Friday, September 22, 2017

Difficult, Painful Steps But Necessary

Though I didn't get any good news from the lawyer concerning the financial situation, I walked out feeling as if I'm moving forward. I now understand the numbers, where they're coming from, and how it all came to where it is now. My hands are still tied in beginning to pay the amount owed since my husband will not agree and is still appealing, so I can't really do anything yet. But I feel like no matter what happens, I am taking the steps needed to start down the path I want for my life.

The one thing the lawyer did take interest in was the fact that one person in the relationship wants to sign the agreement while the other person in the relationship does not. He had never encountered this kind of situation before and is looking into how to proceed with the matter given this. From my perspective, I think my husband is being extremely selfish. He's not the one they'll come after. He's unemployed. He has no income. They'll come after me, the one who has a good, stable job. The one who has the means to pay. While I don't want to pay it, I will own the responsibility. I stuck my head in the sand rather than stand my ground. I should have let him have all his little tantrums. I should not have given in. I should have protected myself like I vowed when I married him.

I've truly learned my lesson the hard way.

Next week I see the lawyer to get started on a legal separation. Six months ago when I made the decision to leave what had been my home for thirteen years, I thought maybe a reconciliation could be reached given time and effort. I don't believe this any longer. Each day that passes with me having quiet, space, and distance from my husband, the more I know I cannot go back. In his presence, I am a bundle of anger. As soon as I leave, I am in a better place.

Through all of this, I've found myself finding my way back to the strong me I was before I married him. I lost sight of that me through the years, only starting to see the faint outline again several years ago, after a particularly awful fight with my husband. I saw a side of him I knew I'd never be able to come to terms with. I know that moment is where the beginning of our end started, but I wasn't ready to admit it then. If I had, well, let's just say I now can look at it as one of those If - Dog - Rabbit scenarios.

One step I did take after talking to the lawyer was to inform my husband's family of the situation. My husband has repeatedly refused to tell his family of our separation. He has refused to reach out and ask for help. I understand the embarrassment he is feeling, yet his refusal has impacted me and how I want to proceed. I'm so done with that. Like I've said before, I'm done running and hiding. I'm done allowing him to dictate how this matter is handled. I love his brothers and their wives, his sister and her husband, and everyone else who is his family. I will no longer keep this from them.

I am getting my ducks in a row. I took the step to leave. I talked with a lawyer who helped me make sense of the situation. I have an appointment to make the separation legal. I have told family what is happening.

It feels so good to be taking back control.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

I've Slept Long Enough

Lovely Beautiful Daughter looked at me the other day and said, "You've always been independent, but the last few years, that independence has grown. You've changed over these past few years, too. It's a good change." And from the little conversations I've had with Funny Delightful Son, I know he's happy I've finally asserted myself, taking the steps to get this mess under control. He even called me last evening, specifically asking if I had called the guys in suits.

Yes, I told him. I have. I could see his smile through the phone connection.

I called a lawyer and have an appointment set to discuss the financial issue as well as a legal separation. I told my husband of my intentions. I didn't back down when he argued what I am doing is going to make matters worse rather than better. I didn't back down when he suggested my decision will put him in a difficult position. I didn't back down when he pressed me to wait. I didn't back down.

I walked away feeling strong.

I walked away knowing I am the one who will pave a happy, stable path for myself. That path will definitely take time to create, but I did it before with three very young children in tow. I will do it again, this time with three wonderful, smart, supportive young adults cheering me on.

On another note, I've been reading a lot of poetry, mostly newer pieces to get a sense for what's being published right now. Then I ran across some Rumi and immediately felt myself drawn in. This one, especially, spoke to me and is still with me as I move through my evening.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

My Feet Belong in the Sand, Not My Head

When I think back to the moment I decided I just couldn't continue in the marriage to the kids' dad, I remember the day so clearly. How could I not? It was the day I gave birth to Angel Baby. Right up to the going into the hospital, of finding myself experiencing incredible pain, I thought my marriage could work. The moment the man who is the father of the three most beautiful beings I've ever been around walked out of the room, didn't stay to support me, didn't see the birth of his son, didn't see me go through a very scary moment of hemorrhaging, I knew my marriage was over. A month later, I set the wheels in motion to extricate myself from the bad that I was living in.

Today, as I was walking home from my husband's place, the thought it's time flitted through my mind. Instead of sweeping that thought away, I embraced it. It's time I stop running the other way, hoping the bad can't catch me. It's time to stop and face whatever might come for me.

In that same spirit, I've decided to stop placating my husband and his desire that I not share what is happening for fear his family will find out. I'm willing to own the fact that I didn't stand my ground, didn't take the necessary steps to protect myself financially under the guise that I was trusting my husband and his financial decisions. I'm willing to admit I am just as responsible for this mess through my burying my head in the sand.

Facing whatever might come is scary, but I began the process this morning. I called a lawyer, and I am getting my ducks in a row, as my mom always advised. Not exactly how I wanted to spend my sabbatical, but life has a funny way of putting a curve on a road that seemed to be pretty straight.

Monday, September 18, 2017

This Publishing Thing

Yesterday I finished the last poem of the trio I began last week. It's actually the first poem of the trio, but it was the one I started after having the second and third drafted. That's kind of how my fiction turns out, as well. I always have to know the ending before I can back up and start from the beginning. I need to know where I'm going to end up, I guess.

With the three poems drafted, I turned my attention to getting a few sent out to literary magazines today. I selected three I believe are strong and demonstrate the theme I'm working with for my project, then went to work researching a possible market. I found a literary magazine out of Texas, read several issues of it, and figured why not? I can see my work being a fit with this magazine, but then again, I think that with every literary magazine I send my writing to, only to be told in the rejection that my work isn't a good fit. This whole publishing thing is so completely frustrating.

I ran into a colleague at yoga Saturday morning. After class we chatted for quite some time, and almost immediately she expressed her dismay over the rejections she receives from literary magazines. I felt as if I'd found a kindred spirit. I certainly don't know what it takes to get published. I've had a handful of essays and short stories published, but I've had many more handfuls of pieces turned down. The form letters that accompany the rejections are all the same: "The fact that we didn’t choose to publish any of the poems you submitted should not be considered a ruling on their or your merit. Poetry is always subjective, and our decision reflects nothing more than our honest fair opinion of which poems we liked most" and "This isn't a reflection on your writing. The selection process is highly subjective, something of a mystery even to us. There's no telling what we'll fall in love with, what we'll let get away." After I read these, I think about some of the crappy poems I've read in their magazines. There truly is no accounting for taste.

So what are people like my colleague and I to do? Keep trying? In my case I have to. My whole sabbatical is centered upon writing and publishing. I read yesterday that on average, it takes 20 attempts before a short story will be accepted. For a poem? On average, 100 different publications! If it takes that long for a poem, given the wait time for hearing yes/no from the publication (especially if simultaneous submissions aren't allowed), I will be old, gray, and frail (okay, let's be real--I'll be dead) before I get my first yes, we'd be delighted to publish your poem. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

I Am a Yogi

I realized something about my yoga practice today as I moved through the postures with the group of people who had gathered for class at the park.

