The empty halls of work

My company dings my pool of 25 PTO days for all holidays in which the office is technically closed. So I lost a day yesterday. Which is why I came into work today–I wanted to save some of my vacation time. Except, the problem is, no one is here but a lowly IT guy. And last week, I finished the thing I was working on and, really, the only stuff I have to do relies on talking to people who aren’t here today. So I’m wondering why I’m here. I’ve been goofing around on the internet all morning and I just purchased my dad’s Christmas present (and it for sure dinged my pocket book). I’m thinking of leaving at noon and just charging half a day to my PTO.

Despite the loss of PTO over the holidays, I decided last week to take off the day after Christmas like most normal people do (and most companies give to their employees for free). I’m also going to take the day after New Year’s off. What the hell, eh? It will give me a chance to do something really cool for New Year’s, which I always like to do because it’s one of my favorite holidays. I like the whole “begin again” philosophy of the holiday. I’m always looking for ways to restart my life. For some reason, New Year’s gives you the false illusion that you can wipe off the smudges your soul incurred during the year and begin anew. As if the last year didn’t really count. It was practice. I don’t know. I’m always feeling like I need a “do over.” I’m working on it. Eventually I’ll get there.

I always thought if I got married again ever, I’d like to do it on New Year’s. Maybe it’s cliche. Still, it would be cool to have an anniversary date on 1/1 of a given year. And, really, starting anew is a good theme for a wedding anyway. Part of me also likes that it would be different from all my friends with their May, June, July, August, October weddings. No offense, but I like my special days to be separate from everyone else’s. When I got married in 1999, none of my friends or relatives had weddings in August. (Well, to be honest, not many of my friends were married back then–I was only 24). Well, the year after, two of my friends got married in August. I was secretly pissed–this was my special month, dammit!

I’m a trend-setter, it appears. So probably if I got married in January, everyone else would soon follow. Of course, I’m not really that original–my parents were married in January. But they are the only other people I know who have that anniversary.

It’s Black Friday and I’m totally not in the Christmas spirit. For some reason or another, my present radar isn’t working this year. I’m usually really good at buying gifts for my friends. It’s a talent I’ve prided myself in. I don’t like to ask people what they want, I like to find things I know they would like because I know them so well. I love buying that “perfect gift” and I feel really annoyed when I get something for someone that I’m only marginally excited about. I guess a gift to me is a way to say, “Thank you for being my friend.” So if it’s a gift I don’t feel that’s well thought out, I feel like the message is tainted. And the last thing I want to be is the person who gave you that gift you didn’t really want at all.

I already bought gifts with my parents, but they are pretty easy. I know them pretty well. I blow a lot of cash on them. I guess it’s kind of a “thank you for being such good parents and putting up with my crap all these years.” I think of all the Christmases when they probably spent more money on me than I’m spending on their single big gift and I feel like I owe them. Not the kind of “obligation” owe them, but rather, just a feeling of wanting to give them the best things I can come up with because I was such a fart most of my life. Especially to my dad. We did not get along well in my teenage and early adult years. Now he comes over and works on my house and does things for me all the time and I feel like a real ass for treating him like crap all those years. I’m maybe a bit more appreciative of both my parents these days because they stuck by me post-Mike whereas my in-laws turned out to be real shitheads. Blood trumps all. And, really, I have to admit that my parents “raised me up” well. Being an adult is realizing how screwed up everyone else’s families are and appreciating better the family you have.

As for my friends, I love them all dearly, but am drawing real blanks on Christmas gifts this year. For some reason, I feel exhausted already and the holiday season hasn’t even begun. I’m wondering if some people will just end up with money or gift certificates this year, which is something I absolutely hate to do. It’s just easier for me. I just don’t feel like being bothered with it this year. I don’t know what my problem is.

I plan to get a live tree with my dad again this year. Having a live tree last year was really fun. My house smelled wonderful, especially when the heater moved the air around the house. I feel slightly guilty–I’m sure my environmentalist friends would admonish me for this blatant waste of a tree for my simple pleasure. However, the way I look at it is, someone has already chopped down that tree for me to buy. I’m merely giving it a home to make sure it does not get wasted. I suppose you can argue that the tree would never have been chopped down in the first place if there wasn’t a consumer demand that I’m now feeding into by purchasing the tree, but to that I deliver a big raspberry. I don’t care. May Al Gore take away my green credits.

Having a live tree is pandering to my inability to give up my childhood. I realize this. Not being a really religious family, we didn’t practice any real Christmas traditions. I have this blissful memory of a tradition that died when I was very young–no more than 8 or 9 years old–of going to get a Christmas tree with my dad. We would go look for one and then he’d take me to McDonald’s after for an eggnog shake. My mom killed the tradition by buying an artificial tree. And the little Mars Girl has been simpering about it ever since. I always told myself that when I became an adult, I was going to buy live trees.

