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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Under a Very Rare Cloudless Midwestern Sky

Finally, finally, I was able to get out on Sweetness and enjoy a ride. This after wrestling with the trainer tire that is so stiff it takes two people pushing and prying to get it free of the rim. This after blowing the hose on the tire pump because it was jerry-rigged. And this after searching the shelves in my closet, the basket on top of the washing machine, and again the shelves in my closet for my leggings, only to find them on the floor in front of the washing machine though I was certain I had washed them weeks ago. Hmmmmm. But I finally rolled out of the driveway and settled in.

I'm always pleasantly surprised by just how smooth Sweetness is. My cruiser and the Raleigh are heavy and take much more effort, which I think is probably good conditioning, so when I switch to the road bike, it's lightness and handling fill me with happiness. Even the brisk breeze blowing from the south couldn't take away the charm of rolling along easily under a much-longed for blue Midwestern sky. A very rare cloudless Midwestern sky. Even the crass, "Get on the sidewalk!" yelled at me near the end of the ride couldn't diminish the joy of having just completed nearly 25 miles of cycling.

My joy was further compounded when I arrived home and checked my email. My essay that was recently accepted for publication went live today and can be found here. Having my ideas, my words, and my vision of something that means so much to me out there for others to read scares me but also fills me with happiness. I do hope those who read the essay get some enjoyment from it.

Wind turbines under blue sky

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Perfectly Sweet Kind of Day

You know things are right with the world when:

  • your friend welcomes a much-wanted, much-hoped-for beautiful addition into his family;
  • your face freezes while cycling to work but you don't care because, well, you're cycling to work;
  • you get a thank you from a stranger for the work you're doing for a cause you believe in;
  • you get a note from a sister-in-law, telling you she read a book you recommended and loved it (Driftless: one of the best books I've ever read);
  • your significant other goes out during the middle of watching his favorite hockey team play to get you a vanilla cupcake with chocolate icing because one cupcake a day just isn't enough.
Yeah, it's been a perfectly sweet kind of day.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Feeling Conflicted

The last week of March is upon us. Already. Whew. Someone slow this train down. Please. The days are just zipping by too quickly. On the other hand, being this far into the semester puts me closer to the end of it, which is a mere 6 weeks away. I feel like I'm saying, "Slow down! Yay, speed up! Slow down! Yay, speed up!" first looking to my right then looking to my left. I really need to just breathe.

While I may seem conflicted over this whole not liking how quickly time is passing by/wanting time to pass by more quickly, if I had to honestly choose which side I actually fall on, I'd have to say wanting time to pass by more quickly. My mind is already way in out in front of me, in June, where I'm on my bike out in the countryside. Thinking back to last summer, I remember how I rode every now and then, but mostly just hung out around the house, piddling with my projects in my new shop and my garden. I was very content playing with my welder and swinging in my hammock in the loft. But now I feel the need to get back out and ride, seeing how much I can push myself again.

My desire to get out is definitely fueled by the music I listen to. When I rode for BTUSFMS in 2012, Lovely Beautiful Daughter put all her music on an mp3 player and sent it to me. I clearly remember the day I received it. We had arrived in Haswell, CO after a long day cycling. I opened the box addressed to me. Inside was the mp3 player and three cards, one from each of my kids. They each had taken the time to write me something. Reading their notes filled me with such joy that day. I read them several times before putting them away in my cubby in the van. Then I went to stretch out on one of the picnic tables, put the earbuds in, and listened to the music on the mp3 player. As I drifted into that kind of foggy state of dozing, a song played that became a part of who I am to even this day. I remember hearing, "What can I do? The river's overun./We're swimming in a flood, you know?/I thought I felt your touch/But the water's rising up." I never tire of this song by Passion Pit. If anything, hearing it puts me right back in that moment on the picnic table and every day after, as I rode my bike and listened to the music on that mp3 player. That song (and so many others on that mp3 player) is a prod to get back out and pick up where I left off in San Francisco.

I might not be as nervous about riding for BTUSFMS this go round, but I'm every bit as excited, hence my wish for time to speed up, so I can get out there and explore right here in my own backyard.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Finding My Balance

Yesterday when I left the house to go to work, it was a balmy 30 degrees. I knew I had to ride my bike. I really had no choice as a pull to bring the blue cruiser down from it's spot in the bike barn propelled me off the sidewalk, across the short path to the barn. Today dawned sunny and even warmer, giving me day two of finally being able to ride without freezing. About half way to work, I realized just how much I had been missing the daily commute. A happiness I'd not been feeling for awhile washed over me as I watched the ROTC members undertaking a drill at the park alongside the bike path, as I saw robins flitting about the hedge apple trees, and as I heard the trill of the red-winged black birds near Birky pond.

