Thursday, June 30, 2016

Adventure Family Road Trip

I grew up taking road trips with my family.  My parents and I crossed the country twice--once from Ohio to California, and later from California to upstate New York.  There were also countless long car rides to visit grandparents, sometimes four hours away, sometimes eight, depending on where we lived.

And now, my most frequent road trip, is to visit my dad in Kokomo, Indiana.  And that's what we did just last week.

At an Ohio Rest Stop:
A Chance for Everyone to Get Their Wiggles Out

It's roughly a seventeen hour drive, so we do it in two days (except that one time when I wanted more than anything to get to my Mom--Jon drove us late into the night, hopped up on Monster Energy Drinks.  I couldn't keep my eyes open).

My family has always been good at road trips.  My mother packed great snacks, and we brought books and music players (used to be a walkman that auto-reversed! and now, iPods all around). We sang to the radio.  We cracked jokes.  We looked at the scenery.  We counted cows.  This past trip we started playing a license plate game.

I like road trips, though I'm not as good at them as I once was, primarily because I get sleepy (due, no doubt, to a severe lack of sleep leading up to them).

I loved introducing Abby to my favorite rest stop from my childhood, the Angola Service Area in New York on I-90.

Truth be told, this rest stop is kind of dumpy, but the bridge is still cool.
I got to teach Abby that if you stop mid-bridge and wave at the tractor trailer trucks, they sometimes honk at you.

It totally still works.

And Jon introduced us to DiBella's in Rochester.  Abby is now an avid fan.

Another new tradition for our little Adventure Family is staying at Red Roof Inns, because they always allow dogs and never charge extra for it.  Kevin approves.

I'm fortunate that Abby is great traveler and has been since she was a baby. She's awesome on airplanes and on long car rides.  And Adventure Dog Kevin is an incredible car dog.  We spent most of the ride to Indiana saying over and over and over again that there was simply too much cute in the back seat and we had to look away.

I can't say that every single minute of the seventeen hour trip is awesome.  We're a family, so we still squawk at each other and get into arguments over dumb stuff like where to have dinner, but on the whole, I'd give us high marks for our road trip skills.

Sunrise in Eastern New York, Near Albany

Road trips are full of gems like this sunrise.  And the end result is worth it.  A visit with Grandpa is guaranteed to be a good one.

Still, I don't need to get back in the car again anytime soon.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

A Party for Mom

Today my family hosted a party.  We could not have had a better day or a better location.

This is my dad's backyard.  That's his hangar and his airplane (and my Kevin).

The party is for my Mom.  My mom's favorite season was summer, her favorite activity, hosting friends and family on her screened-in porch attached to the hangar.

My mother instinctively knew how to 'do' hospitality.  She always found a chair for any visitor, offered a cold beverage, had snacks at the ready.  She and my dad worked hard to make their yard lovely and welcoming.

When Mom died this past February, we had a small gathering, but we promised a real mom-party come summer.  Today was the day.

We hosted more than fifty people for lunch.

Kevin: denied a spot in the buffet line
As we scurried around today, setting up tables, organizing the buffet, making sure needs were met, I kept thinking, "What would Mom do right now?"  I had no shortage of answers to the question, as I passed cold water to guests, refilled the bins of plasticware, checked in with Dad, and tried to make everyone feel welcome.

I think everyone had a grand time.  When guests said, "Your mom would love this," we were pleased.

Still, it would have been better with Mom in charge.  No question about that.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Family Adventure in the Books

Adventure Daughter came late to bike riding.  Oh, she got her first wee bike with training wheels at age six, (after two awesome tricycles in her earlier years) but she didn't clock many miles on it.

I can give you some lousy excuses for why she never learned (unpaved driveway was a tough place to practice; we lived on a busy road at the time), but those don't really explain why my kiddo made it to age nine unable to ride a bike.

She never learned because neither I nor my husband were riding bikes when it was time for her to learn.  We had our own slew of excuses and doubts, but the long and the short of it was that if we didn't ride, neither would she.

A nine-year-old needs to know how to bike ride.  We had done the poor kid a tremendous disservice.

So this year for her birthday, Abby got a new bike.  This gift was met with equal parts elation and trepidation.  She wanted so much to hop on and go, but feared the learning process.  I don't know about your children (if you've got 'em or maybe if you were one once), but my child occasionally expresses fear with phrases like, "I don't want to learn this," or "I don't need to know this."  It wasn't that she couldn't learn.  No.  She could absolutely learn, but she just didn't feel like it.  Go ahead and take that bike right back to the store, why don't you?

It's totally just kids who face fears with denial, right?

