I think it’s so cool that Oregon’s birthday is on Valentine’s Day. So that’s what I celebrate on February 14th! Here’s my poem combining Oregon’s 160th birthday and my singleness.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

 

 

Roses are red, and for people with dates

Or for married couples or people with mates

So no entertaining romantic notions

Instead I celebrate Oregon’s mountains and oceans

Happy Birthday, Oregon! I’m celebrating you

So glad where I live, no feeling blue

You’ve given me lots in our beautiful state

I’m not even sad because of no mate

On this day I will think of all that I’ve done

In the great state of Oregon even though I am one

And laugh as I consider the lengths that I’ll go

To distract me from V Day and that I am solo!

Roses are red, chocolate tastes great

But today it’s Oregon, that I celebrate!

To read more about my dog Winky, read Can I Teach This Dog New Tricks? and Winky, Part 2.

On an early morning walk The sun wasn’t up But the roses they talked They begged me to sniff I stopped and I leaned To take in a wiff   But it happened again This had happened before I inhaled with my nose But there was no scent on this rose   I looked all around I wanted just one I tried a few but there were none   This reminder of past when something was sure Like the scent of a rose that I thought would endure Who took it away? Did he wear a white coat? Does he work in a lab? Did science decide? Did anyone vote?   Who wouldn’t want a rose to release Its fragrance distinct Who wouldn’t want this scent of a rose Is it extinct?   I hope this is all a mistake on my part I hope I can smell lilacs and jasmine on walks And colors don’t fade, we need them too We need our greens and our yellows and blues   About this I didn’t think I ever would care I’d looked past these beauties with my nose in the air I mistakenly thought they’d always be there   But I have a solution In a can or a candle I can order it soon I’m sure I can have this scent here by noon   Next time I walk I can carry it with And when I pass by a rose I’ll spray and not wiff

Sorry this isn’t Part 2 of my Winky story. It’s been a busy week and this just kind of came out. Poetry isn’t my thing, but I like to play with it sometimes.

This phrase pops up in my mind a lot. The “If I can, you can” part.  I don’t like that it does. I feel arrogant, like I know what people are capable of and I get to decide who has capacity and who doesn’t. So, it’s with sensitivity that I share this. I don’t want to sound arrogant, and even worse, be arrogant. But I know how hard things can be for me, and there are moments when the voice inside me says, “If I can do this, anyone can.”

That probably speaks a lot to how pitiful I am at times. Not more pitiful than you, but just pitiful, like all of us are on occasion. While there are some who naturally came out of the shoot ready to account for every minute of the day, most of us aren’t born life coaches. I think my my kids and some friends would say that I have to have everything planned, or at least my way, but they don’t know me like I know me. Once I commented to a friend that my kids don’t understand the effort that goes into the things I accomplish. It was a mom moment of frustration. My friend replied, “That’s a compliment. That means you make it look easy.” I don’t know if that’s the case. In fact, I hardly make packing for a trip look easy. 

Getting ready for a 4 day summer trip, by car.

But I loved where she was coming from, and it helped my perspective in that moment.

Most of my evolution has come out of necessity, because the alternative wasn’t acceptable to me. For example, when my first child was born she awoke each morning very early, like around 5:30. As a young adult, I dragged myself out of bed to run at 5:30 before work. But I did it 3 times a week, looking forward to the other four when I could sleep in. I hadn’t yet discovered the prize that awaited me in an early morning before the rest of the world began to put dents in an untouched day.  A baby interrupting my sleep and needing my immediate attention was not how I wanted to begin my day, so I began to set my alarm about a half an hour earlier than I anticipated her tummy to start growling. And, so it began; I officially became an early riser, and I began to appreciate the reward. But I still dragged myself out of bed, regardless of whether I’d gotten 5 hours or 8 hours of sleep.

From “Why am I doing this?” to “This is why I’m doing this.” Come winter,  I won’t be doing this.

 

In Proverbs 6 Solomon says:

9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard?

   When will you get up from your sleep?

10 A little sleep, a little slumber,

   a little folding of the hands to rest—

11 and poverty will come on you like a thief

   and scarcity like an armed man.

