Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hair of the Cow!

Cow suits-- hungover
The Sundays after a great Cow Suit Saturday can be rough. Mellow. Almost a letdown after the jubilant highs of the day before. I hesitate to compare it to a hangover, but…. Hey, if the suit fits.

Some will tell ya the best way to soothe the effects of a hangover is to throw more alcohol at it. It’s been likened to a belief from Shakespeare’s time that applying hair of a dog that bit you to a wound will prevent infection. So in that spirit today…. Hair of the Cow!
I left my sublime accommodations in Vermont to head back to New Hampshire for the work week. My mom’s college roommate and her husband live in a little town not far off my route, so I emailed and asked if I could stop in.  I changed into a cow suit on the side of the road and could feel my cow suit comfort zone being tested and expanded.
My mom's college roommate from the University of Wisconsin.
Kaye and Mike ran a Bed & Breakfast in New Hampshire for years.  I can tell ya—you’ve never met more hospitable, welcoming folks. I let her know I’d be showing up in a cow suit and provided a link to the blog to give her a heads up.

My mom adored Kaye. She and Mike oughta have a few dedicated blogs here, but only after I get some of the stories from over the years organized in my head.
 While I visited with her today, I recalled yesterday and my time with a pair of college roommates—same friendship dynamic developing, but 50 years later.  And as I type, I’m hanging out with one of my best buddies from my college years.  Geeze—all of this college talk and the earlier reference has me wanting a beer.
I hope for more visits with Kaye if these work trips continue and look forward to more stories of years gone by.  I know she’s got some great ones. Cheers!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Cows Take Vermont

Autumn reminds me of "To Kill a Mockingbird" ever since I had to read it my sophomore year of high school. The book begins in the summer but quickly transitions to fall. When I feel the crisp chill and see the changing leaves I'm struck with impressions of racial justice, coming of age and judgment that arises out of fear. I'm reading it again for a refresher.
A lesser but still poignant theme in the book is developed when Jem and Scout sit with Mrs. Dubose. There are a dozen spins here, but at the root was that Jem and Scout had no idea of Mrs. Dubose's demons associated with her morphine addiction and what they were doing to help her.
I was Mrs. Dubose today. Sort of. I'm not near as cantankerous. I have no addiction, and "demons" is overly dramatic, but I was mooooved by the exuberance, optimisim, and spontenatiy of the kids that cowed with me today in ways their youth couldn't possibly grasp.

The day is best told through our cowntless pictures....  
My first impression of Nick: he put his head through one of the legs. Oh boy. Here we go...
The first herd shot on the camput of Middlebury College in Middlebury, VT. Sarah, me, Nick & Lydia.
Driving along in Vermont...doot dee dooo....A COW! STOP! We've got to take a picture!

Flannel. I'm home.
Shockingly, this is my FIRST picture with "real" cows that look like me.
They are SUCH good herd members. Quote of the day here by Nick:  They're all, "Hey, how'd you guys get out?"

This was weird. It was a beef booth at the Farmer's Market in Shelburne.
The lady ... well... her jokes made us sad and uncomfortable.
The Burlington Farmer's Market. Um. Ok. Sure. We'd love to pose with you.
It was early for the guy behind us to be so jazzed, though.

Sarah performs the first photo-documented heifer handstand.
Sarah is chomping on the biggest Vermont-grown honey crisp apple ever.
Exactly like the Beatles' Abbey Road.  (EXACTLY)
Shadows of the herd on the boardwalk of Lake Champlain.
Lydia going for the oh-so-organic "Heifer looks to the future" look. Nailed it.
Cows watching boats.
Hooray! Group shot on Lake Champlain. The guy was so nice not to run away with my phone.
Here we are! The Ben & Jerry's factory in Waterbury, VT.

The girls had a pose in mind. Nick didn't have the same pose. It's cool.
There's always a black cow of the family.
Is the ice cream here yet?  (BEST RESTROOM DOOR EVER.)
Ahhhh....the arch to bliss.

