Tuesday, March 31, 2009

so very far away

today is the cut-off for signing up to ride in the MS 150 at the early-bird, discounted rate.
the actual event takes place during the last weekend of june.
that's 3 months away.
and it seems forever away.

I rode 35 miles ten days ago, and was almost exhausted at the end of that ride.
will I really get back to being able to ride 50 and 75 and (gulp) 100 without dropping like a . . . what, an autumn leaf? a rag doll? an exhausted human?

it's so very hard to imagine.

and then again, it's exciting to imagine. warm weather, sunny skies, sunblock. enthusiasm and powerful, positive energy. that sense of accomplishment . . . which you know I love . . . I know I will reach a point where I'm tired, and tired of riding, and tired of watching the miles oh so slowly tick by near the end. but then it will end, and I will have one more organized century tucked neatly under my little belt. which will make my total about 6.
yes, 6, that's all.
organized rides aren't terribly high on my dream list. yes, it is nice to have treat-and-water stops provided along the way, but that's the greatest benefit as far as I'm concerned. all the hype and jerseys and medals for completion aren't nearly as high up on my list.

the MS ride is a fundraiser, so that puts the ride into a different category: the entrance fee is minimal, the donated goods and volunteers are phenomenal, and you have to raise and contribute money to the cause to be able to ride. so the overall feeling of the event is different than most of the other organized rides around here.

june 27.
seems so very far away.

Monday, March 30, 2009


I'd prefer to write tonight about how I didn't want to get out of bed this morning, but dragged myself to the gym anyway, through the blizzard, and made myself work on the elliptical, the ball, the machines, the free weights, the bosu . . . (and ended with an incredibly stable headstand!) . . . and then drove home, putting myself in peril on the treacherous, unplowed, snow packed and rutted roads.
but that would be boring and depressing and whiny, so I will skip that.
instead, I'm going to say a few words about fortitude.
G used this word in spin class yesterday (one of the best things that came out of her mouth), and it struck me with it's suitability for usage in my cycling lexicon.

fortitude: strength of mind that allows one to endure pain or adversity with courage.

oh, what a brilliant word. the most intelligent part of me wants to leave it right there, to stop blathering on, and to just let it be. what more needs to be said?
well, another part of me says I need to add at least a little more.

I was relying on fortitude this morning.
to top off my weakness and lack of enthusiasm and overall lack of strength, the facility was out of towels. I don't know about you, but I sweat when I work out. a lot. and I don't like the feel of sweat beads running down my face.
but when there are no towels, there are no towels, and one must move forward with grace and fortitude.
so I did.
and as I said, I ended my session with a stunningly steady headstand, once again drilling home the fact that one always feels better at the end of a workout than one does beforehand.

my new pet word.
I'm sure you'll be seeing it again.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


it's a snowy sunday morning, which means I went to spin class.
the instructor schedule for the past year or so has been alternating women on sunday mornings: one week D, and the next week M, on a fairly consistent rotation. I like their teaching styles, and although they are dissimilar, both allow me a great workout.
so this morning I was expecting to see D or M.
but instead, I got G.
deep sigh.
I have only had G as an instructor once before today, and at that time I made a decision to avoid her classes in the future, if at all possible.
I have made sure that it was always possible.
until today, when I (unfortunately) assumed (which almost always makes a you-know-what out of me) that my memorized schedule remained untouched.
she strode to the bike in the front of the room, and a small part of my inner workings were dismayed. G was not what I wanted to experience this morning.
let me tell you about G.
I have no idea how old she is, but if forced, would place her in her late 50's. I would guess her body fat percentage to be about 6. she has the energy of a 3-year-old who just ate a giant chocolate bar, and I think it's possible her endorphin level is consistently SO high that she appears to be on drugs.
within the first 5 minutes of class she spoke at least a few hundred words, and then shocked my nervous system into panic mode by blowing a whistle into her microphone.
if ever you are given a microphone in front of a group of people, please promise me you won't blow a whistle into it.
that was our "start" signal to begin a sprint.
then she did it again.
perhaps the terrified expressions on the 30 people facing her convinced her that she'd made her point, because after that she just screamed start into her headset.

this woman has more energy that any 3 people I know, combined and compressed into one.
and it's not a bad energy, it's just an energy that I find myself throwing up protective walls against.
at one point she started shaking her head from side to side and said, do you ever shake your head all around while you're on a spin bike, and get that feeling you did when you were a kid and you pushed your thumbs into your eyes? you know, like you're going to pass out or collapse or something? this wild feeling . . .

can too many endorphins do that to you?

I worked hard this morning, leaving with a sweat-coated body and a flushed face: she led a tough, aggressive, well-thought-out workout.

but I still am going to avoid her classes.
though later, tonight, I might try that thumb in the eye thing, just to see . . .

Saturday, March 28, 2009

how to live

We live the results of our last action.

Just do the next right thing.

do we need more instruction than this?

Friday, March 27, 2009

making it

a great truth I have discovered:
I always make it.

I have yet to die, I have yet to shatter or explode or disintegrate. I remain a fully (more or less) functioning human, with a positive attitude and a belief in the future.

this came to mind today as I was barreling downhill in the (what I will call) freezing cold, thinking to myself I might not make it, I was so darn cold.

then I realized, I always make it.

whether it be an uncomfortable social situation, an argument, a climb that makes my legs tremble with fatigue, or a yoga position that causes me to drip sweat and shake from the exhaustion of holding it.
whether it be a college semester that drains and depletes me, a disappointing business year that leads me to question the existence of said business, or the death of someone I love.
whether it be the sometimes unbearable pangs of loneliness, the panic of a speeding heartrate, the fear of a missing child, or the spent and quivering muscles that need to lift that weight just 5 more times.
I always make it.


