.25 miles (if you include the warm-up and cool-down walks, I went a little over eight miles).

Running has started to feel a lot more natural and, well, easy, so I am speeding up a little bit. If I start to get out of breath, I slow down. I'm also going to start adding a slight incline to the treadmill runs. Currently I run at 0.5% or 1% inclines, but I'll start adding 2% and 3% inclines, then more, on a limited basis.

I have more energy than I've had in years. I look forward to my run days. When I first started following a program I found on Runner's World, I thought, "I sure will look forward to those 'rest days.'" But I don't. I look forward to the runs. On rest days, I either walk or do weights, or both. But I prefer the days that I can go to the gym or the track or the long road (with a sidewalk!) near my house, turn on the iPod (or not), and just run. I just love the feeling of running.

So this week I'm planning to run between 22 and 24 miles. The interval runs will be my biggest challenges, and because I'll be working harder on them, I'll do a short "long run" next Monday of only four or five miles.

And guess what! I'm going to run in a 5-K in a couple of weeks!

Some Pictures from the Weekend

Hub had the camera all weekend. He took lots of nature pictures and hardly any people pictures. Here's a group (gaggle? parliament?) of mushrooms that we saw on our AT hike Saturday.



Here's a leaf with cool red dot-things growing on it.



This is a (blurry) purple mushroom. There were lots of them out there. We thought they looked like something from the walls of The Mellow Mushroom in Asheville.



Here's a rather shadowy picture of Hubster and me in a spot overlooking the mountains and the French Broad River. Not a great picture, but it's the only one we have of us from the weekend. I wish I had a Photoshop-type program to lighten it up, but I don't.



Finally, here's a picture of Beau in his blue bandage. I took it with my cell phone, so it's a little grainy. You can kind of tell that the little fella is still loopy from the anesthesia.

Hideaway is Traumatized

Some people get really grumpy and mean when they're sick. My cat, Beau, is one of those people. Unfortunately, the victims of our meanness are typically those who are closest to us. I have an injured right hand (my right front paw, so to speak), and poor Hideaway, my calico, has injured feelings.

Hideaway traumatizes easily. She's a mentally fragile, emotionally unstable cat (it runs in our family). I'm sure Beau hissed and swiped at her this weekend while Hub and I were in Hot Springs. When we got home yesterday, she was under the bed and wouldn't come out for hours. Meanwhile, Beau seemed back to his normal self, albeit very upset that he can't go outside until his foot is healed.

Hideaway ("Heidi") came out last night and snuggled with me for a while, then jumped on the bed this morning for her snuggle session (as per her usual daily routine. In addition to being mentally fragile and emotionally unstable, she's very regimented and particular about her schedule). Next on our "schedule," after my morning coffee and our breakfast (cereal for me, cat food for the cats, Beau's with antibiotic slipped in), Hideaway sits in the "client chair" next to my desk and I write my Morning Pages.

Well, Heidi wouldn't sit in the client chair. She just stood next to it. Beau walked past, a little close to her, and tried to nuzzle her. She turned and hissed, and then high-tailed it to the bedroom and hid under the bed.

In addition to this behavior, she's nervously licked a bloody hole into her skin the size of a half-dollar. Which means we're going to the vet today.

I have a full day of editing ahead of me. I guess one of my breaks will be Vet Visit #3 of the past month.

Sigh. A cat-momma's work is never done.

Monday, September 4, 2006

Labor Day Weekend and Beau-Woe Woes

It was a beautifully planned weekend, and it went well. Most of it, at least. Three couples met in Hot Springs, NC, for a long-weekend camping trip: Hubster and me, Pepe and Analisa, and John G. and Kim. Hubster and I got there first, on Friday afternoon, and started dinner and set up camp. We'd bought a canopy with a gift certificate Hubster had received, so we set that up, too. Nice little setup, we had.

John and Kim showed up a couple of hours later, and we had dinner. They set up camp, we had a campfire, etc. Nice evening. I turned in early because I was extremely tired, for some reason.

Next day. The four of us went hiking on the Appalachian Trail, starting about five miles north of Hot Springs. As always, Hubster and I bored our trail visitors with reminiscences of our thru-hikes on this particular section (Hub hiked north out of Hot Springs around Easter of '99; I hiked in southbound after a 26.2-mile day, in pitch black night, in below-freezing temps). It was Kim's first hike ever, so I hope we didn't turn her off to hiking; the last mile or so is a pretty rocky, rugged, steep downhill. (Note to self: When taking novice hikers out on the trails, choose hikes that are easy and less than three miles.)

