Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Some pretty remarkable things happened on our trip and right after. The most amazing thing of all is that I found a container for the story I've been imagining, the book I want to write.

I really, really want to tell that story here but haven't had time to do it justice, so it continues to perk in the background. What happened feels like a gift from the Universe, a small tip of the hat, a nudge to write.

Writers write. Editors with bills to pay, edit. For now, it's back to work with this editor, but I look forward to sharing this magicc with you soon.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Adventure Continues

Friday night turned into a real adventure. The B&B where we had reservations had double booked somehow, and someone else was lounging in the rooms we expected to enjoy. Quick thinking on Liz's part turned up another option, which was pretty much a miracle on a Saturday night in a town of 280. We ended up in a 150-year-old log cabin down near the river.

Our game for the night, Magical Mystery Tour, was based on CandyLand. Meghan and I had glued pictures of the Beatles' faces onto the game pieces and decoupaged theme-based pictures onto the game board. We served Strawberry Fields shortcake and awarded a prize to the winner: a Valentine, a birthday greeting and a bottle of wine. Our drinks were called Yellow Submarines, basically yellow margaritas with blue salt on the rims of the glasses and periscopes (bendy straws).

On Saturday, we hit the challenges that make a trip like this an adventure. First, the skies opened up and we found ourselves riding in a rainstorm. We'd been assured the winery we wanted to visit was "right on the trail," but that turned out to be a loose interpretation. We had to push our bikes 1000 feet up an incredibly muddy hill to get there. Both Deb and Jim fell pretty hard with their bikes. Meghan sobbed the whole way. Brendan and Liz and I took our bikes up and went back down to get the other bikes. No one got seriously hurt, and we could get into our next B&B early, so it was all good. We dried off and changed clothes and the adventure continued.

After a lovely dinner in an art gallery/cottage restaurant, we returned to our B&B. Brendan and Liz made the rest of us go into our rooms and wait. After a few minutes, Brendan began shouting, "Help! She's killing me! Help!" We burst into the kitchen to find Brendan, shirtless on the floor. He had chocolate smeared around his mouth and running down his naked chest. Liz stood over him, pantomiming stabbing him with a large knife dripping with chocolate syrup. After two or three seconds, Brendan jumped up and yelled, "Death by Chocolate!"

Our game for the evening was Chocolate-opoly. They served chocolate martinis and plates filled with hand-made chocolates. It was hilariously wonderful.

All in all, our adventure was a complete success. Several of us acquired bumps and bruises but no serious injuries. We drank good wine and ate great food. We laughed. And laughed. And laughed.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Operation: Fun

Last night was the first night of our bicycle adventure. We stayed at a lovely Victorian B&B near the quaint river district in St. Charles, Mo. My sister and brother-in-law made the arrangements for the night, and they were the hosts for game night.

Deb greeted us at their door wearing a doctor's white coat, rubber gloves, and a surgeon's mask. Jim served "Pain Killers" made with Pusser's rum. The game was Operation.

It was hilarious and tons of fun. Operation is not easy after a Pain Killer, believe me.

Meghan (my niece) and I are hosting tonight. We have tons of fun in store. Pictures will follow if possible.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Called Katie this afternoon because something reminded me of one of my favorite memories of her childhood. I told the old stories, and she chimed in on the parts she remembered. A 500-mile umbilicus stretched between us, a connection so real I could have stepped into the phone and run down its taut silk and velvet length into her living room, balanced like a tightrope walker.

Over the next hour or so, she called three or four more times. Which onions should she use in her veggie stir fry? Have I seen the new show on TLC? Did she tell me about her quiz today?

I am grateful for every comment on my last post, each reassurance. My pain is nothing more or less than resistance to what is. The fear rises. I keep breathing. Friends support me. The simple truth finds me.

Thank you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


The story I'm telling myself this morning is that nothing can ever change the fact that I am my children's mother. Other people can and will and should join our family, but we are the center, the actual family.

This story may be fiction.

Two brothers found each other recently. Adopted by different families, they did not know one another until they ended up working together. They way they have their hair cut, the glasses they choose, the clothes they wear—all of it is virtually identical. The blood ties are as plain as the broad noses on their squarish faces.

The CBS news story makes my heart bleed. One co-worker is quoted as saying, "There's nothing like family, especially when you don't have one. Now they've got it." Both these men were raised with siblings. At least one of their adoptive parents is still living. That counts, damn it. Those people count. They are family.

