Sunday, February 26, 2012

Someone Nudged

Biking the Us for Mom

I don't know who, but someone nudged the total donations to BTUSFMS past the $5000 mark. Officially, as of around 10:00 this morning, the total donations made now stands at $5001. I truly wish I knew who the donor was, as well as all the other anonymous donors, so I could thank him/her properly. Not being able to offer a more personal thank you just doesn't seem right. But I understand the desire to remain unknown.

To all of you who have donated, anonymous as well as known, your thoughtfulness and generosity have touched not only my life but all those living with MS. I'll never be able to describe the feeling that fills me when I see the total continue to go up, or the feeling I get when a person suffering from MS shakes my hand and says, "Thank you for what you're doing." I can't take all the credit, though. None of this would be happening without all of you.

I just wish I'd made the decision to do the ride, to encourage people to donate to MS research, to raise awareness of MS while Mom was alive. Part of me thinks she's the one doing the nudging--nudging me to nudge others. She always was persistent like that.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Lovely Note From My Friend

When I was in the last few months of being a  fourth grader, my family moved from the place we had called home since I was five years old. This meant having to go into a new school at the end of the school year. This meant all the other fourth graders had their friends and weren't too interested in the new kid. My first day I found myself in what everyone referred to as a "portable." It was actually a trailer that had been set up outside the school building because there were more kids than space, and to accommodate all the students, portable classrooms had been pulled onto the grounds and set up.

I remember thinking it was kind of cool to have a classroom in a trailer, but when I sat down at the desk the teacher pointed out to me the first day, the coolness factor evaporated and was replaced by feeling completely self-conscious. My knees wouldn't fit under the desk when I scooted my chair forward; they were actually higher than the desk top itself. And there was no other desk at which I could sit. Trying to concentrate on the class materials when I was so uncomfortable and just sure everyone was laughing at me (which I don't remember anyone doing so) was impossible.

At one point in the day, we all had to leave the portable and go into the school building for another class. I was relieved to be able to sit at a table where my legs fit underneath just like all the other kids. And it was at this table where I met the girl who today is my oldest friend. She was drawing a picture (which I would find out she was always doing). I watched. We began talking. She loved horses. I had a horse. From that moment on, we were nearly inseparable. If she wasn't at my house, I was at hers. If we weren't riding the horses, we were swimming in the pool. If we weren't hanging out in her bedroom, we were at the little league field, playing ball. So many fun times happened during the next four years with this friend of mine.

Though my family moved again just before my freshman year in high school, my friend and I stayed in touch. And though we went through months, sometimes a year or longer, of not hearing from the other, all it took was one call, one letter, one email and it was like we'd never been apart. We both have had tough times, had our own struggles, but we both soldiered on. We both are stronger for it all. And all that drawing she did? Well, today she's a successful artist.

This afternoon when I gathered the mail from the mailbox, I found amidst the junk mail a pale blue envelope with my friend's handwriting on it. I opened it to find a lovely note along with a gift card to a very well-known coffee shop, which will come in handy during the ride this summer. I look forward to using the card, and each time I do, I'll smile, thinking of my dear friend who has always been there for me, no matter what.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Long Week

Whew! I can't remember a time when I was so happy to have a week end. Nothing horrible happened. I was just so busy mentally each day that by Friday afternoon, my brain was mush. This resulted from canceling classes and doing individual student conferences. Take 85 students who come in for a twenty minute conference and you get a full day of interacting that begins at 8 am and ends at 5 pm. By the time I got home in the evenings, all I wanted to do was sit on the couch and not think. Training didn't happen either. I thought about getting on the bike each evening, but I just couldn't find the energy to do it. So a week went by with no training hours or mileage.

And that's why this morning I only lasted 30 minutes doing the AMGEN DVD. My heart was pounding after the second interval, and the tell-tale signs of heading towards dizziness was setting in. After last Sunday's awesome training ride at the high school, with no problems keeping my heart rate up or keeping my cadence up, this morning's ride was a complete disappointment. This is what happens, though, when no rides happen for a week. Not to mention the wine . . . which always zaps me of energy the day after drinking it. Lesson learned.

