Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The life cycle of parenting

Toddler--Child cries hysterically any time you step out of sight.

Teenager--Child finds the time to call you from college approximately once a month.

Toddler--(In reference to toys) Child screams, "MINE! MINE! MINE!"

Teenager--(In reference to friends, academics, their very life) Child screams, "MINE! "MINE! MINE!" (Also to be understood as "NOT YOURS, STAY OUT OF IT!")

Toddler--You fall in love with your child, not comprehending why every person who passes by doesn't stop in their tracks at the amazing cuteness of your precious one.

Teenager--You still love your child, but realize that a reminder from other adults of their assets can be helpful, who tell you what a courteous, polite, and respectful young person they are.

Toddler--You are like "home base" for your child. On the playground, they go off and play, then come back just to connect with you every once in a while to know they're still safe. If they get hurt, you rush to their side to console them. Indeed you might be the only person who CAN console them.

Teenager--In theory, you're still home base. But your presence, while important, is way in the background, and you are required to wait until asked to provide succor. They've got other supports in their life now.

Toddler--You spend half your life trying to get them to sleep, praying for them to take a nap, go to bed easily, sleep through the night, and awaken later than the crack of dawn. You're constantly sleep deprived from trying to get them to sleep.

Teenager--You've had half your night's sleep before they come in for the night, you've put in half a day's work before they get out of bed, and the crack of dawn arrives for them at approximately noon. You're often sleep deprived from trying not to wonder and worry.

Toddler--No matter the tantrum they just threw, they can melt you five minutes later with a look, a hug, an "I love you."

Teenager--No matter the adolescent challenges, they can still melt you, AND THEY KNOW IT.

Toddler--Your heart hurts each time they skin their knee, feel slighted by a friend, or beg you not to leave them for work, school, or any other obligations.

Teenager--Your heart doesn't just hurt. It breaks over and over again as you watch them learn to navigate this crazy world.

The heartbreaking loss of their childhood remains.

But it shares equal space with the heart-filling amazement of who they are becoming.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The problem with sharing your goals with others that they will ask you if you actually accomplished them.

I told colleagues, friends, kids, Team RocBike that I was planning to do my 45 mile bike ride over Thanksgiving weekend. All week, I've been watching the weather forecast, so that I could go on a relatively warm and dry day. Today was forecast to be in the mid-40's and mostly sunny. Perfect!

I woke up this morning with the sniffles, but not to be deterred, T. and I set out. We headed out to the Erie Canal Trail in Fairport, with the plan to bike to Newark and back, until we reached the magic number.

Don't we look cheery and optimistic?

The first 10 miles felt pretty good. By then, I had removed a lot my cold weather gear (fleece, gloves, hat, and sleeves off the biking jacket.) I was very comfortable, in terms of the weather. However, the terrain was not what I expected...(wet) crushed cinders. I expected the cinders, but hadn't considered the effect of the recent wet weather on the surface. At times it felt like I was biking in sand. You can see the mud that's splashed up on my bike (along with the remnants of Thanksgiving's snow).

I caught up with Tanya munching on her apple at Palmyra's Aqueduct Park.

When I told her that we were 1/4 of the way done (the odometer read 11.73), she uttered some words from which I will spare you. She hated biking on the surface we were on. What's more, when we did the math, we realized that we were going quite a bit slower than usual (I was biking about 60-75% of my usual MPH), and that there was no way we could get to Newark and back to the car before nightfall. Not wanting to bike after dark on the unlighted canal, since we both have headlights more useful for being seen by others than illuminating darkness, we came up with Plan B. Bike back to Fairport, have lunch there, then bike on to Genesee Valley Park, on a paved portion of the trail, and BACK to Fairport to the 45-mile mark.

Well, that seemed reasonable. We even biked a bit on the road just to give ourselves a break from the cinders. But here's another thing we didn't consider...the wind. That was the one thing that hadn't seemed perfect about the weather forecast, predicting gusts 15-20 MPH. I didn't think it would be too bad, but we were biking right into it. The last 6 miles to Fairport felt like twice that.

When I started out, I had told myself that if I started to feel like I was really making myself sick (since I had the sniffles), that I would stop. Those last 6 miles, I was feeling pretty achy. When I got to Fairport Village Coffee...

T. was already ensconced with a cup of coffee. We ordered some veggie chili and a portabella panini, plus I got myself a ginger soy decaf latte (all were excellent, by the way). And then we both agreed that we were done for the day. We would have had to really push it to finish before dark. It made me feel a little better that she, the stronger and faster athlete, was achy and tired, too. She had just biked her usual 20-mile route yesterday and had felt fine. We could only guess that the combination of the terrain and wind, quite frankly, were just more than we were ready for, given the time we had given ourselves to complete the ride.

