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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!

I was so stressed over the exterior paint color decision.

Not just the color selections, but the time it took. Back and forth to the paint store, driving by houses for ideas, scouring the Internet, paint samples on the house (cleaning the brush in between each color). I am so glad it’s done. And what a relief; I love it!

 

These pictures could be better, but it gives you an idea. I wish I could have been more accepting and appreciative of the faded burgundy, the wooden porch with a wheel chair ramp, and the security door and window coverings on this house. I am truly grateful to God for all He provides to me. But I found myself asking Him for forgiveness, because I really disliked some aspects of the house. I am an ongoing work in progress. I love this crisp shade of white, with grey and black. It’s like Cinderella’s gown change, except it didn’t happen in the blink of an eye. The accessories on the gown still need some work, but if I wait to post until that’s done, by then the house could be ready for a new paint job.

 

The actual colors are Sherwin Williams:

Duck White

Mindful Grey

Tricorn Black

Speaking of new accessories, in looking at these pictures I’m reminded that I need to get new house numbers and a new doorbell.

The guys who did this were so conscientious in everything they did. I might have mentioned that I have a crush on the main guy. It’s his care and precision that caused my heart to flutter. After talking with him I would walk away and say, “I love you.” Of course I don’t love him, but I kind of love him. I’ve had a lot of people do work for me, and never has anyone been so kind and good to do work that exceeded my expectations (this excludes my friends’ husbands). I’ve had adequate workmanship, mediocre workmanship, and bad workmanship. I also had a project end before it was finished and my calls went unanswered. Only one other worker has been stellar in his work for me. It was actually a husband and wife couple. That task was difficult, but much smaller than this.

It’s a yukky place to sit when you have to ask a professional to improve on their work. That’s like asking a mom to do better at scheduling or making school lunches, or housecleaning. We do that every day, so someone pointing out that we didn’t put a piece of fruit in the lunch or we need to clean the toilet would be like, duh! But truly, I could write an entire blog on things I’ve had to address with workers. The handholding, the clean up, the things that anyone would think is part of a job, but because it wasn’t “part of the quote,” I was challenged. My guy (for lack of a better term) never put me in a position of having to point out a deficiency. He anticipated needs and proceeded to address them. When I questioned something, he wasn’t offended. He might as well have handed me his heart on a platter. He might have wrapped me in his arms and told me he loved me. I could have kissed him.

But, now he and the temptation to kiss him are gone. He was going to stain the fence when we had some dry weather forecasted and a break in his schedule. But I’ve decided that instead of paying him to stain the fence, I’m going to do it. I’d scheduled him to do this big project right after Christmas when the fence had fallen over and dry rot had been discovered on part of the house. Now it’s May and he’s slammed like all contractors. As much as I’d like him around, I’ll free him up from staining the fence. Plus, I’d decided that I can’t make a move on him because he’s probably at least 10 years younger than I am. And besides, I’d have to do research on “making a move” and I’m not up for another project; I have a fence to stain!

I’d love to share the number of the couple who did the small project. Email me if you want their name. Same for “my guy.” I just think you might have to wait awhile to get on his schedule.

 

Christmas Eve.

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It’s all drawing to a close. Like the end of summer, I will the season to last longer. Yet, I know what often makes something special is the absence of it. I love the seasons and the fresh perspective that each season brings to my life. I don’t want sunshine 365 days a year, and I don’t want glitter and Christmas melodies 365 days a year. With both sunshine and Christmas, I mourn the loss, yet adjust quickly, and by the time each is in sight again, I find myself gleeful with delight and embracing it all over again. There are aspects of Christmas I dislike. But the sparkle and music are in full force in my life at the holidays. Couple that with the sobering reminder that Jesus is God’s son, and that his birth brought hope to a broken world. There have been times when those two awesome components couldn’t rouse me into merry making. But this year, I enjoyed fun time merry making and my heart overflowed with joy at the thought of Jesus’ birth and his impact on our broken world.

