Four Minute Diary

I peeked in at Lynda Barry’s Tumblr, which I’d sort of forgotten about for awhile, and read about the four-minute diary:

Why is it so hard to keep a diary?


Keeping a diary is much easier if you limit your writing to four minutes each day: two minutes spent writing a list of what you remember from the day before and then two minutes making a list of things you saw.

Her post included a video you can use to time the four minutes, but I didn’t. Also, I misremembered about the second list and wrote what I did, not what I saw. Still, I wrote. Yesterday:

  • I stood at the kitchen counter shelling fava beans onto a plate and listened to the radio.
  • I gave Simone some “mixed grill” wet food, and she was all excited about it and jumped up onto the counter before I could put the dish on the floor, but then she didn’t finish it.
  • I played a round of Farm Hustle, and watched Sherlock vids with Sang before bed.

Dress Shopping

The short version:

You guys, I bought a dress for my sister’s wedding next May! See photo below.

The long version:

Last fall I’d made a few forays into vintage, thrift, and department stores, but managed only to narrow down the list of styles that were likely to look good. (High necks and twirly skirts = good; sheaths and anything with darts that presume to know where my boobs are = bad.) Then I spent a day on Northwest 23rd Avenue, the fancy street in Portland that seemed to have all the dress boutiques I’d found on the internet, as well as high-end vintage. I came away from that with:

1. A seven-dollar “security dress” from Goodwill that met color requirements and was wearable, but had unfixable fit problems that I’d have to wear a wrap to cover. I bought it first thing in the morning to give me the courage to say no to anything else that wasn’t quite right.

2. A business card with handwritten details about a dress I tried on and whose clone I could order if I gave the shop 16 weeks’ notice. It would be sewn from fair-trade silk from the mill in India they work with exclusively, would be handmade in Portland, and said to me in the mirror, “Hello, I am the Platonic ideal of the bridesmaid dress you and your relatives had in mind!” The fabric was so light that it was like slipping into a cocoon. For all that, I was not wholly in love with it (there was a tie in the front that looked great when the shop attendant tied it, but weird when I tried) and wasn’t sure I would wear it enough to earn out the daunting figure on the price tag.

3. A lovely pair of palazzo pants, the kind that look like a long skirt as long as one is standing still, in blue-purple-gray. An impulse buy, attributable partly to the hard work of the saleslady bringing me outfit after outfit to try on, and partly to my being pretty sure I’d wear them a lot no matter what. And it was always possible I’d find the stunning top that would overcome my qualms about showing up as The Lesbian In Pants.

The next week, I tried a few places in Southeast. Most notable was a store by the Hawthorne Bridge that apparently specializes in pageants and proms. I went in with Sanguinity and Bookherd, and as Bookherd said, there was no place to stand. Big circular racks of big circular dresses all around, and the store was mobbed with high-school-age girls in groups and their mothers. I remember some squealing, but I might be making that up. I was told I needed an appointment to try anything on, booked, and dismissed. (Later I called and canceled my appointment, because as far as I could tell all the dresses there had sequins and sparklies and would be completely over the top for me. There was still someone there at 10 p.m. when I called. That place is intense.) Out on the sidewalk, we were all a little dazed, and decided to adjourn for pho.

Meanwhile, my mother-in-law had emailed me to suggest David’s Bridal, a chain that seems able to outfit a passel of bridesmaids in cute dresses at reasonable prices. Confident that I had begun to gain experience in both full-service shopping and the bridal-industrial complex, I headed to Clackamas with Sanguinity as soon as they opened on Saturday. Inside the front door was a desk, with someone there to hand me a form and assign me a shopping attendant. The form and the staff wanted to know about the bride, not about me. I kept saying things like, “Well, yes, that is her last name too, but she’s in Colorado and already has a dress.” The idea that a lone attendant would walk in hoping to buy one dress, for herself, seemed foreign to them.

We were assigned a fitting room, which was spacious but had no mirrors inside it at all. To see yourself, you have to step out into the hallway between the fitting rooms, so the sales staff and your bridal party can weigh in. There’s also a little stage which had three honest-to-god pedestals to stand on, plus mirrors and a few rows of folding chairs for the audience. I watched a girl try on a First Communion dress complete with veil; she looked absolutely delighted.

