A Decade Later

At the risk of being maudlin, I thought I’d share a few pictures from my wedding album… The date, as you know by now, my faithful readers, was August 28, 1999. The place was the 356th Fighter Group Restaurant in North Canton, Ohio. And unlike today, it was not raining and it was beautiful.

I hear the clinking silverware and the best man’s toast. God bless Jonathon Bock. (I don’t see him enough; he and his wife keep inviting me to stuff and I keep declining… Those who knew you then know the difference in who you are now and it’s hard.)

The friendly cake feeding ritual. No smashing–so cliche! (And not when I’m wearing a $600 dress that I will never wear again.)

I always dreamed of my future husband wearing a white tux with tails at our wedding, ever since age 13 when I lusted after Davy Jones dancing to “Daddy’s Song” in the movie Head. Bet you didn’t know that about me. Frightening, but true. A good man obliges his future wife. He did sport that white tux and tails better than a young Davy Jones ever did!

This was one of our favorites… We had a big 8×10 of it hanging in the living room of our house.

Here’s to the nights we felt alive
Here’s to the tears you knew you’d cry
Here’s to goodbye
Tomorrow’s gonna come too soon
— Eve 6, “Here’s to the Night”

And life drums relentlessly on. All that’s left are the memories and photographic evidence. There once was a man named Michael Russell Fronheiser. And he was the first great love of my life…. May he rest in eternal joy until we meet again amidst some ephemeral realm where we can wander the galaxy endlessly learning.

"I Should Buy" Poll Results

I think there has been some electronic tampering going on here. Did Diebold design this poll gadget?

First off, I don’t think more than 10 people read my blog. Seriously. If I had an audience of 50 or more people, surely I would have been discovered by some great publisher by now who would have scooped me up and paid me to write my memoir or novel, like has happened recently–or so I heard on NPR’s books podcast–to some young bloggers.

(Yeah, right. Who am I kidding? My blog is too varied in topic and my writing too wandering to ever be considered publishable or interesting by anyone other than my own friends.)

Secondly, I’d like to know who the one–for I’m sure it’s only one–motorcycle-advocate is who has certainly gone to this site via multiple computers to vote such a huge margin for a motorcycle?

So I don’t think this poll is valid.

Not that I don’t appreciate the help in deciding what toy I should buy for myself. Logically, I should buy a motorcycle because it’s more fuel efficient than a car and it offers a lot of the same freedoms and fun that cycling does without all the work. I did enjoy riding a motorcycle in the classes I took in June and I’m happy that I’ve fulfilled my lifelong dream of getting a license.

However, I got to thinking the other day… I’m a pretty fearful cyclist. I’m constantly worried about and anticipating every emergency or situation that could occur as I’m riding. I’m totally and fully aware of my surroundings. Which makes for a great motorcyclist. But a really obvious thought occurred to me as I was soaring down Hines Hill on my OCR during my commute to work on Tuesday:

The chances of me crashing on a motorcycle and a bicycle are about the same. The chances of me surviving said crash is higher on a bicycle.

Most crashes on a bicycle result in a shaken up rider at the least and a trip to the hospital with a concussion, maybe a few broken ribs or other bones, at the most. Okay, sometimes a motorist hits and kills a cyclist. Maybe about as often as a motorist hits and kills a motorcyclist. But dying from a crash on a bicycle is much less likely.

With this week marking the 10 year anniversary of my (doomed) marriage, I remembered something about Mike’s past. His ex-girlfriend from college–whom he was very sure at one point in his life he was going to marry, but obviously never did–lost her brother to a motorcycle crash. I remember him talking about how his girlfriend changed after that accident, how she went through a period of depression that ultimately did end up destroying their relationship. It’s not really the relationship part of this story that I remember most, but Mike’s sadness about the end of this man’s life and how it affected the other people in his life. I have a feeling–but I’m not 100% sure–that Mike would probably have not ridden a motorcycle. And he probably wouldn’t have wanted me to (though he knew he could never stop me from doing something once I had my mind set).

Not that that matters significantly. I mean, we’re also talking about a man who encouraged me to jump out of an airplane with him–multiple times, I might add–so there’s no accounting for sanity here. Maybe he would have ridden a motorcycle with me, maybe he wouldn’t have. It doesn’t matter now, he’s no longer here and this is my life. But that memory serves as a little caution light, winking in the back of my mind, as if it were Mike himself saying, “Be careful, Fritzy. Be aware of the risks.”

I guess just a part of me thinks that if I take to motorcycling, it’s only a matter of time before something happens to me since the statistics seem so high. It seems to me that death on a motorcycle has about the same odds as death from cigarette smoking. And I feel like I’m willfully taking that risk by deciding to ride. I have that same nagging voice in my head about it that I did whenever I lit a cigarette. As a smoker, I never really enjoyed any cigarette because I thought about how each puff might be moving me a step closer to cancer. I feel like I’d feel the same way on a motorcycle each time I’d turn the key in the ignition: Is this the last trip I take? Will I survive this ride?

I don’t have a death wish. And I’m no longer an adrenaline junkie. I’m just trying to live life to the fullest and to experience everything there is for me to experience. I could do it on a motorcycle, for it offers the freedoms that cycling gives me and at faster speeds. I could do it only bicycle which also offers the side benefit of exercise.

Suffice it to say, I’m still undecided about how to spend my money. If I buy one thing now, I may potentially buy the other later on–like next year or something. No doors are closed. I’m just not sure that at this moment it’s the motorcycle calling out to me.

I think of how during the class, I totally went off the track I was supposed to take because I looked up at the instructor instead of the road ahead. The motorcycle, of course, very quickly went in the direction I was looking and I had to brake hard to avoid running into the instructor. That’s when I realized how much of a powerful machine a motorcycle is. If I’m fully aware on my bicycle, I have to be 100x more aware on a motorcycle. Can I do that?

