A landmark year

On my way home from work yesterday, I was listening to a speech from Sarah Palin, McCain’s running mate selection, on NPR. Politics aside, here is a woman who sounded intelligent, articulate, and interesting. Finally, the kind of ground level feminist America’s been waiting for. She worked her way from the bottom in a man’s world, starting with just trying to change her community… And she found herself ascending up the next wrung in the political ladder. (If the media has not exaggerated her story.)

I said politics aside. Before you start firing off comments and email messages containing links showing all her connections to Big Oil and whatever other unliberal agendas the internet has managed to scrounge up in the last 48 hours (including an interesting scandal I heard on NPR about how twenty-four hours before her nomination as running mate was announced, someone went through and changed all her wickipedia entries to sound more favorable), I realize she’s Republican. I have not lost sight of my ideals and I’m not going to cross to the Other Side to vote for McCain just because he has a female running mate. Trust me.

I’m just saying that the thought occurred to me yesterday that this is truly a landmark year. Come November, we’re going to see a first of somekind: Either the first African-American president or the first lady VP. Plain and simple. Have you stopped to think about the absolute awesomeness of this moment? A barrier is about to be broken, either for African-Americans or for women in an institution that has, since its inception, been a completely “white male” only club! Please do not ignore the fact that we, as a nation, may be finally growing up!

Actual ballet considerations aside, we also cannot overlook at all what has happened in this election series. I may not like Hillary Rodham Clinton all that much, I may denounce as a feminist role model, but I cannot overlook the fact that she was, at one point, a very serious presidential contender. We almost, quite possibly, could have had a female president. Now, we’ve got a female vice presidential nominee and no one is batting an eye. Welcome to politics in the world of 2008. Even though I’m pretty sure McCain took on a female VP to try to sway some of the jilted Hillary supporters to his side (since he is known as the “maverick” Republican–thanks, Michael, for the wording), I still feel overwhelmed by the urge to kiss him.

Okay, maybe not.

It gives me chills. I don’t care what the strategic reasoning for any of it is. We have turned a new, positive chapter in our history and I am proud–really, really proud–of my country for the first time in my life (and I had no objection to Michelle Obama’s mirror statement to that). Yeah. Go figure. I’m such a skeptic, such a nitpicker; too much of a display of patriotism inevitably makes me squirm (I used to openly mock the Lee Greenwood song, “I’m Proud to be an American”).

You know why this is so great? Because regardless of who wins this election, it paves a the way for more African-Americans and women and people of minority to enter the world of politics with the belief that they can make it all the way to the top (provided they’ve got the income to support it because, let’s face it, folks, you have to have some serious dough to run for president anymore). And it should be that way, dammit, in the Land of the Free, the Land of Opportunity, the Land of Plenty. We are finally practicing what we are preaching: If you have the will, you can find a way to the top and you can make a difference.

Okay, maybe I’m getting carried away. I’m just so excited. I don’t care at this moment what anyone’s politics are… I know, I know, I should because I’m not voting for Barrack Obama because he’s black… I’m voting for him because of my own ethics and morals and values that lead me to that choice. I’m not voting for McCain because Palin’s on the ticket. And you should be happy that for me it’s still about the issues… and the best person for the job (in my humble opinion) just happens to be African-American.

I’m filled with hope that we’re coming to a time when a person’s gender or race or–God, I hope some day this comes true–sexuality plays a role in their ability to do a job. I am filled with hope that we’ve reached a time when people can begin to look beyond a person’s exterior to view the candidates by their own merit. It’s a small step, true, but it’s a step nonetheless and I will not overlook the greatness of this moment.

Now. All we need next is an openly gay Jewish man with a life partner and three adopted children to be a serious president candidate… ;)


Last night, I decided to listen to the audio tape of my wedding. I know, it’s self-inflicted torture. But, I don’t know, I spend a lot of my time holding back my feelings–for myself, for others–and I felt like I needed to face the emotional garbage and allow myself to cry for once. It’s probably healthy to do this; it seems really unhealthy to me for people to force me to avoid the thoughts and memories. I’ve been doing that too much lately in trying to convince myself that I’m always all right. For the most part, I am all right. But. I’m a widow; yesterday was my anniversary; I’m allowed to think about that day and reflect, even if it hurts. I have to give myself permission to do this. And I have to shut out the voices that tell me to just “move on.” I have moved on. But Mike, like it or not, is a part of who I am today and his death shaped what I’ve become.

As you can see, I spent a lot of the evening going through his saved sent and received email files. There’s not a lot of them, and most of what is there I know of. A lot of it is boring business mail between him and his coworkers. He was the manager of his department and he was apparently saving email for reference purposes, but he also saved some of our correspondance (since most of the time I sent email to him through his work account since he was out of town for work a lot).

Even though I knew what was in those messages, I had to look at them again. They touch my heart to read because I can hear in them his voice. They remind me of the clever, intelligent, and witty man I was married to. Maybe you don’t see that yourselves in the email, but since I was a part of the correspondance, I can read all of the extra information in between the lines. The things he says are all references to a big “database” of knowledge and events we shared between us. No one on the outside can quite fully get what they are all about because they weren’t part of the Mike-Mars Girl duo. I’ve never had such a tight link with any other human being. Which is probably why I remain unmarried to this day.

As I listened to our wedding ceremony (my VCR is broken so I couldn’t watch the wedding video), I cried of course. What a moment in history that was. Everyone was joyous. You can hear me laughing (unfortunately, my laugh sounds like a machine gun); my godson, the ring-bearer, crying and occasionally screaming; chairs moving; people shuffling and reacting to the service. My wedding comes alive to me again in those moments.

E., Mike’s father, gave a speech as part of the ceremony, a sort of “homily” if you could call it that in a completely secular ceremony. It was lively and entertaining. He spoke of love and his love for his son, and his love for his new daughter-in-law, which made me cry harder because I know now how false that statement was. Maybe he meant it at the moment, but no one then knew what the future held and how in twenty short months, we’d all find ourselves staring into a casket at waxy figure that once shined with life. Our connection to each other fell apart as Mike slipped away from us.

I think Mike shielded me from the dysfunction of his family. Without him there to mask it all, I saw their true faces. Maybe they saw my true face too. I won’t say that I’m completely innocent of any wrong-doing. We all thought we were right. How we reacted to the situation defined what we became. And now the bond between us is no more. Maybe it’s supposed to be that way when a spouse dies and there are no children to connect you to each other. I don’t know. It seems awfully flimsy. Love to me is supposed to be stronger than anything. It’s obviously stronger than death because my love for Mike has not died. It just changed.

