Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cleaning the Wound

One thing that I'm struggling with is how to grieve....I've read in the professional literature, and others have shared, that you can't distract yourself or run from your grief. Feelings that are buried will resurface later, probably by coming out in other, hurtful ways. Everyone says I have to face my feelings, work through the pain/anger/guilt/shame/loneliness/etc. Only by exploring and expressing my feelings will I begin to heal and learn to live with this pain.

My question is -- how much do I have to make myself do this? I've taken the greater part of 2010 off work and I've done (and am doing) everything I can to try to face this head-on: one-on-one grief counseling, a support group, reading books and websites, blogging, private journaling, trips, spending time with friends and family and talking to them informally about this, time alone, crying, staying in bed for days on end, binge eating (okay, that one probably isn't a really "head-on" approach), doing things we enjoyed together, yoga, running, moving to a warmer climate, spending more time with nature, praying, talking to Brian, screaming until my throat is raw, etc. I don't know what else I can do to face this and heal. At some point, I wonder whether doing these things more than I already have is redundant or even harmful to my healing process.

Sometimes, I'll have a string of good days, or even a good week or two, then I go to a support group meeting or I do some writing, and I come crashing back down. Is that really helping? I have been told that every tear helps you heal -- but really? How can something that feels so bad be helping?

I've been likening grieving to one of two things: 1) cleaning an infected wound, 2) a really hard workout. Both hurt while you're doing it, and probably for a time after, but both really are helpful and healthy for your body. I'm putting my heart and soul through boot camp and debriding and redressing the emotional wounds, I guess.

I think as long as it hurts this much, I'm not where I need to be. If it still hurts this much, I'm still very much in the thick of grieving and I'm not to the point where this is integrated into my life. So I suppose these things, painful as they are, still are helpful to me. It's just that they hurt so much before I feel better.

I'm just getting tired of the pain, of knowing I have to make myself feel these terrible things. I could turn and run from them, but I know that's not best for me in the long run. So I keep making myself do things that are hard, that I know will make me cry, that will evoke strong negative feelings. I have to clean the wound and do my ab work.

Someday, I will be fit to live a happy life again, with a heart free from festering emotions. It will just take a lot of perseverance, work, and time.

Self-Inflicted Punishment?

The other day, I went for a run. As often happens, I started to get tired on the backstretch. Like always, I powered through to the end. I remember looking at my Garmin wrist unit when I started to get tired, and at that point, I still had about 1.5 miles to go. That can seem daunting when you're already hot, sweaty, and tiring, but I also know it's something I've done before and can do again.

To keep myself going, I thought, "Just keep going. Put one foot in front of the other. Pretty soon a quarter of a mile will pass, then a half, and so on, until I get my 4 miles in." I know I've written about this before, but this is a little different than the usual running posts.

I started thinking -- as I've expressed -- that my life from here on out will be like one long training run. It will be hard, it will seem long, and there will be times when I have to actually tell myself to keep going, keep taking it one step at a time, and that I will need to motivate myself to not give up. But there will also be times when I hit my stride, when a nice breeze comes along to cool me down, and when I feel strong and accomplished. I wish I'd gotten a life that was a Caribbean cruise and not a long distance training run, but those are the cards I was dealt.

I starting wondering, "Why? Why did this happen to me?" There are all kinds of theories floating around about fate, karma, religion, a creator, reincarnation, etc. I can't claim to know who is right and what ultimately determines certain events in our lives. Clearly, there are things beyond our control. If it were up to me, Brian would still be here. I know we don't entirely control our own I started to think about the reasons for the events that happen in our lives that are most definitely beyond our control, like death, illness, and other's actions.

Why was I chosen for this life? Am I being punished for things I did wrong in another life? Things I did wrong in this life? Is it because I am strong and I can handle it? Is it because I am supposed to take this tragedy and use it to help people? Who? How? Did God (or whoever is in charge of these things) see that I've run 3 marathons, put myself through college with 2 majors in 3 years, completed the 3 years of hell that is law school, and taken 2 bar exams? If so, I'm sure "God" thought I actually enjoyed punishment and torture and was probably "rewarding" my apparent self-loathing with the worst form of torture and pain imaginable. Did I unwittingly sign myself up for this by continually biting off the most I could chew?

