Category Archives: life

Raising Cain

Apple pie with pecan nuts

Grandma made them all aprons as a gift, like they’d one day become domesticated. It just wasn’t in the cards, though, much to their father’s surprise. The troika instead grew into independent non-cooks and bakers who didn’t fastidiously keep house. With better things to do, nary a homemade muffin would emerge from their ovens. 

“If that shit’s going to get done, hubs can do it himself. Make his own damn sammich,” the youngest protested. “He’s got two hands.”

No wonder Mrs. Bray warned her mother at first-grade parent-teacher conferences, “I can just hear her griping at her husband one day.” 

100-word challenge prompt:  homemade

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photo:  Marco Verch via Flickr

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Out on the town

ale

Beside herself with excitement, Teresa’s group stopped at Willie’s for tacos before going to their hotel on her first trip to the state capital for work. 

“I’d like an ice cold beer,” she drawled. “Listen, y’all … this is my first rodeo. All we have for drive-through in Delmar is Windy’s and McDugal’s. Know what I mean?”

A bit chagrinned at her naivete, Teresa’s co-workers stared at their menus, embarrassed. She was all smiles, though.

“Don’t judge! My husband greased up the bars some to let me out for this little jaunt. Otherwise keeps me at home all the time.” 

100-word Challenge: listen

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photo credit: Dennis Sylvester Hurd via Flickr

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Full of something … maybe metaphors

curved road

I find myself coming somewhat full-circle, or perhaps at least semi-circle, on these training rides. Now I feel like I can actually say “training” instead of “so-called training” because doing what I’ve been doing is preparation for what lies ahead this weekend.

Monday, my 52nd birthday, I found myself laughing instead of “riding negative. I had to snicker upon hearing Mike D. rap on my playlist about letting the beat drop at the exact spot where I did that earlier this summer. I fell off my then-new road bike onto the pavement, though it’s been a minute since that happened, and howled at my own expense.

I’ve been learning along the way. First of all, there’s a process to watching what I’m doing instead of worrying so much about what’s going on around me; i.e. the trash on the road that drives me to distraction. Sometimes there’s a price for being distracted.

An overarching lesson I’ve learned is to tuck in the elbows from these T-Rex arms and coast downhill as fast as possible to gain momentum on the next one. I think of that every time I’m trying to surmount an incline and hope to ride out most of it. 

Monday gave me the simple epiphany of, “Don’t look up that hill.” I approached from a slight incline, grasping to gain that extra tiny burst of energy it’d provide, perked my ear up for any oncoming traffic, then braved a corner to slowly creep up to the top of that next mountain (actually, a hill). And I conquered that damn hill for the first time. That’s when I accepted the metaphor for the whole marathon. Just. Quit. Looking. Up. The. Hill. You’ll get there somehow.

Just like Sunday will get here somehow.

I’ve been having fun as well, even if I didn’t think I might at first. My friend and I have learned we can at least laugh at ourselves. Those hills look so much easier from behind the wheel of a car.

The marathon going to happen whether I dread it or not. But I can do it. There’s no use in being afraid of what’s to come. Much like eating an elephant, you take it one bite (hill) at a time. I’ve often used that analogy on my students and now have to own it.  

My favorite part so far has been when I’ve listened for approaching traffic, thinking I’ve heard approaching tires, and then realizing it’s the sound of my own. My own tires and my own power propelling me forward. It’s happened twice, much to my delight. 

While this hasn’t been easy, there’s no EASY button from Staples like I’d wish, it’s gotten easier. Not much in life is easy, but seemingly requires less stress-filled effort with time.

My muscles being stronger, the slow emergence of quads and calf muscles, has made those hills do-able. Monday’s ride through the park was my cool-down instead of the first leg of each short journey like it was back in May.

So in hopes I’m not full of shit, just metaphors, I stare at this weekend full of hope and a little less fear, dare I say maybe even excitement. 

