Friday, September 14, 2018

Summer's Almost Over, Fading Like a Tan. Vacation Time is Running Out Like an Unplugged Fan.

Seems like a good day to write my books as escapism post for the month of August. Since we were transitioning from Summer fun to cyclocross racing season, I didn't have a ton of time to read, but I still got some good book traveling in with the six books I read. I didn't read any non-fiction in, but I did get a Young Adult book read. So, let's go.

1.) The first book I read in August was "The Leavers" by Lisa Ko. I loved this book. It took me to Upstate New York, NYC and China. It looked at immigration issues at what it's like to be a first generation immigrant in the USA.

2.) "Flight Behavior" by Barbara Kingsolver was the second book trip I went on. It took me to the Appalachians in the near future. It was about what climate change could do to the Monarch butterfly population and to humans as well. It was a scary trip, but it's a journey we're all already on these days.

3.) My third book trip was "My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She's Sorry", by Frederik Backman. He's also the author of a "Man Called Ove" and if you haven't read that, you definitely should. Anyway, this book to me to Sweden and to an apartment building full of lovable freaks - my favorite kind of people. If you want to read something that gives you hope for humanity, I suggest you go visit this novel.

4.) "The Story of a Marriage" by Sean Andrew Greer was a beautifully written novel that took me to San Francisco after WWII. It talked about what war does to people and the kinds of choices people had to make during that time.

5.) My fifth book was the last book in Jane Smiley's trilogy, "Golden Age". It took me all over the place from 1987 through to the future, but mostly it centered around a farm in central Iowa. It wasn't as good as the first two books. I also wish she hadn't tried to predict the future in it. She was so good at her past pop culture references and now that some of what she predicted for the future has become the past and the present and her predictions are different than what actually happened (is happening), it really took me out of the novel.

6.) My final read of August was one of my favorites. "Eleanor and Park", by Rainbow Rowell is a Young Adult book that I wish had been around when I was a young adult. It takes place in 1987 in Nebraska and tells a really sweet high school love story. It's the kind of novel that I'll want to travel to again and again.

So, now that we're already halfway through September, I've already read some great books that took me to interesting places this month. I'm excited to see where else I go.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

But I Gotta Break This Bad Habit. Can't Take This Bad Habit No More.

When I was in junior high, as you can imagine, I was hilarious. I used to do this thing where I would stretch my face back with my hands, because it was funny, and it made my classmates laugh. When my teachers saw me do this, they all told me that when I got older, all the wrinkles it created would make me regret doing that. They were wrong. Stretching my face out here and there when I was in eighth grade had way less to do with my wrinkled skin in my 50's, than tanning when I was in high school and college did. Of course, back in the eighties I had never heard of sun screen, and we used baby oil, so we could really fry. And while the wrinkles are an annoyance, the never ending patches of precancerous cells developing on my skin are WAY more troubling.

Now that I'm much older than my teachers were when they warned me that my actions in my youth could have a bad impact on my (long past) middle age years, I thought I'd amuse myself by listing things I wish I hadn't done when I was younger for the impact those actions have made on me now. I'll also look at the things I'm glad I did when I was younger, because those things are still helping me now.

1.) Since I've already mentioned tanning, I'll mention jerky boys first. I wish I hadn't spent so much time or energy on...Or had kids with guys who weren't all that nice or good for me. My excuse is that my two male role models growing up were either clinically depressed/emotionally unavailable or controlling/abusive. For too much of my adult life, I seemed to go from one extreme to the other. Which, sadly, affected my girls too.

2.) I also wish that I had tamed my sugar addiction when I was younger, because it is still plaguing me now. I know there are many worse addictions, but I honestly love sugar AND it's legal and easy to come by, so it's not even a challenge to try to obtain. I suppose I'm lucky that I don't have type II diabetes...Yet.

3.) I wish I hadn't taken so much Advil in my life. With the migraines, I didn't have a lot of choice, but it has given me dry eye and I'm sure it hasn't helped my kidneys any.

4.) Money. I wish I figured out a way to have more money when I was younger. It's not that I'm bad with it once I have it, it's more that I didn't have enough to raise my girls and alleviate stress from most of my adult life. Some of it has to do with the fact that I had no money in college, so I worked over 40 hours a week and went to school full time and took out student loans I couldn't pay back and then there was the whole jerky man thing - especially having children with someone who didn't help pay for them. So, now I have a husband who makes about the same amount of money as I do, but I'm still paying off things from when my daughters were younger.

