Friday, June 29, 2018

Sunday's in the Meadow and Friday's in the Corn.

Oh, kids. In regards to my last post, let me tell you how magical last weekend was for me. First of all, the weather was perfect. Second of all, there were so many people out riding their bikes and playing outside and it makes me so happy to see that.

In the morning, I woke up and headed to the Farmer's Market and got some asparagus and fun treats. Then I came home and puttered around in the garden and then our friend Burne came over and we headed out for a bike ride.

We went to Sutliff Bridge, which is about 50 miles there and back. It was a lovely ride and when we stopped at the bridge we got to check out this 1909 Stanley. The owner said it ran on kerosene and something else. It almost sounded like it had a steam engine. It was pretty damn cool.

We headed back, and stopped at Big Grove in Solon for lunch where I had a beet salad and some Millstream root beer. It was all delicious.

We got home around 5. Just in time to feed the cats. Whew! Our friend Burne found a book on the street right in front of our house. It must have fallen out of someone's bike basket. I was just going to leave it there in case the person came back to look for it, but I was afraid it would get wet sitting outside overnight. So, I took it as a sign that the universe wanted me to read this book and I'm hoping the person how lost it was rich and could just buy another one. It was another thing that made the day magical - a free book.

We were going to head down to the block party downtown and meet Stinky and her friend and some other people, but we both felt too old and tired, so we stayed home and had tuna fish sandwiches and potato salad for lunch and watched the newest Blade Runner movie. It was perfect.

On Sunday, the good just kept right on coming. We had some friends come over and ride out to the town of Hills with us. Ironically, the ride out to Hills is very flat and it's only ten miles out and ten miles back, so it's great for people who haven't been riding much. They stopped in Hills, but John and I kept going to Kalona.

I always say this because it's true, the ride to Kalona is one of my favorites because it's so beautiful and full of horses and other livestock and amazing gardens.

Of course, on this ride, we ran into a young Amish whippersnapper who came flying out of his driveway, in his horse and buggy without looking and almost hit us on our bikes. Causing John to say, "I'd like to see the accident report THAT would have caused..."

The young Amish whippersnapper did make a point to apologize when he passed us up a hill, and we told him it was fine.

We continued on and made it into Kalona.

We ate at Kalona Brweing Company where we shared a pizza and a beet salad and I got my root beer. That made it four days in a row that I got to eat beet salad. I love this time of year.

On the way out of town, I happened to notice this cut-out. As you all know, I love cut-outs, so I made John stop and take a picture of me in one. I will say this again and again. My husband is a damn good sport.

We rode back home through Amish country and saw those boys playing on their swing set. I just love seeing everyone playing outside. Maybe just because it always makes me so happy. For me, the key to being happy in general is to play outside as much as possible, and I'm sure the reason I felt last weekend was so wonderful and magical, was because we did just that. I just hope this weekend goes as well that way.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

One of These Mornings You're Gonna Rise Up Singing

Last week we officially entered into Summer. It's my favorite season and feels all too fleeting every year.

I've been having such a wonderful Summer this year, and it reminded me of my relationship with this season throughout the years. It's a feeling. A sometimes lonely, slower, time full of nostalgia and promise.

My memory of Summers in Arizona gets confused with the Winters and the Falls and the Springs. It can all be a hazy memory of warmth and freedom and being outside all of the time. For the most part, I loved my childhood, up until my mom died. We had very little structure and that was perfect for me. In the Summer we would go see old movies for free at the Junior high - Three Stooges and Jerry Lewis and anything ridiculous and G rated. In the afternoons, we went to the pool a lot. I remember the songs on constant rotation, "Drift Away" and my favorite, "Shambala". My brother and I would ride our bikes for hours and when we'd tell people where we rode to, they wouldn't believe us.

After my mom died, we moved to a suburb of Chicago until high school and my Summers there still weren't too bad, since we weren't as isolated yet. I had to do plenty of chores and my Aunt and Uncle were still abusive, but they were surrounded by their family and probably didn't feel like they could get away with the stuff they did later. My Summers there were spent as much as possible at the softball fields in Merrionette Park, trying desperately to fit in with the cool kids. The late seventies pop music filled every backyard with everything from "Breakfast in America" by Supertramp to the "Grease" soundtrack to disco, disco, disco. Back then I had daydreams of being a stand-up comic and also having a boyfriend (like that was the end all, be all...).