Jimmy Dugan

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Too Close For Comfort & “Dos and Don’ts”

sign picThis big ol’ bike ride looms ahead at September’s start. Even though I’m still obviously a bit freaked out, a sense of either denial or calm is inching its way into my brain. I try not to think about it for the most part but still take a few so-called “training” rides throughout the week weather allowing. Staying out of my own head too much is the seemingly insurmountable challenge. 

My muscles feel a little stronger, which I notice during yoga. Poses are more comfortable to do, and I’m not as sore as usual. Still winded more than than I’d like but not aching.  

Some days feel like, while I’m not back at square one, I’m faltering at maybe square two from just taking a few days off from so-called training rides. Then another day brings what other more athletic people might call being in “the zone,” something I’ve never previously experienced in my lifetime. It’s those last minutes when I’m nearing the turn into our cul-de-sac and a burst of energy hits me that I can retake the two hills I’d first sucked wind on that morning. A Jonny Cash tune kicks my butt into gear and pushes me maybe just a quarter-mile further but onward nonetheless. 

Those are the same hills that first kicked my ass a few months ago. Now they’re not as difficult to traverse. Maybe I’ve even conquered a few of them. Others still definitely suck. I just don’t want to go on an uphill crying jag in the middle of the MS150. 

bike pic

inertia/picture break

I’ve learned several things through this process. Kezia and I started a list of things to remember beyond the one I began when first blogging about these lessons along the way.

What TO DO and what NOT TO DO:

DO:

Carb load the night before for immediately usable energy

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

DO NOT:

Drink more than one serving of alcohol the night before

Eat spicy or fried foods either (or pay the price)

Eat or drink too much at any of the sporadic breaks

These are all good things to remember! I must also remind myself of the strong women in my corner:

The aforementioned Kezia says she’ll stay with me throughout the 150 miles, but I don’t want to keep her at my eight-mph pace instead of our earlier-attained 14-mph rate. She’s a big moral support regardless of what happens. 

My sister Jeanna sent me a letter reinforcing I can do this since in light of the fact that so far I’ve overcome some snot-rocket-filled training rides and one pretty long stretch with less-than favorable bowel circumstances. 

I also think of my sister Christy and her strength in all she’s done. I’ve never told her how very, very strong I find her to be with all she’s triumphed in doing. Her energy is with me when the familiar scent of Monterey/Carmel washes over me as I pass a neighboring stretch of pines. 

And Mom always stays close to me and my blue heart when thoughts of her fill my head. Her “holy pahzing” came to me UB40 came on my playlist. That feeling reminds me how she was, much like the song says, there right from the start and always will be. A cardinal flying across my path gives me a needed blessing from above (and no copyright issues, LOL).   

 

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Practicing Gratitude

biking roll

“gone biking” note – upcycling style

Music can help keep me going on sucky work days, prevent road rage and potential throat punches, and with this so-called training I’m attempting. I’ve tried not to count the miles so much but congratulate myself for getting back out there each time regardless of how scared I am of the thought of what is soon to come with the MS150 looming now five weeks on the horizon.

My many cheerleaders through songs that pour from my playlist. One of my sisters comes through in the voice of David Bowie’s Modern Love, and I laugh to myself when I remember us mimicking a quick little “bye bye” wave to the lyrics. A friend of mine, Alexis, checks on my progress, and I appreciate her paying attention to this effort.

The focus isn’t me, though, and I try to concentrate on that fact each time I set out in the bike saddle. Joedie is the person for whom I ride, and I remind myself how lucky I am to be able to freely mobilize and build my muscles to reach this goal. It is through sheer luck and grace I can attempt such a challenge when my mind and body may not feel like it. I can, however, physically do it and am should be supremely grateful.

After repeating to my son how sometimes you win, sometimes you loss, I have to tell myself, “Practice what you preach!” Little of each trek is easy, although “easy” is generally what I’d prefer. Pedaling against the wind gives me appreciation for that Irish poem about the wind being at your back. The proverbial sprint down a flat straightaway is nothing compared to the upcoming September marathon

The ride is a lesson in multi-tasking. Staying aware of surroundings to be safe while watching what I’m actually doing, thinking about gear shifts for hills, and considering road surfaces is a tough laundry list. Any pavement flaws, cracks, rocks, debris, and animal remnants/road pizza are all potential hazards.

biking barn

Small triumphs sometimes motivate me. Pedaling all the way up a big damn incline. Not getting stuck in my clips and falling over when I stop. Hearing Bowie’s Heroes makes me think maybe, just maybe, I can do this … even if it’s just for one day and not both. My body works, although it often hurts, and I’m seeming to get stronger. Like my other sister says, it’s more mental than anything, and managing that madness is my biggest stress.