Our Christmas cards aren’t yet finished. They’ll go out between Christmas and New Year’s.  I’ve done something unique with my (our) Christmas cards since I was a young adult. Each year as the mom demands got greater, I would toy with the idea of not doing a card. But old habits die hard. I’m still not sure what I’m doing, but I’ve invested enough time into them that I’ll finish them some how, some way…it may have to be minus my printer… we will see.

The season brought our house to a place of home. When the decorations come down, I hope I still like it.  Christmas decorations have a way of camouflaging the flaws in a home.  With the decorations up and the living portions of our home feeling cozy, we had a few friends over.  I got to use my kitchen to cook, not just put together food, and I loved it!  I was just glad it gets dark about 4pm.  No one could see the yard that so desperately needs improvements.

Today was a bit of a scramble as I made Chex Mix goodie bags for neighbors and friends.  I always start that piece of Christmas giving later than I’d like. Ultimately, we made it to our church’s 2pm Christmas Eve candle light service.

I love our Christmas eve services at Beaverton Foursquare.IMG_9396

As I sing and listen, I wonder how I can say “Thank You” enough to the producers of this particular service. It’s engaging, entertaining, and edifying in the deepest sense. It brings me to a place of gratitude for this day because of what Jesus means to us. We end it with about 1200 people holding lighted candles, and our Pastor reminds us to be the light of the world, and we all, in that moment, believe that we are the light of the world, and that we will carry our light with us where ever we are throughout the year.  In a world of darkness, that is no easy task, and I appreciate being emboldened for such an endeavor.

A good friend joined us today. She doesn’t attend our church, and to have her beside me and share what Jesus means to me was intimate, and a gift unto itself. It was a shared memory that I will treasure.

Afterward, the kids and I delivered some of the goodie bags I’d scrambled to prepare earlier in the day. Then I took them to the Ringside Fish House for a special dinner to celebrate Christmas eve, and to celebrate my new job. It was a big deal night. We had great food with great atmosphere. I did ask to be moved from a back corner.  I’d been told the extra room that they were seating in was going to be nicely decorated, but when they seated us, my heart sank as I looked at the four bare walls.  I couldn’t stand to spend our Christmas eve night in an atmosphere that didn’t shout Christmas.  The hostess accommodated us, and all was good. Although, I feel badly for whomever got placed where we left.

We came home, opened PJ gifts, and settled in with “It’s a Wonderful Life” and some of the goodies we’ve been getting from friends. We all fell asleep early and decided to get to bed, and that’s where I am right now.  It’s our first year where we didn’t read “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Things are changing, but I’m satisfied nonetheless.

I will get up early to fill stockings and then make a new recipe from Yummly called Cinnamon Roll Pizza.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Before I get to the job interview (Believe me, I’m not stalling. There’s just a lot going on!), A Merry Hour it was!  Last night we had a great time in the spirit of the holidays eating, talking, drinking, and barking. My dogs wouldn’t be left out, and above the laughs and Christmas music, I could hear (probably better than anyone) our two dogs, Rocky and Winky (short for Bullwinkle), barking, barking, barking.  Yesterday, when I was on my hands and knees mopping (I can’t figure out an efficient way of mopping floors!), and my dogs ran back through the house brushing the dirt from their paws and low profile bellies, over my newly cleaned floors, I prayed: “God, I am hoping for extra credit for committing to these two varmints!”

My friend pouring from her "bottle" of wine she won at a recent senior class fundraiser

My friend pouring from her bottle of wine she won at a recent senior class fundraiser. You can’t see in this picture, but it was big enough to “feed” all of us.

A favorite Blogger, Emily Jones, featured a card I loved in a recent post. I decided to print it, add a little glitter, and give it to guests when they left last night’s Merry Hour.  The lights and sounds of Christmas fill us with emotion. Depending on our circumstances, those emotions are usually heightened by our circumstances.  Every person wants to shout from the mountain top, Joy to the World! But some Christmasses, it’s all we can do to sing, Peace on Earth. I loved this card Emily gave us for free, so I could share it with my guests. Also, no calories!  Click on this link to download the card.

