Month: June 2012

Confession…Sometimes I Too Hate Cyclists Even Though I Am One

Whenever I tell someone I am a “cyclist” (I have to put that word in quotes because I’m less of a die-hard cyclist and more of a person who rides a bike occasionally for exercise), I get the same reaction. There is a pause followed by this statement: “You know what I hate about cyclists?” As soon as this statement is uttered, I know the rest of the information that will follow. They don’t need to say a word. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The things you hate about cyclists are the same things other cyclists despise about cyclists. True story.

While out riding today, the first day of the Colorado MS 150, I am absolutely certain I witnessed first hand the myriad things you despise about cyclists. There are the cyclists who think it’s perfectly acceptable to ride 4 abreast, encroaching upon one entire car lane in the process. There are the cyclists who don’t obey traffic laws, perhaps refusing to stop for traffic lights or stop signs. There are the cyclists who while passing another cyclist or a pedestrian fail to announce their presence with a simple, courteous “passing on your left.” Certainly, there are other complaints, but those are the top three I hear.

I can assure you I saw every one of those cycling infractions played out during our ride today. Multiple times, even. Every time it happened, I shook my head and muttered a choice expletive. Cyclists who ride without obeying the rules of the road and using proper cycling etiquette are more a threat to my safety than passing cars. Negligent cyclists on the road frighten me more than semi trucks doing 60.

I would love it if I could change these cyclists’ behavior. It would make my biking experiences far more enjoyable. Truth is, though, I can’t rein them in anymore than you can convince the mouthy guy at the football game not to drop the F-bomb repeatedly in front of your kids. I don’t know why some cyclists behave like a**hats. I wish I did. Is it that American attitude of entitlement that makes them feel they are above the law? Are they simply ignorant? Maybe it all boils down to a personality defect? I’m not sure, but please know that if I could fix it to increase my safety I would do it.

Not all cyclists ride with their heads stuck up their butt. Most cyclists are cautious and decent. But, it’s the misguided antics of a small percentage that stand out. Come on. You know that one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch, right? So before you unload your grievances on the next cyclist you meet, remind yourself that not every cyclist is a bad one. Try to cut us some slack. We know some other riders are idiots. We are just trying really hard to forget it.

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Hell…Swimsuit Shopping Be Thy Name

Me in the least disgusting option I tried on.

Today I did something dangerously ill-advised. Against all better judgment, I went swimsuit shopping. This is a feat far more hazardous than being one of the first shoppers in the door at Walmart on Black Friday. We’re going on this family trip in about a month, and it occurred to me that perhaps I should have a more modest swimsuit for this journey. No reason for my in-laws to have to see me with my midriff showing. (Truthfully, there’s no reason for anyone to have to see me that way, but I don’t have to look strangers in the eye again.) Anyway, a friend told me that she had bought a good suit recently at the Eddie Bauer outlet. She is an excellent bargain shopper, so I figured I should check it out. Nothing worse than spending a lot of money on something you don’t want to buy in the first place, right?

Well, wait a minute. I take that back. There is something worse than going shopping for a swimsuit and spending a bunch of money on something you don’t even want to buy in the first place. You can take your 9 and 11 year old sons to the store with you when you do it. I can’t decide if I am a candidate for sainthood or the insane asylum. Anyway, Joe had his iPad and Luke was playing games on another device, so I figured that would buy me about 20 minutes. I set them outside the entrance to the fitting rooms in a couple chairs and hastily started my search for a one-piece suit that would not make me look like either my 9 year old self or my grandmother.

I hurriedly grabbed four suits, found an open fitting room, and began the insidious process of stripping down to my skivvies in front of a dubiously lit, full-length mirror. Shudder. I quickly turned my back to my image and coerced my body into the first suit. I turned around for the grand reveal. It was less than grand. As is the case with many one-piece suits, this one flattened my tiny chest into a barely discernible fleshy wrinkle. Ick. I rid myself of that suit, and started on the next one. Before I knew it, I was through all four with nary a candidate in sight. I got dressed to search for more suits, hoping that when I got back out there a curious and ethereal light from heaven would be illuminating my dream suit.

It did not happen. The boys were still semi-quiet, however, so I grabbed six new suits and headed back to the changing room. As I was in there, squeezing myself into suit after suit like sausage into casings, my boys seemed to get louder. I could not figure out why this was. Then I realized they had entered the fitting rooms and now were right outside my door. Apparently my 20 minutes were up. I adjusted myself into a suit and opened the door.