Of course, some things change with time: I promised my dad that we would go to Ray’s Place in Kent after we acquired the tree. Ray’s Place is a nice little pub my dad and I like due to its vast selection of beers on tap. The food is decent and pretty cheap too. So I guess you can say that I’ve traded the innocent child’s eggnog shake for the adult’s drink of a beer. I don’t think my dad likes eggnog anyway.

Thanksgiving, cyclist style

The Beast is covered with mud.
Mars Girl is too anal to allow dirty bikes into her life.

A member of my club threw together a hike or bike ride at 10am this morning and, I thought, since the sun was out, I might take the Beast out for a spin. I figured there would be other cyclists as there is a hard core group of mostly single people who have been riding their bikes on the week night rides–through snow and blizzard. None of those riders showed up this morning, however. Only a handful of hikers.

It wasn’t that cold out, maybe about 30 degrees at start time, but I was hopelessly over-dressed in four layers of tops and two layers of pants. A good rule of thumb I’ve always stuck to is that before a bike ride or hike, you should feel a little chilly because as you heat up, you will compensate for that extra layer that you didn’t add. Stupid me, I was totally comfortable in my get-up, which meant that once I started riding, I boiled. Not to mention the fact that my legs felt really heavy. I should have been wearing my normal bike pants, maybe with just long johns underneath (I do need to buy a heavier pair of bike pants if I truly want to try to ride in the winter). My range of motion is really restricted when I wear thick pants like I had on.

Anyway, from the Lock 29 trail head, I went south down the towpath which, by the way, happens to be a slow incline up hill. There was snow in the center of the path and completely covering all the bridges, which my thin tires didn’t handle so well. A little nervous about tossing, I walked my bike across a few of the bridges. For some reason, both sides of the path did not have snow, almost as though a car had driven across. I assume this is the pattern of melt. I tried to keep myself within this thin line.

Well, little did I realize how much mud was being splashed up the back of my jacket and helmet. When I stopped to strip one of my layers, I realized how dirty I, and my bike, were. Yuck. How was I going to sit in my car to drive home? I’m not one of those crazy mountain bikers.

Dirty Mars Girl: My shoe covers and pants are speckled with mud!

When I got to Bolanz Road, I left the towpath because now mud was getting splattered on my face and the front of my bike. The roads were dry and I wondered why I hadn’t just stuck to them to begin with instead of trying to navigate the snow patches on the tow path. I guess I assumed more of it would be melted.

I decided to turn east on Bolanz and then head up Akron-Peninsula Road to Ira where I was, essentially, making a loop around the towpath. The roads were really quiet–not much traffic at all, which seemed almost spooky when these roads are commonly frequented during any other day. It was kind of cool–the quiet and the sound of snow dripping off trees and the rushing rapids of the melt-off into the Cuyahoga along the side of the road.

I turned from Ira onto Riverview and decided to just take Riverview back to Peninsula and Lock 29–the roads were much drier and, besides, this would give me a chance to try the hybrid on the double-humped hill by the Deep Lock Quarry trail head. The tow path, being mostly flat but unpaved, had slowed me down in addition to making me extremely dirty.

Riding up Riverview–a road I know quite well from my summer rides with the club–on my hybrid was an interesting experience because I don’t think I ever climbed up heading north in my hybrid. I thought I would finally have to use granny gear, but I managed to keep a great cadence going up the first hump which passes Deep Lock Quarry. I did, however, need the granny gear for the second hump, but I kept the back gears in the middle of the cassette. The Beast definitely has much lower gears than the Beauty because I always switch into granny on the first hump towards Deep Lock when I’m riding the Beauty. (I know Michelle will scoff me for that one!)

I overheated in my clothing taking those hills and my legs, becoming out of shape from the lack of hill climbing on my trainer, felt a bit more tired than they should have. I decided to turn onto 303 back into Peninsula instead of my original plan of continuing down Riverview to Boston Mills Road where I would jump onto the towpath again at the Boston Store trail head to get back to Lock 29. I felt bad for wussing out–this might have given me 15 miles instead of the 10.48 I ended my ride with. I feel like such a lazy butt for not riding longer… I might have done 15 had I dressed lighter and didn’t feel like the Abominable Snowman on a tricycle. I was actually surprised that I didn’t feel as cold as I thought I would at 30-something degrees. I guess I have to admit that those hard core riders are right when they say that you can ride in anything if you dress properly.

A few observations:

– I think I should buy fenders for the Beast if I am going to persist in riding in questionable conditions such as this so that I don’t end up with the “skunk” mark on the back of my jacket and helmet. Maybe I can find some light weight ones that won’t make my bike that much heavier. Maybe a set that’s easy to remove?