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And finally, the kids are off to Chicago with their dad. It’s the part of a divided family that I don’t like. Yet, what I want is for them to have fun and enjoy what is, and not linger over what is not. So, with a prayer and enthusiasm, I sent them off for four days. God is with them here, and he’s with them there. Amen.

The Best for the Last. My Job Interview:

My appointment started at 2:30. It ended at 4:15.

I met with the owner of the company, which is an insurance brokerage firm. His assistant (I’m not sure her title, but she’s definitely his right hand woman) joined us.

I’d prepared myself with responses to the two most asked interview questions: 1) What would you say is your biggest strength? 2) What would you say is your biggest weakness?  They never asked the questions.

Instead, it felt like three people getting to know each other. How can one not like that (if you’re me)?  We talked about where I am in life, and why. We talked about where I want to be. We talked about their business model and how they do it. We talked about logistics and goals. We talked about their commitment to giving back and the causes they serve and the energy they put into them. We discovered we go to the same church (my friend had told me that, but during my own internal conversation when she told me about a job in insurance, I didn’t hear that).

They asked about the last books I’d read and why I liked them (WILD, Bread and Wine, Unbroken). It’s been since last March, but they didn’t seem to mind that, and I was relieved. It’s hard to believe someone loves to read, when it’s been 9 months since they picked up their last book. Well, picked up isn’t accurate, but anyhoo… Then they asked what my favorite TV shows are. Yikes. I thought I was done. I don’t watch much TV. Not because I don’t enjoy it. I do. Honest! I feel like I’ve got to convince someone that I’m not anti TV, kind of like I’m not anti children, when I interviewed for the H.S. secretary position and they asked if I liked holding babies.  My TV answer was CBS’s Sunday Morning, which is the absolute truth, and then, The Bachelor. The Bachelor? Did I say that? Oh jeeze. It’s true. I can get caught up in those Bachelor shows, as much as I hate them, I am mesmerized by them. I did forget to tell them that I like Dateline, but I haven’t watched an episode since we moved into our house in August. Oh, wait. I haven’t watched The Bachelor since then, either! See, I struggled. I could have answered a question about my biggest strengths and weaknesses with more authority. I’m glad I didn’t remember Dateline.

But, if I was concerned about those tidbits of personal information, I was horrified when I got teary eyed in the interview. I don’t know what prompted the emotion. I was embarrassed and got out of the tears as fast as I accessed them.  I apologized. The owner said it was okay, telling me that he wanted us to be authentic. But does he really, I wondered? I replied, “Well, I’m done being authentic.” We laughed and moved on to questions about how I would manage receiving instruction (orders?) from someone younger than myself.

The conversation made sense. It wasn’t about my skills, whether I knew Razor’s Edge (something on my “to learn” bucket list since I’ve been researching jobs), or any other program. It was about me, them, and their business model and how we fit together.

I communicated what I was looking for in my job search:

Opportunity

Opportunity to grow and learn new skills, so in less than three years when my support fully stops, I can use the skills I’ve learned to continue with them, or carry my skills with me, so I am employable, able to be completely financially self sufficient.

Benefits

I want health benefits that will allow me to discontinue paying them now, so I can invest that money, and retirement benefits for the same reason.

Flexibility

The recognition and understanding that I’m a single mom. That is scary and bold, but I’m not going to pretend it’s something else. If I feel I’m needed, I can accommodate my children, and make up the time by coming in early or staying late.

Before the interview, I asked God for clarity. Before I left the interview I said, “I would like to work for you” and meant it without hesitation.

I realized that in looking for the dream job, I’d found the dream company.  I understand it’s early to know if this company will meet my needs. But the clarity I had came from peace I had, in both my head and my heart. There was no conflict between the two. Nice.

I have an appointment this morning at 11am to pick up my compensation and welcome package. I am scheduled to start insurance school on January 5th, 2015.