But when I listen to the wedding, I can forget all of the present circumstances. I can look through the mists of time and see everything there as it was. That wedding was the precipice of a promised future. I can still see it, down below, even though its obscured by the mists of time–the sun rising over the endless water, illuminating everything in my world and touching me with its warming rays. I was supposed to march onward into the adventure of living a life with a man I cared deeply about. Maybe have some kids (probably would have had some kids). What would my life look like now, nine years later, if he hadn’t died?

It’s a useless question, I know, and people will email me and try to tell me how stupid it is to wonder about a present in a timeline that did not occur, and they will caution me to “live in the now.” I don’t care. Yesterday, all day, I couldn’t help but wonder where I’d be and what I’d be doing now if Mike had not died. I wondered how long into my thirties it would have been before Mike would have persuaded me to have kids. Perhaps–probably, in fact–I’d have one now (Sabina or Korbin). I recoil at the thought of kids now, but this is the 2008 post-Mike’s death Mars Girl. What would Fritzy have done? Fritzy’s heart was more open than Mars Girl’s is. I’m sure I would have kept to my pact of not having children until I was 30, but I know that the day I turned 30, Mike would again have begun his campaign for children and Fritzy would have probably gladly said okay. Not because she felt pressured or conned, but because Fritzy would have had her alone time with Misha, would have traveled as they planned to do, and would be ready to have kids. And Fritzy didn’t know what it was like to lose someone she loved so deeply so she would not fear bringing life into this world that she would love as deeply in a different way. Fritzy wouldn’t know how to fear the kind of losses to such strong attachments.

I would ultimately still be me. But I am sure Fritzy’s 2008 would look a lot different than the Mars Girl’s 2008. And it’s kind of sad. I think maybe I would feel more fulfilled, less angry, less jaded. I know that it doesn’t have to be that way even considering the current circumstances. I know I’m doing great for myself career-wise and emotionally. I made the best of a nasty situation and I can’t spend this much time looking at the past. Every now and then, though, I can’t help but do it. And I cannot lie that the thought of having little Misha-Fritzy’s running around is very attractive. A child of Mike’s would have been such a treat to raise.

I don’t talk to my in-laws anymore. I wonder if they are haunted by August 28th each time it comes around. I wonder if they dig out an old photograph from the wedding and reflect silently all the promise that day held. I wonder if they think about the grandchildren they might have had or just take a moment to remember the son/brother they lost. For me, I feel all alone in my thoughts. Am I the only one who makes a big deal out of this day? Am I the only one stuck on the past every August 28, finding myself thinking desperately of the person who filled my life up with such light for such a short time?

I can’t help but think that the day at least invokes a two-second thought with anyone who took part in the event. Lost son, brother, husband, friend. Who could forget the day this man seemed his happiest? Or do my in-laws think, “This is the day Mike married that bitch.” Does his mom still blame me for his death, saying that I let Mike die so that I could have all his money and the insurance payback (which, my friends, did not launch me into the status of the rich in any way, shape, or form)?

After listening to the tape, which I listened to in a dark room with a purple candle lit, I sat in the darkness and cried prayer-like words to Mike. I told him I was sorry for anything I’d ever done wrong, admitting I’d have done a better job as a wife had I known–really appreciated–how precious life is. I told him missed him. I asked his forgiveness for crying like that over him since I knew he wanted me to be strong. I told him I couldn’t help it, that sometimes the missing him got the better of me and I needed to let it out. I told him that he was the best thing that ever happened to me. I told him that I wished I could start it all over again just to get it right.

Nicki jumped on my lap, which is nothing unusual. She always jumps in my lap. She started to purr and I told Mike that Nicki and Cleo missed him too. And I said that I was glad that Tanya was back at his side.

I pretty much stopped when I couldn’t come up with anything else to say that didn’t repeat what I’d already said. I kept hoping for a sign or something. Alas, nothing again. Stil, it felt good to purge if that was the only purpose for the words. A thought entered my mind: What if there really is nothing and he’s completely gone?

The old atheist in me stirred. My fear invaded everything and I sat in the darkness contemplating the end of lifelines. If this is truly the only life I will ever get, then I must protect it fiercely, I thought. And my thoughts drifted further into contemplating what it meant to my life–to Mike’s life–if he had just died and then there was no further consciousness. Nothing. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Am I, I wondered, sitting here entertaining myself with the thought that he could hear me–effectively lying to myself for comfort?

As a shadow of doubt fell across me, I understood fully the true tragedy of Mike’s death. I have not thought about it in these terms for months. What a complete and utter waste. How can life be so cruel? Here is a man who managed to propel himself through a tumultuous childhood, worked vigorously to achieve a successful career, find and marry the type of woman he was looking for, only to die at the raw age of 32. I’m now one year older than he was. Technically, I’m now his senior. I’ve got one extra year of breathing than he had. How fair is that?

It’s easier to deal with his death if I think of it merely as a separation between states of being–that I’m here in the physical world and he’s out there somewhere in the spiritual world. But what if my interpretation of everything is so utterly false? I’ve lied to myself in the last year in order to get some sanity back and to cope. But I don’t know the truth in anything. I’m merely hoping and guessing and hoping some more. Faith is always hard for me. And, last night, and still today, it has slipped through my fingers. I’m left with a feeling of nothing, a feeling I’m more familiar with, having lived half my life as a staunch atheist.

But even as an atheist, I have never contemplated the reality of the devastation so fully as I did in that moment last night, panicking about the frailties of human life and my own immient death. When you are stuck in this mindset, it’s all too tempting to want to scream, “I don’t want to die!!” Somewhere amidst that primal yell, you begin to see that life is completely meaningless, except for what you make of your own existence. This in and of itself is not bad. It just makes me want to withdraw into myself and keep relationships of any kind from permeating too deeply into my skin. Who wants to take the time to get so emotionally involved when you risk losing it all so abruptly, which results in the kind of pain I was feeling last night?

(Yes, I know that’s the big gamble in the game of life. I’m just telling it how I felt it.)

