Thankful Thursday #92


This week I’m thankful for…

  • playing Hide & Seek with my nephews
  • riding my bike to work
  • slow churned frozen vanilla custard
  • Saturdays in my pajamas
  • wearing my One Fish, Two Fish pajamas to school on Dr. Seuss Day.  Yes, I did ride my bike to school in my pajamas.
  • riding my bike home under a double rainbow backed by gunmetal clouds
  • arriving home on my bike just as it started to rain
  • this present I received from a little one at my school:
How adorable is this bike basket/bag?
How adorable is this bike basket/bag?  It gets even better…
TAGALONGS!!! There were Tagalongs inside!!! Surely I died and went to Heaven.
And look how my Sharpies look like a bright bouquet of happiness. Sigh. Perfection.

Back to School, Bike Style

Remember being a kid on the first day of school?  If you were anything like me, it was a bittersweet day, the end of summer nearly eclipsed by the excitement of a new year.

You probably woke up before your alarm clock sounded.  If you were lucky, your mom woke you with a kiss on your forehead.  You’d hurry into the bathroom to brush your teeth, but only the front ones because today was not a day to waste time on petty things like molars.

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After your teeth were clean enough and your hair combed to perfection, you’d pull on your First Day of School Outfit, laid out carefully the night before.  You’d check your reflection in the mirror and nod.  Looking good, looking REAL good.

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You’d top off your outfit with your brand new pair of shoes, pristine shoes scant of scuff marks.

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 You’d pack your lunch, a PB&J with the perfect jelly to peanut butter ratio, into your brand new lunchbox.

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You’d navigate your Trapper Keeper and your pencil box full of freshly sharpened pencils and place your lunch gingerly inside your backpack, the one you’d picked out specially, agonizing over the selection in the backpack aisle until you found the one that was just right.

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With any luck, you’d get to school early.

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Maybe even early enough to meet your friends on the playground for a little before school recess.

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And then you’d summon your courage and walk to class to meet your teacher, who upon first glance seemed a little nutty.

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 You soon discovered that your teacher was the kind who not only loved music, but art, too.

First Bike by Mary Carol Williams

When it came time for math, your teacher explained it in such a way that you, the kid who hated math, felt like Einstein.

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Before you knew it lunchtime came around and nothing, nothing was such a relief as when a friend rescued you from sitting alone at the lunch table.

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 After lunch and a sweaty recess of dominating the tetherball court, your teacher would lead you back into class, where you’d cool off, rest your head on your desk and maybe even nod off a second or two under the calming rhythm of your teacher’s voice reading a good book.

Me and My Bike by Ander

Then you’d pull out your notebook, all the pages crisp and white, just waiting for your words, your magnum opus, What I Did On Summer Vacation.

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If you were really lucky, you visited the library.  The librarian, who smelled like chocolate chip cookies and old books, helped you check out a stack of books to take home.

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And just like that, the first day was over.  You’d race home and tell your mom all the details of the day.  And then before the summer sun settled down for the night, you’d ditch your school stuff and race out the front door to play with your neighborhood friends.

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After all, even Einstein didn’t study all the time.

Albert Einstein, Santa Barbara

Thankful Thursday #30

This week I’m thankful for…

  • hot showers.  I’ve caught a bit of a summer cold and nothing feels better than a hot shower in the morning.
  • my big, crazy family
  • my mom, for gathering my big, crazy family together in one place
  • kayaking with my eleven year old nephew, Ryan.  We saw bald eagle in a nest and he couldn’t stop saying “This is awesome!”.  I love him for that.

  • my little brother, Pete,  who drove 11 hours to make it to our family reunion.  We rode up to Shasta Dam Sunday morning and it was beautiful.

  • Terry for bringing my roses on my birthday and for not complaining that I wanted to go to a local greasy spoon and have brinner for my birthday meal.
  • my friend, Abby, for making me this awesome birthday cake.  Yes, she made the bicycle, too.  And it was Funfetti cake.  Best birthday cake ever.

  • my second cousin, Jack, who sang the cutest version of Happy Birthday to me about ten times yesterday.  He also gave me lots of birthday kisses, including one on the armpit.  Did I mention he’s two?
  • all my friends and family who donated to LiveStrong on my behalf.  I’m $90 from my fundraising goal.  Fingers crossed that I reach it by Saturday.  Fingers and toes crossed that I make it across the finish line Sunday!

The Red Boat

Saturday afternoon I pulled on my tights and arm warmers and all sorts of other layers that would keep me warm on such a frigid day.  As I got dressed, my nerves bounced around like rubber bands being fired in my stomach, plinking off the insides of my ribcage.

It was the day of my first bike ride of the year.

I love riding The Rocket, but there is just something about the first ride of the year that makes me all a jitter.  Maybe it’s that a new cycling season is so ripe with possibility.  Or maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t ridden outside in a couple of months and I’m afraid I’ve forgotten how to clip in and out of my pedals and I’m convinced I’m going to crash.  At least once.  Yeah, that’s probably it.