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Flat Straightaways = Easy

Last weekend’s 26-mile ride taught me something that should already be innate knowledge. It’s easier to breathe in through one’s nose when it’s not full of mucus. Blowing snot rockets the week prior became less humorous when done out of necessity. I keep learning on this journey, albeit at a fear of not being able to make it 150 miles in September. The breaks every 10 mile lead me on a hopeful path, but the hills scare me to distraction.

I keep telling myself each small trip will keep building my strength and not to get overwhelmed with thoughts of, “Well, I might be tough but …” I’ll keep going until I can’t, bottom line.

One of the great pleasures of my life has been in meeting some wonderful friends. Just like the Beatles said, we get by with a little help from our friends. These are some brave, resilient, bad-ass women.

Joedie, for whose honor I chose to attempt the MS150 in the first place. She was forced into early retirement way too young because of the disease. Years ago she laughingly warned me how she’d wake up slowly in difficulty while moving first thing in the morning. She’s the same person who, regardless of any physical challenge, helped clean my house before my baby was born. She advised me to take it easy after a surgery, with her first-hand knowledge coming from cleaning her OUTSIDE house windows after having the same procedure done years prior. Family is everything to her, and I hope she has many years left to enjoy them. She is one of the toughest women I know.

My friend, Kezia, mom of a blended family, proves a woman CAN have it all. She juggles her family life with professional responsibilities while honing a balance of the two and grieving the lost her best friend/sister just over a year ago.

Not everyone has the good fortune to have sisters and a niece like mine, three super strong women. Jeanna, Christy and Audra inspire me on a daily basis in everything they’ve endured and overcome. Christy amazed me with her strength in triumphing over health problems the last several years. Days when I’ve felt like a physical wreck reminded me how much of a wuss I was for thinking anything was tough in comparison to Christy teaching exercise classes while going through chemo treatment. Jeanna’s a runner who sticks with her passion regardless of aging’s indiscriminate attempt to slow her down. Audra seeks her adventurous la vida loca with courage I wish I still possessed.

My tribe extends to a family I’ve developed along the way. Alexis and Amy helped care for their ailing parents, served as their caregivers, but have still shouldered the societal judgement of choosing a childless life, which is their right as human beings. These amazing women rise above that nosiness with a class I could never muster.

My oldest and dearest yayas include Dena, Karen and Lisa. The other Karen, left this earth in 2011. We miss her like crazy but carry on our antics as often as possible. These girls, and I can say “girls” because I’ve known these women since we were girls, are part of my foundation and especially important in that regard.

Rhonda and Shelli support their friends even when their own self-care may wane. They’ve nurtured both the physical and emotional wellbeing of many a friend and family member.

My friend, Kay, recently introduced me to her delightful daughter, Jess. This plucky pair has endured a bout Jess had with breast cancer after losing their beloved husband and father. They did so with a style and grace I can’t imagine ever being able to encompass, and I admire them both greatly.

Marci, Shannon, Tina, Amanda, Robin, Amy & Dianne all manage households with smiles on their faces, many of whom lost their parents entirely too young. And, as everyone surely knows, Boy Moms can totally take anything thrown at them.

Another Amy friend searches for a treatment to works for her congenital heart condition while an unsuspecting person would never know there’s anything the matter with her. She’s also a Boy Mom who takes on the mental health care and sustenance of hundreds of high school students in her job and claims to love every minute of it. Who can love their job that much? I’m so jealous of her satisfaction there and the grace and hope with which she accepts the health hand life has dealt her. 

