Skip to content

Posts from the ‘family’ Category

dear universe: you win

packed up and ready to go ... almost

Just when you think you have gotten “over the hump” –  the wrecked car, the tornados, all of the crappy stuff of recent weeks … When vacation time has arrived, and you are ready for a much-needed break and a week of bicycle adventuring – and then the unpredictable forces of the universe strike again, and you can only feel like you are on the losing team in the current competition.

At the end of May, our oldest son Mason left for a summer physics research internship at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.  We were thrilled that he was chosen for such a great opportunity, and he was excited to have the chance to spend his summer doing research with Dr. David Ernst (theoretical/computational physics, neutrino oscillation) and earning money at the same time.  It was a win-win.

With his books and bicycle in tow, he was off to a great start at Vanderbilt – absorbed in his work, enjoying new friendships with his professor and the team of researchers he was working with, exploring the city by bicycle during his hours off.

Mason at Vanderbilt

At home, Mark and I were packed up, excited and ready for our cycling vacation.  We were heading to Missouri to spend a week riding across the state on the Katy Trail – a trip I have wanted to take for several years, but we had never managed to get planned and scheduled until this summer.  It was not to be.

Got a jumbled phone call from the ER of Vanderbilt Hospital on Thursday night, the 16th.  One of Mason’s friends told us that they had been playing a game of Ultimate Frisbee on campus, and Mason had been “clocked” in a collision during play.  He had been knocked out, but was now conscious; had suffered a concussion and they were going to perform the routine head CT.  Later we learned he also had a shattered nose along with some chipped teeth – all of the information being very difficult to come by, given HIPA regulations, the fact that he was over 18, and complicated by his current lack of mental clarity – he wasn’t initially lucid enough to give permission to release information to us.  As a parent, it was agonizing.

We finally were able to speak with the attending doctor who assured us that there was no brain bleeding, and that felt it would be safe to release him with his room-mates looking after him through the remainder of the night and until we could get there.

(post-surgery ... he gave me permission to post)

at home, on the road to recovery

So, to condense the story … we’ve spent the better part of the last 4-5 days in Nashville.  Mason had surgery at Vanderbilt on Monday to “repair” his nose, and he continues to improve each day from the concussion – which has, truthfully, been the most disconcerting part of the whole ordeal.  We know that there are expected side-effects – loss of memory, difficulty in concentration, mood swings – all of which should improve over time.  It’s just difficult to see him struggling with “the foggy feeling” he’s experiencing, along with some short-term memory problems.

We brought him home yesterday for the remainder of the week.  Hoping that he will be feeling significantly better and recovered enough to return to Nashville and to begin to resume/continue his work at Vanderbilt next week.

We also brought his bicycle home to stay for a while.  I know he’s really disappointed that he won’t be able to be riding, but he also understands that it’s just too risky, given his head injury.  For now, all we can do is look forward to getting back on the bike when it’s safe to do so.

Finally … Dear Universe:  Please give us a break for a while, ok?

Mason on his bike ... a few weeks ago

disaster relief on two wheels

a hawk dropped into the frame

It is a very good thing that I completed #330daysofbiking when I did … I think I have just had the longest stretch of not being on a bicycle in several years.  Twelve days, no cycling; fourteen days of Red Cross Disaster Relief.   And not a moment of regret.  It has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.

Are things back to normal?  Hardly.  A funny thing about natural disasters  – from tornados, to hurricanes, earthquakes and floods – when cable news has moved on to the next breaking story, the communities that were effected will spend months, even years, recovering and rebuilding.   Healing –  on all levels –  takes a very, very long time.

I have to believe that almost everyone who lives here has been affected, either directly or indirectly.  Colleagues at work who have lost their homes, neighbors who have lost family members, friends at school who were severely injured … everyone is connected to the devastation to some degree.  Lives have changed.   At present, we are simply out of the immediate “crisis” mode.  Now begins the recovery.  And it will be a long ride.

My boys have all arrived home from college (for a few weeks, anyway), and on my first day “off” and away from the disaster efforts, I finally had a chance to take long and much-needed ride with my son Mason.

