Tuesday, December 31, 2019

All is Quiet on New Year's Day

Well, kids. You get two posts today. I'm just going to do a quick end of the year post after the book one. 2019 was the best of times and the worst of times. We'll still be dealing with some of the bullshit into 2020, but right now, we're still here and will hopefully all support each other as family and friends and deal with whatever other bullshit comes our way.

As always, I am hopeful and happy in general. I have the best partner in crime ever, who is always willing to work hard and play hard with me. My girls are healthy and working through their issues and I have the two biggest asshole cats that a girl could ever want.

Being in my mid-fifties now, I am FINALLY in a place where I don't feel all that sad or lonely or bad about myself in general (I'm sure we all have our days, though...). I appreciate all the best of times have to offer and I don't "get over" things, I work really hard through them. Denial has never been my friend, although he seems like a good idea at the time sometimes. It's the working that gets me through the bad shit.

Anyway, all the bad crap is just reminding me to be kinder, more compassionate and less judgmental. My latest mantras for the year are: "Be empathetic", "it is better to be kind than right" and "when in doubt, drink water". The water drinking thing is more about my physical health, than mental health and outlook, but I'm bad about keeping hydrated.

I hope your 2020 brings you happiness and joy and comfort and adventure and kindness and love. Happy New Year!

Well You Know, November Has Come When It's Gone Away

Okay. I'm finally catching up on the traveling through books post. Now, I'm on November. Woot!

Last month I read eight books:

1.) The first paper trip I took was all over the place during slavery times. "She Would Be King", by Wayetu Moore was described as a combination of "Roots" and "Black Panther". It was a sad, but hopeful book about three people with super powers who meet in Africa and try to protect the Africans from the illegal slave traders. It is an incredible adventure. I highly recommend it.

2.) "Perfect Little World" by Kevin Wilson took place in Arkansas about a project sponsored by someone who was heir to the fortune of a company that sounded very much like Wal-m@rt. It was supposed to test how a bunch of new parents could live in a communal situation and what happened during and after the experiment. It was a world I will never know in reality, so it was fun to go there in literature.

3.) "The Incendiaries" by R. O. Kwon was about a couple both haunted by or in the throes of religious cults on a societal level, but it was also about abuse and consent on a personal level. It took me mostly to an elite university in upstate NY and it was explosive in many ways.

4.) "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe" by C. S Lewis took me to war torn England, and then to Narnia, of course. I did love this book as a child and it is still a sweet adventure now.

5.) "The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane", by Lisa See took me to China for the most part. It also taught me a lot about tea and the one child rule in China and some about the remote area cultures there. I really like tea, and I also really liked this book.

6.) I finally finished my nerdy book girl challenge of 2019. I wanted to read all of  Jane Austen's novels (except "Pride and Prejudice" since I just read it about a year ago) and then read the "Jane Austen Book Club". Coadster was obsessed with the movie when she was in high school, but I had never read any Jane Austen back then. So, I compared the book to the movie, and I almost liked the movie more. It was still a fun book, though.

7.) "The Absolutely True Diaries of a Part Time Indian", by Sherman Alexie was my seventh book of the month. Every November I try to read a book written by a Native American/First Nations person. Just as a reminder that their plight is all of our faults. Sigh. Anyway, this was a YA book that won tons of awards and it was hard to read, but also hopeful and sweet. It took me to a reservation in Washington State.

8.) The last book trip I took was to London through "Girl, Woman, Other", by Bernadine Evaristo. This book co-won (with Margaret Atwood) the Man-Booker prize. It was a really about women and ageism and racism and misogyny and classism and all the other 'isms and each chapter told a different person's story, so you got to see things through many different people's voices. It was one of my favorite books of the year.

Okay, I have one month left of book trips and then the end of the year post. I hope you had and will have some great reads.

Friday, December 27, 2019

I See a Car Smashed at Night. Cut the Applause and Dim the Light.

Remember how I said the second part of this year has been pretty crappy? Well, the hits just keep on coming - both literally and figuratively. Yesterday morning John got into a car accident on his way to work. He's fine...Amazingly.