On the positive side. Here are some things I'm glad I did when I was younger and that still help me today:

1.) Running/playing outside. I'm glad I picked up my running addiction when I was 10. It has kept me healthy and strong physically, but it has also saved me emotionally. It's definitely helped my self-diagnosed ADHD too. It sure hasn't helped my feet any, but I guess ugly feet is the least of my problems at this point.

 2.) Keeping a journal/working on my issues. I have overcome a lot of shit in my life. When people tell me to "get over" things, I have to roll my eyes. I've never known anyone to be able to "get over" something. I have to work through things and it can take a long time. Keeping a journal and figuring out what my issues really were, and then finding books to read about them, made it so I could work through many things. Of course, I will be working on some of those things for the rest of my life. I'm up for the challenge.

3.) Not smoking. I have been lucky enough to never to have acquired a smoking habit in my life. I would probably credit my brother and my mother for that. Since my mom died of a stroke at 43, I've had that hanging over my head since I was 10 and then once when I was in junior high, I went to a party and my brother walked me home afterward. I told him that I had smoked a cigarette, thinking I was kind of cool for it. He basically lectured me the entire walk home about how exactly UNcool it was to smoke. So, except for a few times where I tried to smoke part of a cigarette for laughs when I was drunk in college, I never had that nasty habit. Which is good, because if you know me at all, you know that I'm not good at kicking my addictions.

4.) Reading/educating myself. I was lucky enough to grow up with nerdy parents. Everyone in my house read, and read voraciously. I hope to keep educating myself as long as I live. It calms me and it's great escapism. It's gotten me this far...

So, for the most part, I've been very lucky about the things I've done in the past. For the most part. Who knows what will kill any of us, but I wouldn't want to live forever anyway if I couldn't learn how to be happy and (mostly) centered. How about any of you? Were there things you did or didn't do when you were younger that affect you negatively or positively today?

Monday, September 10, 2018

Why Worry. There Should be Laughter After Pain. There Should be Sunshine After Rain.

On Friday I got some good news. I went for my breast cancer check-up and mammogram and everything looked fine. My surgical oncologist said that I shouldn't have to meet with her again, unless my situation changed and so after two years, things are looking up.

Of course, I was a little scared the few days before. I know that was stupid. My breast ultrasound was fine in February and that is more sensitive than a mammogram, but sometimes I can't help but worry. I've gotten much better about not doing that. You know that thing. When I was younger I used to create all of these bizarre scenarios in my head. The bad kind where you imagine the worst possible thing that could happen and then you try to imagine how you'll react. I used to think that by doing that, I would be prepared for anything that would come my way. It was so dumb. What I really did was make something happen in my head, when half the time it never occurred in my real life, and when bad things did happen, they were never like I imagined them.

So, now every once in a while I worry and create stupid scenarios in my head, but generally, I try not to obsess on what bad things could happen, but instead put all my energy in what is really go on right now. It isn't always an easy thing to do...

Thursday, September 06, 2018

This Train is Bound for Glory, This Train

Sooo, I thought I'd do a race report from this weekend.

I raced at Cannonball CX this weekend for the first time. The race has been going on for the last couple of years, but I was recovering from breast cancer surgery the first year, and I had a bad cold last year.  Then this year, I finally got to race it. Yea!

It was a little muddy when we first got there, and I am a big scaredy cat, so there were several things I was afraid to ride. I pre-rode the course a few times and found the guts to ride a couple of the features I was initially afraid of, but not all.

There was a great group of women riders, with some strong talent from Minneapolis. There were also a lot of new Spin Devo women who were fun and tough too.

Now, I'm going to talk about the things I love about CX. Because, let's face it, I am never going to win the Cyclocross Olympics, or very many races at all for that matter. So people have asked me why I do it. Cannonball CX was a prime example of why I race cyclocross.

Like I said before, I am, as John likes to say, an overly cautious old woman. I have to fight myself again and again to get up the courage to do certain things. Riding down steep hills in muddy conditions is one of those things.

When I first rode the course, I was terrified to ride down the big, muddy hill, and every time after that on my pre-ride, I would think I could do it, and I would stare and stare down from the top of it for what seemed like three hours before I finally wussed-out and walked/slid down it with my bike in hand.

I started out the race okay and passed a couple of people before I got to said big hill, which I walked down. I was the only woman in the whole field who walked down it. And because I walked it, everyone passed me and I was in last place of ALL the categories of women. I decided right then that if every other woman could ride down that hill, then I could too.