I made it down the hill today, and my hands did not break off with the cold. my brain froze and unfroze, and it still functions as well as ever. my nose has returned to almost the same temperature as the rest of my body, and that long, hot shower convinced the rest of my body to keep going.
so this much I know: whatever gets placed in my path, whomever it is that throws a gauntlet down in front of me, whatever comes swirling into or out of my life, I can handle it.
because I'm still here, and that's proof enough for me.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

yoga with sam

I am obviously on a yoga kick lately, aren't I?
the snow is my excuse, as I find it difficult to get inspired about biking things when it is 28 degrees and cold and wet out there. (I also find it difficult to get inspired about sitting in the freezing rain, watching a lacrosse match that started 20 minutes late and lasted 90 minutes anyway, but that's an entirely separate story.)

yoga with sam.
that's what I experienced this morning.
something new for my list of "things I've done in my lifetime."

first, sam looks just a bit like ashton kutcher, and even sounds a little like him. not a bad thing in a guy.
second, there were yoga positions that even sam couldn't do well. what a relief!
third, sam even admitted that he's had "un-yogi-like" thoughts when asked to stay in certain positions for longer than he wanted.
fourth, he went so far as to say that he was close to tears from the challenge of certain positions.

woo hoo! a yoga teacher who admits his very humanness! whose body---though it was capable of a great many beautiful movements and poses---was not as supple as a rubber band, like entirely too many instructors I've experienced.

and this is not to cast dispersions on any of the other yoga instructors I've met: I have nothing but deep and profound admiration for each one of them. yoga is challenging in more ways than the layperson can even imagine, and is demanding, exacting, and only truly incorporated into one's life by a determined discipline.
yoga is not for lightweights.

thus, sam, who has a goofiness about him, must be deeply committed to his practice just as the other rubber instructors I've met are.
which helps me believe there's hope for me.

there's an anusara workshop this saturday for beginning/intermediate students at a local yoga studio, and I am halfway committed to attending it. which half of me feels which way? I'm not really sure.
I've been listening to a book on CD by matthew kelly, a book about being your authentic self and finding peace and happiness in that. something I heard him discuss yesterday suggested that one should not judge an activity by how one feels before undertaking it, but by how one feels after it is over.
think how many more things we would do if we approached our decision making this way!

thus, I will now project myself into saturday late afternoon, after my hours at the yoga studio.
I will feel refreshed, relaxed, more in tune with my body.
I will feel a sense of community, having spent hours with like-minded people.
I will feel calm and capable of tackling anything life throws my way.
I will feel proud of myself for getting myself to participate in something that is not completely comfortable for me.
I will be glad.

problem solved,
and now you know where I will be saturday afternoon.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

indoor sports

it's snowing,
seriously, this time.
white is piling up on the lawn, and even my back patio and sidewalks.
and I am okay with it.

partially because it gives me an excuse to not fit a bike ride into my day. these not-appropriate-for-biking days give me a chance to relax the part of me that thinks I should be on my bike every day.

this morning at spin class I was talking with biking buddy bob about riding outside last saturday, when the temperature topped 70 degrees. he rode later in the day than I did, and didn't get the tan lines that I did, but we both traveled much of the same path, as it's one of the most biking-friendly paths this early in the season.
he actually golfed 18 holes that morning, then went for a ride in the mid-afternoon, and was thinking that's a pretty good way to spend a day. then we talked about the unbelievable winds that day, and I commented that on my way home, riding through the golf course, I was thinking that it would have been a nasty day to be trying to hit a ball straight down a green. we joked about his picking 2 activities that are not best during strong wind days. then biking buddy bill chipped in, saying, you know, there really aren't too many activities that are great on those kind of windy days. maybe bowling, or pool . . .
which made for a good laugh.

and which isn't to say that pool and bowling don't have their place in the big scheme of things. in fact, on a day like today, a good game of bumper bowling might be just the ticket.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


there's a yoga studio in town that regularly sends out an electronic newsletter, which I receive in my email inbox every month.
the owner always writes a few paragraphs about what's on his mind, and then lists all the activities, conferences, and special classes offered in the upcoming months.
sometimes I skim through the whole thing, and sometimes it's an automatic delete. and every once in a great while, I actually read what the owner has to say.
this month I read his column, and took from it one beautiful concept, that of softening your position.

I've written before about how our yoga instructors often tell us to relax our gaze, which to me means to both broaden your view and to let go of a focus, to just let everything sit and float around you. it both decreases and increases your awareness, moving it inward instead of outward.
but softening your position hit me as a beautiful way to move through yoga class, and through life.

yoga teaches us that the breath is more important than anything, that you should give up the pose before you give up your breathing pattern. (I still cannot reach this point: I am too stubborn to give up on a position just because I am breathing too quickly.) the next important thing is your position: that you reach it and hold it to the best of your ability at that given moment. our job is to keep the integrity of the pose, whether or not we can fully position our body as is ideal. for me, that means the tightness in my hips or the rigidity of my lower back keep me from going as deep into a pose as I someday hope to. and then there are my shoulders, and the stiffness in my upper back . . . (this morning I decided that I really need yoga every single morning of my life, and that this will be my future-looking goal. it would be so very nice to be flexible and move fluidly and gracefully without difficulty.)

but back to positions.
softening them, that is.

of course this begins in yoga, to take the position you have just tweaked your body into holding, and then to relax into it. this might seem contradictory, but it's all about taking the tension out of your muscles while asking them to keep steady and firm.
when I extrapolate this into the world (as I am wont to do) something incredible happens: I see us all becoming more patient, more kind, more willing. when we stop holding onto things so rigidly we become easier to be around. what if each single being on this earth relaxed their grip on their version of reality? what if we all softened our positions, just a little, on the things we hold so tightly? what if we could all step outside of ourselves for just a brief moment and look upon what it is we grasp in our own little vises?

I've noticed that when I can convince myself to soften my position --- once I've found it --- in yoga, I breathe better. when I am tense, my breath comes too quickly or not at all, as I squeeze and miserly hold it in. but when I can remember to remind myself to soften, my breath comes more easily, and more evenly.
I envision this as my grand experiment: I teach the world to soften its position, and in turn, the world settles into a simpler, more even, more productive, gentle breathing pattern.

