31 October 2011

Happy Halloween

Our jack-o-lanterns are all ready, and the snow has melted enough that the little kids can get to our door.

Let the sugar-high begin!

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

28 October 2011

October Snow?

When I hopped on the internet this morning to check Facebook, email, and the weather (yes, probably in that order), I found this:

We have a winter storm watch in our area for tomorrow evening into Sunday.

Now, understand that I love the first snow of the season. In fact, technically, our first snow was yesterday. I walked out of Hannaford's to big, feathery flakes mixed in with the rain. It was beautiful and exciting. I couldn't wait to tell someone. Anyone.

It's like that every year. But usually our first measurable snowfall is in December. Later in December. And if you know me, you know that by the end of January, I'm pretty much ready for winter to be over. No, honestly, by the end of January, I CAN'T WAIT for winter to be over. I start to crave spring colors and sunshine.

So, you do the math. We are in October. This is two months early. Most of the leaves haven't yet fallen off the trees.

At this rate, I'm going to be finished with winter before it even begins.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

26 October 2011

Cat Lover?

My mom has never been a big fan of cats - at least not since I've known her. We had two cats while I was growing up, and after only having them a year or two, she got rid of them without consulting the rest of the family.

And yes, I consider this when I talk about finding a new home for our cat that spreads mouse guts all over our furniture. Maybe I finally understand my mom a bit better, is all I can say about that.

Either way, here is Mom, a couple of weeks ago, sitting out on our porch in that unusually warm fall weather we had, snuggling one of our cats. Sure, this is the GOOD cat, but it's still an odd thing for me to behold. Nice,... but odd.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

14 October 2011

Predators in the House

Years ago when one of our cats brought a dead mouse up to us from the basement, we were a bit put off, but we knew enough to tell her she was a good girl. The next few times, when she brought up mice that were still very much alive and set them free in our bedrooms, we weren’t quite as welcoming.

Now we have two young male cats that never leave a mouse alive. Not only that, they exhibit carnage, the likes of which I’ve never seen nor imagined seeing in my own home.

I want to spare you the details. But then, that would defeat the purpose of bringing it up, right?

Consider yourself warned.

Ok, remember we lock our two boy cats in the basement at night. Have no fear for there is furniture in the basement. And carpet. And heat. They love it down there. There is much to do, much to explore, and… of course there are the mice. Understand, we don’t lock them up for THEIR benefit. We lock them up because they are terrorists that love nothing more than sprinting across our faces in the middle of the night, wrestling across our bodies, and then meowing loudly and pushing things off our dressers when they get bored or hungry.

We need our sleep.

So, the boys sleep in the basement.

One morning last fall, upon letting them out of the basement, I found a mouse they had killed and it grieved me, as it always does. But this time the mouse was covered in cat saliva and its face was gone. I’m sure they had played with it until it was dead, but what about that face? Did they just gnaw on it, or were they hungry? NO – they are well fed. Either way, it was hideous.

Many other times, there is no apparent damage to the mouse.

One time, a couple of months ago, I found half a mouse. I searched and searched for the other half, but I can only assume they ate it.

Two weeks ago, I found the Queen Mother of mouse carnage. I was actually running down the basement steps, heading for the treadmill, and as soon as I rounded the corner from the stairs, I saw it. I can’t even say now that I’m positive it was only one mouse. There was a head. And a back end with the tail still attached. Then there was a bunch of other bloody stuff that must have been the rest of the mouse. Or a second mouse. In pieces. There were actually blood stains on our dark blue carpet.

Until that day, I thought cleaning up the dog diarrhea from all over our kitchen four years ago, was the worst thing ever. Ok, that still wins, but this was a close second. After picking up all the ... parts, I scrubbed the carpet – in several different places. By the time I finished, I had killed much of my exercise hour, and I wasn’t much up for the treadmill anyway.