Of course, it is not their family for whom I am outraged, but myself. My fears shriek and wail inside my chest, writhing and fighting for light and air. I can turn off the news, refuse to read the story, breathe deeply until the fear subsides.

No story I tell myself changes the simple truth: Blood is thicker than water. Not more important than love, mind you; not more important than a lifetime of care and devotion. But undeniable.

What is the capitol of the state of denial? I want to move there.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Big Picture

Saturday night I went to a wine festival and street dance in a small town. At the dance, a woman in her fifties jumped and jived like a teenager. She was wearing hip-looking shoes and knee socks, a very short ruffled skirt and a skin-tight tank top, all in black. Her dyed red hair was long and curly.

A blonde wearing high-heeled sandals, a filmy black skirt with a rhinestone border, and a form-fitting blouse danced alone, directly under a streetlight. Her dance style was all about the butt. She kept her back to the crowd at all times, bending forward and swinging her extremely long hair and her butt in time to the music. When the band took a break, she turned toward us. Her face reflected an age (60ish, I'd guess) totally at odds with her clothes and attitude.

Pink Boots guy called this afternoon to tell me about a death in his family. An hour later, he pocket called me, and I'm embarrassed to admit I listened to a minute or two of his conversation before I hung up. He was flirting with a woman.

The details he told her were true. The impression they created was not.

It got me thinking about how often we focus on small details rather than big truths. If you look only at your shoes or tank top or cute skirt, dressing like a teenager makes you look like one. It takes a wider angle to see the stark contrast between your perky knee socks and your saggy knees.

The stories we tell ourselves matter far more than the ones we tell others, and true stories illustrate the big picture.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Clean and Green

I took a tree to the car wash today.

Three years worth of dust weighed down the leaves of silk ficus beside my bed, and the dirty leaves weighed me down. I didn't have time to wash each leaf by hand, so I took off Paula's top and packed the tree into her back seat.

Ten minutes and four quarters later, the tree was clean, I felt lighter, and the people who drove by had a good story to tell at dinner.

Sometimes I wonder why making a fool of myself never bothers me. Maybe I'm just used to it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

News Flash

I flirted with a man last night.

Yep. I stood in the parking lot at the park, wearing oh-so-unflattering bicycle shorts and a baseball cap covering my helmet hair, and flirted shamelessly.

In fact, I invited him to spend Saturday night at a hotel with me.

Well, me and eight other people.

There's zero chance he'll join us, but the simple fact remains: I met an unmarried man my age, talked and laughed with him, touched his arm while making a point, and smiled unrelentlingly. (Didn't realize the smile thing til my face hurt later.)

If I were an entirely different sort of person, I'd put Molly on a pedestal and make burnt offerings.

Wait. We're cooking breakfast on the trail Saturday morning. I could burn a piece of turkey bacon for her. Or maybe not. Maybe I'll just close my eyes, again and again, and thank God for leading me back to my bike this summer.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Covert Operation

Shhhh. Don't tell anyone. I did a bad, bad thing.

Monday morning, before my folks got back from a weekend trip, I borrowed their van, filled it with junk my sister left in my garage, and took it to the metal recyclers.

If Deb asks about it, I won't lie—I'll just play dumb. "You mean that stuff you left here FIVE YEARS AGO? Why, I don't have any idea what happened to that."

And I don't. Heaven only knows what it became after it was smashed into a cube of scrap metal, smelted and recycled. Only thing I know for sure is that I can open my car doors without bumping into it.


Sunday, September 13, 2009


Slept in the center of the bed last night, leaving space for all possibilities.

Yesterday, I watched this video posted on Michelle O'Neil's blog. I'd never heard of Bruddah Iz but immediately loved his voice and his music. Also immediately, I felt tremendous compassion for a man who seemed trapped inside his 700-lb. body. In the video, he smiles while floating in the ocean, a smile that reflects the utter peace of weightlessness. At least, that's what I saw.

This spring, before Molly and I hit the trail, my weight had gotten completely out of control. One of the things that pushed me onto the saddle was recognizing how hard it was to stand from a seated position. On a sofa or low chair, I found myself sort of rocking back and forth to gain enough momentum to stand up. It horrified me.

After the Iz video, a thought crystalized. I scurried to the red leather chair by the windows to the pond, sat down, and bounced back up.

Yes! Just like its arrival, the departure of the rocking was so gradual I hadn't noticed. I sat down and stood up several times, just to make sure.