While too many familiar landscapes have been drastically altered and damaged, and it’s still nearly impossible to travel many of our local back roads without encountering various work crews still continuing the endless repairs and clean-up, I realized that I really needed a change of course.

I needed to leave the piles of rubble and the smell of burning pine behind me.   I needed some open space, green fields and fresh air.  I needed roadside daisies.  I needed to find beauty again.

And my heart lifted when I found that it was all still out there.

Getting out on my bicycle again, seeing green fields, being with my son, feeling the rhythm of  heartbeat, pedals and breath … it was my own personal disaster “relief”.

What lies ahead?  I am not entirely sure.  I have signed on with the Red Cross as a regular volunteer and have enrolled in their Disaster Services Human Resource System.  I’m continuing to help with follow-up work being coordinated through our local Chapter’s office, and am looking forward to continuing disaster response training and becoming an active responder.  I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with experienced Red Cross Disaster Relief teams who came in from around the country; I learned so much from them, and made some very close friendships along the way.

I also want to extend an enormous and overdue thank you to all of my friends (both local and cyber) who extended so much help and support – from your personal notes, to finding much-needed material items (including a twin bed), monetary donations, offers of manpower, and even mailing a hand-crafted prayer shawl across the country for a woman in our community.  Your generosity and kindness is unparalleled, and has been appreciated more than I can express.

Mostly, I have been forever touched by the individuals and families I have been privileged to serve and have gotten to know over the past few weeks.  You are in my heart, and I will never forget you.

(Slideshow:  amazing friends from Red Cross Disaster Relief)

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

heart-stopping

Let me begin by saying: nobody was seriously injured – nor were there any bicycles involved.

Yesterday afternoon I had one of those moments that every parent dreads beyond description – getting a phone call that your child was in an car accident. My youngest son was on his way to tennis practice after school and was stopped behind a van for a driver making a left-hand turn –  and moments later he was rear-ended by a driver who admitted to being “temporarily distracted”/momentarily not paying close enough attention. (I won’t even start on my abhorrence over cell-phones use in cars, texting, etc. – even though we don’t know if this was a contributing factor in this accident).

While I understand that accidents happen, and we are more than willing to forgive and forget, I hope that this will serve as a reminder to both the driver and to my teenage son (who is in that high-risk group, even though he was not at fault here): distracted driving is completely unsafe and irresponsible, and the outcome could have been much, much worse.   Sad business all around.

My cousin sent me a link to this video made by AT&T entitled “The Last Text” about texting while driving, which I made all of my boys watch, and I think it’s definitely worth viewing – here.

Grant is fine, a little bruised and shaken, but we are SO grateful that the outcome was as good as it was. I can always replace a car … had anything happened to my son, well, I can’t even think about it.

One thing that left me fairly shocked (although the attending police didn’t seem to find it unusual for some reason), was that even though the dash basically popped out, or was pushed out by the impact, the driver’s airbag didn’t deploy. I am a bit mystified.  Can someone explain?  I may be asking the folks at Honda about this.

why didnt the airbag deploy? (I wish someone could explain this to me)

As for bikes and cycling … well, I guess this is one way for me to be car-free for a while.  Mark will be driving my car, while Grant drives our other car.  Distances, along with Grant’s before- and after-school activities and Mark’s business travel make it necessary for them to use cars, while I can fairly easily get by on two wheels.  Good thing.

Meanwhile – don’t drink, text, use a phone, apply make-up, shave, read, or do anything else when you’re behind the wheel.    Please.  Please.

a beautiful way to be car-free

wandering road, wandering mind

There are typically a handful of days with each season that are absolutely perfect for cycling.  The weather is ideal, the landscape leaves you speechless – whether it be the height of color in the fall, a pristine day of snow, or the sweetness of spring in bloom.  This week, we’ve had a healthy dose of springtime splendor.

From the dogwoods to the lilacs to the tumbling wysteria, it’s been delight to the senses.  (And, admittedly, very frustrating to be without my camera … which, hopefully, will be back in my hands and repaired within the next week).