I’m a crappy driver. Just look at my car full of dings and scratches and my dented back bumper. I’m not sure I have the responsibility to ride a motorcycle. On a bicycle, my crappy driving style is more forgiving.

Well, either way, this matter can’t be decided by a simple poll, no matter what I said. I guess, though, it was interesting to learn that my audience thinks I need to get a life other than that of pedaling all around Ohio sans motor…

I’m sure I’ll keep you posted as to what I’ve decided to do. Maybe I’ll just continue being a tight-wad. I could lose my job tomorrow and then I’d kick myself for spending the money. You never know.

When a widow remarries

About a year ago while out to eat at a nice restaurant, my boyfriend at the time told me something interesting that he’d learned about the fiancee of a friend: she was a widow. She had lost her husband after I did, in 2002 0r ’03, I can’t remember exactly. I knew she’d been married before–sometimes you can just tell–and I’d assumed she’d been divorced. But then I recalled an incident before a club ride when someone had expressed confusion about a last name or something and she’d awkwardly mentioned something about the name being from a prior marriage. She’d said it under her breath in an off-handed, “leave it alone I don’t want to go any further into the conversation” way that I knew all too well. I dismissed it at the time, but when my boyfriend told me that she was a widow, it all came together. Even though she was seeing someone, there was a slight awkwardness still for her in the discussion of the last name. And I knew that feeling.

Now, I’m sure my boyfriend was telling me this information so that I could feel connected with the woman. Probably I was one of the only young widows he had ever known, at least I was the only one he’d ever dated. He knew I was still struggling with a lot of widow-related issues of my own–even though I was sure I’d surpassed all my grief stages–and I think he was hoping that such information about a friend would comfort me.

It didn’t. It had the complete opposite effect. Suddenly, I found myself inexplicably angry. The initial emotion when I learn that a widow/widower has gotten remarried is completely irrational: I feel betrayal. It’s as though one of my own kind has left the fold and gone to the great land of Moved On. Which is healthy, I know, but at the same time, it seems almost unhealthy to me. Were they really ready? Are they in love for the right reasons? And who am I to judge the level of a person’s readiness for a new relationship, anyway?

The feeling of betrayal also extends to the person’s late spouse. I think, Well, maybe she didn’t love him as much as I loved my husband. I think about how I would feel now if I got remarried. Even if I loved the man, it smacks to me of betrayal on some level. I stood before all my friends and family and I swore I’d love Mike until the day I died. Until death do us part. And, really, the “contract” is over because Mike had died; however, I’m still alive. No matter how hard I try, part of me screams betrayal of my love for my first husband when I think about marrying someone else. This is why when I think of remarriage, I always imagine having a much more sober wedding than the one I had with Mike. A part of me does not want to eclipse–outdo–the ceremony I had with Mike. (A part of me also thinks a woman having a second marriage that contains all the pomp and circumstance and huge dressiness of the first always looks ridiculous, especially when the woman is over 30.)

The second wave of emotions I felt when learning this friend was a widow were accusatory. Great, now every one who knows us both has someone to compare experiences to. Do they think she is the more healthy one because she has chosen to remarry? Do people wonder what’s wrong with me? I was widowed at least a year before she was and I haven’t feel ready to remarry. I’m still dealing with the fact that I must involve myself in a relationship with someone who isn’t and never will be Mike. I’m still battling with trying to find unique qualities to love in someone else and to accept that a relationship with someone else is going to be completely different from the image I have in my head of how a marriage is “supposed to be” based on what I experienced in the only (very loving) marriage I had. I’ve dated four men since my husband died and at least one of them could have been a perfect mate, but I tossed each one aside, chasing them away with my grief, comparing each always to my husband until he could not take it anymore. Even when I tried not do this, I did it on some unconscious level. Not one man I’ve dated since Mike has not said to me, “I feel like I will never measure up to Mike.”

I guess the problem with me dating at all is the fact that every time I engage in a relationship with any man, the feeling of betrayal kicks in. Even on the most minute level, with a guy I may be crazy in love with (and there have been at least two who I’ve felt this way about), I can’t fully commit because I feel like I’m betraying Mike. Even though I knew that if Mike could see me somewhere behind the veil of the afterlife, he’d be the first to give me blessing to find someone else to love. He wouldn’t want me to live forever with his memory as my only mate.

Of course, if you–or any other non-widow/er person–tried to say as much to me, I’d bite your head off. Such advice coming from others seems so condescending in tone to me. It’s playing the “Mike card” against me which is affronting on some level. Whether you knew Mike or not, you can’t put words in his mouth. Not even I can. And I don’t need people giving me unsolicited advice on how to be a widow or how to ascend widowhood.

Maybe part of the problem is the fact that I know how true the words are. And they hurt.

These feelings and words are proof that I’m not as much over the grief as I think I am. I’m still living, in some sense, as though I expect Mike to walk back into my life any day. I’m leaving things available for him, on some level, including myself by never fully committing to anyone. And I realize it’s dysfunctional. In widowhood, I’ve learned that I can look at myself from the outside, realize how ridiculous I’m behaving, but be completely unable to change the behavior. Feelings are hard to change. You have to spend a lot of time talking to yourself softly and repeating sentences to yourself to change an idea. In this case, my words would be, It’s okay to love. Mike would want you to feel for someone else what you felt for him.

I know this language because I’ve got a lot of anxiety issues and I’ve dealt with depression my whole life, and after therapy, I learned that most of the change you make within yourself is not pharmaceutical but mindset. I have to talk myself through a lot of things to change the pattern my mind has set forth. But it’s very hard. Incredibly hard. Yet I try every day to make myself a better person and part of this effort involves working through these complicated and reactionary feelings. I don’t always succeed.

I didn’t succeed in this case. When the friend finally did elope, I could not bring myself to attend the reception they had a few weeks later. I left my boyfriend to go alone–feeling awkward by himself at a party where everyone knew he was dating me–and instead went skiing with some new friends of mine. I played my Widow Card instead, stepping in time to the Avoidance dance I know so well. At eight years since my husband died, playing the Widow Card is a pathetic move. Surely, the same comparisons between the “healthy” and “unhealthy” widow that I sought to avoid were now brought to the forefront for anyone to observe if they so desired.