No rocking. None. Just a strong, capable body moving from one position to the next.

It took more than wishing on a star, but today I woke to find that particular trouble far behind me, another of Molly's great gifts this summer. I am so grateful.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Left Side

I am moving to the other side of my bed.

For sixteen years I've slept on the side of the bed where my former husband slept. At first, it was a symbolic action: his side of the bed held the clock alarm, the lamp, the remote. I took control of the lamp and my life when I moved to that side after he decamped. For many long years now, habit pinned me to the left side of the bed. Only heaven knows why I sleep so close to the edge of a queen-size bed when there's no competition for space.

I rode 30 miles yesterday. And for the first time ever, I rode through the barricades without fear. Two months ago, I hated riding on the shoulder of the highway—those 18 inches of asphalt between the giggle strips and the ditch felt like a long series of barricades. Yesterday, the weeds were so overgrown I had only about a 6-inch clear path, but that was enough.

Something amazing happened this summer: I started to feel my body, learned to judge where I am in space and time. It is a gift to be present, and I'm taking that presence to the opposite side of the bed. Maybe someone will appear to fill the left side.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Making Waves

Back in the salon days, I went to the bank nearly every day and often worked with the same teller. Out shopping earlier, I ran into M.

She'd been fired.

Someone brought in a $4300 check, deposited $300 and took $4000 back in cash. M asked for two forms of ID, but did not demand that one of those IDs be a debit card from that bank. They fired her for it.

She's been out of work for five months and had one interview despite sending out hundreds of applications. She's 57 years old—hardly prime time for job hunting. She's divorced and her folks are long gone. In six more weeks, her unemployment and COBRA will run out. She has no idea what she'll do then. Even now, most of her unemployment check goes to the COBRA payments.

I should be working but can't shake my outrage—at the bank, the person who passed the bad check, the system that leaves a 57-year-old woman so vulnerable and terrified of losing her health coverage.

Passing that bad check didn't cause ripples: It created a tidal wave that swamped a simple woman who worked hard at a demanding job for little pay or appreciation.

Something has got to be did, I tell you. Got. to. Be. Did.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Slight Shifts

Day after day of biking long miles left me with aching knees. I started icing them before and after each ride and on and off during the day. My right knee popped and cracked with every step and hurt much more than my left.

The substantial difference between my left and right knees puzzled me. For several days, I carefully observed my pedaling and realized I used mainly my right leg (my dominant side) for locomotion—my (much weaker) left leg was pretty much along for the ride. Concentrating on pushing with my left leg, equalizing the effort, helped my right knee a bunch.

Exploring my weakness rather than relying on my strength....hmmmm....verrry interesting.

Next, I considered where I place my feet on the pedals. Instinctively, I use the balls of my feet. The plates on bike shoes (the part that hooks to the pedals) are placed near the center of your foot. I don't wear shoes with plates because being hooked to the pedals freaks me out, but the placement was a big clue. I started consciously centering my feet on the pedals and using my heels more because they're attached to the glutes—the largest muscles on the body. I haven't iced my knees since.

Accessing my true power. There's a thought.

Here's the kicker—I pedaled with the balls of my feet the same way I tiptoe around problems and troublesome people, with about the same results: I end up hurt and wondering why.

Well. Isn't that just a slap upside the head with a big blue icepack?

Photo credit: wagsy2405 @ flicker.com

Sunday, September 06, 2009

All Inclusive

Our Saturday morning bike rides/picnic breakfasts have left Mom and Dad without Saturday morning visitors, a condition they do not enjoy. This week, we invited them to join us for breakfast at the park at the end of the trail. They accepted with enthusiasm.

If you were at Blue Mills Park on Saturday about 9:00 am, you saw four filthy bikes and four riders splattered with mud from the tops of their heads to the tips of their toes; an elderly couple with smiles that lit the gloomy skies; a tablecloth-covered picnic table loaded down with homemade pumpkin muffins, cherry cinnamon rolls, egg strata and fresh fruit. You also saw eight people enjoying one of the best things life has to offer: a loud, imperfect, loving family.

The bikers arrived first by 10 minutes or so. We slid off our bikes and planted our dirty butts on the concrete. Soon, Mom and Dad and Deb and Meghan arrived by car. We all helped unload and set up the picnic. We ate and talked and laughed, then we packed it all up again. The car people drove home and the riders returned to the filthy trail.

