Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Snowflakes, Dreams, and Starlings

Did you know snowflakes can hurt? I found this out yesterday on my way home from the transit station. I'd ridden my bike up in the morning to catch the bus, and during the afternoon a light snow fell when I returned to the transit station to get my bike and ride home. Almost as soon as I started out, a snowflake hit me in the eye. Not a pleasant feeling! All the way home I was blinking and keeping my head down to avoid having snowflakes maul my eyeballs.

Being out, riding through the snow, was invigorating. I've actually been considering trying to ride twenty miles or more on a weekly basis all winter long no matter what kind of weather we're having. First, I have to find my booties, though. I really don't like having cold toes.

You know what else hurts? Dreams. I had a dream last night during which something happened that created an intense emotional pain. One part of the dream I remember the most is me standing at a sink, washing coffee mugs and crying because of what had happened. Even when I woke up, I could still feel that gut-wrenching hurt that comes from feeling loss.

Now, after standing at the bus stop, watching a murmuration of starlings over Jersey Hill, that feeling from the dream has faded. What lingers is slight but still noticeable, and I hope over the course of the day the rest of the hurt created because of a dream disappears completely.

Speaking of starlings . . . I love them. I know a lot of people despise this bird because of how destructive it can be, but really, starlings have won me over. Starling murmurations are fascinating to watch, and after reading studies about the communication that takes place while they are in a murmuration, I think even more highly of these birds. It's like they're offering graceful choreography in the sky just for us to enjoy.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

My Kind of Sunday

Nearly 27 miles today. With intensely numb toes by the end. So numb I simply couldn't feel the floor after taking off my cycling shoes. My fingers? Just fine. My face? No problem. Even without my balaclava. I've searched the apartment for my neoprene booties, but so far no luck. So the toes are just going to have to go numb. 
Towards the end of my ride. I didn't
realize until after seeing this photo on the
computer that I'm actually in it, too.

My go-to for thawing out my toes was hot chocolate spiked with a little bit of Bailey's Irish Cream. I'll ride 27 miles in 35 degrees with a real feel of 29 any day if it means hot chocolate with Bailey's is waiting for me at the end. I thought about having a second but then I thought, "J, save that last bit of Bailey's for another day. You'll be glad you did." So I tucked the Bailey's back in the fridge, behind the milk and orange juice (not that anyone else will drink it, but just to be safe . . .).

Then I took a two-hour nap. Yep. Two hours. I wouldn't really call it a nap, though. More like dozing off then being awakened by something happening on The Great British Baking Show episode I was watching, then dozing off only to be awakened by Ado climbing up on my lap because he wanted the chair, but I wasn't inclined to move, then dozing off again only to be awakened by Angel Baby standing beside me, asking, "How much of this episode did you miss?" Why does it matter? Isn't that was rewind is for?

Yummy roasted butternut squash.
Watching cooking shows makes me want to cook, so I went to the kitchen and got to work making the butternut squash soup I've been thinking about for two weeks (yeah, sometimes it takes me a while to actually follow through on what I'm thinking of doing). As soon as I put the squash in the oven to roast, Ado came to the doorway and looked at me, like, "We go walk now?" My track record of having 
The soup! 
something on the stove or in the oven then going outside isn't good. I don't need a repeat of forgetting about something cooking and nearly burning the apartment down. That would be bad. But he looked at me with that face, those dark brown eyes, and I couldn't say no. So I turned everything off and we set out for our late  afternoon walk.

And it was just beautiful out. The wind had died down. The sun was setting, the sky streaked pink and yellow. If every day could be like today, which started off with Lovely Beautiful Daughter picking us up to go to breakfast, I'd be all right with that. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Does Having a Car in the Driveway Mean I'm Not Actually Carfree?

Yesterday I drove Angel Baby's car to work. This morning I rode my bike to Uptown, went to Starbucks for my usual Thursday treat, then hopped on the bus to work.

I have most definitely come to prefer the bus or my bike, and even though it would be much easier -- I'm not even sure easier is the right word; convenient?  --  to take Angel Baby to work then drive on over to campus, I'd much rather

wait five minutes at the bus stop, feeling
the cool November breeze touch
my cheeks
take a seat near the back of the bus
look out the window, watch
the last of red maple leaves
skitter along the sidewalk
relax, ten minutes
of meditation or reading a chapter
of the book I'm into, music
whispering from earbuds.

The idea of driving being easier, more convenient, and time-saving than riding my bike or taking the bus really isn't true in my case.

Driving the Jeep is fun. No doubt. But I simply don't want the stress of driving. I want to be chauffeured around.