We did not return the bike to the store.  Now that I had a bike and my husband had pulled his bikes out of storage, we had visions of grand family biking adventures (well, Adventure Husband had grand visions.  I had nice, mild-mannered visions.)  No more excuses.

We were out on the driveway practicing one afternoon, and both Abby's and my frustration levels were nearing nuclear.   I had recently read a great blog post about needing to keep my own volume lower than my kiddo's (sounded great while sipping tea and reading an interesting article; induced the shakes when trying to practice it in my front yard. I so wish I could find this post again right now but I can't.).  Finally, when she would neither try pedaling in any serious way while I held her upright nor would she quit, I had to walk away from her.

She muttered some things I am probably better off for not having heard clearly, stomped on her pedals, and proceeded to zip down the driveway without falling over.

I will never forget her look of sheer surprise at her success when she realized what she was doing.  She immediately looked at me, eyes wide and mouth rounded in a huge O!  When she stopped (a few seconds later), she hopped off the bike, ran to me with her arms spread wide, and screamed "I did it! I did it!"  ALL of her anger and frustration evaporated.  She was no longer pissed at me or at herself or at the world in general.

What are the lessons in this?

All that psycho-babble about facing our fears head on and recognizing our denial for what it is?  Yeah, pretty much spot on.

I had to let her go, she had to let herself go, and then BOOM.  Bike rider.

I love when Google Photos makes panoramas for me,
especially when the same person shows up in them several times.
No longer afraid to try, Abby practiced every day, and last weekend she had a real reward for her efforts.

We experienced our first mild-mannered biking adventure: this Adventure Family logged five miles on the bike path in Brunswick.  It did not matter that we were passed by a jogger when going "up hill" (total elevation gain on the entire path: 34 ft.).  What mattered was that Abby's efforts paid off, and we had what will go down in the history books as one of our best family outings ever.  No fussing.  No arguing.  No sighs or eye-rolling.  Just accomplishment.

All smiles!

Abby found her Oomph and continues to inspire me to find mine.

Monday, June 20, 2016

No Mom Manual

I can't believe I'm a grown-up.

This is a serious statement.  I mean, I'm 40.  I have a husband, a daughter, a house, an ex-husband.  I have a car, a job, a credit card, a dehumidifier.  Someone lets me spend my workdays shaping the future of America.  I just can't believe that.  Who on earth would trust me with all of this?

Sometimes I feel like the kid in Big who gets big but is still a kid.

This feels especially true when I don't know what to do with Abby.

I mean, I have to make sure she eats, for one.  And on top of that, it can't just be donuts and M&Ms and bread and ice cream and pepperoni.  But it would be so easy if it could be those things.  It's probably those things more often than it should be.

I have to make sure she goes outside and plays and doesn't spend her whole day in front of the TV or the iPad or YouTube.

When she has homework, I have to see to it that she does it.  And usually its math.  I'm an English teacher, so...yeah.  And I have to make it sound like I think math is great!  Important!  Fun!  Weeee!  (Ok, I know it is great and important.  But fun?)

I have to make sure she showers and changes her underwear and brushes her teeth.  Sometimes we kind of forget about these things.

I have to help her be kind to others and not yell and keep her eye-rolling in check.  I'm not always good at these things myself, an yet I'm the one in charge!  Woo!

I have to keep my temper when she loses hers.

I have to teach her to be a strong, independent woman.

I have to tell her when someone dies.

The first time I had to do this, Abby was just four or so.  My grandmother--Granny--passed away.  Granny and Abby met a couple of times, but really only when Abby was a baby.  Granny lived primarily in Abby's imagination, based on photos from our visits.

I remember sitting at the kitchen table with Abby when I told her.  She listened, saw my own tears, and then put her head down on her arms on the table.  I didn't expect that.  I didn't know what to do with that.  I was ready to hug.  But then...we just changed the subject.

The next loss was my husband's dog, Orson.

Abby was seven and visiting my parents in Indiana.  I didn't even really get to tell her, as she read a text over my mother's shoulder.  My mom had to handle that one.  Abby wrote Orson a note and put it under her pillow and it was gone in the morning.  I don't know how I feel about that.  I was so far away, so ill-equipped to help.

And then last winter hit, with a shit storm of loss that I wasn't ready for, and all the while I had to be the grown-up.

She lost her hamster.
She lost her cat.
She lost her grandmother.
She lost her great grandmother.
She lost two beloved chickens.
When her uncle's dog died suddenly, I simply could not tell her.

I spend a part of each day now thinking about the people and pets we love so much, willing them to not die.  This has done wonders for my already anxiety-ridden mindset.

We had a funeral for the hamster.  Abby orchestrated it--with a photo of Polka, some flickering candles, a eulogy, and a burial.  I stood amazed at my daughter's strength.  But she slept in my bedroom that night--she couldn't be alone in her room without Polka.