Monday, March 23, 2009

spring, postscript

as I was sitting in my car this afternoon, waiting for my daughter to come out of school, I kept looking at the walkway from where she would be coming.
I finally saw her: she was walking along with her head tilted back and her tongue sticking straight out,


happy spring! as it is visiting us with one of its many and varied manifestations . . .

today we have experienced so many different versions of "snow" that I've lost track. I have seen everything from powerfully heavy snowflakes as large as my thumb to light-as-air flakes that looked and acted like fireflies, spending more time and energy in a sideways motion than that in a downward trajectory.
I walked in the snow carrying an umbrella to keep from becoming drenched, and I walked without, bareheaded, letting the tiny and infrequent flakes flutter around me.
as I type, I am looking out my window, watching big, fat flakes float thickly downward in a constant pattern that, were the ground still frozen, would result in inches piling upon inches of prior flakes. however, the earthen temperature being what it is, the ground is fighting back, struggling to keep its claim of springtime, and the grass welcomes its little white coating while still poking its evergreen self skyward, above any kind of blanketing that might want to be happening.
and even as I type, the flakes have shifted once more, now a little more sparse, a little smaller in stature, a little less resolute.
yes, spring.
I feel something in the air.
something different, something hopeful, something that acknowledges life's blips and bumps, yet tells us to keep moving forward, to not get stuck behind what is really but a extra bit of asphalt clumped in a little ridge.

this morning I did my best headstand ever. it lasted so long and was so steady that I know, I know deep down inside, that I am making progress. today I still used the wall to steady myself when needed, but there will come a time when I don't need that security.
there will come a day when I will stand on my own little head, and know that I got there with a bit of direction and encouragement from miguel, but mostly by myself, through determination and practice and progress and commitment.

it's snowing today, and it's beautiful. it's the kind of snow that makes you want to stand out under a wide open sky, tilt your head up, close your eyes, and stick out your tongue to catch as many flakes as possible and count them as first they jar your tongue with cold, then quickly melt and tease your tongue with their moisture.

someday maybe I will go outside on a spring day like this, plant my head on the ground, pull up into my headstand, and then stick my tongue out and catch snowflakes on the bottom of my tongue, just to see if I can.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I woke up this morning, sure that the ground would be wet, the skies would be gray, and it would be a damp, dreary morning leading to a day to spend inside.

the ground was dry.

the clouds in the sky were white, and breaking into pieces that unveiled blue beneath. the sun was still hiding behind the mountains that rim the eastern edge of the city, but I knew it was there and aching to throw its powerful self out into our valley.
my plan for the morning just got tweaked.
I had decided to sleep in, then, depending upon how I felt, either get dressed for and head to yoga, or get dressed for and head to spin class. they both take place at 9:30 on sunday mornings, just a mere floor apart, and I was going to let my body tell me which was more preferable.
but, dry roads and potential sunshine wreak havoc with a hide-indoors plan.
I had half a cup of coffee, then turned on my computer to check the weather.
50 percent humidity and 48 degrees at 9 am, and 50 degrees by ten. then wind and rain were to set in by 11 or 12.
oh, weak-willed susan.

I had cleaned my bike yesterday evening, giving it a good de-mudding and polishing after yesterday's ride through snow and meltage. it remained in my family room, and it stared back at me this morning as I thought about my plan.
sometimes the freedom to change your mind, to be uncommitted and flexible, is almost too powerful a freedom to want to have.

I gave my chain a quick lube, threw on what I hoped would be weather-appropriate gear, and got on the road before I could talk myself out of it.
it was chilly, but the refreshing, spring kind of chill. the sun played hide-behind-clouds for most of my ride, but I knew I'd made the right decision.
17 male bikers, 7 female, most friendly but a few decidedly not.
perhaps they were just too cold.

regardless, I fit my ride into the time I would have spent driving to, attending, and driving home from spin class, and had liters and liters of fresh air cleansing out my lungs as my reward for choosing the outdoor option.

and in great embarrassment and shame, I direct your attention to the comment found at the end of yesterday's post (labeled 1.5,35,2,and 2), where I was humbled by a fellow cyclist.
if you could see me right now, I'd have to admit the red on my cheeks is not due solely to windburn from yesterday's ride.

humility is a virtue, isn't it?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

1.5, 35, 2, and 2

those are today's answers:

the questions, oh the questions!

first, just how far can one ride up the road to east canyon, after you slip around the still-locked gate, before snow on the road keeps one from going further?
1.5 miles

second, how far did I ride today?
35 miles: from home up emigration, down to mountain dell and george washington park (which is still closed for the season, and I didn't dare venture down the road for fear the 2 sheriffs parked by the gate would come after me and issue me a trespassing ticket) and back up and then up east canyon road as far as I could go . . . then back up little mountain and down emigration and back to my home sweet home.

third, how many fuzzy black caterpillars did I see on the road while I was riding?

fourth, while I was heading down the canyon on my way home, how many times was I almost certain that the headwinds were pushing me backwards, back up the road, as I pedaled furiously downhill?

of course the first question is the most important, as it is one of those questions I am stunningly curious about when I don't know the answer. the other day I rode to the gate, but due to scheduling issues I couldn't go any further. you could see dry pavement on the far side of the gate, and you just knew with complete certainty that cyclists were slipping around the gate and continuing their rides . . . the unknown was for just how much further.
so today I was able to satisfy my curiosity.
from the gate to the top of big mountain is approximately 5 1/2 miles, only perhaps 3 1/2 miles of which is excruciatingly painful. (for me, that is.) as I started up the road today, with a huge wind at my back, cruising along on the easy part, I was paying strict attention to how very dry and snow-free the road was.
my heart actually dropped a little, as my brain told it I bet it's clear all the way to the switchbacks, or maybe even to the top! hee-hee, now you have to ride it! should've brought more fuel with you . . .
of course I wanted to ride, but I'd already done some decent climbing, and wasn't sure that I could tackle big mountain with the limited water and energy still remaining in my biking self. and if you know me, you know that a clear road would have urged and taunted and pulled me all the way to the top, water or no.
the sight of rivulets of snow crossing the road in the distance actually shocked me, for suddenly there they were, where they hadn't been before. melting crystals leaked from them, but they offered a pretty significant barrier to those of us on skinny tires. I snuck around a few passages, wiggling from edge to edge, and even rode a brief section of snow to get to another clear patch, because I was pulled by the sight of a tree, felled across the road, and wanted to get within spitting distance of it.
which I didn't quite do.
maybe next time.
unless the rain and snow the next 3 days are supposed to bring us fill in those melted crevasses, and we are pushed back to riding only the first mile after the gate.
regardless, it was a productive day, as I answered 4 most pressing questions, in a very simple way: 1.5,35,2,2.