I really like the AMGEN DVD and will continue working on getting through it. It's not going to be something that happens soon, as I noticed several differences between Carmichael's training and my own. Carmichael's "easy" is my moderate. Carmichael's moderate is my "max." I definitely have some stepping up to do if I'm going to be able to complete the entire workout, but I already knew I needed to kick my training up a notch or two. I know I can do it if I stick with it; after all, I did manage 30 minutes of it today. Not a complete failure anyway.

The highlight of the week came last night when Hubby and I went to Merlot and a Masterpiece (which is where the wine came in). We painted and drank wine and mingled with the other painter wannabees. As I sat there brushing on the red fenders and adding in some black on the chain guard, I thought about how painting a picture of a bike was a perfect way to end a long week.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Leaving My Sweat on the Gym Floor

Today I participated in my first organized indoor training ride. The group sponsoring it was raising money for a high school trip to DC, so I thought good cause as well as good way to get a solid workout in. I wasn't disappointed.

When I'm training in the living room at home, I tend to keep the same pace for the entire hour. This isn't necessarily bad, but never changing pace or gear to increase effort will eventually cause problems for me when I am able to get back outside. I could be walking the first hill I come to if I don't push myself a little more on the trainer. I know this, yet I'm loathe to change things up. Today, I was forced to change things up. The leader of the ride called out when we needed to change gears, when we needed to get out of the saddle, and when we needed to increase cadence. The last 90 seconds of the ride, I was in the most difficult gear, trying to keep my cadence up as fast as I could. When she called out 40 seconds remaining, my legs were yelling, "What in the world are you doing?" I had to shift to an easier gear to keep the cadence up, and by 15 seconds remaining, it was all I could do to continue pedaling. What a great workout.

Now I feel better prepared and ready to give my AMGEN Tour of California 2010 DVD a go. It's called "The Workout" and is produced by the Carmichael Training Systems, so I'm a teeny bit intimidated. Finishing the entire DVD might take a couple of tries, but I'm gonna give it my best shot.

Tomorrow--The Workout! (A shiver of fear just went down my spine!)

Friday, February 10, 2012

What's Up With the Pink Skunk?

Lately I've been having really vivid dreams, the kind that are so crystal clear when they're playing out that I remember them for days afterward. Last night, I had one such dream. When I woke up from it I was very tempted to get up to research the possible meaning behind it. One look at the clock kept me in bed; it was only 1:46 am. I still had several hours of sleep to enjoy if I pulled the covers up to snuggle under, so I did just that. No way was I going to forget the dream even if I did go back to sleep.

In the dream, I was walking Neurotic, Silly Dog along a rural road. I could see up ahead of us a trio of kids in the road, walking away from us. I was faced with having to decide to continue walking straight or turn left onto another road. Right when I had decided to continue straight, a rather large, very bright pink with white stripe skunk came out of the ditch just in front of us and began to cross the road. While I marveled over its color--bright pink?--at the same time I feared Neurotic, Silly Dog was going to go after it. I pulled the leash tight and began backing away. The skunk looked our way then turned and  headed directly for us. I continued backing up, trying to go faster while pulling at Neurotic, Silly Dog who didn't seem to notice the skunk, but wasn't being cooperative in backing away with me either. The skunk set its sight on us, closed in, and sprayed. I could actually see the scent cloud dispersing through the air, heading straight for us. That's when I woke up.

Relief over the pink skunk being just a dream filled me. I couldn't help but laugh over the absurdity of the whole thing, but at the same time I wondered what it all meant. Having a skunk show up in a dream is one thing. Having a pink skunk show up is a completely different matter.

So far, I've learned this about skunks: they are very respected in the animal kingdom and have no natural predators but one, the Horned Owl who can't smell worth a dang. Skunks are solitary creatures who only use their foul stench-making defensive mechanism as a very last resort. It first hisses, stomps its front feet menacingly, and straightens its tail in warning. If the predator persists, then the skunk will spray. Because it takes up to ten days to fills its glands with another dose of smelly secretions, and because it can only spray 5 or 6 times during its lifetime, the skunk has to be very, very careful about how it uses its means of defense.