I get that I'm technically not carfree since there is a vehicle sitting in my driveway. I'm choosing, though, to not drive it. It is paid for, and Angel Baby has declared he's paying the insurance, so I'm reserving the right to continue claiming I'm carfree. Five months now.

A colleague asked me the other day how my carfree life is going. She, too, takes the bus to work every day and has done so for the past three years. She, too, has a car, but she chooses not to drive it most of the time. Not having to deal with car maintenance, filling the gas tank, reckless (dare I say downright crazy?) drivers, and everything else that goes along with driving a car has been such a relief. While we don't really think about all of these things contributing to stress, not doing them now for five months has opened my eyes to just how much they were contributing to me feeling stressed each day. I like not feeling that stress.

Tomorrow we might have snow. An inch. And I haven't bought my boots yet! I've been putting off buying them, thinking I wouldn't really need them until December, but the weather is saying, "Ha! Gotcha!" This morning was quite chilly for my ride to Uptown. Halfway there I was wishing I'd worn my winter cycling gloves. They look like lobster claws, but they're warm, much warmer than the thinner gloves I wore today. I was also wishing I had a pair of warm boots as my toes were cold by the time I reached the transit station.

Update: So I wrote this post yesterday with the intention of publishing it after I got home from work. That didn't happen. I'm just now publishing it, and since I am, here is a photo from this morning's walk with Ado. Snow. As promised. And absolutely beautiful.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Angel Baby's First Car and Other Fun Things

Despite Angel Baby saying he was good walking to work, which, granted, is just more than a mile from the apartment, I went ahead and bought him a car to drive when the weather gets colder. Walking when it's 35 degrees is one thing. Walking when it's 2 degrees with a wind chill of -7 degrees is quite another. I truly don't believe he realizes just how miserable that would be.

So, I bought him a 2000 Jeep Cherokee. He claims I bought it for me since it's a manual, which he doesn't know how to operate.
Angel Baby's new ride!

If I'm being completely honest, I do have to admit I love this vehicle. It's in really good shape, and driving a stick is just plain fun. The Cherokee is very definitely my kind of car, so if Angel Baby says he doesn't want to drive it, I won't be hurt. I'll drive it and enjoy every single second of doing so.

I have a hunch, though, that Angel Baby won't have any trouble learning how to drive a stick. He learned how to move while playing the saxophone in marching band. He's been playing video games nearly his entire life. I think his ability to work body parts independent of each other is fairly high, making driving a stick shift just another activity he won't give a second thought after some time driving. And really, if I can drive a stick, he surely will be able to drive one. It's not rocket science.

When I called my insurance company to insure the Jeep, I figured the quote for a teenage boy would run nearly $100 a month. Thankfully it was quite a bit less than that. Angel Baby has said he will pay for the insurance, but I think I'll pay it for a while. I want to be sure he is actually the one driving the Jeep. If it ends up that the Jeep is just sitting in the garage, there's no sense in him paying for something he's not using.


Last evening I went into Fallout: New Vegas to see if I could finally get past this really powerful bad guy -- Ulysses -- that I've been trying to take down for some time now. I tried a rocket launcher, a super-cool blade, hand grenades. You name it, I tried it if it was in my weapons inventory. Every single time his eye-bots took me out, or his marauders came in from behind and took me out. I finally grabbed the grenades specifically for robots, thinking I would take out the eye-bots first. I then went into my aid inventory and used all the drugs and items that gave me damage protection, renewed my health, and increased my agility (because Angel Baby will tell anyone who listens how awful I am at moving and fighting at the same time -- I am really terrible at doing both at the same time, so I needed all the help I could get).

Then I set to work. I started throwing the grenades with wild abandon, hoping they did what they were supposed to do. And they did! I took out two eye-bots almost immediately. Then Ulysses came after me, so I went into my weapons inventory and took out my strongest melee weapon. I started whacking away and sent the really powerful bad guy over a guardrail to his death. But I still had marauders coming after me. I switched my weapon to a Gauss rifle and started picking off each one. Angel Baby had come in while I was taking care of the marauders and was duly impressed with my play. When the bullets stopped flying, I was still standing! With nearly 100% health, which completely stunned Angel Baby since my armor was nearly useless. I chalk it up to the right combination of Psycho, MedX, and other aid items.

The trail on my walk home.
In defeating Ulysses and his minions, I then had to make a decision: nuke the NCR, Caesar, or both. I chose to nuke both since I was an enemy to both. In making that decision, I failed in the quest. I think I'm going to go back to an earlier save and make a different choice to see what happens. I'm really curious now and I won't rest until I know.


