Sunday, July 15, 2018

Chicory Coffee and Fresh Farm Eggs

The rural roads are lined with an abundance of chicory. The dainty light purple-blue flowers offer a pretty contrast to the mid-summer green. Many believe the plant to be an invasive weed, but I beg to differ. It adds beauty to the world.

I decided to learn more about the plant, and in the end, I bought some chicory "coffee" after reading about how delicious it is. My first sip made me think of molasses. Which made me think of the molasses oatmeal raisin cookies my mom used to make. Now I'm determined to make those cookies and fill my kitchen with the warmth of molasses.

But, I digress.

The chicory coffee is a keeper. I can't imagine ever going back to regular coffee now that I've had the pleasant experience of drinking such a flavorful coffee substitute. The flavor packed into this drink makes the coffee I was drinking pale in comparison.

I probably wouldn't have learned about chicory coffee if I hadn't been riding the back roads like I have. While still not anywhere close to the 4200 miles I cycled two years ago, I think I'm getting close to the 1000 miles mark for the summer. My threshold has certainly increased. I'm now able to do 50 miles comfortably. Most often, I'm between 35 and 45 miles when I go out. On Mondays and Fridays I ride with a friend. Just this past Friday, we meandered out into the country, and as we neared home, instead of turning onto the road that would take us back to the trail, I went on, knowing we'd have to cycle two or three more miles. When we had to stop at a crossroad and wait for the traffic to pass, my friend looked at me and said, "At first I thought damn her, but now I'm glad you kept going. It's too pretty out to return home."

The last week especially I've felt the need to be out. It's like my being can't and won't rest until it gets what it needs from being amongst the corn fields, the wind turbines, the lake. Today I rode my heavy workhorse of a bike up to the farm to get eggs. It was a slow ride. But it was exactly what I needed.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Happy Fourth of July Week!

Since posting about being stuck in a funk, I've cycled over 200 miles, written several thousands of words of new material, and practiced yoga several times. I even made orange-cranberry scones and iced coffee to last me all of last week, so each morning I had a treat after taking Ado on a walk. All of this doing what I love to do has felt so good.

I have to wonder why I fall into a funk and not want to do these things. They truly do make me happy. When I pull into the drive after forty sweaty miles, nothing can keep the smile off my face. Especially when I look at the stats on my Garmin and realize I'd kept a 15 mph pace, even given having to go slower while on the trail and making my way through the city streets. The same happiness fills me when I see four or five pages filled up with words, all single-spaced. The satisfaction that comes with completing these things I love feels great. It seems like I should never want to go a day without engaging in one or more of these activities.

Yet there are times when days go by with me not taking part in any of them. And I don't understand why this is. The knowing I'm wasting valuable time, time I'll never get back, makes me sink even further into the funk. It's a vicious cycle.

A few days ago I finally replaced the back tire of my commuter. It's been out of commission for a month simply because I was too lazy to put the back tire in place after changing out the old tube. In a matter of seconds, the tire was on and fully pumped up. I checked the brakes and chain, clipped on my pannier, and cycled out to the farm where I buy my eggs. It's a 25-mile round trip journey, but the day was beautiful. I knew I was doing exactly what I should be doing at that particular moment.

My first month of being car-free has come to an end. I'm not regretting my decision, and Angel Baby has been a real trooper about having to walk or ride a bike where he wants to go. Each of us is figuring out the quickest and safest routes to the store, to work, and wherever else we need to get to. A couple of days have been incredibly hot, but we deal with it by taking a towel with us or an extra shirt. I know when the weather gets cooler then colder we might have to make some changes, but until then, we'll just sweat.

On Wednesday, the kids joined me for a July 4th lunch. Chicken salad sandwiches, potato salad, and macaroni salad. Lots of salads. Ice cream finished the meal, and afterward, we sat and talked for several hours. That evening, Lovely Beautiful Daughter and I went to the nursing home to help some residents get settled outside to watch the fireworks. Other than the nasty cut I caused myself -- slicing my index finger while cleaning up -- the day was perfect.

