Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

Happy Special Birthday

Today, a very special woman is celebrating a very special birthday.  Today, we’re celebrating my mother’s 85th birthday.  

 My mother, one of the toughest women I know, was born in Cowen, West Virginia, in 1931, during The Great Depression.  A coal miner’s daughter in every sense of the term, my mother has endured more than her fair share of hardship and heartache over the course of her lifetime.  But she has persevered.  
  
 
My mother and I have butted heads countless times over the years.  That’s what happens when you raise strong, independent daughters.  I asked her earlier this week, at what age did I finally stop being unlovable.  (It’s fair to say I was a challenge to parent.)   Without hesitation, my mother replied, “I always loved you.  I just put up with it and kept on.”  Her response took me by surprise and speaks volumes about a mother’s love.  Here’s wishing the happiest of birthdays to not only a wonderful mother, but a grandmother who’s an angel on earth to her grandchildren.  Love wins.  Always.    

     
    

A daughter is a mother’s gender partner, her closest ally in the family confederacy, an extension of her self.  And mothers are their daughters’ role model, their biological and emotional roadmap, the arbiter of all their relationships. ~Victoria Secunda

   
 

Rule Breaker

If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun. ~Katharine Hepburn

Having the time of my life.

Forty-nine years, 346 days. That’s how old I am as I draft this post. I will be 50 years old at the end of this month. This is a monumental birthday for me. It has certainly given me pause to think. I think about the fact that I’m now in the last half of life. I spend a great deal of time thinking about the fact that I’m (soon to be) 50 with a five year old with developmental challenges—and worry greatly about being here wholly, completely and physically for him as he grows up. I think about the fact that I’m not as sharp (in any respect) as I used to be. I think about the fact that my husband and I will most likely have to work every day we’re above ground in order to maintain life, as we know it. Please don’t misunderstand me. These are not regrets. They’re merely realities—realities you don’t think about at 20, 30 or probably even 40. (At least I didn’t.) But 50? Well that’s a whole other ballgame.

There is another side to the coin though. In addition to concerns I have about life, I also spend a great deal of time reflecting on how richly I’ve been blessed throughout my life. I didn’t always see it that way. I had many, many struggles as a young adult. I carried a lot of bitterness, disappointment and regret around. But I’m so thankful God has lifted those burdens from my shoulders. Grace covers a lifetime of heartache, and I am eternally grateful to Him for that.

Yet another byproduct of turning 50 is permission I’ve given myself to live a little—for me. As the majority of wives and mothers do, I’ve spent a good deal of my life living to care for others. We inherently put the needs of others above our own. I know I do. And I’m more than okay with that. I’m grateful to have a family who needs me. However, wives and mothers also need to feed our own spiritual and emotional selves. The last five years have been very challenging, and at times draining. That’s the nature of the beast. But I’ve recently found something I enjoy immeasurably. Skateboarding. Yes, you read that correctly. Skateboarding.

Greg and I initially bought boards in February so we could accompany Jackson to the skate park. Jackson has always loved to ride his scooter—something that required me to run alongside him—neck-and-neck, for safety’s sake. I was OVERJOYED (let me say that again—OVERJOYED!) to learn he could ride his scooter at the local skate park, as it was getting more difficult for me to keep up with him. (See paragraph one RE: lack of sharpness.) I thought the skate park would afford me the opportunity to put my feet up and relax while Jackson rode his scooter. Boy was I wrong!

Greg and I quickly learned how much fun it is to skateboard. We bought boards and started to skate ourselves. Then we bought new boards because we learned that our original boards were for “cruising.” Cruising? We wanted to skate!  We didn’t want to just putter around the park. We wanted to skate ramps and bowls! We wanted to drop in! And so we did. And you know what? We’ve been having the time of our lives! Literally. We go to the skate park as often as we can. Jackson rides his scooter and Greg and I skate. We encourage each other, watch each other’s progress and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. It is truly a family affair.