What is with them always going for "pensive"?! We are happy (simple) cows!
Inside the Ben & Jerry's moooovie room. Loved the colors! And look at them just loving their pictures taken.
Official members of the herd right here, folks.
Pretty much the biggest/best sample EVER after our tour. (Which they gave us for free because we were so cute.)
 Nick totally worked it when he bought our tickets.
This is Amy, our tour guide. She was nice. I covetted her cow earrings.
The flavor graveyard. Can't believe they named one "Turtle Soup."
Can't decide if this is too morbid or funny. We're going with funny. 
Loooove the colors.

Hangin' with Lydia, the neighbor kid.

Yum.  Just yum.

Roommates for their freshman year in college. Makin' memoories.  ;-)

They talked about going to a party or going star gazing and kayaking tomorrow. Ahhh....youth.
I'm settling in for a snack and a good book. And, yes. I may eat the whole thing. Cows have like four stomachs, don't they?

Comfort in a Cup of Coffee & a Cow Suit

I woke up in Vermont today. I’ve never done that before. I’m not someone who experiences the starkly new very often. I live three blocks from where I was born—in a house that I have owned TWICE. My house is minutes from my college dorm, my high school, my office, my childhood home… my entire life. It’s hard to discern the comfortable from the stifling at times.  

I sipped TOO MUCH COFFEE this morning in my new mug from my pal Kerry (see “Fluff ‘n’ Udder.) I like the comfortable ritual that is my morning coffee. It was “moo and improved” today. I watched the sun wash over some breath taking New England woods. I am heading out shortly to pick up Lydia, a neighbor kid from Idaho who’s attending college out here. I hear she’s a touch home sick. She must be because she didn’t think twice before saying “YES!” to a cowing adventure with me. I’m guessing she could use a little hometown comfort.

I think I find comfort in a cow suit. Well, maybe not so much comfort, but definitely joy. Hmmm….I suppose by the transitive property if cowsuit = joy and joy = comfort, then I’ll be damned! I DO find comfort in a cow suit. Here’s hoping that young Lydia does too.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Cow Suits in the Carry On

I’ve never been more excited for work. I’m beginning a two week stint in New England today. The project work is a perfect mixture of challenging and fun; frustrating but rewarding.  My career has been due for a cattle prod and here it is.

And it’s arrived on the autumn equinox. Holy cow!   Fall in New England on the company dime. Could it get better?
Why yes. Yes, it could.

I was mountain biking a few weeks ago back home with one of my best biking buddies.  When I told her about missing our usual fall rides due to work, she said, “My parents have a vacation house in Vermont. Are you interested in the key?”
My tire swerved.

Since I’ll have the weekend to myself, I HAD to pack a few cow suits in my carry-on.
Vermont is full of cows and there’ll be a few more smiling ones in the coming days. I can’t wait.

Life’s had a few hiccups lately—a lot of questions. It’s a great time to dive into some engineering. It’s why I like it: there are always answers. Concrete, scientific solutions are out there when I’m persistent. Some I’ll find on my own. Others will come from collaboration with colleagues. Every problem associated with a project like this will have a resolution.

My life’s answers may not come as scientifically or with such certainty, but they will come.  The key is to carry on.



Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A New Hip and a Visit from the Herd

I have had a rough few days. I’m afraid to sit down to type for fear of what’s going to trickle out of my fingers.  I have some exciting things planned for this blog, but last Sunday I couldn’t imagine putting on the suit for a long, long time.  I was sadder and madder that I couldn’t imagine cowing.

I can’t tell you the comfort that swept over me when I was presented with the opportunity—more than that—the udder responsibility to put my cow suit on and spread some cheer today.

I deactivated my Facebook account this week. I need some good ole alone time and technological detoxing. (She said as she typed her blog.) My friend called me and said, “You have to get back on Facebook. Esther is looking for you. She’s having surgery this week.”  Whoa. What? Esther’s birthday is this week. It must be serious.