But you know what? It's okay...I have till next May. I wanted to do it now, because I know it will be harder to get out on my bike over the winter months, and I've been cycling quite a bit this fall. But this will be incentive to keep in shape and keep biking! Considering that, until I set myself this challenge, biking 8 miles was about as much as I was willing to push myself, and then only in warm weather, I feel okay about it. It will happen! Can't you tell by the look on my face, at 24.24 miles? p.s. For cycling lessons learned, see my post at RocBike


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Identity politics?

(Cross-posted at RocBike, because some days I just can't decide between the two!)

On the RocBike podcasts, Jason refers to me as the "knitting cyclist." Actually, I should write that as the "Knitting cyclist." Note the capital "K." There are knitters who knit more than me, knit better than me, have knit for longer than me. But that doesn't mean they are a Knitter. Knitting with a capital "K" means you have a Knitting Identity. Inevitably, you have gone through the painful stages of:

--questioning (will my family still accept me as a Knitter?);

--isolation and reaching out to community (where can I meet other Knitters like me?);

--acceptance (okay, I'm a Knitter, now what?);

--coming out and proud (I knit wherever and whenever I please, damn it, and you will just have to deal with it! This phase also often includes the procurement and display of various knitting-related tools, jewelry, and bumper stickers); and

--identity synthesis (yes, I'm a Knitter, but I'm also many other things...don't fence me in).

Today it occurred to me that I may be in the process of becoming a Commuting Cyclist. I needed to run some errands, which could have been done quite easily by bike. But it was a bit rainy, I was tired and pressed for time, and I thought, "Oh, what the heck. I do my part to save the planet. Today I want to drive!"

Wouldn't you know, while in Abundance Co-op, I ran into Jack, still with his helmet on. Oh, the shame!

But it was more than shame that sparked this realization of a newly-forming identity. On the drive home, I really did wish that I had biked. It would have been so easy, it wasn't raining that hard, and the fresh air would have helped me wake up.

I see some more bumper stickers in my future. Do you think they make any that say "Knitting Cyclist"?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Actual news items

Too busy to post much, though lots of stuff is percolating!

Thus, these two items from this week's news.

1. "Senator Alesi introduces bill to ban text-messaging while driving."

That is an actual headline from the Democrat and Chronicle, our local newspaper. My first reaction? "Isn't that like needing a law to tell people to have their eyes open while driving?" Even more astounding (to me), when I said that to my kids, they said, "Do you know how many teenagers text while they're driving?" Apparently they think of it as a loophole to the "no talking on the cell phone while driving" law. The cop can't see you text when you drive by, the same way s/he can see you with the phone up to your ear. Okay, maybe we do need a law that you should have your eyes open while driving.

2. "I was an English major in college, so I was forced to read Beowulf."

That statement came from some critic I heard on the radio, and you should know that I ONLY listen to NPR.

Now that is a little bit like saying, "I was a physics major in college, so I was forced to learn Einstein's theory of relativity."

Geez, just because Beowulf is the oldest surviving epic poem in the English language doesn't mean English majors should be FORCED to read it!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Things I learned this weekend while on my bike

(Cross-posted at RocBike)

--Biking with others makes you feel more empowered on the road and gets you more respect from drivers.

Here's Team RocBike (and friend Liz Henderson) after our Saturday morning ride to Rochester's Public Market.

--Wind Chill isn't just a stat that the TV meteorologists (who take an approach to weather that can only be described as "weather as horror flick") came up with to scare us into watching their forecasts (and accompanying ads).

I left the house this afternoon in 50 degree weather, with only Lycra tights (yes, I do own Lycra, but in my defense it was purchased in the 1980's...and although in perfectly good shape, is in the fashion of the 80's), a tank top, and a cycling jacket. When I stepped outside it was downright temperate. When I started biking, I realized it was a bit windy. My uncovered ears and fingertips were FREEZING! Next time, I'll make sure the extremities are well-protected.

--Give the bike a good once-over every time you ride.

That would be a picture of my rear reflector caught between my back tire and my frame. It came off during today's ride. I was in a rocky area, and I thought maybe I had a rock caught in the spokes. All of a sudden I couldn't move AT ALL. Had that happened in traffic or going downhill...yikes. Major wipeout.

--It's all about the gear.

I finally got some Power Grips (and new pedals) put on my bike by the good people at Full Moon Vista, along with a new helmet, which is much more comfortable and lightweight. So much more comfortable for head and toe.

--Brighton has a new park! I accessed it off the Erie Canalway Trail, just east of Clinton Avenue.

I took DD and DS to many soccer games at Meridian Centre Park, back in the day. They've recently added a trail and boardwalk system (still under construction, I believe) through wetlands adjacent to the fields. Note to soccer and baseball parents: This would be a great place to explore in between games.

--I can't get enough of nature this fall...I find the colors intensely inspiring. I think someone famous already said this, but it seems to me that art is just our inadequate way of trying to capture the inherent beauty (including the starkness of decay and death, soon to come) of the natural world around us.