After work Thursday, I took the bus to Uptown then decided to walk home from there. The slight drizzle didn't bother me, and the trail was absolutely beautiful. As I walked I thought about how fortunate I am to live where I do and have all the possibilities for getting around that I do. That morning, as I waited for the bus, a new acquaintance drove by and waved. A few minutes later he was back, asking if I'd like a ride out to work since he was going that way. I declined, but he assured me he really did have to go out that way, so I thought why not? It's just a ride. I did ask him if he's a serial killer before I got in, which made him laugh. I was completely serious. The ride was just fine, and it was very kind of him to offer. I told some friends about hitching a ride with a stranger and one said I need to text them next time just so they know, and if I don't show up to work they'll come looking for me. They're such good friends!

Friday, I biked over to the DMV to get the plates for the Jeep. I went over on Wednesday, but since I didn't have a second proof of current residence or a check (apparently, IDOR does not take cash, debit, or credit), I couldn't get the plates. Friday morning, I had triplicate of everything I needed. I wasn't leaving the DMV without those darn plates. A half hour after getting there, I was out the door with plates in hand, ready to put them on the Jeep and drive it around. I drove out to Menards for a board and three crates to make a TV shelf. Then I drove it to Tuffy Auto to have them check out the exhaust and a couple of other things that I know needed attention. They checked it out, gave me the low down on what needed to be fixed ASAP, and three hours later I walked back to Tuffy to pick it up with all the work done that they suggested. Both men working on the Jeep remarked about what a wonderful vehicle it is, so I feel really good about this Craigslist purchase. I truly hope Angel Baby gets two or three years of use out of it. And what's fun about the license plate is the two letters on it are BB, which made me think of how Funny Delightful Son couldn't pronounce Angel Baby's name when they were toddlers and always called him Baby Beau. I think the plates are perfect for Angel Baby's first car.

From my walk with Ado this morning. Such a beautiful view!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

October Fun

Like usual, Ado and I set off for our morning walk. A bit later than usual since I slept right up until 7:45. Then I snuggled for another half hour against Ado. He's the best cuddle buddy ever. So when we finally started off, the sun was shining, warming the morning so nicely. While we walked I thought I'd cycle up to the farm to return the egg cartons that I'd been collecting over the last couple of months. I wasn't about to let this beautiful fall day get away from me without a cycling trip of some kind.

Once Ado was settled in after we returned to the apartment and after I aired up the tires on Sweetness, I started out. Only to realize the wind had come up during the time I fixed Ado's breakfast, geared up, packed the egg cartons in the pannier, and stepped back outside. Not just a little wind, either. No. This wind, though I didn't know it until after I checked the weather once I got home, was blowing over 23 miles per hour, gusting up to 40 mph. There was even a wind advisory that I didn't know about.

For the most part, the wind was out of the WNW. Basically, it was hitting me at an angle, going across my left shoulder. At one point I had to unclip my left foot as I was heading towards the right edge of the road and thought I was going to hit the loose gravel. That's how much the wind was pushing me around. A couple of segments of the ride had me cycling just about directly into the wind, bringing back memories of going from Medora, ND to Glendive, MT. A day of cycling 65 miles in 30 mph winds. I made it that day, and I made it out to the farm and back today. The ride back made going out totally worth it. The couple of segments where the wind was mostly pushing against my back, I was flying. I checked my Garmin at one point and saw 31 mph. I've never, ever gone that fast on a flat before. Such fun!

These creatures are so beautiful!
Not once did I wish I hadn't decided to go. I loved every single second of today's ride. The very best part by far was seeing the salamander crossing the road. I haven't seen a salamander in such a long time, and when I got off the bike, walked towards it, it turned and looked at me then began coming towards me like we were meant to meet each other. I picked it up and carried it over to the shoulder then decided to take it further away from the road. I watched it find its way down into the grass, safe and sound.

My version of the white pumpkin. I'm going
to pull out my acrylics and do a bit of
touch-up, but overall, I'm okay with this.
All the way around, this weekend has been one of the best. Yesterday, Lovely Beautiful Daughter and I went up to Chicago to see the pumpkins at the botanical gardens, but before we did that we painted our own pictures of a white pumpkin then went to dinner at Guildhall, a place we just happened upon and were seated though we didn't have a reservation (and they were packed!). We each had a delicious meal followed by pumpkin bread pudding (which was yummy yummy). The whole day was all about pumpkins. Such fun.

And another fun moment from the weekend. This is from an email I opened when Lovely Beautiful Daughter and I were out to do our grocery shopping --


We'd like to publish your submission in the December issue online. Please send a brief third-person bio if you haven't already sent one, and optionally, a photo, if you accept publication.

Thank you."

