The Undeniable Ruth Rotating Header Image

Hair on Fire | Birthday Memories

Last year for my birthday, I asked my friends to send me stories related to our friendship. I spent my birthday taking a trip down memory lane, reading through all of them. This year, I asked some of my friends if I could share their memories with you.

12 Molar Hydrochloric Acid by maticulous from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

12 Molar Hydrochloric Acid by maticulous from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

This final memory comes from Tavys Ashcroft, one of my classmates from St. Vincent High School. I remember this day from Mr. D’s Honors Chemistry class our junior year. (NEAT STUFF!) It was an experiment that required an acid that was so strong that thick white fumes rose from the bottle when you opened it. Mr. D. selected me to be the one who administered the acid, advising me to hold my breath.

Here’s how Tavys remembers that day:

I think it was 10, maybe 12 molar hydrochloric acid (mid-to-high thirties percent concentration). The kind of acid that could ruin your whole day. There was a story about highly diluted test-tube splatter dissolving pants.  

Only one was to be chosen to dispense this liquid danger. Who among them had the implicit trust of the man at the front of the room?

This was a serious production. Lab coats. Check. Goggles. Check. (Put down your strikers!) Notify all nonessential personnel to vacate the area. Do not reenter the laboratory until the “all clear” is sounded. 

Out came the bottle, a surprisingly large plastic jug. Aitch Cee Ell. The cap only just removed and already a fine mist began to appear. And the clock was ticking.

Bench to bench, beaker to beaker, she carefully administered each allotment.  

Slowly enveloped in a faint fog, the room faded away. Out in the hallway, the wafting swimming pool aroma gave way to burning eyes and tightening throats.

She emerged, lab assistant triumphant. The incongruous wisps from her brow a steaming halo of pride and sublimation.

Was it sugar hydrolysis? Did carbon snakes leap from glassware? I don’t quite recall the purpose of the lab (me neither), but I clearly remember the poison cloud and the smoking hair.

During the experiment, Mr. D. asked if I could smell the chlorine. When I said, “Yes,” he said, “You’re burning your lungs.” I probably damaged all the cilia along my respiratory tract that day. Ah, the sacrifices we make for science.

Fun with Stefi | Birthday Memories

Last year for my birthday, I asked my friends to send me stories related to our friendship. I spent my birthday taking a trip down memory lane, reading through all of them. This year, I asked some of my friends if I could share their memories with you.

Ruth & Stefi - January 2012

Ruth & Stefi – January 2012

Today’s memory is from Stefi Green, one of my classmates from ASU Law School. She was a year behind me – a brilliant, young pixie of law student who made me laugh. I love her childlike wonder and enthusiasm.

Here’s what Stefi had to share:

The saga of Ruth and Stefi has many chapters, from the flash mob during finals to the No Regrets Thanksgiving Day Hike, not to mention the infamous couch incident. (The law school learned the hard way that Stefi will throw a fit if the school moves the “Cool Kids’ Couch” and solicit me to help her move it back to its rightful place outsider Room 116.) But among the memories, including inflatable gladiator dueling (she won), gymnastics meets, trampoline rooms, and countless rejected marriage proposals (from her), one stands out as a favorite. I’ll never forget how much fun I had with you when we put on dresses and made snooty people squirm. (Hee hee hee.)

Ruth, one of the things I admired about you from the start was the way you rose above the pomp and nonsense that hung around the law school like a noxious cloud. One particular example engendered shock and awe in this 21-year-old 1L . . . while sowing the seeds for future (and quite gleeful) subversion. I’m referring of course to your disregard for the then-Dean of the law school. I loved the fact that you could see through his puffery and was practically giddy every time you called him out on it.

No Guilt Hike - 2010

No Guilt Hike – 2010

You had many brilliant moments in your ongoing feud with the Dean Who Must Not Be Named. But my all-time favorite was at Justice For All Night (law school fundraiser) your 3L year. First and foremost, every time I got to hear you sing was a treat in and of itself. The fact that you were singing words that I had written was, well, an honor. (Stefi dealt with the stress of law school by re-writing the lyrics to Disney songs to make them about law and law school. She’s really good at it!) I was so proud that you got to showcase your talent as the main entertainment. And we looked DAMN good that night.

The icing on the cake, though, was the fact that we got to stick it to the Dean. It was obvious that the school knew what we were doing – why else did they seat us at a table with Assistant Dean Tom Williams and other faculty members? (Yeah, we had chaperones.) The fact that they couldn’t do anything about it was nothing short of hilarious. And of course, the piece de resistance was when the Dean, visibly squirming, had to say nice things about you . . . and then spend the rest of the evening hearing about how fantastic you were! (Stefi was so proud of herself for that. She had the cheesiest grin on her face all night.)