I recently treated myself to lessons for my upcoming birthday. I scheduled seven lessons with a young man named Tommy who works at our local skate park. Unfortunately, our final lesson was rained out. (I was deeply saddened.) Tommy was a saint. A saint! He could’ve taken one look at this middle-aged mother and begged off. But he didn’t. And I am so grateful for that. Not only is Tommy a great instructor; he’s truly a great person. (Tommy, your folks got it right.) My life is richer for the six hours I spent with this young man. I was drawn out of my comfort level every minute we were together. He had me skating switch/fakie at heights and speeds WAY above my comfort zone. And equally death-defying—Tommy had me dropping in independently by the end of our time together.

Here’s a video of my first independent drop in.

http://on.fb.me/1wjdUKM

I took a few spills, which were never Tommy’s doing. I simply didn’t know what to do with myself post maneuver. But I got up and kept going.

Overestimated my abilities to fakie a steep ramp, post drop in.

Overestimated my abilities to fakie a steep ramp, post drop in.

I learned so much from Tommy, not only about skateboarding, but also about myself. I learned that even at fifty I’m still as curious and tenacious as I was at 20, 30 and 40. But more importantly, I’m more intuitive and open to correction and instruction than I was at those ages. My life is so much richer for those six short hours. I’m so thankful I took that step and that time for myself. Contusions aside, I have a newfound appreciation for this body God has created, a deeper love for skating, a greater gratitude for my tenacity, and a new friend I hold dear to my heart. Thank you, Tommy, for letting me fly.

At work, pre-lesson.

At work, pre-lesson.

Sweaty! Tommy and me apres lesson (and first independent drop in).

 

A Phenomenal Woman Indeed

An Evening with Maya Angelou

I can’t believe she’s gone.  Maya Angelou was such a strong presence—a force—someone you expected to walk this earth forever.   For me, her words were a life changer.  For millions more, her advocacy for social reform made her a game changer.

I was fortunate to witness a presentation by Dr. Angelou at Westminster College’s Orr Auditorium in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.  The presentation took place on a rainy night in March of 1995—a very pivotal time in my life.

For me personally, the 90s brought with them a deep restlessness and unquenchable search to find out who I was.  Becoming a mother at 17 stripped away a very necessary period of self-discovery.  Circumstances demanded I assume a role when I hadn’t a clue as to who I was as a person.  I hadn’t so much as discovered my likes and dislikes or interests, let alone determined what I wanted to be when I “grew up.”  It was during this time that I discovered the force (and fierceness) of Maya Angelou.  Her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ignited a fire within me.  The strength and fortitude with which she weathered a traumatic childhood spoke to my heart before settling deep into my soul.  Her words allowed me to see that I was not to be defined by my circumstances.  I voraciously devoured her subsequent books:  Gather Together in My Name, Singin’ & Swingin’ & Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas, And Still I Rise, The Heart of a Woman, All God’s Children Need Travelling Shoes.  I couldn’t read them fast enough.  Her books caused people to explore what it means to be human.  They made me explore what it means to be a woman.

You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.

~Maya Angelou, “On The Pulse Of Morning”

I lost my mind when I learned Dr. Angelou would be giving a presentation following a ceremony in which she would receive an honorary degree from Westminster.   And she did not disappoint.  Dr. Angelou’s voice was rich and deep.  Her strength permeated the venue.  Almost twenty years later I remember it as if it were yesterday.  But then again, why should I be surprised?   Maya Angelou had a grace and warmth that touched everyone.  She was of course, “a woman / Phenomenally.”

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

~Maya Angelou, “Phenomenal Woman”

Halloween

Halloween has come and gone.  Thankfully.  I’ve never been a big fan.  Even as a child it was a pretty disappointing holiday.  I grew up in a really rural area in Western Pennsylvania.  We literally lived in the middle of nowhere.  Our neighbors were half a mile or more away, depending on the direction you traveled. Add to this disappointment the fact that it was always bone chilling cold and Halloween was pretty much a bust.

Halloween was more celebratory when my daughter was a child.  We lived in a neighborhood with families and children, so she always had a great time.  Fast-forward twenty-five years to Halloween 2009 and I would have told you I expected more of the same with munchkin given our neighborhood.  Notice I said, “I would have told you,” not “I can tell you.”  That’s because it didn’t work out that way.  From Jackson’s very first Halloween he has fought any and every part of this cursed holiday.