Last but, much like Baby, never ever put in the corner or last in line, is Sandy who motivates me and cheers me on, regardless of my latest hair-brained scheme. She packed her car full of sound equipment and TDed my “Brace Up, Girl” spoken-word showcase in May. Even on her own birthday, she spent the day “working” and called it fun. Not many will do that shit for somebody else AND drive them to the airport at the drop of a hat! Y’all should be jealous of me if she’s not your friend.

These women help enrich my life on the daily. They keep me grounded and grateful with where I’m at in this world. Yet I must also acknowledge those who got me here in the first place.

My mom labored harder than any woman in my life. She literally worked herself to the bone. I heard evidence of it through that grinding in her back with each agonizing step she took in the last months of her life as she struggled to maintain even an inkling of mobility and independence.

sorghum

accidental sorghum patch

The toughest person I will probably ever know was my dad. Beyond working a full-time manual labor job, he broke horses to ride, plowed gardens for people, grew row crops, and raised some livestock from time to time. He took care of that livestock until his cancer-ridden body would no longer allow him his labor of love and wracked his slight frame and he died at the “ripe old age” of only 55 years. I often sense his presence, even if it’s simply seeing a cattle salt lick in a field I pass or an empty cigarette pack that just happened to be his brand, and the love he instilled in me of the outdoors through which I pedal my bike.

Completing a 150-mile ride over two days this autumn is a lofty goal, but I’ll keep going until I just can’t any longer. That’s all I can try to do. The words in my head, “I might be tough, but …” need to stop. I can only try to keep getting tougher, similar to the people I admire.

I just look forward to the point when I can find some riding Zen and enjoy the process. In the meantime, my path makes me smile in rare fleeting moments.

Chicory growing along the shoulder of the road reminds me of my mentor, Bill, who served as a surrogate father for me at a time in life when I needed one. I spy other glimpses in the woods that make me think of my parents and them reassuring me how I can do this.

chicory

Those fleeting times may get me through when the other times suck and I can’t get out of my head. Much like life, this “bike-athon” (what we’d call it back in grade school) will be full of ass-kicking hills instead of the flat straightaways I enjoy so much. Kathy tells me each person’s ride is her own. Coach Cass says she turns on her favorite song and enjoys the day. Maybe one day I can, too.

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Back in the saddle

The firsts just keep coming and coming. Tonight I’m claiming myself an expert in the fine art of snot rocketry after having blown my first two in the entirety of my lifetime. If I were an Olympic judge with this gross performance a qualifying sport, I’d give myself high marks for trajectory and aim. That’s what happens when a person tries to get back at it after a week with a summer cold, no cycling, and then going without tissues the first time back on the bike.

The good news is I always see beautiful things on my rides. Like the neighbors’ flowers. Exhibit A:

1CI stop and smell flowers from time to time, literally and figuratively, even at the risk of not remembering to kick out of my doggone triple-link pedals. Why is it so tough to remember “Kick Out?!”

What I do know is Karma is a big be-yotch, although I don’t usually like to use that turn of phrase. Just seems every time I get all judgey, like mentally berating the a-holes who though similarly enjoying my favorite Lacroix Pamplemousse sparkling water are inconsiderate enough to toss a can along the road. Gravity pulled me back down to earth to check my superior attitude for a bloodletting. The top scrape came from pavement, and the bottom one layered drying poison ivy breakout yet healing there.

Exhibit B:

1A

Laughing helps when I think of my son quoting Napoleon Dynamite asking the bullied kid, “How’s your neck?” I felt like the kid answering, “It stings,” only about my knee and elbow.

My country adventures lead me to ponder the sights and smells. Such as, “Is that mixed leather/Freon smell in the air actually someone cooking meth in the woods?” Being an avid reader, I recently learned how to gauge how much daylight is left by the number of finger-widths of sunlight on the horizon still visible. Riding with my shoes clipped to my pedals doesn’t allow to test that theory, though. (See Exhibit B above.)

I wonder whether the big four-wheel-drive truck’s driver will follow and kill me, or if I can subdue him with mace tucked in my tank top. Such is a woman’s concern riding her bicycle alone at dusk. Men don’t usually feel the need to carry weaponized pepper spray on a ride, do they? Think about that for a minute.

