Thursday, June 24, 2010

How it all got started - aka "In the Beginning"

Those of you that don't know me personally may be wondering what made me decide to ride a bike after all this time. Those of you that do know me, probably assume that it is just one more hare-brained thing that I am up to, and that assumption though not incorrect, is hopefully like many other past assumptions of me, just a tiny bit under- estimated. That being said, I don't know what will happen in the long run, I can only speak of what I know and how I got here, on this particular journey, that led to me and a bike.

I have the heart of a dreamer and an adventurer like many do, but I also have a weird little mechanism inside me that triggers anytime I hear the word, "No". It is almost like some alien programming code kicks in upon hearing that word, and then watch out, no one can stop me, I can't even stop myself. I just do it, the thing that was associated with the word "No", whatever it is, but I digress. This bit of information is only useful to explain how I arrived here, in Southern California, starting my life over at the age of 30-something in 2004.

2004 was a pivotal year for me. It was 2 years after my dad died and my children's father decided it was as good a time as any to leave and start a new family with someone else. It was 1 year after I met the man that is now my husband and it was 6 months after I broke my leg in 2 places and shattered my ankle in an under-whelmingly lovely episode. It also was the year that my oldest son graduated from High School, joined the Marines and we left Texas just as fast as we could pack the boxes, shove them in the U-haul trailer and go.

It doesn't matter what the original reasons for coming to Cali were, what I know now is that it has been an adventure, a calling and it doesn't feel over yet. Part of that calling has come from the fire I have in me to enable my children to strive for impossible dreams, to live large and in no small part, the joy I get from helping them discover their gifts and talents and what fun we've had along the way! In the process of said dream chasing, the kids have been able to enjoy a few perks, one of which involved my daughter and her participation in an episode of a new game show on Nickelodeon called BrainSurge.

(See Video link below)

As you can see she won a guitar, a Diamond-Back bicycle and a trip to Lake Tahoe. The beauty of winning the bike is that it kicked off a wave of bike riding and bike purchasing in our family that is unfortunately still going strong at this point.

Remember that thing I said earlier about being told "no"? Well when I hear, "you can't ride a bike 30 miles a day to work at your age/weight/fill-in-the-blank"; that thing happens where I am going to do it or die trying. Why?, because I would rather die trying something than to never have lived. And, if I hear one more time: "Oh my gosh, you ride a bike how far?" or even better yet, after an assessing look from top to bottom where I am obviously sized up and found lacking, "Oh honey, good for you!" I think I will scream, under my breath of course. Seriously, I will just peddle a little faster putting distance between myself and the all the people that have ever told me "no" until all I hear is the wind whispering "yes" in my ears.

So I admit it, My name is Commuter Girl and I am a bike addict. The only problem?
I hope I never quit.

Commuter Girl

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

I’m not sure if Father’s Day really sticks out in the Holiday Calendar as something that special. It’s not a 3 day week-end after all and what do you really do on that day anyway? It’s one of those days that sort of sneaks up on you and you never feel quite prepared for it. Some families like mine, growing up, started the day by going to church and ended with bellies swollen from good Sunday dinner or some meat and potatoes from the grill. Nothing special, sport figures flickering on the television with the volume set to a hypnotic nap inducing hum along with the crinkling of the Sunday Paper’s pages being lazily turned in the summer afternoon created a cocktail of comforting sounds and smells that in looking back feels almost as good as the worn afghan on the arm of my parent’s sofa.. This day may actually mean a little more to me now then it did several years ago. You see now I have no need to worry about getting a last minute gift, or find the right card or remember to make a phone call. I have no need as I have no Father to celebrate the day with. I have his memory, his legacy and everything he taught us, through his spoken words whether they be loving or harsh and his unspoken lessons; his example of integrity, love, mistakes and success.

We all learned and absorbed from every moment with our father. I remember him teaching me to ride my first bike, how he ran behind me saying , “I’ve got you, I’ve got you” and when he let go, how he continued to run beside me saying “I’ve got you, I’ve got you”, his hand at the ready to catch me if I fell. I remember his laugh and the third-grade sense of humor that he passed on to me, much to my husband’s chagrin. I can also remember as a little girl the sense of pride in telling people that my Dad was a Pilot. When he walked in the door in his uniform and hat, it was a great feeling, Dad was home and it was special. Even during my teen-age years when I periodically morphed into some sort of demonically possessed entity and Dad coming home, more often than not, meant any happiness had to coexist with the bitter pill of anxiety and trepidation as I knew that a well-deserved reckoning was imminent. The sins of the past days in his absence would be accounted for in his presence. Even so, it was still over all, a great moment, Dad was home. Things were just better when Dad was home, the balance and harmony of the house was as it should be; all was right with the world.

As an adult, I liked to pick up the phone and call home during a week day, knowing that if someone picked up, it would mean Dad was on his off schedule and I could ask him a question or get some advice or just check in to see what he was doing, and it was nice, just me talking to him, no distractions or background chaos that were part of the package with my mom and four younger siblings still at home. One day in particular, I think I called to ask something monumental like how again do you make gravy? or maybe it was about my son’s upcoming school project, or it could possibly have been just to hear his voice. This time when I asked the normal “Hey Dad, what are you doing?” as the rhetorical lead-in to my usual blah-blah-blahing about my own life, something was different. What he said was, “I just hung up with the Doctor and… I. have. a. brain. tumor.” “Wait, what?” I said, “Dad I can’t hear you” I said. My ears were ringing, I could hear the sound of waves crashing or traffic honking or a pressure cooker squealing in a way that I thought might make my ears bleed. God, I hope someone makes that noise stop. Please God, Please God, Please God, Please God, Am I saying that out loud? I am not sure as I think, what are you saying Dad? I don’t understand. I ask him, “Where’s Mom? - Were you sick? - I didn’t know anything was wrong! - Where’s Mom? - Does she know? -No she doesn’t know?” Please God, Please God, Please God, my youngest sister is just 13, Please God . . . “I think you should ask her to come home Dad, call the school and tell mom to come home. - Dad, What did the doctor say? What did he say exactly?” my fingers typing his words into the web search bar shakily, quickly, my eyes scanning, absorbing medical terms & facts at a super human speed and word after ugly word making the crashing in my head only get louder as a dark heaviness settled over me. The understanding started to wedge its way in. A moment, a significant moment had just happened that would change my life, my whole family’s life forever.

You know I had my moments with my Dad; the times I’m sure he regretted, and I know I did. But if I could re-live even the worst day with my Dad, I would and I would cherish it. This year, if you have a chance to pick up the phone or spend the day with your Father, do it. As for me, I will enjoy the day as I know he would, by filling up my spirit at church, my body with good food and my heart with the love of my family all around me.

As I think of my 56 year old intelligent, athletic, musical dad, and his last days imprisoned in a body no longer receiving messages from his brain, his only movement made possible by the two wheels on a rented wheel chair, I realize that I need to do one more thing. This Sunday I will drink up big gulps of honeysuckle air as I take a moment to revel in the exhilaration of being healthy and alive. I will smile at the complaints of my straining muscles as I peddle gratefully to the freedom and peace that right now, only my bicycle’s two wheels can bring

Happy Fathers Day – 2010

Commuter Girl