– I need beefier tires on that puppy. Plain and simple. If this is my winter bike, I need to be prepared for all terrain and obstacles.

– Or maybe instead I need yet a third beefier bike? Ehehee! I’m a bike geek, aren’t I?

Oh, and to prove how geeky I am, I am drooling over this Giant tricycle (sold at Century Cycles) If have kids, this is the toy they will receive from me!!! Oh how I want to buy it for some small child… I almost want to have kids just to give them this bike!

Anyway, I am thankful that the weather let up enough and that the sun came out so that I could at least get a small 10 mile ride in before going to my parents’ for turkey and, hopefully, pumpkin pie. I came home and did a few sit-ups on my Total Gym in my continued attempt to tone up my abs.

I hope everyone is having a fabulous turkey day with family and friends. In addition to my biking endeavors, I’m thankful for the community of friends I have (described in my previous post). I’m also thankful for each morning that I wake up breathing, alive to see and experience another day. There’s nothing better than that. Even when the day I have to face is challenging and emotionally trying, it’s better than the alternative of not being. Blessed be!

Mars Girl is NOT thankful for bike paths that make her bike all dirty!!
The Beast does not need to look like a beast!

White Chili: Fritzy & Misha Style

Since everyone seems to enjoy sharing recipes on their blogs, I thought I would include my recipe for white chili (chicken chili) which Mike and I got from his father and step-mother and we perfected to our own tastes. I was so proud of myself as I cooked this up this past week because I did it completely from memory! Pretty amazing for the person who is not a cook. Cooking is not an art form I’m particularly interested in partaking, but I have to admit that I do make a damn good chili! And this is especially good to eat during this chilly fall season.

So, without further ado, here it is…

1 lb of boneless chicken breast, chopped into whatever size pieces you desire
1 onion, chopped (I usually use white)
1 red pepper, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped (the peppers are mostly for color)
1-2 fresh jalapenos
1 habenaro including the seeds (optional — but this is how Fritzy and Misha always made it)
garlic, minced/pressed – quantity to your liking
1 cup milk with 2 tsp of cornstarch mixed in (for thickening)
1 1/2 cans of chicken broth (I usually use the fat free variety to keep it healthy)
1 can of black beans, drained
1 can of great northern or navy beans (I actually use one can of each because I LOVE beans)
1-2 cans of corn

Instructions:
1. In a large crock pot, start with 1 can of corn and all the beans.
2. Saute the onions, chicken, garlic, and peppers. Be careful not to over-cook or burn. It’s just a light saute to get things started.
NOTE: You may have to do a few rounds of sauteing for the amount of items you have. You may not use all of the pepper. I sometimes have left overs because the pot is getting too full. Use your discretion.
3. Add the sauteed items into the crock pot.
4. Add the chicken broth. Start with 1 can, and then determine if you need more.
5. Add the mix with the cornstarch. This adds color and will thicken the mixture.
6. Spice with red pepper or chili (I usually use chili since the habenaro probably added enough heat). You might use cilantro – I rarely do because it changes the flavor but you might like it.

Set the crock pot on low if you are going to let it cook for 8 hours like I do while I’m at work all day, which allows me to come home to a great smelling house and a delicious meal; use a medium setting or a higher one if you want it to cook faster. Please note that the longer you let this mix cook–i.e., all day–the better it gets because all the ingredients just blend together deliciously. But if you’re an experienced culinary artist, I’m probably stating the obvious, eh?

Serving suggestions:
Top with cheese, particularly cheddar. Eat with a nice Italian or french bread… This chili is great for dipping bread into!! I think if you have access to a place that sells premade bread bowls, such as Panera Bread, this chili would be great in it. I’ve not tried it yet–I keep meaning to!

Bon apetit!!

Let me know if you try it and are successful. Let me know how you’ve altered it. I know this recipe is not the way it was the first time I ever tasted it. Mike and I altered it together, and then over the years, I’ve altered it even more.

I love crock pot recipes… so if you know of any, please share. I’m trying to figure out how to make a chicken curry soup but I’ve failed at all my attempts at figuring out how to do it…

Connections

I’ve reached a point in my life where, when asked about how I know someone, the explanation is longer than the asker’s patience. My friendships have become a tangled web of cross-references that only the people within my immediate group of friends completely understands. For example, one of my very good friends–whose little daughter I’m enamored by–is the former best friend of my husband’s step-sister. And that’s exactly how we met her, through my husband’s step-sister. Our friendship with the step-sister has faded through time, but the friendship we–as in my immediate group of friends–have with this friend, Gwenn, is natural. It’s as if she were a part of our group all along. Whenever “all along” really started.