The Summer before 9th grade we moved to Iowa. Those four years were the worst of my life so far. I dreaded Summer because I was stuck at home with my abusive aunt all day. Most days she would hide in her room and sleep all day and we would have to wait all day for her to get up and "check the list" before we were allowed to go anywhere or do anything, and when she didn't sleep all day, she was in a mood and our lives would be hell. My only reprieve would be the couple of weeks that I got to detassel corn. When I tell people I liked to detassel corn, they usually tell me that was probably circumstantial. I listened to The Clash and Joe Jackson and The Police all the time back then. Since I wasn't allowed to go out much, I had very few friends and lived through the books I read. The soundtrack of those Summers until sometime in June were filled with the sound of frogs singing to get laid and later, closer to July, the constant buzzing of cicadas.

My first Summer after I graduated high school and went to two different colleges, I was living in Iowa City. I thought once I was able to flee from my aunt and uncle that I would be instantly happy, but I had to spend years and years working through my self-esteem issues and the feeling that I deserved to be treated badly by people. That first Summer in Iowa City was a lonely, lost, time for me. I used to walk for hours and hours and hours, when I wasn't working. It was also the Summer that moved me forward to California the next year.

My Summers in California were beautiful and overwhelming. The first Summer there I was in Northern California doing hard physical labor and learning how to deal with being in a relationship with my first boyfriend. Like most of us, I put up with WAY more shit than I should have. My Summer in San Francisco was really like Fall or early Spring with lots of fog and and cooler temps and confusion about how to be an adult and what to do with my life and wah, and wah, and wah.

When I moved back to Iowa City, my Summers were good and bad. I got back into running and that helped my emotional and mental health so much. I usually lived close to downtown and that always felt so lonely to me. Most students go home for the Summer, and the closer to campus you go, the less populated it is. I worked in food service most of that time, so I usually had days to play outside and worked at night, but I didn't know how to drive, so I was pretty much stuck in the downtown area of Iowa City with very little chance of escape.

When my kids were younger, my Summers were stressful. I had to pay for full time daycare, and I couldn't afford the part-time daycare I paid for during the school year. I would try to save my vacation time, to have some fun during the Summer break and on Saturdays when the girls were really young, we would always go to the pool, then head to the Dairy Queen on Riverside Drive and then go home to take a nap in the one room that had a window air conditioner. Summers when the girls were older were much better. I didn't have to pay all that money to put them in a Summer program and we were in a neighborhood with lots of kids their age and parents who either worked in the evenings or from home or not at all during the Summer, so I knew my kids were fine while I was at work.

These days my Summers are grander than grand. Sure, I have to work, but my job is fine and kids are grown and for the first time in my life I live in a house with more bedrooms than people. Weird. Once John moved in and paid his part of the mortgage, for the first time in my life, I could pay my bills every month. I still don't have much in savings and I can't afford to travel much, but I've never not been stressed out about money before, so it feels luxurious. My Summers don't feel lonely, or too quiet. I don't have to make hard choices every day or put up with someone telling me what a bad person I am, or threatening me, and I never feel like I don't know what to do with myself when I'm alone. If anything, I have so many things I'm excited about, that I don't know which thing to do first. My days are filled with the sounds of the birds singing and the buzzing of bees in my garden. Sure, my hormones are making me fat and sending me on an emotional roller coaster a lot of the time (don't ever let me watch one of those videos where the soldiers come back home after being deployed and their dogs go crazy greeting them, because I will lose my shit), but that's only temporary, right? RIGHT?!

I have lived through a lot of hot, harrowing Summers to get to this point. So, I appreciate all of the good that I have, as often as possible and I try not to waste a drop of a warm, wonderful, day or a chance for adventure. I love feeling like I am doing exactly what I should be doing and right where I want to be in my life. After all of those years and past Summers, it's taking some getting used to.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Cross Eyed and Painless

So, we had a fun week with the fat orange cat. Back 7 years ago, when he was a kitten, I took him home from the shelter in a carrier in our car and he proceeded to poop and puke all over. Then I took him to the vet a month or so later in the carrier in the car with the same explosive results. Which means I haven't tried to take him to the vet since. It hasn't been a big deal since he doesn't go outside. But the other night we had a bat in our house and Archie is a hunter. He had the bat on the floor with his paw on the poor bat's chest (do they have chests?) before I even had a chance to freak out too badly. John was nice enough to wake up (after I yelled and shook him) and take the bat outside. Of course, I started to worry that the bat may have bit Archie and we would soon have an Old Yeller situation on our hands. I figured it was high time I decided to bite the bullet, get over Archie's car problems, and get him the vet for a rabies shot.

