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.