Tales From the Trails

This past weekend, I participated in my fourth Club Scrub Growler—a grueling yet extremely scenic off-road ride that takes place annually here in South Florida. This was the first year my other half wasn’t able to join me. My plan was to hook up with someone, as I knew many friends would be riding. As fate would have it, that didn’t pan out, and I was okay with that. I’m accustomed to being a lone wolf.

I started the ride feeling great. The morning was beautiful and the pace moderate. At just under ten miles we encountered a friend of mine who was having a major mechanical problem. He is someone who has always encouraged me as a rider, so it was important to me to see if he needed assistance. His problem was far above my knowledge, but I was happy to hold his bike for him while he bypassed his derailleur and reset his chain. Once that was accomplished, I continued on my way.

The route eventually took us through miles of South Florida sugar sand, several inches deep in stretches. By 10:30AM the sun was high overhead and the glare and heat were reflecting off the white sand. At this point, the miles began to tick by slowly and my energy started to lag. All I could think of was the next SAG stop. By mile 32 or so I was ready to call it quits. I had zero energy left in my tank. I estimated the next SAG stop to be about five miles away. I was seriously thinking about calling my husband to come and pick me up. I had water, but the lack of food had derailed me. I ate some PROBAR energy chews—my go-to energy source on the trail—but they had absolutely zero discernable effect.

So. Much. Sand.

I reached the second SAG stop at about mile 37. I ate half a peanut butter sandwich, a banana and some watermelon and immediately felt markedly better. I refilled my water bottles and spent about 10 minutes stretching, as my left calf and right inner thigh were just starting to cramp slightly. After a 20-minute respite I felt much better and got back on the saddle to finish the ride. Back spasms aside, I finished the ride strong after about 7.5 hours (5:42 moving time).  

Don’t mind me. I’m just gonna lay here and stretch my back out for a minute or two.

As I reflect back on Sunday’s ride, it’s clear to me that finishing the ride wasn’t my greatest accomplishment. Showing up was my accomplishment. Committing to ride 60 miles despite not having a partner to ride with was my accomplishment. Giving myself a rest and a little selfcare when I needed it was my accomplishment. Getting back in the saddle when I felt well enough to ride was my accomplishment. Riding across the “finish line” was just the cherry on the sundae.

Note the calories burned. #gimmealltheicecream

If you ride and are ever in South Florida the first weekend in April, I urge you to participate in a Growler. You will have the time of your life. There is something for everyone—a short and extremely scenic 20-mile route, a more challenging 40-mile route, and the super challenging (in my estimation) 60-mile route. The sights alone are worth it. Afterward, you can enjoy a meal and cold beverage while you sit back and reflect on your myriad accomplishments.

Best finish line greeting ever.

A huge thank you to Juliana Catalfumo and Rob Rutstein for organizing this crazy event. And special thanks to the over-75 volunteers who gave countless hours in the days leading up to and after the event to make sure all 775 riders were fed, watered and knew exactly where to go. Y’all are rock stars.

Gleaning Day

Today, my son and I participated in a gleaning field trip with his school. When I mentioned the upcoming field trip to people in the days leading up to the event, most people didn’t know what the term gleaning meant in relation to harvesting crops.

Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest. It is a practice described in the Hebrew Bible that became a legally enforced entitlement of the poor in a number of Christian kingdoms.

Today’s gleaning harvest benefits South Florida families facing food insecurity. Current statistics indicate nearly three and a half million Floridians are food insecure, including 1.1 million children. The current estimate for Florida’s population in 2019 is 21.64 million. This means food insecurity affects more than fifteen percent of Florida’s population. On a local level, according to Feeding South Florida, 13.6% percent of Palm Beach County‘s population is food insecure, with 189,940 people not knowing where their next meal will come from. I think you’ll agree, these statistics are staggering.

Another aspect of this morning’s gleaning project I need to mention is this. This morning’s weather was around 80 degrees and sunny. While 80 degrees may seem almost temperate to most, I can tell you that while picking peppers this morning, I was quite literally drenched in sweat as were the other parents, teachers and children. My clothing was soaked and the sweat was running into my eyes. I could not wipe the sweat from my brow fast enough. Can you imaging picking vegetables day in and day out as your vocation, especially in the dead of a South Florida summer? I can’t; but 150,000 to 200,000 migrant and seasonal farm workers and their families annually travel and work in Florida to harvest our fruits and vegetables. I implore you to remember this and offer up a prayer of thanks the next time you’re enjoying a delicious piece of fruit or fresh vegetable.