I guess I'm finally hitting the pity-party, "Why me?" stage of the process. I didn't want to do this; I wanted to grieve with admirable strength and grace. I thought I was doing that, but now I feel like the mask is coming off, the wheels flying off the wagon.

I'm angry. I thought we were doing everything right in life. We worked hard at our jobs and our marriage, we gave money and time to charity, we tried to be good friends to everyone we met, we enjoyed life. Why did this happen to us? To Brian? Why not me? I don't get it. I'm sure part of this is because of the way he died -- there is no explanation for the blood clots that went into his lungs. Such a terrible, unpredictable, and rare tragedy. Why did God put such a brilliant mind, loving heart, and joyful soul into a body that was doomed to fail? A serious design flaw, I have to say.

Now, for me, the one who lives with the guilt of survival and the pain of loss, the hard work continues. I thought we'd reached a point where the hard work was over -- we had stable jobs, had adopted our cats, our marriage had hit the 5 year mark and was better than ever, we were starting to amass some savings, our social lives were in full swing, and we were casually discussing children (though our biggest reason for not jumping into that was that we didn't want to change anything about our blissfully perfect lives -- I know, it was sickening how happy we were). Sometimes Brian would talk about wanting a bigger house or something of that sort, and I would always tell him how blessed we were. We had each other, our health, we loved our cats so much it was ridiculous, we had best friends that lived nearby and visited often, we enjoyed great wine/food/music/company, we were fortunate enough to go out for a "nice" dinner pretty much whenever we wanted, and we did enjoy those luxuries. Quite simply, we were in a very good place. I was on cloud nine, and I counted my blessings aloud. Did God hear that and think I was gloating, or that it had been too long since my last life challenge?

For whatever reason, I'm now facing the trial of my life. The cruel irony is that it's the first time I've had to face a hurdle without Brian cheering me on from the sidelines, or picking me up when I fall. I've never had to face anything really difficult without him. I'm not alone -- there are others in my life who are helping me along the way, of course -- but it's not the same without him. Who do I hug when I cross the finish line of this journey? Oh, wait -- there is no finish line. This is a challenge, a pain, a process, a label, a scar that will be with me my whole life. I guess, then, I'll get to hug Brian at the finish line.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

One is the Loneliest Number

I realize my posts have been negative lately, and I have to admit, I'm at a low point right now. The grieving process brings ups and downs -- not really "ups," but times that aren't so bad, and then those that are. It's a bit of a roller coaster, and I'm the bottom of a hill right now.

Lately, I am just feeling very "alone." I miss having someone in my day-to-day life -- saying "Good morning," "Good night," and "I love you" every day. I miss sharing my bed with someone. I miss having company in my day-to-day boring activities like cooking and watching TV. I miss the texts and e-mails Brian and I used to exchange during the day. I miss having someone to tell about everything I do in day. In short, I'm flat out lonely.

Don't get me wrong -- I have great friends and family here, and it's not something that would be any different if I was in Iowa (though having the cats would make it better). This isn't about needing to spend more time with friends or family -- I see plenty of people and do fun things. This is about my living situation -- at the end of the day, I am sad to be going home alone to an empty, quiet, lifeless place.

In my support group, the leaders and members talk about how we all have to find "a new normal" for ourselves, as life will not be the same without the ones we've lost. I think this is especially true when, like me, you've lost your entire nuclear family. Of course I still have my parents and my sister (not to mention Brian's family, with whom I am very close), but the fact is, Brian was my family. It was the two of us that shared a home and a life for the past eight years (I'm starting from when we first moved in together in 2002). It was us who became "parents" to Picaboo, then Ellie, together (incidentally, he was the first one to start calling us "Mommy" and "Daddy"!). It was the two of us who picked out furniture, paint colors, etc. together. He's the one I vacationed with, went to weddings and parties with, and planned for the future with. That is all gone now. My little family is no longer.