He was going about 45 mph (the speed limit) when he got to the light and it turned yellow. Since he couldn't stop safely, he kept going and some woman turned left into his lane to get on the interstate. I'm not sure if she didn't see him, or what. John saw her turning at the last minute and tried to break. He hit one side of her car which whipped him into the cement base of the street light pole. His air bag deployed and his car is pretty much totaled, but again, he walked away from it just fine.

We'll see what happens with all of this. He got cited for driving through a yellow light, but again, the Iowa DMV book says you can run a yellow light if it isn't safe to stop, and that was the case, so he's going to contest it and see what happens.

We are very, very, lucky. He was fine and we have another car and we both live close enough to our jobs to ride our bikes to work. It's just scary and a pain in the ass. Two of my least favorite things.

So, we're thanking our lucky stars and we're not all that sorry to see this year and decade go. I hope things get better and better. Now, bring on the Roaring Twenties!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

And So This is Christmas. I Hope You Have Fun. The Near and the Dear One, The Old and the Young

I know this time of year can be really rough for people. Whether they have depression issues, or they feel overwhelmed that they can't afford the time or money to give their kids the Christmas they want, or they don't have a family to spend the holiday with or, they have to work over the holiday when it seems like everyone else is off. I have had some crappy Christmases in past years, so I try to make my holiday exactly the way I want.

This weekend it meant riding bikes outside in this lovely weather to eat food. It was perfect for us.

On Saturday we rode 50 miles to Kalona and back. In the morning I went for a little run, finished reading a book, putzed around the house and then after our bike ride in the afternoon I spent about an hour and a half getting groceries for all of the food I'm going to make on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. So, I did do something practical after all.

That evening, John's ex-girlfriend and her husband were having people over for the many birds they were frying.

My friend Nick found some grapes, and my friend Ginger thought it would be hilarious to take a photo of him feeding them to me. Old people and their hilarious ideas...What are you gonna do?

On Sunday I got up and went for a nice run and then came home and cleaned the dormer room, so that Stinky and I could make her husband's Christmas present later in the day up there.

Finally we were ready for another bike ride. We did the Lone Tree loop, which is about a 40 mile, fairly flat bike ride. Don't worry, though, the winds were strong enough to make us work harder than we wanted to.

After our ride we met Stinky and her husband at Big Grove for a late lunch and some Sunday funday beers. It was so nice to get to hang out with them.

As we were leaving, we realized that there was some dog centered event in the beer garden. I haven't seen that many beautiful pups assembled in one place in a long time. It was lovely.

When we got home, Stinky and I went to work on her husband's Christmas present. We were going to buy him a nice piece of art, but he said he would rather we painted him something instead. So, Stinky and I made a three panel abstract painting using his favorite colors, blue and gray and we added a little gold to give it more heat. I think they turned out pretty cool.

So, I had the best before Christmas weekend and covered so many bases. Which was good, because now it's Christmas Eve and the weather is perfect, but I came down with another migraine. John went on a ride without me, and I am left at home to relax and rest and take a hot bath and bake and frost cookies. Not a bad alternative.

I hope you all have lovely holidays, whatever you do or don't celebrate.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

I Wish I Had a River So Long. I Would Teach My Feet to Fly.

My roommate Jill and some friends and I in the first apartment I lived in in Iowa City.

 Here is a quaint little Christmas time story for you, just to demonstrate how much happier I am in my mid fifties than I was in my late teens...Again:

Once upon a time, this time of year in 1983, I moved to Iowa City for the first time. I went to the University of Northern Iowa my first semester. I thought I would be a walk-on for track and cross country, but when I realized I couldn't take 17 hours of classes and do all of the practices and miss way too many classes for meets, I decided to go to the University of Iowa instead. UNI is a VERY small town school and while I made many fun friends, it just wasn't really my scene.