As the hour slipped away, I realized how empty the universe is if everyone I knew who had died were forever lost. All that potential and character and intelligence exited their bodies in the last exhale, never to be seen or heard again. All of that knowledge wasted, all of that thought gone, all of the trace of their existence left only on the memories of those still living–which itself only lasts as long as the last one to know them himself dies. What an empty, cold, and dark universe existence becomes. Like talking in from within the pit of some rocky cavern. “Hello? Hello? Is anyone else there?” only to be answered by your own lonely, scared, cowering echo. I am truly alone.

Somewhere last night, I slipped into the cavern of uncertainty and I haven’t found my way out yet. Faith is hard, especially when you have so little to start with. I guess I live on hope because one can always hope without pretending to know or even deluding yourself that you know. In a moment of grief, when you’re still looking for conclusive proof of something, it’s hard to have faith or hope. And that’s where I’m at today… looking for a flash light and the path back into the full light of day. Some days it’s harder than others.

I just wish I knew the answers for sure. I just wish I could know that when I die, I’d see Mike waiting for me at the end of a tunnel and we’d be together again at last.

Letters from Amsterdam

Mike went to Amsterdam quite frequently for work because the programming tool he taught originated from his company’s office there. One of the first times he went there while we were together was February 1999. It was only two weeks, but it was probably the longest amount of time we’d spent away from each other since we started dating.

I’m not sure what Mike would think of me posting his private correspondences on the internet like this (he was more private than me), but I just thought you’d like to read his voice for once since all you get is my view. I always think of these messages when I’m reflecting on our history together because they were some of the most heartfelt things Mike ever wrote down. He expressed himself quite openly to me face-to-face, but he wasn’t one for writing long soliloquies about his feelings and thoughts, as I am oft known to do. (Though he always liked reading what I wrote and supported my very opinionated posting on various email lists.)

By the way, I cut and pasted these messages… So all the original spelling and grammar mistakes are original and not mine. I never claimed he was an English major like his wife. =)

Sent: 2/14/1999 12:43 PM

Subj: A’dam


I already miss you, and its only been 4 hours since we last talked. I hate being alone in Europe. Everything is so different than back home. It is even odder now because of the diversity of people here. The languages that you hear are not consistent, and there for all strange.

That and not having enough sleep, could just make you cry. At least the TV works. I found an indoor track meet being broadcast by the BBC. Did I say I hate this.

I guess this is like when you go to a new county, you get so anxious. In my case, it must be country. :P

Well, Enough Bitching for now. The food is great. The air is polluted.

Love you,


Sent: 2/14/1999 7:07PM

Subj: A’dam II


Do you remember a group called Styx. They had a hit song called Mr. Roboto. I think that would be the best way to explain my first day in Europe.

Here it is almost 1am and my mind is just racing. Mostly it is about you. It is amazing, but the thought of not being on the same continent make me sad. I know, more travel depression. I think I know what I had against the Med. Cruise. Deep down, Europe reminds me of how small my world is. And by just taking a little plane ride, it all gets taken away from you.

The last times I was in Europe, it was a little different, I guess because I was traveling with Dave C. or N. And therefore we could pool our energies. Not that I just sat in the hotel today. I did go for a hour long walk/hike. Just before the sun went down.

Unfortunately, I cannot rave about the sunset, it is foggy/gray.

It is weird but I am already starting to think in German. Not that they speak German here, but Dutch is close on structure and some terms. It kinda looks like this is a moot language. There is some English, German, and the Scandinavian type words. Oh, and you have to sque the words because they have there own alphabet and therefore spell things different than they sound.

Well, I guess this helped a bit. As for the wedding, that is also on my mind. See, I told you your were right up there. :P Anyway, as for the wedding, I guess all the money is just freaking me out. Not that we are not putting together a great celebration. But I am not used to dropping that much money so fast. Not in my nature. So I guess we just better get a photographer, officiant, invitations, decorations, et al. Yes I do know what that means. :P.

Well, today will be a better day, once I can get back to sleep. After that I will be in class and that will help wear me out. Or maybe regulate my activities. Oh, for your information, they have the funny toilets here too. I am sure you would get a kick out of this.

One last thing, we should go dancing. Maybe the wedding party should don some dance shoes and just go. Maybe not the flats, there is a place over in Kent called Screwy Lewies. Something like that.

So, pleasant dreams my love, even though you won’t be in bed for another few hours.



Sent: 2/17/1999 2:15AM

Subj: A’dam V


You bad little girl. You pleasantly surprised me last night. But it is always nice to hear from you. I actually was thinking of calling you; but when you are on the road, I am never sure when exactly to get a hold of you. But, that does not matter. :P

We, the weather has surprise us, it snowed. In fact, it thunder-snowed. That is always a weird sound.

One of my compodries had a Star Trek Voyager dream last night. He had the impression that he was so far from Earth that future space archeologist would never find his bones. I guess the class is getting to him. Hopefully you have never made your students feel that way.

Anyway, I hope you can someday experience a diverse group sitting at a late supper sitting. It is always fun to poke fun of each others governments, religion, oh and cultural beliefs. Though, usually every picks hardest on their own systems. I think it is a test of one upmanship. Makes for good stories, and you know me and stories.

Love you,


P.S. @}—‘–,—- X 12.

Sent: 2/18/1999 2:12AM

Subj: A’dam VI


Here I am at 2am your time sitting at breakfast on Thursday. Oh, we went out to an Indian restaurant last night and then stopped into a shop called the Magic Mushroom Gallery. You would not believe all the stuff. So of the stuff was roll, some came in little bags. And of course, there were the marital aids, I mean herbs use to enhance sex. They had other items, but I am not quite sure what they might do?

So I got you something, I am sure you will love it. I think. :P

Well, off to my cab.



Don’t despair: the “item” he bought me was actually a necklace of an alien holding a mushroom (presumably a “magic” one). He knew me well. I guess you could call it an aphrodisiac since it put him in my favor for being such a thoughtful gift…

Where love begins

The following is from an email message Mike sent me while we were writing our wedding vows. I had questioned his use of the phrase “having no clear beginning” in the vows he’d written. For some reason, I was offended by that statement and did not understand what he meant by it.

Sent: Tues 6/29/1999:

How does one fall into love? Is it overt like running into a huge wall. No, it is more gradual, so it would have an ambiguous starting point. A clear beginning would be like saying Aug. 26, 1998 7:31:27 PM while eating Jerk Swordfish.* I mean you could say it started in the Kitchen at Chuck’s if you truly tracked every little thing back to the exact beginning.