I don’t even know what started the core group of friends that I have. Maybe it all started with Diane–my college friend, my drinking buddy, my fellow sufferer of Senior Seminar. Because we grew up in cities only about twenty miles apart, on summers off from school we could get together and, when college was through, it was easier for us to get together. She started introducing me to her high school friends, I started bring her and her friends to functions that included my friends and, most importantly, my cousin Gary. The next thing I knew, we’d kind of merged groups. Other people, through Gary, started joining our group–people like Craig and Chuck and, eventually, my husband, Mike. Now, we all have quite a history with each other, intertwined through time. One of Diane’s original friends, Bonnie, married Craig from the Gary group.

I had a moment this weekend, when meeting up with a friend, Erin, whom I’d only known online–also connected to through a common person, Frank–where I realized how strange life is that brings people into our lives at the right moments, binding us together. Sometimes the people who have left our lives, who we think are gone forever, wander back in. A friend from the past with whom I felt I had forever lost connection extends his hand and a powerful kinship with the person resurfaces.

Recently, I connected two friends of mine from separate parts of my life–Sarah, whom I’ve known since age twelve through email and letters and Alison whom I met in college. They happen to be living in the same city now. I can’t take all the credit for that connection (thank you, Frank, for pointing out the blatantly obvious), but still, the simple fact that two disparate parts of my life have met and befriended is kind of, well, monumental. Like two pieces of my life connected together and affected each other’s lives. There’s some simple magic in that.

I met my husband through a series of connections. I attended party with my cousin Gary called Woodchuck, thrown by my cousin’s co-worker, Chuck. Also working with Gary at the time was Jon, who happened to bring his best friend, Mike, to the same party. If I’d never gone to that party with Gary, or if Jon had not brought Mike, I would never have met the man who changed the entire course of my life. Pretty weird. But maybe destiny would have brought us together in some other way. After all, as I learned a few dates into my would-be relationship with Mike, a newer girl who had started working at my place of employ–a place totally disconnected from where I met Mike– turned out to be his step-sister. Would we have still somehow met?

Sometimes it seems like there are forces higher than conscience choice–maybe God, the Great Spirit, the Force, Destiny–that bring us to each other for a specific reason. Love–true love–feels like that. You fall for someone without a lot of choice behind it, drawn together by something deeper than physical attraction or common interests. This is why my husband and I always referred to each other as soul mates, even though neither of us really believed in the supernatural. There was no other way to describe what we had. Other people around us agreed in the definition. It wasn’t like everyone else. It wasn’t something that happened every day.

Do we have “soul mates” of other kinds (as in, not always the romantic sort)? I am starting to wonder. People we find ourselves connected or drawn to inexplicably. These people affect our lives in ways we understand little, but seem to desperately need at certain times in our lives. A friendship is not one-way–obviously, we need each other at these times. When people touch our lives, we are forever changed in ways we can’t even imagine. Our brains are filled up to the brim with everything about that person: memories of times spent with them, unique points of view that sometimes change our own ideas, understanding of the others’ passions and, if we don’t share them, we appreciate the fire they inspire in the other person. By the time you reach mid-life, just about everything you do in every day life inspires a thought about someone you were close to in the past, reminding you once again of a certain time and place in your life. Melancholy when it’s sad, nostalgia when it’s good.

There are certain people–like my best friend, for example–with whom I can be out of contact for the large part of the year due to the physical distance and business of our lives that separate us. And yet, we can still get together and feel like teenagers again. I’m thinking specifically of a trip we took to Cedar Point a few years back where she and I rode the Gemini over and over again, just like the old days (except that we could now drink beer in the park and didn’t need to sneak in alcohol in a water bottle). I think of her as sort of a soul mate. We met in sixth grade, drawn together by unstoppable forces, and a common love of the Monkees. From the moment we met, for a good period of our lives, we seemed inseparable. In a way, we were almost committed to one another as I don’t think we separately hung around any other friends. (To my mother’s chagrin who thought that I really shouldn’t put all my friendship eggs in one basket.)

I recently joined Facebook and I’ve now connected with over 80 people who have somehow been a part of my life–past and present. The daughter of a friend of my parents’ found me in this online community, which seemed quite shocking at first only because I hadn’t expected it. So much time had passed, I didn’t know what to say. How does someone like me sum up a life since middle school in one note on a person’s Wall? “Hi, well, I was married but my husband died. But don’t worry, that was seven years ago and I’m doing quite well, but I have this driving passion to become a grief counselor. I like to ride bikes now.”

