Lessons From My Closet

There is a movement called Simple Living.  The idea behind it is that the simpler your life, the happier you will be.  The more unfettered you are, the more fulfilled you will be.

While I can’t imagine only having one fork and a singular pair of shoes, there is a certain tranquility in paring down, cutting away the fat.  I don’t plan on throwing out all of my flip-flops or tossing my favorite books or getting rid of my seldom used wedding china, but I eagerly admit to feelings of joy when I expunged two large shopping bags stuffed with clothing from my closet.  Some clothes I just don’t wear.  Some clothes were too big.  Some were too small.  Basically they just don’t fit anymore.

A funny thing happened as I gleefully threw items into the bags.  I discovered things I already own that I’d forgotten about.  Cozy sweaters crammed on a shelf, shiny brown boots hiding in a dark corner.  Jeans smashed in between other jeans.  I was ecstatic to rediscover these long-lost items.  It was like shopping in my own closet.  I carefully folded or hung each one.  I even organized all of my clothing by color, like a teeny tiny version of Oprah’s closet.  Sitting on the floor of my closet, I could now clearly see each item.  It was refreshing.

From the floor I could also clearly see my fancy dresses.  Party dresses, maid of honor dresses, funeral dresses.  I’d already weeded through them and kept the ones I feel good in, but from the floor I could see they were taking up SO much space.  Why was I letting things I only use occasionally plug up an area I occupy everyday?  It didn’t make any sense.  So I gathered up my fancy dresses and moved them to the tiny hall closet.  The one that houses snow coats and the vacuum, both things I rarely touch.  When my fancy dresses were all settled in the hall closet, I had a “Why didn’t I think of that sooner?” moment.  Of course dresses I seldom wear should occupy a space I seldom access.

And then it hit me.  My closet, my wise closet, was imparting lessons to me.  As I was cleaning out my closet, I was feeding the desire to rid my life of things that don’t fit.  Not just things that don’t fit my body, but things that don’t fit who I am, or better yet, who I’d like to become.  I want to become a better writer, teacher, and cyclist.  To make room for that in my life, other things simply do not fit.  Endless hours drifting through the internet will not fit.  People who create unnecessary drama do not fit.  Mindlessly watching TV does not fit.  Scarfing all things chocolate does not fit.  People who constantly complain about teaching do not fit.  I simply don’t have the room.

If I get rid of things that don’t really fit who I want to be, I’m confident I’ll re-discover some things that are important to me.  Things I’d forgotten about when I sandwiched them between thoughtless, unimportant things.  For example, I love poetry.  I love writing it, reading it, even just thinking about it.  Parking myself in front of the TV mindlessly doesn’t leave a lot of room for rumination of poetry.  In the same vein, pounding copious amounts of tasty goodies in lieu time in the saddle doesn’t fit with my goal to be a better cyclist.  There’s not room for both.  This probably seems like “duh” to you, but it’s time for me to let go of things that suck time and energy and give nothing in return.  It’s certainly not simple living, but it is living simpler. I already feel happier.  Here I thought I was just cleaning out my closet.

Candy-gram? No. Pizza guy? No. Landshark Socks? Yes!

This Christmas, I received things in pairs.  For example, I received two homemade scarves.  I am now the lucky beholder of gift certificates to two different bike shops.  In my stocking were two pairs of socks and a pair of necklaces.  My mom even gave me an ornament of A Partridge In A Pear Tree.  Ok, it’s a stretch, but I’m the one writing this, so it counts.

The thing I’d like to talk about today are the socks.  Both pairs were stocking stuffers from Terry.  One pair were made of read and green soft, fuzzy goodness, perfect bedtime socks.  The other pair of socks are the best pair of socks ever created.

Before I tell you more about the socks, let’s talk about my favorite times of the year.  To start with, I love the week of 4th of July.  That is the week Terry and I both celebrate our birthdays and I volunteer with Youth to Youth.  I also enjoy the week of Easter vacation.  Not only do I enjoy the days off, but it is a time for me to reflect on my relationship with God.  Another favorite time of year is the week of our anniversary.  The fact that my favorite person in the world has stuck with me for another year is pretty amazing shocking.  But there is one week that is in a whole other category.  I’m not saying it’s better than those other weeks, I’m just saying it’s worthy of its own special category.