--Crows start their pre-roosting activity as early as 3:45 pm this time of the year. (That's when they start to gather to fly to their roosting site, where they will sleep for the night.) There's a reason that Halloween decorations always conjure images of crows. This is the time of year, after families have been raised, that they begin gathering in flocks at night. Pay attention the next time you notice a bunch of crows gathering. The noise coming from a large group of crows is quite impressive.

--And one thing I learned, thanks to our car. Sometimes driving is worth it. We drove out to Wayne County to see a Rufous Hummingbird, a bird whose typical region is the Western U.S., who's strayed way off its path. It looked cold!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

One of my favorite people

turned 30 today. Happy Birthday, Anna!

(I loved that the colors of the gift wrap were the same as the last cherry tomatoes.)

Anna and I worked together in a women's center and got to go to a women's march in Washington, D.C., back in 2004.

We worked closely together to bring Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues to the campus, so we had to get a picture of this guy.

I may jest about certain things, but the message on this sign is is a matter of life and death, especially in Africa.

To give you an idea of Anna's personality, here's a little anecdote. In Deaf culture, people are often given name signs which reflect their personality. As a hearing person, it takes quite a while to "earn" a name sign. It took Anna hardly any time, and the name sign she was given uses the handshape for the letter "a" and the hand movement for the word "radical." (Apologies to ASL users for not describing that any better!)

I love your fierceness, Anna! Thanks for the decade of friendship, and here's to decades to come!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

(More) Small and Sweet Pleasures

Keeping up with the blog has made me much more aware of these moments of pleasure, and, since gratitude doesn't always come's important to take note when it does...

--going to the Rochester Public Market with DD (at HER insistence), where we talked to a local farmer with this charming sign

--the smell of basil from last week's harvest, finally turned into pesto and herbal vinegar

--the last fresh flowers of the season (I think!) to be put into Mary Barringer's vase

--an autumn that won't end (pictures taken in Mt. Hope Cemetery)

--with a dog that loves nothing more than rolling around in the leaves

Friday, November 2, 2007

Why I bike

(Cross-posted at Rocbike)

I’ve been cycling off and on since forever, but when I started working within two miles of my home, two years ago, I began to bike more frequently. It seemed ridiculous to get in my car and contribute to the melting ice caps, all to go a distance that I could get to just as quickly on bike as by car. That led to running errands, visiting friends, going food shopping, all on bike. Since my 45th year challenge, I’ve stepped up the cycling even more. It all started when Pat from the Rochester Bicycling Club wished me a happy birthday, and suggested that I should bike my age in miles.

I thought, I can do that…in fact, I probably could have done it that day (which was my 44th birthday), but it undoubtedly would have hurt. I’m going for the low-pain ride…so, in addition to the daily cycling, I’m going for longer and longer rides on the weekends. My goal is to do the 45-miler over Thanksgiving weekend.

But there are other reasons that keep me biking, beyond the first motivation of cutting my carbon footprint and the second of celebrating this turning point year, in which I can finally feel myself relaxing into the sheer unpredictability of life.

I keep biking because it connects me to my neighborhood, my community. For example, I take night classes at the University of Rochester, also only two miles from my home. Most of my classmates (like me) are full-time employees and part-time students. They say that they don’t really feel that connected to the graduate program, because they drive in and drive out, often in darkness…straight from the parking lot to the classroom, and back again.

On the other hand, I bike up Mt. Hope Avenue, alongside the Genesee River, past the UR tennis courts and apartments, past the library, and behind the academic quad to my classroom. On this ride I think often of my former father-in-law, now gone for fifteen years, who worked at UR for many years. When I first met him, he gave me a tour of the campus and told me its history. I’ve forgotten most of it, but I do remember that where the campus stands was once a golf course. I often picture that golf course and think fondly of him, one of the most loving and ethical people I have ever met.

On Halloween, I saw undergrads in costume heading out for the night on the UR bus, graduate students in the library (probably oblivious to the fact that it was Halloween), and on the way back, I biked parallel with another student heading from campus to our neighborhood. (Actually, I passed her going up the hill on McLean, and since she was half my age, this made me quite pleased with myself.)

It really does make me feel connected to be on my bike, instead of ensconced and climate-controlled in a car. And to be perfectly honest, there’s nothing like bike commuting to give you that slight, “I’m so cool AND I’m doing the right thing” tinge of self-righteousness. I might be overtaken by the self-righteousness if I weren’t having so much fun noticing the changing of the seasons and feeling the strength in my body that comes from propelling yourself rather than letting a motor do it.

And speaking of strength, I’m also noticing a huge leap in my strength and endurance. My 20-mile bike ride last weekend felt like nothing, even without padded bike shorts! (For more on the significance of that last detail, see Hubris.)

As the weather turns cold, I’m wondering if I can maintain this level of cycling throughout the winter. For one thing, I have to dress “professionally” for my job, and carrying the layers of clothing needed to change into, along with the layers I’ll need to wear, feels like a bit much. For another, money put into the current bike to outfit it for winter is money that can’t go towards an XtraCycle next year! I’m counting on the RocBike community to give me the right tips and help me keep the motivation to keep it up!