As I was reading about the skunk, I became awed. This is one amazing animal. It really is symbolic of live and let live, doing no harm if at all possible. While I've not decided what it all means as far as it applies to my own life, the dawning of understanding is beginning to take shape. I'm glad I dreamed about the pink skunk. There isn't anything to fear, but much to think about and learn by.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lessons Learned From Mom

Because of the upcoming cross-country trek I'll be taking part in, I've been working on my nutrition. This has included eating lots of fresh fruits and veggies, some carbs, some protein, and gallons of water. Occasionally, an urge for sugar fills me, like last evening after dinner, and I'll soothe the urge by baking cupcakes or cookies. Once I eat a cupcake or a couple of cookies, I'm satisfied and don't feel the need for anymore sweets. Last evening, the desire for oatmeal raisin cookies kept nudging at me, so I pulled out the ingredients and baked up a couple dozen. As I was measuring out the brown sugar, the baking soda, and the flour, I thought about the many times Mom had made cookies for us: oatmeal-molasses that she swore would come out wonderfully chewy if you used your hands instead of a spoon to mix all the ingredients together, chocolate chip without the chips because Dad didn't like the chips, and chilling the butter cookie dough for an hour to ensure tender, flaky butter Christmas cookies. These lessons, along with several others, I abide by now as I bake cookies or make other passed-down-from-Mom dishes for my own family.

Another recipe by Mom that I follow is the bread stuffing to go inside the turkey on Thanksgiving day. The ingredients are just sort of tossed into a big bowl, mixed, then tasted until the flavor hits the just-right celery, salt, pepper, poultry seasoning meter reading. No written record of this recipe exists, at least that I know of. It was always just a hit or miss kind of undertaking. Mom knew when it was right, and after many years of testing the stuffing before it was packed into the cavity of the turkey, I came to learn the just-right meter reading , too.

One of my all-time favorite recipes of Mom's is her potato salad. Every time I've taken this potato salad to a get together, the overall consensus is it rocks. Much like the bread stuffing, the potato salad ingredients are just mixed together, taste tested, adjusted, tested again, repeated. When Mom nodded her head and smacked her lips together in satisfaction, the potato salad was ready to eat.. Mom always joked about a secret ingredient, so one day I watched closely to see exactly what was going into the concoction. Now I know the secret and my potato salad is the only kind Angel Baby will eat. He actually sneers at other potato salads.

These an other lessons learned from Mom are part of my own repertoire these days for living life as a mom. I know I am truly one of the lucky people in this world, having been given a mom who passed on lessons that when followed, make others very, very happy.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Spending Minutes Wisely

The current argument around the house these days stemmed from Angel Baby bemoaning something that had happened at school, wondering how he could get his friend to change. My response was that the only behavior he could change is his own. If he doesn't like something his friend is doing, he can tell his friend this, but he can't expect his friend to change. Upon hearing our discussion, Hubby jumped in, basically saying I was wrong and that I changed people's behavior all the time due to my position as teacher. For quite some time, we went back and forth, with me, Beautiful Lovely Daughter, Funny Delightful Son, and Angel Baby all saying I wasn't changing anyone's behavior, and Hubby adamant that I was.

While I understand what Hubby was saying, I truly don't believe I have changed anyone's behavior. I don't have that kind of influence. I offer the tools with which to work to become more proficient writers, but what the students do with those tools is totally up to them. I don't follow them home and whisper constantly in their ear to get them to follow through on the assigned tasks. I'm fairly certain that once students leave the classroom for the day, they pretty much don't think about any of the tools I've offered until the 11th hour. Then they might pull them out and try to put them to work, but that's only because of a deadline. In the end, the work of most students is accomplished for one reason, a grade, and more often than not, most students are satisfied with simply making a passing grade. Nothing I do or say is going to change student behavior. The student has to do that himself.