I went back upstairs to sit down for a few minutes, when one of the mouse-killers jumped into my lap, purring and affectionate. Later, I told my husband it freaks me out that these violent predators live in our house; that they can impose such destruction on another being, yet then climb into my lap like a baby and seem perfectly harmless.

My husband’s response? Be glad we’re bigger than they are.


Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

05 October 2011

Death in a Small Maine Town

A terrible thing happened here last week. Late Wednesday night, a young man in our community was in a fatal car accident. He was 18-years-old.

He had attended local high school and was in my daughter's senior class last year.

I'm a substitute teacher at the high school, but I did not know this young man. I know his face, because I recognize just about all the kids at the school, but I didn't know him. Yet, thanks to social media, I now feel like I know him, and I'm grieving him along with the rest of the school, the town, and the surrounding communities.

When news of the accident reached the high school students the next morning, they immediately began posting about it on Facebook. All that day, they dealt with their shock, horror, and grief online. They ask questions, they cried out in pain, and they took solace in the community that can be found on the internet.

In the midst of it all, they talked about the boy who died. They remembered and they shared. He was unique, kind, and very, very loved.

Before the day was over, the kids all decided to fore-go the "retro day" planned at school for the following day, in honor of Homecoming Friday. Instead, they agreed to dress in black, for the young man who died always seemed to be wearing black.

And sure enough, the next day, nearly every student showed up to school for the Homecoming pep really, dressed in black. Several kids made remembrance signs and "Rest in Peace" signs. And all over Facebook that day, kids who had graduated the year before posted that they were wearing black wherever they were - at college in Orono, Gorham, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Arizona; or wherever they were working - Portland, Richmond, Augusta, Lewiston.

That night at the Homecoming football game, the packed bleachers shared a moment of silence as we remembered again the one young life who would never come back to the Homecoming celebration. There was not a dry eye in that arena.

In a small town such as ours, we become very close knit. We all look out for each other and if we don't know someone, we know at least 10 people who DO know that person. We are connected and we belong to one another if only in a small way.

When that young man died, everyone in our community lost either a son, a brother, a co-worker, a fellow-student, or a friend. We all grieve for him.

And if that weren't hard enough, this video of him was posted late on that first day after he died. It is beautiful and chilling all at the same time. You'll see what I mean.

(If the video isn't clear on your screen, go to this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqywaF8cDCc)

Rest in Peace, Cameron. You will be remembered.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

01 October 2011

Why I won’t be in the Marathon Tomorrow

Eight years ago, I started running. I never really enjoyed it, but after about 8 months of it, I successfully ran a 5K (at high altitude, no less) and I stayed with it for about another year, until I hurt my back. Then I stopped for 6 months and by the time I was able to run again, I just couldn’t seem to make myself do it.

Since then I’ve been walking. I walked with my dog until she died and not long after that I started walking with my friend, Becky.

Fast forward to three months ago. Becky and I were finishing our regular 3-mile walk when we decided to keep going. It was a lovely summer day and after the long winter, we needed the extra fresh air and sunshine. We walked 6 miles that day. We were a little sore the next day, but the next time we walked, we did 6 miles again. Then we did 7. And then I wondered out loud just how far we could walk.

We talked about 5Ks and 10Ks, marathons and half-marathons. Heck, we’d already been walking 10Ks, so maybe we should try to do a marathon. Or at least a half. I researched training schedules for both and realized we had plenty of time. I then found the Maine Marathon in Portland, which was scheduled for October 2, and they were a walker-friendly marathon.

But could we do it? 6 and 7 miles was one thing, but we were sore even after those walks. Could we train to do 26.2? We started down that path, literally and figuratively.

We began walking more, making sure we walked a couple of miles each day, with one or two long walks each week. We added miles to that long walk and by the middle of July, we were doing 13 miles at a stretch. We had already walked a half marathon! I took the plunge and registered for the full marathon. I was doing this baby.