At first I thought the carrier might have been the problem. Maybe if I just put him on a leash and he could see out the car windows, he would be happier, so I took him on a dry run the night before his appointment. As you can see from the top photo, Archie being on the leash didn't exactly do the trick. He didn't poop or puke, but he did yowl the entire ride.

I felt so badly that I took him to the side garden and let him stress/anger eat as much catnip as he wanted. I'm an enabler that way.

By Wednesday afternoon when I was supposed to take Archie to the vet, there was a violent storm and downpour (another set of circumstances that Archie hates) and I decided to just put him in the cat carrier anyway. He still cried the second I put him in the car, but I was glad I had him in the carrier, because there were two very energetic puppies in the waiting room when I got there. He was fine in  his carrier while we waited.

When we went to meet the vet, he decided he would just rather not leave his carrier. So, I tipped it upside down and the vet and her assistant tried to unwedge his paws from the walls of the carrier. It looked like they were trying to deliver a breech baby into the world.

The vet said that she wouldn't want Archie to gain any MORE weight, but he was a big cat and he's never going to be 10 lbs. I know exactly how he feels. He was very stoic when he got his two shots, but then wailed the entire three block long car ride  home. He was also even needier than normal for a couple of days, which meant neither John or I slept that well on account of our bed being invaded by the fat, orange, baby.

I guess we'll see what happens when he goes back in August for his teeth cleaning...

Monday, June 18, 2018

Leading Me On - Leading Me Down the Road

Hey! since it's the middle of June already, I figured it might be time to talk about travelling through the books I read in May. I only read seven books in May. It is getting nicer out and I am playing outside a lot, so I don't need the escapism quite as much, and also, my daughter got married at the end of May, so I was busy with MARRIAGE MADNESS all month.

Here are the trips I took through books last month:

1.) "Exit West", by Mohsin Hamid. I loved this book. It took me at first to an unidentified war torn Middle Eastern country, but then moved all over the world. The concept was that there were magic doors that you could walk through and end up in another part of the world. It was about immigration issues and how people calm down about it and just learn from each other when anyone can easily go anywhere. That was probably my favorite book trip in May.

2.) "Dawn (Xenogenesis #1), by Octavia Butler was the second book I read in May. She is an African American science fiction writer, so this book took place in the future after the people of earth had ruined their planet so badly they could no longer live on it. Humans were "rescued" by some aliens who wanted to hybrid themselves with humans and move back to earth once it had become habitable again. Got that? Anyway, it was kind of a sad trip, but it was a good reminder to continue to take better care of our planet. If only everyone would...

3.) "Lincoln in the Bardo", by George Saunders. I know I said that "Exit West" was my favorite book trip in May, but that's because I forgot I read this book that month too. This book would easily tie for the best book trip I took in May. I love George Saunders. He's weird and smart and he can make you look at life from a different angle. This book took place in a cemetery in Washington D.C. back when Abraham Lincoln was president and his son had just died. It was about love, basically and I will always want to travel toward love.

4.) The fourth book I read in May was "Jamrach's Menagerie" by Carol Birch. It wasn't probably the best destination, but it was entertaining. I certainly wouldn't want to be shipwrecked.  It would be cool to travel to all of those exotic places, however.

5.) "Everybody's Fool", by Richard Russo was the fifth book I read. It takes place in a small Upstate New York town. It's a sequel to "Nobody's Fool" and it is a sweet character study. It was good place to go in the Summer.

6.) "Under the Udala Trees" by Chinelo Okparanta took place in Nigeria. It was about a lesbian living in a country where LBGQT people are persecuted. It was very sad, but it was well written and poignant.