In a fit of selfishness, I shamefully abandoned the celebration of two friends who’d found each other and seemed really happy together. I’m sure they hardly noticed or even care at this moment that I wasn’t there, as so many of their other friends were there, but I know what I did and I feel bad. I hadn’t played the Widow Card at a wedding in a long, long time. I even went to a wedding that happened the same year Mike died–which also was on Mike’s birthday, nonetheless–because I loved the two friends so much. It’s sad that I couldn’t get over myself enough for these other two friends because one was a widow. Instead of using that moment to bond with someone else who had gone through what I had gone through, I childishly chose not to deal with it.

If I had to do it all over again, I would go to the reception and just deal with the overwhelming emotions that flood my veins like fire when I think about the situation. To be a good friend to someone, you have to get over yourself enough to celebrate others’ joys even when they remind you of your deepest sorrow. You can’t begrudge people for what you don’t have. I can’t begrudge other widows for finding what I have not allowed myself to feel. Nor can I compare my grief to anyone else’s, and vise versa. And neither can you. Some people are ready to move on* before others. That’s just how it goes.

I struggle with dealing with my emotions over other widows and dating. I involuntarily flinch when I read a blog entry from a widow in which they mention dating again. Sometimes I pass judgement on them that it’s too soon, which is hypocritical as I dated someone six months after my husband died. It was a mistake and I truly was looking to fill the exact void left in my heart by Mike. But I did it. I know now that I should have waited a full year before trying to date again, but it’s easier in theory to avoid than in true practice in the heat of the moment. That relationship only lasted two months. Of course. And then I didn’t date again for another year when I was better equipped (but obviously still not ready). Still, we all have to do things to the beat of own internal drums. For me to pass judgement on another widow is just as bad as those non-widows/ers who pass judgement on me about how long I should be grieving…

I would love to get married again. I long for the kind of companionship I found in Mike. I want to love. I want to think I’m ready to love. However, I still have a way to go as far as opening my heart enough to let someone else in there. And you, my caring friends, are just going to have to accept that. I’m not dysfunctional or unhealthy; I’m dealing with emotions at my own internal pace.

But I will try to behave less selfishly in the future. That I can promise you.

* = I hate the phrase “move on” and try to avoid using it as much as possible. It’s been overused on me and, I’m sure, many other widows when people seek to sweep under the carpet a thought you’re having about your lost love. However, I can’t find a kinder phrase to describe a movement forward in the grieving process, if only it implies moving to the next stage of grief. “Move on” is used loosely here to describe those who have found new love despite the sorrow of their past.

In the flatlands

Hubert, Sue, and me at the end of the Flatlanders’ Tour

A change in game plan mid-week led me to do the Flatlanders Tour in Fremont on Sunday instead of the Best “Wurst” ride in Bucyrus on Saturday. My friend Sue, who lives in Perrysburg and with whom I was going to ride any way, invited me to her house on Saturday night for dinner, wine, and conversation. Since Sue is always a great host–and there’s always a great bottle of wine to be enjoyed–it seemed like the perfect thing for a small weekend getaway. Also, though we’ve done many of the same rides, we’ve never actually ridden together. So I was game for another adventure on a ride I’ve never done.

Sue always calls her home Sue’s Bed and Breakfast and she invites all ABCers to stay at her place if they are doing a ride up northwest in the flatlands. She also opens her doors to self-contained bicycles traveling through the country as part of the Warm Showers program. I think that’s pretty neat that she does that and pretty brave–who knows what kind of people could turn up at your doorstep (and I know from a sampling of my own club that not every cyclist is kind, considerate, and a joy to be around). But Sue says that she’s had mostly great, interesting people. With a few exceptions of course. But no scary people who turned out to be mass murderers. Whew!

Anyway, this particular morning at Sue’s B&B brought pancakes on the menu for breakfast! Yum! I usually don’t eat pancakes (yes, because I’m obsessive about weight) but I make a few exceptions here and there. And–Frank, you’ll be glad to hear this–the pancakes were made with eggs from the hen of a friend of Sue’s. Very free range, eh? See, I can eat free range and organic sometimes.

Joining us on this ride was Hubert from TAB (Toledo Area Bicycles) whom I met once briefly on the MS 150 in 2008 when I was doing a paceline (yeah, shocker!) with a bunch of young studs, also from TAB. I know I don’t do pacelines much, but these guys were all pretty good-looking and young; they invited me into their group, I am sure, because I was female and about their age. Or maybe older, but I don’t look it. I thought I could hang with them, but it only worked for about 20-30 miles. In the end I couldn’t keep their blistering 20mph pace and when I took my turn leading the paceline, I felt awfully guilty that I could only pull them at 16mph.

So my first memory of Hubert was actually witnessing one of the behaviors he’s most known for: adding “bonus miles” to a route. As in, getting lost. Even if a route has shiny bright arrows the length of a car going across the road, Hubert apparently still misses them. He’d joined me and The Young Studs in our paceline and was pulling the front when suddenly, he just kept going and going, disappearing over the hill made by an overpass, when we were supposed to turn right before the overpass. He did not hear our calls to get him on the right path. He was in the zone. One of the Young Studs just shook his head, smiling, muttering, “Hubert.”

Well, with that kind of reputation, I really knew we were in for an adventure. It didn’t help that the route on this ride was really poorly marked. Quite often the arrows did not appear for a turn until right before the turn with no warning ahead of time. We were drafting off each other most of this ride, so you can imagine the kind of potential danger that arises when one has to make a sudden turn. This would be my only complaint about the Flatlanders’ Tour. In spots there weren’t enough arrows (such as places where two routes converged) to direct us with a sense of confidence. Some routes were also kind of confusing. On the final loop of the ride, there was a mysteriously marked section where it said “IN” beneath one arrow and “OUT” beneath another pointed in a different direction. Now my gut reaction would be to take the one “In” as meaning “into the loop”; however, “IN” in this case actually meant “back in” as in to return to the finish; “OUT” meant “out further” into the route. Huh? If you’re confused, you can understand how we felt.