So, I reactivated my account and sure enough, her status said, “Billie, where are you? I need you.” I sent Esther a private message and she let me know she was having a full hip replacement and would be in the Blackfoot hospital. Uncanny. I had a meeting in Blackfoot tonight, so it was perfect timing for me to visit.
I met Esther when two of her kids went to the school where I volunteered. She is a proud mother of a whole herd of grown kids and reminds me of my mom. Her love of her kids is palpable, and her energy has always been soothing and uplifting to me. Esther was widowed unexpectedly a few years ago and her life was turned upside down. I know that many of her days are weary, but she summons a strength from somewhere and perseveres.  You do that when you have kids and grandkids. Ya just do.
My friend Krystal (who’s going to get her own entry) went with me tonight in a cow suit, too. It was zen to see Esther’s face as she recognized the cow print way down the hospital corridor trotting toward her. That smile. That sweet mother’s smile.  I think it did more for me tonight than these silly udders and ears could have possibly done for Esther. I love that she was willing to don the ears and horns for a picture. LOVE. 

When I got my phone back to see the photo. It struck me how much she looks like my mom. I only have a handful of pictures of my mom because she never let people take her picture. For heaven’s sake, Moms! Let your kids take your pictures.  

 I’m so glad Esther reached out for me to come visit her. I hope the heifers helped her on her path to healing. She helped me on my own path tonight. Thank you, Esther and have a Happy Birthday!



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11: I was in a cow suit

My mother died the January before. I quit my job in May and had just enrolled in graduate school full time to finish my MBA.  All of my classes were in the evenings so I had my days to study or exercise or just be. 

I was raising money for my fifth American Lung Association “Sawtooth Pride” bike trek through the Sawtooth Mountains of central Idaho. The 3-day ride began that year on Sept 15 in Fairfield Idaho and ended at Banner Summit past Stanley. I spent a few Saturdays at the Farmers Market and Albertson’s peddling my road bike setup on a trainer. In a cow suit.  I assembled a team with my friends Bobette and Serena and we called ourselves C.A.L.F. – Cows Against Lung Failure.
My friend Maryjane worked the donation table and loved wearing the cow suit. After leaving one of our fundraising stations that summer, we noticed this window painting and HAD to stop.

I began my day on Tuesday, September 11, in my cow suit. I set up my bike trainer at Mocha Madness next to my donation card table.  I went inside to get my usual coconut latte (back when it didn’t matter if I started my day with a 700+ calorie beverage) and the TV was on showing the plane hitting the first tower.  I stood there slumped in my cow suit staring up in awe and confusion.
After getting my latte I went across the street for a bagel. I was getting breakfast for me and my pal Maryjane and her mom before they headed to school. Maryjane’s mom had just begun her job as a school principal at the area’s only charter school, and I couldn’t imagine what she was going to tell the kids. I was Maryjane’s age when Regan was shot.

The cow suit glee I’d begun my morning with wrestled with the TV images as I entered the bagel shop. Their TV was on, too. There were more people in here and as the seconds passed and the second tower was hit, my glee relented and a somber took over. I took off my hood while I waited for my bagel, and couldn’t wait to get out of there and out of my cow suit.
Maryjane and her mom drove up as I was de-cowing in the coffee shop parking lot. They hadn’t yet heard what was happening. It was hard to describe because no one really knew at that point, but we knew it was bad. Maryjane had lobbied to stay home from school the day before to cow with me, but she didn’t want to leave her mama’s side now. I was missing my mama, too.  

I stayed through the morning peddling next to my card table and coffee can. I draped the cow suit over the table and had brief conversations with customers throughout the morning. People were generous that day.  Tragedy does that.
It’s such a juxtaposition in the midst of tragedy as the sadness and fear are invaded by hope and gratitude when strangers help each other. Our generation will never forget 9/11, but we seem to constantly forget that it’s possible to be that kind, helpful, generous, and united ALWAYS—not just in the eye of tragedy.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Renew the Moo

Ya know that iconic scene in Rocky where he’s calling out “Adrian!  Adrian!”  … that’s how I feel this morning about my massage therapist.  I’m wistfully limping through the house calling, “Tina! Tina!”  The dogs think I’m nutz.  Damn dogs.

I built a dog kennel pad for them yesterday. This project included the following:
1. Digging and leveling the area to accommodate a 6x10 kennel. And digging and leveling some more.

2. Buying and hauling 15 bags of pea gravel for the base.

3. Getting 78 stone pavers from a friend (while avoiding the earwigs, worms and rolly-pollies).

4. Carting them 10 at a time with my wheelbarrow from the truck to the yard avoiding dog-made land mines because I was too lazy (?) to interrupt my project to pick ‘em up.