Friday, March 20, 2009

back, somewhat completely

I am back.
not completely normal,
quieter than usual,
but back.

back on my bike, that is.
me and all those other happy campers who were out glorying in the warm sunshine today . . . it was one of those rides where my left hand grew weary from all of the waving. my face didn't get tired of smiling, though, as it just felt so great to be outside doing what I love.

it was the warmest day of the year ---so far--- and not much could have held me back from getting out there. after the first mile or so of heading uphill I could feel the sun baking itself into my back, and I almost laughed out loud with delight and the remembering of that sensation. we have survived many months of cold and artificial warmth, and I was a little giddy with the authenticity of that sunlight's power.

I didn't ride as far as yesterday, as I wanted to save just a little of myself for tomorrow: the next warmest day of the year ---so far. I stopped at the top of emigration, and looked down on my favorite body of water, today a deep and mystic green, frozen sections playing hide and seek with my eyes. yesterday it was a cold gray, reflecting the sky, and today it was entirely different, shooting back the playfulness sent down by the sun. I breathed it all in, and turned to push my way back down the windy canyon.

tomorrow: we'll see what road beckons me, and whose call I will heed.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

ode to emigration

in 7th grade we had a section on poetry. every seventh grader in the country has probably had to suffer through this. I am always astonished to meet someone who actually likes poetry, enjoys reading it, and (gulp) finds joy in creating it.
I wrote a few poems back then that I thought were pretty good, but what I discovered is that no one really cares. unless you become a poet laureate, you are pretty much relegated to the ranks of unknown, underpaid, unacknowledged artists that abound throughout our world.
somehow this is reminding me of trying to make my way as a writer . . .

today, for some quirk of a reason, I decided to grow a poem. it could be the approaching vernal equinox, messing with my chemistry, because I rarely rarely rarely volunteer poetry.
(about 7 years ago I did, however: at our school's fall carnival I manned a booth where I wrote 'poems on demand.' for a $1 donation, I would write a short poem on any subject given me, and the student would leave with their own 9x12" colorful paper with my creation on it. I've wondered if any of them will ever come back to haunt me . . .)

spring fever must be attacking me, so here are my ten simple lines:

burnished hillsides, hidden beneath snow
ravaged by the harsh reality of winter
yesterday turned into fields of fledgling green
aspiring to springtime's power once again
not a quitter, this canyon of mine.

wide open spaces decorate my world
innocent blades of grass and slender trunks
manifesting their cellular dreams of growth
and prosperity,
never a quitter, this canyon of mine.

and with that, I challenge you to go write your own poem. top mine, if you dare.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

to swing

today I did something I'd thought about doing, wanted to do, planned to do, intended to do, and somehow never did do last fall when the weather was cool and perfect for it . . .
I hopped my butt on a swing, and pumped myself up and up and swung away to my heart's delight.

one of my flaws is that I don't play enough. I somehow got it into my head at a young age that life was serious and I needed to work hard at it, and this has colored my entire life. playing doesn't come easily to me; there's a deeply held belief that tells me there is always work to be done, don't forget.
when I try to make lists of what would be fun, what would bring me joy, what could be called play, I find myself sitting and staring at a blank paper for much longer than should be necessary. when I tried this experiment sometime late last summer, the first (okay, and just about only) thing that leapt to mind when I was searching for something that I would consider fun, was to swing.
to swing.
to get myself on one of those plastic or rubber seats, wrap my arms around the metal chains that supported the seat, and push myself skyward.
I love to swing.

and a good half year after I made my (brief) list, I finally got myself there.
and I pumped and pulled and soared, straightening my legs then tucking them under for the backwards flight, and leaned back and closed my eyes and felt the pure joy of flying in air.

I love to swing.

the kids on the soccer field barely noticed me, and probably wouldn't have noticed at all except for the horrific squeak my chains made with each forward motion I made.
my daughter looked over and waved, and didn't make fun of me later.
it's possible the no one cared that I was swinging.
and it really doesn't matter, because I was happy to be doing it, feeling the fresh air rush past and remembering what it was like to be so caught up in the joy of doing something that nothing else mattered.

it was fun.
and I love to swing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


I have this idea:
I am going to pretend that I am tougher and more capable than I am.
I am going to wear this invisible mask and costume, just as if I were performing a play, and tackle the world with immense confidence and certainty.

one version will be my Cycling Hero: my invisible cloak will provide me with super powers so that I will conquer every hill in front of me, never losing my breath or muscle power. I will be able to ride for hours and hours without exhaustion ever even looking my way.

another version will be Super Mom: nothing my children say or do will ever faze me. they can talk back to me, disregard their chores, laze about like slugs and I will be impervious. even better, they will be inspired by my very presence to do all those things they are supposed to be doing. willingly. with smiles on their little faces.

then there will be Work Hero: my invisible costume with allow me to be tough, strong, and irresolute. I will neither explain nor defend myself, but will just do what needs to be done. no fears or squirming, no hesitation in asking for what is fairly mine. my expectations will be high, and will be met.

this is sounding awfully good, isn't it?
perhaps the only remaining category is that where I take care of myself, nurture myself, and support all of the tough work I'm doing out there in that "real" world I face every day.
which really isn't real, at all, is it?

most of what we confront every day is of our own creation. it's all about our own mindset, and how we view what we experience. that perspective thing.
if I think the world is unkind and evil, I will find evidence to support that.
if I think the world is glorious and full of beauty and kindnesses, I will find evidence to support that belief.

this afternoon I received a surprise from another continent, and it made my heart glow for a brief time. and I could have done two different things with that: I could have reacted by thinking, oh, it was just a small thing, and now it's gone, and it wasn't enough, or I could have thought, wow, that was so great, I am so thankful for that amazing event: I am going to treasure it.
I choose the latter.

so, super mom/cycling hero/work hero/nurturing me is leaping into my life, full force.

be prepared for miracles.

