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.


A Break in the Rain

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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

Exploring the Neighborhood

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Family Ride
 I forgot to take a picture. I need to get more habitualized if I am going to do this right. Rain postponed my planned ride while Ike was at school. Instead, I researched bike baskets and vetoed the one I originally had my eye on. Then, I cleaned the kitchen. I picked up Ike and we hit the bike shop to check out what they had in the way of baskets and to get a price estimate on fenders and racks for both my and my husband’s bikes. Also, checked out a Trail-a-Bike, which Ike was very interested in.

The sun was out by this time and I gave Josh, my DH, a call to see if he wanted to go on a family bike ride when he got home from work. With a definite affirmative, I saw hope that I would actually get on my bike today. Ike was raring to go as well and, as soon as he saw Josh pull into the driveway, he grabbed his sneakers. We got out the door in fairly good time for us and away we went: Josh on his new stealth black Raleigh Misceo, Ike on his recycled and slightly rusty-red Next Rocket with training wheels, and I on my new sleek silver Raleigh Detour 3.5. Josh and I kept herding Ike to the right side and would switch off lead. I favored being mama duck, but I needed to give Josh a turn or two at speeding ahead. We rode through our rural neighborhood toward the library but it was closed. So, we rode over to the primary school’s empty parking lot and made circles and figure eights; a very nice way to spend a Friday evening.

Later, after dinner
The neighbor kids were riding scooters and bikes in the street, so Ike wanted to get out his bike again. I thought I might as well ride around as well. We took a jaunt around the long block: three bikes and scooter ridden by two 5-year-olds (one on the scooter), a 7-year-old, and a 46-year-old. There were a couple of minor crashes, but no one injured and no tears. I enjoyed getting the extra ride not to mention the opportunity to snap a picture. I am looking forward to the long Northwest summer evenings full of children playing in the streets and after dinner bike rides.


Ike & his bike

Wheels of Inspiration

May 2012

Another spring in the Pacific Northwest. The procession of blossoms has begun. The sun tries really hard to burn through the clouds and when it does, it is no longer the cold light of winter, but actual warmth. I, again, find myself wanting to climb out in the slump of inactivity. Do I try to run again? To Do I build my confidence to return to the pool? The world outside beckons: the country roads, the flowers, the sun. A bike. A bike is what I need. Will I ride it? Can I overcome my fear of cars? Do I need a special bike to bear my weight? My 5-year-old needs a bike with training wheels. The whole balance bike thing did not work for him and now he is too large for a trike. My husband wants a new bike for his trek from the parking lot to his job. I envision our family, all on bikes, tooling around the neighborhood; riding through the campground where we will be spending our summer vacation; going on errands which also take a little to long to walk, but seem too close to drive; the three of us actively enjoying time together.

I envision myself becoming healthier and stronger, letting go of the fear the doctors instilled in me about cracking my head open (I am on Coumadin and head injuries can be deadly, so they tell me). That’s what bicycle helmets are for, right? So, I may look a little dorky, who cares if I am having fun and enjoying life. Who cares if I am a fat chick on a bike, I am moving, breathing, and free.

I envision myself becoming more spiritually fit. Pedaling can be a prayer and meditation. I will be inspired by the sights, sounds, and smells of the world outside my window; being a participant in life’s journey and using these experiences to create, document, communicate.

So we go look at bikes and a couple different shops. Two shops recommended the same bike, a basic hybrid, a Raleigh Detour. I take it for a ride. I think it is the most comfortable bike I have ever been on (mind you, its been over 15 years since I last sat on any thing other that a stationary bike). So I buy the bike. It’s nothing too fancy because who knows if I will actually ride the thing and I hadn’t discovered the whole Dutch bike movement yet.

But I do ride the bike. I ride it almost every day at least around a long block with my son. Going the post office becomes a joyous adventure. Exercise has become a side effect of a trip to the library. I want to share the joy. I want to connect with others. I have tried to blog before but had no central focus. I was all over the place with recovery, chronic illness, motherhood, and writing. Now I have something that ties it together. Riding a bike fills me spiritually, emotionally, physically, and creatively. Riding motivates and inspires me to write and writing motivates and inspires me to ride.