I feel like I understand community now better than I ever have. Community was something I lacked in Colorado. It’s not to say that I could not build one–too bad I didn’t have anyone with connections on which to draw–but it would have taken more time than I gave it. I guess I mistakenly thought that I could build a community in the way I did in college, where it all just fell naturally into place because we were all stuck in the same boat of needing a community. Adult life isn’t like college in that way. People have their established communities and they are rarely inspired to draw others in. It takes years to build a community. Had I hung in there longer, I might have been only just now, five years later, started to become successful. Dealing with the loneliness without a community is hard for socialites like me who thrive on being everywhere at once, connecting with others and enjoying the company people can provide.

Sometimes community is locked to a specific place and time, like the one I had when I was at Hiram. Those four years of my life, I drifted blissfully on the cloud of a community where it seemed we all shared a common understanding of one another through our struggles to keep our grades up, define ourselves as adults away from our parents, and find our passions. It wasn’t always the best community–it has inherently its own discord and dysfunction–but it was the first community in which I felt accepted for who I was (even when I didn’t always know who I was). My time at Hiram was fleeting, however; once I graduated, the magic was gone. I can go back to my school any time I want. The pain is realizing that the place and time for me there has passed and now the next generations of student own it. I can never have it back. But the memory of it still sticks to my bones and I can perceive it just on the edges of my senses. My time there was a contributing force to molding me into the adult I am.

I’m happy with the community I have established now. I would be hard-pressed to drop it so readily these days, like I did when I moved to Colorado back in 2003. I guess I didn’t realize how much my community could help me in my grieving. I only saw the wrong things people were saying and I thought that no one understood me, that they wanted me to forget my life with Mike and “move on.” I thought I needed to be alone to navigate the maze of grief. I was wrong. What I needed was there all along waiting for me to come home.

Moonlight ride

After work last night, I donned my biking clothes and a yellow vest, fastened my little Mininewt onto the handlebars of my hybrid, and I took off into the night. What a beautiful, magical night to ride. The weather was unseasonably warm–about 60 degrees when I started and 56 towards the end of the ride. The moon was just coming out as I made my way onto the Stow Bikeway, rising orange and huge above the horizon.

I hadn’t actually ridden on that section of the Stow Bikeway in a long time, probably not since Mike and I had our trail bikes and before that path was paved. I decided to see where it goes since I’d forgotten and, really, I think it had ended Young Road. I discovered this path that I never knew was there called the Franklin Connector, which meets up on Young Road on the opposite side of the street where the Summit County Bike & Hike Trail begins. Wow! What a treat! New bike path, in dark by only the beaming light of my LED and the moon.

I was alone on the path and it was such a shame because it was such a nice night. It’s too bad more people don’t realize the fun of cycling at night. It’s a whole different experience. As the Franklin Connector brought me through a valley, I heard the braying of what I think was a buck in heat, but I’m not sure (being that I’m not too familiar with deer and the noises they make). It was a moaning sound that one could envision Big Foot making (maybe it was Big Foot). It was eerie and mysterious–completely one of those moments that you can only get by venturing out on a bike trail in the dark.

The Franklin Connector ends at Hudson Road, so I just continued north up the road to Ravenna Road. These roads are quiet enough that I felt safe riding them at night. Equipped as I was with my front and tail lights and wearing bright colors, I figured I would give traffic ample opportunity to see me. The night was too nice to just stop riding, especially since I knew that the weekend was supposed to bring rain and colder temperatures. It was my one window of opportunity this late in November and I was going to milk the experience for all that it was worth.

It’s been a long time since I rode my hybrid on the streets. With Century Cycle’s top-notch tune-up, my hybrid was finally performing more righteously than ever. The gears shifted smoothly and my seat stayed in place when I sat on it. One thing I did notice about this bike, after all my time in the saddle of my road bike, is that the gears are generally lower. I found that most of the time, even up slight inclines, I could use my gears in the big ring. I think I determined that the big ring on the hybrid is about the same as my middle ring on the road bike. This means that my road bike actually has higher gears for faster speeds and that I would probably have to coast on my hybrid down hills that I can still spin with on my Giant. I obviously didn’t need to use my granny gears on this ride, but then, I didn’t really do any difficult hills, though I was really tempted when I circled back later down Barlow Road to go all the way down Truxell Road and come back up. However, by the time I was on Barlow Road, I was pushing 8 o’clock and I had somewhere to be at 9.

I took Ravenna Road into Hudson, then turned south on 91 to Terex Road. I then took Terex to Barlow, then Sullivan, and finally finished on the Summit County Bike & Hike back to some side streets in Stow that eventually get me back over to my house (the same side streets on which some jackass threw garbage at me when I was riding to my 3,000 mile mark several weeks back; fortunately, I didn’t get any of that on this ride). I dismounted my trusty bike-steed in my driveway thoroughly satisfied and not even that depressed that my average was 13.5. I see now that speed really is a function of the bike you ride in large part because each type of bike is just geared differently. My hybrid, though, is a great bike to ride on a fall evening when you don’t know what you’re going to encounter on the road and you want to hold your speed back a little because you can only see as far ahead as your light goes. Last night, I was just really itching to ride, since I hadn’t ridden since Nov. 2, and it just felt good to be out with the slight chill in the wind pinching my cheeks. My hybrid performed beautifully and I think it is going to get some more riding time with me in this fall/winter season.