We got back to camp to find Pepe and Analisa unpacking their car and setting up their tent. Yay! Everyone was here! We hung out, then everyone but Hubster and I went to the Hot Springs Spa to get massages (Hub and I are broke, so we opted out of massages for this time). We grilled steaks and heated broccoli for dinner at the campground. (Note to self: When planning to have steaks with friends, tell them not to buy Waterfall a steak. Waterfall is a vegetarian at heart, and the smell/taste of pricey grilled steaks does very little for her.)

That night, we had reservations for a group hot tub, but Pepe and Analisa had their dogs with them. Dogs were not allowed, but we didn't know that. Things got a little ugly. P & A ended up going back to the campsite while Hub, John G., Kim, and I did the hot tub thing. Then we went back to the campfire and told stories over beer and wine and snacks.

Here's where the real story begins ...

Next day. 6 a.m. My travel-clock alarm went off. I was playing piano for church in the morning (about an hour away from Hot Springs), so I needed to head home, get a shower, get dressed, and get myself to church. The sun hadn't risen yet, and I made half the winding-road trip in dark and fog. Got home, showered, dressed. Realized I had an hour to kill, so I made a pot of coffee, practiced a bit of piano, and had a monster snuggle-session with Hideaway, my calico. "Hm," I thought to myself as I sent Hideaway into ecstasy by rubbing her belly, "I wonder where Beau is. I haven't seen that big cat all morning."

I went upstairs and gathered my music for church. Found Beau inside, at the front door. Sitting with his right paw off the ground. Said paw was very swollen. I tried to look at it and he hissed and swiped at me. Drew blood. I needed to get to church, so I promised him I'd be back in an hour. On the way to church, I called the Hot Springs Campground and told them to find Hubster and tell him there was an emergency at home and to call his wife immediately. There's no cell phone service at the campground, so he had to race up a mountain in order to get his cell phone to work. (No. I don't know why he didn't think to use the campground's pay phone. I didn't ask.)

Finally talked to Hubster a few minutes before church. He said to take Beau to the animal emergency hospital in Asheville, get him treated, and get my butt back to Hot Springs as soon as I could, hopefully in time for the group picnic on Max Patch, and definitely in time for the group hot-tub reservation at 5:30.

After church, I came home. Called REACH and told them I was coming in. Sustained numerous injuries, but successfully got Beau into the cat carrier. Left for Asheville. Sat in stop-and-go traffic for twenty minutes while Beau cried. (You may recall my elation several weeks ago, when Beau and I completed our dreaded annual trip to the vet for shots.)

Long story short ... I was at REACH for five and a half hours. Beau was hell-on-paws. I sustained additional injuries while trying to get him to come out from under the examination table. Blood flowed copiously (my blood), but they were finally able to get him sedated via anesthesia.

Turns out he had an abscess on his paw. They jacked him up with antibiotics, gave him oxygen to wake him back up, charged me an arm and a leg (and a couple of paws), and finally discharged Beau, complete with a big paw-bandage that looked like a cast, at 7:30. I took him home, got him settled, and headed back to Hot Springs. Arrived at 9:30--so I missed the romantic picnic and the romantic hot-tub. Hub got to have a romantic picnic and a romantic hot-tub hour with two other couples. Fun, fun.

We stayed up late, drinking wine and chatting (and I finally ate, for the first time since scarfing a granola bar before church that morning). Woke up this morning, packed up, and came home. Unpacked, washed clothes, cleaned everything up, went to the gym even though I felt exhausted, and ran seven and a half miles.

It was a good weekend. The Beau-Woe Woes were not so good, but I was glad that I came home for church and found him. If I hadn't, my saber-toothed, razor-clawed little angel would have had to suffer for at least 24 more hours.

So, I'm feeling a little harried and tired tonight. I'll respond to comments and post a few weekend pictures tomorrow. I want to go practice piano, but I can't because my hands and fingers are rather painfully sliced up, compliments of the darling Bobcat Beau. So I guess I'll just turn in early. Good night!

Back from the Labor Day Weekend

I've been gone since Friday and got back a couple of hours ago. Boy, do I have a trip report. I also want to respond to your comments, dear readers, from my last few posts. But for right now I need to go on a long run, stock our fridge with some groceries, take out a few bags of trash, and fold a few loads of clothes. The Hubster is sound asleep. I'd wake him up and make him help me, but he slept so poorly this weekend that he needs the rest. Besides, he looks so cute just lying there that I don't have the heart to wake him.

More later, y'all. Hope everyone had a nice Labor Day weekend!

Oh, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO LI'L MU!