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A Very Special Mother’s Day

Have you ever met someone so unassumingly tough that when they demonstrate their power and might your jaw hits the floor?  That’s how I feel about my mom.  I’ve penned a few blog posts about my mother over the years, so this statement may not come as a shock to many of you.  I, however, continue to be amazed by this gutsy octogenarian’s exploits.

Shortly after her 86th birthday this past January, my mom was diagnosed with small cell carcinoma (lung cancer).  I don’t think this was truly a shock to anyone.  A former tobacco smoker, my mom has emphysema and a history of severe bouts of pneumonia.  The ultimate diagnosis, however, was perhaps more devastating to me than to my mom.  When I questioned her as to how she felt following the initial diagnosis, my mom said, “It’s going to be what it is.  If Saint Peter opens the gates for me, then I’m ready.”  That peace—her peace—became my peace.  There was no other way for me to accept the circumstances at hand.

So, here we are four months later, and my mom just completed her prescribed round of chemotherapy yesterday, May 11th.  Additionally, she began radiation treatments—a prescribed course of thirty treatments to take place twice daily over the course of fifteen weekdays.  The first two days of radiation piggybacked her final two days (6 hours and 2 hours, respectively) of chemotherapy.  I don’t know about you, but this schedule is daunting to even me.  But you know what—my mother handled it like Muhammad Ali handled Sonny Liston.  I am awestruck.

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Something and someone else I need to make mention of in this Mother’s Day tribute is my sister, Karen.  She has been a steadfast anchor for my mom for not only the past few months, but for years.  She is there, day in and day out, meeting what needs my proud mother sees fitting to share.  As a matter of course, she has always been there to tend the flowers and lawn in summer and snow-covered driveway in winter as well as all needs that fall outside of my strong (feisty) mother’s capabilities in seasons between. But since my mother’s cancer diagnosis, my sister’s responsibilities have grown exponentially.  She is the keeper of myriad appointments, the sole source of transportation to and from the many appointments, and the general caretaker of all things beyond my mother’s abilities.  Don’t misconstrue this, however.  I am certainly not insinuating my mother is incapable, because she absolutely is not, which amazes me, but I digress…

So, as we approach this Mother’s Day, I’m giving my biggest, loudest shout out to my mom for her continued desire, willingness and ability to kick ass.  (Yes, I cursed; butt just didn’t sound as effective.  #eyeroll)  Happy Mother’s Day, mom.  You are amazing!  You’ve put forth enormous (literally and figuratively) shoes to fill.  I hope to leave this life one day as a fraction of the woman and mother you are.

Treasure to Trash

“I began to feel that myself plus the bicycle equaled myself plus the world, upon whose spinning wheel we must all learn to ride, or fall into the sluiceways of oblivion and despair. That which made me succeed with the bicycle was precisely what had gained me a measure of success in life — it was the hardihood of spirit that led me to begin, the persistence of will that held me to my task, and the patience that was willing to begin again when the last stroke had failed. And so I found high moral uses in the bicycle and can commend it as a teacher without pulpit or creed. She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life.” ~Frances E. Willard, ‘How I Learned To Ride The Bicycle’, 1895

Yep.  This pretty much sums up my regard for riding a bike.  I recently came upon this passage from Frances Willard’s How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle: Reflections of an Influential 19th Century Woman.  Willard, who took up biking in 1893, at the age of 53, was (and still is) a well-known suffragette.  Originally published in 1895,  How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle was penned by Willard as a means to provide insight into both the profound impact of the bicycle at the turn of the century and the newly discovered freedom it afforded women in America.   

To me, bicycling represents many things.  I too, experience the unparalleled freedom Willard alluded to.  Perhaps I’m narrow-minded, but I think everyone must feel this sense of freedom and the deep, personal satisfaction one experiences astride a bike, to one degree or another.  Whether you ride a bike for fitness, exploration, recreation, the sheer freedom you feel, or because it’s your primary mode of transportation and/or transport, when you ride a bike your bike is a cherished and oftentimes necessary possession.  That’s why I’m troubled each and every time I encounter the following. 


I’ll never understand why someone would chuck a bicycle in a canal, lake or empty lot.  Aside from the wanton destruction of property, I give a hoot and would never intentionally pollute.  My first instinct is the bikes are stolen.  Whether or not that’s the case, I’ll probably never know.  What I do know is this.  Those bicycles, in their watery graves, are depriving someone of a lot of joy, freedom, fitness, recreation and transportation.   At least that’s what I think when I happen upon them, which happens far more than these four photos indicate. 

AM Commute


Boy, it sure does feel good to be back in a groove.  As much as I am a creature of change and wanderlust, I’m also a person who thrives on routine.  To say the first three months of 2017 took me off my game and out of my routine is a gross understatement. 