So, when I got to it on the next lap, I took a deep breath, sucked down my "what-if's," and rode down it. Holy cow! It was so easy. Seriously. No problem at all. Derrrrr.

Then I spent the rest of the race trying to catch the other women. I passed some and the rest of them were way ahead of me. I even got lapped by a couple of them too. Which is fine by me, because it makes my race shorter and I am still in pretty crappy shape.

Toward the end of the race, I took a $2 bill hand-up, put it between my teeth, and came into the finish looking classy as hell...Or whatever.

I get so many things by riding cyclocross. I'm not winning many races, but I am conquering my fears, and taking myself out of my comfort zone, and meeting really fun people, and playing outside, and most importantly, I'm finding that I'm able to ignore (at least some of) the voices in my head that scream "I CAN'T" at me.

It's also a double bonus that I have a partner/husband who likes to ride bikes in the mud as much as I do.

So, after FINALLY getting to race Cannonball CX, I rate it a raging success for me...By my rules anyway.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Stuck Out In the August Rain. Out in the Cloudburst Again

So, here it is the end of August already and I've hardly written anything on my poor blog this month. Just to show off my lameness, I thought I'd do a quick recap of this month.

Let's start with the fact that I actually raced this month. Weird. I've been plagued with migraines and dizziness for most of the Summer, so I haven't been able to train, let alone race. We'll see if my stupid hormones let me race this Fall at all...

My first race this month was the State Time Trial Championships. Since I was the only woman who did the 40K race (two other women did the 20K race), I not only won my category, I won every female category...By default, but whatever.

We celebrated by having a HUGE breakfast at the Midtown Family Restaurant, complete with pancakes and a HUGE glass of chocolate milk. Apparently, I only race for the excuse to eat all the food.

Later that Sunday, we had our first team dinner at Big Grove in Solon. It was great to meet some of our new team members and to give one of our teammates a hard time. He couldn't make the meeting because he was on his way back from Colorado after racing the Leadville 100. He showed us a photo of him with his feet up and we sent him one back. I love our new racing team.

On the 14th of August, I used up my last day of vacation for the Summer. It was really hot that day, so I went mountain biking in the morning after I FINALLY got my name changed on my social security card.

Playing outside on my bike was a good antidote for having to be practical in the morning. You all know how much I hate to do practical things.

Another thing that happened in August, was that my fat, orange, baby, turned 8. How can he be eight already? Sure, he's big enough to be that old, but he will never be mature enough to be more than a kitten.

I also spent plenty of evenings on the screened-in-porch with an after work beer. Annoying my family by taking pictures of them was just an added bonus.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the funeral of a friend. She was only 55 years old when she died, which was too damn young. She fell down the stairs and nobody found her for a day or two. It breaks my heart.

She worked at the Felton Place Elevator in Dubuque, so they had her memorial there. It was great to see so many friends and my brother and his wife. My friend Emily gave a great speech about her and we all got to hang out after he favorite bar afterward.

On the following day, we went my friend Harriet's wedding. She is part owner of a restaurant called Leaf. Part of the wedding was a potluck. I have never seen so much amazing food all in one place. Holy cow!

I spent a time hanging out with Harriet in the late 90's and early 2000's, so it was nice to see a lot of my friends from that time too.

Needless to say, it was a very social weekend, which was wonderful, but I needed a week of alone time to recover from it.

The students came back to town in August and so the last couple of weeks have been crazy at work. There is a part of me who thinks it's great to be part of the beginning of so many people's adult lives, and then there's the other part of me who just gets tired by the whole process.

I got six books read during the month. The cats and I still love our upstairs reading room and anticipate much snuggling in the coming colder months.

Thanks for the photo, Angy Snoop.

My second race of the month was my first cyclocross race of the year. As I mentioned above, I'm in pretty crappy shape, and it was ridiculously hot and humid last Saturday, so I didn't so very well. Which I have to come to terms with. I love to race cyclocross, and I can't get upset if I'm old, fat and slow.

I got back from the bike race and then had to get ready to go to John's ex-girlfriend's bachelorette party. One of the younger girls I race bikes with thought it was weird that I would go to her bachelorette party, but I'm friends with John's other girlfriends and his wife. Maybe that's the difference between being in your 20's and 30's and being in your 50's...Or maybe I am just weird.

Finally we had a "lovely" storm last Tuesday with 70 - 85 mile per hour winds. It was not at all kind to our garden. We lost most of our sunflowers and some of our other plants. Of course the squirrels and birds were pretty happy when I put all of the heads of the flowers full of seeds out for them.

Sooo, weddings, funerals, bachelorette parties, races, and big storms. Now you all know why I'm too busy to write. As always, I'll try harder next month.

Friday, August 24, 2018

No Such Day As Tomorrow, Only One Two Three Go!

I know I've been bad about writing on here. I've been crazy busy at work, since classes just started at our university here and I am starting to train for my favorite race season, on top of gardening, reading, drawing, painting, hanging out with my family and trying to cook up all of the good food coming out of my garden. As always, I promise to try and be better about writing. Here's hoping...

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

And So It's All the Same to me. I Think I'll Just Let the Mystery Be

The Sedum plant at the top of this photo is what I'm talking about.

The world is a weird place. I like that about the world, but even in my 50's, there are still many mysteries I will never uncover.

One of those mysteries happened a few weeks ago in my front yard. Earlier in the Spring, one of my coworkers asked me if I wanted to Sedum plants. I looked up what they were on-line and said, "Hell yes!"

I planted them right close to the road and hoped the bunnies and deer wouldn't like them. My hopes were dashed when I noticed that the flower buds on one of the plants had been chewed off, presumably by deer. They didn't bother them at all after that until a couple of weeks ago. When we got back from RAGBRAI, the Sedum plant closest to the road was completely gone. Like someone had dug it up by the roots. I thought it must have been an aggressive deer and figured I'd try to get another one to replace it next Spring.

Then last week, I went to water those plants and saw that someone (or something?) had placed the whole plant, roots and all right next to where it had been planted. What the hell? I have no idea what happened. If someone or something pulled up my plant and left it somewhere and someone else who walked by my place, knew where it was supposed to go and returned it? Did a deer take it and in a fit of remorse, brought it back? Was it abducted by aliens, given a rectal probe and then dropped off back where it was taken? I may never know. I guess some mysteries of the universe won't ever be solved. Weird.

Friday, August 10, 2018

We Slide, Slide. We Slide Into the Light

Let's do a traveling through books post today, okay? During the month of July I got to get out of town a bit and STILL travel through books. It was a good month for me.

In July I read seven books. Two of those books were considered non-fiction. That's pretty good for me.

1.) The first book I read in July was "More Tales of the City" by Armistead Maupin. It wasn't quite as good as the first book, but it's still fun to travel to San Franciso in the late 70's. I believer there are seven in this series, so I hope to read all of them eventually.

2.) My second book trip was "Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine" by Gail Honeyman. It takes place in England and it's a look at a woman who is on the spectrum and had a horrible thing happen to her in her childhood and she meets a friend who helps her see the world differently. I like this book more than I thought it would. I thought it was sweet and hopeful.

3.) The third book I read in July was "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly", by Anthony Bourdain. I had never read him before. I have many friends who worshiped him. So, after he died, I thought I'd check out what he had to say. I worked in tons of kitchens, bars, and coffee shops in my adulthood, so a lot of what he said struck a chord. Yes, he was a bit pompous and he admits that about himself, but mostly I found him endearing and entertaining.

4.) The fourth book I read was a reread. I originally read "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou when I was a kid, and it has always stayed with me. I've heard her read two times. The first time I went to a reading in San Francisco in 1986. It was at a small library and I got to speak to her afterward...Or I tried to anyway. As she held my hands in hers, all I could spit out was, "I can't even begin to tell you..." And then couldn't finish, so she said, "I guess you can't". I tell that story all the time and it always cracks me up. So, this book was a trip back in time to when the story takes place and then to when I first read it as a kid and then to when I went to her reading when I was 21. So many layers of trips and lives.

5.) My fifth book was "Mrs. Fletcher" by Tom Perotta. I thought it was a great read. It was about sexuality and how it is changing with the times in general, but how it changed for a divorced mom who is a recent empty-nester specifically.

6.) The sixth book I read was "The Mothers" by Brit Bennett. It is about a girls who's mother kills herself and how it changes how she looks at life and the decisions she makes based on what she thinks her mom would want her to do. It takes place in an African American community in San Diego. It made me want to go see the ocean and miss living in an urban area.

7.) My last book in July was David Sedaris' "Squirrel Meets Chipmunk: A modest Bestiary". It was basically Aesop's Fables for adults in the 21st Century. It was dark and entertaining and it was good Summer reading.