The week I’m talking about is, of course, Shark Week.

During Shark Week my DVR just about faints from exhaustion.  I am mesmerized by sharks.  Fierce white tips, fat nurse sharks, powerful great whites.  I am in awe of them all.  My hair could catch on fire and I wouldn’t even notice that my scalp was singeing because I’d be too busy watching Great Whites propel themselves straight into the air, hunting the playful inhabitants of Seal Island.  From their ultra-sensitive noses to their rows and rows of teeth, I am an unabashed shark superfan.

So back to the socks I got for Christmas.  Let me tell you what makes these the King of All Socks.  To begin with, they are cycling socks.  That in itself makes them far better than all other types of socks.  Secondly, they are made by The Sock Guy, creator of awesome cycling socks.  The Sock Guy must also be a fan of Shark Week because these socks have sharks on them!  Strike that.  These socks are sharks.  Great White Sharks.  The toe is the nose.  On the ankle is the fin.  And the mouth on the underside is full of pointy teeth.  Just in case you’re still not getting the greatness of these socks, here they are in full predatory action!

Can’t you just hear the Jaws music playing?  These are by far the most ferocious socks I’ve ever seen.  Surely, they will make me a more ferocious cyclist, too.  Sharks have to continuously move forward.  Otherwise they die.  As I’m chugging up hills, I will have sharks on my feet.  My feet will have to keep pedaling, if only out of mortal fear.

The Little Gingerbread House

Happy Festivus!  I had every intention of writing out my Airing of Grievances list, but it turns out I don’t have a lot to be disgruntled about.  Most of my list revolved around laundry and the fact that Terry beat me soundly at the Feats of Strength this year.

The Feats of Strength took place at our gym and let me just say that I am not friends with the Bosu ball.  Terry, on the other hand, is gifted and talented on the Bosu.  I was so uncoordinated that one of the personal trainers actually told his client to stop doing sit ups so she could laugh at me.  Yes, I added that trainer to my list of grievances, but even so it was a sparse list.  So I leave you with a photo of our Festivus Pole and a story about a little gingerbread house.

Several Christmases ago our friends, Nick and Abby, threw a gingerbread house making party.  Their table was all a-sparkle with bowls of candy.  There were fluffy clouds of frosting to lather on graham crackers.  It was a fantastic party idea.  With hot apple cider in our bellies, we created some charming gingerbread residences.  I say residences because ‘houses’ did not apply to all of the creations.  Actually, charming didn’t apply to all of them either.  Terry, for example, made a gingerbread trailer on blocks.  It was complete with candy tires in the front yard and tin foil windows.  Really, quite a work of art.  I designed a much more traditional boring house.

At the end of the night, Nick and Abby insisted that everyone take their creations home.  Terry and I are not keepers of stuff like that and after several failed attempts at leaving without our gingerbread masterpieces, we said goodbye and abandoned our creations on their front doorstep.  Nick and Abby retaliated and the structures went back and forth between our houses several times until they came to rest on the dryer in our garage.  Moisture in the garage damaged the gingerbread trailer beyond repair.  Those tinfoil windows just weren’t structurally sound.  My little gingerbread house, however, remained intact.

I kept the house until the following December when Nick and Abby had yet another party.  Amazingly, we were invited.  This one was a white elephant gift party.  Yup.  You guessed it.  I wrapped up the house and put it in a pretty Christmas snowman bag.  Along with 15 Halloween glow stick bracelets and a random Christmas bear figurine.  Terry gleefully searched the house and threw in an Abs of Steel video and a golf putter laser thing.  What a steal, right?  What more could you want?  Although Nick and Abby did not go home with our prize collection of stuff, another pair of friends did.  I don’t remember what Terry and I walked away with, but the gingerbread house was gone forever.  Or so I thought.