The night before, I pumped up my tires and took a minute to get re-acquainted with The Rocket.  I checked her brakes, shifted and listened for any new squeaks.  After a couple of neglected months, she had good reason to whine, but no, she is a bike who holds her tongue, a lady who thinks before she speaks.

I gave her the once over, eyeing the little chips and scratches on her frame, each one a battle scar, proof that we have been places, that we’ve seen the world together.  I ran my hands over her, making sure all her parts were in working order.  She was in prime condition.

Saturday was frigid.  I think at one point the temperature got up to a balmy 39 degrees.  My friend, Laura, and I cruised down to the river trail.  We chatted and pedaled, our breath puffing around us as we rode on the mostly empty trail.  There are a ton of newly paved sections and I was excited to try out a nice, steady climb.

We turned onto the new part of the trail and a creek to our left burbled down toward the river as we pushed up the hill.  We were quiet, only a word or two popping between us.  I’d like to say our conversation lulled because we wanted to enjoy the sounds of nature, but the truth of the matter is after a couple of months off the bike, I had to choose between talking and breathing.

One of the best parts of cycling is that I never know what I’m going to see, every ride is a surprise.  And as we turned a corner, there it was.

A beautiful, old, red boat.

You might not think it’s beautiful, but on a day when the sky was a gunmetal swath above the gray river, and the air was wrapped in fog, the red boat was a stunning punch of color in an otherwise subdued landscape.  I yanked off my gloves and willed my frozen fingers to work the camera.

A boat, a beautiful, red boat.  In the prime of its life, it could have held 30 men, maybe carried them down the creek into the river.  And here it was landlocked on the side of the trail.  I wish I knew the story of the boat, but there wasn’t anything or anyone around to offer an explanation.  I slipped my gloves back on and tucked my camera in my jersey pocket.  I thought about that boat for the rest of the ride, inventing a history for it, keeping my mind busy while my legs turned the cranks.

The temperature dropped and a drizzle covered my glasses in a sheet of mist.  We hurried back to our cars, willing our legs to spin faster as our fingers and toes ached with cold.

Back at home, I stood in the shower, letting the scalding hot water needle my skin.  I piled on layers of clothes and slurped hot tomato soup under a blanket, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t shake the cold from my bones, couldn’t keep the goosebumps at bay.

I like to think the goosebumps on my skin that day weren’t a result of winter’s icy grip.  No, I think they were the result of standing tiptoe on the edge of a new cycling season, holding my breath knowing adventures full of unexpected beauty are just around the corner.

Black & White

A long time ago in a space that seems fuzzy and far away, before I owned a road bike or called myself a cyclist, my step-dad, Chris, used to take me mountain biking.  I use that term loosely because it’s not like I was hopping up boulders or screaming downhill, whipping through singletrack or anything.  I was riding mostly flat dirt trails on my mountain bike.

Often Chris would bring along his dog, Jack.  Jack was the blackest dog I’ve ever seen.  His coat was a glossy obsidian color and as he ran alongside us, his pink tongue would hang out.  His tongue had one black spot right in the middle.  In his more nimble days, Jack would get so excited about riding bikes that he would bite at our tires.  I would nudge him away with my foot, half smiling at his mischievous side.  Not that I could relate or anything.

As I tootled along the dusty trails, I tried, with varying amounts of success, not to get lost and not to crash.  Quite often I got separated from Chris and he’d send Jack to find me.  I was never afraid of being lost when I rode with Chris because I knew Jack would always come back for me.  As I stood befuddled as to which way to turn on a trail, Jack would lope up to me, his polka dot tongue waggling at me.  I would say “Hi, Jack.  Thanks for coming to get me.  Take me to Chris.”  And sure enough, Jack led me to Chris every time.  He was my own personal rescue dog.

Today Jack died.  And I am sad.  I know he was old and no longer spry enough to run rescue missions on the trails.  And I know he wasn’t even my dog.  But I am sad.  Sad that he will never nip at my tires or grin at me with his silly polka dot tongue.

I rode my bike to school today and in the late morning Terry dropped by my classroom with a bouquet of stark white roses.  When it came time to go home, I jimmied the bouquet into my backpack and strapped on my helmet.  The roses bumped against the back of my helmet as I pedaled up the hill home.  Every little bump seemed to release a new wave of fragrance into the air.  It was lovely.

As I inhaled the scent of the white roses, I thought of black Jack.  I thought of how grief is anything but black and white.  It is shades of gray, birthed from black sorrow and white joy stacked one upon the other, like crying and laughing in the same breath.

When I got home today, I plunged the roses into a vase of water.  A lone petal fell onto the counter.  I fingered its pale skin, grateful today for the juxtaposition of loss and love.  I stood in the kitchen and gave thanks that in my life there is more laughing than crying, more love than loss, more white than black.