By the first of August, when we were approaching 16-mile stretches once/week, Becky decided not to do the marathon. She was bogged down with family and work obligations and understandably couldn’t commit to the regular (and rigorous) training schedule. I was disappointed, but more than that, I was a little afraid to continue alone. After all, walking so many miles, if nothing else, takes TIME. Could I walk all those miles alone?

It turns out, I could.

During the third week in August, I did my longest walk – 20 miles. It took me half the day and by the last few miles, I had developed terrible blisters on the backs of my heels. This, after all those other long-walk days blister-free. I was set back, but not beaten. The next week my long walk was only 12 miles, and I wore bandaids to protect my healing blisters on that day, and on my shorter days.

The following week, the first week in September, I was scheduled to do my second and last 20 mile walk. The bandaids were protective, but not completely. By the end of the walk, my heels were a mess. I knew I could keep going and do 6.2 more miles, if necessary, but I didn’t really WANT to any longer. I was feeling slightly demoralized. Maybe a little more than slightly.

I took a few days off but stuck to the schedule.

That next Sunday, my family and I did the Trail to Ale 10K in Portland. The blisters were an issue, but it was only 6 miles and the weather was lovely.

Yet, I realized that I was no longer excited about the marathon. I had done 20 miles – TWICE – and I had had the thrill of the race with the Trail to Ale. It FELT like I’d already done the marathon, and I didn’t want to do it again.

But I couldn’t quit. That’s what my husband and several friends told me. I’d come so far! I’d worked so hard! I’d regret it if I quit! But the fun, excitement and anticipation were gone for me.

Each day, I continued to put one foot in front of the other as I lowered my mileage, tapering down to the big day, but I started imagining excuses for getting out of walking the marathon. I missed the days of walking just 7 or 8 miles. JUST 7 OR 8 MILES! Wasn’t that something? That had become my favorite distance, but I hadn’t done it in nearly two months.

Several days ago, in a flurry of clumsily running up the basement steps, I fell up the stairs, bending back the toes on my right foot and hurting my elbow. This is it, I thought, NOW I can quit! But no, my toes were fine by the next morning. But more and more I realized that the only thing I was thinking about this marathon was how to get out of it.

And then a combination of things happened.

First, the blisters have made a permanent home on the backs of my heels. My shoes were fine until I reached the 16-18 mile mark, and then something happened. But I was too close to the marathon to change shoes, so I’ve been sticking it out with these.

Second, … well, second is a girl thing, and I’ll leave it at that. As fate would have it, tomorrow – marathon day – is going to be the worst day of my month. And in the words of Forrest Gump, that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Third, and maybe the clincher, is the weather. It’s been raining all day today and is supposed to continue through tomorrow. Half the fun of walking this marathon was going to be walking through the beauty of autumn in Maine, as well as the beautiful coastline, the charming homes in Falmouth, etc. And remember, I planned to WALK this marathon, so it would take me at least 7 hours to finish. Rain?? In addition to blisters and the girl thing? Good God, am I nuts?

I have more things I could add to this list, but I’ll save that for another post. Suffice it to say, tragedy hit our community earlier this week and it’s been an emotional few days.

So that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. I feel good about this decision and can honestly say I have no regrets. In fact now the only thing bothering me is that it’s bothering OTHER people.

I went to Portland today and picked up my race packet. Oh yes, I did. My husband thinks I’m crazy, but hey, not only did I pay for the shirt (and it’s a cool shirt), I trained for this marathon and I COULD do it if I chose to torture myself tomorrow. I walked and jogged over 420 miles over the past three months.

Maybe I’ll do another marathon another time, but more likely, I’ll stick to 10Ks and 5Ks. Either way, I’m glad I trained for this. I’ve learned things about what my body can do and I’ve pushed myself farther than I ever thought possible. Thanks to those of you who encouraged and supported me along the way, and thanks in advance to those who will support this decision.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes