Thursday, October 20, 2016

Now It's Time to Leave the Capsule if You Dare

My first college ID photo.

When I was kid, I had a hard time sleeping. I was always scared because of the Vietnam War being broadcast every night during the news, and the fact that in the middle of the night when everyone else was asleep, I would hear weird noises that I was sure had evil intentions. My mom was still alive back then and she would let me listen to the radio all night, to drown out the scary sounds. It usually helped, but one time I woke up in the middle of the night and heard the song, "They're Coming to Take Me Away" was on. It scared the crap out of me and I ran down the hall to sleep in my mother's bed with her. Unfortunately, my sister was already in my place and I set my pillow on the cold, tile, floor next to my mom's side of the bed to sleep.

After my mom died, we moved in with my abusive aunt and uncle. I was miserable for the 8 years I had to live with them and I never thought I'd get away. I had elaborate fantasies of being saved by someone or about running away somewhere, where I wasn't constantly being threatened or ridiculed or or called names or being forced to cook and clean with any time I had away from school.

I turned 18 in July, about a month before I would leave for college. My brother told me to stay with my aunt and uncle for that month. "What's one more month going to harm?" he asked. He was probably right. It would be hard to find an apartment for a month and my aunt and uncle didn't really let me work outside of their home, except for a week or two in the Summer to detassle corn, so I didn't have much money. Plus, my brother thought maybe if I stayed that month, my aunt and uncle might give me some of their old towels or sheets for my dorm room. So, I stayed.

By the day I left for school, I thought I might die. I didn't think I would finally be allowed to be free without something bad happening to stop it. My aunt and uncle and cousins dropped me off at college and it turned out that my roommate wasn't coming that first night, so I had the room to myself. I thought I would be thrilled the second they took-off, but I wasn't. I hadn't been allowed to just relax without worrying they would come downstairs and find me and start yelling at me for being lazy or threatening me if I didn't get up and clean or cook. I had no idea what to do with myself. I could do whatever I wanted and it was almost paralyzing. I had no idea what I liked anymore. What things made me happy or comfortable.

I went to bed that night and couldn't sleep. I had no idea what to expect from my life after that day. As I tossed and turned, I could hear someone was playing David Bowie's "Changes One" album. It brought me back to my childhood, when my mom was still alive. I was scared of the unknown, afraid of the dark still and I was a mess, but I thought I might finally be okay. I just had to keep reminding myself of who I was and what I liked to do when I was a kid, before my mom died, and I was free to make my own choices. I finally fell asleep, lulled by David Bowie's voice. The next morning I would start figuring out who the hell I was. It would take years...

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Autumn Days Swung Soft Around Me, Like Cotton on my Skin

This weekend was nice and mellow. Originally, we were going to go to Madison and stay with my brother and then do a cyclocross race, but I still wasn't over my cold, and John was just getting a cold of his very own, so we decided to stay home and rest and hopefully, get better faster.

Saturday was filled with me reading and nodding off and reading some more and nodding off some more, until I felt up for doing another cleaning project in my bedroom that involved me taking all of the books off of one of my bookshelves, wiping all of the books off with a vinegar, water and baking soda solution, vacuuming and cleaning the walls, floor and ceiling around said bookshelf and then putting everything back away. The only bad thing about this project, is that I start reading the backs of books I haven't read before, and it makes me want to go right back to the reading and nodding off stage of my day.

On Sunday we were both feeling a little better. John suggested we try to do a ride to Solon. I was a little worried, just because that route has one really big hill on it, and I hadn't ridden it since my surgery. I thought I was strong enough to ride it, I just wasn't sure how long it would take me - a day, two days, a week?

I actually did just fine on it. I had taken a couple of days off with this cold, and my time up it was maybe just a little slower than normal. Of course, usually when I ride up that hill, I've already been on a 5 mile run earlier in the day and ridden and run many times the week before. Apparently, not killing yourself before a harder effort, can make you stronger and faster. Hmmmmm, who knew?

We met some friends at Big Grove for an early dinner. Since it was in the 80's in the middle of October, we decided to eat outside. When it's warm this time of year, I keep thinking about every outdoor activity as "possible the last time" I'll be able to do that particular thing before the snow flies and it's 30 below zero. So much pressure!

I have to keep reminding myself, that I have chosen these people to be my friends...
Since it gets dark so much earlier than we're used to now, we decided to head for home, and hope we didn't encounter and deer leaping across the road, just as we were screaming down a hill.

The roads were beautiful and we had a great ride back.

We didn't see any deer, but we did meet a new friend. This poor, misguided creature thought it would be a great idea to warm himself on the asphalt to catch those last remaining rays of sunshine, but we thought he'd probably die doing it with all of the traffic on that road, so I used my bike tire to gently persuade him to move to safer ground, like the ditch.

We made it back in town just in time to see the sunset behind us light up one of my favorite Fall trees. I have to say, I will definitely miss October when its gone, especially since it's been so lovely and warm this month...

Sunday, October 09, 2016

The Amish horses get a little skittish around cyclists.

So, Monday marked the 2 month anniversary of my cancer surgery.Of course, I was going to write this post on that day, but for some reason, I haven't been in the mood to write much this week.

Anyway, I took Monday off and had a wonderful day that I will try to write about tomorrow, but right now, I'll write about our weekend, which was also wonderful.

I love these horses hanging out by the green houses.

Saturday was beautiful and I started it by going for a 5 mile run. I was trying to go slow, but since I didn't run the day before, I went way faster than I thought I would. It felt so good.

At 1:30'ish, our friend Burne came over and we all went for a 50 mile bike ride to Kalona and back. As I say all the time, it is one of my favorite rides.

On the way there, my burrito (which is a little leather pouch attached to my bike saddle that contains an inner tube, some CO2 containers and a few other things to fix a flat) fell off my bike and we didn't notice until later.

So, when our friend Burne flatted on the gravel road and didn't have anything to fix his flat, all we had was one inner tube and 2 Co2 canisters, and it turned out that one of them didn't work. We rode on to Kalona and had a lovely early dinner and Stinky joined us before she headed off to work and it was great.

Since we didn't have enough CO2 to fully fill Burne's tire, we had to be more careful and not ride on the gravel, which meant riding on the highway for a bit, but since that bit was still in Kalona, the shoulders were made wide enough for horses and buggies to safely ride on the highway. It was heavenly.

We decided to go through New Sharon on the way back home.There just happened to be a big auction on that road. At one point, we hit a T intersection with two boys on bikes on one side, a weird auction vehicle on another and a horse and buggy on the 4th side. It was such an Iowa experience.

We rode past the auction and saw many Amish people packing up and heading home.

The shadows just before sunset in the Fall are so well defined.

Our friend, Burne finally did get another flat tire just as we were heading out of the town of Hills. It was 10 miles from home, so Burne went back into Hills (all two blocks of it) and sat at the one bar there, while John and I rode home, deposited our bikes and drove back to pick him up. Oh, and by the way, we found my bike flat fixing kit burrito on the side of the road and everything was there and in working order. We picked up Burne and headed home. Two weeks out of surgery and I ran 5 miles and rode 50 miles all in one day. Of course, the next day I was pretty wrecked, but I could finally actually do both tthings.

Meow. Yeah, Don't Cross My Path.

I know I always complain about what a huge A-hole my cat is, but he is also really smart...Which I'm not so sure is a good thing at all.

On Friday evening, I went out to the garden to get some green peppers and jalapenos to make salsa. I came back smelling like tomato vines and Archie instantly started whining, which then turned into yowling. I had no idea what his problem was, and since I was apparently, an idiot human, he had to try a different way to communicate it to me. He went to his scratch box and pretended to eat the imaginary catnip that wasn't there. Oh, duh! Normally, when I come back smelling like garden, I have some fresh catnip for him, that I normally scatter on  his scratch box. It's a good things stupid humans are easily trained...

Thursday, October 06, 2016

I Don't Mind Some Slight Disorder...

Okay, well yesterday was pretty nice. On Tuesday after work, I planted the 12 or so Hostas a friend of mine gave us over the weekend and John cleaned all of the gutters before a big rain that night and yesterday morning.

The rain prevented me from running, but I made up for that later. After the storms, the afternoon was gorgeous and I got to sit and read at my little waterfall between the building where I work and Halsey Gym. I love it, because I get to hear the piano music for the ballet classes or the hip hop for the more modern dance classes coming out of Halsey Gym and from where I'm sitting, almost no one can see me. My favorite situation.

After work, John and I headed to Cedar Rapids for my first Cyclocross practice of the year. After this weekend when I died on a 22 mile gravel bike ride, I was worried about what kind of shape I was in.

My goal was to try and ride 45 minutes without stopping (the average length of a race) and to try to get at least 10 miles in.

They had a route all marked-off with little markers, so we could follow and work on skills and speed or ride with other people to work on passing. There were probably about 15 people who showed up which was great. Two of us were women. I'd love to get those numbers up, but I know from many years of experience that it's hard to do.

Anyway, I rode the course and used my Map My Run app to measure it out and time it. Each lap was a little over a mile. I started out slowly and kept trying to increase my speed every lap. I worked on going up the hills staying on my saddle one time and the next time, I got up off my saddle and did standing climbs. I also worked on taking different lines and cornering faster and faster. I had a blast AND I rode for an hour and 10 minutes without stopping and did a little over 12 miles. Next time, I'll have to work on dismounting and remounting and getting my speed up.

Oh, yeah. I also want wish John a happy 6 year anniversary of recovering from getting hit by the guy who bent down to pick up the thing he dropped in his F-150 pick-up and hit John straight on without braking. Even though he still suffers some back pain, John is kicking so much ass every day.

After we got done riding, a guy brought out some good beer and some of us hung-out and talked about riding and races we wanted to do. It was very nice.

Then John and I drove off into the sunset through Cedar Rapids, a town that narrowly escaped a flood last week.

Tonight? John goes to his mom's for dinner and I get some alone time at home to read and harass and get harassed by cats. I can't wait.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

September Corn Still Can Make me Feel That Way.

The corn has ears...And by Fall, they also have weird, dark beards.

I guess it's time to do my monthly stats for September now. It was a weird month. I really thought that since I didn't have to do radiation, I would be up and running and riding and swimming and all different kinds of active. What I didn't understand is that this whole recovering from cancer and surgery, sure can take a lot out of a girl. I would do a bit of a physical effort, and then be wrecked and exhausted, and shy of working that hard again for a while. So, my training stats leave a little to be desired, but I did okay on other things...

Miles Run: 40.5. I have yet to start trail running. Maybe October?

Miles Biked: 159. It's a good thing I've been commuting or this number would be a hell of a lot smaller.

No walking, no swimming this month either. Sigh.

Races: One Whole Race! I really didn't think I'd be able to write that yet.

Places traveled for John's races: Mason City, IA, Knoxville/Pella, Iowa, Madison Wisconsin.

Books Read: 7  - 1) "China Dolls" by Lisa See, 2) "All Our Names" by Dinaw Mingestu, 3) "Margaret the First" by Danielle Dutton, 4) "The Laughing Monsters" by Denis Johnson, 5) "Eileen: by Ottessa  Moshfegh, 6) "The Turn of the Screw" by Henry James, 7) "Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes.  I started reading scary books for Halloween. Hopefully, I won't run through them all before the holiday is over.

House Projects: Mostly, I am doing some crazy cleaning projects, but no cosmetic or structural work.

Paintings or Drawings: Big fat zero.

Writing: Blog posts - nine, any other kind of real writing none.

It will be interesting to see what October brings in my recovery and the creative projects I seem to keep putting off...

Comes a Time When Your'e Driftin'. Comes a Time When You Settle Down.

Guess what? I finally got a weekend where we didn't go out of town and didn't hang out at races all day. Holy COW! Did I need that.

I got off to a good start on Saturday with my favorite comfort food breakfast - Greek yogurt, granola with almonds and fresh raspberries. It is the perfect combination of foods.

I then set out to write a list of all the things I wanted to accomplish during the weekend. John told me I should prioritize them, you know, just in case I made the list too long and could only get to some of them. He didn't have to worry, because I didn't really get to any of the things on it. Oh well, I did something more important...I had fun.

What did I do instead of all of the stuff on my list? Well, I actually started a lot of the things on my list, but didn't finish them, so I couldn't scratch them off. What I'm hoping, is that this coming weekend where I don't have a race and am not planning on leaving town, will give me time to finish some of the things I started and I will be scratching-off away.

Also, on Saturday around 2:30 in the afternoon, we went to ride mountain bikes at Sugar Bottom. It had been sprinkling all day, but we couldn't find anything on the radar to show if it was raining closer to Solon. The website said the trails were open, so we chanced it. When we got there, I rode for about 2 seconds and deemed the trails too wet and muddy to ride.

I love that this barn is only partially painted.

Our friend, Burne met us and we decided to ride on gravel roads instead. We parked over at the Solon high school parking lot and took off from there.

The clouds were dark and brooding and we did get sprinkled on at the beginning of our ride.

Of course, the low hanging clouds, just made the dried corn that much more vibrantly gold and the grass a brighter green.

This was the first real ride I've gone on since my surgery. I have done some easy, short, flat rides, but nothing with the kinds of hills you get on gravel and not for that distance.

We headed toward West Branch and rode a little bit of Morse Rd, which just happens to be paved, until we hit this minimum maintenance road. As long as they aren't too muddy and unrideable, I love the low maintenance roads. Sometimes there are more dogs on them. This time we were lucky, we didn't encounter any dogs on the B road, but we did run into a couple on other gravel roads. The first one, was just doing his job and run alongside us barking as we passed his home. We told him he was a good boy.

When we were close to being done with our route, I was really dying. My lungs and my legs felt like they were exploding and I thought I might just fall asleep on my bike...Until I heard a dog bark. Then I found energy from the very depths of my soul. I passed both of the guys and then they realized why. The dog's owner called him back just as he was catching us. If I were smart, I would incorporate dogs into my training schedule. They could help me complete some SERIOUS intervals.

We came across the intersection of Plato and Plato and our friend, Burne got a little philosophical about it.

We finally finished our beautiful, if not tiring ride and headed to Big Grove for dinner and a beer. They had salmon corn chowder as their soup of the day and I love their roasted beet salad, so I was one happy girl.

On Sunday, John went to Chicago for a CX race. I stayed home and tried to get more stuff done. I made a big pot of potato leek soup and got some things done around the house and went on a little run.

By the time John got back from the race, we ate, he took a nap and then we finally got to ride mountain bikes on the trails. Boy, how I've missed that.

Monday, October 03, 2016

After My Picture Fades and Darkness has Turned to Gray

On one of John's trips back to Iowa City for RAGBRAI.
I didn't really get around to covering John's and my anniversary last week, so it's been six years. SIX YEARS! That's the longest I've been with anyone, except my ex-husband, and I was in that thing WAY too long.

Just for fun, I thought I'd write a little about how we met and stuff:

In 1987, I went back to school at the University. Originally, I started in 1983, but I wasn't ready to be in college, I know I've mentioned several times here, but I had to work on all my shit from being raised by my abusive aunt and uncle. So, in 1985, I dropped out of school and moved to California and then moved back 1987. Got that? Yeah...I'm not sure I do either.

John took this photo of me at a camp fire on one of our Monday Night Rides, about a week before our first date.

So, anyway...I had just moved back to Iowa and decided to do some political work. I joined a left wing organization, called New Wave and that's where I first met John. At that time, he was with, what he likes to call, his future ex-wife. I was dating a guy in California, but then also had a little overlap with my future ex-spouse. Now, I can't imagine having the energy for all of that drama. Like I've always maintained since that time..."Who wants TWO men sitting on your couch in their underwear watching sports?" If only someone had asked me that question in my early 20's...

I didn't know John very well back then. I was closer to his ex-wife. He was working nights, so when I saw him, he was probably just waking up. My main memory of him at the time, was of a beautiful man, with really curly hair, rolling cigarettes. Since we were both with other people, I don't think either of us were all that aware or interested in each other back then.

Then he moved to Boston for 20 years and in that time got divorced and was in a relationship with another woman for 10 years after that.

I stayed in Iowa City, got married, had two kids and got divorced. As strangely coincidental as it sounds, I got divorced around the same time John and his wife did, his ex-wife moved back to Iowa City and we hung out a lot before she met her life partner and had a couple of kids and moved to Norway (the country, not the town in Iowa).

About 6 months after we started dating. I was already driving him crazy with my shenanigans.

By 2008, I started to see John in Iowa City when he would come back for RAGBRAI. I was single by that time, but he was still in a relationship. I got to know him a little better as a friend on those visits, and I liked him well enough, but I still didn't really know him all that well.

In 2010, John's girlfriend broke up with him, and they both ended up moving back to Iowa City. I was getting to know both of them a little better when they moved back. I had always been a runner and a bike commuter, but John was really into cycling and bike racing. We would go on our Monday Night Rides once a week and since we had many of the same friends from our politico days in college, we saw a lot of each other.

Somewhere in all of that hanging-out, I realized that I was interested in more than a friendship with John. He wasn't really ready to date again so soon after having his heart broken, and so we discussed it once, and decided to be friends...Or so I thought. About a week after "our talk", John asked me to hang out with him, by ourselves, and gave me some options, since I still really liked him and I'm not stupid, I chose the most date like of those - dinner and a drink. We had been doing some flirting by message and texts and that graduated to emails, and by the afternoon of our dinner plans, he finally referred to it as a date. Whew!

Our 6th Anniversary just happened to fall during Jingle CX. Perfect.
Our first date was great and our second and third dates were even better and on the occasion of our 4th date, John got hit by an F-150 pick-up truck while riding his bike. His week long hospital stay, spinal fusion surgery and couple of months of recovery time, really amped-up our relationship.

We have definitely been through plenty of shit in our last six years: back surgeries, moving in together, dealing with surly teenagers (mine, not his) getting each other into different kinds of racing, traveling together, breast cancer (mine, not his), job stresses (both of ours), and the hardest and most painful of all, putting up with each others cats.

I will say, as hard as parts of it has been so far, it's been more rewarding than anything. Maybe it's good that it took us so long to be in a place to date each other. It gave us plenty of time to make our mistakes on other people, and I think we're both better at communicating our needs and emotions than we ever were in our early 20's. So, let's hear it for friendships simmering into relationships and good timing. John is truly my worth waiting for.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

It's Just Another Day for You and Me in Paradise

The last of our gladiolas still hanging on in the garden.
So, today I was walking downtown in Iowa City looking for a mailbox. It was Homecoming here and the streets were packed with drunk people in black and gold apparel. I passed a homeless guy asking for money. I didn't have any cash on me, but I just got paid today, so I came across a Subway sandwich place and decided to walk in and ask for a gift card.

When I went back to the homeless guy, I said, "Sir, I bought you a $10 gift card, so you can get a sandwich." I figured, he'd be able to stay inside and sit down and eat some food, if he had bought it there. I wasn't sure if he would be pissed-off at me, because I know sometimes people just want money to buy alcohol and cigarettes, and I get that. I'm sure if I were homeless, I would want something to numb the stress of that too. This homeless guy? He thanked me when I gave it to him, and then he proceeded to yell, Thank you's and god bless you's as I walked down the street. It was a pretty good feeling for 10 dollars of my money and I hope he got a decent lunch and was treated with respect during it too.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

We Gonna Celebrate Your Party With You

John riding his race bike and his pit bike to the venue.

Okay, so what's left, but to write about Jingle CX. It was pretty spectacular. Originally, I thought I would be doing radiation treatments and I figured I'd be too tired to do much of anything, so I didn't really sign up to help or do the gran fondos and certainly not to race. When I found out I didn't have to do radiation treatments, I decided I was still pretty tired and overwhelmed and it would probably be best to just go along for the ride. and what a fun ride.

Parking was an issue since there were way more people there this year. So, on the days when John raced, we parked at an old airport runway and rode our bikes from there.

 About 5 minutes after we got there on Friday, Helen Wyman, one of the awesome pros from England came by just as my friend Paul was getting ready to take a photo of me. Talk about Kismet.

 John raced at 5:40 that day. Since it had rained the day before and much that morning, the course was a big mud pit - one that had a lot of clay and grass in it that tended to make bricks in people's forks and drive trains. We could have made an entire village of adobe homes that day. The problem with that for racers, is that when their bikes get too clogged with mud, their derailleurs snap and they can't ride them anymore until they get it fixed. So, John asked if me and our friend, John if we would run his pit for him. I had never done it before, so I was a little nervous and glad that our friend John was helping out as well.

John's race was crazy muddy and he came to the pit for a new bike almost every half lap. Which meant that either John H. or I would grab his muddy bike and run to the hoses to clean it off for him and the other would hand John S. his clean bike that we had just hosed off and we would switch them out every time. It was a little stressful, especially since the second "half" lap, was way shorter than the first and I was afraid we wouldn't get the bike back to John by the time he reached the pits.

As it happened, we did a bang-up job, but John's derailleur broke anyway. Luckily, it happened at a good place. He was on the his way to start his last lap. After it broke, he got off his bike and was slowly running, trying to figure out if it was worth it to him to try to run all the way to the pit to get his other bike, when the winner of the 30+ race, who started a couple of minutes ahead of him, passed him and that ended his race. He said a couple of other guys passed him too and he wasn't sure if they were in his category or not, but either way, he got 8th out of 40 some racers and it was his best result at Jingle CX ever.

The dance party that night was even more festive for us. Our friend, John H. ended up with a megaphone (bad, but hilarious idea) and he would comment on the songs that the DJ played. During "Celebration", he said, "Okay people. We have two objectives: One is to celebrate good times, and the other is to come on.

Saturday brought the World Cup races. Both my girls were there and Coadster's boyfriend and a bunch of our friends and it was a blast.

Stinky celebrated her birthday with her friends at the Northside Oktoberfest before she got there, so I was a little worried about what kind of shape she would be in, but she wasn't too bad at all. she still had to study when she got home, so she was pacing herself.

The races were great. Because my girls were there, I didn't get to move around the course quite like I wanted to, but that's okay. How often do I get to hang around with both of  my daughters at a bike race?

I got to spend time with friends who cracked me up...

...When I wasn't cracking myself up taking dorky selfies during the races.

As you probably know, one of my favorite parts of cyclocross, or anything in the world, really is the costumes.

What's not to love?

I was so happy to see a lot of my Des Moines friends at the race. Most of the women racers from Des Moines are so inclusive and hilarious. I just wished they lived closer to us.

John's cousin came back from Colorado to race, and got 9th on Sunday. She definitely won in the costume department too. I'm not sure why she's holding "The World's Largest" pair of underpants in her hand, but with the monster mask, it's a great image.

On Sunday, John H. and I were back working the pits again. It was a lot less muddy by the time John raced that day and it turned out that he didn't need to pit his bike at all...Which was good, because he didn't get his derailleur fixed on his bike from Friday, so he would've had to ride his single speed CX bike.

As it was, John had another great race and finished 10th out of around 50'ish racers. Very impressive.

By Sunday evening when the races ended, I was ready to get home to quiet and cats. Our friend Burne came over and I made us all some nachos with black beans and salsa and guacamole and I finally got to put my feet up and relax. It may take me a few weeks to fully recover from all of that socializing and being away from home, but man, what an incredible weekend.