“What are you doing in here? You need to be quiet,” I chided.

They stared at me and said nothing.

“What?” I said, feeling suddenly quite self-conscious in my mom suit. “Is it bad?”

“Nice,” Luke said. “Good. Like it.” (Have I mentioned that Luke is my favorite child?) He was obviously trying to hurry the process along by being my Yes Man. Still, I appreciated the positive comment.

Then, just when I was feeling good about Luke’s approval, Joe laughed. I glared at him with the burning heat of a thousand suns. Finally realizing his misstep, he tried to cover with a quick, “Nothing. Never mind.”

I decided to ignore him, shut the door, and get back to work. One thing was certain. I was not going to go to another store to endure further torture. I was leaving Eddie Bauer with an appropriate suit for our trip. It no longer mattered which one. I just had to get out of there because the confidence I had entered the store with was shattered. Ten flimsy pieces of fabric had taken me from intelligent, self-assured woman to whimpering, whining child. I was broken. I tried on two more suits, grabbed the one I despised least, and headed to the check out counter with my bona fide “mom” swimsuit. I was done.

Buying women’s swimwear is a total crap shoot. Hubby could not believe I tried on 12 suits just to find one that didn’t make me want to vomit or cry. It doesn’t matter what size a woman is, either. The experience is the same. We all have what we perceive to be figure flaws. We all try to minimize them. The goal is to find a suit we can be seen in that doesn’t make us feel bad about ourselves. If we find one that makes us feel confident and sexy, that’s a total bonus. Most times, however, we’re content to find one that makes us feel not totally unattractive.

Sometimes I think about the Victorian era swimsuits…short-sleeved black dresses worn with bloomers and black stockings. As uncomfortable as that costume would be for swimming, at least you had no concern about baring your midriff roll or your post-baby stretch marks or the cellulite you inherited from your grandmother. Everything was covered up and left to the imagination. There’s some wisdom in that somewhere. I find it right about the time I start to try on the first of twelve impossible swimsuits.

 

Some Things Are Worth Saving For Later

One of four pages of ticket stubs I have from my sordid teenage years. Concerts have always been my thing.

Tonight I’m going back to the 80’s to see The English Beat with a few girlfriends. Two of these friends have known me for a very long time. I’ve known Kerry since grade school, and I met Kayla in the 7th grade. I liked Kerry right away because she had a nice Polish last name like mine, and I thought Kayla was so sophisticated because she had an eyelash curler and had heard of U2 before anyone else I knew. I try not to think about the things these girls witnessed because I’m still trying vehemently to deny some events from my teenage years. (Hopefully their ability to remember is as poor as mine.) One of the reasons I hoped I would not have a daughter was because I was once a teenage girl. I never liked teenage girls. Not even when I was a teenage girl. Oh…the game playing, the conniving, the rumors, the theatrics! I could fill books with my idiocy. Wait. I did. I kept a journal all those years. It’s horrifying.

All this preparing myself for a night out with friends I’ve known for over 30 years got me to thinking about the first real sleepover party I attended. I was 13. It was at Sandy’s house across the street from my own. Sandy, like Kayla, was also very sophisticated. She had moved here from North Carolina and she introduced me to great music from Elvis Costello. She and Kayla slowly divested me from my parents’ music, which consisted of Sonny and Cher and Barry Manilow. Not kidding. Anyway, the sleepover that night was typical. There was music, candy, and silly girl antics.

At one point, someone took my bra, got it wet, and stuck it in the freezer while I was off doing something incredibly lame like jumping around singing songs from Foreigner 4. When it came time to go to bed, I crawled into my sleeping bag to find it wet. There I discovered my once-frozen training bra (which never really got much beyond the training stage, sadly), which had been placed inside the flannel bag and was now completely thawed. Ugh. I was beyond annoyed. Being a teenage girl, I pitched a little hissy fit, took my sleeping bag, and in an overly dramatic fashion stomped myself right out of the house and right across the street to my own comfortable and dry bed. Party pooper.