Another reason I love this memory of us is because it illustrates many reasons our friendship has been so special to me. Your energy, wit, and irreverence (and a million other qualities!) always make you a blast to hang out with. I absolutely LOVED that you would let me be your partner in crime for the harmless stunts we pulled. But most of all, your attitude and approach to law school and life – and your kindness in sharing them with a kid still figuring things out – played a big role in who I am now.

You taught me not to take life too seriously. Even more, you taught me how to rise above the ridiculous airs that people put on and shine on my own terms.

Awh shucks, Stefi!

I love you, you know.

Kissing a Stranger in Vegas | Birthday Memories

Lindsey & Ruth in Vegas - 2002

Lindsey & Ruth in Vegas – 2002

Last year for my birthday, I asked my friends to send me stories related to our friendship. I spent my birthday taking a trip down memory lane, reading through all of them. This year, I asked some of my friends if I could share their memories with you.

Today’s memory is from Lindsey Taeko, one of my gymnastics teammates. I’ve known her since she was six and I was ten. She and our teammate Kyle came to stay with me for the weekend during the thirty seconds I lived in Vegas (that was a dumb idea). They were there to watch our other friend, Aaron, compete in a big meet that weekend. On the night Lindsey and Kyle arrived, we headed out to The Strip. As Lindsey remembers it:

We were wandering the Vegas Strip and you decided, “Hmm, I really want to kiss someone.”  So, naturally, you find a cute guy, stop him on the street and ask to kiss him – and he of course agrees.  I was ABSOLUTELY blown away, such confidence, amazing . . . but it gets better! AFTER you kiss the random guy, you start talking to him and he says he’s in town for a gymnastics competition – OMG. Yes, the same gymnastics competition that were are going to watch the next day . . . but it gets better!

Gymnastics Family at Lindsey's Wedding - 2014

Gymnastics Family at Lindsey’s Wedding – 2014

We arrive at the competition the next day and are sitting in the audience. We spot the random guy from last night and he comes over to say hello.  There’s a quick chat, good luck, have fun, yadda, yadda. Conversation is wrapping up and out of the blue you just PLANT one on him!  I just remember witnessing this entire encounter and nothing phased you – cute guy, kiss him; he says he’ll be in the same place as you tomorrow, ok cool, no weird awkwardness of oh my goodness this was just supposed to be a random spontaneous moment; you see him the next day in public and naturally you kiss the guy again. I was so impressed and wished I had the balls and the fearlessness to do what you just did!

While that was a very silly story – it’s also a perfect example of what makes you Ruthie and why so many people love you and look up to you. You’ve always been an incredibly strong and determined woman. You’re driven and don’t hesitate to go after what you want. And most importantly, you don’t care about what people may think – it’s a cliché, but it’s fitting . . . you dance to the beat of your own drum and you were fortunate to understand the value in this long before most of us did. I feel very blessed that after all these years you are still in my life and I’m so proud to call you a friend.

Awh, shucks Lindsey. I’m so glad you’re in my gymnastics family. You were usually one of the quiet ones, but when you spoke, you had a reason and you were often a voice of sweet sanity for me.

McNary Hall Memories | Birthday Memories

Last year for my birthday, I asked my friends to send me stories related to our friendship. I spent my birthday taking a trip down memory lane, reading through all of them. This year, I asked some of my friends if I could share their memories with you.

My College Senior Portrait - 2001

My College Senior Portrait – 2001

Today’s memories are from Cody Daggett, one of my residents when I was a Resident Assistant at Oregon State University. He was a sophomore when I was a senior. That was probably my easiest year of being an RA – McNary Hall was the official dorm of the University Honors College and my floor had a lot of engineers. They were a fun but responsible bunch.

Here’s what Cody had to share:

It was a dark and stormy night in McNary Hall when the evil RA roamed the halls looks for scared underclasspeople to write up for doing misdeeds. (Don’t believe him. I wrote 1 conduct report that entire year.) She was a sassy one and her name was Ruth Bare Ass Carter. I’m not sure how she got that middle name. (My middle name is Barras – my great-grandmother’s maiden name.)
Everyone was a little afraid of her at first (See – I can be scary) but then Wyatt started with one of his women jokes and got her to crack a smile. Hannah joined in with her lovely British accent and funny American impersonation and the just forced Ruth to like the group more and get rid of her evilness.