The way Flatlanders works is a lot like Sunday in June–there were four loops of approximately 25 miles each, all starting and ending at the same spot so that you can, theoretically, do just as many loops as you want since you’re always returning to where your car is parked. So if you intended to do 100 miles, but maybe weren’t feeling it that day, you could stop easily since you always return to the start. 25 miles each is also a loose term; some of them were closer to 30 and our ending mileage was 108*. But I always say that it’s better to have more miles than to come under!

Each route had a different color. We started out patriotic with red, then white, then blue. The last loop was orange which I said matched Hubert’s hot Orbea bike. Check this sucker out. I gladly drafted behind this bike if only to admire its sleek aerodynamic beauty. I think I made my own bike jealous in my secret lust of this bike. I was not the only one for it seemed about every other rider had to stop to admire Hubert’s bike and talk to him about it. Sue wittily pointed out that men were developing “man crushes” on Hubert because of his bike. With a bike like this, who could blame them? My poor bike was like the ugly step-sister at the ball…

Of the loops, the blue route was the most fun for me, being that I’m a gal from hill country. They actually managed to find a few hills–besides overpasses–in Sandusky County and we got to whip down them. They were all rollers so you could get halfway or all the way up the next one on the momentum of the downhill. How gratifying! I love rollers and generally have no fear on them (unless they are like the one leading to overpass hill on Boston Mills Road) because I know I’m just going to get caught by the next hill to slow me down. Unfortunately, they weren’t as steep as hill country, but I did get myself to 30mph which never happens on the MS 150 or any other flatland tour.

The sky was constantly threatening rain, but not a drop fell while we were out. One time, I could see a cloud with rain falling in the distance but it never hit us. The sun would peak out for moments. It was about 63 degrees at start and it never got higher than 70, I think. For most of the ride, I felt chilly whenever we were stopped; when we were riding, I felt comfortable. Though, I really would have liked a little bit more sun. It almost felt like fall with a dampness in the air left over from rain earlier that week. By the time we were done with the ride, the sun started to come out in full and it began to feel much warmer.

I would guess that perhaps there were 100 riders. I think we were one of the few who elected to do the 100 mile route for we only passed one or two people on the orange loop. We kept a pretty good pace of about 17-18mph that sometimes busted into 20 for stretches of road. Despite total grumpiness about drafting, I felt pretty good in this three-man paceline as following Sue or Hubert felt pretty safe. I can’t speak for the feelings of safety I inspired in the others since I’m so used to riding by myself. But we seemed to work well together. I never felt like I was forced to push harder than was comfortable, nor was did I feel I was being held back. Hubert probably did–I can tell he’s a really strong rider–but I think he was glad to just be riding. Despite the fact that he’d done 114 miles the day before too. I suppose we were his “rest day” like they the guys on the Tour de France do where they ride at what they call a leisurely pace on their rest day.

The roads were without traffic, making for a very pleasant day. The second loop also took us on a length of North Coast Inland bike path. I continue to be impressed with all the paved bike paths Ohio is beginning to create. It’s wonderful to at least have that option as part of a ride. I know I love Summit County’s bike path. I hope someday we can get these all connected so that one could theoretically ride around the state. I would then just jump on my bike for a weekend trip somewhere. Of course, I could probably do that now and I should consider making a route like that sometime. I keep forgetting that self-contained does not have to be some 2,000+ mile trek across the country.

The food on this ride was excellent: shredded chicken sandwiches, an assortment of homemade cookies, pasta salad, and fruit. I have to admit that I ate 6 cookies on this ride. They came in Ziploc baggies of two; I ate two peanut butter ones after the first loop, two M&M cookies after the second, and then I tried to be good and didn’t eat any after the subsequent loops. However, I saw gingersnaps (!!) as I was getting ready to leave after the ride, and so I had to have them too. Blah. But riding 100 miles really works up an appetite!

I really felt good after this ride. I think I probably could have ridden more miles if pressed to. I always ask myself whether I could ride more at the end of a ride because the opportunity could always arise where I might have the option to. Case in point: RAIN (Ride Across Indiana). This is a 160-mile ride done in a single day. I’ve always said I have no desire to do more than 100 miles in a single day of riding. Yet… um… the challenge came before my eyes and suddenly I want to attempt it. Spurred on mentally by reading that Cycling in Seattle guy’s blog–which tells of adventures in randonnuering and many more miles than I can pretend to understand–I feel this urge to occasionally push myself further. Why? Because, dammit, the challenge is there. I am my father’s daughter. We enjoy pushing ourselves beyond our limits.

Something else I noticed while riding on Sunday: I really love cycling. I was feeling the love while riding, the energy from pushing my legs and the smell of the wet air. Even though it was hard work, I was having fun. And in some sense, that’s sick. But to me, it’s all in a day. I was in love with my bike, feeling all the subtleties of its shape in my hands and through the motion of my legs. I felt one with my bike, a single mechanism moving at a steady pace. Believe it or not, my butt was not at all sore. I have the best seat. I feel like my bike has all the right components now to fit me comfortably.

I don’t know. Motorcycle or no, I think the best way to get anywhere is by your own motion. There’s nothing like that feeling of freedom. It’s quiet and it doesn’t disrupt the natural world around you with noise. It’s movement faster than walking, but slower than a motor, and it’s absolutely wonderful.

My knees did get a little achy, though. After the third loop, I had to go take some ibrophin, which I probably should have taken at the start of the ride. Fortunately, this seemed to help and I was much more comfortable the rest of the ride than I was at the end of that third loop. I gotta remember that even though I feel much better than I did on XOBA, I’ve still got a little bit of an injury and I need to be more careful.