All last semester, I cycled to work. Each day I enjoyed the fresh air, the sunshine, sometimes the cold and snow. Being outside, even for just a short time before having to start work then for a short time on the way home afterwards, helped me find balance. When the holiday break came, so did the bitter cold and lots of snow. My threshold for continuing to ride is around 15 degrees. With no wind. Once break was over, the wind and snow continued, keeping the temps below 15 degrees for a long time. Right up until the last two and a half weeks or so. I didn't ride all of January, February, and now most of March. I could feel the tension inside building over the last couple of months, and when I was cycling to work today, I could feel the wound-too-tight feeling begin to loosen. I could feel balance returning.

Such a simple thing, cycling, but it brings about calm, joy, and balance.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mid Semester Sniffles

With a sniff, sniff, I had to bid farewell to spring break Sunday evening. While I mostly got caught up with all the student work for my classes over break, I did take the time to read Divergent and begin Insurgent. I also worked on a new essay, got one outside bike ride in, celebrated Funny Delightful Son's 17th birthday, saw my dad, siblings, and other family for my dad's 80th birthday celebration, and started watching The Following (which just absolutely creeps me out, but it's like a horrible train wreck that I can't tear my gaze from). I even cleaned and organized the front closet. All in all, the week was exactly what I wanted and needed it to be.

And now, here I am in week 9 of a 16 week semester. For the most part, I'm happy with the majority of my students and the work they are producing. I know some of my students don't particularly care for my opinion that to get better at anything--yes, even writing--one must simply practice whatever that anything might be on a regular basis. Like, every single (hahahaha, sorry for the aside, but single actually came out "dingle" the first time I wrote it) day. For most of us, being proficient at writing doesn't just happen. It happens after writing. A lot. And reading. A lot. Some students don't want to have to put in the time it takes to become proficient. They don't care. I try not to let this attitude affect me as I know developing a love for writing isn't on their bucket list. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's on their fuck it list. Which is okay. I most likely will never develop a love for constantly having a cell phone in my hands, texting, checking social networking sites, or looking up how to spell definitely because I continue to misspell it and auto correct keeps putting defiantly instead. Nope. That's definitely not going to happen. I get those students who can't bring themselves to love writing. I really do.

So that leaves me prepping for class, going to class, and trying to be upbeat every class session with the knowledge that I'm going through all of these motions for just a handful of students. Sometimes I just want to sit back, look at all of them, and say, "I'm done with you. Get out. Go do something purposeful. Drop me a postcard to let me know how things are going, but for now, just get out." Maybe this is exactly what I should do, the "this" being me getting out and going to do something purposeful because what I'm doing sure doesn't seem purposeful most of the time.

Okay. Done sniffling. Just 9 weeks left until I can close my office door for two months. Then I can not think about teaching people who don't want to learn. Then I can go do my something purposeful.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Dreaded Scale

One week ago today I stepped onto a scale. I had no choice because if I had, I certainly wouldn't have done something that makes me so incredibly disappointed in myself. I loathe weighing myself. I have ever since I was a kid. Once a person is labeled "chubby," "chunky," "pudgy," "fat," and my personal favorite, "thick," anything directly connected to making that label seem even remotely accurate is avoided. So I began avoiding the scale, at like age eight. When I was 10, we had to be weighed in the classroom, in front of all the others. At the time, I was around five feet one inch (I truly thought I was destined to be six feet tall as I was a head taller than all the other girls in the class), and I distinctly remember weighing in at 106 pounds. I also distinctly remember my teacher, who I thought was absolutely the most beautiful woman I had ever met in my short life, smiling at me and nodding, not saying my weight out loud like she had all the other students who had registered under 100 pounds. I loved her even more for that. But I knew everyone was thinking she's so chubby for a ten-year-old. Thus started my loathing of scales. They are the bane of my existence. So I avoid them.

But I couldn't avoid the scale last week. Nope. The doc said hop on. I hopped while declaring what my weight was before it registered. I was spot on. And my heart sank because what I declared and what the scale showed told the story of my slothfulness, my eating whatever whenever, but probably most importantly my disregard for my physical health as well as my emotional health. At the conclusion of the doc visit, I knew I had to make a change now.