I’m so proud of our school–the kids, teachers and my fellow parents. Together, we gleaned one ton of peppers for our local food charities.

I promise you, after this morning’s field trip, I have an entirely new appreciation for my food and where it comes from. I hope you will too.

What’s to love?

Let me tell you a brief story that paints a perfect illustration of what I love most about riding.

This morning, I was headed for a solo ride. Let me elaborate. It was going to be a solo ride because I’m a really poor planner. Had I told someone to meet me at 8 or 9AM this morning (as I thought to do), they would’ve been waiting on me. Why? Because I didn’t leave my house until 9:05AM. That’s just the truth. If you’ve ridden with me then you know this to be the case. I’m not proud of it. It’s just the way things shake out as I attempt to get out the door. Tardy? Guilty. Ashamed. But, I digress.

Back to the topic at hand. I meandered my way through the trails this morning, having altered my course once I got on my bike. Instead of heading down the same levy as intended, I crossed under the roadway heading out for a more rugged South Florida ride. As I rode through a parking lot to connect to another trail system, I saw two young ladies suiting up to ride. They asked if I knew the route to a particular trail. I told them I did and that I would take them in that direction. We headed out, enjoying casual conversation. As I looked back at one point I saw two riders approaching who happen to be biking friends. They joined us and before you know it, one became 5. THIS, my friends, is what I love about riding.

Four bad ass ladies. Forgive my, “Say cypress knees,” expression.

Ride a bike? You will seldom meet a stranger. For this, I am grateful. I am eternally thankful for the friends I’ve met along the way, and look forward with eager anticipation to those I will meet on future rides.

Yvette and Jen, you are bad asses. Tracy and Mike, you are special. Thank you–all four of you–for spending your Sunday with me. Memories made. xo

Fixer

Roughly 892 miles as the crow (and airplane) flies, that’s the distance we recently traveled for a second opinion for J-man’s epilepsy. Judging by the reaction to this news by many folks, this may seem extreme, but Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center is one of the top-ranked hospitals for pediatric neurology and neurosurgery for serious neurological problems such as epilepsy, head trauma and brain tumors. They are the best of the best.

Last fall, after of eighteen months of easy-breezing, seizure-free “maintenance,” J-man’s nocturnal seizures returned in full force. After months of unsuccessful tinkering with medication dosages, I felt it was time to seek a second opinion. Hence our travel to Ohio.

At the conclusion of J-man’s initial examination/evaluation and consultation with a pediatric neurologist at CCHMC, the doctor recommended an MRI under sedation and an in-patient EEG that would take place over the course of three-full days and nights. I had a team of prayer warriors praying the EEG would capture a seizure. As fate would have it, J-man did not experience a seizure during his stay in the hospital. Only the erratic brain activity with pre-seizure spikes we know to be continually present was captured.  I liken this to taking your car to a mechanic because of a noise you’re hearing, only for the noise to be inconveniently absent during the mechanic’s inspection. That’s an obvious oversimplification, of course, but you get what I’m saying. (Of course, he had a seizure the night he was discharged from the hospital.)

Our stay wasn’t all for naught, however. We did learn some things about J-man and some of the things that go on inside his busy brain. We learned terms such as slight asymmetry, temporal horns, single punctate focus, frontal white matter, susceptibility artifact, right corona radiate, microhemorrhage, dystrophic calcification, and T2 FLAIR, just to name a few. I was a Google fanatic each morning when a new report appeared in J-man’s online chart. The term that sticks with me most is “prior insult,” as it relates to microhemorrhage and dystrophic calcification. As an adoptive mother, I’ve always wondered about the ramifications of a most likely absence of pre-natal care for J-man’s birth mother, as well as what the first few months of his life were like.

With respect to the EEG, the findings pretty much mirrored previous test results. Abnormal EEG. Focal epileptiform discharges. Focal interictal epileptiform abnormalities that have a high correlation with seizures that are partial in onset. The one bit of news that was news to me is that the discharges occur in the right centeroparietal head region. As odd as this may sound, I always wondered what part of his brain was affected.