7.) The last book I read last month was "Peter Pan" by J.M. Berrie. I'm sure I probably read some form of this book when I was a kid. I could have just seen a million TV and film adaptations, so I THOUGHT I read it. Anyway, it was weirder than I thought it would be. The fairies come back from an orgy at one point and this is a children's book. No, really. I thought I would love it, but I didn't. It wasn't awful and it was okay escapism, but not the best book trip I could have taken last month.

Here's to some new and fun book travel for this lovely month of June.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again

Today I'm going to write about the two races that I attempted to do last week. As in anything, there is good and bad and it's all a good learning experience.

So, I was supposed to do a triathlon a couple of weekends ago. I got sick on the Thursday before it and tried to rest as much as possible in hopes I would be better for the race.

On Sunday, John and I got up at 4:30 and drove to the race. I felt like I was getting better, although I definitely wasn't 100%. I figured I'd try it anyway, since I paid plenty of money for it. I'd just go slow and easy and not worry about my time.

It all started out fine. I gabbed and joked with the older ladies in my race at the start. Then it was my time to jump in the water. It was nice and warm and I started to swim. I didn't get very far before my harder breathing got the stuff in my lungs (EW!) moving and I had a huge coughing fit in the water. On top of that, it was super windy and the water was crazy choppy. The minute I'd get my coughing under control, a wave would smack me in the face. Both issues meant I couldn't breathe. I tried a little more and realized I wasn't going to make it. I swam toward one of the boats and the lovely volunteers pulled me in and took me to shore. 

I was a little sad, but no race is worth dying for. I got to watch John and some other friends race and then we went home and I basically slept the whole day.

My next race was the following Wednesday evening. We had a ten mile time trial race out past Solon. We had just had the first in this series of races two weeks before and my time wasn't what I'd wanted at that race. I rested every day until the race and felt like the worst of my cold had passed.

 I had no idea how I'd feel, but I still set my goal time as a minute faster than the race before. The weather kept threatening to storm and a few people even pulled out of the race after they had already paid.

I was one of the first to go off. I got going and didn't feel too bad. I was also strangely focused for me. I remembered what to concentrate on and I felt pretty strong. So, I went with it. I made it to the turn around and still dabbed my foot, but made it through faster than the last time. Baby steps.

On the way back, I just kept steady and tried to keep my head down as much as possible. There is one long hill on the way back and I hate, hate, hate, it. So, this time when it started to hurt, I just told myself to keep going and not worry about my speed, so I didn't blow-up closer to the top.

When I finished, I felt pretty good about my race. It seemed like I had gone harder and was more focused than the last race. Although, I thought it could just be that I wasn't completely well and it just FELT like I was going harder. I asked the official said my time and he told me. I had gone EXACTLY a minute faster than last time. Hooray!

So, this tale of two races means this for me: Sometimes you try and it doesn't work out and sometimes you try and you do better than you thought you'd do. I have to remember to always give it a shot and not get too upset if it isn't a good day, because the next time might make up for it. I guess I look at things the opposite of how Yoda sees them: Do (well) or do not, there's always try.

Friday, June 08, 2018

You Can Dance If You Want To.

Okay, soooo...The wedding day itself. There will be tons of photos in this post, but I will try to talk less than I normally do. You're welcome.

Sunday started pretty early for us. We got up around six and then drove to a Hy-Vee in Rock Island for some fruit and then to a Dunkin Donuts in Davenport for coffee and doughnuts to bring to the "gettin' ready for the wedding" party.

Stinky used to be a receptionist at a local cosmetology college and as her gift, two of the instructors offered to do her wedding hair and make-up for free and would charge the wedding party a nominal fee to do ours. So, we had doughnuts and bagels and fruit and coffee and it was a damn good thing we were fortified because I was in that hot hotel room from 8 a.m. until 1:30'ish. Yeah, it all took a while and I went last so the wedding party could get to pictures at 1. I figured it wasn't super important to get photos of me.

All that primping seemed to really pay off. Both my girls looked lovely for the big event.

It was also really fun to hang out with the maids of honor. They were all really sweet and adorable...Even if they did make me listen to too much Shania Twain.

Picture courtesy of Kim Lesinger.

I was finally read and got in a couple of the wedding party pics. I love the one above with Stinky's new and wonderful mother-in-law. Except, I wish I'd remember to keep my arm away from my body. Hello, middle aged lady arms.