It was a great ride. But I think what made it best was the friendship. I really enjoyed riding with Sue and Hubert. We made it through the ride with smiles and that’s what is important. And, I admit, I was even okay with drafting. I guess it all depends on who you draft with. The Young Studs were just too much for me!

* = Hubert’s computer claimed 112 miles with a 16.8 average while my computer claimed 108 with a 16.3 average. Being that we were all three together during the ride, I doubt that there was really any difference in our averages… I suspect that Hubert’s computer might be more accurate because he actually measured his wheel to calibrate his computer! I just used the stock measurement provided in my Cateye manual for the size of tires I use. Now I’m all paranoid that my measurements are off (thus ruining my stats for every ride I’ve done this year) so I have half a mind to measure my tire myself and reset my computer!! We have no room for inaccuracies here! Especially that big. I’d much rather claim that I had a 16.8 average over 100 miles–that would be the highest I’ve ever done. Of course, 16.3 is the highest average I’ve ever had over 100 miles; I had 16.1 on the MS 150, all by myself without a paceline in the wind.

It’s all in your hands

I’m about to spend money. Yes, I’m trying to fill the hole in my heart, the gulp in my throat, left from a tumultuous week as well as the would-be 10 year anniversary of my wedding. Forget that it’s slightly dysfunctional that I chose to buy large ticket items when I’m depressed. I never spend outside my means; I’ve always got the money for these things. But being in a funk releases the gate of frugality which prevents from spending money on even the things I want dearly. Under normal circumstances, you can only imagine how long it takes for me to buy anything over $100. Money in the bank is better than actually using it for something I need/want. Blame it on my mom for making me such a tight-wad.

Anyway, the fate of what I purchase is in your hands. Thanks to modern technology, I have the means to put up a poll to millions–okay, maybe twenty or so–of you, who might not even know me but through my disjointed laments and incongruent thoughts on this blog, so that you can decide for me the item I will splurge on since I can’t make up my own mind. You can be the deal-breaker. Isn’t democracy wonderful?

So what will it be? A motorcycle for the newly licensed motorcycle operator? Or man-powered bike number 4–an all-season cyclocross–in my garage? (Well, realistically, I will guilt myself into getting rid of one of the other bikes. Probably The Beast–can you hear her crying?)

Right now the poll is tied. I need more votes! So chime in and let me know what you think. Post thoughts and commentary below if you feel the need to justify your vote.

Spiritual deafness

I think I was born spiritually deaf.

I have a complete inability to sense or feel the Divine. Of course, I don’t know if I truly believe in a divine entity of any kind.

And that’s the problem, isn’t it? Doubt. But I was born with doubt too. I’ve never taken anything at face value and I relentlessly question everything. I’m completely uncomfortable with following anything whole-heartedly–patriotism, religion, ideas, the words of other people. I can’t trust anything or anyone. And when I see people utterly devoted to any idea or person, I feel all goofy in the pit of my stomach. Because I can’t believe in anything or anyone as whole-heartedly. Worship makes me embarrassed and antsy.

Probably because I don’t get it.

Oh, but I’ve tried. Tried and tried and tried. I grew up Catholic, but I’ve been on every spiritual quest you can think of from Druidic paganism to Wicca to Buddhism to revisiting Christianity in other denominations. I can get really into the philosophy and all the ideas, and I will study it like mad for weeks, occasionally connecting with a word or two that feels true to my soul and even inspires my classic reaction to anything beautiful to me–goosebumps. But in the end, I never completely connect with what I’m trying to get to. Which is a connection to higher version of myself and to the Divine.

I’m not sure if it is my inability to connect with the Divine or the fact that I am unable to accept unanswerable questions as the answer–that thing people call faith–which makes me overtly skeptical. Is it my deafness that makes me deaf? Or am I deaf because I cannot just follow an ideology to its conclusion because you have to let go of doubt in order to get there? Am I too smart for blind faith? Or any faith at all?

I want spiritual enlightenment. I honestly do. Sometimes I even think I want spiritual enlightenment even if it isn’t real. I’ve even gone so far as wishing to close my eyes and pretend I believe. But faith doesn’t work that way, does it? And spiritual enlightenment will not descend upon one who isn’t open to it.

I burn inside. I know I’m missing something. Even if something is a lie, I’d like to believe I have a higher purpose. I’d like to think my husband’s life had meaning. I’d like to think the lives of all my grandparents had meaning. And I don’t mean in just how they affected me personally. I want a higher meaning. Because I’m scared.

I’m scared to love. I’m scared to trust. I’m scared of dying tomorrow. I want assurance. I want to know that something of me burns on even if life should leave this empty shell of a body. Because I’m afraid to live right now because I’m afraid of dying. The circle turns inward on itself and spins forever. Like a dog chasing its tail.

I wish I wasn’t spiritually deaf. I wish I’d been born a little less skeptical. I wouldn’t mind if I could be more like those who have faith–the ones I mock for not questioning enough. I may not see them as questioning enough, but at least they feel good and confident about their lives even if it turns out it’s not true at all. At least they don’t think it’s not true. Ignorance is truly bliss.

I didn’t mean to imply that those who are religious are ignorant. I have lots of intelligent spiritual friends. And some whose philosophies I whole-heartedly agree with in some sense. I completely envy people who have faith. They can hear the song of the Divine. They can see signs of the Divine in all the things where all I see is reality. It must be nice.

Every once in awhile, I think I connect with the Divine. For split seconds. It’s usually while listening to someone else speak of their faith. A U2 song in which Bono so eloquently paints a picture of his struggles with faith. I think I’m there. But it’s gone when the song is over.

Sometimes I experience faith while witnessing the great divine beauty of the planet. Atop a mountain, at the shores of a great lake, stars in my telescope eyepiece, the sun sinking below the horizon in glowing red and orange. My heart and mind is filled with such joy at these moments and I’ve felt myself connected to something greater. I tried to express this to my husband once, but I don’t think he understood where I was coming from. In ways, he was more atheist than I was at the time.