I no longer have to see the instructor to know what she 
is asking of the students. I just listen now. Much of the time with my eyes closed. 

After this recognition of growth registered with me, I paused to revel in the feeling. I know I smiled. How could I not? I remember the first few months of regular practice had me constantly looking at the teacher to be sure I was moving into the correct asana. Now, with a year of consistent practice and completion of two levels of yoga teacher training under my belt, I am beginning to truly think of myself as a yogi.

A few other yoga-related accomplishments from the first year of my yoga journey:
  • being able to do a solid headstand;
  • being able to hold crow pose;
  • being able to move into bound side angle pose on both sides;
  • being able to hold downward facing dog for seven minutes.
I feel stronger, more flexible, and toned, and I am grateful for all that the teachings of yoga have given me during this past year.

Facing the Truth

The day I've been dreading, trying not to think about, arrived. Yesterday. And the situation is even worse now than it was six months ago. The hole just keeps getting deeper.

I promised myself when I married my husband that I wasn't going to allow myself to be pressured into giving into what he wanted. I'd given in with the kids' dad on things I knew with my entire being were harmful, and in the end, that marriage ended badly. I thought I'd learned my lesson from that experience. Not so. My promise to myself lasted all of about a week. I wanted to keep my maiden name, but my husband kept pressing me to change it to his last name. Per my usual self, rather than stand my ground and say no, rather than let the boat rock, I went through the process of changing my name.

That was the first incident of many throughout the last 12 years where I didn't keep my promise to myself.

Now I'm in this situation that I know will end up being me finding myself financially strapped for the next seven or eight years. That raise I just got for working hard the last 18 years and being promoted to Distinguished Professor? I won't get to enjoy it. Not having to take an overload like I've been doing for the last 18 years because that raise makes it possible to just do a regular teaching load? Not going to happen. If anything, I'll most likely ask for a double overload.

I went into the separation thinking I needed to keep trying to make my marriage work. I think I'm done trying.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Balancing Act

Yesterday, a new idea for a piece to be part of my sabbatical project occurred to me while Ado and I were out walking. When little sparks like this happen while I'm away from my desk, I take out my phone and jot down a note so I have the idea in writing rather than just in my head where the tendency for the idea to get pushed to the back and forgotten about happens. Only I didn't have my phone with me. I kept repeating the idea over and over, even thinking about the direction it could go, right up until we walked through the door. At that point, I ran to my desk, pulled up a new Word doc and typed out the idea.

Today, I've been fleshing out the idea. What started as one poem has now become three, all getting at the idea of a finish line. The first in the series will lead to the second, and the second in the series will lead to the third. My hope is it will be clear all three are intertwined on several levels.

Interestingly enough, at least to me, the third poem was the first one I wrote. Then the second. Now I'm poking around the first. After writing the second, I felt drained. I needed a break.

I put lights on the cruiser so Lovely Beautiful Daughter can ride it after dark if she wishes to. I also put a cup holder on the handlebars. She will be able to take her travel coffee mug with her if she decides to take the bike to work rather than drive.

I put cages on my hybrid bicycle's pedals. While I'm not a real fan of cages, I don't want to clip in on this bike, yet I want to have some extra pedal power if I want it.

I've been searching online for a particular type of cycling shorts that I used to have and loved so much. So far, no luck. I will not give up, though. I will find them. I will. I know another cyclist who wears the same shorts and swears by them like I do, so I messaged her to see if she knows the brand and style. Fingers crossed she does.

After dinner, I'll return to the poems, having given myself time to come up from the depths into which I dove earlier today.

Sunset at Humbug State Park.

 I'm finding myself returning over and over to the sunset photos I have from the ride. Remembering the feeling of being on the beach, hearing the water as the sun set for the day, is comforting.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Getting Things Done

Today was the first day I've been able to really sit at my desk and write. And research. And upload the photos from my camera. And transfer the video clips from my GoPro. And even submit two poems to a literary magazine. Being this productive feels really good.

To start my day, I made lemon blueberry scones with lemon glaze. While I'm mostly a gluten and grain-free eater, I do like scones. Scratch that. I LOVE scones. Those I will allow myself to eat. Being able to move around a kitchen and bake or cook has been one of the delightful things about being home. Eating refried beans smeared on a tortilla, topped with goat cheese and salsa verde, got pretty old after a month of it. Presently, I'm waiting for the pizza dough I made just a bit ago to rise. While I won't eat the crust, I thought it'd be fun to make homemade pizza for dinner. I've not done that in a very long time.

As I wait, I decided to look through the nearly 2000 photos from my camera. These include all the photos from last summer's Northern Tier ride, and actually, they make up the bulk of the photos. I never transferred them to my computer. I figured today was as good a time to do so as any. So many memories emerge when I look at the photos.

Birds bathing in a pool left by high tide.

Cactus to be harvested and sent to Mexican restaurants.

One of the many vineyards I passed.


The trail I walked at Costanoa to get to the beach. This is where I found a beautiful tiny sand dollar.

Sunset at Carlsbad.

Strawberries. I'm conflicted about buying strawberries now, after watching the workers pick.

Sunset at Costanoa.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Back Home

Just over a week ago, I decided to forego the Southern Tier ride in favor of returning home. I absolutely loved cycling the Pacific coast with the waves crashing against the rocky shoreline, but I wasn't getting as much writing done as I had hoped. I knew going on to the Southern Tier, especially in the role of route leader, would mean even less time to put into the writing, so after long, careful thought, I bowed out.

When I made the final decision, I knew without a doubt it was the right decision.

Now I am back home. And I've not stopped smiling since seeing Funny Delightful Son sitting in the waiting area of the airport, looking up at me with a smile on his own face as I descended the stairs after getting off the plane.

I thought Ado might be mad at me for leaving him for a month, but when I walked up the sidewalk and spoke to him, he put his ears back, wagged his tail, then came to me. He jumped up, putting his paws on my shoulders and nuzzled my face. He returned to all four's, pressing against my legs while wagging his tail and looking up at me, clearly very happy to see me. He ran to the deck, up the steps, then turned as I stood at the bottom of the steps and stretched out to lick my face. He hasn't been far from my side since I returned.

Long, tight hugs from Lovely Beautiful Daughter and Angel Baby told me they, too, are happy I'm home.

While Washington, Oregon, and California are beautiful, home is where the love that sustains me resides.

Moon over the ocean the last morning of cycling the Pacific coast.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Another Week Down

After another day of excruciating heat for nearly 20 miles of a 93 mile ride, I will be comfortably cool in a Motel 6 for the next two nights.

Today the team rolled into Goleta, CA, which is next door to Santa Barbara. Our accommodations for the night and tomorrow's rest day is a church, which is fine, but the idea of staying two nights in a place with no air conditioning and no shower didn't go over too well with some of us. The church is also situated away from restaurants and stores, meaning we'd have to ride or walk several miles to get food, do laundry, buy groceries for our cubby, pretty much do anything. When one of the other cyclists said she was getting a hotel and asked me to join her, I didn't hesitate. I was a sweaty mess, covered in black road grime, and grumpy. A shower, bed, and air conditioning added up to a no brainer for me. I quickly tapped into my phone and found our hotel within seconds.