I’d often asked myself those same questions! I like to think Ben Franklin liked Solomon. I like both of those men.

Along the way I’ve chosen to do a lot of things that were counterintuitive to my nature. Verses like this helped a lot. And wisdom from Ben Franklin, too. Recently I began riding a bike, now riding it at least a couple of times to work and back. I would have never thought I would have ridden a bike to work, or on a weekend for exercise. I used to enjoy running, regularly. I’d always been advised not to do that because of how hard it can be on one’s body. I have scoliosis and running messed up my back, hips, and knees. I’d take a break, recover, vow to reduce my mileage, but like many runners, break that vow as soon as the pain was but a distant memory. Or also like many runners, proceed forward in denial. I stopped for good when signs of divorce presented itself. There wasn’t time, and my self care became praying and crying, which I highly recommend.

In between running and not running, I’ve been on various exercise plans, but nothing has stuck. Exercise for a multitude of reasons has taken a back seat. Riding a bike however is beginning to give me the same sense of satisfaction I had as a runner. But I’m not in great shape and when I get on the bike, I know it will be hard.

Yesterday I had planned to ride in the early evening, once the heat subsided. I needed to stain my fence and according to YouTube, that should be done in the morning or evening, not in the heat of day. But as the day wore on, so did my body as I stained the fence and worked in the yard. I also fit in reading a book called Sensible Shoes that my friend Melanie loaned me. I allowed for a little over a hour to read, anticipating knocking off more of my To Do list and the bike ride.

I put away the book, but found myself scrolling the Internet for jobs in Bend and New York and then ate leftover homemade peach ice cream. The sun began to inch its way down, and my bike riding opportunity was gone for the day. But there’s always tomorrow.  I got myself to bed earlyish, with a firm plan to ride in the morning before church. I set my alarm for 5:30. But in spite of having used picture imagery the night before of the summer morning I longed to enjoy, I still did not get out of bed until 6:15, allowing just enough time to ride my bike, return home to get ready for church, so I could arrive just after it started, when I kicked myself because I hate that, too. And really, I didn’t get up just in time, because I then decided to make coffee, and then I realized I was missing my most favorite show, CBS Sunday Morning, so I lingered even longer before getting on my bike. As I got dressed I listened to YouTube music and an advertisement for a life coach came on: Brooke Somebody, and she reminded me of my tendency to procrastinate. She said she used to drink a lot of Chardonnay and now doesn’t drink any. I thought, well, I only drink a little Pinot Grigio, so that’s not even my issue.

I have to guess at the distance I rode because I forgot to engage the new app I’d downloaded the night before, but it was an 8 to 10 mile ride. The elevation was high in some places and I thought I would die, but putting the bike in 1st or 2nd gear, as whimpy as I now know that is, helped significantly. I used my cheap Ifrogz wireless earbuds  and listened to some Christian songs, at one point belting out Hillsong’s “What a beautiful name it is, the name of Jesus…”I turned on to a busy street, and I was grateful to be riding at least as early as 7:30 on a Sunday. Typically this intersection has traffic coming from every direction, but I like this portion of rode because it’s so aesthetically pleasing. Opposite of the street I’d just come from, lined in maple trees with acorns that are beginning to drop, this portion of road is full of city energy, having recently been repainted. The bike lane is lime green against black tar with bright white sparkly boundary lines and it makes me happy for some reason.

The happy time morphed into a bike lane with barely visible lines. The elevation for about a mile was fairly level, but I knew what was coming, and I plowed forward, head down, probably looking inept as a cyclist. To get home, this portion of the route is unavoidable. I know I can do it, because I do it every time. It’s also a contributing influence when I decide against riding my bike. I have not mastered the incline to my house. There’s always a big boat parked just before my house, so that is my goal. When I get just past the boat, my legs give way and I all but puke, and I praise God that I did it, again.

This is what I think my life is, and this is not unlike many lives. Sometimes a friend will say to me something like, “I could never do that.” Or “You’re lucky you can get up so early.” Or “You have so much energy.” None of those statements is true. She could do it, I’m not lucky, and my energy is inspired by the things that are important to me, namely, I don’t want to be a sluggard. The other truth is that I don’t like regret. My strength is calling on God for His strength, to help me overcome my deficits, so I can get up over the hills.