Monday, March 16, 2009

66 degrees

I got hit by the gomboo last friday, and when I started to come back to life this afternoon I ventured outside in turtleneck and jacket and thought I'd magically been transported to florida.
it was 66 degrees out there.
when did this happen?
last time I peaked, it was cold and windy and something like winter outside.
and this afternoon was decidedly spring-like. cycling weather. cycling-in-shorts weather.
oh my goodness.
so I just pulled up the weather forecast for the week (I know, it's already monday night: I told you I've been ill!) and my eyes did a little happy-dance as they skimmed through the highs and lows. oh my gosh, today was not just a fluke.
there is warm weather riding in my future, I can feel it.
of course, I have lost my ability to do anything athletic, having spent the last three and a half days primarily horizontal, aching and sniffling and moaning. it will take me weeks to earn back the muscle strength I've just lost . . .
that's what it feels like, anyway.
I am in a constant battle with gravity, as each minute added to my age has a corresponding iota of gravitational pull making it harder and harder for me to soar up those hills.
that's what it feels like, anyway.
and tonight, though the weather report entices me, I shrink back from thoughts of climbing on my beautiful bike because I know it will be more difficult than the last time I did so.
but I also know that I will get back on that pretty new bike.
this week.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

mom's hospital

I once lived in a hospital.
for 5 1/2 weeks.
it was one of the most difficult periods of my life.

and I wasn't even ill.

so when I think about all the hundreds of thousands of people who are currently ill and living within the confines of a hospital's walls, I want to fall to my knees and thank God for the grace that has surrounded my own life.

this is me, 33 years old, grad student:
I am a mom of jake (nearly 5 and quite disabled) and beau (3), deep into my first year of studying for my Master's in Social Work. I retired from my career at Nordstrom just over a year ago, and have known for the past 4 months that I am pregnant.
a planned pregnancy . . . even timed pretty well, as my due date is the middle of june. finish first year of school, have baby during summer break, then finish school next year. yep, all is good.
we laugh when the doctor writes her order for an ultrasound: "history of twins."
we laugh when the ultrasound tech talks to us about the two babies in my belly. that is, after the shock and instantaneous tears have had their moment.

and all goes remarkably well until we go to the doctor for my 28-week check, when we are told that I'm starting to dilate --- okay, pre-term labor --- and that they will be admitting me to the hospital.
skipping a bunch of unnecessary details, I soon ended up at the University of Utah hospital, ante-partum unit, drugged up and getting checked by medical students every morning at 5.

for 5 1/2 weeks.

the physical part was tiring (who would think that bedrest could exhaust you?), but the emotional part was the difficult piece. I feared for the lives of my babies, yet I held onto my faith that all would be okay. God was giving us the opportunity to have our twins again, and all would be fine.
and that is what I clung to.
my health was not at risk, and the babies were healthy. they just needed to incubate within for a while longer.

everything was fine, and those little babies are now close to turning 13.
yet it was still a traumatic time period for me, full of doubt and sorrow and loss and overheated emotions.
mainly because I had so little control over the outcome.
I could stay in bed as ordered, I could eat and gain weight as ordered, and everything else was up to . . . what? fate? God? nature? destiny? my doctor?

when we're ill, stressed, out of sorts, being hammered by life, whatever the situation, we want to be able to do something about it. and when we can't, we feel impotent. helpless. and sometimes we lash out, sometimes we withdraw, sometimes we accept the help we're given, sometimes we weather the storm on our own.
holding onto faith is the most difficult thing of all, yet it is often the most important thing of all. if only we were born with the knowledge of exactly how to grip that faith and let it light our way.

the hospitals around our city have been nicknamed by my kids: the hospital where Jake has stayed numerous times is Jakie's Hospital, the hospital where the other 3 kids were born is Our Hospital, and the hospital where I lounged for all those weeks is Mom's Hospital.
though they have different names, and different staffs and locations, I know that they are all filled with the same thing: people experiencing and working on different levels and understandings of faith.
my wish for all of them today is just a tiny increase in that level, wherever it --- and they --- may be.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

no, I did not ride my bike today.

yes, it is beautiful outside.

no, I don't want to talk about it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

cough, sniff, sigh, ache

okay. I'm sick.
I'm shaking my head back and forth, telling myself this is just so unfair.

I don't do sick.

that got a little laugh from me, which promptly made me start coughing. ow.
in yoga thursday morning we were on our backs, then rolled our legs and hips up so that we were approaching a shoulder stand position. this squishes your lungs, which threw me into a coughing fit and ruined any sense of peace that had developed in the room. I rolled down, and coughed myself out of the room.

I have kleenex at hand, and tighten my core to protect my back every time I cough.
I'm currently wondering how I'll get to sleep tonight.
I'm also wondering if I'll get out and ride tomorrow, my first opportunity on a mid-50's partly-sunny day in such a long time I can hardly remember . . .
which brings me to my age-old dilemma of
when to push and when to rest.
I'm rolling my eyes.
why does it so often come to this?
I want to ride: I want the fresh air on my face, the feel of my beating heart and pumping legs. I want to see the changes in the canyon brought by the past two weeks. I want to get back on my pretty new bike, I want to play with all those new gears.
but I also want to end this episode of "sickness visits susan." it's boring, tiring, and already old news.
for all of us.

a hot toddy sounds lovely, if only I knew how to make one.

I guess it's just some more ibuprofen, a glass of water, and a cough drop or two by my bedside.
and hopefully, a more cheerful story to relay tomorrow.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


I think it's possible that we all escape to fantasyland when life is just too much too handle.
I don't go there very often, but I'm finding myself wanting desperately to be there right now.
it has something to do with the global economy, something to do with a pending court hearing, something to do with fighting twins, something to do with changes in my business life, and quite a lot to do with my weakened physical state.
this conundrum that is my life is usually something I can just ride out . . . both literally, by escaping on my bike, and figuratively, as I just flow with the ups, downs, challenges and joys that come my way.
but today,
I am heading to fantasyland.
join me.

