Balloon Quest

Ride Log 090712

It was Ike’s second day of school. After attending my step-writing group, I was hoping to have some to write or, at least, clean the house a little for the impending arrival of the in-laws. But, the beautiful weather was calling and I needed balloons for a papier-mâché project I wanted to do with Ike. We came up with a great idea for family Halloween costumes and I am having a difficult time locating a bull mask for a child that doesn’t look too much like a cutesy cow.

In a previous life (my mid-twenties), I did a lot of papier-mâché. I was living in San Francisco in a typical San Francisco 3-story row house apartment with two flats per floor.  My housemates and I lived in one flat the top floor and some friends lived in the other. We would have big parties opening up both apartments, one for dancing and one for chatting (or slurring as the case may be). We would decorate with papier-mâché fish or sperm and egg piñatas that we would make during the prior weeks tweaking on starch and newspaper and drinking beer.

So, I decided to try my hand at a papier-mâché bull head. First, I needed balloons. I was going to hit the store after picking Ike up from school (I still do this by car due to a big hill and the need to cross the main highway), but the sun was shining and I wanted to move. I pulled out my trusty silver steed and bike helmet. While doing so, I was delayed my an old man who stopped to inquire about the trailer on the side of the house. He asked if was for sale, which it is, so I gave him Josh’s number. He wanted to chat, but time was a-ticking so I kindly said good-bye and off I rode. I thought I would try the hardware store first as it is a little closer and it doesn’t have a crazy parking lot to negotiate. They used to have a ton of party supplies but now they are limited to multi-colored paper plates and cutlery. By the cashier’s response to my asking about balloons, you would think I was looking for them to fill with heroin. She informed me they only sell balloons already filled with helium, not in bags.

Then I tried our trusty supermarket. There, on a bottom hook near the greeting cards, I located a $1.99 bag of assorted balloons. I saw a sheriff walk down an aisle on my way to pay and another on my ride home and I wondered if the hardware store lady called in about a suspicious women trying to buy balloons to fill with drugs.

Just as I arrived home, the duck quacked on my phone alerting me that it was time to pick-up Ike (I set this up in case I am on a roll writing or elbows deep in cat-litter). The search took me over an hour. No time for lunch or cleaning the bathroom…darn that little old man and useless hardware store.

Postscript: The project was a bust. Ike gagged at the site of the wheat paste so he didn’t even want to try it, it was extremely messy (starch is way neater, too), and the paper towel tube horns were unwieldy taped to the balloon so it kept tipping over. And, I forgot to take a picture and it is gone due to wind or fire. In the end, we decided on plastic horns and face paint for the costume.


Since I forgot to take a picture of the paper-mache head,
I give you the model.


Lights, Camera, Action

After a week of no biking, a staccato of short trips. I am going to break with format and enter them all in one post.

Ride Log 082212, Wednesday
We had a brief period of time after lunch and before swim lessons to make our way to the library. Ike was very excited to try out his new bike helmet that had arrived the previous day. His old helmet was obviously way too small and I wanted to be sure he had one that fit correctly before our trip to the Oregon Coast. After looking at Bell, Nutcase, and Giro, he picked the Giro Kid’s Rascal Bike Helmet in black with red flames. I think the flashing LEDs was the big selling factor, though Ike does like to stop and fiddle with them a little more than I would like.

The ride to the library is barely is ride is we are going straight there and back and especially when I ride behind the boy. It is slow going and barely pedaling, but we are out enjoying the neighborhood and get to stop for blackberries along the way.

Ride Log 082312, Thursday

I had to do some work in the morning, but I promised Ike that we would go out later and have some fun. He chose a bike ride, new helmet again being the motivating factor, and that made me very pleased. After not riding for a week, it was good to get out two days in a row. We circuited our favorite loop and then took a longer route home to stop at a favorite blackberry bush. They were much riper than our last visit and tasted like pie. I put a few handfuls in my basket to enjoy later while Ike stained his face and hands purple.

Ride Log 082512, Saturday
Just a quick ride to a meeting. We discussed the allergy of addiction and spiritual, emotional, and physical recovery. I feel so in action today. It was a great start to a busy day of packing. Tomorrow, we are off to stay in a yurt on the Oregon Coast for a week. Josh made a great bike rack to carry three bikes plus the tagalong. Lists need to be made and food and supplies all need to be gathered and loaded. So much to do, so this will be kept short. Catch you on the flip-side.