I wasn't sure how Dad was going to react to all the commotion, but he joined right in. In fact, he wanted to go to Target later that day to buy a thermos so he can bring coffee next week. And so, a tradition is born. Mom and Dad are included, and we get a much better breakfast than what we've been carrying in our backpacks. We drop off whatever we've made at Mom's house before hitting the trail so she doesn't have to do it all. Everyone wins.

I love it when that happens.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Got Ideas?

Yesterday my nephew added an element to our upcoming 3-day bike trip: games for the evenings. The towns we're visiting are very small and everything closes early. So, each evening one of us will host a game night in our room.

On your night, you provide an interesting game and a theme-related cocktail. For example, you could bring the game Apples to Apples and make apple martinis. (That won't work, though: I love Apples to Apples but don't think I could drink an apple martini at the point of a gun.)

Any of you brilliant people have suggestions? I'm looking for an off-beat, fun game that works for 6 people. All drink suggestions welcome, too.

Oh, and just in case anyone else wants to whip up some fun next Wednesday—the date will be 09/09/09, an oddity worth celebrating. Our Wednesday bike group is dressing "to the nines" for the night. We're riding the trail in evening wear over our bike shorts and dining on fancy hors d'oeuvres. I'm thinking feather boa and high heels if it's warm and a velvet jacket with a feather collar if it's cool. My wine for the night will be champagne. No decision yet on the fancy hors d'oeuvres. (Suggestions welcome.)

Friday, September 04, 2009

Narrow Gates

Last Sunday when we rode the quad recumbents on the Katy Trail, I learned a thing or two.

After hurting her back trying to ride as far as I can, my sister Deb hasn't ridden for over a month now. We rented a quad for her, and I set out to pedal for her. She hated being carted along like one of the old people but accepted it because otherwise Mom and Dad would feel bad.

So, there we are, rolling down the trail, and Deb takes over the steering. Mind you, I'm handling the locomotion for the unit, but she cannot tolerate letting me steer. (Both sides have handlebars and brakes.) This wasn't too big a problem on the open road, but we had to pass through three gates, each of which had about an inch of clearance total.

As we approached the first gate, I tried to steer us through, aiming toward my side of the gate. Deb pull strongly in the other direction. Irritation flashed through me—I'm driving. Why can't she just let me drive?—and I jerked the other direction. We barely made it through.

As we approached the second gate, I slowed way down. Deb added pedaling to her steering. "Deb, we need to slow down."

"No, we don't. We're fine," she said, pedaling faster and pulling the handlebars in the opposite direction. I put on the brakes and resisted her steering. The bar of the gate was 6 inches from her chest before I realized how off course we were—one inch before I got the bike stopped.

Deb could have steered us through. I could have steered us through. But fighting back and forth for control nearly caused disaster.

On the third gate, I put my hands in my lap and asked her to steer.

When we oh-so-narrowly avoided that second gate, I ran smack into a hard reality. I continually lament Deb's dominance, her need for control, her inability to let anyone else steer—and totally overlook my own resistance to being controlled.

Deb is the first born: She's been in charge all her life. I'm the middle child: my life has been a fight to be heard and considered equal.

It doesn't matter who steers through the gate. What matters is getting through safely. The point is not to get her to see me as equal but to see myself that way. And let it go.

Let. It. Go.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Still Your White Knight

Quilt night last night. Me in the corner, still working at my laptop instead of sewing. Deb in the corner, working on her quilt. Mom searching through everything, looking for the embroidery hoop that fits on her super-duper, extra-fancy embroidery machine.

From upstairs, Dad hears us talking about the hoop's mysterious disappearance and comes down to help in the search. He asks a few questions about when she last had it and searches logical spots. When he's ruled out all the logical spots, he moves to a general search-and-rescue mission through the large room.

After 15 minutes, Dad spies the hoop lying on a pile of work-in-progress. He grabs it, throws his arms in the air in a V for victory and shouts, "Got it! I'm still your white knight!"

Mom wraps her arms around him, kisses him on the mouth for 3 or 4 seconds, and says, "All my life, Sweetheart. All. My. Life."

The 12-inch difference in their heights is disappearing as Dad shrinks alarmingly, but like a bonsai, he seems to be conforming to a shape dictated from beyond. His now-stooped shoulders curve over Mom's head as though pruned to fit. They stand together for another 20 seconds, his still-black hair against her full silver, and then kiss again.

"My work here is done," Dad says as he starts back up the stairs.

"Thank you, Darling," Mom says as she fits the hoop on the machine.