On the way to the hotel, we were waiting at a red light. A man in an SUV honked at me, wanting me to move out of his way, and after I did, he slowly went by, turning right, and said, "It's called a roadway, not a bikeway." I so wanted to say something nasty back to him, but instead I just smiled and nodded. Why people have to be jerks is beyond me.

The shower restored some of my happiness. The Chinese dinner more. And the frozen yogurt with mango, strawberries, and kiwi even more. Tomorrow, I might not do anything. Or, I might check out the pier, see if I can find a bike shop, and organize my cubby to finish out the ride. I'll decide tomorrow when tomorrow comes.

Sunday we'll roll out, heading to Santa Monica. Another 90+ miles day. After that, we only have three days of cycling left for the Pacific Coast.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

I've Never Known This Kind of Hot

111 degrees. Not kidding. And hills with 9% grade. The combination acted like a one-two punch.

The heat came from above then hit me again after bouncing up from the pavement. I felt like I was in an oven, slow roasting for nearly six hours. Not exactly what I call fun.

Because of the landslide at Big Sur, we were rerouted inland, to the valley running between the ranges. Yesterday was quite wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride through the valley, seeing the farmland. I never quite grasped just how much food is grown in California. Now I know. Tons. And so many migrant workers in the fields before dawn, bending over to pick, hoe, and take care of the fields. Grueling work, no doubt. I have a much higher appreciation for all that they do to make sure we in other parts of the country have fresh veggies and fruits. I have vowed to think much more of those who work in the fields each and every time I buy veggies and fruits.

Today, the morning started out at 60 degrees. Foggy, misty. I was hoping it would warm up like yesterday. It warmed up all right. Way up. Scary hot. I found myself trudging up a hill, wondering why I felt like my legs were mired in mud. I pulled over to rest under a shady tree. I'm glad I did as my heart was racing and I felt a bit off. I stayed there for about fifteen minutes, drinking and letting the breeze cool me off.

The next rest stop was about a mile up the road, so when I got there, I ducked into Naci Cafe and ate lunch. I hung out there for about an hour then went to the store to get some chocolate milk and bananas. I stowed those items in the rest stop van then set off on the last 15 miles of the ride.

Those last 15 miles took a long time. I caught up to several of the other riders and we decided to take rest breaks about every six miles. I figured if it took me to sundown to get to camp so be it. The heat was simply exhausting. We finally made it, and the first thing we all did was jump in the pool. I stayed in that pool for a long time, letting the water cool off my overheated body.

Now, the sun is down and a breeze is cooling the air. I have a couch to sleep on tonight and tomorrow we head back to the coast. 25 miles to the shoreline. I think we're all looking forward to seeing the ocean again though we've only been away from it for two days.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Rest Day in San Francisco

For the better part of the last ten days, we've not been in areas with cell phone coverage or wifi. I've been on roaming and haven't been able to do much online writing. I was fascinated with how the little towns have phone booths. They have to. No cell phone coverage. On one hand, I love the idea of not being so plugged in. Life is a bit simpler in those places. On the other hand, having had a cell phone for years and always being able to contact people in a matter of seconds via texting or calling, I've become accustomed to the ease the cell phone offers.

Now we've reached San Francisco. 1070 miles into the ride. Just under 800 miles to go. Two weeks to San Diego.

The ride has been everything I thought it would be. Beautiful landscape. Breathtaking coastline. Incredibly difficult hills. Each day, I marvel at the wonder that is our country, and I truly wish everyone, every single person who lives here, could take the time to explore and experience what is the United States. I find it sad that there are people who can't or won't ever be able to see all that makes up this country. I know I'm so fortunate to have had the opportunities to get out, see, do. I just wish everyone had those opportunities.

Today we're in San Francisco. We arrived yesterday afternoon after leaving out of Olema Campground where the night spent there was filled with raccoons pillaging the bike bag one of the riders had unfortunately forgotten to put into the trailer, locked away from the little critters; raccoons climbing up onto the van then sliding down the windshield--you could see the footprints on the van and the muddy slide marks left on the windshield; raccoons finding another rider's backpack with her jersey in it and taking the jersey a good hundred yards away, down by the river; raccoons fighting over the little treasures they were finding all over the campground. I had to shoo one away when it stuck its head underneath my tent fly. I was awake most of the night because of those crazy raccoons, but because I was awake, I also heard the pack of coyotes howling. Their chorus was truly beautiful.

The ride from the Golden Gate Bridge to the hotel ended up me going off on my own, away from the group I'd been with. A few were indecisive about directions, and after the third time stopping to consult the map, argue which way to go, I pulled out my cell phone, plugged in the hotel address, and asked Google to take me there. Google said turn left at the street we'd just passed, so I said, "See ya!" At that point, I was on my own in a city I'd never spent any amount of time in before. I had absolutely no clue where I was or what I might encounter along the way. But I listened to Google say, "In 800 feet, turn left onto Carmen Street" and so on. I just did what I was told to do. The only scary moment came with my phone said, "Battery low." I was still about 8 miles from the hotel, and with traffic, stopping, waiting, I worried my battery would give out, leaving me with no idea where I was or how much farther I had to go. I didn't get too worked up, though. I've learned how to be resourceful from doing these rides, and the one option I always had was to simply pull into a fast food joint, get something to eat and charge my phone while eating. I decided to push the envelope, and I'm pretty sure I was getting a little help from someone because as soon as I reached the van and trailer at the hotel, my phone died.

The group I'd been with? They arrived at the hotel over an hour after I did. I'm really glad I went off on my own.

Since there are so many of us on this ride, the organization put four to a room, meaning either we sleep together in the beds or someone takes the floor. I really wanted a good night's sleep since I've not slept well for the last four nights. Raccoons, traffic, other people, or tent flaps unzipping or zipping kept me awake a lot. So I wanted a bed to myself. This meant one of the other riders had to sleep on the floor. This rider has had a rough time--a couple of falls, one yesterday on the way to the hotel, and one about ten days ago that fractured a rib. I felt bad about not giving her the bed, but I was the only one in the room at 9 pm, I was tired, and I wanted to sleep. I took one of the beds and was asleep within minutes. I didn't even hear the others come in.

Earlier this morning, when I saw the rider who slept on the floor, she looked miserable. I went to the front desk and asked if there was an open room for tonight. A king, bay view room was clean and had my name written all over it. I decided to splurge and get the room. The injured rider can now have the bed I had last night and at least have one solid night of rest while here at the hotel. I'm now in my own room. Quiet. Cool. Just me. Heaven.

A few of us went to Fisherman's Grotto and walked, browsed the stores, then had lunch. It was fun, but like with most touristy destinations, I had enough after a couple of hours. I did get some fun photos to remember everything by, though, and this is enough for me.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Tales From the Laundry Room

Since Astoria, we've ridden some longer days, anywhere from 65-75 miles. A couple of those days involved some lengthy hills. Today, we had a 65-mile day, with some hills, but these were gentle and along the coast. The views were spectacular. I couldn't get enough of the tall cliffs, the waves crashing against the rocks, the sea gulls, the sea lions, and the whales. Whales! Just incredible.