I'll be back in Iowa soon and will be able to see Picaboo and Ellie again, and I can't wait for that. Thank God for those cats. I know they can't talk and they don't actually watch what is on TV, but at least there will be another body in the room (I almost wrote "another person"!). At least I will have companionship, someone to talk to at any time of the day or night, about anything or nothing. At least someone else will be in my house, making noise and making things a little more interesting.

And let the "crazy cat lady" comments begin...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Man of My Dreams

In trying to help me deal with the difficulty of the six month mark, I again turned to self-help books on grief. Back in February or March, I bought a whole stack of books about loss, grief, widowhood, coping with tragedy, and a few with the "everything happens for a reason" theme. I've been reading these, along with books others have given to me, at my own pace. Sometimes I'll be a voracious reader, sometimes a month or more will pass without me turning a page. I do what I feel I can handle or that will benefit me, but I know I want to get through all the books. Even if I only glean one or two "takeaway" lessons from each book, it will be well worth the time and money invested. I need to arm myself with whatever lessons and advice that rings true; I need anything and everything to get through this, and books usually offer some sort of good concrete advice, or at least put my feelings and thoughts into words in such a way that I know I am not alone in what I'm going through, which gives me hope to think, "Yes, I will get through this."

Over the course of two days this week, I read Lynn Caine's 1987 book, Being a Widow. Although there were some aspects of the book that were dated or that don't ring as true for a young woman twenty-plus years later, there certainly was a lot that spoke to me loud and clear. In fact, I am going to recommend this group to the widows in a grief support group I just started attended (which I'm sure I'll blog about after I've been to a couple more sessions). I did a lot of highlighting, underlining, and writing in the margins as I read.

One of the chapters of the book dealt with dreams of the departed. Now, I've only had a couple of dreams about Brian. One was early on, in January, and I've had a couple more pop up over the past 6 months. With the exception of the first one, they've been pretty vague. The author recounted her own dreams of her deceased husband and posited that her dreams (which changed over the course of time) signified where she was in the grieving process -- first, she was "searching" for something that she could never find; she believes this represents a searching for her late husband, and the fact that she was not really fully grasping that he was gone from her life forever. In her next series of dreams, she found him, but he was leaving her for another woman -- she figured this to mean that she knew she couldn't have him, but that the reason was either temporary or could be changed. Finally, the dreams reflected her acceptance that he was in another place. Stories of other widows' dreams were in the book, and they also frequently fell into one of these patterns.

I thought about why I hadn't dreamed of Brian much. Come to think of it, I really haven't had many dreams at all in the last 6 months. I wasn't used to dreaming every night (or, at least, remembering my dream every morning), but I know the incidence of dreams has gone way down since Brian died. I thought maybe I wasn't ready to dream about him, and that's why it wasn't happening. I believe the departed can communicate to us and help us heal in dreams, so I put down my book and, through tears, said, "Brian, I'm ready to dream about you again. Please come see me." That night, I didn't dream about Brian, but I did have a dream. I was trying to make a purchase and I had all my money laid out in a stack -- I recall it was around $200 -- and I had looked down or turned to close my purse, and the money disappeared. The whole rest of the dream was spent looking through my purse and all around the place where the dream occurred, searching the countertops, drawers, etc. for the money. I never did find it. I have to wonder if that wasn't my version of the "searching and not finding" dream. I do feel that is where I am -- that I still don't realize/understand/appreciate/accept that Brian is dead and gone forever. He was such a part of my life and my future plans that the core of my being still expects him to be there in the future, even though I understand mentally that he has not been here since January 17, is not here now, and will not be in the future.

Last night, I finally had a dream with Brian in it, plain as day. We were at a mall and were buying video games. We wanted a new version of Rock Band or Guitar Hero. Some of you might know that on our last Friday night together, we stayed up all night playing those games with Hart and Joy, and I'm sure there's a connection there. I know my sister, Laura, and Brian's brother, Jeremy, were there, and it seems like our parents were too. I remember that Laura found what she wanted (though I don't remember what that was) and was talking to some of her friends at the mall, Jeremy got his picture taken and put on a fake magazine cover (oddly enough, it was a golf magazine), and it seems Brian found the video game he wanted. I couldn't find the game I wanted -- the store didn't have it -- so I was looking at video game guitars. I found one I really liked, and was talking to Brian about how the store should give it to me because they didn't have the game in stock. We also talked about how we didn't need any more guitars; we already had enough. I think I left the store empty-handed, and we got on an escalator. We were still talking on the escalator, and found our families at the bottom. I don't remember seeing Brian after we were off the escalator and talking to our families, but I had the sense that he was there. That's it -- that's the dream.