So, I moved in with a friend of mine in Iowa City, who used to date my brother for a very short time in high school. The dorms were full and they put me on a wait list, but I don't trust fate, so when my friend, Jill's roommate went to London for a study abroad program for that Spring, I jumped in and sublet her place for the semester.

It was my first Christmas as an adult. On Thanksgiving, I went back to my aunt and uncle's house. Basically, the minute I got there, my aunt put a vacuum in my hand and I cleaned her house the whole long weekend. I didn't know how to drive and they lived in the country, so I was trapped. I made sure not to make that mistake again at Christmas.

My brother and my sister and I were heading to Arizona to visit my other sister for the holiday. So, I did go back to my aunt and uncle's house for some kind of Christmas dealie before that. My brother lived in Iowa City and he had a gigantic 1975 Caprice Classic to drive us to Otummwa for a very short period, and I was guaranteed not to be stuck there this time. Whew!

Before we went to O-town, my brother and I went to K-Mart to look for a present for my aunt. We were being bitchy and ironic when we picked out the horse head jello mold. She, of course, loved the gift, which made us laugh and laugh later on. At the time of our shopping trip, we weren't finding anything very amusing. K-Mart was full of stressed-out, poor people, yelling at their kids. I remember after we left the store, my brother was so depressed about the whole experience, that I suggested we just go get ice cream. As always, in my world, food is love. Of course, it helped. Ice cream always seems to help.

We drove down to Ottumwa where I wasn't trapped, but I wasn't super happy to be there either. I started wearing my hair in its more natural, very curly, state, and my uncle told me that I looked like a Jamaican hippie, ( a Rasta?) and he definitely didn't say it like it was a good thing.

After that trip, I decided that I was 18 years old and I didn't have to spend my time around people who wanted to make me do all of their housework and/or disparage me about how I looked. My siblings and I went to Arizona and I came back to Iowa City to start my first semester. I was making decisions about how I wanted my life to go for the first time, and that meant that I didn't go back to my aunt and uncle's house for many, many years.

Friday, December 13, 2019

That It's Strange. So Strange

Well, I guess it's good that cyclocross season is over, because things are really getting away from me. Here it is December 12th, and I'm finally doing my October books post.

I ended up reading 10 books in October. I have no idea how I managed that. I usually save up all my scary/suspenseful/murdery kinds of books for October, but I ran out of those by the end of the month. Anyway, here is my list of book trips I took this month.

1.) The first adventure I went on was to Africa during 1800's and then it switched to the US and Africa and back to Africa up to the present. "Homegoing" by Yaa Gyasi was an incredible book about how horros of slavery and racism affect people even today. It was very well written. I couldn't put it down.

2.) "White Tears" by Hari Kunzru was pretty bleak. It was about a ghost getting his reparations from a wealthy Southern family who killed him back in the past. He was a musician and he was able to get to the family through their youngest son who was obsessed with old timey blues music.

3.) Shirley Jackson's "We Have Always Lived in the Castle" took me too a large house with a family who didn't fit in with the rest of the town. There was a tale of abuse in there from the past and the youngest daughter tried to take care of it. I love Shirley Jackson. She always sets such a creepy mood.

4.) My fourth trip was all the way to Transylvania and England in the 1800's. I read "Dracula" by Bram Stoker. I read it for the first time in my early 20's and I remember liking it. This time around I still loved it. The whole idea of femininity and masculinity was pretty amusing and the story itself was riveting.


5.) The fifth book I read was "Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History", by Tori Telfer. It was non-fiction and took me all over the world during many different eras. What I learned is that most women either killed their servants, or tried to get money out of men, or were protecting themselves from men and the sexist environment around them and they almost always used arsenic to kill their targets. It was a deadly trip, but perfect for Halloween.

6.) "The Cabin at the End of the World", by Paul Tremblay was very disturbing, just as it should be for October. Parts were very stressful. It took place in rural New Hampshire right around now. I'm not going to give anything away, let's just say, it is not for the squeamish.

7.) "The Witch Elm" by Tana French is the only book by her that I've read that wasn't part of the Dublin Murder Squad series. It took me to Dublin, Ireland in the recent past and then in the characters' pasts as well. It was a mystery book, and it started out a little slow, but then I thought it got really good.