Yesterday we found a bag sitting on our doorstep.  Aw, someone left us a gift.  How sweet.  Wait that pretty Christmas snowman bag looks familiar. We opened the bag. Our hearts sunk as we discovered fifteen Halloween glow stick bracelets, one random Christmas bear figurine, one Abs of Steel Video, one golf putter laser thing and one Gingerbread House.  Other than the licorice siding that has come loose and a pungent sugary odor, the little house has remained strong over the past years.

As Festivus comes to a close, all I have to say is beware of pretty Christmas snowman bags on your doorstep because it’s on.  It’s so on.

My Christmas List

No, this isn’t a list of stuff I want.  I don’t want anything, so that would be a really brief and completely boring list.  No, this is a different kind of list.  Christmas vacation is less than 20 hours away and this is my list of things to do on vacation.  It’s not a list to ooh and aah over.  There’s no skydiving or marathon running, but I’m darn proud of it anyway.

1.  Wear my pajamas until the last possible minute everyday.  I think I’ll alternate between the snowman ones and my flannel One Fish, Two Fish jammies.  I fully plan on topping them off with my fuzzy pink robe and disgusting slippers.  Totally hot.

2.  Go to the used book store and grab an armload of books to read.  I’m in the middle of Ghost Trails about a girl who cycled the Iditarod.  How cool is she?  Next on my list are Gilead and Love In The Driest Season.  Obviously I need more than that in my stack.  Any suggestions?

3.  Eat breakfast for dinner.  I love brinner.  Cheerios and bananas, veggie omelets, sweetmilks, waffles, Terry’s vanilla pancakes.  It’s all good no matter what time of day.

4.  Start another burrito streak.  I could eat a burrito every single day.  In fact, I once did for more than forty days in a row.  My favorite burrito includes black beans, refried beans, shredded cabbage, avocado, sour cream, and a sprinkle of cheese.  Delish.  I heart burritos.

5.  Ride my bike.  A lot.  This weekend I’m riding up to beautiful Igo.  Who knows where else I’ll ride.  It doesn’t matter.

6.  Go to the movies at least three times.  On my list are The Boy In The Striped Pajamas, Seven Pounds, Yes Man, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.  Looks like I’ll have to buy a ton of Sour Patch Kids.

7.  Watch all of my favorite Christmas movies, including Love Actually, While You Were Sleeping and A Charlie Brown Christmas.

8.  Sit in the hot tub and read without dropping my book in the water.  History is not in my favor.  If you’ve ever borrowed a book from me, chances are the pages were all wrinkly and fanned out from a dunk or two.  This is why I buy books instead of checking them out from the library.

9.  Get rid of as much stuff as possible.  Terry and I take great pleasure in making a mountainous pile of stuff for UCP.  If we haven’t worn/used/watched/needed something for a year, it’s out.  Exceptions are memorabilia, our wedding china, and books.  If you come over to visit, I suggest you don’t stand still for too long or you might be accidentally tossed into the pile.

10.  Write.  The thought of having two weeks in a row when I can write whenever I want is making me giddy!  I’m home alone and I just giggled out loud at the mere thought of it.

Now it’s your turn.  What’s on your list?

The Thing About Dragonflies

My favorite insect is the dragonfly.

Yes, they’re beautiful, but that’s not why I love them.  Adult dragonflies hunt by holding their legs together like a basket and scooping insects right out of the sky, but that’s not why I love them either.  Sure they’re the only insect that can fly backwards and while that’s amazing, that’s not why they have garnered my affection.

The thing about dragonflies is that they start out as nymphs.  Ugly, brown nymphs with grumpy faces.  They scoot around in the water and muck, shooting out their masks, catching unfortunate prey.  They spend months, sometimes years, in this stage.  Wallowing in the mire.  Camouflaging, even covering themselves in filth.

To the inattentive eye, it just looks like they’re hanging around being ugly, but what’s really happening is change.  You see, the nymph is busy growing and molting.  It grows and molts, grows and molts, leaving ghost skeletons lingering in the water.