I had a separate dream in which I was talking to someone about how "we" got "our" cat, Ellie. I remember realizing in the dream that I was using those words and that they referred to me and Brian as a couple. There he was again, in the same room as me! I remember realizing that he was back, knowing that I had thought him to be dead, but that that must have been a dream, because now we were together again! That's really all there was to the second dream.

I woke up in a state of confusion. For one, when you get so happy in your dream and when it seems so real to see the person you miss, it is incredibly sad and disappointing to realize it was just a dream. You awake hopeful because it seemed so real -- that Brian was actually physically with me again -- and you realize it was not, and you are alone. Then, of course, I started to think about what the dream meant.

I'm not sure that I'm able to analyze this and glean some sort of meaning after only one night of seeing Brian in my dreams, but I do find it interesting that the dream (again) involved looking for something and not being able to find it. Perhaps there is significance in the fact that I wasn't happy with my available alternatives, either. Maybe this means that I'm not truly satisfied with the things I'm doing to fill the hole in my life. Well, I can tell you for a fact that I'm not. Yes, trips are marvelous, concerts are great, boat rides are enjoyable -- but they aren't what I want. I want my old life back. I want to be back in Iowa, sharing a bed with Brian, watching TV with Brian, planning weekends with Brian, planning for the fantasy football draft as the first lady and hostess of the league, not as the Commissioner (a role for which he was so uniquely suited). I was shopping for that, and I can't find it to buy anywhere. It just doesn't exist as an option anymore. The stores simply don't have it. I can find no currency that allows me to purchase that. I think that is what my dreams mean. I think this reality is starting to slowly sink in for me.

Some of the literature I've read, as well as the feedback from the other widows in my grief support group, suggest that it's still too fresh for me to really comprehend my loss at this point in time. The book I just finished stated that it typically takes even longer to understand loss when the death in question was sudden and/or unexpected. In such cases, the author indicated, it is not uncommon for a widow to take 18 to 24 months to fully appreciate what has happened. Much literature and advice also suggests that the second six months, or the second year, will be harder than the first six months to a year. Sometimes I feel I'm getting to that more difficult point. I know others who were very close to Brian and who are still grieving acutely have said, "It doesn't get any easier. It just gets harder." I think I know what they are saying now. However, I have hope from speaking with others that the "harder" part is also a step in the process and that this stage, too, like the denial and shock that initially came, will pass. Yes, it does get harder, but then it will get easier. I just have to believe that and when the going gets tough, I just have to go back to my mantra: "One day at a time." When that is too much, it becomes: "One hour at a time." Somehow, I always make it through the hour, and the day.

I don't know if I dreamed of Brian because I told him I was ready for him to visit my dreams, or because I'm now further along in the grief process and my dreams reflect that. It could be both. I know it is hard to sleep well, hard to wake up, hard to accept and process things, after such dreams. But I also think it's part of the grieving process. The road to healing may be rough and winding right now, but I know (or at least, have to believe) that it will get smoother, wider and straighter ahead. I just have to focus on taking one step at a time.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

6 month checkup

Saturday, July 17 marked the 6 month anniversary of Brian's passing. I made plans for the day so I would not sit home alone and cry all day, but that might have been just what I needed to do, as that's what I'm finding myself doing now.