So, just as a ring’s circle has no clear beginning, you can start anywhere. As you follow the loop around, the starting point becomes one of many points, of interest, on the loop.

I figured if anything we should question the infinity time reference since we both will die and that is it. Do you really want to pick apart the semantics of my vows. Anytime you use symbolism, you will end up with these issues. Always. Stop looking so hard at this, take a deep breath and stop putting so much pressure on your self. Just relax and close your eyes and visualize nothing. Then let the mind drift. BONG!!!!!!, sorry, started to fell like a ST episode. :)


* The reference to eating Jerk Swordfish refers to a meal we shared together on one of our first vacations together–St. John in the Virgin Islands. We went there for a week in August of 1998. We met each other in May of 1998, at the party of a friend named Chuck. Mike’s first sight of me, the one he always cited as the moment he decided he wanted to meet me, was when I was standing in the kitchen talking to friends after I’d just arrived. When telling this story, he always claimed I ignored him and he was trying to get my attention. I didn’t notice him until much later when we were playing volleyball. And it was his legs that caught my attention.

Tied in the bottom of the ninth

Like the good liberal that I supposedly am, I tried to watch the Democratic National Convention last night. It lasted about ten minutes before I got disgusted and turned it off. The posturing and “us v. them” lingo just gave me a headache. I watched about four commentators on some cable station (it might have been CNN, I didn’t notice) make predictions about what Hillary Clinton was going to say in her speech and making commentary about what they think she should say.

One chick was a feminist. It might have been Rachel Maddow, with whom I generally like on Air America, but I really wasn’t paying much attention to all the subtitles. Anyway, she was going on and on about how the fur was tussled on the backs of feminists everywhere because John McCain used Hillary in his ads against Obama, stating that she should be utterly furious and she should use this opportunity to attack McCain to redeem herself and let his camp know that she won’t be used in that way.

And then she rambled on along some other angry feminist rant that I lost track of. And I’m a feminist. I’m just not an angry one. I don’t see Hillary’s loss of the nomination as a setback to women in professional positions and a return to the 1800s mentality of a stay at home woman. I never saw Hillary as my representative of feminism anyway. To me, she’s weak for entering a business partnership that she called marriage so that she could ride the coat-tails of a man in order to get into politics. A real feminist would have done it all herself, braved the discrimination of a misogynist work environment and fought her way to the top. That’s a woman I would have admired (such as Madeleine Albright). Hillary just let herself become repeatedly cuckolded (or whatever the female equivalent of such would be) by a chuckle head husband who happened to be a pretty good politician when he wasn’t finding ways to have relations with interns in the Oval Office.

But I digress…

As I watched, other commentators postulated that she would somehow back-hand Obama to dignify her “too close loss.” They wondered if she could fully support Obama (can we say: sore loser mentality?). One man quite vehemently kept insisting that she must really sock it to McCain if she wanted respect. Call him out on the carpet. An unfair fight, if you ask me, since the guy isn’t there to defend himself and you have thousands of people in the room who agree with you. It’s pretty easy to say what you want in a room full of supporters.

Regardless, I didn’t stick around long enough to actually listen to Hillary’s speech because the running speculation about her speech and the angry political commentary was just annoying the crap out of me. It was like a frakking pep rally for a sporting event with people cheering and hooting and whooping and wearing strange makeup. Okay, maybe I just saw one young girl with dyed pink hair and I’m becoming a crotchety old senior citizen about such things. Still, the spectacle kind of disgusting. The comparison to a sporting event resonates too strongly in the American spirit which enjoys a gut-wrenching game that involves destroying your enemy. It isn’t about who will win and run the country anymore, but that “our guy” won and “your guy” lost and we’re better, nananananaaaaaaaa.

I hope that if Obama does become elected (notice I don’t use the words “wins the presidency”) we don’t act like a troop of sore winners, gloating and smiling and congratulating ourselves all over the place. For the sake of all of our Republican friends, relatives, and neighbors, I hope we don’t resort to doing a happy touch-down dance on their front lawns.

At the end of the day, it’s really about the right person for the job of running the country. This whole business with the teams of Republican and Democrat should be moot. I almost hate the two party system that causes everyone to draw a line in the sand and demand that the population be one thing or the other. Why can’t a Republican candidate be pro-choice? Why can’t a Democrat be for tax relief? No person I know stands for every Democrat issue. I certainly don’t. (I even vote down school levies, which isn’t very Democrat of me at all!)

I want Obama to win, I want change from the current administration, and I am behind most of the platform he is presenting. I just don’t like the hoops, pomp and circumstance, and major butt-kissing that has to go on in order for the process to proceed. And, like most of the American public, I’m just really sick of this election. If I feel like screaming and cheering on my favorite team, I’ll go to an Indians game.

Lost toenails, sore legs, and fast fathers: my climb up Mt. Elbert

Mt. Elbert, Colorado’s highest peak,
as viewed along Route 24 outside of Leadville.

It’s not that I expect to be good at everything. Hell, I’m not even sure I’m good at anything. Still, when your fifty-seven year-old father beats you to the summit of a 14,000 foot peak, you can’t help but feel a little miffed. Especially since the last time, along an easier trail, he couldn’t even complete the trip. (Well, as he always corrects me, he could have gotten to the summit that time if my mom hadn’t been afflicted with a serious case of altitude sickness and needed to be taken down the mountain immediately. Regardless, I was faster than him that time.)

Like a good sport, I should just take this moment of defeat as a life lesson. As my father always wittingly points out, no matter how good you are at something, there’s always someone better than you. I guess it wouldn’t be so disheartening if I didn’t remember all so clearly that I was always the slowest hiker in my hiking group with the Colorado Mountain Club (CMC). Even after living in Colorado for a year–fully acclimated and doing much more hiking than I do now–I was still the slowest. Walking, I guess, is just not my thing. It doesn’t mean I enjoy it any less. In fact, I think my slow mode allows me to observe more than those swift-footed fast movers.

That’s what I try to tell myself, anyway.

I should not let my disappointment overshadow the amazing achievement of my father’s strong comeback in his second attempt to climb Mt. Elbert. Not only did he beat me up the mountain, he beat me up by two hours, arriving at the summit in just over three hours. I maintained my normal 1mph average and arrived at the summit in five. I guess that’s what you get when you hike with a man who runs about five miles a day and purposely programs his treadmill for rough inclines.