8.) I entered the land of Orcs and Wizards in "The Two Towers" by J. R.R. Tolkien. It was the second book of the trilogy. Coadster told me it was a lot slower than the first book and she was right. I still really liked it, I just skimmed a bit here and there.

9.) The last of my Halloween reads and the last of my Jane Austen books was "Northanger Abbey". It wasn't my favorite Jane Austen, but as far as I'm concerned, there isn't a bad Jane Austen. I always get engrossed in her novels. I'm just sad that I can never read them all for the first time again.

10.) Since I ran out of Halloween type books, the last book I read was "Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career" by George Plimpton. It's non-fiction and basically a collection of quotes about Truman Capote and his life. He was one crazy character. I don't think I could be friends with him, but he seems to have made an impact wherever he went and his writing was great too.

Okay. So, I finally did my book post for October. I've got two more to write for the year and then my annual book rating post by January. So many book posts, so little time...

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

'Cause We're the Party People Night and Day

 Okay, so this weekend we went back to Chicago to do our last race of the year - The Midwest Cyclocross Championships at Montrose Beach.

The race is on Sunday, so last year we came up on Saturday and went to the aquarium and ate at cool restaurants.

That worked out so well, that we decided to do the same thing this year, but to go to the Field Museum instead.

Where we saw Michael Jackson before he was reincarnated.

I do love going to a big city around Christmas time. Everything is so decorated and festive.

The Native American exhibits were really cool.

My brother-in-law suggested that we check out the Pawnee Earth Lodge and he wasn't wrong. There was just a warm, cozy, feel in there.

I really love dinosaurs, so I warned John that we would be spending time hanging out with them...And taking pictures of them photo bombing each other, apparently.

 This is the T-Rex skeleton that a woman named Sue found parts of in South Dakota. How cool is that?

 After a few hours we had reached our museum saturation point and it was getting late, so we headed to our Air-BnB in Andersonville.

We were lucky enough to catch the gorgeous sunset over the water too.

We had never been to Andersonville before. It was originally made up of a large Nordic/Swedish population, but now there is a big gay community there. So, it is even more awesome.

We went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner and even though I probably shouldn't have, I ordered a jumbo margarita, and I have absolutely no remorse connected to that decision. It was pure deliciousness.

I also got some chicken enchiladas with mole and and John ordered tacos. We shared, and the food was excellent too. It was a lovely dining experience all around.

The next morning we had to get up early to race. So, we were able to see the sunrise over the water as well.

We got to hang out with our friend, Sarah again. She came to watch us race and had lunch with us before we headed home. These Chicago weekends are really becoming my new favorite thing. Like I always say, there's no way I could ever live in a big city again, but it sure is fun to visit.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

It's My Own Desire. It's My Own Remorse.

Where we used to have our Wednesday evening meetings in the California Conservation Corps.

I'm trying to do more writerly posts...Again. So, here we go. This is just a sketch and will need a ton more work. As you know, I am about the messiest writer in the world. I just need to get some of it down, so I can start tidying it up:

We were riding in a state van from Angels Camp to Leggett, California. The radio was on playing all of the big hits of that Spring. Too much Wham and Whitney Houston, but then Tears for Fears came on. I said, "Ech! That's not true. I don't want to rule the world."

"Bullshit. Everyone does. You're just trying to sound like you're better than that."

"No. The last thing I would ever want is to be in charge of the world. I don't want to tell people what to do. I just want them to do what they want without hurting anyone else. It would make me crazy to have to be in charge of everyone."

"I don't believe you. If you could make everything work exactly the way you wanted, you would do it. I know I would"

At the time, I didn't realize how telling this conversation was. He was my first boyfriend, and we were heading to our first real job in the Conservation Corps. I was 19 and everything felt new and was happening so fast, that I couldn't process it all.