We had a final evening with Tucker the cat, who spent part of his night in Abby's bed, then part in mine, and part with his sister, our other cat Henrietta.  Abby said goodbye to him for the last time and then got on the school bus.  She got on the school bus knowing that she wouldn't see Tucker again.  How did she do that?  I took the day off, cradled his head in his last moments.  I cried gallons of tears, though I couldn't always tell which tears were for me and which were for my little girl.  This has been the case more often than not lately.

We spent the last week of my mother's life with her.  She was so heavily medicated that she just slept.  Abby flitted in and out of her room, where someone was always by Nana's side.  She'd talk to Nana, tell her she loved her.  She rarely cried in front of anyone except me.  All through the year of my mother's illness, I could think of little else besides how devastated my daughter would be.  My pain was more than doubled as I ached for Abby's future without her Nana--how would I tell her?  How would she go on?  Once again I was bewildered by my eight-year-old's strength.

But Abby said to me recently, "Our family is cursed."

"Of course it's not," I told her, but I didn't totally believe myself.  She doesn't really believe me either.  After all, I told her that Tucker (the cat) would be ok.  I told her Nana, my mother, would be ok.

But they weren't.

I didn't pull her out of school to attend Grammie's funeral.  She had missed so much school already.  Should I have?

I put her on the bus on the day we lost Tucker.  Should I have?

I couldn't tell her about her uncle's dog.  The words dried up every time I tried.  But should I have?

My greatest fear out of all the many I harbor, day in and day out, is that I will screw up my kid.  I'm responsible for turning her into a well-adjusted adult who will maybe one day get married, maybe have kids, own a home, buy a dehumidifier.  Raising her to be kind, compassionate, smart, strong, and independent--and ok with the world of vegetables--is so, so, so, so hard.

I tell her I've got a secret handbook for moms.  I use it to justify all the times I piss her off by refusing to let her have gum for breakfast or tie bells to the cat.  But of course there is no manual.  I have no idea what I'm doing.  I make it all up as I go along.

Most days I think she's turning out all right.  And my credit card is paid off each month.  And I got my contract to teach again next year.  And I'm making my car payments on time.  I get along with my ex and the dehumidifier is still running.  My husband and I are trying to set a positive example about what loving relationships look like.  And she does want hugs from me from time to time.  So maybe, just maybe, I'm doing ok.

Abby and Tucker

Abby with Grammie and her father
Nana and Abby

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Adventure Problems

There are several factors that hinder my efforts at being an Adventure Person:

1) I don't like the name "Adventure Person."  As you know, I've got Adventure Dog, Adventure Daughter, and Adventure Husband.  I don't want to be Adventure Mom--I'm not interested in emphasizing the mom-ness of my adventures.  I don't want to be Adventure Woman--that sounds like too much of an agenda.  But Adventure Person isn't exactly poetic.  Names mean a lot to me, so this is bothersome.  (Ok, this isn't really that big of a deal, but it has crossed my mind.)

2) I already wrote about Oomph, and my lack thereof.  I remember seeing one of those cute posters with a droopy looking puppy on it that said, "My get up and go got up and went."  That's how I feel a lot of the time.  The thought of changing out of work clothes and into exercise gear is exhausting.  But it doesn't seem like it should be.  It just is.  Also, it seems to take us 30 minutes to get out the door--where's my hat? What did I do with my shoes?  Sun screen? Bug spray?  Water bottles?  Did you print the map?  Where are my sun glasses?

3) Guilt.  I live in Maine, where beautiful weather is not uncommon exactly, but summer is most definitely special.  As are those winter days when the snow is glistening but the temps aren't too frigid and there's no wind.  When those days roll around, I get overwhelmed with the idea that I should be doing something to take advantage of them.  If I stay in and watch Netflix, I feel guilty, but the thought of how to perfectly capitalize on the gorgeous day is paralyzing.  Do I hike?  If so, which hike?  Should I do what I always do (Winslow Park) or try something new (but what if it turns out to be a crappy one)? And of course I've got more yard work to do than sunny summer days allow for, so instead of digging in (literally) and clearing the weedy flowerbed or fixing the pond or moving the rocks that need moving or pruning the bushes, I stare bewildered at the increasingly wild-looking yard and get nothing one.

4) Bugs.  I'm not afraid of bugs exactly.  I've caught my fair share of lighting bugs, and I can fight fiercely with the ants threaten my peace of mind each spring, but the biting bugs--mosquitos, black flies, deer flies, and the like--these are the bane of my outdoor adventure existence.  You know how some people rarely get bit and others are bug magnets?  I'm a bug magnet.  Or some folks get bit, sure, and it's mildly irritating, but they forget about it and that's that?  Not me.  A bite usually turns to welt, and I'm not keen on welts.