In trying to keep up with him early on, I pushed myself a little harder than I normally do, resulting in a bit of altitude issues. When I realized at one point that my father was permanently out of sight, and as I was experiencing some lower abdominal cramping, I stopped to take a breather on a rock beside the trail. As I sat down, my vision went white, like what happens when you turn the brightness setting up too high on your tv. A feeling of nausea slammed my senses, dizzying me as the sound of the world around me grew muffled. I thought I would faint for just a moment because this is usually a prelude to fainting (I have been induced to fainting many times at the sight of blood so the process is pretty routine to me).

Life just above timberline along the north Elbert trail.

It was at about this time that I started to panic, noticing suddenly that the air seemed thin. I think the perceived lack of air had to do more with my panicked state than actually noticing the reduction of air in the atmosphere at 12K feet. I usually don’t notice the air quantity at 14K unless I’m trying to do something physical, such as run. For a few minutes time, a single thought raced through my brain, “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!”

Then logical Mars Girl took over with a firm, “No, you can breathe. You’re just having altitude problems. Relax, drink something, chew on a Powerbar. Then decide whether or not you have to come down.”

Which is precisely what I did. The world slowly popped back into my eyes and ears. A few people passed me on the trail, asked if I was okay, and I tried to cover up my state because people get really serious about altitude out there… I didn’t want to have anyone insisting I needed to climb down unless I truly felt I needed to climb down.

The world drops below at about 12,000 feet. This is where I stopped
to take my breather during my plight with altitude.

Unfortunately, the cramping resulted in the sudden, unwanted urge to visit a few big boulders beyond the sight of those climbing up or going down the trail. It’s a good thing I always pack toilet paper in my day pack. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a run in with Montezuma’s Revenge on a high altitude trail above timberline. Good times. (For a more serious, in-depth discussion of this topic, read How to Shit in the Woods by Kathleen Meyer–I bought a copy for my husband for Christmas or his birthday one year. Though I did not, as this book suggests, use the environmentally friendly way (packing it out) of handling the situation…)

After about forty-five minutes of rest and other distraction, I found I was feeling much better and decided I could continue on with my “summit bid.” I was frustrated with myself for feeling the affects of altitude. The only other time I had an encounter with altitude-related illness was while climbing Mt. Bierstadt–another Colorado 14er–with a group of fast hikers in the CMC. Again, I kept pace with them and didn’t take the stops to rest that I usually do on the way up, and I found myself feeling as though I had a hang-over from about 12K feet to 14K feet. I sat on the summit that time in a lot of pain and trying to hide it from my peers so they wouldn’t chastise me for attempting the hike as I was classified by the club as an “A” hiker (lowest, slowest level) and that hike had been “C” hike (faster, higher level). That time, too, I’d had a panicky feeling of suffocating slowly.

I felt much better the rest of the hike up Mt. Elbert. I was a little miffed at my father for taking off and deserting me, but I decided to just pretend I was hiking alone, which is more fun to me anyway because I don’t have to match anyone’s pace. This trail I’d chosen–the north approach from the trailhead at Half Moon camp–was a lot harder than I remembered. It doesn’t really have switchbacks–maybe one or two–above timberline and goes straight up the north side of the mountain. The last time I’d used this trail (for I’d been up Elbert three other times), I found it to be the prettiest of the three major trails. I suppose it was due to the sweeping views the trail offers once you get past timberline. The last time I’d hiked this trail, I was a seasoned Colorado hiker, having lived there for several months. It probably was a lot easier on me then.

Plus, any difficult hiking I’d endured that day was completely underscored by the experience of “walking above the clouds” I had. My hike had started out on a drizzling morning and, as I crossed the threshold of timberline through what my mind perceived as simply a thick fog, I found myself walking above the clouds. It had been absolutely breath-taking, indescribably beautiful. Especially since the other two hikes I’d made up that mountain had been tempered by feelings of stress that matched the thunderstorms storms that chased me down (especially the day I put my husband’s ashes up there). To me, that single, beautiful experience was almost like a sign welcoming me atop that mountain for the first time on my own terms. It was the one time I didn’t bring a camera so all I have is the memory of standing above the clouds with the peaks of many neighboring mountains, and Elbert’s false summit, jutting up majestically through a ruffled blanket of white.

On this climb up Elbert, though, the sky was spotted with higher altitude cloud puffs. Four years have passed since I was a resident of Colorado and my blood is once again that of a flatlander. That mystical moment I shared with only myself–stuck forever in my memory–was not to be repeated this time. Every hike, even when repeated, is it’s own experience. If I am to take any memory from this particular hike, I will remember the brisk wind that almost blew my cute little hiking hat from my head (forcing me to put it in my backpack).

As I made it past Elbert’s false summit, I was greeted by some hikers on their way down who informed me, as every hiker does, that the real summit wasn’t that far away. The same sort of hopeful information is passed from ride leaders to cyclists all the time–“There’s no more hills for the rest of the ride,” they will say. I knew to take this information lightly.

This, my friends, is what a false summit looks like…
can you see DISAPPOINTMENT etched in its stone?

A few people passed to tell me that they’d seen my father on the summit and that he was worried about me. About a half hour later, twenty or so minutes’ walk from the summit, I found my dad making his way down the mountain. I was kind of disappointed that he was already descending and it kind of deflated my drive to finish the summit push, but, to my great relief, my dad decided to turn around and go back to the top so that we could take pictures on the summit together. It’s good that he actually wanted, like me, to share the father-daughter bonding moment, even if his first crossing of the summit was not mine to witness.

The last few steps toward the summit are always the most difficult. You’ve been climbing for hours and spring is the last thing in your step, even when you sight the top and the crowd of people gathered there. I still had to pause for a few moments after several steps. I couldn’t believe I was this badly out of shape. Maybe I really am getting old.

The north trail intersects with the south trail right before the summit. We encountered a couple of very gleeful men about my dad’s age coming up the south trail who, I was to learn later, had carried a flask of Scotch whiskey to toast to at the top. The one guy explained to me that Elbert was his elusive summit, that he had had to turn back right below the summit some 29 years ago due to encroaching darkness (is that all? I would have gone to the top anyway!), and he’d never gotten the chance to attempt it again until now. I guess that certainly constitutes a moment to enjoy Scotch on the summit of a mountain!

A group of young hikers passed us. A religious group of some sort, as the blonde girl passed me, she exclaimed with an elated smile and a maniacal trill in her voice, “Jesus is alive! This is the proof!”