I look back on those days now and roll my eyes. (Some teenage girl behaviors are never lost). So many stupid things in so few years. Most of them done in the name of some silly boy whom I can barely remember now. Luckily, most of my friends from those days lived those naive, childish moments right along with me. Kerry and I once drank too much and upon hearing her parents come home dumped the remaining contents of our opened beers into her fish tank. Brilliant. Kayla and I used to spend hours sitting outside the Rainbow Music Hall talking to cute, mod boys while waiting to hear bands who hadn’t yet made it big…bands like The Cure and INXS…hoping we’d meet them or at least catch a glimpse of them getting off their tour bus. We did get a signature once from the drummer of Wang Chung (back in their Dance Hall Days, before the horribly overrated Everybody Wang Chung tonight nonsense). I suppose it was all part of being a teenage girl.

I don’t miss those days, but I am infinitely glad I’ve still got some friends from that time in my life now. I’m giddy to see Dave Wakeling and The English Beat tonight at the Bluebird. For a few hours, I won’t even care if their music makes me feel 13 again. I won’t stop myself from singing “Tears of a Clown” too loudly, all the while remembering the immature boy who broke my heart when I was so much younger than I am now. And, as I’m dancing with my friends to “Save It For Later,” everything will be right with the world. Although I’ve put drama of my teenage years behind me, the best things from those days still make me happy.

Today I Present…The Poseur Blog Post

Our pop-up camper, situated in a meadow near Redstone, Colorado.

I went to bed last night with visions of the Flatirons in Boulder on fire, some of my favorite hiking spots charred and left as ash. My thoughts drifted to the 32,000 people evacuated from Colorado Springs and the cadets asked to leave the Air Force Academy, wondering if the firestorm nightmare would stop before it reached their home. And, I was thinking about the folks in Fort Collins who are approaching their third week with a fire that has burned over 87,000 acres and is still only 65% contained. As a consequence of the barrage of images of homes consumed by fires and landmarks reduced to nothing, I walked around this morning in a smoky haze of sadness. My beautiful home state is burning.

I’m sure my fondness for “home” is the same as everyone else’s. I’ve been fortunate enough to live most of my life in this gorgeous state. During the years that I lived away, I would drive back home and upon passing the Welcome to Colorful Colorado sign I would instantly feel more at peace. As much as I love travel, I love Colorado more. I am the person I am because of my life experiences here. The mountains are in my blood. When I die, I want my ashes scattered here. This is where I belong. Plain and simple.

But, in all my sadness today, feeling this incredible sense of loss for places I’ve known and loved that are either burning or in danger of it, I had a revelation. All is not lost. At least, not yet. I started thinking about next week, our national holiday. There will be no fireworks this year; fire bans statewide have ensured that. But, there’s still so much of Colorado that can be celebrated even without fireworks. So, next Wednesday morning, fires be damned, we’re hooking the pop-up to the FJ Cruiser and we’re heading to the White River National Forest near Marble, Colorado. For three days and nights, the wind in the aspens will be our patriotic tune and the shooting stars will be our fireworks. The more I think about it, the more perfect our holiday becomes. We will celebrate our nation’s independence by enjoying our own. What could be better than that?

(Post script…written at 8 p.m.)

Yawn and ick. I just reread what I wrote earlier today and didn’t have a chance to getting around to publishing. Sometimes my writing even bores me. Holy saccharin schlock. I realize that I am writing this blog to learn about the writing process, to get into the practice of writing, and to understand more about how writing “works” (or doesn’t work) for me. What I discovered today is that there are days when you will write and feel like a total hack. You’ll wonder why you even wasted your time. Still, that’s part of the experience of writing. So, I’m publishing this as is, and later I can remember that some days it just doesn’t work, and that’s okay. Like life, with writing there will be good days and bad days. Chalking today up to a bad day and moving on. Hopefully tomorrow finds me less melancholy and more inspired.

 

 

Do Not Darken My Door…Unless You Are A Girl Scout

What does NO mean exactly? Am I confused?

This evening, after five consecutive 100+ degree days with air permeated by smoke from wildfires, we experienced a brief period of rain at our house and were able to open our doors and windows to breathe some fresh and slightly cooler air. It felt like the first day of spring. It was heavenly. It was peaceful. It was interrupted…by a ring of our doorbell. A twenty-something gentleman wearing a dress shirt and tie was at our door. Damn. We were caught at home. No denying our presence with him staring right at us through our open door while we ate our dinner. I hate it when that happens!

Hubby, who gets to be in charge of these type of situations because I refuse, approached the door. The young man started in with his sales pitch. Steve cut him off.

“We don’t accept solicitations,” he said as firmly but politely as he could.