Even still, she would roam the halls every night looking for open doors and people to entertain or chat with. I also found myself doing the same many nights. Sometimes she would show off with a gymnastics trick or two or tell the story of how she once escaped from Alcatraz. At least that is how I interpreted it the when she told me she was from San Francisco.

There are three things I remember most about Ruth:

#1 The amazing OSU black and orange blanket that she made for me over winter break. I still have it. (Yay!)

#2 Although never being a Trekkie myself finding myself, getting into Star Trek more and more during nightly readings. (I get horrible insomnia. When I couldn’t sleep, Cody would read to me from whatever Star Trek paperback I was reading at the time until I fell asleep.)

#3 The fun and friendship she brought to some of the best times and friends in my life.

That was such a fun year. The sixth floor of McNary Hall was an awesome group of residents, many of which I’m still friends with today.

Take a Letter Maria | Birthday Memories

Last year for my birthday, I asked my friends to send me stories related to our friendship. I spent my birthday taking a trip down memory lane, reading through all of them. This year, I asked some of my friends if I could share their memories with you.

Dancing with Chris - 2001

Dancing with Chris – 2001

Today’s memory is from Chris Linrud, one of my friends from Oregon State. Although we were both Honors College students, we actually met through country dancing.

Here’s what Chris had to share:

I had been taking country dance lessons for a few weeks when I first met Ruth. (OSU has an awesome selection of P.E. classes for credit – including Country Dancing.) She wasn’t in my country dance class. (I took the class when I was a freshman.) One of the requirements to pass the class was to go to a specific number of dances. I think it was the second or third dance where I first met her . . . I approached a posse of women I knew from my class which included Becky, Kirsten, and Sarah and said hello. I looked out onto the dance floor to see this girl line dancing with a great looking ass in tight black wranglers. “Hmm,” I thought to myself, “I need to meet her.” (A few other thoughts may have entered my mind as well, but I’ll keep this PG). Luckily enough, she happened to be the RA of the three girls I already knew, so introductions were quick and easy. (I promise Chris is not a creepy womanizer. He’s a farm boy from North Dakota and a rocket scientist . . . and a guy.)

Snuggling with Chris at the Dance Hall - 2001

Snuggling with Chris at the Dance Hall – 2001

From there on out, Ruth and I became not only great dance partners, but great friends. There were few Saturday nights we didn’t spend together along with the rest of the country dance crowd. As soon as “Take a Letter Maria” would come on or some other fast cha-cha we would lock eyes and hurry up and get in line. Being a gymnast and also knowing how to follow my lead really well we were the only couple who could ever do all the turns including a triple to the really fast songs. (Chris is an awesome lead. The songs were so fast that I had to go from the triple turn right into the next step. If he didn’t grab my hand at the right moment, I would have fallen on my ass. He never dropped me.) We always seemed to be tuned in to what the other was thinking. When we were catching our breath on the sidelines you could often find Ruth sitting on my lap or curled up in my arms . . . even though we weren’t dating there was a comfort and connection between us that I still remember today. (Don’t get any ideas – Chris married an amazing woman named Stacy and they have two beautiful daughters.)

Whenever I hear “Take a Letter Maria,” I can’t help but start cha-cha-ing in my mind . . .and if I’m alone I may even break out some old moves. However – be careful if you try to do this in the shower – I’ve almost fell over on more than one occasion! (Oh that’s the Chris I know and love.)

I have a lot of fond memories of that time of my life. Out of that crowd she was the only one that was able to attend my wedding and my only regret that night is that we never did do a fast country swing in front of everyone and bring back the cheers we used to get dancing every weekend in college. (Dude – did you forget the applause we got when we schottiched?)

I have so many fond memories from country dancing at OSU – still have my boots and buckle too. I picked my outfits for Chris and Sarah’s weddings around my boots because they are my two favorite country dance leads.

Chris accused me of wanting to share this story just because he said I have a nice tush. That wasn’t the only reason. 😉

Over the Rainbow | Birthday Memories

Last year for my birthday, I asked my friends to send me stories related to our friendship. I spent my birthday taking a trip down memory lane, reading through all of them. This year, I asked some of my friends if I could share their memories with you.

Looking up in the ASU Law School rotunda - I think that's Calleros' office door on the right

Looking up in the ASU Law School rotunda – I think that’s Calleros’ office door on the right

Today’s memory comes from Professor Charles Calleros at ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. He was my professor for Contracts 1L year. His memory isn’t from the classroom, but from a late night at the law school.