Today, I got up early, cycled up around one lake then over to the other then back home. Forty miles. Straight into a nice wind for a little more than half. The wind pushing me home once I turned back south. When I saw I'd averaged 15 mph I was a bit surprised. But then, that's what the wind at your back will do for you! And because I couldn't get enough cycling into the wind, I rode out to work to drop off my contract for the coming school year. That ten miles round trip gave me fifty miles for the day. Not a bad way to end the week!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Stuck in a Funk

The smaller apartment works perfectly for me. Each moment I'm here, working or reading or watching something on Netflix, is a moment I feel content. A few years ago I would have never considered myself an apartment kind of person, but for now, it suits me and my needs.

My desire to go small, to reduce the amount of stuff in my life, to focus more on experiences rather than having things -- these are all happening. 

The simplicity of it all -- less space to have to clean, each piece of furniture serving a purpose instead of just sitting gathering dust and taking up an area -- makes me wonder why anyone would want big. At what point did big become a thing? I know it's always been a thing with the mansions and castles of the rich through the years, but seriously. Big seems overwhelming. Big seems unnecessary. Big seems cold. Give me manageable. Give me purpose. Give me warmth.

My carfree life so far is working out. I've not really had any need to go anywhere the days we've had rain. Except for this morning. I'd forgotten about a dental appointment until yesterday, and the forecast for the week has been thunderstorms. I awoke around 5 am to the sound of rain. Thankfully it tapered off before 7, and by the time I left for the dentist shortly after 8, the pavement was drying. I wore my rain jacket just in case, but the rain stayed away. After the dentist, I pedaled to the store for some fruits and veggies. The route has a nice hill to my street. Then it's a quick downhill to home.

The writing has tapered off significantly. I've been in kind of a weird funk, the kind that makes me not want to do much of anything. I have to force myself to engage in the activities I really enjoy, and I'm not sure why this happens. I forced myself to write 1000 words on Monday just to say I wrote something. Tuesday and Wednesday I tinkered with that 1000 words, not really making any changes. Mostly just reading it and re-reading it. Like that's going to do much good. I forced myself to read a chapter in the book I'm currently into, but I'm not enjoying it. Not like I enjoyed the book I finished before moving on to this one. I forced myself to write this post, just to give myself another reason to get words down that I can return to another time. Honestly, I'm not enjoying writing this post. I think it actually sucks. But I'm going to grind it out.

I did get an email telling me my proposal for a session at the regional conference in October was accepted. That's good news as now I have something to work towards. The session will be about my writing self, how I use my ups and downs as a writer to show my students what the writing life is like. This means I need to keep hammering out pieces. I also need to send things off for publication since publishing will also be a part of the conference session. Hopefully, something of mine will be accepted for publication between now and October. The only way this is going to happen, though, is if I pull myself out of this funk.

So, I'm off to figure out how to get past the doldrums. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Taking the Plunge into Car-free Living

Back in 2012, after returning home from two months on the bike, I began thinking about living a car-free life. After all, I'd just spend 60 days without a car. I'd ridden a bike up mountains. I'd ridden a bike during downpours. I'd ridden a bike for hours under a sun pulling every ounce of moisture out of my body. Surely I could continue riding my bike for wherever I wanted to go once I settled back into life as usual, right?


In fact, in July 2015, I bought myself my first ever new car. Well, it was used at a year old, but to me it was basically a new car. It only had 14,000 miles on it. The interior and exterior were pristine. It was mine and mine alone. No one else would be driving it.

The first year I put around 5000 miles on the car.

The second year I put another 5000 miles on it.

Last year to now, since I began letting Funny Delightful Son drive it to work and wherever else he wanted to go, another 9000 miles have been put on the car.

Even at the current 33,000 miles, the car is far below the national average in how much mileage it has covered during its lifetime. And right up until last week, it was still in pristine condition. Was.