Originally, I wanted to get placed at Turtle Island. I had friends moving to San Francisco, and I wanted to be able to hang out with them. Then when I went to the training academy I changed my mind. I met Jimmy, and he was going to Leggett. He told me that that was where the real work was. Salmon Restoration. We would be saving our little corner of the environment. On Turtle Island I would mostly be picking up garbage all day.

So, I went. We were a small group heading to a tiny satellite center in a town of about 150 marijuan growers on the border of Mendocino and Humboldt County. We were there for about a month before Jimmy just stopped talking to me for no apparent reason.

Eventually, he got his ex-girlfriend from high school to join the corps and come to Leggett. She was so sweet. I remember talking to her after she had been there for a few months. she was all upset and frustrated that Jimmy was always so critical and bossing her around all of the time.

I, on the other hand, met another guy there and we started dating. He wasn't bossy, he was just messed-up in as many different ways as I was. Not a good combination, we two. We stayed together on and off, and moved around all over the place before finally breaking-up for good in 1988.

It took me years and ever so much emotional work on my part to finally be able to have a healthy relationship, starting in my mid-forties. There were always clues early on in every relationship that it wasn't going to work, but I either ignored them, or was sure I could and should change or cut off those parts of myself that didn't work with the other person. For the first time in my life, I haven't had to do that for John. Sad that it took so long in my life, but I'm glad that it eventually happened.

People always say they wish they could go back in time and relive their youth, knowing what they know now. I don't think I would. With as many horrible mistakes I've made in my life, I wouldn't want to go back there without being able to experience all of that for the first time. I wouldn't want to experience that time without that innocence and ignorance...Mostly, though, I can't imagine having to hang out with all of those other messed-up people in their late teens and early twenties in 1985 without my head exploding.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Danke Schoen, Darling, Dunka Schoen. Thank You For All the Joy and Pain.

Welp, it's almost Thanksgiving. As soon as 4:30 rolls around, I'm off work for four whole days. Tomorrow I'll get up early to do what looks like will be a VERY muddy trail "race" with John and the girls. Then my daughters will head to their partners' families' Thanksgiving and John and I will spend the day cooking and cleaning and hanging out in a clean, quiet house until later in the evening when the kids and their partners come over for either a second meal, or just pumpkin cheesecake and a drink and things get rowdy.

As far as being thankful goes, I'm grateful every damn day for all of the things and pets and people and experiences and health I have. Yes, things have been tough lately, but not as tough as they've been in the past and I am in a much better place mentally and emotionally to deal with the crap that gets flung my way than I was in my twenties, thirties and even forties.

I hope everyone out there in blog world has tons of stuff to be thankful for as well...Even if it's just a couple of stinky, grouchy, old cats.

Friday, November 22, 2019

I Got You to Walk With Me. I Got You to Talk to Me.

Last week I was talking about my weird year and how things haven't been the greatest for me lately. I'm happy to say, that a couple of weeks ago we went to the Chicago area to race bicycles and it was just what the doctor ordered. I needed a wonderful weekend, and I got it.

The race was in the town of Woodstock, Illinois where they filmed the movie "Groundhog Day".

The race organizers had a lot of fun with that fact.

The first day I raced was the Illinois State Cyclocross Championships. They offered masters women's categories for the first time.  Of course, I was the only woman in the 55+ category. There were few women who were just a year or two off of that. So, most of the women were so sweet to me about being the oldest old lady out of all of the old ladies who raced. One woman doing registration there even hugged me when I hopped off of the podium. How nice is that?

John also had great races that weekend. He was second place in his race on Sunday for most of it, but he didn't wear warm enough gloves or put a knobby enough tire on his back wheel, so he kept sliding out and his hands were so numb, he couldn't switch gears. He ended up 5th, which is pretty damn good anyway.

Sadly, out about 150 selfies we tried to take, this was the best out of all of them. I look insane.

After our race on Saturday, we got to meet up with my friend Sarah at a show downtown. John and I both love Sarah. She is hilarious and fun and super smart, and she always takes us to the coolest places when we come to Chicago.

This time she had us meet her at this cool old warehouse area that they turned into studio and shop spaces.