J-man’s seizure and subsequent testing, my mother’s cancer diagnosis and the death of a beloved canine companion truly sent me into a tailspin.  I’m usually a happy, upbeat gal, but these events, in a very brief period of time, sent me into a blue, blue, blue funk.  I’m talking the not-wanting-to-get-out-of-bed-all-day kind of funk that is unsettling and frightening.  These events, the depression (let’s call it what it was), compounded with seemingly never-ending, virtually drug resistant bouts of sinus infections and bronchitis for both me and J-man really upended my world.  And the “well meaning” folks who said, “It could be worse, you know,” made things even worse because that just made me feel like an overall crappy person who apparently lacks faith.  I spent the first three months of 2017 doing virtually nothing except existing.  I didn’t ride. I didn’t run.  I didn’t walk. Heck, I didn’t even walk the dogs.  Needless to say, my physical and emotional well-being suffered.  I felt horrible in every sense of the word.

Greg and I participated in a 61 mile off road Grinduro ride Sunday. Although I’ve done longer rides by far, this ride was the most physically difficult ride I’ve ever done.  I was completely out of shape, both mentally and physically.  I completed the ride but it was a sufferfest for me.  But you know what?  It was exactly what I needed. It kick started me mentally and jolted me out of the dark space I had backed myself into.  The ride illuminated, with a bright spotlight, just how far I had let myself go.   I’m not talking in just a physical sense, I’m talking in every sense of my being. 


As much as I hurt physically Monday morning, Jackson and I got back on the bike and I’ve since  crept slowly back into a (healthy) routine. It’s been a week of physical activity for me, and I feel better than I’ve felt in months.

Country Mouse

If you know me (present day), you know I’m happiest in either the mountains or the country.  This is ironic given that I fought long and hard to escape my upbringing in a very rural, small town in western Pennsylvania.  Growing up, I couldn’t wait to escape the country.  My dream was to live in New York City, due in part to the influence of the classic Doris Day, Rock Hudson movies Lover Come Back and Pillow Talk, both of which take place in NYC.  As a young girl, I fantasized of living and working in a big city, like Doris Day’s character, Jan, did.  

As I’ve grown up and older, however, I’ve grown to appreciate a slower paced, quieter lifestyle–especially parenting a young child again.  There’s much to be said about the peace and solitude that’s part and parcel of immersing yourself in the expanse of nature.  At one time I found a modicum of this peace and solitude on the beach and in the ocean.  That no longer appeals to me, however.  In fact, I now find the changing tides and raging waves deeply unsettling for reasons I can’t fully explain.  Perhaps this is due, at least in part, to who I was when I sought to live near the ocean.  I was a very unsettled person, seeking and searching to find meaning in life, when I migrated southward fifteen years ago.  Now that I’ve discovered who I am to some degree, the inherent by-product is peace and tranquility–both of which I experience in a pastoral setting.  

For the next two weeks I will be in my happy place, in the Rocky Mountains.  Thanks to Airbnb, I scored a cute little home nestled at the foothills of the Flatirons.  This morning while munchkin is yet sleeping, I’m sipping coffee on the deck while my man is swinging in a hammock, and I can honestly say I’ve never been happier or more at peace.  Oh, and the temperature is a lovely 64 degrees.  The mountains were calling, and I answered.  


Seven Years

He defends the cause of the fatherless… ~Deuteronomy 10:18

Jackson Hall 3

It will be seven years tomorrow since Greg and I took Jackson into our arms and hearts as our son. It stands to reason that April is an emotional month for me. I do a lot of soul searching and reminiscing in the weeks preceding and following April 13th. This morning, in the shower, I was having an imaginary conversation with God. I was imagining how our lives would’ve turned out if God would’ve come to me seven years ago and said something to the following effect. Meeting Jax

My daughter, I know you and Greg are on board with the adoption seed I’ve planted in your hearts, but let’s talk a little bit about what it’s going to be like for you. What if becoming parents to this very special little boy I have for you, costs you relationships with friends and family members, as well as costing a lot of time and money—not only up front, but down the road because of medical care and therapies. Will you be okay with this? What if becoming this little one’s parents causes you to wring your hands and lay awake at night with a heart full of worry for the day ahead as well as for his future. Will you be okay with this?

I can’t speak for my husband, but I can tell you a conversation like this with God prior to boarding a plane to Ethiopia would’ve given me great pause. I’m pretty darn certain I was far too full of myself, far too wrapped up in life, and far too uncertain of my capabilities to have yielded to such a plan. And this is precisely why God does not make us privy to the details of all He has in store for our lives. He knows what we’re capable of, despite our being so uncertain of ourselves. And He knows we may turn tail and run if He were to paint the whole picture for us ahead of time.