If not the parameters of their dogma, I could understand their fervor. It’s always been at moments like these–atop mountains, pumping my pedals hard on a beautiful summer’s day, swinging a raft along a river–where I’ve found felt my place in a part of something larger than myself. Whether you call it God or Jesus or Mother Nature or Planet Earth or the Great and Grand Mystical Universe, it is truly awesome. It’s moments like these where I feel the most alive and the most connected with not only myself but with the life of which I’m apart. It certainly is no mystery why I left my husband’s ashes atop a mountain. He shared my love of the outdoors and that pioneering spirit that always made us thirst for more adventures in exploration. I know he’s happy with the resting place I chose for him.

I almost shouted back cheerily at the group of young Jesus enthusiasts, “Praise be!” My fear of other hikers misinterpreting my response held my tongue back. (Not everyone wants to be identified as a religious enthusiast among seculars. And I do care about my image. Maybe too much.)

At the top, after exchanging cameras and picture-taking moments, I plunked down on a rock and soared on a long-missed climbers’ high as I looked down at the jaded peaks surrounding me. All of the trials of my hike, including the altitude sickness, just floated away from my thoughts, lost in the thin air that surrounded the peaks. Despite the strong winds pushing at me on the climb up, the summit was unusually quiet and still and I was filled with the peace found only at the summit of a high peak where a silence surrounds you as if you were inside a bubble. The guys with the Scotch offered me a sip and I took a little. Even the small bit that rolled on my tongue intoxicated me instantly. It felt good for a few moments.

I quickly inhaled a turkey wrap I’d lugged up (partly to reduce the weight in my day pack) and then pulled Tanya’s ashes from the canister in which they had come to me. I waited a few moments for the small crowd to finish taking pictures around the little wood post erected next to the USGS marker. I found a little niche beneath the mound of stones holding the post in place and emptied the bag of ashes into it. Tanya was released to Mike, her favorite human, at last, after three years of patient waiting.

Tanya’s resting place (circled lightly) at improvised summit marker.
Mike’s ashes were left nearby at the USGS marker seven years ago.

At that moment, a black bird of some sort swooped over my head and across the summit. For a few moments, the bird rode the wind current like a para-glider. I could see its feathers ruffling in the current as the bird floated surrealistically next to the edge of the summit.

My dad joked, “That bird is saying, ‘Why you stupid people walk up this thing? Just fly!'”

We chuckled and watched as the bird floated off. It was one of those moments where you wish you could have attempted to get a picture. Of course, by the time my fingers reached for the camera, the bird was gone. Maybe it was supposed to be that way–another Elbert memory committed only to memory. A memory made at a particular moment when I’d returned my cat’s ashes to the side of her master. It makes you wonder. I’ll leave you, the reader, to draw your own conclusions about this event, for I’m totally wiped out of spiritual philosophy this evening… But I will point out that Tanya was a black cat…

Anyway, we stayed up there about forty-five minutes, and then headed down. My dad was kinder on the descent; though he wanted to go faster and very well could have, he waited for me every time he got too far ahead (but not without commenting about how much faster he could have gone down if not for his slow daughter). I was having an unusual amount of trouble on the descent–more than usual. I think the boots I was wearing were not tight enough around my ankles, for I kept having problems with my ankle twisting on some of my downward steps, which caused me to fall twice. More of a hurt ego, though, than true injury. I kept telling my dad that with the way I was supporting myself so heavily on the hiking poles (definitely could not have made it down without them) that I looked like a polio child. Cruel joke, I know, but so true. I did look like a child with polio the way I was walking. Or MS or something. It was obnoxiously bad.

My boots had also failed me miserably in the comfort department. I managed to badly bruise the toenails on both of my big toes on the descent. Now, over a week later, the skin beneath the nails is a very deep shade of purple, so much so that it looks like they simply have nail polish on them. I’m definitely going to lose the nail on the left toe and the one on the right–the one that I recently lost as a result of skiing earlier this year–isn’t looking too great either. The joys of being an athletic woman: I will never have pretty feet. I’m thinking of masking the grossness for awhile by painting the rest of my toenails purple. I’m pretty sure I have a shade of polish that matches the hue of the bruising.

I also have a broken blister on the back of my heel that is struggling to mend itself (it keeps getting reopened by the backs of my shoes). I was pretty sore for four days after the climb, the first two days being the worst with walking up and down stairs being a struggle. Turning myself in bed was a painful experience. I don’t think I used to get that sore.

My dad was pretty proud of his success on the climb. In a moment of competitive jealousy, I told him that I could kick his ass on a bike any time. Of course, if I bettered my dad on the bike, it would only inspire him to work harder for a goal, and the next thing I would know it, he’d be riding with the hammerheads of the 6pm ABC ride on Thursdays, leaving his athletically-retarded daughter in his dust. He’s just more of a natural with athletics than me; I think I take after my mom, a little bit less sure on my feet. Unfortunately, I got my competitive nature from him and my unstoppable drive to push myself towards a challenging goal until I achieve it. I guess those are good qualities, even for a dunce like me. My mind is always willing when my body isn’t always ready to meet the task. But you bet I’m going to push myself onward anyway, no matter what the cost and no matter what negative comments the naysayers will shout. I think that’s why husband used to tell me that I’m a survivor. It’s the survivor in me that made me get up on those cold mornings after his death; the survivor eventually dragged me out of the valley of despair that threatened to consume me.

Well, I’m proud of my dad too. He may have kicked my ass. But maybe I need someone to sober the overbloated sense of entitlement I have in my athletic pursuits. I admit to an elitist competitive streak that I’m sure my friends and family find frustrating. I struggle to contain that. Having my dad kick my butt up the mountain was just the cure. I guess I’m willing to share a hobby with my father. Though, it really won’t stop me from wanting to try to better him next time.

Mars Girl and Mars Dad, together,
on the summit of Mt. Elbert (14,433 ft).

Really, it’s all the bike…

As promised earlier in the week, today I rode my hybrid two miles to church. The reasons I rode my hybrid were the general nostalgia of riding that thing after two years (I used to love this bike), it was less hassle (has a rack for carrying my trunk pack, regular pedals with clipping straps), and I wanted to see if my general great shape has made any improvements to my ability to get some speed on it. Well, it turns out that it does not matter how muscular my legs are or how much better my cadence is; I found it extremely hard to maintain a 13-15mph average even on the straight parts of the route. I feel a little humbled by the fact that my apparent strength and speed on the road has more to do with the bike I’m riding than my actual ability.