So, we finally got to the part where we walked our baby down the aisle. I won't talk about any of the weird family dramas that went on before or during the ceremony. Suffice it to say, that when you bring a few large families together, things can get a little...Colorful along the way.

The most important thing is that my girl got hitched to a man she is madly in love with and I got to walk her down the aisle to start all of that.

Thanks for the photo, Kim Leisenger.

It was so damn hot that day, but right before the ceremony it looked like it might storm. We got lucky and the storm went just North of us. I guess Bettendorf got some serious hail. Whew! All it did for us, was cool things down a little.

The reception was lovely. Stinky's uncle was the DJ and he played such great music, there were tons of people on the dance floor all night.

Thanks for the picture, Tom Rodgers.

We were lucky that all my siblings could make it. I hadn't seen my sisters at the same time in the same room in years. Even though I didn't get to talk to them as much as I would have liked, it was great to see them.

Hey, John wore a tux for the first time in his life! It was pretty warm in the room, so by the end of the night, the tie and the vest and the jacket came off, but it was there for a while and I documented that shit.

Thanks for the photo, Chelsea Bilskemper. This was exactly  how the end of the night felt.

By 11 o'clock and after about five hours of dancing, the reception was over and we all headed over to the rooftop bar. It was a nice place, but since it was Sunday, it closed at midnight and the kids weren't able to get any food. And they REALLY needed some food.

John and I decided it was time to go home and leave the young kids to their adventures. I was amazed at how much we danced and how late we stayed up. Not bad for a couple of old folks.

The next day was another bike race for John. Sure, he was tired and he had had a few beers the night before, but he said it was the dancing that really killed his legs.

He was a stud and raced anyway. He wasn't as strong as he would have been, but it was great to watch him race and hang out with some friends and it was also wonderful to finally get home and work in the garden afterward.

So, now my daughter is hitched and we have the rest of the Summer to play and work and live and I might have a little more time to be better at all of that.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Bumping Like a Pinball Off a Careless Crowd

Okay. I'm going to start writing about this weekend. It started at 5:30 when I got up to get ready for the weekend.

We drove to Burlington and I got to hang-out and talk to bike racers while John warmed up for his race. He raced at 9:30 and did really well. It's not the best race for him because you have to go up a very big, very crooked hill eight times, but he got 7th out of 20, which is great. There are all kinds of really fast  people from Chicago who race, so it's very competitive.

We watched a couple of races and then  headed to Davenport, so John could pick up his tux and we could get settled in our hotel room and shower before the wedding rehearsal.

The rehearsal went fine, but Stinky had some issues with her dad, who was trying to make the wedding about him. Sigh. So, since she was so stressed, we told her to meet us at the martini bar next to where she was getting married to get a quick drink before the rehearsal dinner.

It was so nice to be in air conditioning, but most importantly, our bartender was amazing. His name was Chris and he was funny and charming and generous. When Stinky was venting about her dad, he came over with a free bottle of wine for her and he kept making extra of his martini orders and letting us try the leftovers. Such a good guy.

We all went to Happy Joe's for the rehearsal dinner. It was perfect because it was relaxed and fun and...TACO PIZZA! Yum.

At one point, one of the servers had everyone recognize the soon-to-be married people and Stinky got a little emotional and her fiance laughed and laughed, and it pretty much summed up their relationship.

After the dinner John and I decided we needed to get away from the drama and the crowds, so we took a little walk along the Mississippi River. There were pelicans all over fishing for their dinner, and it was great to watch them.

After that we headed to Analog, the arcade bar. It was in an old bank and the vaults were used to play Guitar Hero. John wasn't at all familiar with the game (apparently, he's been living in a cave in the outback somewhere for the last ten years...), so he spent some time trying to figure out the point. Yeah, I'm not that sure either.

We had a lot of fun playing pinball and video games and drinking a beer or two.

I think it was really good for Stinky to relieve some tension before her wedding the next day too. They played Hungry, Hungry, Hippo, Skee ball, Mario Kart and much pinball and Galaga too. One of their groomsmen didn't drink, so it was so much better for him than sitting around a regular bar with drunk people.

John and I finally had our fill and went back the hotel. The pool was open until 11, so we hung out there for a bit with Coadster. There were a bunch of kids being really loud and annoying, so we headed back to our room in order to get some sleep before the big day. All in all, it was a wonderful pre wedding 24 hours.