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I can promise you from experience, however, your life will be so very rich if you step out in faith and let God have his way with your heart and your life. God knows you. Just as He knew us, our hearts, our inmost being, He knows you and your heart and the great things you’re capable of. I perish the thought of a life without Jackson. He enriches our lives in so many ways. And you can rest assured; God has equally wonderful plans in store for you. Trust Him!

Jax Halpat

Thank you, God, for knowing us so much better than we know ourselves. Thank you for this beautiful life you’ve blessed us with.   Thank you, for allowing us to be mom and dad to this precious boy of yours.

There is no friendship, no love, like that of the parent for the child. ~Henry Ward Beecher

A Look Back 

One of the things I enjoy most about Facebook is the Memories notification feature.   The following photo was yesterday’s memory from March 22, 2014.

  
Two years ago… Not much has changed, yet everything has changed. These days I definitely prefer two wheels to four. All day, every day. Concrete vs. trails? No contest.  Give me a trail and the smell of nature and feeling of unending freedom every and any day.  Challenge the self?  Absolutely.  That, thank you Lord, remains a constant. 

“Maybe life isn’t about avoiding the bruises. Maybe it’s about collecting the scars to prove we showed up for it.” ~Author Unknown

Untrammeled

Early last year, my husband walked into a local bike shop in search of a new bike for our son. Having given up his training wheels the previous month, and having outgrown his 20” Specialized Hot Rock, Jackson needed a new bike. Greg found a suitable bike and called me to bring Jackson over for sizing and to purchase it, if appropriate. I arrived at the store within ten minutes, looked at the bike and agreed it was the bike for Jackson. I told the salesman to ring it up, only to be asked to come back the following day, as the store would be closing soon. All the while, the store’s owner looked glaringly on with nary an acknowledgement, with arms crossed, not 15 feet away.

Irritated by an utter lack of consideration and the absence of customer service, Greg and I went to another local bike shop the following morning. We found not only a bike for Jackson, but also bikes for ourselves, too. That was February 24, 2015, and our lives haven’t been the same since.

Our family has experienced so much excitement, adventure and achievement throughout the past year. We quickly became bored with pedaling around sedate trails, and graduated to single track mountain biking. Of course, with this transition came new bikes—actually several new bikes, as our individual skill levels increased.   Biking has taken the place of dinners out, weekend getaways, daytrips, shopping trips, manicures/pedicures and everything in between. Dare I say, as a trade off, our quality of overall life has increased exponentially? There is much to be said for a family sharing an interest. This past weekend, my husband and I took first place in a local co-ed, two-person endurance challenge—a feat that required incredible teamwork. Four days later and we’re still reveling in our combined accomplishment and talking about what it took to pull off this victory—not from the standpoint of gloating, but from the perspective of unified teamwork and jobs well done.

Much like my  skateboarding adventures a few years ago, biking tests my mettle and pushes me beyond my comfort zone and oftentimes, physical limits.   And also like skateboarding, when I’m on the bike I’m not thinking about anything else. I’m purely and unequivocally living in the moment.   With the myriad distractions life has to offer, there’s beauty and peace in this experience.TT Flow

Perhaps the greatest by-product of this passion is the people we’ve met and friends we’ve made. To say we’ve met the nicest people isn’t hyperbole; it’s fact. I don’t know if I should attribute it to like-minded folks sharing a passion, or if we’re just a bunch of folks hopped up on fresh air and endorphins. Whatever the case, the folks we meet are genuine, happy, encouraging and uplifting people. They tend to be salt of the earth ladies and gents—some with small(er) children like us—who are eager to take a lap with you, talk bikes and components, and share stories of epic rides and trips, and dreams for said bikes, components, rides and trips.

Oh, and the bike store experience I very purposefully opened with? I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Early on, we were experiencing continued mechanical difficulties with a bike. A Google search directed us to a bike store in West Palm—Bike America. After speaking to a gentleman by the name of “Mike Jenison,” we decided to pay them a visit. Not only did Mike steer us in the right direction, his customer service was outstanding.   And, I don’t know if it was Mike’s charming personality, stellar customer service or what, but our first bicycle upgrades happened soon thereafter. Mike and his entire crew—Drew, Bolivar and Tom—have become not only our trusted equipment advisors, but friends and cheerleaders as well. If we hadn’t been turned away from the first store we visited, we wouldn’t have had the need to seek out another shop.   You know the saying—you don’t know how good an experience actually is unless you’ve had a comparably bad experience by which to make a comparison. And I’m sorry, but I can’t not mention Julie Roberts’ character’s famous Pretty Woman quote: “Big mistake. Big. Huge.” Yeah. Indeed it was.

When I say the past year has been quite a ride, I mean it in every literal sense of the word.New Year

“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” ~ Susan B. Anthony