 

Yesterday as I was out riding and wandering the roads through green fields and blooming trees, I guess my mind was wandering as well.  It’s not that I feel a need for a new “project” like #330daysofbiking, but simply considering some cycling fun that I want to try and plan for the months ahead.

And during the first few miles of my ride – when the day is so beautiful and the legs are just warming up, feeling fresh and strong – I start imagining a few crazy ideas … like how about a dawn-to-dusk ride?

Being the good parent that I am (heh-heh!), I am considering how to recruit a couple of the boys, along with my dear husband, to hop on bikes some morning just before sunrise, and pedal around for an entire day – yes, the entire day – right through to sunset.  Not continuously, and certainly not hundreds of miles or anything too nuts,  but stopping for meals, maybe a nap, a little sight-seeing on the side – but just spending the entire day tooling around (and probably fairly leisurely) on bikes.  Yeah … #dawntodusk, if I was inclined to start another (stupid) hashtag.

So whadya say, guys?  😉

And then of course, as I continue riding for another two hours and my wandering mind begins to return and focus on my tiring legs and the sunburn I’m beginning to feel on the backs of my arms, I think: dawn-till-dusk?!! Whose half-baked idea was that anyway?!

We’ll see.  The idea hasn’t yet left my head … I will just wait to see what the boys have to say (envisioning the rolling of eyes, and a great deal of head-shaking).  😉

 

looking forward to things to come


 

the day after

 

by the river

So what do you do the day after #330daysofbiking?  C’mon … did you really think there was any other option?  😉

Two of the boys were home for a brief weekend visit, with the local Battle of the Bands being the driver.  The boys’ band The Night Shines took the win this year (YAY!) – and they have a free download of their song Forest Fire on their bandcamp site, for anyone interested).

Ross and I had a perfect day to take a great ride up to and along the river.  After all of the grey and rain of the past days, it felt so good to have the sun shining.

While I don’t intend to keep a running tally of how many days I ride over the next year or so, I may just keep a personal log of the days I don’t – which hopefully will be kept to a bare minimum.

The perfect cycling life lesson appeared in my friend Jim’s (@bikerly) blog today; it can’t be said any better than this:

 

bikes, the people I love, and a beautiful day - it doesn't get any better

 

social network, social neighborhood

 

photo by Tavia McGrath

The photo above is from one of my ShutterCal friends, Tavia McGrath, from the greater Salt Lake area.  I was really moved when I saw it on her calendar – the sepia, the bikes, the old saddle and basket – and even more intrigued with her caption:

I live in a great, walkable neighborhood, but unfortunately it’s the exception rather than the rule around here. Big suburbs where you’re a slave to your car are the norm unfortunately. I feel lucky to be able to walk to the post office, the library, the grocery store, not to mention two big city parks. There are also a whole host of restaurants, coffee shops, and cool, independent stores all within walking and biking distance. It’s a great place to live!

(~Tavia McGrath)

We had a brief e-conversation about her neighborhood and the strong feelings we both have about the importance of social communities and sensible development with human-powered transport in mind.  From what she described, there are several up-and-coming neighborhoods in the Salt Lake area with the “livable community” tenets in mind – from attractive (non-cookie cutter) housing, small independent businesses, community gardens, and social events to miles of biking and pedestrian trails enabling people to take advantage of everything without depending on a car.

Sounds like a slice of heaven to me.

 

Grant on the greenway

This week has been Grant’s Spring Break, and we’ve been fortunate to have a few balmy spring-perfect days.  We spent some time riding around town – along with throngs of other folks who were out enjoying the gorgeous weather along the greenway.

And it always get me thinking about that famous movie line, “… if you build it, they will come.”  People genuinely want to walk, ride, and get out of the car when they are given the opportunity.  I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t rather walk to the corner store for the newspaper than have to drive, park and deal with the nearest congested StuffMart for the same thing.

In these times when far too much of our social connectivity is linked through cyberspace, from social networks to email and the rest of it, I really believe that many people crave more real social interaction.  From gathering at the coffee shop, or sitting at a sidewalk cafe table for lunch, or simply taking your kids and your dogs for a walk or ride along the greenway.