Additionally, while in the hospital, we were fortunate to meet with Dr. Donald Gilbert, professor of neurology and pediatrics at University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children’s Division of Pediatric Neurology. Both J-man and I wanted to consult with someone regarding the tics he struggles so greatly to manage. What a blessing it was to sit with this man as he explained so thoughtfully and thoroughly what is happening in my son’s brain and how best to help him manage the uncontrollable movements and sounds that afflict him. We now understand that J-man’s involuntary movements are actually  Tourette Syndrome. We also know people with Autism Spectrum Disorder oftentimes have some degree of Tourette Syndrome, too. Dr. Gilbert provided information to J-man’s school as well as valuable information to be included in his IEP. Again, what a blessing it was to consult with him while at CCHMC.

None of this is earth shattering. And, God willing, this is not life threatening. It’s just a change of tack. J-man began a new medication and medication regimen that have absolutely changed his life for the better. He is a different person. The medication he has been on for the past two-plus years was a nightmare. It rendered him listless, fatigued, and unable to process and retain information–horrible by-products for someone who has significant learning challenges to begin with. I am so happy to say, as of this past Friday, J-man has been seizure-free for three-plus weeks. Praise God!

 

 

 

 

 

The last thing I need to mention, is that upon awaking our final morning in Ohio I had an epiphany moment. God spoke to me clear as day. To paraphrase, he said, “You are a fixer, but you can’t fix this. And that’s okay. Your son is perfectly made. You just need to let this be. Love him as he is. There are no surprises where I am concerned. Your son will be just fine.” This divine revelation lifted such an enormous weight off my shoulders. It was freeing. To me, these words confirmed that I’ve done everything humanly possible to get J-man the care he needs with respect to his diagnosis of epilepsy, and there is nothing for me to “fix.” Although I “knew” all of this, what a much-needed reminder that although I’m in charge, I’m not in control.

I thank each and every single one of you for your concern, prayers, positive thoughts and vibes, and support. You have no idea how grateful I am to have you in our corner.  x

B~

 

 

 

Women.

We come in all shapes, sizes and skin tones. We hail from every far-flung corner of this earth. We are daughters, sisters, mothers, grandmothers, great (and great-great) grandmothers, aunts, nieces, wives, husbands, friends and neighbors. We have different faiths, beliefs and come from vast socio-economic backgrounds. We are many things to many people.

We share common elements of DNA. We are all made of bone, cartilage, muscle, tissue, skin, tendons, sinew, vessels, organs, and we all have blood coursing through our veins. We give birth. We work doggedly. We love with reckless abandon. We care. We nurture. We raise up. We build up—oftentimes to the detriment of our own true self. These things make us more alike than different, in my humble estimation.

We are fierce. We are a force to be reckoned with, independently. Together? Forget about it. We rule this doggone world.

Ladies, I celebrate you not only today, International Women’s Day, but every day. I’m elated and honored to be in your company.

Reality Check

You are never too old to remind yourself that your validation does not rest in someone else’s acceptance of you. I love the adage, “What you think of me is none of my business.” As simple as this statement should be to remember, I oftentimes struggle to recall this simple pearl of wisdom.

Also, never, ever, not for one single solitary minute, expect what you did yesterday to account for something today. All the good and amazing things you did and accomplished yesterday will not carry forth into today. This is simply the law of nature. Just as a fresh start and daily do over are great to make up for some grievous act you perpetrated (or something you failed to perform) yesterday, the same is conversely true for the good things. Today is a new day. You are starting fresh and anew, my friend. Make today your best day. After all, now is all we have.

A Life Well Lived

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“Her life was not an easy life.  She experienced heartache and hardship, but it was a life well lived.” This is a phrase I found myself repeating to mourners who came to pay their final respects at my mother’s funeral this week.

I’ve penned more than one post in the past (As is the mother, so is her daughter. Ez. 16:44, Happy Special Birthday, A Very Special Mother’s Day) that offered a glimpse into my mother’s 86 years on this earth.

The Great Depression.  The deaths of two husbands and one infant daughter.  Life as a widow raising four children—two of whom gave her more than her deserved share of trouble (yours truly among them). The deaths of both parents and five siblings—three sisters and two brothers. Decades plagued by the effects of emphysema (chief among them—a susceptibility for pneumonia).  Cancer.  These are a sampling of challenges my mother faced in her 86 years and seven months this side of heaven.

 

Love.  Laughter.  Family.  True, genuine, nurturing and caring friendships.  Travel.  A 25-year career working for folks who weren’t only employers but dear friends as well. Secure knowledge in her place in heaven upon departing this earth. These are the things that made for a life well lived.

Ruth Ann Cassella;  born January 6, 1931 – died August 4, 2017, following a life well lived