At the beginning of summer I had three goals.  I’d hoped for all three to come at the close of summer.  The first two did.

1. Buy a house : DONE

2. Sell my SUV and buy a smaller car with much less gas mileage : DONE

3. Get a job : DONE

My friend pointed out last night how it’s interesting that the job starts in January, of 2015. I hadn’t considered that. While I thought I was way behind, I’m really right on schedule.

Thank you, Lord. Welcome, 2015.

The new doggie set up looks good to me. Now, I have to convince them of why it’s more appealing to be in a cold garage than inside a warm house. Hopefully the appeal will be that their kennel, doggie bed, food, water, access to the outside whenever they choose (no waiting for their human to open the door for them), and constant music (I purchased an old radio at an estate sale) will entice them. So far, they’re not convinced. But I saw glimmers of hope that they will adjust and I will no longer resent the dirt they drag in every day, or be anxious when working away from home.

They'll get used to this, won't they?

They’ll get used to this, won’t they?

Even if they don’t appreciate this, I do. This is the Taj Mahal compared to a couple of weeks ago:

That's the same wall the doggie door was built into. My joy that this job is finished is like a snow day after Christmas vacation. WooHoo!

That’s the same wall the doggie door was built into. My joy that this job is finished is like a snow day after Christmas vacation. WooHoo!

I love wearing white vests in the winter.  But, I discovered a long time ago that white vests on a person who wears make up is no longer a white vest after a couple of hours. I don’t even wear that much make up!

It's embarrassing! But I can't be the only one whose face transfers on to one's clothes.

It’s embarrassing! But I can’t be the only one whose face transfers on to one’s clothes.

It’s a pain to wash that white vest after every wearing, so I decided to try Soft Scrub. It whitens my sink so I put some on a damp rag and it whitened my vest! I took a photo, but it’s not showing up on my phone, so no photo of that. But trust me. It worked. One word of caution… wipe it off better than i did before wearing the vest. Bradley got in the car and said, “Why does the car smell like bleach?” I love the smell of bleach, and swimming pools. So, if I did notice the smell, I enjoyed it. Next time I’ll be more mindful of that, though.

I’m pretty much done with Christmas decorating. The tree isn’t trimmed, but that’s okay. It’s up, it’s green, and smells wonderful. I’ll post more photos of the decorations later.  It feels good to be this far. I can focus on things like more job resumes, interviews (I do have one next week. Yea!), networking, classes, etc.

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I discovered something I’m missing. Something big. I’m missing a statement piece that proclaims our love for Jesus, the gift that he is. I have an idea that I’ll share with you, if I get it done! But it would replace that piece of art that I think is so beautiful, IN THE FALL! It stays there for now.

It was a productive day, for sure. I also showed the house I’m managing to a couple. More praying. This would be a great family to rent to because they’re a family of six, so the house would be well utilized.  When I was showing the home, and we were looking out from the upstairs bonus room, I got a big surprise.

Me, not really paying attention: "It's such a pretty view from up here" Her: "Ah, is that, that tree, is that in their property, or the other peoples'?" Me: Well, look at that. It appears it's on both properties!"

Me, not really paying attention: “It’s such a pretty view from up here.”
Her: “Ah, is that, that tree, is that in their property, or the other people’s?”
Me: Well, look at that. It appears it’s on both properties!”

It was the weirdest thing. Needless to say, that took some time!

My days are full and I’m certain where I need to be. God’s goodness is evident. While I was showing the house, the potential renter and I talked about job opportunities. No experience is wasted. The woman’s husband and she founded a non profit for disabled people.  It’s called Incight. Their mission is “unlocking the potential of people with disabilities.” The woman and I had a great conversation, I was exposed to a new worthy cause, and it’s a potential opportunity for me to explore!

So, that’s a day. I’m hoping to get out of bed at 5… this morning it was 5:30. 5 is not only early, but in Portland, Oregon these days, 5 is very cold, and windy!  Although… is 5:30 any less so? Brrrrr and good night!