One thing I’m going to have to do, however, is buy another bike pump. I realized several miles into the ride that while I had a spare inner tube on me, I hadn’t brought a pump to inflate it with should I need to. I think I will buy another RoadMorph, and then put the new one and its mount on my Giant, and switch out the older one to my hybrid.

I think I’m going to have to buy some Speedplay Frogs (clipless pedals) for the hybrid as well. I thought that I could get along with the toe clips and wearing sneakers on this bike, but I think I’m just a little too used to the whole experience of having my foot strapped securely to the pedal. It would probably reduce some of the weight of the hybrid as well.

I’m totally going to remove the kick-stand. It’s annoying and it rattles somethings when I go over a bump or pothole. It adds weight too. Not that I care about weight on this heavy cro-molly bike, but, you know, the loss of some weight never hurt anyone.

I think I realize now the benefit of having carbon forks. My hybrid, though heavier and more beefy in comfort, doesn’t seem to absorb shock as well as my road bike. I was surprised that going over bumps was more rattling and bumpy on the hybrid (I would have thought the complete opposite would be true). Maybe if I replaced the front forks with aluminum forks, as Derrick from CC suggested when I picked up my bike, it would help. Though, I am not sure I want to spend hundreds of dollars improving a bike I ride less than 5% of my cycling season. Still, it is a little tempting. I think this is how real bike geeks are born–those who own multiple bikes and all of them are self-improved from their base model. I have to admit, I have a temptation to purchase a few more bikes–one of those antique single-gear retro-styled ones for fun (maybe a real antique restored) and another higher end road bike…

I think I decided last night on two new nicknames for my bikes: the Beauty for my Giant, and the Beast for the hybrid. Awhile ago, I started thinking of my Giant as “Black Beauty” due to her black paint scheme and the fact that she is my trusty two-wheeled steed. It only seems fitting to call my hybrid the Beast to align with another literary reference. Bikes, like most vehicles, seem to have their own personalities and my Giant sure acts the prima donna, high maintenance part while my hybrid, the Beast, waits patiently as I preen over the Beauty, knowing that someday I would return to ride her as well. To each bike its own merits and, after last night, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is still fun to ride the Beast from time to time. I might even be willing to go “toodling” along some bike path with my less obsessed cycling friends, too.

There’s a bike for every occasion. Maybe me and the Beast can go explore some of the many bike paths that exist in Ohio now due to the rails-to-trails initiative. Poking around the internet, I’m learning there’s a lot more bike paths in Ohio than I thought. I dream of the day that they link them all together so that eventually, I can just hop on my bike and ride to, say, Columbus for a weekend trip via a bike path. This is the mentality they have in Europe. People just take off for weekend holidays on their bikes. I would love it if the American culture could change to a more healthy attitude. Instead of one-tank trips, we could have pedal-trips…

Some of my poetry

Thanks to Diane, some of my lost poetry has been recovered. So I thought I would share what she forwarded… I still think my poetry sucks, but I try nonetheless.

This one is obviously about a moment of time with my husband–driving through South Carolina on our way down to Florida for Thanksgiving a few months after we were married. We were driving down slowly, hitting state highpoints along the way. The moment captured in this poem is actually something I think about a lot when I reflect on my short time with Mike. This trip was great, romantic, and just relaxing.

South Carolina, November 1999 (11/2005)

white morning shrouded in fog
yellow ribbons of sunlight beaming through
hazy mists lick at our car and swirl
and dance and hide us in their folds

we drive along a bumpy old state route
in silence absorbing the scene
my hand rests on the gear shift
your hand clenches mine and is warm

Sniff ’n’ the Tears’ “Driver’s Seat”
hums eerily from the radio
setting the tone for that timeless drive
through a part of the world seldom seen

I hear you sigh, see your contented smile
and for an instant your fingers squeeze mine
your electricity surges into my veins
I feel complete and at peace

we have somewhere to go, but lots of time
or so it seems when you’re young and in love
time slows down and allows us to enjoy
each moment, each breath, each sight

this single memory keeps you alive in me
and taunts me in my sleep
of happier days and wordless moments
when just being in a moment was enough


This next poem is a little different. I wrote it shortly after returning from Colorado where I felt I had failed because I had moved back. Also, I was going through probably the roughest period of my grieving process (even though it was 3 years since my husband had died).