in this fantasy, I get to ride my bike with a small group of cyclists who choose to travel at about the same speed I do. we are in europe for a month or two, and this week we are somewhere in france. a van travels ahead of us, transporting our gear, clothing, and necessities, so that we are burdened only with a few snacks, spare tubes and tools, perhaps an extra jacket, and a handful of euros for when we stop to lunch. make that a visa card, ever so much easier (and lighter) to carry.
in the van, with my luggage, I have a supply of books and a journal, and at each stop I have hours to read or write or socialize with my fellow cyclists, all of whom are delightful and unpretentious.
we've been riding for days on end, but it is of such a pleasant nature that I feel I could do it forever. there's no rush, no deadlines. the hills and valleys roll by us, and nature just drapes herself around us as we pass streams and forests and glades.
I know I have escaped real life, but it exists, still, in that parallel universe, and seems to be managing just fine without me. in fantasyland I check back on real life, and it moves along, barely noticing my absence, whispering to me, go ahead, ride, sleep, enjoy ~ we are fine.
one day we ride in a misty rain, and we laugh.
one day is so hot we sweat before we start pedaling, and we ride anyway, knowing we will cut ourselves some slack to arrive at the next village still energized for an evening of excellent dining and superb conversation.
we still find things to talk about, those of us in our small group. each day brings new thoughts and observations, as we reconnect with truth and earth. the daily lives we've all known have slipped far away as we rediscover our strengths and joys and loves.
switzerland is next, as we head toward italy, where we will spend our final days.
each day brings me peace, and I breathe more deeply as we move more deeply into our adventure.
I laugh more, I tell more stories, I am more relaxed.
I wake with energy, I go to sleep gratefully.
I am so very glad to be alive, so thankful to be who I am.

a little bit of fantasyland is going to stick with me, tonight.
and maybe tomorrow, too.
and I think I'll hold on to a small piece of it for the next day, as well.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

cough, sigh, ache

"the Warrior of the Light has learned that God uses solitude to teach us how to live with other people.

He uses rage to show us the infinite value of peace. He uses boredom to underline the importance of adventure and spontaneity.

God uses silence to teach us to use words responsibly. He uses tiredness so that we can understand the value of waking up. He uses illness to underline the blessing of good health.

God uses fire to teach us about water. He uses earth to explain the value of air. He uses death to show us the importance of life."

~ paulo coelho, the Warrior of the Light

and I borrow his words again today because God is underlining the blessing of good health in my life . . .

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

the grand adventure

last weekend I went yurting.
ok, that's not really a verb, but I like the way it seems to describe the experience.

to be literal: I snowshoed for a handful of miles, through the woods in a section of the Uintah mountains, and stayed in a yurt for the weekend.

it all came together rather serendipitously, and it was just one of those great experiences to document in life's book.
I'd been to a yurt once before, probably 10 years ago, and it was only for dinner. a large group of us snowshoed and cross-country skied back into the yurt, maybe a half mile or so, and then were served a gourmet meal prepared by chefs right there in the yurt. we ate, we drank, we laughed . . . and then we made our way back to our cars and headed home.

this weedend's yurting provided a completely different experience.

last friday bill, my 2 daughters (almost 13) and their friend (14) loaded up our backpacks with sleeping bags, gear, clothes, books and food, and piled into the car for a drive to evanston, wyoming, then along the mirror lake highway to the parking lot at the base of the trailhead.
once there we strapped on our shoeshoes, pulled on and cinched our backpacks, and began our ascent.
after about 100 yards a child asked, how much farther?
and to shorten an incredibly long story, I will just say that one of my daughters came up with this wisdom during our trip:
the truth is not good.
but a lie is bad.
so the best thing to say is, we're making progress.

it was a long trek in to the yurt.
it was snowing.
the sun went down.
it got dark.
then the moon came up.
it was lighter.
but cold.
and uphill.
with heavy backpacks.
and hungry bellies.
we kept making progress for a long time . . .

those 3 girls were absolutely amazing. they were exhausted, miserable, cold, weak, and unsure of their ability to make it.
and they made it.
we all made it, and those darn "ridge yurt" signs we shone our headlamp on were the best things we'd seen all month.
we eventually thawed, and refueled, and the chatter started within 10 minutes of having dinner in our bodies, as the yurt gradually warmed from the heat of the wood stove and our relief and exaltation at having arrived relatively intact.

the next night we went for a moonlight showshoe, up to the ridge above the yurt, with a view that spread for miles and seeped deep into our souls. we shirked the trail for otter-like sliding over the edge and down to the bottom, giggling and hollering into the silence that extended for miles around us.

the hike back out took roughly half the time our hike in had taken, as we snacked on the remnants of our weekend's food and guzzled melted snow-water. and though we all reached the end saying "that was so fast . . . I could go further," I believe that those words contained just a titch of (in bill's words) false bravado.

it was good to be in a warm car.
it was good to visit a real bathroom.
it was good to go to wendy's for a burger.

and it was good to get home and dump all of our smoky belongings on the floor, sorting out who belonged to what.

though I'm thrilled that I had my yurting experience, and so grateful that the 3 girls got to have it as well, my heart is most warmed by the fact that those 3 girls learned that they are capable of more than they ever believed.
they will be able to look back on this and say, yeah, I showshoed 10 miles that weekend, climbing over 1000 feet up, and spent a great weekend yurting.

Monday, March 9, 2009


whenever I return from an adventure I have to gradually transition myself back into everyday life.
I had a grand adventure this past weekend, and will write about it soon, but today I am choosing to write about the grand transition back into "normalhood."

normalhood: the activities, behaviors, and attitudes that make up my typical, daily life.

which, today, included:
lots of laundry
feeding children
shuttling children
feeling some gratitude
answering work phone, cell phone, home phone
making calls on work phone, cell phone, home phone
arriving on time for appointments
shipping orders
feeling some intensity in my well-used muscles
opening snail mail
checking email, hoping for something fun or profitable
paying bills, completing forms and otherwise creating outgoing mail
loving my kids
taking goods delivered by UPS and business partner and putting them where they belong
putting kid (and my) things where they belong
going to store for milk and veggies

and so on.

what this transition process adds to my normalhood is both tangible (more things to unpack, clean, and put away, a pile-up of mail, email, and phone calls to wade my way through, things like that) and intangible (the mental regrouping).
it's the mental regrouping that I pay more attention to, as it's a fascinating process:
I love to go away, and live an experience that has absolutely nothing to do with normalhood, and a little of that experience always comes home with me, lives with me, and forever tweaks, just a tiny bit, what my normalhood is.

when I was away this past weekend I existed without a single aspect of this everyday life I lead. this, of course, is the draw and pull of vacationing. this daily life of mine ceased to exist for 48 amazing hours.
and although some of life hit me in the face within 2 minutes of pulling in my driveway, I am still carrying some of the joy and energy of my weekend experience, with tempers the severity of the returning-to-normalhood shock.