I rode 8.17 miles (I also stopped at Marc’s up the street from me–in the opposite direction of church–to pick up some stuff I needed) and attained a completely horrible average of *cough, cough* 10.7.

Maybe my computer is not up to snuff right now. There seems to be some things I need to have replaced or adjusted on that bike. I’m not sure what all they are, but I did notice a few things:

  • The seat post has a tendency to sink a little despite being in the locked position. Perhaps the locking screw is stripped or something.
  • The plastic guard between the gear cassette and the back wheel is loose and, therefore, it rattles as it moves freely as the wheel spins.

I also noticed that the biggest difference between my hybrid and my road bike is that while the gears are generally lower than the the ones on my road bike, they make less efficient use of my spinning. I seem to run in a much higher gear than I would need to on my Giant because a gear on my hybrid, being lower, doesn’t seem to help me move any better. I used to think it was a weakness of my road bike to have to work so hard in these generally higher gears, but now I’m realizing it’s really the benefit because one turn of the pedal on my Giant makes much more efficient use of the spin than my hybrid does. I can’t explain it too well here–it’s something you feel as a rider. You just become so tuned to what you know you should feel as you’re pushing those pedals and what the output of that energy gives you.

For example, there is one short but kind of tough hill right as I get into Kent (the city where my church is). I had no problem pedaling up that hill in the middle back gears while in the middle ring of my front gear. Granny gears would be overkill on this hill. On my Giant, I usually take this hill in the lower back gears in my middle ring. Anyway, as I pushed up this hill, I was spinning my little legs at a comfortable, sane cadence while appreciating the push of this relatively high gear. I only had about 2-3mph going up the hill. I felt as though I were literally crawling. It’s a hill with a sharp grade, but on my road bike, I’m usually going up it at about 6-10mph. 2-3mph on my road bike would be a pretty nasty hill–something of upwards of 7% grade or more. I surely have been on some hills that have put me that low, but they are not located on city streets… I mean, it was almost embarrassing to me how slow I was going.

Maybe that bike needs a serious tune-up. It really hasn’t been used much in the last two years since I got my Giant. I lent it for awhile to Diane and she used it for a few months to do some rides and registered tours before buying her own event bike. Then it sat in my garage for several more months, accumulating the dust from my dad’s many projects remodeling in my house. I only recently raised the seat and installed the straps back on the pedals (because I absolutely cannot ride a bike without my feet being strapped into the pedals in some manner any more).

It’s funny how everything changes the more you get into cycling and you upgrade bikes as I did. I also could not help but feel how heavy that bike is. It’s not just something people say to you that you accept as a cycling snobbery. It’s completely and utterly true, another thing you just feel when you ride a hybrid after all the time on your road bike. People used to say it to me all the time when I was going up those long climbs in Colorado, “Man, I admire your ambition for doing a ride like this on such a heavy bike.”

I used to think, “This bike isn’t heavy!” It was much lighter than the trail/mountain hybrid I’d owned previous to the hybrid, and even at one time I thought the mountain hybrid was lighter than any bike I’d ever owned. So I never understood it quite until I moved into the ranks of the road cyclists. Now I’m the one thinking about how uninformed I was riding my hybrid up those mountain passes. I was giving myself much more work than necessary. I could have done those rides much faster and more efficiently had I gone from my mountain bike right to a road bike. Mountain biking was never to be my thing–I always wanted to do distance and roads.

It’s like one of those lessons where your parents tell you something as a kid that you never understand the logic of until you become an adult. It reminds me of when my parents used to tell me as a teenager that owning a car was expensive. I used to think, “Huh? I can get a used car for a couple of thousand dollars and then all I have to do is pay for gas.” Then you have a car and you realize you have to pay for all the oil changes and miscellaneous repairs and insurance coverage in addition to everything else. It’s something that doesn’t make sense until you live it. And then the words just ring back to you and you realize they were right. Damn sobering sometimes.

Something else I learned today is that I really should wear bike clothes on the hybrid, even on shorter commuter and putzing around town trips. I wore the skorts and shirt I was wearing to church and it was really hot and sweaty. Next time, I think I am just going to wear my bike shorts and a t-shirt or something, and then change into church-appropriate clothes in the bathroom when I get there. The regular clothes were way too restrictive and retained sweat and I was hot throughout the service from my ride in (since we don’t have any AC). I know bike clothes aren’t too attractive, but there is something to be said about how lycra “breathes”–releasing the heat from your body and allowing cooler air in to cool your body. The shorts allow for unrestricted movement as you are pedaling, whereas my skorts just hiked up and caused my thighs to chafe against the seat a little.

Anyway, I think my hybrid should be relegated to only short commutes around town, rides on unpaved surfaces with friends who aren’t obsessed speed demons or on trips to places like Pelee Island where the objective isn’t to ride ungodly miles quickly. Really, I can ride a bike and relax. Though I understand that it doesn’t appear that way when I can’t even use it on my commute to church and a store without complaining about its lack of speed. I guess I just get used to a certain speed and efficiency factor, and it just depresses the crap out of me when I’m not attaining that. Actually, as I stated earlier, I’m humbled by the fact that my bike makes all of the difference and that not even my fitness level and cycling prowess could beat the confining factors of the hybrid. It makes me feel bad about myself on some level that the only reason I’m able to achieve some of the riding feats that I have is more due to the bike that I ride than my personal skill.

Oh well. I guess the tools we use enhance what we have… It still takes my skills to put me in the middle of a club ride when I’m amidst a crowd of people with equally as equipped bicycles. And if I ever wanted to achieve greater cycling speed and efficiency, I still have many bars to reach for. I really have a lot to be proud of as far as my cycling goes, anyway. I’ve become a much stronger hill climber than I was last year and that’s a skill that is the great equalizer of all road cyclists.

Maybe I will throw some money into getting my hybrid back up to par. I hate to have a bike sitting in my garage that is not in good shape. All my bikes should be working as efficiently as possible for the best riding experience when I’m using them. (All? I only have two! Right now, that is…)

I guess, too, I just need to relax when I take my bike for a ride into church, which was really more a gas-saving move for me than anything else. It seems stupid in weather like this to drive 2 miles down the road. My hybrid is perfect for around town commutes. Not anything more than that–my commute to work is 17 miles through the Cuyahoga Valley, so if I ever do ride into work, my road bike is going to be the choice for that venture (plus, I’ve gotta go up some monster hills that I’d rather not do on the hybrid now that I know how slow it is up hills).