Mostly, though, life is like it is from the seat of my bicycle: a constant struggle for perpetual motion. Every stroke is work, every climb takes the wind from your lungs. If you don’t pedal fast enough, you’ll fall sideways with your feet stuck in the pedals. Watch out for dogs and deer and motorists–hazards could be painful or even fatal.

I live between highs, entertaining myself with constant motion and action. Skiing, cycling, running around the world like mad. I fill my social calendar with activities as I try and try to fill the empty hole in my being. The hole that grew bigger when my husband died suddenly on a Saturday morning in April.

Nothing stays constant. Friends and lovers come and go. Betrayal and heartbreak. I think I could deal with it all if I had some faith. If things had meaning to me. Right now, I just feel like I’m trying to get everything done before my own unknown timer expires. And I worry that no one will give a damn when I’m gone. Oh, sure, they’ll remember me for a few years once I’m gone. But as they did with Mike, I will become a painful memory thrown into the back of the minds of the ones I love. And when someone brings me up, others will criticize because they don’t want to think of the pain. So it’s sad to me when people say that we are all immortal because we live in the thoughts of those of us who remember us. I really want to be immortal–to believe I have an immortal soul, that Mike also had an immortal soul.

But I can’t believe any of that.

Because I’m spiritually deaf. And I hear not the call of the Divine.

Which leads me to believe it’s not there at all.

Ride to Burton

Yesterday, amidst the noonday heat, I stupidly decided to ride to Burton, Ohio. Well, it wasn’t stupid, per se. It’s only 33 miles from Stow (I learned) and quite a reasonable round trip for a nice 60+ mile day. And it’s scenic and pretty and low-traffic all the way to Burton. The stupid thing, the thing I forgot in what has been a mostly mild summer until now, is that the reason people get up at 7am to ride is to get the ride over with before the full heat of the day bears down. Which is the complete opposite philosophy one has in early spring and fall in that you leave later in the day to get warmer temperatures. My thought at the time was that daylight still extends to 8pm; therefore, I wouldn’t need to worry about when I left. Oops.

It wasn’t as hot when I started the ride as it was when I was finishing it. Still, it was pretty hot. A lot of the roads were highly exposed to the sun, though my favorite Winchell was nice and shady which provided a slight relief from the heat. When I started the ride, there was actually a small relieving chill to the breeze. Unfortunately, the breeze turned to heat on the latter half of the ride.

My whole goal in getting to Burton was to get ice cream at the Italian restaurant and ice cream shop on the square. I told myself as I rode, “I’m going to Burton for ice cream!”

For those of you unfamiliar with Burton, it lies upon a hill on all sides. There is no way to get into Burton without a climb. The route I got from Randy, a fellow ABCer, actually took me up Rapids Road, which is one I climbed towards the end of the Sunday in June century. It’s just a short steep climb. The worst part was the lack of trees, really, so the sun bore down on hard as I climbed. I made it up no problem, though, and was joyous as I climbed the last slight grade for .5 miles into the Burton square.

I decided to be healthy so I actually went for the blueberry frozen yogurt instead of ice cream. Well, actually, for some reason, it looked the best to me at the moment when I was perusing the ice cream. And it certainly did not disappoint. After eating it, I got some of my energy back. I enjoyed the frozen yogurt and a Clif bar while sitting the beautiful park on the square. Also took a few obligatory pictures to prove to all that I actually made the trip to Burton.

The picture below shows the store that sells maple syrup and other such local goodies. There was a tree near there that had a sign which read, “Careful: Honey Bee Tree.” I tried to look for a honey bee nest, wondering if it looked like the golden bubble-like pyramid they always showed Yogi Bear going after, but I didn’t see even a single bee buzzing around. I was kind of bummed about that.

I don’t think the ride home would have been as hard on me if it hadn’t been so hot. Somewhere on a climb up Rapids Road, I started to feel my legs loose energy. Maybe I’d worked too hard the day before attacking hills on my work commute. But I just didn’t have the gusto I had coming into the ride. And I couldn’t seem to get enough water. (Note to self: bring hydropack next time.)

Also, as much as everyone says that going towards Burton is very climby, I discovered that really most of the way home was a slow climb. On the way to Burton, minus some hills, I was doing an easy 17-19mph; on the way home, I was struggling for 14-15mph. I had figured with my 17-19mph speed that there must be a slight incline down–I usually don’t make that kind of speed easily even on flat ground.

The hardest part of the ride home was Chamberlain Road due to the fact that it follows mostly farm fields and industrial areas–no trees. I had a feeling of bonking somewhere along that road and I had to pause in the shade of a tree at a farm house to drink water and catch my breath. I stopped again at a park in Aurora called Sunny Lake where I purchased a lemonade from a pop machine. I stayed there about 15 minutes before continuing on. After that, I was okay, but I was also itching to get home.

Instead of following the route instructions, which called for me to go back using Old Mill Road, I decided to cut a few miles off the ride by continuing on Aurora Hudson Road because it hits Stow Road about two or three miles before Old Mill does. Now I’m kind of kicking myself for doing that since my total miles when I reached home was 68 miles and I had no energy at that point to round it off to 70; had I added extra miles before I got close to home, I would have been okay to take on the extra mileage. Oh well.

I arrived home zapped of energy… But I’d definitely do that route again, on a cooler day, not one of the hottest days we’ve had all summer. The ride was completely doable from my house and Randy’s provided me some longer routes that also end up in Burton so I might be inclined to try those sometime. When it’s cooler out and not 85 degrees with humidity.