Funny Delightful Son stopped by one morning during our move to take the screen door to work with him. Right after the screen door was installed -- a brand new, beautiful screen door -- Ado ran smack into it when I opened the sliding glass door. He did this at least three more times before realizing he had to wait until the screen door, too, was open before he could actually go out onto the deck. Well, those at least four times of smacking into the screen tore it away from where it is pressed into the channel along the door's edge. I wanted to get the screen fixed since we were moving out.

So FDS stopped by to put the screen door in the back of the Jeep. He was going to take it to work where he could fix it. When he began sliding the door into the Jeep, it angled up, an edge of the door digging into the headliner and tearing it. A moment of shocked stillness swirled around him. I could see his body pull into itself like a balloon deflating. He looked at me, the disappointment in himself clear in his blue eyes.

"It's just a car," I said.

"Yeah, but . . .." He looked back at the tear.

"I'm sure we'll find a way to fix it."

Two hours later I received a text from FDS, telling me one way of fixing the liner. I knew he'd been spending time researching for what to do while he was supposed to be working.

I truly don't care that the car is no longer pristine.

I don't care because the car is no longer mine. It now belongs to FDS.

We'd been talking for months about me selling him my car. I don't need it. He does. So we worked out a deal. He gets a good car that will last many years (as long as he takes care of it, which I know he will), and I get the opportunity to see if I really can make a go of a life with no car.

I have a lot of naysayers. Their comments reinforce the typical mindset of having a car: "what about grocery shopping? what about bad weather? what about going out to eat, seeing a movie? "

The few things I find myself wondering how I'm going to handle are:

  • going somewhere during rainy days
  • going somewhere during freezing winter days
  • going somewhere at night.

Despite these unknowns, I'm going to try living car-free. My goal is to go for a year without. When I think about not having a car payment, not having to pay for gas, not having to pay for insurance, and not having other costs connected to having a car I get positively giddy. I looked up the yearly cost of owning a car: $9000. Yep, that's a lot of money not going out of my pocket any longer.

Because now I am car-free.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Riding Out of the Fog

I went to bed last night with the intention of getting up early for a ride with a friend. I'm not a morning person any longer, haven't been for several years now. When the kids were younger, I had to be a morning person to make sure they got up, ate breakfast, then set off to school on time. I, too, would go through the routine of readying myself for work and arriving to teach at 8 am.

Now, I find getting out of bed before 7 quite difficult.

This morning, though, I was up at 4:50, out the door and on the bike by 5:25. My friend and I rode 31 miles. The first 10 miles in fog. The last 21 miles in mist. We ended at a coffeehouse, where I indulged in tiger chai and an orange-cranberry scone.

With the first revolution of the crank, my being sighed. I hadn't realized how much I missed being on the bike until the front tire bumped off the driveway onto the street, and I began the short climb up to the main road that would take me to meet my friend. A physical response -- like a lightness infusing every cell -- contentment? joy? -- filled me. Like I had been holding my breath for way longer than I was truly capable then pulled in precious air. Relief.

My friend was waiting for me, and in the early morning quiet further hushed by the fog, we set off. We agreed to 20 miles, but 10 miles in he said, "Let's keep going." Fifteen miles brought us to one of my favorite stopping places, a bridge over a creek that winds through the fields. We talked some, not much, which is our usual. Neither of us ever truly feels the need to talk when we cycle together. A great blue heron flew out of the tall grasses, glided over the waist-high corn, and landed within the stalks.