I spent the 17th with my childhood friend Erin (not recent Des Moines to Austin transferee Erin, a different Erin), who has lived in Dallas for the past 5 years, and Brian's cousin Jessi, who lives in San Antonio. All day long I felt Brian's presence, both because we talked about him and shared stories, and because of the music that surrounded us all day. We went to New Braunfels (between Austin & San Antonio) and went tubing down the Comal River. On the way there, Erin & I listened to The Avett Brothers, a band Brian discovered perhaps 6 months before he died and that he really loved (he had created two separate Pandora stations centered around the group). While floating down the river, we decided to stop for a while (there are good areas for stopping in the water to stand, relax, have a drink, etc.). There was a group near us with a cooler radio and so much of the music made me think of him. Songs by Stoney LaRue, Cross Canadian Ragweed, and other artists he introduced me to. It seemed like every few songs brought up a new memory. Hearing "Vidalia" by Sammy Kershaw made me think of being back in high school, playing Kershaw CDs while riding in Brian's 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass with the windows rolled down. I loved that car. Big, red car for a big, red guy. :) I could hear the rumble of that engine from 2 blocks away, which was great when he'd pick me up in the morning and not so great when I was trying to slide into the house a few minutes past curfew when my parents were in bed. A funny story about that car -- I remember when I was taking biology and we did blood type testing in class, I had a Pocahontas Band-Aid on my finger where it had gotten pricked. When Brian was driving me home from school that day, I took the Band-Aid off and stuck it on the front of the flip-open ashtray. I told Brian, "Don't take that off." Years later, that Band-Aid was still there when he sold the car.

On Saturday night, Erin, Jessi, and I went to see Bob Schneider at Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas and a legendary place to perform; the place where legends like George Strait, Robert Earl Keen, Lyle Lovett, and Steve Earle cut their performing teeth. Brian is the one who introduced me to Bob Schneider and to old-school country like Sammy Kershaw and the names I just mentioned. How I wish he could see some of the country music venues I've been to here, with all the legends' autographed pictures on the walls. He, more than anyone, would have loved and appreciated the history of the places I've been down here, like Gruene Hall. The three of us looked around inside and then went outside to sit down at a picnic table while the opening act performed. Between songs, we could hear live music from another venue with an outdoor stage. One of the songs we heard just reaffirmed that Brian was with me..."Fire and Rain," by James Taylor. This song is the one that most makes me think of him. It is the first song I remember him introducing me to. I remember he was driving me home from high school in that big old red beast and he told me he wanted me to hear this song that his dad used to sing to him. He told me his mom would play guitar and his dad would sing it to him before bed. He also told me the meaning behind the song, about how James Taylor's friends arranged to have his girlfriend surprise him by flying out to meet him on the road, but the plane crashed and she was killed. I was so touched by the song, and that was also the first time I remember realizing how much music meant to Brian and how deeply he enjoyed it and connected to it. It is no surprise, then, that this song was one that his family and I selected for his service and the DVD photo slideshow we made celebrating his life. I know Brian was with me yesterday when that song played, and he will be with me forever.

I've been reflecting on what the 6 month mark means and I have mixed thoughts. In some ways, six months is a long time. In 6 months' time, I've had friends start dating, fall in love, and get engaged. In 6 months, one can go from not pregnant to very visibly pregnant. One can study for, take, and pass the bar exam. It's a semester of college, and then some. In six months, a newborn will be sitting up, cutting teeth, and possibly crawling. Half a year -- two seasons -- pass by in a 6 month window. I once went from being a non-runner to running a full marathon in 6 months.

Yet, to me, 6 months is nothing. Obviously, my life has changed drastically and more change is ahead. But when I think about my life's path, 6 months' time is nothing, especially considering that I have known Brian for 21 years and spent the last 14 with him as my partner. Think about that -- I am now 29 years old, and have never been in a relationship with anyone but Brian. I don't know how to be, how to live, how to get through each day or the rest of my life without him. I've never been on a date with anyone else, never went to prom with anyone but him (and we did that four times!), never shared "I love you"s with anyone else (in that special way, anyway), never had a lover's spat with anyone else, never talked about building a future with anyone else, never been to a Bears game without him, never watched football and actually cared without him, etc. I went from college dorm living to sharing an apartment with him. Now, I'm alone and I'm just not used to it, frankly. I'm lonely and being lonely just plain sucks. I hate having a sucky life. I hate having a heavy heart and a giant pile of used tissues on the nightstand. I've tried to be so positive, but let's be honest -- this sucks! I miss Brian terribly, I feel like his family and I (and so many others) got cheated when he died. It's not fair. I know, I isn't fair. I know that, but it doesn't make things any easier. Why can't it be unfair in some other way? Please, God -- just give me back my husband and I'll take my lumps some other way -- make me ugly, burn my house down, put me in a wheelchair, strap me down and make me listen to Rush Limbaugh every day, anything else but taking Brian.