Jackson has never accepted any type of costume—no matter how unobtrusive.  From checkered shirts and jeans (cowboy) to tank tops, shorts and sneakers (basketball player), Jackson has hated costumes.  Every bit of it is overload for him.  Too much chaos.  Too many people.  Too much noise.  Too many folks in his face grilling him as to why he isn’t participating in this silly, nonsensical event.  And let’s not forget he’s an extremely literal child.  The boy honestly thinks a person is permanently transformed when they put on any type of mask, makeup, prosthetic or outfit.

Until this year, the costume parades at school have yielded no better results.  The year before last the poor child was traumatized and clung to me while screaming at the top of his lungs.  Everything about Halloween is simply too much for him and by virtue of this, it’s too much for me too.

This year I came up with the idea of Jackson being Curious George and I would be The Man with the Yellow Hat.  Jackson thought this would be a great idea.  (He said it would be easy because he’s already brown.)  Of course he had very specific parameters for what would constitute his costume—short sleeves and shorts (w/no zippers or buttons).  That’s it.  That’s what was allowed.  It worked out perfectly.  I happened to have a brown knit tee and shorts that had been passed on to us from friends and added some construction paper monkey ears to one of my headbands.  Voila!  Curious George.  I was equally as lucky in pulling together my The Man with the Yellow Hat Costume.  We were a hit for the Characters in Literature Parade at Jackson’s school.  (Sounds so much better than Halloween Parade, don’t you think?)

Jackson had no desire to don his costume a second time to participate in the trick-or-treat aspect of Halloween.  Which is more than fine by me.  The child has never had a single, solitary piece of candy.  His choice.  So sitting out the door-to-door process is of absolutely no consequence to him whatsoever.

People appear to be utterly shocked when they ask how Jackson liked trick-or-treating.  And I feel like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas when I tell people I don’t like Halloween.  How about you?  Is there anyone else out there whose kiddos don’t enjoy “All Hallows Even?”  Image

Who Rescues Who?

Image

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our life whole.” ~ Roger Caras

This photo is an accurate portrayal of the love our son has for our dog, Geoffrey—a rescue from Ruff World Animal Adoptions in Central Florida.  He is the fourth canine family member (and third rescue) we’ve been blessed to share life with in the past twelve years.

Our dogs—the last two (Felix and now Geoffrey) in particular—have been vital to our family. They have proven to be effective touchstones for our son—having a somewhat grounding influence on him.  For me they have proven to be great stress reducers.  My favorite part of the day is lying in bed at night waiting for munchkin to fall asleep.  Geoffrey snoozes with his front and back legs draped over me while his head rests in my lap.  The room is dark except for the soft glow of a nightlight.  As I stroke the side of his face and run his velvety ear repeatedly through my fingers I can literally feel the stress of the day wash away.  (Studies have shown that petting a dog can lower your heart rate.)  Truth be told, if it weren’t for my husband waiting for me to spend some time with him, I could conceivably stay there all night for the inner peace I’m afforded in that sacred space.

If you are contemplating bringing a canine family member into your home I urge you to please consider adopting from a rescue or shelter.  There are so many wonderful, loving dogs in desperate need of a loving forever home.

An estimated 2.7 million healthy shelter pets are not adopted each year, and only about 30 percent of pets in homes come from shelters and rescues.

U.S. shelter and adoption estimates

  • 83.3 million—Number of owned dogs
  • 20 percent—Percentage of owned dogs who were adopted from animal shelters
  • 3,500—Number of animal shelters
  • 6 to 8 million—Number of cats and dogs entering shelters each year
  • 25 percent—Percentage of purebred dogs in shelters
  • 3 to 4 million—Number cats and dogs adopted from shelters each year
  • 2.7 million—Number of adoptable cats and dogs euthanized in shelters each year

                                                                                     ~ 2013-2014 statistics according to the Humane Society of the US 

Amazing Peace ~ Maya Angelou

Let There Be Peace

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft.   Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound.
We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war.   But true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, and comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Nonbelievers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace.  We look at each other, then into ourselves,
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation:

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.