Nymphs mostly molt in the dark of night, so that sometimes the changes go completely unnoticed until one day the nymph crawls out of the water and up a cattail.  It clings to the cattail with hooks on its legs and then a most splendid thing happens.  One last time, the exuvia cracks open and an adult dragonfly flops out of its old self.  It hangs upside down, seeing the world in a whole new way.

The new dragonfly waits.  Waits to fly.  Waits to see the world.  Waits to wheel in the wind.  When blood pulses into the wings, the dragonfly takes off.  At first the flights are clumsy.  The dragonfly bumbles around as if it’s getting acquainted with itself for the first time.  After a few test flights the dragonfly is zipping around, hovering and even jutting in reverse.  The scowl of the nymph is replaced with eager eyes and a jeweled body that shimmers even in the faintest of light.  It’s hard to imagine that the dragonfly feels anything short of joy as it skims the water, reveling in the knowledge that, at long last, it has become what it is meant to be.

At night when sad thoughts creep in and steal the remnants of sleep, I think about the dragonfly.  When I’m covered in sorrow and I can’t escape the muck, I take heart in the fact that growth is happening.  Change is taking place, even in times when I can’t see it.  I have to believe that heartache will someday become an ill-fitting skin that will eventually crack open and give way.  Give way to beauty.  Give way to love.

I think of the nymph and the day it makes the final climb up the cattail.  That must be one scary climb.  In fact the nymph will often fall back into the mud several times while trying to make that climb.  When I feel like all I’m doing is falling, I remember the perseverance of the nymph.

I swing my legs over the bed each morning.  I smile at my loved ones.  I breathe in and out.  I tell myself to keep trying.  I know one day strength will break through sorrow, leaving the mire to exist only in my memory.  I wait with anticipation for the day that I’ll soar with wings pulsing with life.

I love dragonflies for their patience.  I love dragonflies for their determination, for their strength.  I love dragonflies because they are tangible proof that ugliness and pain cannot contain the pursuit of joy.

During lonely nights, dragonflies sweep into my mind with their basket legs and scoop away brokenness, leaving room for hope.

And that is the thing I love the most about dragonflies.

Snow Day

Fifty seven degrees is a little on the cool side.  Especially inside.  That was the temperature in my house when I crawled out from under a mound of blankets and started to pull on layers for a Sunday morning ride.

Bike shorts, wool socks, sports bra, thermal top, jersey, fleece cycling pants, earwarmers, shoes, toe warmers, jacket, full fingered gloves, helmet, and glasses.  Between the gloves and the helmet I realized I had to go to the bathroom.  So I peeled it all off and a few minutes later jimmied it all on again.

After a pair of clementines and a tasty bowl of oatmeal, I stepped outside and watched my breath float away in great, pallid puffs.  It was going to be a cold one all right.

As I stood in my driveway waiting for Laura, the tiniest of snowflakes began to tumble down.  If I looked carefully enough I could see one every fifteen seconds or so.  Laura pulled up breathless and rosy cheeked and we set off for a long climb to Shasta Dam.

We cajoled our bikes along the frigid roads, the flakes falling in even sheets, resting on my handlebars, forming an icy crust on my bike computer.  We climbed closer to the Dam and snow began to settle in the crevices of the mountains.

The air smelled clean and big gulps of it seemed to eradicate life’s turmoils.  My toes were frozen statues.  My nose was a faucet.  And I was carefree.  Carefree as snow dusted my helmet and melted on my gloves.  I grinned and stuck out my tongue, catching snowflakes as I pedaled.  We passed a mother walking with her little girl.  The little girl had her tongue out, too, and we exchanged smiles.  Laura and I rode in an almost giddy state.  Every few seconds one of us would giggle or exclaim “This is so cool!”  We reached Shasta Dam and took a moment to snap photos.  As sweat and snow dampened our clothes, we began the decent home.  The cold was bitter against my teeth and unprotected face.  Ice crystals pricked my skin and my eyes welled up with tears.  I could say that the tears were from the cold, but in truth they were an unbidden response to the splendor of the snow.

The world doled out beauty today and I was fortunate enough to catch some of it on my tongue.