We crave a sense of neighborhood and a connection with the people within it, even at the most casual level.  While our “virtual” communities may seem limitless, and are not without merit (as I think about Tavia), they are not always as “human” as we need them to be.

I really hope that we can change this … that we start re-examining the direction of our “progress”.  That maybe moving forward will actually take us a little bit backwards –  to two wheels, two feet, and connections with real people.

 

around town

spring

 

 

 

 

 

back to the bike

the pink sleeve

the pink sleeve (... cold enough for jacket and gloves)

 

basically, the sum of my addictions

The week has gone from cold-ish and grey requiring jackets and gloves,  to warm and sunny with flip-flops and sleeveless shirts.  Such is March.  And it has been back on the bike with, well, perhaps some renewed enthusiasm – although I still have snow on the brain.

The big excitement of the week:

  • having Dillon home for spring break and getting to ride with him (although he is much too fast for me these days)
  • seeing the publication of several of my photos, including the cover photo, for VBT‘s 2011 Italy Bike/Walking Vacations catalog (and yes, with permission and compensation – thank you, Chaipel)
  • coconut cupcakes 😀 #FTW!

For #330daysofbiking, I have reached Day 316.  Two weeks (?!) to go ….

 

grey day and greening pastures

road repair roadblock {-P

riding (or rather, trying to keep up with) Dillon

riding (or rather, trying to keep up with) Dillon

beautiful spring day, students and their bikes on the local Lee University campus

 

my dear husband (via my camera) appears on the cover and in feature article of VBT's 2011 Italian Cycling Tours catalog

the snow excuse

 

there is nothing... NOTHING... better than this - sun, fresh snow, high mountains, my skis and first tracks though the trees

To the people who have known me best over the course of my life, they know with little doubt where my first love lies – on the snow, on skis, in the mountains.  As much as I am passionate about cycling, and as much as it has become such a big part of my life, there is nothing I love more than being on skis on a cold sunny day on top of a big mountain.  Nothing.  Period.  (Apologies to my beloved bicycles.)

A little background  … my father decided put me on skis when I was a pre-schooler, and I still have fond memories of first lessons in the mountains of Colorado and New Mexico before I was even able to read.  My dad became a National Ski Patrolman in the midwest where I grew up, which enabled us to ski virtually every day during winter.   I grew up racing and eventually became a ski instructor.   I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to ski in the summer for several years, when I shipped off to summer race-training camps on the high mountain glaciers each June.

 

with "my boys" at 10,000 ft - Storm Peak, Steamboat Springs

Skiing was a huge part of my life, of my family’s life … and despite ending up living in the snowless Southeast and raising my own family, the passion continues with my own boys, who have become incredible skiers in their own right – learning to ski in North Carolina, and skiing each year in the Rockies.   They have become skilled enough to ski everything on the mountain – from the trees to the double-black diamond chutes.

 

Ross shows how it's done ...

 

Mason heads down Storm Peak

powder day ... you can't really tell, but he's grinning ear to ear :)

powder day ... you can't really tell, but he's grinning ear to ear 🙂

So what does any of this have to do with biking?  Well for me, it appears that this crazy obsession/diversion of the trip to the mountains has managed to derail #330daysofbiking.  Since I managed not to get in a single day of cycling while out West, it appears I will be two days short of meeting my goal by April 1.  Rats.  But I just couldn’t help myself – the lure of the snow and the mountains was just too irresistible to do anything other than ski.  It’s my only excuse.

Despite this “failure” – and it is disappointing, because I was so close – I think it was good to have the interruption for sake of perspective.  Maybe it was good to get off the bike for a few days and revisit another passion with the people I love.

Someday I hope that we will be living in a place where I can set another (silly) goal – one that would look something like #100daysofskiing-and-#300daysofbiking.   Load the ski equipment onto the Xtracycle and pedal to the mountain for a day on the slopes.   (Although I might have to add in a #30daysofcupcakes and #100daysofknitting just to round things out 😉 ).