It was a neighborhood benefit celebrating the 20th anniversary of Bloodshot Records, which is a small record label that mostly deals in alt-country bands. The best thing about the show was that started at 4 pm. Perfect for us old folks.

We listened to music for while and then got really hungry, so we walked down the street to an amazing taqueria to eat dinner.

When we got back to the show, we decided to check out the shop spaces. They were all really cool.

Since it was getting dangerously close to eight o'clock, and we had to drive over an hour back to Woodstock, we had to say goodbye to Sarah and be on our way. It was so great to see her, and I love traveling to places so different than where I live. I don't think I could live in a big city again anytime soon, but I love to go visit.

On Sunday morning, I raced again. On Saturday, the course was pretty muddy, which is always good for me. I didn't do too badly, when racing with the other women, and I wouldn't have even been last in the masters women category if you put us all together.

Sunday was a different deal. I'm still not all that strong, so after racing on Saturday, I was feeling weak and tired. On Sunday they only had a 35+ women's category.

I was second to last in my race for at least half of it. Close to the end of the first lap, I rode my bike to a muddy uphill section and had to get off of it to get any traction. Then, for whatever reason, I had a hard time hopping back on my bike, so the woman in last place was able to almost catch me. On the second lap, John told her that she could probably catch his wife. She told me later, that him saying that spurred her on to try a little harder, and she did catch me by the third lap. I had no energy to fight her, so I stayed as close to her as I could and only finished about 30 seconds after her. It was fine by me. I'd much rather have someone to race for last place with, than to ride all by myself for a podium position. Plus, that woman was so nice and cool. I didn't feel bad at all losing to her.

After our races, we went back to the pub we had lunch at the day before. It was in the old jail of the town, and it looked pretty cool. They had great food, and I even had a beer with lunch.

Unfortunately, we forgot to drink to world peace.

After lunch, we left the town of Ground hogs and bike races and headed for home.

We had a great weekend. It was just what I needed, but Archie was so glad that we were home.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

In the Snow White Cottages, Every Day Looks Like a Myth

Well, kids. It's the tenth anniversary of me buying my first house. The only way I was able to buy a house was because Obama had that program that gave me (a first time homeowner) an $8,000 credit, and my brother fronted me that money until the government paid up, and I got an FHA loan that allowed me to only put 3% down. So, thanks, Obama! No, really. Thanks so much.

When I first bought the house, Coadster was a senior in high school and Stinky was a sophomore. I wanted a three bedroom house and a basement and a garage and a sunny backyard. What I got was a three bedroom house, with a crawlspace, and a garage and a shady front, side, and backyard.

I got the best that I could afford, and I still feel very lucky. The Ash trees in my front yard eventually were full of disease and the city had to take them down (thank jeebus they were on the easement, so we didn't have to pay for that). So, I finally got a sunny yard, albeit in the front, but my neighbors don't seem to mind.

After Coadster left for college, We were finally able to pull up the nasty stained carpet (Coadster loves carpet and I can't stand it) left by the old owners, and sand down the hardwood floors in her old bedroom. Now, it's turned into a giant closet where we do our bike trainer work-outs, but it's nice to have a place for all of that.

About a year after I bought the house, John and I started dating. Eventually, he moved in and bought into the mortgage. He was able to put enough money down to get rid of our stupid mortgage insurance and bring our 30 year loan, to a 15 year loan. Last year, we refinanced our house to get money to get a new roof, work on the foundation issues, and make some more improvements on our cottage.

So, now we have most of the things we ever wanted in a home. I never wanted a brand new McMansion. I'm glad we have a little cottage that is a perfect size for me and John, has a front yard that we turned into a garden, that brings over all kinds of bees and butterflies and provides us with flowers, herbs, and food. It is also our sanctuary where we retire to heal from anything bad that the outside world causes, but also to celebrate all the good that the outside world causes.

Sure, I'd love a second bathroom, but if that's all we're lacking, yeah, I'd say we're pretty damn lucky. Here's to many more happy years in our cozy cottage.