Ummmmm,  yes, I accept! So, when December hits, I'll share the link to the poems so the whole world can read them. :)

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Facing Truth

I was sitting in my oversized chair last evening, watching a new Netflix show, when the very top of the full moon edged above the apartment building next door. I watched it rise, finally appearing entirely. I switched off the TV, spread out my meditation blanket, lit the candle, and turned off the one lamp in the living room.

In the yellow light of the moon and the flickering candlelight, I settled onto the blanket. Ado came over and curled up right against my legs, and together we spent the next half hour in meditation. Well, I tried to in any case.

The moon shining through the piece
of stained glass art in the window.
Maybe it was the effect of the full moon. Maybe it was the warmth of Ado pressing against my legs, feeling his breathing, feeling his energy. Whatever it was, I just couldn't go into full-on meditation. Instead, a memory from long ago surfaced, one that I've not visited in a very, very long time. Because I'm ashamed of the decision I made. But last evening I forced myself to visit that memory, to examine it from every angle possible, and instead of coming up with excuses for justifying why I made the decision I did, I finally . . . finally . . . admitted I screwed up. Big time.

For much of my meditation time, I asked for forgiveness.

Ado must have felt my sorrow. He sat up and turned so that he was facing me. Then very gently he nosed my entire face. This pretty much sent me over the edge. My meditation session ended with me in tears.

But I'm glad I faced that memory. I'm glad I didn't just tuck it away like I've always done, not wanting to really see the truth behind that decision. I'm still feeling the weight of my meditation session this morning, but I know I can start paving a path of peace for myself, and I'm pretty sure Ado will be right beside me with each step I take.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Breaking Out the Winter Gear

When I look at the calendar, I'm amazed that we're in week ten with the semester. In all my time teaching, I've not had a semester just seem to zoom by like this one is. I think a big part of why I feel like the weeks are slipping by so quickly is I'm teaching two hybrid sections, so I only see the students of each section once a week. After our once-a-week meeting, the students are sent on their way to complete the work online. I love this approach to teaching, and I hope to continue teaching the hybrid courses, but they definitely do make the semester go by in a blink.

And with the weeks passing, the cooler weather seems to be here to stay. Which I am perfectly okay with. Though I do need to buy some long johns to wear under my clothes if I'm going to continue biking to work. And a good pair of winter boots, ones that are stylish yet practical and warm. I've been searching for the just-right pair of boots for a couple weeks now, and I think I've narrowed down the choices to a pair I can buy at the sporting goods store not far from where I live. I can walk to the store, or bike, and buy the boots right there. No need to order a pair and wonder if I got the size right. I walked over on Sunday and tried on a pair, so I do have that option if I don't find another pair I like better during the next week or so. I'm kind of still eyeing a pair online, but they're a bit more than I want to pay. However, the reviews make me think these would be a great investment, a pair I'd have for many years, which is exactly what I'm wanting.

I definitely could have used a warm pair of boots this past Saturday. The wind was whooping out of the north, and though it was, I decided to ride my bike to the state high school marching band competition at the university. While there, my feet froze since I only had on a thin pair of socks and my tennis shoes. I guess the hopeful side of me thought since the sun was shining I'd be nice and warm. So not the case. The wind had other ideas. So, yeah, it's definitely time to find a pair of winter boots that can be paired with dresses (at least for the trek to work, at which time I'll change to shoes) and jeans and keep my feet warm, too.

Recently I cycled to work while wearing a dress, and my students thought this was just absolutely the coolest thing ever. I don't quite understand the reaction people give me when they see me wearing a dress and riding a bike, but I guess it's not something we see on a regular basis. At least here. I have to wonder if women wearing dresses and riding bikes is seen more frequently in larger cities. Especially in Europe. For me, wearing a dress while riding a bike is just part of my life. I did have a problem with the hem of that particular dress getting caught on the back brake as the dress falls to my calves and is very full. I had gathered the fabric and clipped it together with a large binder clip, but still there was enough fabric to wiggle its way back to find the brake. Now that dress sports a black smudge of grime on the hemline, which is fine since the dress is a black and white print. The smudge fits right in with the pattern.

Today's dress is a bit shorter, so no getting caught on the back tire's brake this time. Since the dress is shorter, I worried it might ride up while I was pedaling, but I quickly found my worries were silly once I started out. The leggings I have on actually helped keep the dress's skirt in place (and my legs toasty warm!). I felt completely comfortable, not the least bit self conscious while on the bike. Now I'm really looking forward to other dress/leggings/boots combinations to wear through the winter.

So, Winter, though I'm not completely ready for you, I'm okay with you showing up early. I also look forward to spending time with you through the next few months.