Continuous Effort

Ride Log 072912

It seemed like a battle to get out of the house. I wanted to scream, “Let’s go have some fun, goddammit!” I was also ready to just let the whole venture go, tired of pushing my will. at that point, Ike exclaimed he DID want to go for a bike ride after protesting for the previous half-hour. Josh and I said the serenity pray and desire for harmony prevailed.

The last time we rode the Larry Scott Trail, we stopped every few feet to urge Ike along. He was riding his own bike and kept wanting a push. I didn’t really notice the subtle incline because we stopped so often. On Sunday, Josh was pulling the tagalong and is was steady pedaling, a continuous effort. I understood the complaints of my 5 year-old as my legs began to hurt. This slow climb was kicking my ass. I am used to a pedal-coast-pedal-coast method around my neighborhood. I am rewarded with a little rewards after a little effort. But not on the trail. I felt my weight and my weakness as my legs felt like they were churning butter.
After about a mile and a half, there is a short stretch of little rolling hills, a quick up-down that I looked to with relief. Finally, a moment of respite. But looking beyond, the train continued to climb and I felt that it was time to turn back.

On the return, I realized in was all uphill, even the parts I thought were flat. Coming down was awesome! I put my bike in high gear and kept pedaling enjoying the breeze and the view. The hillside was covered with different shades of purple: wild peas, thistles, salal berries.Straight ahead, the peninsula juts out into the bay littered with sailboats and the ferry coming and going from town.

I though about my ride and how it is related to recovery and my path through life. Pedal-coast-pedal coast makes for a very pleasant journey but, slow steady climbing might give a greater reward.

Note: Bellyscars

I have been delinquent; not wanting to show up here. I have been writing in my journal, jotting down inspiration and fears. I went for a ride last Sunday that I have yet to post. I even wrote it all out before bed one night, just not on the computer. If open my laptop before bed I find myself awake still at three in the morning. The words wait in my journal ready to be transcribed but I am not going to do that now.

An element of this exercise is the search for my voice. I had one once, I think, back in the day, when I would get stoned and channel the grit and hum of Los Angeles. It was a youthful, fatally cool identity. But now I struggle, even after 17 years of recovery. I am aging, I am a mother, a wife, I have survived near-death, and have experienced the pure joy of living in the moment and my son’s laughter. I have been thinking about how to be more authentic and tell a little more about me. Maybe this isn’t the place. Maybe this should be just a series of sweet vignettes of riding down country roads. That is much of what my life is like now except for the financial issues, the continued struggle of organizing our house, and concerns about the political and social climate of the U.S.

I have decided to repost the intro to my last blog. The one I never let anyone know I was writing. I don’t know if anyone has clicked the link on my About page and that site will go away at some point. There is not much there, I only posted a handful of times. I thought I was going to try my hand at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), but instead was motivated to rearrange my house to give myself a better writing space.

So, here it is, slightly edited:

belly scars

I have three scars on my belly, well, four if you count the dime-sized mark where a drainage tube passed out of my body. The first is the sexy scar; the one I don’t mind being seen. It is cut just below my ribcage on the right side. Starting at my midline, it slopes down and widens a bit under the bottom rib like an arch-less eyebrow or an exclamation point without the dot (or with the dot at the wide end as the aforementioned mark was given at this time). This was from my first abdominal surgery, a choledochojejunostomy, before anyone knew my full diagnosis. I had a stricture of the bile duct due to pancreatitis, which was the preliminary. The endoscopically placed stents (attempted twice) immediately clogged and I went yellow. A more permanent solution was needed.  Unfortunately, my gall bladder was a casualty of the bypass; it was seen as extraneous and was removed.

The next scar is the ugly one, a ravine that divides my belly in half giving it the appearance of a cleft peach. I was told I was lucky that the surgeon left my belly button intact. Given to me when my colon tried to burst, the tale of this scar is more difficult to tell, a life-altering moment with many lessons in acceptance, humility, and powerlessness. I was busy making plans and my body sent me a big message to slow down. Working, going back to school, being pregnant, trying to buy a house…it was all too much: my bowels gave out. I also had a stroke while hanging out in a maternity hospital as they were trying to hydrate me and figure out what was wrong. I was finally sent away to a more equipped hospital and right after meeting the surgeon, I was put under. Toxic Megacolon. I woke up with a huge incision up my belly, a bag attached to my right side, and the pregnancy terminated. I had been given an ileostomy, like something was given, not taken. My entire colon had been removed and I would now have to learn to live with this changed anatomy. It wasn’t until after the surgery that I received the diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease, originally thought to be Ulcerative Colitis. I recovered from the stroke during my two-month stay in the hospital, though the incision got infected and the staples were pulled out early. I believe this is why the scar is so cleaving. That and excess belly flesh.