This changing behavior concept seems to bother some people, like Hubby, and I have to wonder why. I thought about this quite a bit today, and the place I kept coming back to is no one wants to admit he or she engages in behavior that is destructive, hurtful, unproductive, or negative in any way. But it seems to me we all do on occasion. Recognizing that type of behavior and making a commitment to not take part in it any longer takes guts. No matter what anyone else says or does, the person behaving badly has to take the first step to saying no more. It is an individual choice.

I'm as guilty of bad behavior as the next person, but I do believe I can become a better human being. One commitment I'm living right now is no negative thoughts. When a negative pops into my head, I cut it off and replace it with a positive. If I can't come up with a positive, I move on, not dwelling on the negative and giving it space to grow. I've been at this for a couple of months now, and while I have a long way to go, I can see a difference in the overall quality of my days. I feel as if I am truly living the idea of minutes being more valuable than money, and I am spending them much more wisely these days than ever before. This change came about because I found myself unhappy a lot. No matter what I said to try and get those around me to help me be happier, in the end, the only person who can make me happy is me, and this is only going to happen by me changing my behavior.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

My Mind in Fantasy Land

I keep telling the family that once I reach San Fran on August 1st I'm going to turn north and head up the pacific coast, into Canada, up to Alaska, catch a ferry to Russia, and keep on going. They think I'm kidding. Though I know in real life I can't, in fantasy land the notion to leave it all behind to explore the world from a bike makes perfect sense.

The desire to make the fantasy reality just keeps getting stronger every day, most likely because all of my free time is spent reading about people who have traveled the world via bicycle or who are currently doing so, like Erin who writes ErinsWorldBike. She started out when she was 18 and is still going. My increasing desire could also be a result of checking out one-man tents, air pads, sleeping bags, and other camping equipment, all of which I need for my summer adventure. I'm enjoying comparing brands and talking to people who know the differences between the choices, like the awesome guys at WildCountry. They showed me the air pad I had seen online and was considering buying, but now I know for sure I'm getting it since they took the time to show me how it works and what the benefits are. They also gave me some great ideas for what I should definitely take to make the trip smoother, more comfortable. I can't wait to go back to the store in March to check out their new stock of tents, air pads, and sleeping bags.

For now I'm just going to have to breathe deep and try to keep life balanced. This is a real challenge as I'm consumed by the excitement, the fear, the joy, the pain, and so many other feelings swirling through me at the thought of what I'm going to be doing come June 1st. I truly have never felt before what I'm feeling with each day that passes, putting me closer to the day I start out to ride across America.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fabulous Friday

Friday, if there are no meetings scheduled, is my day to go to the office and get things caught up, such as grading and prepping for the next week. After doing a class worth of responding to journal entries, I take a breather and play around online. You know, checking Facebook, checking in at BTUSFMS, checking out the blogs I follow, checking hotmail, reading the news. Yeah, basically just wasting time. So today, I go to Facebook and see that my big sis shared my status about getting close to goal and asked her FB friends to consider donating. While I was responding to her, a message came in from a friend of my big bro, asking where she could send a donation. After responding to her, I see a post from Incredibly Funny Sis-in-Law, sharing my status about getting close to goal and encouraging  her friends to donate to the cause. All of the support, all of the encouragement, all of the getting the word out has been absolutely heartwarming. I just can't thank everyone enough.

Now, back to work.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

About a Rose

Yikes! I am totally distracted by BTUSFMS and the fact that my fundraising goal is so close I can almost reach out and touch it. But really, my distraction today isn't so much about the excitement of reaching goal. No. Rather, it's about the envelope that was handed to me this morning at work and what was tucked inside, clipped to the donation, that is creating a whirlwind of thoughts.

Yorktown Tattoo
My mom loved temporary tattoos. She often talked about putting a rose on her ankle, but due to the compression socks she had to wear to keep the swelling down, she wasn't able to ever don the rose she so wanted. Today, paper clipped to the donation offered to me was a temporary tattoo. It's not a rose, but it is whimsical and one I know Mom would have liked. I'm going to apply it to my ankle the morning I start out from Yorktown, leaving it on as long as the dirt and grime from the road allow.

And since I've been talking about getting a real tattoo for the last three years, when I reach San Francisco I'm going to see about a rose.