A passing truck has large red letters marking the vehicle as “ANGLER AID,” as we live near a lake, and I consider whether I could need “CYCLER AID” from a similar but non-exist truck in the future. A mysterious man behind the wheel of yet another large 4WD pickup parked in a church lot stares curiously at his phone. Is he still there since Wednesday night service (it’s the Ozarks, after all), is he lost and consulting GPS, or does he simply have a wife who makes it difficult to want to go home? I’ll never know.

Exhibit C:

1D

Not the actual church in question. I saw it during the 26-mile ride & liked the name. (Note the burnout marks from teens doing donuts.) Hurts, don’t it?

Finally, I returned home for my nightly walk with Woody during which I enjoy many gorgeous sunsets. He’s hearing-impaired and can’t see very well but is so patient with my dawdling to pulls weeds at walk time. He waits with bated (and weighted, poor sot) breath at the driveway’s end, his heart seems to explode with pure joy at just getting to sniff the neighborhood. The poor boy is over the moon at getting to go, such simple pleasure at life. I wish I could be more like him.

Exhibit D … for “DOG,” of course

1B

It’s hard to get an antsy pup to stand still for focus!

 

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Let’s Get Fired Up

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The proverbial journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, as the cliche goes, or maybe I should say cog rotation. My fractional journey with new bike shoe cleats to clip into my triple-link pedals. Hell, I don’t even know why they’re called “triple link,” but my hip felt it when I fell over into the yard at first try this morning. At least there’s a lot of padding where I landed. On my body, that is. And in the grass, not the street or gravel, thank goodness. 

An even bigger humiliation came at hearing my know-it-all husband who’s never used toe clips before tell me what to do and then watch me fall. Of course, I could control yelling at him to leave me alone. “Let me do it the way the guy at the bike store (shout out to Stu at “Bike Outlet” in Springfield) told me how to use them!” But I didn’t. 

It being Independence Day brought a mental note how no one was actually shooting at me along the farm road. People ‘round here apparently just start firing their fireworks with the rooster’s crow.

All previously expressed rules still apply. Numbers two and three come to mind immediately upon launching (close your flycatcher and breathe in/breathe out), and following them on the outset remains a prescient warning. 

It’s odd to be my somewhat advanced age and feel my dad’s presence on my cycling route. Funny how pedaling through the country and smelling the cows’ … ahem … leavings will remind me of him claiming, “Smells like money!” Reminiscing on it makes me chuckle now even though it didn’t back then. Seeing a cardinal pop out from behind a shrub, land just long enough on the ground to chirp at me, and then dash away quickly brings me fond thoughts of my mom. Of her darting out just fast enough to remind me to keep going without her. 

I had to majorly talk myself into doing so  during the 26-mile training ride part of our MS150 Ozarks team took last Saturday. As expected, I trailed in dead last but alive. Unfortunately, I skipped the last six miles with the ass-kicking hill at its end after lunch, but that’s okay. I did NOT quit, and no “sag van” had to come retrieve my exhausted butt. 

Surviving that morning convinced me to not only get my Triple Link Pedal system installed, but it also coaxed me into putting down a deposit on a road bike. How sad is it to use layaway at my age? Pretty pathetic, perhaps, but a better way to ease into purchasing a second bike within a year. Even a used one. Having it may just help propel me forward even further. 

So old Black Beauty, as young as she is, gets put out to pasture. Or at least given to the kid to use. And a sleek used road bike will take her place in the near future. Next pay day.  😉

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Today’s topple onto my bum be damned! I’m going to get the swing of this thing. Two walked hills, a thrown-but-fixed chain, and a pocketful of swearing out loud  later, I made it 26 miles last week. All the old disgruntled farmers can honk at me again if they please. I’ll strap a big red triangle on my back and keep laughing at their rudeness. Though I don’t want to keep gauging everything in distances, it was a small milestone for me, especially since only my stabilizer muscles hurt this week. Yoga with a dowel rod soothed my calves, and hip-openers somehow stretched those lats outs southward laterally. 