For now, I have a renewed enthusiasm to be on my bike again, and the quest continues to finish #330daysofbiking one way or another.  Since I can only blame my weakness for snow for the lack of cycling in recent days, I’m leaving a few last pictures from the mountains.  Sigh.

 

the snowy day tree

the USSA Junior National Freestyle Championships were being held on the mountain while we were there - these kids were unbelievable; our future Olympians

the art of spotting (and not landing on your head)

I had to restrain myself from buying a pair ... but I seriously thought these would look SO hot while riding my bike

the iconic symbol of Steamboat Springs ... the old barn on a snowy day

... and as the sun sets over the mountains

 

 

Day 300: Napolean Dynamite

 

Day 300: no shocks, no pegs, and I've never tried taking her off of any sweet jumps...

Today I reached day 300 of #330daysofbiking … and I am still wondering how I actually got here?  (Don’t even say “by bicycle”.)

I will be honest – I am sighing a big sigh of relief and happiness that I’ve managed to stay on target and am on the final stretch to meet this ridiculous goal.  For some reason, I was feeling … well, ridiculous.  A little giddy, a little goofy, and considerably nerdy for some reason.

I wanted to ride out to get a cupcake (but didn’t).  I didn’t want a “serious” ride today.    For other reasons unknown, the famous bicycle scene from Napolean Dynamite was on my brain today – as well as the Napolean Dynamite soundtrack song, Music for a Found Harmonium from Penguin Cafe Orchestra.  Ok, well that was on my iPod.   (But please listen and watch, for it is the only way you can appreciate my peculiar mindset.)

Dressed in skirt, tights and a sweater with ruffles (and I would’ve added a hat with feathers if I owned one) –  rather than “cycling clothes” –  I took Elisabetta out for a purely leisurely and fun ride through a local abandoned golf course (more about this place will come in a future post), riding on the golf cart paths.  No traffic, no people, no chasing dogs.  It was relaxing, it was fun, and it was probably a little bit silly and pointless basically riding around in a series of circles.  But I think it was what I needed.  To just let loose, to let my inner Napolean come out – to feel like a kid on a sweet bike.  Without the sweet jumps, of course.

 

no more golf carts

So … I have until April 1 to finish the last 30 days of biking (for #330daysofbiking).  Hard to believe that nearly a year has passed by, and even more baffling to realize that I may actually see it happen.  We’re heading to the mountains and going to be doing some spring skiing in March, and I was (am) afraid of not having access to a bike for several days.   But if all goes as planned, I still have enough “buffer” days to finish.  Fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, here are a few pics from the last few days of #330daysofbiking.  A little more serious, a little less my inner “Napolean”.  😉

 

a taste of springtime

in search of Holsteins

father and son ... Mason made a quick trip home last weekend; we had some beautiful riding together

they laugh and make jokes over the things I ask them to do for my camera 😉

I cannot master the panda {-P

 

snowmageddon 2011

 

eight and a half inches on the ground!

Well, it’s official … it actually snowed!  Snow Day fulfilled.  And basically the entire eastern end of the state of Tennessee (as well as north Georgia and Alabama) is paralyzed by the storm.

And, for the record, we are loving every minute!

The roads are mostly impassable at this point.  We just don’t have enough snow removal and salt spreading equipment to adequately clear the roads in a timely manner.  And with temperatures expected to remain at freezing or below, it could be a few days before conditions improve.

 

about as good as it gets; TDOT came by and plowed, but only a sparse handful of people were out driving

where are the porch steps?

So we spent the day playing, and skiing and sledding and generally messing around in the snow.  Biking proved to be a little too impossible without studded tires and too much ice on the roads.  So we hauled out our “vintage” cross-country skis, and Mark managed to use the tractor make a pretty decent ski track out in the field and back to the woods.

 

skiing on the tractor track

snowgoat

snowdog

snowkid (on the vintage skis)

 

I apologize for the absence of bicycles today … but hopefully tomorrow will bring a little change to that.  I suspect we are going to have a very interesting week ahead.  🙂

 

snowflower

snowfence