I gotta remember to smile. It’s not all about the speed. It’s is about the enjoyment for me. Sometimes I lose sight of that in my crazy competition with myself…

Mars Girl got her wheels back!

I picked up my bike last night from Century Cycles. The mechanic explained all the stuff he had found wrong with it during the tune-up (which I also had done on it). I guess the cables to the gears were frayed (I’d kind of suspected that), too. He replaced them. And re-wrapped part of the wraps on my handlebars that were coming loose. Greased some things that needed to be greased, which will reduce some the noise and clicking I’d been hearing, particularly under my seat.

My bike will be like new again, when I get the chance to ride it. (Probably not until tomorrow as I’m going to Kennywood today with Diane and her husband Jeff.)

It’s the kind of attention they give you at Century Cycles that makes me feel secure about sending my bike there. One year, I sent my hybrid to another bicycle shop for a tune-up. About a week later, I was riding around in the Valley when the cable to my gears snapped and I couldn’t change gears. Unfortunately, at the time that it happened, I was climbing up Quick Road. So I had to ride back to Peninsula in a really low gear, which made the trip ten times as long. I took my bike into Century Cycles so that I could get back to the parking lot of Deep Lock Quarry and they immediately replaced the cable for me. I asked them if the other bike shop should have noticed the cable was about to break, or if perhaps I broke it somehow. The mechanics at CC said that it would probably have been fraying for awhile and the other bike shop should probably have noticed that.

I remember that story in times like yesterday as I was being given detailed information about all the things the mechanic at CC found when he was tuning up my bike. I can’t help but think that these guys are really paying attention. It makes the other bike shop look as though they are not doing a very thorough job when performing a tune-up… It just affirms to me that I should always take my bike into CC because they seem to go above and beyond with their service on your bike. I am willing to pay, always, for good service.

On another note, I managed to procure (borrow) Michael’s extra set of Speedplay Frogs. I’m going to put them on my bike this week to see how they feel. If I like them, there goes another expense. Of course, the cost to my knees is probably unmeasurable so if I’ve got more float with the Speedplays than I do with the SPDs, it will be well worth it.

I also remembered that I need a bike light. Fall is coming with shorter days. My club rides until it gets too cold on Thursdays, using bike lights when the sun goes down. I have a pretty crappy light that doesn’t hold much charge for very long and the light it gives out is really pathetic–pale yellow and it does not cover a very large parameter. I got seriously scared a few times last year while riding with the club in the dark.

Hobbies are sure expensive!!

Ski season is coming… At least with skis, all I need to do is tune and wax them… And I probably don’t even need to do that this year because I only used my new ones a handful of times last year…


I have been effectively “de-wheeled” for the next couple of days. I took my bike in to Century Cycles over lunch break to assess the problem I noticed yesterday (and a little bit on Sunday) with my gears “slipping.” As I was pedaling, my chain would hesitate, as if there were slack in the chain, and then, in some cases, it would skip down to the gear below the one I was currently in. It happened constantly last night every time I pushed more aggressively on my pedals while climbing some of the hills in my low or middle front rings. It was only in the highest ring (the one with the largest diameter) that my gears seemed to stay in place.

One of the gentlemen in my bike club suggested I needed a new chain and, in fact, performed a test on my chain with some tool he had. Unfortunately, the test was inconclusive because he wasn’t sure he was reading the tool correctly. This same tool was brought out at Century Cycles and they assessed that, yes, I need not only a new chain but a new gear cassette in the back. $80 for the gear cassette and $28 for a new chain. Plus, since I can’t install these things myself, they have my bike until Saturday, which, they promised would be the very latest day they would have my bike.

“Man,” I remarked to the mechanic at Century Cycles, “these bikes sure require a lot of maintenance!”

Said Century Cycles mechanic, “Yeah, and we usually don’t tell people about the parts that need regular replacement because most people don’t ride them the miles that you do where this would ever become an issue.”

I’m assuming by that he means most people who come into Century Cycles buying a bike; most of the people in my bike club ride their bikes as hard and as often as I do. I guess we’re the weird minority.

Anyway, as I look sadly at my duffel bag containing my bike clothes that I was going to wear on tonight’s club ride, I reflect sadly that I should have taken my bike in for a tune up while I was on vacation. Now, as my legs are healed, I’m just itching to ride! Two whole days without my bike–whatever will I do with myself? (Forgetting earlier blog entry…)

Well, I do have my hybrid still, which I was planning to ride to church on Sunday like a good, environmentally-conscience Unitarian Universalist. I suppose I could ride it on one of my shorter routes if I’m jonesing for a bike ride. I have a feeling, though, I’ll really be depressed by its lack lustre speed and its all too comfortable positioning. It’s going to feel like I’m sitting on pillows with that cushy seat. I can’t have all this comfort stuff when I’m trying to exercise.

Or maybe someone will offer to take me for a spin on a tandem on one of these evenings before he leaves for a trip to Utah. *hint, hint* No, really, I’m not using anyone for their bike… I swear!

Miles in terms of total lifetime use of the bike. I’ve had my Giant since 2006 and have ridden it a total of approximately 5,000 miles.

  • Front & back brake pads, approx. $15 each (at approx. 4,000 miles or 2 years)
  • Front & back tires, approx. $50 each (at approx. 3,000 miles or 1.5 years)
  • Added a new water bottle cage so I wouldn’t have to wear my hydropack on shorter rides or registered tours with rest stops, approx. $15
  • Bought back rack and trunk pack for commuter use (or registered tours where the weather may change multiple times during the ride and thus requires lugging lots of different clothing), totaling approx. $100.
  • New seat/saddle, Terry Liberator, approx. $80.
  • Gloves (need these every year as they wear fast), $20

This does not include all of the cycling attire I’ve bought in the last year, including club jerseys and shorts.

AND, I’m thinking about buying a new set of clipless pedals… Not sure I like these SPDs and would like to try Speedplay FROGS or something else that positions my foot better so that my knees aren’t so askew to the bike.

With the new pedals, I wanted to buy bike sandles for summer wear and airing of my stinky toes. (You have to buy them special so that the clip for the pedals can be installed. You can’t just use any old shoe.)

Hobbies are expensive. I could write another list detailing all the SKI equipment I’ve bought in the last year… GW can’t complain that I’m not contributing to the economy!