If you will ask God to push you over the hill, you too can do it. I know this! If I can, you can.

For the record, I ride my bike mostly in third gear. I know that’s not a big improvement over 1st or 2nd, but the biggest challenge is that,  I’m on the bike.

This last weekend was exceptional, except for when it wasn’t. Saturday was a day I wouldn’t trade for anything, but most of Sunday I would give back. I’d worked hard on Saturday so I could budget time for reading and writing on Sunday afternoon, but my refrigerator decided to demand my attention instead.

On Saturday, I got to spend the evening with my daughter and her boyfriend having dinner in downtown Portland. Coincidentally it was the famous Starlight parade night. As a Portlander, I should have known that, but I hadn’t paid attention to the schedule. We ate outside on this perfect summer night where there wasn’t a hint of humidity or breeze. Roads were closed and police directed people and traffic. After dinner we walked among the throngs of parade fans sitting roadside, content and patient, waiting for the next segment to reach within their viewing space. This perfect evening finished when I came home to my son and a couple of friends using the fire pit in the backyard. That would seem fairly ordinary to most families, but my son doesn’t live with me. The simple sight of seeing his car in the driveway as I approach my home gives me more pleasure and satisfaction beyond what I can articulate. A “yes!” like I just hit the 8 ball in the designated corner pocket sometimes escapes my lips.

Sunday started out perfect, in that I went to church, knowing that afterward I would be making my son lunch; another “yes!” This was planned, but nevertheless, I don’t take it for granted. As I was frying up some bacon I noticed another large leak of water on the floor near the refrigerator. I’d cleaned one up the previous night as well. I really hate things like this. In fact, one could say I’m a baby about things like this. The night before I put a towel down, and when the water was all absorbed, I put the towel away and hoped that meant there was no longer a leak. I didn’t (wouldn’t) look at the floor early Sunday morning before I left for church. My plans for the day didn’t include a refrigerator leak. I know what a leak on the floor means. It means I am probably not going to get to read and write like I’d so carefully planned for the afternoon and evening. Finding time to read and write is like digging for treasure. Not that I’ve ever dug for treasure, but I imagine you have to carefully map out a plan. Then there’s a lot of digging and tossing out things that are not the treasure. I do that in trying to mine some time for this luxury. I plan and organize with TO DO lists. I tackle them, also addressing the surprises that emerge. Those things that are legitimate, yet threatening my prize: uninterrupted time to read and write. I knew exactly what a leak on the floor meant, and I was as annoyed as heck.

After a measure of denial, and in an effort to not call my very good friend’s husband who has become my reluctant “go to”, I called one of my sweet neighbors and he came over. The bottom line is that both men ended up working on the refrigerator. I hated asking, yet I also hate contacting a random refrigerator repairman, not having a reference of any kind. I’d felt like I had held these two kind men up at gunpoint. I know it’s not easy to say no to someone who needs help. I knew I’d had a treasure planned for my afternoon and I hated knowing that I’d interrupted whatever treasure they might have planned for themselves or their family. I was crossing my fingers that their afternoon plan was something along the lines of preparing an earthquake kit. See; I am a baby. I’m not happy with my attitude either, so that’s another reason for giving Sunday back.

After that small rant, I’d like to share two fun things. One, in my recent book review I completely forgot to include a very favorite book that I recently listened to (the number of books I listen to is an indicator of the amount of yard work that I do). It’s by Anne Lamott called: Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace. If I could be a fraction of the writer Anne Lamott is, I might be able to make just enough extra money to supplement my day job income and meet my monthly expenses. The second fun thing I want to share is the month long bike challenge finish.

Small Victories is a collection of personal experiences Anne shares from her own life about friends and family, many of which include misunderstandings and interpretations she’s had along the way, exposing truths about herself and others. She is vulnerable, bold and courageous, revealing flaws and selfish ambitions, relatable to many of us. But we nod our heads in agreement in the privacy of our own home. Anne narrates her failings like she’s giving directions, unflappable and matter of fact, in a most modest posture of normalcy, for all to read. Her faith in God is firm, yet she approaches him in a stance of curiosity and frustration that He often doesn’t do things the way we would like Him to. While we read about her foibles, I’m reminded that humility (outside of love) is the most God like characteristic we can possess. Above all, Anne is funny.