I think the loss is so unbearable not only because Brian was my husband -- my partner in every sense of life -- and not only because he was such an incredible person, but because he's been a part of my life since I was a child. I became best friends with Kristin Hart when I was 8 years old. Brian and Mike Hart had already been best friends for four years by that time. We both spent a lot time at the Hart house growing up. I remember those "mean older boys" picking on us -- one time when we were both having sleepovers at the Hart house, the boys set their alarm clock to wake up at 6:00 a.m., sneaked out to the kitchen, got a hot dog out of the fridge, cut it up, and threw it on the hide-a-bed Kristin and I were sharing so the Harts' dog, Bandit, would jump up onto the bed and wake us up! They were always playing pranks on us and teasing us. Our revenge -- which wasn't even intended to annoy them -- was simply being our hyper, giggly selves whenever we were together. Funny how things change when a boy gets a car, a girl gets boobs, and teenage hormones come into the picture...

In short, Brian is the story of my life. Virtually all of high school, college, law school, and my twenties involved (and pretty much revolved around) him. We got together when I was still a child. We liked each other when we were 14 and 16 and he first kissed me at my 15th birthday party. I don't know how to be an adult on my own, and specifically not without him. He has been in my life for 21 of my 29 years, and we were a couple for literally half my life, which is amazing when you consider my age. I think that is why the denial stage of grieving is taking so long for me -- I've never stopped to imagine a life without Brian. I've never known that, and I still don't believe that is where I am. The words to "Fire and Rain" ring true to my disbelief, even 6 months later:

"I've seen fire and I've seen rain,
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end.
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend,
But I always thought that I'd see you again."

Thinking about this, I realize that very few people can identify with this long-term denial and struggle for acceptance of loss. Really, only when one loses an immediate family member, a childhood friend, or a high school/childhood sweetheart is there this profound sense of being adrift and utterly lost that comes from never not having this person in your life. I've never not had Brian in my life, to speak of. I literally only have a few years of memories that pre-date him. It is such a strange feeling to stumble on, knowing I will make memories that don't include him.

At this point, I have made it six months without Brian being physically present in my life, but my memories all still include him. Everything I've done, every decision I've made, everyone I've met, etc. in the last six months is because of him. He might not be physically present, but when I'm listening to live music, on a boat, spending time with family and friends (whether old friends or new ones), it's because losing him brought me here. I'm living out a magnified version of the butterfly effect every day. I know his impact will shape the rest of my life, both in what I do and in who I am.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Catching Up

I've sort of abandoned the blog for a while, haven't I? I guess I've been both busy and distracted, but it is high time to get back into this. I'll start with an easy post and just let you all know what I've been up to.

I went to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with friends June 21-25. It was a very good trip, and very relaxing. There were 6 of us (all adults) in a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo on the ocean. It was actually about 1/2 hour outside the town of Cabo, but it was just great. Our deck overlooked a pool, which was right in front of the beach. The beach where we stayed is the best for surfing in the area, so we could sit by the pool and watch surfers all day. It was really neat. One of the guys in our group rented a surfboard for the week; that wasn't for most of us who hailed from landlocked states (our group included people from Iowa, Colorado, Tennessee, Indiana, and Texas). Everyone did rent boogieboards and flippers one day though. It was pretty cool to be in the perfect place at the perfect time and ride a wave up onto the beach. I managed to do that a couple times and it was great! We went into Cabo a few times at night, by taxi, to go out for dinner and/or hit the clubs. We went to Sammy Hagar's restaurant/club, Cabo Wabo, a couple of nights. There was a live band both nights -- same band, same songs. When they took breaks, the club played dance music and videos. Yep, those were the same too! Our last evening together, we all went into Cabo and had a nice dinner on the beach at a restaurant called The Office. I would recommend that place to anyone who visits Cabo San Lucas -- great food, great wine, cool ambiance! Our table was in the sand. For the most part, though, the trip involved laying by pool and reading. The pool was the perfect temperature to jump in for a dip, too.