only 92 percent of me is here.
the rest is still on a ridge in the uintahs, looking out over peaks and valleys, the sky above me deep indigo and speckled with the brightest stars I've ever seen, a glorious creamy moon shining across the hills and sparking snow crystals all around me.

maybe 94 percent of me will be here tomorrow, and I'll gradually work my way up to being fully here. but my cells will hold the experience for me, and there will always be a little bit of that ridge within my skin and in the fabric of my soul.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

the lost hour

the hour we lost today must have been the hour when I was supposed to write this essay.
because here I am, much much much past my bedtime, sitting at the computer because I didn't get this done earlier and the day has left.
it was wonderful this evening to look at the clock and see 6:30 pm, then to look through my windows and see a bright, sunny sky.
the trade-off, of course, is that my mornings will return to 5:30 am deep darkness, with return trips home at 7 am in nearly the same.
my early morning rides are still in the distant future.
I miss them.
I miss the solitude, the peace, the small arc of light thrown by my headlight. I miss the opportunity to ride under moonlight, to watch the moon shadows dance and shift as I ride across them.
I miss the chill of pre-dawn air and the counterbalancing increase of my core temperature as I push against gravity and move upward in the dark.
I miss the howl of the coyote, the quiet call of the owl, the rustling of nocturnal creatures completing their nightly missions before the lightening of the sky brings their work to an end.

it's 45 degrees as I type this, and we are expecting snow showers in the early morning hours. overnight lows for the next week range from 24 to 35 degrees, and it will be dark until shortly before the sunrise at 7:48.

I am dreaming to think about an early morning ride any time in my near future.

and so, darn it all, I will head to bed, and you now know what I will be dreaming about.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

a break from me

I'm tired of myself, therefore it stands to reason that you might be, as well.
so today I will treat you to the words of one of my favorite authors, paulo coelho.

this is a page from his book warrior of the light: a manual (short notes on accepting failure, embracing life, and rising to your destiny) that I opened to, randomly, this morning:

"The Warrior of the Light is terrified when making important decisions.
'This is too much for you,' says a friend. 'Go on, be brave,' says another. And so his doubts grow.
After some days of anxiety, he withdraws to the corner of his tent where he usually sits to meditate and pray. He sees himself in the future. He sees the people who will benefit or be harmed by his attitude. He does not want to cause pointless suffering, but nor does he want to abandon the path.
The Warrior allows the decision to reveal itself.
If he has to say 'yes' he will say it bravely. If he has to say 'no' he will say it without a trace of cowardice."

may I always remember to walk with courage and shoulders back and high.

Friday, March 6, 2009


this morning I was at the gym by 5 so that I could be home by 6:15.
my 16-year-old son left on a bus headed to las vegas this morning, and I had to prepare his "lunch" (a chicken on ciabatta sandwich, 2 PB&J's, 2 granola bars, 5 chocolate chip cookies, a large bag of doritos, and a 2-day supply of beef jerky) and deliver him to school by 6:45. picture, if you can, a charter bus with 42 male, high school age lacrosse players, on a 7 hour trip to a tournament, missing a school day, free from teachers and parents for three days . . .

it was like a reunion at the gym: I walked in at 5:02 to see nick, bunny, and richard already busy on their chosen cardio machines. a year ago I was consistently there with them each morning at 5. but this year my arrival time is closer to 5:40, and by 6 am I have waved goodbye to all 3 of them.
nick asked me this morning what was wrong, could I not sleep?
ah, even if I couldn't sleep, I doubt I would drag myself out of bed and go to the gym because of it.

I paused a lot this morning.
I always arrange my workout so that I alternate exercises, letting one muscle group rest while I work on another: I'll do lunges paired with seated rows, then leg curls paired with superman flies, and so on. this way I can keep moving, and make the most of my time there. I don't like to waste my precious time. I'm forever thinking about the order of my workout, planning what will be next based on machine and floor space availability and letting my legs or arms recover before fatiguing them again.

but this morning, I found myself adding a few moments' rest in between some of my activities. sometimes it was to stretch, and sometimes it was to let my heartrate drop back down. and once or twice it was just to wipe sweat off my forehead.
but I didn't rush myself through a single one of those pauses.

richard, bunny, and nick all left before me, and when I left the place was hopping with the next wave of regulars, the cardio machines humming and weight machines clanking and whirring.

driving home a little after 6, I remembered again how much I love the early early morning, knowing that I've already got a leg up on my day.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

rules of engagement

a big announcement is cruising around the globe, and it finally reached little old me yesterday:
brad and ivy and going to get married.
well, at least they're engaged.
I think they'll get married.

even though she has said loudly and clearly, more than one time, I'm not the marrying kind.

it all comes down to never say never.

doesn't it?

I first became acquainted with brad and ivy during power camp 2 winters ago. brad is your typical, hunky, fit, clean-cut minnesotan who now lives in our earthly version of heaven, utah. ivy is a petite brunette fireball, quick-witted and quick-muscled, game for any adventure brad or the world might throw her way.
ivy played lacrosse in college (which would be MIT), and ivy sells airplanes for a living.
ivy is no wallflower: no shrinking violet aspects to that girl.
they do "adventure sports" vacations: would you care to take a guess about what those are? I'll tell you this: they all involve dirt and sweat and things like mountain biking, kayaking, and trail running, one after the other after the other until any normal human would drop like a towel-whipped fly. in addition, they road bike like crazy, doing those centuries just for fun on a given saturday morning, and flying past me on the 200+ mile rides. they smile and say hi, then brad throws the tiniest bit more quad into his pedal stroke, and I am left to eat their dust.

they are on the upper end of being kids, as brad has passed the big 4-0 mark, and ivy is a generous half-dozen years behind him. but this slows them down not at all. this year they are both instructors of power camp, which means not only are they fit enough to take and perform well at the classes, they are at a level where they can teach the darn things. (which means they can both DO the work and BREATHE well enough to be able to TALK while they're doing it . . . a feat I only dream of performing.)

back to the engagement.
I am happy for them, because as great a couple as they have always appeared to be, there is just something even cooler about a couple who is willing to take that huge step and plant their relationship in the sacred ground of commitment.
everyone who knows them knows them as brad-and-ivy, so there will be little change for us outsiders who look in.
but for them it will be different, in ways that only they will perceive and experience.