The familiar fatigue in the legs showed up when I clipped in and began the short journey from the coffeehouse to home. Memories of days on the cross-country rides, the fatigue grabbing hold after a lunch stop, a snack break, any kind of time off the bike then back on to keep going, rushed in. I learned from those rides the fatigue will diminish if I just turn the crank. The fatigue was all but forgotten as I sailed down the hill to home.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Our Move is Mostly Done -- And We Survived

Angel Baby and I are tired. Exhausted is probably the better word. Between the two of us, we moved a desk that weighs as much as a two-ton truck (really, I know it does) and a china cabinet that's not much less than the two-ton truck. We did the bulk of the move on Tuesday, and every day since has been little stuff followed by cleaning. Today we have one more trip to make -- the unwanted things going to the ReStore and/or Goodwill. We also have the final cleaning. Then done!

I've felt the ups and downs all week. Funny Delightful Son no longer comes through the door each afternoon, gives me a salute and says, "Greetings, Commander." My typical response has been, "At ease, Squaddie." I won't get the twenty-minute run-down of his day anymore, and I won't get the jokes and funny comments during dinner.

And now that Lovely Beautiful Daughter is in her new place, I won't get my daily fix of hearing about her relationships with the residents where she works. When she talks about them, always referring to them as "MY residents," you can hear the love she has for each and every one of them. A smile lights her face, showing without any doubt she truly enjoys working with those under her care.

I've had the very best gift anyone could have given me for the last year. Time. Time with three beautiful human beings. Thankfully, I still have one with me, at least for awhile. Even he, though, has mentioned a time or two that he's beginning to think about moving into his own place. For now, I'm going to take every minute I get with him and hold it close.

I wrote this haiku back in February, after Ado and I took a walk and I saw a nest in a Rose of Sharon bush. It kind of sums up how I've been feeling these past few months and especially this week.

Empty nest remains
leaf-bare limbs melancholy
winds sweep life away

P.S. If you'd like to read the poem I had accepted for publication recently, you can find it here: The Voices Project. 

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Hello, June, Nice to See You

Five months into 2018. Please, Time, slow down!

During this coming week, the move will happen. My landlord built a fence around the deck of the front unit, the unit Angel Baby and I will be moving into. It's a much smaller deck than the one we currently have, but the fence he put up will allow Ado to be out in that little area, which also offers some grassy space, without me worrying he'll get out. It's right off the kitchen, too, mostly private since the next-door neighbors never seem to venture outside. This past year, I think I've seen the neighbors five or six times. I don't know how people can stay inside all the time. I begin to get stir crazy, especially when it's warm and sunny, if I can't get out for several hours at a time.

I found myself wandering around today, wanting to get started with the move but not quite knowing where to start. I feel like I'm in a holding pattern, waiting on others to do things before I can do what I need to. The landlord is determined to paint the front unit before we move in, so I have to be patient until that's done. Hopefully, the painter will be in and out tomorrow. Truly, my landlord has been absolutely wonderful to me and the kids. Not only did he build the fence for Ado, but he also gave me the paint samples and had me choose what color I wanted the living and kitchen spaces to be. He then offered to haul off any pieces of furniture I decide I don't want any longer/can't fit into the smaller unit instead of me having to rent a truck to haul the pieces to Habitat for Humanity. I know I'm lucky to have a landlord who is so kind and keeps his units in excellent shape.

To keep myself busy, I moved some of the deck items to the new unit. I have a couple of old chairs I painted pretty colors -- one a pale blue, the other a bright yellow with accent colors -- so I moved those and some plants next to the front door. They bring some happiness to the entryway. I then took the bird feeders to the little front yard space. I'll be able to watch the birds from the living room.

The bigger issue is my desk. No way will it fit through the door to my bedroom. The unit is not even close to being ADA compliant. The doorways are quite narrow throughout, so if I take my desk, my lovely, huge, heavy-as-an-elephant desk, it'll have to go in the living room. I'm not sure I want my desk overwhelming the living area that much. Maybe it'll all work out just fine. Things have a funny way of turning out okay.

Since I won't get many more days of using the back deck, I sat out there long into the evening tonight. After my walk. Enjoying the breeze. I'm ready to move but not ready, if that makes sense. I just hope whoever moves in here enjoys this space as much as we have.