“What about peddlers? Do you accept peddlers?” he quipped.

I had to give it to him. He has clearly been doing this for a while. He was quick with the lines.

“Nope. We don’t accept those either. Sorry,” Steve said with conviction.

The man started explaining why he was here. Steve cut him off again.

“Someone in this neighborhood is going to call the cops on you,” he said.

Wow. I thought that was pretty bold of Steve to say, even though it was fairly likely true. Our neighborhood has a strict no-solicitation policy. It is posted at the front entrance on the main thoroughfare. Any business solicitor who is in our neighborhood must have a permit obtained from the City of Littleton and must be able to provide a copy of it for homeowners if asked. If not, they are not legally allowed to go door-to-door in our neighborhood. Lots of neighborhoods and cities have these types of laws, but not many people are aware of them. Thanks to our overzealous community members who get annoyed about every single little thing (not kidding…one woman managed to get hot air balloons banned from flying over our neighborhood from the state park across the road), we know about this law. This law does not actually mean anything because salespeople still approach our doorstep non-stop and our only recourse is to file a complaint about them, but at least when they show up we have a nice way to explain why we’re closing the door in their face.

But, what gets me every single time is why we feel at all feel a need to explain ourselves to someone who shows up unannounced and uninvited on our doorstep. Steve and I are genuinely nice people most of the time. I suppose this is our problem. If we were mean, we wouldn’t care. We’d just slam the front door and go on about our day without a second thought. Instead, we were taught to be polite, so we make excuses, we get into discussions, we converse with these people because they’re human beings. Even though we’re not buying what they’re selling, we somehow feel obligated to listen to them. It’s crazy. It’s our house. This is our property. We’re grown adults. We should feel completely comfortable sitting at our dining table ignoring the interruption because it’s our right to do so and there’s a sign posted directly above our doorbell noting our stance on unwelcome visitors. Still, we explain our behavior to these strangers as if we need to. We allow them to encroach upon our time when we shouldn’t. It’s borderline pathetic.

I think it’s time for Steve and I to stop being so dang nice to these interlopers. I swear, the next time a solicitor steps up to our open door, we are going to be changed people. We will be brave and resilient. We will resist the temptation to explain ourselves. We will walk to the door, simply say “no thank you,” close it, and go back to our meal without giving it another thought. No Soliciting means NO soliciting. Unless you’re selling Girl Scout cookies. Then No Soliciting means “I’ll take 8 boxes of Thin Mints, please.” What? You can never have too many Girl Scout Cookies.

The Quickest Way To Forget Your Troubles Is To Help Someone Else With Theirs

Bright and early on the second day of the MS150 last year. Cool enough for arm warmers. Wearing our team jersey. Go Goons!

This week I am focused on only one thing. Five mornings from now, hubby and I will be waking up at 4 and driving up to the starting location for this year’s Colorado MS150 ride. I’m trying to get excited about it. I am. It’s just not working. It’s not the riding I mind. I’ve trained. At least, I’ve trained as much as I have the previous two years when I’ve also done the ride. So, I think I’m ready to go on that front. I might be a bit sore next Monday, but I think that endurance, muscle, and seat-time wise, I’m ready to go. What’s freaking me out is the heat. While the current forecast for this weekend does not show us at 100 either Saturday or Sunday, it does show us in the high 90s. I’m not happy.

Truth is, I am what I call a “fair weather” rider. That means, I won’t ride when it’s below 50 because I don’t own the gear to stay warm enough and I really don’t want to buy it. Why would I? I have winter sports. I ski and snowshoe. I don’t need a nose frostbitten from cycling in freezing temps to make me feel I can get out in the winter. If there’s a good chance of any sort of precipitation, you can count me out of riding. Call me a wimp, but I shower plenty. I don’t need to go ride in the rain for that. And I choose not to ride when the temperature exceeds 85. So, training in this high and dry heat has been unpleasant. As I look toward a predicted high of 99 for Sunday’s ride, I feel myself shriveling up.

I’m going to do it, though. Well…barring heat stroke, hospitalization, and heavy smoke from the fires I’m going to do it. Why? Because I can suffer through two days in extreme heat on my bike to help raise awareness about MS in our state. I know too many people and families affected by this disease not to. Years ago, when I started doing these long-distance, fundraising events, I realized something about myself. I whine too much for too little reason. I’m healthy. My family is healthy. We have all our needs met and then some. It feels good to take the focus off myself for a few minutes. It’s humbling. It reminds me that I’m part of something bigger than the microcosm that is our family. I’m connected to others. So, I’m going to put on my big girl panties, deal with the heat, and ride for Michelle, Gretchen, Amy, Suzanne, Brad, Stacey, and the other 9,000 people living with MS in Colorado.