I won't be travelling and reading books in cool places this month like I did last month, but I will still take fun book trips from the sanctuary of my own home.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

I've Got to Admit It's Getting Better. A Little Better All the Time

Well, I guess I suck at Blogging lately. As always, from now on, I'm going to try to be better. I still have to get my RAGBRAI photos together, so I'll just let you know what I've been doing since RAGBAI.

John caught a bad Summer cold pretty much the day after we got back from RAGBRAI, which I caught from him a few days later. It sucked. The only good thing about it was that I had an excuse to hang out on the screened-in porch drinking tea and reading until I fell asleep with a fat cat on my lap.

 As I started to get better, it was Archie's turn to feel crappy. Last Friday he had to go to the vet and get his teeth cleaned and also have some blood work done. His blood work all came back great, but he came back all messed-up. Poor guy. The vet assistant said that since Archie was so fat, they couldn't easily find a vein, so they had to shave his legs. I guess better them than me...She also said the procedure was harder for him too, since he was so big.

Anyway, he came back from the vet and was totally out of it and was just lying around the house not getting into any trouble at all. I knew he wasn't feeling well because he was so well behaved.

On Saturday, I still wasn't up for running or riding and it was really hot out, so John suggested we buy some inner tubes and go back to Manchester, so we could just float down the river for a few hours.

It was the best idea ever. We had such a blast, even after we made fun of the mural.

The river was full of families and kids and they were all so nice, even when I accidentally bumped into them when I couldn't control my tube in the rapids.

This was my view and it was amazing.

After we floated, we went across the street and checked out the Franklin Street Brewing Company.

It was so cool. The beer was good, the bartenders were fun and friendly, we had jalapeno cheese curds, they had board games to play and did I mention they had jalapeno cheese curds?

The next day Archie was finally feeling better. He could even jump on things without falling off of them. But his shaved arm still looks hilarious.

I spent a lot of time at home on Sunday, reading books, working in the garden and making tons of food.

Since it was still pretty warm out and I was feeling a lot better, but not enough better to ride very far, John and I rode bikes to the beach at Sand Lake and back.

The scenery was very nice there. Ahem.

We returned home and ate the food I made - tostadas with refried beans and pico de gallo salsa and guacamole.

Since I was finally feeling better, and John did such a good job of taking care of Archie and myself the past week, I asked him out on a date to St Burch Tavern for seafood and cocktails. We sat at the bar, which we like to do. Then we were going to go to the rooftop deck at Joe's Place, since we had never been there before.

So, I texted the girls to see if they wanted to join us. Stinky was just getting off work at Micky's. She asked me if I'd order her some cheese curds and she came to meet us at St Burch's.

We headed to the rooftop deck next and waited for Coadster to show up.

Before she got there, we encountered a sudden downpour and headed inside and downstairs.

Stinky suggested we play darts. Coadster finally got there and we commenced to playing. Which means that I commenced to losing.

We made it home before 9 o'clock, because we're old and need our sleep. Later I thanked John for sharing our date with my daughters and he told me he loved hanging out all together as a family. To which I said, "It's probably nice for you to have people to make fun of me with". To which he answered, "Duh."

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

I Feel It in the Air, The Summer's Out of Reach.

Hey, Kids! Did you miss me? I'm just doing a quick little photo post today. My friend Sarah D. came to visit us last Friday and took a bunch of photos. So, I got to check out how someone else saw my life...And ride a little bit of RAGBRAI on Saturday with her. With the exception of the top black and white photo, this post will be all of Sarah's pictures that she took while she stayed with us.

This first photo is pretty much spot on. I am always saying things and John has no idea what I'm talking about. I get that look from him a lot. Poor guy.

Apparently, I'm still talking and John is (fortunately for him) going deaf in his old age and can't hear what I'm saying.

Wow. Still talking. At least the rest of my family knows how to shut-up and smile for the camera...Even the grandpuppy.

Here is my reading room. It is the only room in our house that has air conditioning, so it's the perfect spare bedroom for guests in the Summer. It's also a wonderful place to read a book before bed. My haven.

Here is me, trying to get the blighted leaves off of the tomato plants. Luckily, I'm still getting tons of tomatoes, but I am annoyed by the late season blight all the same. I have many batches of pesto to freeze and tons of fresh salsa to make in the next couple of weeks.

Finally, this guy was needy and waiting for us after RAGBRAI. He was well taken care of while we were gone, but nobody is going to put up with his crap and give him as much attention as we do. Sigh.

As I often say, I am not a big fan of Winter, and Fall is just okay. So, I will relish the last days of late Summer and get as much as I can out of them.