New Bike Commuter

The May Bike More Challenge is complete. And, our school staff did it! “It” being that our cycling staff (which now includes moi) beat one of our local schools that is known for being an athletic power house. Jesuit High School is a private school in our athletic conference. All of us public schools love to beat (and we mostly like to play them) this school. The school where I work is a small option school in our district that doesn’t have athletic teams. So, for our staff to have beat this particular school was a fun twist for me, having attended many a game between Jesuit and the school my kids attended. To read more about how my new biking hobby evolved, click here.

Thank you once again for reading!

 

Yes, I am making a big deal of this feat! I resisted the temptation to enter into this small cult at work for at least a year. From parenting issues, yard and home maintenance, dog maintenance, health, work; I’m faced with new things all the time. I had this sense I wanted to join in on the logic of riding a bike to work, yet my heart held up its hands in a cross as if to say, “No… not another new thing!” I didn’t think I had space for it. There are days when I question what mystifying component is part of the equation that allows me to juggle multiple things with such vigor, and then there are days when the “the straw that broke the camel’s back” is someone asking if they can ask me a question. No! I want to shout, but usually I find composure.

I’m compelled to do a lot of things. Some of what I do is my personality, and some is the nature of life, the day to day demands we all face. The combination can at times be lethal or invigorating. As I get older I hope I’m wiser. I try to stay focused. My kids have heard me say over the years, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Even when something looks worthwhile.

But bike riding for example made sense. At our school there are several staff who ride their bikes to work. Over hill, over dell from SE, NE, SW, and Milwaukie staff not only ride their bikes to work (hopping on Max for a portion of their trip) to SW Beaverton, but one has brought his beautiful young son in tow for at least the last year. 

I know many women who feel a real sense of satisfaction in doing something themselves, or overcoming a fear. That’s not me. In fact, learning to install a dimmer switch which I attempted last December was not remotely interesting to me. I made a sincere effort, but after hours of YouTube and other input, my friend’s husband accomplished it in about 30 minutes, and while I hated inconveniencing him, I had no problem having not been successful. My front porch fountain that was built for me last year by my son and dear friend got torn apart with the house project. Even after a good effort by Bradley and myself, there it sits. I feel no sense of failure. I just wanted a dimmer switch and I want a fountain.

However, I knew that riding a bike was within reach, if only I wanted to do it, and I didn’t. But I kind of did. Being a person who loves to be productive, I recognized the multiple benefits. I would be exercising and contribute to the good of the environment, not to mention save on my Prius’ small amount of gas consumption and the wear and tear of that lengthy 8 mile round trip commute. I wasn’t interested in taking on a new challenge, yet every single day when one of those studly staff members walked in with their bike I thought, “That could be me.” And then, “Nah. I don’t want it to be me.” I don’t want to get up earlier, I don’t want to be sweaty at work, I don’t want to buy a new helmet, or put air in my tires, I don’t want to leave Winky any longer than I already do, and I also don’t want to get hit by a car.

May was apparently National Bike Month. I say apparently because I’m not exactly sure what it was, but there was some excitement over riding a bike to work and one of our eager staff members solicited everyone to take this bike awareness opportunity to get in on the action. I found myself signing up one night on a site called Love to Ride/Bike More Challenge.

There I was, committed. My first ride to work (after a couple practice rides from home) was on May 17th (you can see by the date I was dragging my feet). But after that very first ride when I entered my school, I knew I was hooked. At least, until I’m not. I’m sure a fair weather and light outside rider I will be. All the things I anticipated it to be, it was, except I am not sweaty at work, and that’s a good thing, because that could have been the deal breaker; that, and getting hit by a dump truck.