In the fall of my 3L year, I attended an evening movie-and-discussion event that was facilitated by the LGBT law club at the school. I don’t remember what movie we watched, but we were all emotionally drained by the end. It was probably close to 9pm when we finished and emerged from the classroom where we’d been meeting. The rest of the building was quiet. Any students who were staying late to study were at the law library across the way.

My friend Stefi looked sad and exhausted, so I asked if she wanted me to sing for her, and she nodded. The middle of the law school building is a rotunda – a round two-story room with a glass dome ceiling that opens out to all the classrooms on the first floor. The second floor of the rotunda has a circular balcony overlooking the room below and is surrounded by faculty offices. The acoustics of this space are absolutely amazing and gorgeous.

Thinking that no one else was in the building, I positioned myself in the center of the rotunda, took a deep breath and started to sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I had no idea that Professor Calleros was working late that night, until I saw him standing at the balcony railing as I started the second verse. As he remember it:

A few years ago, I was working after hours at ASU College of Law, in my office on the second floor, near the balcony that overlooks the rotunda. I stopped working when I heard a beautiful rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” coming from the first floor rotunda, sort of like Eva Cassidy come back to life. I left my office and walked the few steps to the balcony to take it in. It sounded like yearning, a dream, a heartfelt plea for justice. It was Ruth, and it was beautiful.  

As I finished the song, he silently nodded in thoughtful gratitude and retreated to his office. No words needed to be spoken.

Singing with Richard | Birthday Memories

Last year for my birthday, I asked my friends to send me stories related to our friendship. I spent my birthday taking a trip down memory lane, reading through all of them. This year, I asked some of my friends if I could share their memories with you.

Benton Hall - Music Department at OSU (Photo from wikimedia)

Benton Hall – Music Department at OSU (Photo from wikimedia)

Today’s memory comes from Dr. Richard Weidlich, one of my voice coaches when I studied at Oregon State University. (Fun fact: I was never a music major or minor but between my undergrad and masters degrees, I took twelve quarters of voice lessons at OSU.) I studied with Richard my senior year. Voice lessons at OSU are one-on-one classes – it was just him, me, and an accompanist every week.

Working with Richard was amazing. Not only is he a phenomenal opera and Broadway performer, but when he sings or teaches, he experiences the music with his whole body. It is such a joy to experience any aspect of music with him. And did I mention he’s drop-dead gorgeous? As a student, I was perpetually impressed and intimidated by him.

Here are some of Richard’s thoughts from that year:

Music helps us in so many ways, to communicate with more than just mere words, with a power that goes deeper than that. I loved working with you and seeing your voice grow and mature during that year at OSU! I remember your enthusiasm at your lessons and how excited you would get when you had the song down and were starting to communicate it to me. When you got something right, your excitement was infectious! I am hoping that you continue your love for music by singing and working with a teacher again at some point. We learn so much about ourselves in the process, and we stretch ourselves. My grandmother always talked about life-long learning and I now know what she means. It is the answer to boredom and the solution to a life with no purpose!

There is something so special about working with a coach – on any craft. They help you develop your skills; they mentor you through frustrations and they’re there to celebrate victories. I am truly lucky to have Richard as part of my musical family.

Good Night Everybody! | Birthday Memories

REG DoorLast year for my birthday, I asked my friends to send me stories related to our friendship. I spent my birthday taking a trip down memory lane, reading through all of them. This year, I asked some of my friends if I could share their memories with you.

Today’s memory comes from Erika Brown, one of my teammates from Redwood Empire Gymnastics. I trained here for ten years, eight of which I was on the competitive team. When I asked my friends for their memories, a lot of people in my gymnastics family sent me a version of this story, but I think Erika captured it best:

For sure my most vivid memory of you growing up was of you in the gym, walking out the door every night and stopping to yell, “Good night everybody!!!,” and then all of us stopping to respond, “Good night Ruth!!!” It totally brought us together as a gym . . . like it was tradition and for a brief second we all acknowledged the same thing (you!!) as a family! Like when a kid would get a new skill and the whole gym would stop to watch and acknowledge their hard work…it always felt like that! 

Ruth & Erika in Santa Monica - March 2015

Ruth & Erika in Santa Monica – March 2015

I started this nightly tradition when I was fifteen or sixteen, and I don’t remember how or why it started. But it quickly became part of our nightly communal routine – not just for myself, but for the whole gym. It wasn’t a “me” thing but a “we” thing.