One of the really fun things about doing a ride like this is all the different walks of life I encounter. Today, I met a couple from Las Vegas. I had just finished showering and was walking back to camp when they pulled in to do their laundry. The gentleman asked me how things were going, and I told him getting the road dirt off after a rainy morning felt wonderful. He thought I was riding a motorcycle. When I said no, a bicycle, he got that look of surprise so many give me when they find out what I'm doing.

I returned to the laundry room shortly after to do my nasty clothes, but the couple had used all three washers. They apologized profusely. No worries, I said, assuring them I was very content to just sit and read my book. Only I didn't read. He insisted on talking, and I learned they've been traveling since early June. They travel each summer to get away from Las Vegas. They've been all over the western United States as well as the middle of the country. Not so much in the east or southeast. Both are retired. He from ranching, raising horses, and she from teaching elementary school. Their kids are in the 40's and have children of their own. They've been to Europe and cruised down the Danube. Just a lovely couple.

All of this I learned in a small laundry room at an RV park in Florence, OR.

After they left, another woman came in to do laundry. She had forgotten her detergent, and when I offered her one of my pods, she looked at me with happy surprise. She told me she was doing her son's laundry and set about getting it into the washer. Then she began putting in the quarters but couldn't figure out how to do it. I showed her, and again, she looked at me as if I was the nicest person she'd met in a long time. She left for a bit, and as I was leaving after finishing my clothes, she was walking towards the laundry room. She stopped me and asked me if I was married. Yes, I said, to which she said darn. She'd told her son about me and was hoping I was available. She said she'd told him how she'd met the nicest person at the laundry room and that he should meet me. He's 38, she said. I laughed, telling her even if I was single I was too old for him.

Tomorrow is a shorter day. We roll into Coos Bay. I'm hoping to meet more interesting, funny, delightful people there.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Resting in Astoria, OR

Yesterday we rode into Astoria, OR. Goonies territory. Sea lions barking down at the docks. Painted ladies gracing the hillsides.

The morning started out very foggy, with a misting just enough to make wearing sunglasses annoying, but not wearing the sunglasses was even more annoying.

When we reached the ferry at Cathlamet, the sun started making gains against the fog. The temperature went from the mid 50's to 80 in a blink. My hands could finally warm up.

The final 26 miles to Astoria offered up some hills. Nothing that Sweetness couldn't handle, but I did hear a deep creaking coming from the crank. The front and back derailleurs need adjustment, too. No wonder after four days of 8% - 15% grades. A lot of mashing of the pedals going on. Hopefully, that'll ease up some. Hopefully.

Today's a rest day. I slept in the church proper, in a back corner. Alone. No one else chose the church to settle in for the night or for today. The quiet is bliss.

The days leading up to leaving home, I asked my husband to not call me, not text me, not email me. I need the time for me. He needs time to figure some things out for himself. I knew my mandate would be very difficult for him. But we both need some time to breathe. At least I do. We have talked, though, and texted. Not as much as we did when I did the Northern Tier last summer, so he is trying to abide by my wishes. And to be honest, it is nice talking with him after a day on the bike. But I know I need distance, both physical and emotional. The anger I've been harboring for so long began to diminish when I moved out, and I'm hoping being even further away will help me to continue finding a way past the anger.

Today has been lovely. I walked to the docks this morning, found a coffee shop where I ate quiche and drank chai while watching barges coming and going. I meandered around town, finding the Goonies house where there's a Do Not Walk or Drive Up to See the House! sign. I did get a picture of the sign, and when I walked a ways back down the block, I could see the house well enough to get a decent photo. From there, I went to the bike shop, then walked back to the SafeWay to buy groceries for the trailer and for my lunch/dinner today.

Tomorrow, a few of us are planning to stop along the way to go clamming. I've never been clamming, so this should be an interesting adventure. I am so looking foward to seeing the coast.

My breakfast: Can't complain about that view!

Saw some truly beautiful flower gardens on my walk.

The Goonies house: I couldn't walk up to it, but I was able to get a decent photo.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Two Days, A Jaw-Dropping Hill, and Yoga

Four days ago I left central Illinois to take on the Pacific Coast. I stayed the night with a friend from last summer's Northern Tier ride, sitting on her back deck, a glass of wine in hand, perfect for catching up and enjoying the evening. Finally, at midnight (two o'clock Illinois time) we said our goodnights. We picked up in the morning where we'd left off the night before, more catching up, walking a beautiful path around a lake, and pie on the way back to her apartment. I couldn't have asked for a more wonderful re-introduction to Seattle.

Saturday, my friend helped me load up my bike and gear then took me to the hotel where all of us riding the PAC coast were staying the night before starting out on the ride Sunday. We met each other, had dinner together, then played trivia. The day flew by. Before I knew it, I was in bed (actually on the floor since three of us were in a two bed room). I'd rather have the floor since I've become so used to having a much firmer mattress than what the hotel offered. I slept enough, but the jitters had set in, causing me to wake up a few times then wake up for good at 5 am. I took the opportunity to slip outside to the dock where I meditated for twenty minutes. I started the meditation with a slight headache, but by the time I was done the headache was gone.

I needed something to put in my tummy, so I went walking and found a coffee shop. Said coffee shop had vegan orange-cranberry scones. Though I have foregone flour/gluten for nearly two years now, like with pie, I make an exception for scones, especially orange-cranberry scones. This scone, hands down, was the best I've ever had. It melted in my mouth. The cranberries weren't the dried kind. No. These were tart, plump cranberries.

I was a little worried about my endurance coming into the ride. The longest training ride I did was 45 miles. I did quite a few shorter, slower rides, so I wondered how I was going to feel after the first day. I definitely got tired as we had a couple of tough hills. They were short but the grade was scary. The first hill was maybe a quarter mile, with a 15% grade. One rider told me her bike computer registered 0 mph as she pedaled up. I didn't look at my watch to see what my speed was. I can't imagine it was more than 1 or 2 mph.

Today was a longer mileage day, but I felt pretty good. I even did an hour yoga class at a local studio after getting to our destination. The teacher, after finding out I'm cycling long distance each day, tailored the class to shoulder openings and hip openings. I sweated more during that class than I did the entire 65 miles of cycling today. And my legs were absolute jelly. It felt so good, though.

Tomorrow is a shorter day. I hope to find another yoga studio to get a class in after the ride. I'd love to do a yoga class every day of the ride. A class in a different city for the next 28 days.

Yoga teacher Sara and my wild hair after taking a shower, riding my bike to the studio, and sweating like a stuck hog during the practice. Oh well. Wild hair, wild life!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Music Memories

I put Neil Diamond on the turn-table this morning to keep me company as I laid out the electronics I'll be taking with me on the ride. With the first few notes of "Everybody's talkin,'" memories from years ago flooded through me. Instead of sorting through the charging cords and other assorted electronics, I sat in the middle of my bedroom to float on the memories.