I hear the universe clapping it's hands in joy and anticipation of another deepening commitment to experience all of what comes with couplehood.

way to go, you two.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

march forth

today is one of my favorite days of the year, because it gives us explicit instructions for how to proceed:
march forth.

how many other days during a year are we given such help?
exactly none.

so today, I will be marching forth. into whatever it is life will be bringing to me.
and I really have no idea what that might be.
I of course have hopes and dreams and desires, but my experience so far in this life here on earth is that you can't plan too much on anything.
a great activity I've discovered is to put myself back a year, two years, five years, and to try to remember what I was doing, thinking, and planning at that point. which I then compare to my current existence: this always brings a smile to my face and a laugh to my belly. because it always involves a who would have thought commentary.

monday night I received a gift from someone, and I want to share it here. it's a small piece of artwork, a simple watercolored sketch of wings with words penned over it, done by a local artist named Cindy Memmott. the words written on this seem appropriate to my musings today:

Oh beautiful angel, may I understand the wisdom of the winds bringing newness and change to my world.
I am grateful for the wind and release my cares to it.
I breathe in and know
all is well.

to which I will only add,
and now I march forth.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

tabula rasa

all day long I've been thinking about what I want to write here, and I keep coming up with a big tabula rasa.
that's a blank slate, in case you're not up on your latin.
I couldn't tell you how many times I've sat here, believing I have nothing to say. sometimes I dredge little scraps of thoughts up from the deep recesses of my brain, and on occasion, the scraps blossom into complete mini essays. other times they remain as scraps, barely worth typing out and relaying to you.
sometimes my thoughts are bursting from my cerebral seams and I can't wait to throw them out on this virtual paper, arrange them into some semblance of order, and share them with you all.
sometimes I sit here and literally beg the universe for guidance.
from time to time, guidance appears to jump into my fingers, and I let them guide me.
once in a while I pull genuine inspiration from seemingly nowhere, and I amaze myself.

not tonight.

tonight I am begging my children for computer time, listening to them play piano (both what they are supposed to practice and a greater amount of what they just want to play) and music on the computer and on their ipods, and playing my usual "peacekeeper" role as one after the other gets on the third one's nerves.
I could blame my lack of inspiring subject matter on all the ruckus around here and the constant interruptions (mom, where's my lunchbox? mom, I need to get back on the computer, mom, did you see what I made in math class today, mom, let me show you my letter I had to write for english, mom can I have a cookie, who ate all the brownies?? . . . ). but the reality is that even in the calm silence of my day here today, I was thought-less and inspiration-free.

a big component of maturity is being able to accept what is.
and tonight, I am accepting that it is okay for my mind to be a tabula rasa.

Monday, March 2, 2009

not for those who don't believe in God

I lay on a big rock in a river yesterday.
soaking in bright sunlight, the chill of the rock meeting my warm body and neutralizing itself to just a pleasant reminder of winter beneath my shoulder blades.
for a while I was queen of my hill, free of any cares or concerns, one with nature, filled with the simple pleasure of just being.
water rushing around me, the splash and thunder in my ears, I imagined myself in the midst of a great crashing river on the hottest day of summer.

actually, it was a huge rock on the edge of an end-of-winter sluggish creek, frozen edges and slow moving water limping lazily down the slight slope. the rock was huge and old and bumpy, with enough toeholds along one edge to allow me an easy climb up. the water may have gurgled a time or two, but the crashes and splashes were all in my imagination.

what it truly was, was quiet, and peaceful, and it reminded me of a phrase from the Bible, be still and know that I am God (psalm 46). the be still part is the important part: the latter comes along once you accomplish the former.
that is, if you are outside.
how can you not feel and know God when surrounded by trees and brooks and rocks and sagebrush? by shelves of snow that cling to roots and sucking mud that grabs your shoes, by pebbles and boulders the everything in between that have adjusted their positions atop this living planet for thousands and thousands of years?

I do not have all the answers. in fact, I am often baffled by life and the way it sometimes presents itself to me.
but when I can rest with my spine flattened against a massive boulder, the sun pouring over my body, the air calm and filled with the minute sounds of continued life, I can accept that I don't need to have all the answers.
that they will come when it's time.
that they may come in unexpected ways and in unlikely looking packages.
that they may dance into my life, may wander in slowly, or may come bearing down like a freight train.
but lying on a rock in the sun is the surest way I know to be still, and to know, and to connect again with my inner river of patience.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


I love the feeling of successfully jumping one of life's hurdles.
there is little out there that's better than that feeling of mastery, of success, of triumph.
and I can get it from the silliest of little things.

last evening I learned to do something new, and I won't go into it other than to say it's something that I'd never done before, that I thought could be painful, and that I wasn't sure at all about doing all by myself. but I did it, I did it well enough that the end result was acceptable, and I survived the whole experience.
and at the end, I have this increased sense of pride in myself, and a heightened belief that I can do more things than I often give myself credit for.

it's up there with plumbing tricks: fixing my leaking bathroom sink, and replacing guts of my toilet.
it's there with learning to care for and clean my bike, even those tricky little spots where gears and chains and cables perform functions I don't really understand.
it's there with hanging my own Christmas lights and replacing sprinkler heads and cleaning gutters and interpreting instruction manuals and directions for installing whatever needs to be installed.

the other day I was with a friend who was describing a bike ride. he told me that the ride started off with a climb, and looked at the (none-too-slight) hill in front of us and said, it's like that. no warm up, you just start climbing something as steep as that.
I looked at the hill, trying to gauge its severity and grade, and then replied, that's okay. I can do anything.

which is the gift I've received from these past few years of no longer being married, and of becoming a cyclist. all of my possibilities have been pulled from within me, tested, stretched, and yanked, screaming and clawing at times. the princess in the ivory tower was forced to become a chambermaid, and while doing so discovered that she was pretty darn good at being a maid. she might miss aspects of that tower, but all in all, she is a deeper, richer, fuller human being for giving it up.

I can do anything.

and that's a comforting, vitalizing, powerful feeling.