If you find yourself compelled to push yourself with athletic events, look for ones that support a worthy cause. There are oodles of charities that run wonderful events that would love your help. Yes. You have to raise money or pay a higher entry fee. You can do it. It is possible. I’ve done it six times now. I’ve never missed my minimum fundraising goal. And, in the end, the payout you get from helping someone else while achieving a goal for yourself is nothing but a win-win.

 

Today’s First World Problem…Solved

Steve enjoying the solution to our first world problem.

It’s been hot. Ridiculously hot. Today’s mountain bike ride with hubby, undertaken at 10:30 a.m., was conducted in 91 degree heat. By 2 p.m. when we were driving to REI our car registered a balmy 102. Three days ago, we saw 104 degrees, just one degree shy of the highest ever recorded temperature in Denver. To make matters worse, the entire state is a tinderbox. Firefighters are currently battling thirteen wildfires, which is five more than they were battling this morning. The smoke hangs heavy in the air reminding us that not only is it hot but it’s flaming hot. I’m starting to wonder when Satan will drop in for a visit because Hell is feeling a little chilly by comparison.

Tonight we’d planned to go to a neighborhood concert in the park, but as 5 p.m. rolled around we realized there was no way we were sitting outside for two straight hours in the hot, hot heat. Instead, we came home and collapsed in the air-conditioned comfort of our house. Then, the seemingly impossible happened. There was cloud cover and a slight breeze. We ventured out into the backyard to sit on our lovely flagstone patio, a patio that we haven’t had much of an opportunity to enjoy yet this summer. As we sat at our wrought iron table in the shade of our Japanese maple tree, we were still mostly baking. While the sun had abated, the heat remained far too noticeably.

“How do people who live near the equator stand it?” I whined. “It’s summer. I’m supposed to be able to enjoy the nice weather. I’m supposed to be able to enjoy the yard we worked on during the spring. It’s too hot to sit out here. Next year I’m not going to bother gardening.”

“This sounds like a first world problem,” Steve replied, hoping to shut me up.

“Well…I need a solution to my first world problem. The folks in the Congo are used to this. I am not.”

“You can always go back into your air conditioned house,” he suggested. It was a delicately veiled attempt to get rid of me, though, and I was not going that easily.

“Wait a second. Wait just one second,” I perked up. “Didn’t your parents buy us that crazy misting fan years ago? Where is that thing?”

“It’s in the basement, I think,” he replied with interest.  “I’ll go look for it.”

A few minutes later Steve emerged with this enormous fan that his parents had bought us years ago. I balked when it had arrived, wondering when we would use such a thing and where we would store it when we weren’t using it. In fact, we’d only used it once, about four summers ago. The past several summers have been far too cool and wet to warrant its presence. Steve plugged it in, hooked it up to the hose, and voila! We were enjoying the wasteful luxury folks in Vegas and Phoenix know so well…a misted patio.

The misted patio, of course, needed happy hour drinks. We poured ourselves a couple cocktails, settled back into our chairs, and reveled in the comfort provided by our own personal patio saver. We spent a couple minutes discussing how fortunate we are to have first world problems and not third world problems. Our eleven year old, who had joined us briefly, inquired about the difference.

“Well, a first world problem is not being able to find the cord to charge your iPod. A third world problem is having the well in the town run dry,” I told him. “What happens if your well runs dry?”

“You die of thirst,” Joe answered.

“Right,” I said. “And what happens if you lose your iPod charger?” I asked him.

“You buy a new one,” he replied.

“Yep. You see the difference between the things we deal with and the things other people in this world struggle with?”

“Uh huh,” he said, thoughtfully, before departing for the frigid basement.

As we sat reflecting on how blessed we are to have only first world problems to deal with, I realized that the metal chair I was resting my flip-flopped feet on was a bit hard on my heels.

“I need a pillow for under my feet,” I told Steve, hoping he would take the hint.

“Looks like you have a new first world problem,” was his answer.

“Yes,” I said. “I need a new servant apparently. The old one is becoming more and more unreliable.”