Summers spent riding ponies and horses through clover fields. Making construction paper ribbons and having our own horse shows with Mom as the judge. She never played favorites.

Hot summer nights playing Kick the Can. On rare occasions, Mom would call for us from the back porch that it was time to come in for the day. Most often, she let us determine our own bedtime.

Mom waking me up one August night to take me out to a blanket she had spread on the lawn. We laid there, watching meteors race across the sky.

Mom loved listening to Neil Diamond. Whenever one of his songs came on the radio she would turn it up.

When "Holly Holy" began, I couldn't sit any longer. I went out to the deck and danced. I wondered if Mom ever danced when no one was watching. Did she close her eyes, lift her face to the sky, and let the music flow through her?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Books in My Life

I recently finished reading The Yamas and Niyamas by Deborah Adele. I can't remember another book I wrote in as much as I wrote in this book. I felt like the ideas were reaching out and grabbing me by the collar, telling me, "Hey, we're talking to you." I now carry the book with me wherever I go. I specifically bought a bag big enough to put the book and a notebook in, so I can pull the book out and read it again, or pull the notebook out and write something that strikes me. This book came along in my yoga journey at the just-right time. It will go with me on my long cycling rides. I will use it to guide me as I move through my days.

A part of my yoga journey has included meditation. I took a meditation class at the studio I attend, and I loved each week we met, learned more about meditation. I'm now reading Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana, and this evening, as I mused over something about myself that I am unhappy about, my thoughts turned to what Gunaratana addresses in this book about ego. I stopped my musing about being unhappy and instead looked at the issue from a more detached perspective. When I did that, I found being unhappy about this particular aspect of myself is silly. In the big scheme of things, this aspect doesn't matter one bit. It doesn't affect my ability to do anything whatsoever. It doesn't interfere with any part of my life in any way. It simply is what it is. 

No one else cares.

Why should I?

I shouldn't. 

I sat in meditation this morning and constantly found myself having to pull my thoughts back, put them in little balloons and let them go, float up to the sky and disappear. I struggle with what Natalie Goldberg refers to as monkey mind in her book Writing Down the Bones, that voice inside that tries to disrupt, that tries to steer a person away from finding her true self. Sometimes I can corral the voice, but most often the voice finds a way out and begins its little tirade. Gunaratana advises persistence is the only way to move beyond monkey mind. Though I had to constantly pull the monkey mind back today, my time spent meditating carried over to other parts of my day and the rewards made me smile, made me feel quite content. This book, too, will go on my cycling trip with me. 

The last book I have decided to take with me on the trip is the first in the Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly. I've watched all three seasons of Bosch; I usually give up on TV series after the first or second season, but Bosch is a character I truly enjoy. I decided to give the books the series is based on a try, so I found a list of the order of Harry Bosch books and bought the first one. It's all I can do to not start the book now. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Keeping Good My Promise

Just a week remains before I head off to Seattle to begin the sabbatical adventure. The whole project is becoming real, not that it wasn't after being told I was granted sabbatical, but now that the bike is boxed up and shipped off, now that all my gear is boxed up and shipped off, the idea I wrote down in my proposal is beginning to take shape.

Actually, the idea began taking shape at the start of summer, right after the kids and I settled into the house we now call home. A friend suggested he and I ride and write together this summer. So we did. We committed to writing new pieces to share then discuss. Because of him, his support, his encouragement, his knowledge of poetry/writing/creating, I've been able to get a jump-start on my sabbatical project. I currently have 13 poems, and I have several more poem ideas percolating.

Each time I have a draft of a poem in place I'm emotionally exhausted. Immersing myself into the years of Mom's failing health brings out sadness, guilt, longing, pain. So many emotions flowing through me as I write. I hope those emotions are felt by the reader. My friend tells me they are, and I trust his responses to what I've written.

My friend has encouraged me to send a few of the poems off to literary magazines. And to keep my promise to myself that this year I would be persistent in writing and seeking publication, I have been sending my poems off. Each time I hit the submit button a twinge of fear bursts in my heart space. But I have to try. I have to keep good my promise.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

This Summer Sunday

Summer is steadily creeping by. Thankfully, the last three weeks have been quiet after several months of lots going on.

Now that the kids, Ado, and I are settled into the house, we've all found time to relax and just breathe. We have evenings of cooking together, watching movies together, and sitting on the deck to talk about our days. We have days where we each go our own way, but we find time to catch up sooner or later.

I've been cycling with a friend a couple mornings each week, and this same friend and I have been writing then sharing our writing with each other once a week. He's holding me accountable for producing new work, and while it's been a challenge, I'm so happy to have someone push me to create. Most of what I've written has been poetry that will be a part of my sabbatical project, giving me several pieces of the puzzle before I leave for the Pacific Coast ride. I feel like I have a head start, and I actually like what I'm seeing coming out of my own writing.

When I was in college, I took a poetry writing class during one of my last semesters. I needed some elective courses, so I decided to take writing poetry since I love to write. I'd never really tried my hand at poetry, mostly opting for short fiction, so I had no idea how it was going to go. I loved the class, and one of my poems was considered a standout by the professor as well as my classmates. It was just a short, simple poem, but everyone remarked about the imagery and the rhythm. Through the years, I've not written much poetry, just dabbled here and there. Now, though, my entire focus is poetry, which surprises me since I've always said I am a short fiction writer.

One of the more difficult aspects of writing the poetry is the subject matter. Since my sabbatical project will be pieces that somehow address MS, much of my time has been spent thinking back over the years of Mom living with MS. I've had some sad days lately. I didn't really think about how delving into memories might affect me when I wrote up my sabbatical proposal. During the past three or four days especially, as I've been working on the newest poem, I could tell when I needed to take a break and do something happier, like take Ado for a walk or go get a burrito with the boys. One afternoon, as I was getting up from the couch after taking a short break, I thought I need to call Mom. A second later I realized what I had just thought and decided to take the rest of the afternoon off from writing.

Lately, lots of thoughts about family, estrangement, and healing have been swirling in my head. I feel so incredibly fortunate that my kids like each other and enjoy being with one another. At the same time, I feel incredibly sad that my siblings and I are not all that close. We're civil to each other, but we don't go out of our way to stay in touch. My kids have their own group chat and call each other a lot. I have heard them vow to always keep tabs on one another, even as they grow old and gray. I tell myself to call my siblings, or at least email them, but I hesitate then don't do so. I don't know why I hesitate.

So I just keep living my life. Maybe one day I'll find the courage to begin calling my siblings just to say hi. Does there need to be any other reason to call?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Precious Gift

Last summer, at the end of the Northern Tier ride, I thought I'd finished my last long cycling trip. I gave away my tent. I gave away my sleeping bag. I gave away several of my jerseys. In my mind, I was done.

But like the weather in Illinois on an hourly basis, I changed my mind.

During the ride, I talked with a couple of the other cyclists about me applying for sabbatical and using the opportunity to ride the Pac Coast and Southern Tier as part of my sabbatical project. I tucked the idea away, coming back to it every now and then. Once I returned to work and had the sabbatical proposal deadline in front of me, I fleshed out my idea and presented it. The sabbatical committee approved my proposal.