I’ll keep learning new things along the way. I need to quit worrying so much about all the road litter. Some people are just inconsiderate jerks. I can “give a hoot” and not pollute while trying to follow a new rule of “MYOB,” especially to stay pedal-clipped and upright. I also need to work on other people’s noise not bothering me so much, even though it does. Cycling safety means no earbuds, so letting the birds serenade me might mean I don’t get hit by a passing car.

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Tonight might require a few OTC pain relievers, but that’s okay, because I didn’t take any all week. I just winced if it stretched forward, backward,or sideways. Pretty much winced if I stretched at all. And there’s a big illial/buttock contusion will likely bloom overnight, but oh well! My rotations may be baby steps to others, but they’re big to me. Having the assurance that Mary, the woman who manages the marina near our home where I practice ride hills, will call EMS … or at least roll me off the road, as she laughingly told me … makes me feel a smidge better. I’m gonna get this.   

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Old Haunts

roadway

Travelling up the dirt road stirs feelings almost as much as the frequent stops made along the way. I’d like to look back and count how many were gravel opposed to paved ones, which brought bumps. 

I tripped over big rocks, even a copperhead once, but each helped build and avoid neuroses nearly simultaneously. Retrospect enlightened what got kicked up, perpetuated by inertia, and what circumvented superannuation. 

One lifetime melds into another, that’s for certain, all within a given time span. I’ll be spiking even more boulders before I reach burnout, fade out, or maybe even feel like checking out.
100-word challenge:  DIRT 

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Ebony & Irony

Me and my black bike are still at it, though my own words have come back to haunt me. I told my friend Joedie to go travel as much as possible while it was possible. She has the terrible misfortune to have Multiple Sclerosis. I gave her my unsolicited advice several years ago to see as much of the world as possible, starting with a Las Vegas trip she considered taking. “Girl, go down that strip on your own two feet in case you ever end up in a damn wheelchair” (I’m paraphrasing from memory, here). She’s since taken a couple road vacations  that I know of and seen both the mountains and the beach.

How could I push my opinion off on her like that without heeding my own urging and put my butt on a bike saddle instead of the recliner where it’s usually perched? Now I’ve committed to doing the MS150 Ozarks in September 2019. One hundred and 50 miles in the less-challenging yet still formidable rolling Ozarkian mountains. I now contend perhaps I should be committed.

“Training” is happening, if not at break-neck pace. I use the word in quotes, as I’ve never trained for a darn thing in my life. Past efforts amount to being an athletic supporter, aka high school cheerleader a bazillion years ago, and yogini at present. Yet I continue getting all geared-up for the current biking venture by buying triple-link pedals and gloves yesterday. My new Schwinn helmet came in the mail, too. Prince could have gotten me the old  purple one, partying like it was 1999. It WAS 1999 when I got it. 

And in case anyone asks or even mentally assumes it (you know what Buttermaker said about assuming, right?), this effort is not just a shopping opportunity. All my sporting exploits have consisted of movie-watching and admiring dudes in various tight pants at Kaufman and Arrowhead stadiums.

More of my soapbox harmony is also back in my throat. Kinda stuck there, as a matter of fact. In Kansas City the recycling community used the slogan, “If we all do a little, we’ll all do a lot.” I chirped that as a mantra or sorts. So now I witness a plethora of discarded trash along my so-called training and began to accept some personal responsibility to my community in this setting. Instead of simply singing “Give a hoot, don’t pollute” ala Woodsy the Owl in my head, I usually find a disgusting plastic bag discarded along my route and collect somebody else’s McDonalds or Taco Bell trash, even a housing insulation package and though of my grandpa and his favorite cartoon when I saw the Pink Panther on it blown away by recent storms.

If we all do a tiny bit, we can all do a collective lot. It starts with one. While I’m blasting my quads and thinking of Flo from the Progressive commercial doing the same, I laugh while trekking down the terrain and hope not to face-plant. Neighbors might wonder about that crazy biking woman and grab their phones in case I need an ambulance. Continue reading

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