There are so many things I’ve learned in the 5 rides. One, it is scary to be in a bike lane and have a dump truck wiz by you and then exit right, just ahead of where you’re cycling. A big obstacle for me was the whole grooming piece. There are a couple of darling cyclist women at work who probably look the same when they go to bed as when they wake up. That’s not me. But I’ve figured that out, and doing a sponge bath with the washcloth and towel I carry in my backpack is working out well, although donning my sports bra after work last Friday was a little sobering; it was still damp from my morning ride. I squeezed my eyes shut and got over it.

The first morning’s ride was fraught with anxiety. I honestly didn’t know which was the front of my helmet, it had been that long. After serious consideration (I might have sent a photo text to my daughter), I wobbly was on my way. I took a different route home that night that would give me a little extra distance. The route to school was just under 4 miles, and this different route would be just over 4. I wanted to enter a roundtrip 8 miles into my Bike More Challenge. But the route home is more challenging both in elevation and traffic patterns. Stopping at a red light atop a hill caused me to catch my breath, and then look to see who was laughing. I staggered in an effort not to fall on my face as I pedaled to get my wheels moving, maneuvering re-entry into traffic.

The next bike ride I felt the cliche, “like riding a bike.” I felt as if I’d been doing it for at least a couple days. Not only was I less intimidated by the experience (by now I had the front and back of the helmet figured out), but I was able to be more aware of my surroundings, and I found myself strategizing, like how to pace myself between lights, how to navigate double turn lanes, and managing the light that stops at the top of the hill on my route back that day.

On the way home impatient drivers annoyed me, but I wasn’t intimidated. More progress! I guess it’s hard for a driver to sit still when they want to turn right into a parking lot. One driver attempted to inch her way into the parking lot, until I made eye contact with her. One of those co-workers who come in beautiful without makeup was hit by a driver who was impatient making a right turn into a parking lot. I get it! With each new experience I had new questions for my cyclist experts at work, like:

Do you use a horn? Answer: no

Do you use mirrors? Answer: no

Do you carry a lock? Answer: yes, and an extra tire tube (still not sure the extent of that)

Do you stop for school busses like a car? Answer: yes

Do you move ahead on the right in the bike lane if traffic is stopped? Answer: yes

Do you pull to the right for sirens and lights? Answer: yes

By day 3 I was feeling veteranish, like “Oh my goodness, how is this possible?” On this day I took the same route to work that I’d been taking to get home. I felt competent as I moved from the outside right into the left to make the left turn. It does help that it’s 6ish am. A man on a bike in a flannel was ahead of me in the bike lane going slower than I was, which surprised me. He jumped up onto the sidewalk, and I thought, “Oh, not a real cyclist, like me.” Then I saw another cyclist with all the gear on that all my co-workers wear, and I thought, “He’s a real cyclist, not like me.” There’s lots of time to think (and pray).

My day 3 was a Friday and I’d worked a very long day. My mind and body were ready for a change of scenery and relief from the demands of work. Yet I fretted a bit that I wasn’t doing anything relationally on a Friday night. Friday night is my favorite night to socialize because it’s a release from the work week and because I’m out already. I enjoy staying out, and then on Saturday, I like staying in. But I had a lot going on over the weekend so I’d intentionally not planned anything, feeling a bit of regret. But it soon left me as I felt satisfaction for staying late to get things accomplished, relief of leaving work, and the wind in my face as I pedaled down the rode, happy to be with myself and my bike. I surprised myself as I thought, ” This is a better remedy for exhaustion than getting into my car.” 

It has its limitations for sure. I can’t run into Costco for a $4.99 roasted chicken (unless I buy a trailer and all that jazz). It limits my after work commitments and extends my commute time. Last week I was so distraught when I realized that a second bike ride to work wasn’t going to happen because of some logistics of taking things into work. There was this and there was that, getting in the way of bike commuting. But somehow on Friday morning I overcame some obstacles and got my shower in and myself on the bike by 6:15. I didn’t have a two year old in tow, but I did have to put on my make up.

This new discovery complements my life. What an inspiration my co-workers have been, faithfully showing their prowess and nurturing my curiosity to a point of action. I don’t think I’ll be a cyclist like you, but where I am feels just right. Thanks, guys (and gals)… and my good friend, Jen too.

Tomorrow’s a bike riding day!