About the time I found out I was granted sabbatical, things began falling apart at home. During these past four months, with all the changes happening, I've gone back and forth about doing both rides. One day I don't think I should do either. The next day I think just doing the Pac Coast is the way to go. When I think I'm settled on what I will do, the desire to do both rides fills me.

Lovely Beautiful Daughter has been my most vocal supporter, telling me I need to do both. This has been your plan for years, she says. You created your sabbatical proposal based on doing both rides, she points out.

Funny Delightful Son has been the nay-sayer. That's a lot of time away, he says. And a lot of money you could be putting into your savings, he points out.

Angel Baby is on the fence. He won't tell me to go. He won't tell me to stay home.

I don't know what to do.

Right now, at this very second as my fingers hit the keys of my laptop, I want more than anything to do both rides. I keep coming back to how my sabbatical is a gift, an opportunity to bring to fruition this idea I've been shaping, sculpting. To not accept this gift, which in a way I look at as grace with a big red bow tied around it, seems irresponsible.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Walking Towards Peace

I witnessed one of the most beautiful moments of my life the other day.

When the kids and I left Tennessee 18 years ago, we moved away from the two people known as Pa and Nanny, the kids' paternal grandparents. While married to the kids' dad, I had a very good relationship with my father-in-law. Not so much with my mother-in-law. After leaving, my father-in-law and I remained friendly towards one another. Unfortunately, because of circumstances, the kids didn't see Pa or Nanny often through the years.

This past week, we visited my sister-in-law and her family. When Pa arrived to help celebrate my nephew's 21st birthday, he went to Lovely Beautiful Daughter and put his arm around her. Funny Delightful Son and Angel Baby then went to Pa and the four of them had their arms around each other. The smile on Pa's face filled my entire being with joy. Seeing the four of them smiling together was absolutely beautiful.

Each day there, walking through my old stomping grounds, I felt more and more at peace with my past. I still sometimes wish the kids had a better relationship with their dad, and I still hope one day they will, but that is something they have to find their way to. And he has to find his way to them.

Cummins Falls

Floatin' down the creek

Angel Baby and dog enjoying the creek

Lovely Beautiful Daughter jumping from a low cliff

Double fun!

Sittin' at the bottom of the falls

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Continuing My Yoga Journey

My journey to becoming a yoga teacher continues. I completed Level 2 training this past weekend, and I walked away feeling surer than ever that I'm on the right path.

My favorite part of the 20 hours of instruction was the discussion of the Yamas and Niyamas. Though it was just a small part of the training, the delving into the philosophy behind yoga offered up much to think about. Now I am reading more about the Yamas and Niyamas from a variety of texts, and I am thinking about them often as I move through my days.

Yamas: restraints. Do no harm. Be truthful. Don't take what isn't yours to take. Keep life simple. Let go of the stuff.

Niyamas: observances. Live a pure life. Be content. Be disciplined. Never stop learning. Live with an open heart.

Both encourage the self to keep an eye on the self, monitoring behavior, adjusting, working to become a better version of the self. When we were asked which Yama we needed to work on most, I knew instantly which one it was for me: Ahimsa, nonviolence. The anger I've had and still have needs attention. For the Niyama, I mulled over Santosha: contentment. When I think about what makes me content, what comes to mind are physical things--my kids, Ado, cycling, gardening. How do I find the contentment from within, from the nonphysical things?

Now, so many questions pop up during my days. Am I practicing doing no harm? Am I being truthful? Is my truthfulness harmful to another? If so, I need to back away in order to do no harm. I especially am drawn to how if one Yama is being violated, it impacts one or more of the others. Living the Yamas really is a delicate, graceful dance. I'm finding the more I think about what I'm doing at any given moment that might be out of sync with the one or more of the Yamas or Niyamas, the more I am forced to live actively rather than passively.

Friday, June 9, 2017

A Blue Dragon Emerges

I saw a blue dragon looking me square in the eyes.

Seriously, I did. Funny Delightful Son laughed at me when I told him this. 

But I really did. At meditation. 

We were being guided through Kapalabhati Breath, and when I reached the point of exhaling every last bit of breath from my body, sitting and observing the swirls inside me, a blue dragon appeared amidst the swirls.

I left the class wondering why of all things that could have formed in my mind it was a blue dragon.

I'm not complaining. In fact, I love it was a blue dragon that emerged. I love the symbolism associated with the color blue--confidence, intelligence, calm--as well as the symbolism connected to the dragon--powerful, wisdom, regeneration. I thought, too, about how I was born in the year of the dragon on the Chinese zodiac, so perhaps there is a reason the blue dragon showed itself to me.

I'm finding that I really don't care if others laugh about my experiences with yoga and meditation. These experiences are positive for me, helping me move forward in life, set new goals. Being able to hold Crow pose and do a headstand has shown me how strong my body is. Being able to calm my mind and sit for twenty minutes in quiet, listening to my breath (also known as spiritus: the breath of God), feeling how it fills my body, has given me the determination to continue exploring the mind/body connection. The word inspiration has its roots in spiritus as well, so seeing a blue dragon while in the middle of Kapalabhati Breath isn't totally out in left field.

And yet another bonus: Yesterday, when I went for my six-month cleaning at the dentist, the dental hygienist took my blood pressure. While I don't typically have high blood pressure, the last time I was there it was 123/79, which is as high as I've ever been and I left the office bummed out that my blood pressure was inching up as I age. Yesterday . . . . I smiled when she said, "116/68." I smiled even more when she asked if I take any medications, any at all, and I replied, "None."

Monday, June 5, 2017

Becoming One with the Crow

Yesterday I was on the deck when I heard a bird call I've never heard before. I stood and listened. Then I dashed inside to get my camera to try and record the sound. Once back on the deck, the call sounded closer, so I scanned the trees and found the source.

A crow. Or maybe a raven.

I find crows incredibly interesting. I remember when I was around 12 and my sister had gone off to vet tech school that I asked her if she'd be able to bring me a crow for a pet. I'd be the coolest kid around with that pet crow. It never happened, but my fascination for crows never waned.

I was able to get some good video of the crow/raven, and now I'm trying to find information on which bird it is and what this particular call means.


After enjoying listening for a bit, it was time for me to go to yoga class. I had signed up kind of last minute, noticing there would only be two students attending, but it turned out I was the only one who showed up. I had my own little private yoga session.

The instructor asked me if there was a pose I'd like to focus on once we reached the end of practice, and I said, "Crow." I've tried Crow at different times, but I've never been able to truly hold the pose. She promised we'd work on it, and after 45 minutes of a prana flow series, me sweating drops all over my mat, she said it was time. I listened and watched as she explained what worked best for her. I followed her lead.

I found myself in Crow pose, and the excitement of holding the pose as if I'd always been doing it made me laugh. I was one with the crow.

When I returned home, I laid out my mat and went through the steps to achieve Crow. I had to know it wasn't a one-time fluke.