The High (10/2004)

I am the last drag of the cigarette
the last drink before you leave
I am the brink of an orgasm
the scream of freedom,
you expel as you reach climax.
I am the song you hum
in the shower as you feel
the drops of water slapping your skin
I am it, I am then, I am that moment
That is there and then is gone.
And that’s all there is, until
the next high, until the next thought
I live for every high,
every up every down, the in-between;
It makes no difference to me.
I’m here, I’m there, I’m everywhere,
And it just feels good
to coast the top of the next big thing.
I am the thrill that rushes your veins
as your skis push down the hill,
the heat of blood on your cheeks
as you run another mile lap.
High is that feeling you get
when your brain tingles with lust
for the things you can’t touch,
you can’t grab; yet you feel,
you feel like you’re about to burst.
With the love of life as a child,
the love you forgot how to feel.
As your life slips into adulthood
where feelings are blunt and unreal.
I am the last gasp of breath that leaves you
As the high slowly slips away,
I am that moment before you surrender
to the boredom,
the fear, and the emptiness
that has slowly taken over.
I am the subdued girl at the computer monitor
Dying to escape my boring skin
By night I drink to my high’s content
and dream of what could have been.
But that has past and gone,
And all I have left is the high
In which all things are possible,
the boredom still escapable,
the possibilities endless.
When the high is gone, there is nothing
Just the empty shell of something dreaming,
Something long ago decayed.

Thursday morning greens

Lest you think I treat my two bikes differently, last night I took my hybrid (Trek 7500FX) into Century Cycles for a tune-up. Besides the problems with the seat I already identified, it turns out that it too needed a new cassette and chain as well as new break pads and one gear cable needs replacement. I’m not really that surprised. I bought the bike in 2004, rode it in some harrowing Colorado rides, and then continued to ride it through thick and thin until I bought my Giant in 2006. After my Giant came into my life, I fell in love with the sleekness, light-weight, and speed of road cycling so I left the Trek in the garage to collect dust where my dad cut wood and stuff while working on my house. For about half a year, I lent the bike out to Diane so that she could decide if that was the kind of bike she wanted to get. This bike has taken a beating even though it hasn’t got the miles on it that my Giant does (I maybe did 500 miles a year when that was my primary bike).

So now I’m sinking some money into getting the hybrid back in shape. With the colder weather, I decided I might want to occasionally putz around on it since I probably won’t be going the distances for awhile that I normally ride in the summer. The tires are thicker and the bike heavier so it would be a good bike to use in the winter. Also, I might do more towpath rides with the ABC on Thursday nights, depending on how cold it is outside. I wanted both my bikes to be in tip-top shape for riding whenever I should decide to use them.

Fortunately, the parts on the hybrid are generally cheaper than the parts on my Giant. So that’s a plus. I’m not going to dwell too much about the money spent to get the Trek in working order again. Any money I spend on my bikes is usually well worth it.

I rode my Giant on the trainer this morning for a half hour in a pretty high gear. I only had time for a half hour since I woke up later than I wanted, but at least it’s something and I don’t have to get on myself for not exercising this morning. While exercising, I watched the last episode of Babylon 5 which was the series finale. Damn, it was depressing. It was one of those “20 years later” peeks into the lives of the characters and, of course, the Babylon 5 station was being decommissioned. Then one of the main characters died and it was depressing even though you knew he was supposed to die in 20 years. Whenever a show does an episode that takes you into the future, I get really depressed because I reflect on how ephemeral each moment of time is and how quickly things change–even if 20 years doesn’t seem like a short amount of time, it certainly feels like it to me when I reflect on my life 20 years ago which still, sometimes, seems like yesterday. I know the show is only fiction, but the passage of time shown on it brings me down. So now I’m in a funk.

Well, that’s not to say I’ve not been in a funk all week. I started writing a poem yesterday while walking outside during my lunch break. When ever I wax poetic, it’s a sure sign that I’m feeling moody. (I rarely write poetry when I’m feeling ecstatic and anyway I’m a crappy poet.)

It’s probably the weather. I woke up this morning at 4:30am, listening to the rain fall on my roof and the tinkle noise it makes as it hits the metal top of my chimney. (I was sleeping in the living room again.) I went back to sleep for an hour and a half. November blues or greens. The lyrics of an old Monkees–my favorite band as a teenager–song comes to mind. The words fit my mood in better poetry than my corny mind can shape. (And you thought the Monkees only sang meaningless love songs!)

A distant night bird mocks the sun.
I wake as I have always done,
To freshly scented sycamore
And cold bare feet on hardwood floor.

My steaming coffee warms my face
I’m disappointed in the taste.
But there’s a peace the early brings
The morning world of growing things.