Let's see....the 4th of July came and went since I last posted. Our friends John & Julie Aust (John is a friend of ours from Simpson College, and we met Julie at the same time, though she went to Iowa State) visited me in Austin that weekend. We got rained out of going tubing on the river, but still had a wonderful time! We saw an outdoor show at Threadgill's (, my favorite outdoor music venue in Austin so far, by Bob Schneider & Texas Bluegrass Massacre. Many of you know how much I love Bob Schneider! It was definitely Brian who introduced me to Bob (he showed me most of what I know and like about music), but I don't know how he found out about this Texas legend...maybe from his brother Jeremy, when he lived here? How I wish I could ask Brian that....but I digress. While John & Julie were here, we packed a lot in: swimming in Barton Springs; canoeing and kayaking in Barton Springs/Lady Bird Lake; hitting 6th Street (twice!) -- including the infamous "Game Face" shot at Chuggin' Monkey; shopping at the incredible Prime Outlet Center in San Marcos; eating at Chuy's and Rudy's (Brian's favorites); sno cones at Zilker Park; sushi at Uchi, the chichi place to be in Austin; watching UFC fights; live music on 6th; and a stop for chicken & waffle tacos (the taco shell is the waffle) sold from a trailer at 2:30 a.m. It was an awesome visit!

John & Julie left early on the morning of July 4. I spent the day with my friends Erin & Chad (you might recall that Erin lived with me for a month until her fiance was able to make the move from Des Moines to Austin), lounging by the pool in their super-cool apartment. They made teriyaki-chicken fajitas and guacamole and we watched "Team America: World Police." We didn't go to any 4th of July festivities or fireworks -- this was our very low-key "Dysfunctional 4th of July" and I wouldn't have had it any other way! It was great to kick back & relax. When dusk came, we thought we'd head to 6th Street (for anyone who has not been to Austin, Google this! It is the prime bar district, a very hopping place!) and catch fireworks on a rooftop bar, as rooftop bars are plentiful in downtown Austin. We noticed downtown/6th Street was kind of desolate, so we had no problem finding a spot right at the edge of a roof....only to realize that we were about 6 blocks too far east, our view of the fireworks being obstructed by a skyscraper! We laughed it off and had fun cruising to a few different places on 6th Street. It was actually a very cool way to experience 6th Street -- instead of every place and the street itself being crowded and loud, it was quiet and we could actually talk to bartenders, dilly dally in the street without being run into or impeding the flow of traffic, etc. Later on, a high school friend of Chad's who also lives in Austin met us out. He had been out watching fireworks with his dog, and they came out, so we found a bar with outside seating that allows dogs! We ended the night with more Mexican food, from a stand. No fireworks, no bbqs -- just dogs at bars and Mexican food, all day long! Happy Dysfunctional 4th of July!

Since the 4th, I've just been laying low a lot. Brian's cousin Val had a baby shower last weekend, and I went to that and saw all the "Texas Boka" women. I went out for sushi with them later on that night. I also -- finally! -- cleaned out the fridge and did some massive grocery shopping, which included buying sushi to-go from the fish market area of HEB Central Market (I have been on a real sushi kick lately!). I've also been out boating a couple of times with friends, on Lake Austin and Lake Travis. Last Friday, we spent the day on Lake Travis and then went to Carlos 'n Charlies for a beach concert by The Eli Young Band ( That was a great show! I've also found a new restaurant (new to me, anyway, though it is an Austin staple) that is now my "When people visit, I have to take them here" restaurant! It's called The Magnolia Cafe. I had heard great things, and with good reason!

I've also tried getting back into the swing of things on the exercise front, which is good, given all the great food I've been eating! I've been doing cardio workouts and I went for a 12-13 mile bike ride today! This morning, I grabbed my camera and got on the bike, and took some great pictures of the trail around Town Lake, where I run and bike. I went further than I ever have before, though, and finally found where the trail connects into Zilker Park. What an amazing trail system we have downtown in Austin!

Until the next post, happy trails to you too!