I breathed deeply as I held the pose.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Some Happy Moments

Something very interesting is happening between my husband and me now that I've moved out. We are finding we can actually be together and have a fun time. As long as I go to my place after a few hours, or he goes to his place after a few hours. I've said for the past five years or so that he and I do much better apart than we do together. I've also joked here and there, after several hours of being with my husband, that I've had more than enough husband time.

Friday was our anniversary. I hadn't been thinking about it due to the state of our relationship, and I made plans to attend a concert at Allerton. The Bashful Youngens and Birds of Chicago were scheduled to play, and I knew I would enjoy sitting on the lawn, listening as the sun went down. My husband, though, had been thinking about our anniversary and asked me to go to dinner. I countered with an offer to ride along with me to Allerton. He accepted.

And we had a nice time. The young woman of the Bashful Youngens duo has an amazing voice. The young woman of Birds of Chicago makes you want to hang on to every note that comes out of her. We watched kids dance, turn cartwheels, and blow bubbles in front of the stage. We ate pulled pork and slaw.

Yesterday, I went to his place for pizza and a movie. Actually two movies. Both were entertaining, especially the second movie which seemed like a video game turned into a movie, only it has never been a video game.

It was a nice time.

Today, we did some gardening together.

It, too, was a nice time.

But I definitely need time and space away from my husband. Time of quiet, not having to listen to talk about "those idiots" (me being one) who think there is something to climate change, or the incessant chatter coming from a TV. A space of calm, where I can sit and read and write and think without being interrupted.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sweet Relief

Yesterday, and even more so today, I have felt immense relief. Relief that my youngest graduated from high school though he nearly shot himself in the foot over one class. Relief that Funny Delightful Son kept his apartment in such wonderful shape during the last year, making moving then cleaning a quick endeavor. Relief that Lovely Beautiful Daughter texted with the message that her apartment has rented, so she will get her security deposit back though she is breaking her lease a month early. Relief that at least two members of my family are now aware of what is happening between me and my husband.

And they found out because of me, the person who had agreed to keep things quiet, writing on this blog. A space that had gone silent for nearly two years. A space I decided to use to think through all the junk in my head. A space I returned to with the thought that no one would be reading it. So I wrote openly, and each time I wrote, I felt a working through happening.

I'd not said anything to family out of embarrassment. I couldn't make things work between me and the father of my kids. Now, I can't seem to make things work with this marriage. For my dad, especially, I feel like I have to be one big disappointment. He and my mom were married 50+ years. They were the perfect example of how to do marriage. For whatever reason, their example didn't stick with me.

I found, though, that instead of being disappointed in me, he is concerned for my happiness. And my sister made it clear she is upset that I'd not asked for help. Apparently, I've been wearing my unhappiness on my face for everyone to see for quite some time. I thought I'd been doing a pretty good job of faking happy whenever around others, but according to Lovely Beautiful Daughter, my friends, and now my sister, the unhappiness has been like a blinking neon sign for everyone to see.

The only person who is taking umbrage with my family members knowing is my husband. He's afraid his family will find out, especially his mom. He is concerned she will worry about him, and in worrying her health will be affected in a negative way. I'm not quite sure how I feel about this. I keep going back to when we first married and I wanted to keep my maiden name, but my husband argued against it because "what would his mother think?" After several arguments, I caved. Perhaps if I had stood up to him then we wouldn't be where we are now.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Tiger Swallowtail on the Sheer Lace Curtain

My husband and I agreed to have "dates." He can ask me out. I can ask him out. For our first date, we had dinner then talked late into the evening, until we reached the point of frustration brought about by my husband first saying he understands why I've been angry but then going on to show he truly doesn't understand. I left, going back to my place, feeling as if we are forever going to be two ships passing in the dark. For our second date, we went on a yard sale adventure then followed that up with dinner at my place. The yard sale adventure went just fine. The dinner was good. My husband, though, thought my asking him over for dinner meant intimacy afterward. When I declined, he became upset. We parted ways. Again.

We really are so far apart on just about every aspect of life. At this point, I'm not sure if we will ever be on the same page again. Perhaps we have never been on the same page. Perhaps for whatever reason, I just had it in my head that we were when we really were not.

The time we spent together going from yard sale to yard sale was fun. I found a wonderful set of heavy, wooden deck chairs, as well as a wrought iron table with two chairs to make the deck a nice gathering spot. It was at that table my husband and I ate dinner later that evening. It was at that table my husband and I found ourselves once again misunderstanding each other.

Earlier, before my husband arrived for dinner, I had returned to the house after spending several hours hunting for treasures with him. Those hours were filled with laughter and kindness. He happily drove me wherever I asked. He helped load the furniture, at one point a bulky mid-century arm chair I scored for $18. He then helped unload all the pieces, carrying them to where I pointed on the deck or in the house. When we decided we were finished with the yard sales, we went back to his place where I got in my Jeep, and we parted ways. He to a benefit for a long-time friend suffering from throat cancer. Me with Angel Baby to a movie matinee.

After the movie, I made my way back to my place, hoping to get a few hours of quiet. When I walked into my bedroom, a flutter at the corner of my eye caught my attention. I looked over to the sheer lace curtain panel at the sliding glass doors. A bright yellow tiger swallowtail fluttered its wings. I marveled at the vibrant hue. I wondered how it came to be in my bedroom. No windows were open. No doors left ajar. The place had been closed up tight.

Yet there in front of me, clinging to the lace curtain, was this beautiful creature. I slowly opened the heavy glass door, hoping to not send the butterfly up to the ceiling. It closed its wings then opened them but didn't seem concerned. I cupped my hands around it, gently pulling it away from the curtain, and stepped out onto the deck. I took it over to the planter where I'd put basil and mint, and flattened my hand to allow it to find its way onto the soil. Almost as soon as it felt the soil beneath its feet, the swallowtail took flight, rising up, going almost to the top of the nearest tree. I watched it land on a leaf, but again, almost as soon as it landed, it took flight, disappearing in the mass of leaves.

I think about that butterfly, still wondering how it came to be in my bedroom though all the doors and windows were closed. I think about it having gone through its own stages of transformation, eventually finding freedom. Perhaps I'm not so different. Perhaps I'm going through my own transformation and one day will find the courage to accept the freedom being set in front of me.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Mass of Radiating Nerves

It always seems like the closer I get to the end of the semester, the more I put off doing what I should be doing--grading final papers--to write poetry or short fiction. More recently, I've been focusing on the poetry.

The space between blood and bone

She sits beside me, relaxed, 
though a layer of weariness cloaks
her like a worn, familiar sweater
she can’t let go to Goodwill.
A small smile is the switch
bringing light to her dark brown eyes,
and she looks at me, whispers 
she is done with soul prostitution.
One hand rests on the place that beneath, 
past skin loosened from sacred creation,
past flesh protecting the space of possibilities,
is blood-warmed hope she planted, 
guards now like Cerberus
to keep safely inside where it roots,
can take hold, nurtured
until like ivy entwines
with bone, with sinew, swaddling
her heart, then spreading 
into her limbs unchecked
until orange ribbons exit 
through her fingers, through her toes
and swirl like tendrils of smoke
around her, a gentle embrace 
keeping good her promise. 

