Balloon Quest

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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.

Summer Sunday

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We started the day with gluten-free buckwheat waffles, one wheat-less recipe that my whole family enjoys. If interested, the recipe can be found here. I use honey instead of agave and add a little extra. I have used walnut oil and grapeseed oil with good results and have added a touch a cardamom. I skip the sunflower seeds They are yummy with homemade preserves and a drizzle of yogurt.

Since we went to the county fair the previous night and Josh wanted to start welding our bike rack so we can take our bikes on our Oregon Coast vacation in a couple of weeks, no big family outing was planned. We decided on our default Sunday outing and rode down to the Farmers’ Market. Josh took Ike on the Trail-a-Bike while a I trailed behind at a slower pace. We didn’t plant a garden this year, so we needed to stock up on summer greens. We also scored a bunch of cheap apricots from the corner farm stand to make jam.

We stayed just long enough to hydrate and try some black currant italian ice (made from local black currants, yum! so refreshing) then started back along the highway with my basket and Josh’s backpack full. For some reason, the trip seemed longer this time. I suppose I was just hot. I finally reached the turn and the wonderful long slope down and was enjoying the wind and the speed so much I almost forgot to be scared of possibly needing to brake fast and flying over my handlebars.

Food from Here


Ride Log 080412

Another hot day. The boys were on the boat again to check the crab pots. I thought I would take a quick ride down to the library to make some returns and pick up items on hold. I was just making my way downstairs when Ike burst into the house announcing their arrival. Apparently, our friend that had gone out with them had to make a quick return as there was chance his wife was going into labor (it was a false alarm, thankfully, as it would have been a little too early). I informed the boys of my intended ride and asked if they would like to accompany me. Their answer was affirmative but it was necessary to wait a few minutes so they could take care of a few things.

It was getting hotter my the minute and my quick trip was turning into a bit on an excursion. Finally, we all got out the door and made our way down to the library. It is nice to have two adults to herd Ike as we make our way down our road. Grandma drove past and informed us that the library was having a book sale. I was planning on just picking up my books and heading back but Josh and Ike settled in and started looking at books together. I found a few more books and the stack started to grow. While the boys were occupied, I went to check out the sale. I wasn’t planning to purchase anything but then started finding things with pricing that was hard to resist: books for Isaac, a book I have been planning to read, art and photography books, free books, etc. I could have walked out with more, but I was considering the limitations of my basket. I don’t have a rear rack yet and we did not bring a backpack. I returned to the children’s section with a bigger pile than anticipated. Josh decided he wanted to look at the sale so Ike and I began our journey home without him. It was hot, my basket was full, Isaac was hungry.

For the last two blocks, he decided he would rather walk, so we dismounted and spent some extra time in the heat. Finally home, we gulped ice water and anticipated our crab dinner.

Motivation not Procrastination

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I am not going to do this again. The longer I put off writing, the less I want to do it. Ride logs should be written the same day or the next at the latest, and they definitely should not be stored up. This is an exercise to motivate not procrastinate. That leads to the opposite effect: not wanting to go for a ride because I haven’t written about the last yet. So, now, I catch up. Only two rides as it turns out but they are from a week ago. Hopefully, writing about them will free me to hop on my bike this weekend.

Except for water sports, I don’t think of exercise as a way of cooling off. Last Friday was one of the few really hot summer days we get around here. Josh came home and took Ike to go drop some crab pots and I was alone in the house sweating after a day of cleaning and rearranging furniture. I sat down to write for a few minutes and found myself pondering a bike ride as a nice way to cool down. I realized I could write more later, but if I didn’t go for ride right away, I would convince myself that it was too late or something. It was almost 8pm and there was about two hours left of light. The temperature outside was much more pleasant than inside even with all the windows open and the ceiling fan whirring. I grabbed my phone and made way to the garage and off I went to the shadiest street I know. Wow. So nice to have cool air hitting my face and flowing under my T-shirt. The little exertion I needed to expend to keep moving was minimal compared to the relief I felt as coasted down the slight inclines of the road. It was exactly what I needed.

Continuous Effort

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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.