It’s electric… boogie woogie woogie

The other morning on the way to work, I was listening to a podcast of the Diane Rehm show–my favorite NPR broadcast next to the Prairie Home Companion–and they were talking about the new Chevy Volt. Has anyone heard of this? It really, really sounds cool. They give it some abitrary 230 mile/gallon rating, which really has more to do with a guest-a-mate based on the fact that you could recharge this baby every night and drive up to 40 miles during the day before needing to go to the “gas reserves.” I was pretty impressed. In the typical Diane Rehm fashion, they had people on all sides, not just GM sales/marketing people, talking about this car and I feel I got enough of a perspective that I’m going to look further into this vehicle.

My current car, a 2003 Acura RSX, is nearing 130K miles. I was starting to look around for a new vehicle but not yet committed to going back to having car payments. However, the Volt is due out in November 2010. It won’t go into general release of consumers until 2011 some time. I realize, like all hybrid cars, there will be a long waiting list to purchase one. But since I don’t need a car at this particular moment–mine’s still running well enough–maybe I have the time and patience to wait. So I think I need to do further investigation here. I’d certainly like to be more environmentally-friendly.

My only concern is a lack of trunk space. I have a thing against bike racks. Mainly, I don’t like watching my bike bounce on them from my rear view mirror as I plug along at 60–okay, let’s be real, 80mphon the highway. I’m always afraid it’s going to fall off. And I won’t even get into the fact that I know if I had a roof rack, I’d inevitably end up driving into my garage, forgetting that my bike is still on there, and therefore cause the end to my bike myself. So, anyway, I always put my bike in the trunk. My Acura is a hatchback so there’s plenty of room. I know that these hybrid vehicles tend to have huge batteries that suck up all the space in the back. Previously, I’d been considering getting a Honda Fit for my excessive use of car space for all of my crazy activities (my telescope needs a lot of room in the trunk too).

I also know that the Volt will come with a huge price tag (the GM sales/marketing dude on the Diane Rehm show danced around with the lingo “in the high 30s” and another guy later piped in that it would cost 40K). Which I know is high. And probably doesn’t really outweigh the fact that you’re not buying as much gas or you get a government rebate. I wasn’t thinking of spending that much on a car this time around (since my Acura cost about half that); I wanted to buy in the 12-13K range since vehicles lose their value so fast and I’m a very bad driver that dings my vehicles constantly so that they look like junk when they’re still young.

But maybe I should put my money where my liberal mouth is. I mean, if I’m being gentle to the environment and not using up precious natural resources in the process, then maybe it’s worth the price tag. Although, I do have to ask myself what natural resources are used to create electricity. Am I just trading overuse of one natural resource for another?

Well, it’s something to think about anyway. And I’ve still got time. But I think it’s neat what the human mind can come up with when put under pressure. And you just know that GM is doing this because of the failed economy and their failure in the marketplace. They want to appeal to an audience with a vehicle that Americans might want. Finally. At least they are finally getting the picture that Honda and Toyota already figured out long ago. Even if you aren’t an environmentalist, not spending a lot of money on gas appeals to liberals and conservatives alike.

Another morning commute

For once, I decided to let it out a little down Boston Mills Road after the I-80 overpass because I figured I knew every bend in that road by now. Besides, the steepest part of this road is actually the hill that rolls you into the overpass hill and I’d already passed that part with my usual cowardice. (This part of the road yields a very steep downhill with a bend so you can’t see all the way to the bottom, but you need the speed from that hill to launch you up the next steep incline that makes the overpass, which is actually a pretty steep hill and not your standard overpass hill. I usually tap my brakes down it so that I don’t get as much of a push as other people I ride with do, which results in me having to climb more of the hill than most. Oh well. More calories burned for me!)

On the overpass bridge, I stopped to get snap a picture of I-80 and the valley (where I was actually headed) because it looked cool this morning with the fog hanging over it.

So I started down the other side of the overpass, talking myself through letting it out a little and telling myself not to brake as I sailed down the hill. I was doing pretty good. One of my ways of preventing myself from braking is to not allow myself to look at my computer to know how fast I’m actually going. So I can’t say how fast I was going. But it felt good and I wasn’t scared.

Until I rounded the second corner to find two deer, maybe 20 feet ahead, right smack in the middle of the road. Fortunately, they looked about as surprised about me as I was to see them there. They scampered off. Meanwhile, my natural reflex to brake and remove my left foot from the pedal had already kicked in so there was absolutely no threat of collision–not even a close call. My heart had lept into my throat anyway. This is exactly why I don’t let it all out and speed. Was this a warning from the Universe, trying to remind me the reason I am over-cautious on the bike? Ha!

But actually I was kind of bummed as I continued because I had to start pedaling again and I’d already passed the best grade for sailing down the hill. So any hope of breaking my usual 34mph barrier was probably broken. Darn!

On the flat part of Boston Mills, in the valley, I saw a mother and baby deer grazing in the field by the Boston Store. I stopped to grab a picture because it was just so darn cute. Especially since they weren’t anywhere near the road. Good deer–and animals, especially dogs–stay far away from the road where they could cause a cyclist to crash. Yes.

It was a pleasant commute, as always. It’s so quiet in the valley in the mornings, even with the traffic. There’s a peaceful state there that makes me glad to be pedaling instead of locking myself in the box of a car to get to work. This living only 16 miles from work thing is really working well for me. After tonight’s return home, I will be at 3,000 miles for the year. Hurrah!

The only thing bugging me this morning were my gears. I don’t know what the heck is going on with my bike but I’ve been having the worst time with my gears. I had a tune-up and I was having problems with rattling in my big ring. I took it into Century Cycles and Derrick had it running smoothly again. But something happened midway through the Wednesday night ride with ABC where my gears are now slipping slightly and clicking loudly in all three rings at certain positions on the back cassette. Especially annoying is the fact that some of my low granny gears are slipping, causing the whole pedal to spin for a second as if the gear is not quite in place. I need all of my low granny gears. I don’t understand what’s going on. I checked the chain and it’s still good. I’m wondering if my rear cassette is having issues. I looked at it, but I can’t see anything wrong (like bent cogs).