You Might Be A Cyclist If…

My friend, That Laura, the one who handed me my pride last weekend, sent me a whole bunch of “You Might Be a Cyclist If…” sayings.  I was home alone and they had me cackling all by my lonesome.  First of all, I love the author’s name.  Does it get any better than “Joe Metal Cowboy”.  Seriously, you can’t make stuff like that up.

You Might Be A Cyclist If…
By Joe Metal Cowboy Kurmaskie 2008
  • You might be a cyclist if you own more tights than a children’s theater performing Peter Pan. I own three pairs of tights and every season I pine for more.
  • You might be a cyclist if when styling professionals ask what product gets your hair to do that, you answer, “Helmet.” During long rides I get a strange mini version of Pippi Longstockings’ hair.  My pigtail sprouts defy gravity and somehow point straight up.  Pair that with the helmet stamp on my forehead and I’m a beauty!
  • You might be a cyclist if your spouse doesn’t complain about the snoring since being kicked awake by the sleep pedaling. Snoring and sleep pedaling are only two of the many perils of sharing a bed with me.  I talk, thrash around like a fish out of water, and stick my arms out Frankenstein style while sleeping.  Oh, and I sleep with my eyes open.  Terry often tries to talk to me, only to realize I am staring at him while sound asleep.  I think this is a great opportunity for him to talk sports to me.  I think I’m actually more interested in RBI’s, rushing yards, and shot percentages while I’m asleep.  Yes, I know those are from three different sports.  You’re lucky I didn’t throw a curling term in there.
  • You might be a cyclist if you don’t care that your cycling tan is so jarring that parents grab up their children when you enter the pool. My tan has faded a bit, but both Terry and I have such distinct tan lines that we tease each other about having a permanent pair of shorts on.  Not to mention the Mickey Mouse hand tan that develops each season.  Cycling is so sexy.
  • You might be a cyclist if you’ve heard the words “Just a friendly ride, no one gets dropped” while rapidly falling back in the pack. I am the back of the pack.  Someone has to come in last.  Aren’t you glad I’m willing to be the martyr?
  • You might be a cyclist if you’ve said the words “Just a friendly ride, no one gets dropped” while watching someone else rapidly fall back in the pack. Dare to dream.
  • You might be a cyclist if you have eaten pasta directly out of your front bag, while pedaling. Hold on while I add this to my list of goals for the season.
  • You might be a cyclist if your loved ones have assigned a separate hamper for your dirty bike clothes, and placed a hazmat label on it. No way are those clothes even allowed in the hamper.  They are on a strict straight to the washer regimen.  Terry and I have forgotten once or twice and after brewing for a day or two, the stench that rises up is unholy.
  • You might be a cyclist if you turn the air vents of your car to blow directly in your face, and imagine you’re on a bike ride. I haven’t done this, but I have found myself using hand signals and calling out warnings about holes or glass in the road.  I’ve also called out “On your left!” when passing another car.  I know, so nerdy.
  • You might be a cyclist if you can ID five brands and sixteen flavors of protein bars in a blind taste test, but on most long rides you would eat wet shoe leather, properly salted and containing a balance of electrolytes, of course. The people behind the Clif bars deserve some sort of medal.  Those things are still edible six months later.  And I think I have eaten wet shoe leather on long rides.
  • You might be a cyclist if you’ve contemplated grabbing seat posts, nudging longtime friends into ditches and macing their eyes with energy drinks to crest the hill first. I wouldn’t so much call it contemplating, more like laying awake at night and meticulously planning.
  • You might be a cyclist if you think you may have contracted a rare blood disorder… no, it’s just that you’ve turned into a late afternoon headwind. I can’t count how many times I’ve been absolutely convinced that my tires were flat or that I had become terminally ill in the last thirty seconds, only to find out that I am a sissy when riding into the wind.
  • You might be a cyclist if you learned a long time ago that it doesn’t matter how light or fast, just get on that bike. Only people who are light and fast think that light and fast don’t matter.  They matter to this girl.  They matter a LOT!