5. Swearing a wee bit when I came up short 10 stones.

6. Driving back to the green house for 1 more bag of pea gravel and to Lowe’s for 10 more pavers.

7. Seeing how the new stones are a brighter red and having 2 rows together would make me flipping crazy.

8. One-by-one taking out already laid stones to scatter the newer colorful ones about.

9. Swearing more than a wee bit when I realized that I dug it a tad too low and now can’t open the gate.
10. Avoiding my despair with chocolate covered raisins and beer while Bob sympathizes.

I’m pretty sure one leg is shorter than the other this morning. My femurs are touching my kidneys. My hamstrings are tighter than bow strings, and if my neck & shoulder muscles could speak, their shrill annoying whine would make Fran Dresher’s "Nanny" voice seem like a soothing lullaby.
I just got online and booked a massage for Wednesday. Oy. That’s so far away.

I met Tina two summers ago after a freak accident. I mean… freak! I’d boarded a travel bus with my middle school math club and as I side-stepped into the aisle, I hit my head on the overhead bin.  The swiftness of it caused a pinch and a tear in my epidural lining around the front of my C6-C7 vertebrae in my neck. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I started leaking Cerebral Spinal Fluid (CSF).  I went on about my merry trip to Boise with these kids to kick some math.
I developed a headache about two hours into the trip. I figured it was the just busload of middle schoolers, and as the head chaperone, I needed to have my game on. I scrounged ibuprofen and forged on to the mall, a movie and then the hotel for pizza, boards games in the lobby, and time in the pool.  The headache persisted but I noticed as soon as my head hit the pillow that night, it disappeared. (CSF headaces go away when you lie down.)
I got up the next morning to hit the treadmill. (Good girl!) I only lasted 10 minutes though and decided to just stretch.  I didn’t have a headache, but something in me knew that something was horribly wrong.  I had a couple extra cups of coffee—unbeknownst to me at the time, caffeine masks CSF leak pain—and we boarded the bus for Boise State.
I don’t know how I made it through that day. On the bus ride home, I called a friend who took me to the ER where there were a lot of shoulder-shrugging doctors.
I ended up self-diagnosing the CSF leak after a friend talked about having one after an epidural during her pregnancy.  
The body’s response to a CSF leak is to tighten your neck muscles so you can’t move your head easily. With no cushioning fluid in there, you can give yourself a concussion with the slightest of head turns. My neck was sore and immobile At one point, I had lost so much fluid, that I could feel a tugging behind my eyes which was my brain sinking due to so much fluid loss. EWWWW! 
The ordeal lead to three ER trips, a cortisone shot in Idaho Falls when they thought I had a dislocated disc, four days in the hospital in Pocatello, seven days over two trips to the University of Utah hospital, six blood patches and missing NINE AND A HALF weeks of work.  (A blood patch is where they draw blood from your arm and then inject it at the sight of the leak so it will clot and clog and allow it to heal.) Suddenly middle school math seemed more dangerous than college rugby.
When we got the leak sealed and I returned to work, I still had a headache.  It wasn’t the debilitating leaking-spinal-fluid kind, but it was still severe and interrupting my life. After five months of head pain, three different friends suggested I see a massage therapist named Tina Clayson.
I had a massage therapist I liked, but as they described Tina's treatments, I relented and scheduled an appointment. 
The things she did to my neck and my jaw rivaled the pain at the worst of my leak. I left teardrops on her little face holder. She said “wow” a lot and told me over and over to drink water after I left and to come back. Yeah—OK. I’ll bring a cattle prod and riding crop with me next time to make her infliction of pain easier.
The next morning when I woke up… no headache. This was my first headache-free morning in over FIVE MONTHS!! I wanted to call my attorney immediately and add Tina to the will.

Ok. Ok. Her stuido is really called Renew You

She renewed my moo!!!!  Wahoooooo!  I see Tina regularly now. She can tell when I’ve been biking. She can tell when I haven’t been stretching, and she can tell when I’ve eaten too many Girl Scout Cookies. She’s like Santa for crying out loud.  The woman is a gifted massage therapist and if you’re in need of a little Moo Renewal… Check out her new yoga and massage studio on the corner of Maple and McKinnlely.