Business was hopping at this place too– I asked the woman at the desk why now, and she said it was everyone who’d gotten engaged over the holidays. The week or two after Valentine’s Day will also be frantic, she said.

The dress I’d spotted online didn’t work out, so we tried a few more. The woman in the next fitting room was trying on puffy wedding dresses, and the stash of them on the clothes-rail outside her door got wider and wider until Sang and I were pretty much barricaded into our room by foofy white fabric. Also, whenever anyone in the store decides on a wedding dress, a bell rings (clangclangclang, like at Trader Joe’s) and everyone cheers.

Sanguinity knows how to persevere in shopping. Long after I would have left, we came up with this dress (but in blue, instead of black):

long jersey dress with keyhole detail

It was in the Mother of the Bride section, but whatevs. I guess I’m old enough that I could be the mother of a bride. (Though that model doesn’t look like she could.) It feels simple and comfortable. It’s a little darker blue than I’d hoped for, but there are slightly lighter blue and purple beads at the waist. And, Sanguinity offered to knit me a lace stole in a coordinating brighter shade! That will redeem the dress from its navy tendencies and also come in handy in May in the mountains. We picked pattern, yarn, and beads when we got home. Victorian Lace Today, you are a wonderful book.

So thanks, Shellynoir, Bookherd, Marian, and Refgoddess, for your interest and assistance! And of course thanks to Sanguinity, invaluable shopping advisor. It may not be her favorite thing to do, but man is she good at it. Now as I go around town and pass clothing stores, I don’t have to ask myself, “should I go in and look for dresses?” Ahhh.

life is a serial

I goofed off at work until I felt compelled to stay late and put together some interview packets so I wouldn’t worry all weekend that our interviewer Jeremy came by to get some and there weren’t any. So then I caught a late bus to the library to pick up my holds and walked home, only to find that the dog had gone beyond his six-hour-or-so limit and peed and pooped on the floor. (He’s, or we’ve, been so good lately, too!) So I cleaned that up and took him out and it felt like a long time before I could sit down with a bowl of cheese puffs and catch up on the internet. Right now I’m about a half hour behind schedule; ideally I would have already posted this and I would be washing dishes or making mac and cheese with garden tomatoes.

(Here I was tempted to tell everyone my Whole Ideal Schedule, but that would make life too easy for the snipers.)

So would you like to know about my current breakfast cereal? Sanguinity and I were at the Fred Meyer marveling at how many varieties of frosted mini-wheats are now available (blueberry! chocolate!), and I spotted the Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats Touch of Fruit in the Middle Mixed Berry. (Link leads to review with the interesting sentence “Maybe this is what happens in the wild when animals chow down on tree bark to find sticky sap and grubs.”)

“Oh, that looks like your sort of thing!” I said to Sanguinity. She likes the granola with dried berries in it. But she said no, it looked like my kind of thing. Apparently I have problems with the self/others concept when it comes to foods I find delicious. And she was right! She had one taste the next morning and said I could have the whole box. She also pointed out that it was like Pop Tarts in cereal form.

I like them, but consider them decadent enough that when they’re gone, they’re gone. On the other hand, I will let myself try a box of the chocolate variety next.

Pudding On The Rice

The clerk at Pudding On The Rice said she was sorry, she couldn’t make Sanguinity and me the Shrimpy Pig crepe we ordered, because they were out of the cheese spread. “Somebody used it all up and put the container back empty,” she said.

“Co-workers are the same everywhere,” Sang said darkly.

When I paid and stuffed a tip through the slot in the paper glued down over the top of the tip jar, the clerk told me about the tip thief and how he came in, scooped money out of the jar, distributed it to his friends waiting outside the door, and they all ran in different directions. Hence the new lid.

I like being around employees who don’t feel like they’re paid to take on the corporate voice of their employer too much.

The food was just okay, but then again I don’t see a case with 20 flavors of cold rice pudding every day. White chocolate rice pudding, cheesecake rice pudding, lemon poppyseed rice pudding. We shared some rum rice pudding, which was strongly flavored but not actually boozy.

Try Broadway Coffee & Tea for a better crepe. But since I’m working days and Sang works most evenings, it was good to sit outdoors by the Park Blocks and spend an hour together before I went to catch my bus.


Sanguinity and I kept a friend company at the Urgent Care clinic on Sunday, and Sang found this 8 1/2 x 11 document, abandoned on a clipboard in the waiting room:
urgent care scan
I don’t think the same person was writing and coloring… so maybe the coloring came first? I wonder who, if anyone, delivered the message, and why it was in writing.

DFL at the PCT50

(Warning: this is looooong! I talk about every freakin’ aid station! and lots of other things in between!)


“She’s so calm,” Sanguinity said about me to Leboyfriend, as we sat in our campsite on Friday night. “If that was me the night before a climb, I’d be all keyed up.”

Call it fatalism, or denial, but the reason I was so calm was that I really didn’t think I would finish the Mt. Hood Pacific Crest Trail 50-Miler Saturday. I mean, fifty miles, that’s just unreal. It seemed like a good idea when I signed up, and I kept telling myself that just making it to the starting line was progress after being DNS (registered but Did Not Start) a couple years ago, but… nah. I’d be pulled at a cutoff.

We all went to bed early on Friday, tired from the omg endless packing that every camping trip seems to involve and the drive up the mountain. (We did make a stop on the way up at Little Crater Lake, where children told each other loudly that if you went in the deep blue water you’d be PARALYZED. By the cold, assumedly, though they made it sound like there were neurotoxins floating around.) I slept soundly until about an hour before the alarm went off, at a quarter to five.

I was taking the early start at 5:30. I pinned my number on (single digits, #9! It was just from registering so early, but I told Sang it meant I was an elite, and that’s why I was in the “first corral” at 5:30. I’m so hilarious), and put on my Dirty Girl gaiters for the first time ever, and somehow I fell into getting-dressed meditation or something, because I looked at my clock and it was 5:21 and I was still at the campsite! Crap! The starting line at the ranger station was close, but not that close. We booked over there in time for the last of the pre-start instructions, so at least I could see where everybody went as they jogged out of the clearing. Sang took my drop bags to turn in, I distributed kisses, and off I went after the rest of the pack.

We followed the Miller Trail to the PCT where it follows the margin of Timothy Lake. There was enough light that no one needed a headlamp; the air was cool but not cold. Pretty, pretty trail, with glimpses of the lake through the trees. The first aid station was close to Little Crater Lake where we’d been the day before. It was minimalist in amenities (no drop bags, porta-potty, or spectators), but had the cheeriest volunteers of any aid station. Someone took my water bottle to refill while I had a little Coke and picked a few snacks from the table. At least one race director must be very into hygiene– everything was in serving-size packets instead of the traditional big bowl o’ food that everyone dips their grubby hands into. This aid station had even placed trash stations a few hundred yards along the trail, so we wouldn’t have to pack the wrappers. Great service!

On to the aid station at Hwy. 58, or as I found out it’s called, “the mosquito place.” Sang and LeB were waiting for me there! I didn’t even need to get into my drop bag, as they had the purple Dr. Eldritch tote with all my race stuff in it. First thing, I combed my hair, which I hadn’t had a chance to do in the rush to start. Then I put on sunscreen while the bugs had a feast. Then up the trail again to the turnaround at Hwy 26, near the Frog Lake sno-park. I was running well and making good time! Sang and LeB met me again. I tried to convince them to skip the mosquitoes on the way back and just meet me back at the start/finish, but they didn’t listen and shooed me onto the trail. :)

My knee started complaining on the way back, but I could still run. I walked some, but played little games to keep running as much as I could. Walk in shade, run in sunshine. Run every time you see bear grass blooming. Stuff like that. And not for the first time, I contemplated my theory that pain below a certain threshold can be metabolized into the kind of stress chemicals that are great for running! (The threshold being nausea.) I decided not to air my theory to Sanguinity in case she was unable to resist a withering look even during my race. Oh, I also thought of lots of brilliant titles and lines for this post. Way better than this. Gone now.

By then the early-start and regular-start people were mingling and there were lots of people passing, coming and going. When I got back to Hwy. 58, I ate some candied ginger from my drop bag and sunscreened my face, which I’d forgotten the first time around. I admit, it was awesome to see LeB and Sang again! Then back to Little Crater Lake and then the ranger station! I pulled in there around noon or 12:15. The knee was dictating more walking, less running, but as I said to my team, “Sometimes I’m still running even when nobody’s looking!” Sang had my pace worked out and was confident I could make the cut-off at the farthest aid station, by 4:15 p.m. I started to wonder, while she got me a flat coke and some salt tabs: was it actually possible that I might finish?

I didn’t think about it much, though, because “one cut-off at a time” was the strategy I’d decided on before the race. That and “be tough.” I’d just been reading about Juli Astairs winning Vol State, so she and Marcia were my toughness models. And Anita Ortiz, and another woman I heard on a podcast who talked about “turning off the pain.”

Soon after I started south both knees were hurting enough that I couldn’t run much at all. A shame to miss all the free speed on the downhills! But power-walking uphills was still fun, and there was quite a bit of level trail. The PCT is graded for horses and tends to follow ridgelines, so as trails go it’s gentle. There were quite a few horses on the trail, and at our campgrounds, too, all looking gorgeous and healthy. I was happy to step off the trail and stand quietly, but as usual felt guilty for taking the uphill side, which I believe is against horsey etiquette. I just don’t want one to slip and fall on me!

Soon I passed a sign marking the border between Mt. Hood National Forest and the Warm Springs Reservation. Traveling on the trail itself is allowed, but no spectators were allowed at the aid stations on Warm Springs land. The first of the two aid stations seemed to be right in the middle of the forest, like magic. (It turned out there was a gravel road just beyond.) I got there at about 1:40, with six miles to go before the turnaround and 4:15 cutoff. I was in good shape.

The knee pain was not good, and I was dismayed when I hit some long, steep-feeling downhills. (Runners who were still, you know, running, probably loved it!) I had to inch my way down some sections. There was a pretty one-log bridge crossing a stream at the bottom, but I didn’t dare stop and play lest I lose time. (The bugs were also a deterrent.) Someone told me I had a beautiful smile, though, so that was a lift. :)

I walked on, mostly uphill now, but already dreading the future downhill this implied. People passing me on their way back from the Warm Springs Meadow aid station told me encouraging things about raspberry sherbet, but I was really low. I had been speed-walking with purpose, but now I was trudging. I wasn’t going to make it back to the finish before the 6:30 cutoff. Should I turn in my race number at Warm Springs Meadow, even if I was there a bit before the cutoff? Or wait to be pulled at the next aid station, where at least I would have made it forty-some miles (but slowly and painfully)?

Luckily, I at least knew that it’s a bad idea to walk into an aid station and quit. What you do is, you sit down and have a drink and a snack and rest a couple of minutes, and then decide. So I did that. The sherbet was awesome. Amazing. I asked the volunteer behind the snack table how the sweeps worked. She said “Well, this aid station closes at 4:15. And the course closes at 6:30? You still have a margin.” (It was about a quarter til four.) I don’t think she really understood my question, but that was good enough for me. I didn’t get into my drop bag at this station either. I turned and walked back down the trail with my ice cream still in hand.

And it went great! For a long time I had good speed and energy. I met a few more people on their way to the aid station, and encouraged them with talk of sherbet like people had encouraged me. (They were insufficiently impressed, like I had been.) I was having a little taste of what I believe is one of the coolest things about ultras– you can fade way down, and then come back. Deer flies zoomed in circles around me and dust hung over the trail, but things were fine.

Two older guys I’d seen from time to time throughout the race passed me. They were in it together, trotting along and getting ‘er done. They asked me if I was okay and if I needed anything; I said, “No, no, my knees are making me slow but I’m good.” They jogged off and I heard one say to the other, “Yeah, I think my age is making me slow!” I caught up to them at the aid station. They’d been booking in case the aid station shut down at 5:30, but although the truck was being packed up there was still ice, water, and gummi bears. (And lots of other stuff, but those three items were what I needed to sustain me.)