Here’s a bonus memory from Erika:

I also remember when I was younger, usually on vault, Rocky would get down on one knee and tell us what we were going to be doing that day and at the end he’d always ask, “Any questions?” and you would always ask, “What’s the meaning of life, Rocky.” And it always just blew my mind!! You’d think I’d have started to expect it, but no . . . every time you asked, inside I was always like “Whoooooaaaa, what IS the meaning of life right now!?!!?!?” (By the way – Rocky’s typical response was to smile, shake his head, and say “Just vault, Ruth.”)

Oh, I love my gymnastics family – so many wonderful memories from that place.

Yoga Review: Yoga for the Rest of Us

I’m training for my fifth half marathon this fall. Since I DNFed my last race and I have a history of leg problems, I’m trying to be diligent about following my training schedule – including stretching.

Yoga for the Rest of UsAnyone who knows me knows that I suck at stretching. It’s so boring! Even in my gymnast days, I was never that flexible compared to my teammates. I was powerful, strong, and I just muscled my way through everything and they would bend themselves in half and take a nap. Every year, my gym put on a show in June – four performances over three days. The team kids were in every performance and we were expected to warm ourselves up on show days. I remember my last show weekend; even with a stress fractured back and sore knees, my “warm up” consisted of two standing back flips – one tuck, one pike.

Now that I’m getting a bit older, I don’t bounce like I used to. I still think stretching’s boring but it’s a necessary evil but my legs and back will thank me for it in the long run. My half marathon training program prescribes a stretching workout once a week, so I’m doing it with yoga DVDs.

In playing to my strengths, for this training cycle, I’m getting a different yoga DVD from the library each week. I hope the novelty of a different workout each week will keep me entertained even if I feel pathetic trying to stretch my ex-gymnast body.

I opted to start slow and easy with Yoga for the Rest of Us.

I’m not going to sugar coat it: this is an exercise DVD geared towards older people. If you don’t mind the possibility that the 60 year-old on the screen might have more balance and flexibility than you, it’s a good place to start. The good thing about this program is no one was a super-skinny contortionist that puts your efforts to shame.

A lot of yoga DVDs tell you that you can modify the poses using a yoga block or a yoga strap; this DVD showed you how to do it with a chair – something everyone has. It was a good stretching workout for getting back into my yoga groove. I definitely felt muscles that I haven’t stretched in a while and I built up a decent sweat during the sun salutations.

Overall it was a good workout for my first yoga session of race training, but I’ll probably need something more challenging in the near future. I’m glad there are super easy yoga DVDs like this because my impulse would probably be to start with an advanced power yoga routine that would make me feel self-conscious compared to the lithe gumby people on the screen.

EDIT: I just found out that the race I was training for was canceled. That’s a pisser. Doing yoga once a week is probably still a good idea. If nothing else, it will help with modeling.

Finding Ripley

Eleven days ago my friends’ dog, Ripley, went missing. Thankfully, yesterday she was found and now she’s home safe again.

Ripley's Home! (Photo courtesy of the Almaraz Family)

Ripley’s Home! (Photo courtesy of the Almaraz Family)

I can’t imagine a how hard those ten days were for Ripley’s owners. It must have been devastating going to bed every night knowing that Ripley was out there somewhere, worrying if she was okay. I am so glad and grateful that she is home.

To this day, I have yet to meet Ripley. I’ve met their other dog Jezebel, but not Ripley, or “Ripples” as I started to call her in my mind when I was out looking for her. I know what it’s like to love a dog and how powerless I feel when I can’t fix her when something is wrong. When I was at work, I wanted to be out there looking for her, thinking that serendipitously Ripley and I might be in the same area at the same time.

There were days I left the office early just so I could drive around the area where she was last seen. I walked around downtown Phoenix handing out flyers and talking to anyone who might see her. I’m pretty sure I talked to more homeless people in the last twelve days that I have in my entire life in aggregate.

Losing and finding Ripley showed me the difference between a missing person in a missing dog. With a missing child, there are Amber Alerts to get the word out quickly. With any missing person, you can file a police report and the case will be investigated. You can enlist the news media to help you. With a missing dog, it is up to you to put up flyers and use your network and social media to spread the word – it’s very grass roots. You hope that people will listen or see and remember your dog in case they see her. Or you hope that someone will turn your dog in to the humane society or a vet’s office where her microchip will be scanned.

Ripley’s owners did an amazing job getting the word out quickly and disseminating flyers. It was because of these flyers that two samaritans spotted Ripley, recognized her, and called her owners. I was so relieved when I got the message that Ripley had been found – a little thin, pretty dirty, very tired, and with a set of torn up footpads – but mostly ok. It was quite satisfying to put my supply of Ripley flyers in the recycling bin. I’m so glad this nightmare is over for this family.