This is another one of those poems that came from an image that developed in my mind as I sat thinking about the solar plexus (for some reason I am fascinated by the idea of a mass of radiating nerves in the abdomen), life, and love.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Bringing Life Back

Go to dinner with me this evening, my husband suggests.

I am working in the garden behind the house. Where the chickens used to be. Where the empty beehive still stands at the far end. I didn't answer.

Think about it for a bit and let me know, he says.

I nod.

As I pull weeds, shift pavers around, lug cinder blocks to line the fence, I think about the neglect of the space. Life resonated throughout the garden once. Chickens. Bees. Birds. Rabbits. Snakes.

Now an emptiness fills the space, and emptiness that began two years ago with the chickens, after a neighbor complained to the city, and a city official showed up one sunny June morning, telling me to remove the chickens from the premises. The emptiness grew when the bees absconded, leaving the hive to follow the queen wherever it was she had decided to go.

The sadness I felt then stirs from my heartspace. Dormant for a long time but still residing within. Still a part of me these two years since.

Bringing life back, somehow, some way, took me into the garden. I'd been standing at the kitchen window, finishing a cup of coffee, when a bird at the empty bird bath caught my attention. That bird, its need for water, sent a whisper through me, triggering my need to feel earth between my toes, sift through my hands, blacken my fingernails.

Perhaps going to dinner with my husband is a start for us to bring life back to us, I think. Perhaps the bird, the garden, are showing me a way to fill the emptiness that is us right now.

My husband returns as I am checking the rain barrel's spigot.

Dinner, he asks.

Yes, I say.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Thirteen Years in a Blink

Early this morning I returned to the house my husband and I have shared for the last 13 years, to see Angel Baby off to school. While I have been staying overnight at the new place, Angel Baby has been staying where he has been for most of his life. This has been the best arrangement for him, a bit of a buffer for the disruption happening all around us. I try to talk with him every day, checking in to be sure he is moving forward, feeling calm and okay with what is happening. He always says he is, but I can tell when he is feeling overwhelmed. He told me recently that he has been confiding in two close friends. I told him I'm so happy to hear this as we all need that someone we feel comfortable discussing difficult matters with. He seemed relieved to see I am perfectly okay with him not confiding in me. And I truly am.

Now he is gone and so is my husband. I am alone in this house. I go to the bedroom I've been sleeping in for 13 years. My side of the bed is still made up. My husband's side of the bed is disheveled, the comforter and sheet tossed back, the pillows thrown haphazardly on top.

In the bathroom, my brush, comb, lotion, soap, shampoo are all gone. The only tell-tale sign I was ever there is the feet care kit I bought recently to show my feet some love. I pull it off the shelf, and as I turn to take it and put it in the bag of items to go to the other house, a strange sensation flits through me. As if all 13 years pass behind my eyelids when I blink. There then gone. I hesitate with the blink. Stay? Go?

I have to go. I know this. Yet each day a moment happens when I feel off balance, as if going isn't the answer.

Since I made the decision to leave, my husband has worked for either a temp service or doing handy-man jobs which are in answer to an ad he created and posted online. He's actually had quite a bit of work just from that ad. If I hadn't taken the step I did, he might not be taking the initiative to find work. He'd still be sitting on the couch, watching his 60 inch TV from morning til night.

I dreamed last night that I met a man. While he didn't look like my husband, his behavior was very similar. Everything was a joke. He asked me out on a date. I looked at him and said no thank you. I then turned and walked away, feeling so strong at having not given in.

Many days I don't feel strong at all. I know I can be, though. I have to be if I'm going to make my dreams happen.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Woman to Woman

From my daily journal:

Tuesday, May 2, 2017:

I am in the writing center. I sit and listen as a student confides in me about a tough decision she had to make this week: telling the man she’s been in a relationship with for some time to leave.

He doesn’t support me, she says.

He’s always telling me I can’t do this (return to college), she says.

I’m 50 and this is the third time I’ve tried to get a degree, she says.

I will do this. I will finish, she tells me.

As I watch this beautiful woman’s face go from sad to determined to resigned to happy. I tell her about all the women I have met over the years whose boyfriends or husbands were unhappy with them going to college, learning, finding out how smart they truly are.

And I think back to just yesterday when I arrived at work, feeling so fortunate for being able to extricate myself from a toxic relationship. Thinking about all the women out there who cannot because they don't have a support network. Or they lack skills to find a job to sustain them. Or they are filled with fear. I wondered how I might be able to help these women. Even if in just a small way. 

Maybe this was the small way I could help the women who feel trapped--by listening to their stories. Supporting them. Letting them know where help might be found.

Are you safe, I ask.

She smiles. Yes, I am safe, she says, laying a hand lightly on my arm as if to thank me for asking.

She tells me about having her home to herself again. Enjoying the quiet. Her living room with its plants and her violin nestled amongst them. She will take violin lessons again.

I’m exhausted, she says. 

My own exhaustion tries to surface, feeling a kindred spirit just a foot away. I tamp it down. Exerting so much emotional effort to please? to placate? to avoid conflict? But to what end? 

I'm better off alone, she says.

After the student packs her things and leaves for class, I think about her. Hoping she stays strong. Hoping she believes in herself. Hoping she continues going after her dreams.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

First Night

Ado and I spent the first night in our new home.

My bed--a Japanese shikibuton--arrived earlier in the day, so I lugged it to the Jeep, folded down the seats, and slid it in. It took longer to get the mattress out of the box and the heavy plastic it was wrapped in than it did to get it to the Jeep, in the Jeep, out of the Jeep, then into the house. Once the shikibuton was unrolled, I stretched out on it. I snuggled into its firm support. An hour later, I awoke, totally surprised at having fallen asleep.

The simplicity of the shikibuton suits me. No ornate headboard or footboard. No box spring to have to wrestle with. Just a mattress. I do think I'll raise it off the floor, though. I truly want the mattress to last for many years. After reading about how to care for the shikibuton, I learned mold/mildew can be a problem if the mattress is left laid out on the carpet, so having it off the floor seems like a good way to go. If I decide to go without the platform, I'll have to roll the mattress each morning, which won't be an issue. It's easy enough to manage.

When I returned to the house later in the evening after going to get some dinner, loading my laundry basket with a few things to move, and taking Ado for a walk, I watched as Ado intently inspected the different rooms. I read for awhile. He checked things out, being particularly interested in looking out the sliding glass doors that lead to the back deck. I finally turned the light out and settled in under the quilt. Ado continued to sniff wherever his nose took him. Enough light filtered through the curtains at the sliding glass doors that I could see him moving around the room. About twenty minutes later, he came over and laid down beside me.

Throughout the night, Ado would get up to check things out. Being able to see outside seemed to fascinate him. He would go to the doors, find the spot where the curtains part, and nudge them aside. When he was satisfied, he'd return to take his spot next to me. Around six o'clock, he decided it was time to get up and began his usual cold nose to my face routine.

Though we both didn't get a great night's sleep, it was good. And good is good enough.