I feel the moments hurry on
It was today, it’s died away,
And now it is forever gone.
And I will drink my coffee slow
And I will watch my shadow grow
And disappear in firelight
And sleep alone again tonight.

(“Early Morning Blues & Greens,” words by Diane Hilderbrand & Jack Keller, performed by the Monkees.)

And on the east coast…

the light of reason shines on the side of love!

In Connecticut last week, an attempt to put a resolution to ban gay marriage was VOTED DOWN. Gay marriage was made legal by Connecticut Supreme Court ruling this morning! See, there is hope out there.

I continue to be optimistic. And ever vigilant in my help with the struggle to make love legal in the United States.

I’m still waiting for the old biddies and fuddies who continue to vote this down with their errant fundamentalist interpretation of religion to die off…

(Okay, I’m ready to protest… Activist for hire… Anyone? Anyone?)

More on Prop 8

Peacebang posted the video below from the Keith Olbermann show on her blog. Unfortunately, I think he’s singing to the choir, unless Republicans and conservatives are watching MSNBC. I wonder what would happen if someone on FoxNews said this… would there be upheaval in the streets? Or would there be minds changed? I think what Olbermann says here is what changed my mind about homosexuals so long ago (yeah, sadly, I once too was a bigot).’

My great turning point–my preacher–was an episode on Star Trek: The Next Generation where the first officer (Commander Riker) fell in love with an alien from a planet where everyone was gender-neutral and having a tendency towards one gender or another was considered perverted. Of course, the alien he fell in love with had a tendency towards female. They had a great romance over the hour, but it was squashed dead and untimely when the people of the alien’s race found out she was different–a “pervert.” They took her and put her in a sanitarium where they brain-washed her “perversion” away, sounding achingly like the real institutions (religiously backed) who try to make homosexuals become heterosexual. At the end of the episode, she tells Riker that she realizes that she was sick before and now she is cured. She no longer sounds like her former self. I cried like a baby at the end of the episode.

And the seed of change was planted in my mind at that moment. Which is good because it was my senior year in high school and I was about to go to college where a lot of LGBT people tend to come out of the closet and I was to meet, for my very first time, people I’d never known in my sheltered hicktown in Ohio. If that seed hadn’t been planted, I don’t know how I would have handled the experiences I had in college.

I think a great testament to my fairness to people is that I have horrible “gaydar.” I think this means that someone’s sexuality is not something I contemplate at all in a relationship. I had a good friend in college–a guy who loved Star Trek as much as me and was a real geek–who was gay and out for maybe a year before I figured out he was gay. One would think I would have seen that obviously. In fact, when I started saying to my friends that I had found out he was gay, they all said, “Um, duh?”

I’m glad that I see people as people. And most of us probably do. Who, upon meeting someone for the first time, sizes the other person up and thinks, “Is he/she gay?” or, even more to the point, “I wonder how he/she does it with his/her lover.”

I certainly don’t. I look for the goodness in people. I like people for who they are in their soul. A person who is good and fun to be around will always have a friendship with me. As it should be.

Anyway, Olbermann’s views here almost come out in the form of my favorite UU credo, “Standing on the side of love.” Sing it, Olbermann! Hopefully more voices will join the choir.

ADDED LATER: Just learned that Olbermann was raised UU. Totally figures! I felt like I was at church for a moment amidst this video.

Sore loser? Angry JW? Friendly Democrat cleanup service?

When I returned to my house after being away all weekend housesitting at my parents’, I found that my Obama sign was no longer on the front lawn, or anywhere. My Greg Bachman (who lost, by the way) sign is still up and I will remove it tonight. But the perplexing question is, what became of my Obama sign? Was it some angry McCain supporter taking his/her aggression out by removing signs from people’s yards? I would think, then, I would have found the sign in my ditch, ripped to shreds or something. Maybe the neighbor kids thought they were being funny? Was it the same Jehovah’s Witnesses who had left an End-Of-Days-Is-Coming-Come-to-Jesus-And-Forget-Celebrating-Your-Birthday-or-Christmas (aka The Watchtower) pamphlet on my door? (Sidenote: I contemplated putting up a sign on my door with JW written in it and one of those circle-cross signs that mean “No” but I thought it might encourage them.)

Not that I need it anymore. It’s just a curious mystery and I admit I feel a little violated because I didn’t remove it myself, which means someone else took it upon themselves to do so, which ultimately means someone removed property from my yard without my permission. Furthermore, it makes me feel like my freedom of speech has been imposed upon in some way. Or my right to gloat victoriously like a sore winner. Either way, I am a bit worried about this.

I tried to console myself with thinking the best out of my fellow citizens instead. I tried to tell myself that perhaps the local office of the Democratic party goes around removing signs from yards as an added service. But I’m guessing that’s not the case.