Funny thing is, I always liked my belly. Never minded that it was not flat or washboard, even liked the soft fullness. This was not the part of my body that I would try to hide. Now, anything too fitted reveals the unevenness its two hemispheres: how it protrudes just a bit more on the right, even when the bag is empty.

The last scar is the hidden scar, tucked in so nicely under my paunch. It is barely noticeable even when the skin is pulled taut. This is the blessing scar, the opening from which my son was birthed. After such a severe Crohn’s flare during pregnancy, I was advised not to get pregnant again for fear of a repeat episode. I was so traumatized by the event I took that advice to heart. Then, soon after my 40th birthday, I found out I was pregnant. My first thought was, “I’m gonna die.” Then I did some research. The illness had been in remission for a while and was being controlled by medication (Remicade). I began to feel cautiously optimistic. The nine months passed fairly easily as far as pregnancies go. With my history, a caesarian was likely though I was hopeful for a vaginal delivery. In the end, it didn’t really matter how my son came into the world, just that he arrived.

When It Shines


Ride Log 072112

I don’t know what to write about my short ride this morning. It was good to get out in the cool morning and I couldn’t tell if the fog was going to burn off or turn to rain. I love the changeable northwest weather where sunshine is the surprise and when it shines, it shines. I rode down to the meeting. I was late because I decided to make gluten-free buckwheat waffles and eat some too. I ruminated over the past week and feel really go about all the action I took. I made a meal plan for the whole week with made food issues really simple; I was able to devote a good chunk of time writing; I went to bed and woke up early; I did fun things with Isaac and was able to have good conversations with Josh; I was able to be of service and complete a project; I paid the bills; and I was able to do a little cleaning. I would have liked riding my bike more, but I can blame the rain.



Ride Log 071412a

I hate when I don’t write when the inspiration hits. Usually it is due to lack of opportunity. On Saturday, my mom came over to watch Ike (Josh was working) and I was able to ride to the 9:00 a.m. meeting at the hall. That was just the beginning a very active, fun-filled day. Already, what I was going to write about is slipping away as it the inspiration becomes more of a memory than a call to action.

The topic of the For Today reading was facing one’s fears. I was struck with the synchronicity of my bicycle journey and the journey of recovery. Biking forces me to confront many of my fears and ride through them: fear of looking good; fear of someone stealing my stuff; fear of falling, being hit by car, of getting hurt. Every time, I get on the saddle, I take action to move through my fear.

The meeting hall is in the basement of a building and is accessible in the back at the bottom of a kinda steep hill paved with gravel. In these two months that I have been riding, I have walked my bike down the hill. Too afraid of my brakes skidding and causing me to fall. When I was 10 years-old and first relearned how to ride a bike (if I ever really did know how when I was 5, maybe I always had training wheels), I ate it pretty hard on gravel, skinning my right elbow and knee. I still have faint scars. On Saturday, before reading this passage, I finally felt confidant to ride down it. I trusted myself and my bike to make it down unscathed.

A Break in the Rain

Ride Log 071312 

Since living in the Northwest, I have learned to be more spontaneous because of the weather. In the SoCal of my youth, there are endless days of sunny days with no guilt about staying indoors and little worry about having to change outdoor plans due to rain.

Last week was true summer: coastal fog in the morning that burned off to glorious sun way before noon, bright afternoons, and long, warm twilights. But the rain would return; too much forest, mountain, sea. The original plan for today was a trip to the beach, but last night, not five minutes after I brought a bunch of toys inside, the deluge began. As I was going to sleep, I thought the rumbles and flashes outside the curtains were from July 4th leftovers and wondered if it was still raining.

I went to a step-study group this morning and we opened the curtains to better see the lightning. Thunder’s roars have been sending bolts of adrenalin through me all day. Sudden glimpses of blue sky are followed by sheets of rain. In one break in the rain (the longest of the day as it urns out), I was able to get out for a ride. I came home from the study group to find a notice from the post office. The weather at that moment was fine and felt I should take advantage of the moment and task. Ike decided to stay home with grandma, so off I rode pleased to go at my own pace. The certified letter was good news from a bad situation, which one day I may write about when I have more time and inclination. Since I was close to the store, I stopped to pick up some cat food and once again was grateful for my basket. I pedaled home thinking, “what a great way to travel.” I put my bike in the garage, came upstairs, said “Hi” to Ike and grandma, then looked out the window and it was pouring. Not a minute too soon. So glad I jumped at the opportunity and did not procrastinate or wait for Ike to want to go, I probably would have never made it out.

At the Post Office