That change has been to chart everything I eat in a day to calculate calories, fat, carbs, etc.(immensely grateful for online programs that help with all of this!). After the first day, I thought back over the last four months, all the things I'd been consuming, and I knew full well why I weighed in where I did. I also got back on the bike, which has been on the trainer next to my bed since January, but I'd only been on it intermittently. In making much more mindful decisions about what I eat, I feel in control. I've seen my sugar consumption become less and less over the last week, even staying under my goal for the last three days. I've seen my carbs consumption lessen, as well. The last two days have been nearly perfect in the carbs, protein, and fats being balanced. When I stepped on the scale this morning, I felt less dread because I know I've been eating for my physical and emotional health. Doing so rewarded me with a 3.1 pounds lost over the last week.

Fist pump!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Aboard the Healthy Eating Horse

Me around 11 years old aboard Copper.
Here I am, Saturday morning, a mere three days beyond my birthday, thinking about how I've done getting back on the healthy eating horse. So far, the horse has been a comfortable ride though at times I've thought about jumping off and stuffing a donut into my mouth. One thing I've begun doing when I feel the urge to pat my horse's neck and say, "Thanks for the ride but I'm bailing now," is sit down and write about why I'm wanting to eat when I'm really not hungry. This has helped me sort through the emotional aspect of eating and stay on track. Taking the time to think things through has shown me I'm inclined to eat because others are eating and because yummy, full-of-sugar processed foods are right under my nose. I don't have to follow the herd. I'm on the healthy horse. With my beautiful black steed, we tell the herd which way to go. I am now four days into not consuming refined sugar, and this makes me feel really happy. Being happy is a much better emotion to feel than disappointment in myself. I know I can't expect myself to always be so in control, and I know four days isn't all that much to get excited about, but when I think back to what I was eating v what I'm now eating, four days is huge.

My half Arab mare, Waymalin's Dream.
Because it is Saturday morning, Hubby did the usual: the chain donut factory breakfast of a dozen donuts. At first I thought one plain donut like I always have on a Saturday morning wasn't going to hurt. Then I considered having egg whites with kim chee and some cottage cheese. I opted for the latter. The donut weighed in at 320 calories. The eggs, kim chee, and cottage cheese weighed in at 160 calories. The donut has 22 grams of fat. My breakfast contained 5 grams of fat. All the way around, my breakfast won in the nutrition department. That makes me happy. If I'd had the donut, I'd be beating myself up over it, and I don't want to feel that way. My lovely black steed and I are so over these donuts. They have no power over us any longer.

Just a note on the pics: Copper was a grade mare my mom loved, loved, loved. She was owned by some friends of ours, and my mom really wanted her, so she went and convinced our friends to let her buy Copper. Copper and I had many fun-filled days. We did the showing circuit for several years, with the year I turned 13 being our best. We did really well.

Waymalin's Dream, or Dreamer, was my own purchase when I was around 19. She was only three when I bought her and hadn't had any training. I worked with her from the ground up. Our first show, I went into the ring for an English Equitation class, hoping she didn't blow up with all the excitement, and we left the ring with the first place ribbon in my hand. I was stunned. She was awesome. Just a fun horse all the way around.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Fifty and Fired Up!

So, today is my birthday. The big 5-0. And while Funny Delightful Son insists I'm only 29 (just as he has for the last five years), I really don't mind being 50. In fact, I'm embracing it. I look at reaching this point of my life with all the blessings I have as the best birthday gift ever.

That being said, I'm also looking at today as the perfect moment to set two goals for myself, goals that will be long-term and hopefully lead to a lifestyle change all the way around. I want to write my goals here because I do go back through my posts every now and then to enjoy the memory of writing each and to also enjoy the memories of the days themselves. Having the goals here will help me continue working towards fulfilling them.

Goal #1: To eat more healthfully. This has been a goal in the past, and I did make headway the past few years, but lately, I've allowed myself to ingest things that aren't all that good for me. I would blame Hubby here since he's the absolute worst when it comes to grocery shopping and buying chips, dip, candy, cookies, and donuts. But I really can't blame him. I'm the one stuffing the donuts into my mouth. It's all me. So right here, right now, I'm going on record and declaring no more wire hangers, errr, sweets. Do you hear me, Hubby? Yeah, I'm dragging you into this and taking you along for the ride. They say it's always more fun doing something with someone than it is alone, so gear up.

Goal #2: To write on a daily basis. I mostly do this already, but I have a couple of pieces in the works that need to be finished once and for all. I'm so close to being finished with the one project, am about halfway on the second, and am in the beginning stages of the third. I've set a deadline for the first as there's a market I want to send it out to, so now it's just sitting down and hammering out that final part. I've been piddling with this final part for two years. Enough piddling. Time to step up the pace and get it done.

Just writing these goals here has me all fired up. Fifty and fired up. I think I'll use that as my motto over the next year.

Cheers!