Six more miles. My burst of energy had dimmed, but I focused on putting as much distance as possible between me and that aid station, so that if a sweep did come along, I wouldn’t be ordered to go back there. I was glad every time I crossed a dirt road. When I really flagged, I figured that sitting down and a snack were what had revived me before, so I sat on a rock or tree stump long enough to unwrap some food and sneak a peak at my watch. The bugs got me going again. Several very perky people passed me with a “good job.” (That’s the universal thing runners say to each other, so I say it too, although doesn’t it seem a bit judgey?)

The 6:30 cutoff time had passed. I was back in the Mt. Hood National Forest, and looked around to see if Sanguinity might have come to meet me. She wasn’t there, but a bit later down the trail, there she was! She was walking with a guy who I assumed was a sweep, but who turned out to be the brother of another runner. He went on to look for his sister, and Sang turned around to walk me in.

It was great to be with her, and not have to be so self-propelled anymore. We were passed by a couple more people. I stepped aside for a passel of women who were practically dancing down the trail while chatting. One or two of them passed me, but then another one saw the race number pinned to my shirt. “Hey, a RUNNER!” she said. They were the sweeps! Much different than the reluctant but stern figure I had imagined holding out a hand for my race number. Sang made a joke about how we had politely stepped off to let them go by. “Not on our watch!” one said, and they tagged along behind us, removing the ribbons that marked the course and laughing and burbling with each other. (Being a sweep looks fun!)

Finally we came to the road in the campsite, and then up to the road leading to the finish area. LeB was up ahead and called to the race people that a runner was coming. Several kids started yelling it too. By the time I turned the corner there was applause and cheering. Several dozen people were still around and all of them seemed really happy when I crossed the imaginary finish line! I thought it was so, so sweet of the race people to keep the course open past 6:30. They still had bananas and drinks out on a table, and an earnest volunteer told me to sit in ANY chair I wanted. I remembered then to ask Sang what time it was. 7:24, she said. A little under fourteen hours.

I sat on some steps (they really were packing up the furniture) and had a box of delicious warm chocolate milk. Sang was horrified and fascinated. Another volunteer came and dropped some extra snacks off. Aww! I was really happy. Did I mention that Sang and LeB both cried when I finished? :)

I didn’t even have to walk back to the campsite, as the car was parked just up the road. Sang went and got the solar shower she’d been tinkering with during the day and set it up for us. I peeled off my gaiters and shoes and socks to examine my filthy blistered feet. LeB built a fire, and Sang made dinner.

Both feet blistered pretty badly– the ball of each foot is basically a large blister, with extra blisters on each heel and most toes. Clearly at this distance or longer I should pre-tape. The knees recovered quickly, as they do. Race results were posted here this afternoon, and there I am, DFL (Dead Fucking Last, for you non-runners) in 106th place of 106. Another baby step for this baby ultrarunner. “You know where I’d be if this were Badwater?” I said to Sang. “Just past Stovepipe Wells. Looking up at my first climb.” I have a long way to go, if I want to go there.

I don’t have any races on my calendar. I’m going to take awhile and get strong, try to make my knees bombproof again like they were all too briefly after that month of backpacking. I did this race on guts, but if there’s a next one I want to do it on good training and knowledge– and not keep anyone waiting an extra hour again!

I am really happy I finished. Really grateful to my amazing support crew. And really glad to be on Spaceship Couch with my feet up!

don’t order your fast food a la carte

Sanguinity and I are getting drive-through breakfast before hiking. We pull up to the menu board and look at the bowl/sandwich and combo options.

Me (from passenger seat) to Sang: I’d like a Denver bowl a la carte, please.

Sang, out the window to the speaker: We’d like a Denver bowl a la carte…

Speaker: A Denver bowl…what?

Sang: A…JUST the Denver bowl.

Speaker: Okay, that’s all then?

Sang: No!

Speaker: [subsides in confusion]

Sang eventually conveys the rest of our order. Before we pull up to the payment window, Sang gives me a good punch for my schoolmarm vocabulary.