Oh well. I guess I have to lug it into Century Cycles again. I’m starting to get paranoid that they think I’m a groupie or something. I swear, I’m just having issues. With my Giant. I know, the horror! Maybe my bike is getting pissy with me because it knows I’m obsessing about that Surly Cross Check. I try to explain to Black Beauty that she needn’t be jealous; the Cross Check will have a different purpose. Black Beauty, my Giant, will always be number one. I wish she would understand that!

Why we will never see eye to eye

My dad always tells me that my biggest fault is that I always think I’m right. I got to thinking about this statement and I’ve decided that of course I think I’m right. Don’t you think you’re right? What kind of person lives life not thinking anything they say or do or believe in is right? Everyone thinks they are right.

But I don’t think that that is what my dad–or some other friends who don’t agree with my point of view–meant. I suppose it’s all in my passionate delivery of beliefs to other people. My persistent insistence that my point of view is the one to lead humanity down the true, righteous path. My feverish pitch like a tel-evangelist, trying desperately to win your soul to the side of the holy, and if you aren’t coming with, then you’re left to the world of the damned.

Well, maybe not quite so bad.

But I do hold strongly to those things I believe in. And I never thought this was a negative quality about myself. I figured if I could, like all Christians are bid to do, set a good example for others, perhaps they would follow me too. I’m slowly realizing that there are just too many differences between those of us on the Left and those of us on the Right for either side to ever reach a compromise. Emotions are too strong (much like my own, though people will deny they feel that strongly about something until you start to get them into a discussion about it).

I thought I could sit quietly on my opinion and try to tame myself for the sake of close friends who are conservative. I thought that we could agree to disagree and just move on with our relations. But it doesn’t work too well because what we believe is so central and core to our beings that it shapes everything about our existences–how we view the world, what we do in our spare time, how we pray and what we pray for (or if we pray at all), and even how we view each other. It’s hard to contain all that stuff. It’s nearly impossible to bite your tongue when you want to speak.

I’m learning that when I’m speaking my mind–again, in that fervor that I have trouble taming–it’s viewed as shoving my point-of-view down the throats of those who do not agree. Which is, ironically, how I’ve always felt about the Right and their opinions. Making laws to outlaw abortion is forcing someone else’s code of morality on me and others. Refusing basic marriage privileges to an entire group of people based on the fact that their biology leads them to love those in their own gender is discrimination of the worst kind–to me, akin to making slaves of blacks or outlawing interracial marriage.

I’ve tried to remove my emotions from my ideas enough to look at these sort of things from the other point of view. To someone on the right, allowing abortion in our nation is like having no law against murders or rapists. To some on the right, those of the evangelical religious persuasion, allowing homosexuals to marry would lead the world one step closer to the city of Sodom which God vanquished. To those of us in the more secular camp, this seems like a ridiculous idea, but there are people who live in real fear of God’s ability to smite down those He has deemed sinful. I’m not trying to mock here, I’m being serious. Those of the less evangelical bend, but still mostly religious, will say that allowing homosexuals to marry “just isn’t right” and cite quotations from the Bible–Old and New Testament–where it has been stated that homosexuality is an abomination.

The explanations go deeper still than what I’m able to convey here. I have a lot of trouble digging deeper with people on these topics because for me they are so hot button. If I care about someone, I’m sincerely afraid to hear totally what their point of view is on these issues because I’m afraid it will make me hate them. Well, not hate. Maybe more like, I will think less of them because people who do not back these things I hold so dear, that I feel justified in believing on the most humanistic of levels, I feel, on some level, are just not compassionate. And that’s just not something you want to think about another friend.

I’ve honestly tried to see the other side. But in the end, I find myself trying desperately to sway those on the other side to my point of view. I’ll even try to provide examples of people in their camp who might agree with my thinking. For example, I’ll try to persuade a Christian friend that gay marriage can be validated by Christian ideas, introducing some author or minister or someone important within the faith who takes this stance. I think I’m being clever and finding a way to speak the language of the other camp. However, in the end, the person I’m trying to persuade will simply invalidate the other person’s opinion with some sort of dig that my liberal Christian representative is not a follower of the truth faith. Or the person I’m trying to persuade will just insist that he/she does not agree with my liberal example.

So, I don’t know. I’m kind of left with a feeling of hopelessness about the whole situation of Right v. Left. I think it will always be Right versus Left because the two sides will never change their mind. We are who we are. I’m not even sure how it happened. I was raised in a pretty middle-of-the-road household. I was even raised Christian (Catholic). Somewhere along the line, I chose for myself to not be Christian or Catholic–I just wasn’t getting it at all–and I chose to be a crazy hippy liberal. It’s what made sense to me. It was not necessarily how I was raised, though my mother, it turns out, is also quite liberal but somewhere to the right of what I am.

I am not sure we can even ever compromise. We will just argue ourselves into a stalemate. And both sides will continue slurring the other under their breath. Because even though we try to see things from the other point-of-view, a part of us feels the other side is something less than human. Like how I can’t get passed anyone who is against gay marriage because I feel like a person of this nature enjoys marginalizing other people. I really don’t know how a person justifies denying marriage to a whole third of our population. Maybe it’s money, maybe Biblical, maybe hatred. I don’t know. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t look past this sort of thing in a person. To me, marginalizing a population of human beings this way means you have a cruel heart underneath what I see. Even though I know this can’t be true.

It’s a never-ending cycle. We will lose breath trying to change each other. No one changes their opinion. Not this late in the game of life. It’s just very frustrating.

I’m starting to take the world view that I should just let the chips fall where they may. It doesn’t matter what I say or think, the world will just push on as it does. I can vote, run down the road screaming in protest, but it’s not going to do a single thing to change the tide of life. So maybe I should just hang around with people who agree with me and forget the Right exists. Maybe that’s what we all gotta do–just find like-minded friends and shut ourselves off from everyone else. That’s pretty much what we do anyway.