Fear of bug bites can literally deter me from an outing, or ruin my trip if I do muster the courage to go.

Today, for example, we're having one of those glorious, you-better-get-outside-and-do-something days, so once I managed to get over my inertia and settle on a hiking trail (with the help of Adventure Husband), I lathered on my homemade bug repellant and headed off.

Adventure Dog on the Trail
I didn't get many great photos--read on to find out why.
Within the first five minutes of the hike through a wooded area, I swatted two mosquitos off of Jon.  They weren't biting me, but seeing them go for him built up the first layer of stress.  Then one got me, and that was that.  I was on speed hike to get back to the car.  Forget admiring the foliage or the ways the sunlight streamed in mottled patches to the pine covered trail underfoot.  No.  Just Car Car Car Car Car.  Must get to car.  Retreat!

I am not proud of this.

I'm going to make a concerted effort this year to figure out how to minimize the mind games I play with the bugs.  I don't want to rely too heavily on chemicals, but I'm going to explore all the options.

Hopefully this summer's focus on adventuring will yield improvements in all of the areas that hinder my adventuring progress.  We'll see.  Whatever the case,  I'll try to write about it here.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Adventure Dog Provides Some Much Needed Levity

If you ask Kevin, he'll tell you: one of his primary purposes in life is to return things to you that you keep throwing away over and over.

"I'll get it, Dad."

And when you throw those things away into the waves at Higgins Beach, returning them to you is extra important.

"I got it."
When he is in retrieval mode, nothing distracts Kevin from his duty.  Not even a cute little pup called Miss Kate, who is also working as hard as Kevin at her passion:

Miss Kate is a herding dog.  She loves working labs.
They give her someone to herd.
I admire Kevin's passion.

What's your passion?  Does pursuing it block out all other distractions? Is that even possible for a human?

"Well done, Pup."
"Thanks, Dad."

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Everything's Not Fine

Posted to Facebook, June 13th, 2016, by Berkeley Breathed
(If you're not following Berkeley Breathed's Bloom County on Facebook, you should be.
Go ahead and do it now.  I'll wait.)
Everything's not fine.

I mean, sure, it is fine on lots of levels.  I got my daughter off to school with a minimum of fuss.  I got myself to work on time (same for yesterday).  I made dinner last night, packed lunches this morning, administered a final exam to 9th graders, ate a muffin, graded essays.  The usual stuff of life in mid-June.  Oh, and I voted.  It's primary day around here.

But I had to switch off NPR on my ride home from work.  I couldn't listen to the news anymore.

Today I feel fragile, like maybe I could shatter if the wind blows too hard.

I've been writing on this blog about my fears: fear of playing ball with the boys, fear of bike riding on major roadways, fear of rollerskating.  Mostly fears of falling down.  I can think about those.  But there are other fears I routinely put in a box, store on a high shelf, try not to look at too often.

Sandy Hook made me look. Paris made me look. San Bernadino made me look.  Orlando made me pull the box down and dump its contents on the bedroom floor.  Each time it's harder to put everything back and close the box.

I've read a few articles in the past forty-eight hours, mostly about the people who died at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando.  I made myself take the time to read a list of names yesterday.  Today I cried as Anderson Cooper told us something about each of the forty-nine lives lost.  (I've always had a soft spot for Anderson Cooper):

I try not to read too much, though.  I skip the articles with transcripts of text messages, and I don't like to read about the man who perpetrated the violence, or speculation about his motives.  I don't know what will happen to me if I read too much, but I have this sense that it won't be good, so I just don't let myself go too far down that road.

It takes a lot of energy not to think about something.  I've been very tired these past few days.  And I keep sighing.

I've also read a lot of Facebook posts from friends, making their own statements about what has happened, sharing information, looking for ways to help.  Maybe this blogpost is my turn, but what I really want to write about is my daughter.

This morning she asked me, seconds before I had to drop her off and go my own way to school, "Why do people do murder?"  Answer that in ten seconds and make it meaningful and not scary.  Sure.

She didn't seem too caught up in the question, and she bounced into my mother-in-law's house, eager to have breakfast and play a game of Chutes and Ladders.  (I think she's feeling nostalgic.)  But I thought about it some more on my ride to school, I listened to NPR , and I had to pull myself together as I pulled into the parking lot.  Sigh.

One of the blogposts I read this weekend was from Abby's father.  He shared a photo of a previous year's Pride Parade in Portland and wrote, "An important year to march. Please join us!"  I couldn't breathe for a moment.  All I could think was, "I can't let Abby go."

Abby has marched with her father through the streets of Portland behind the giant rainbow flag before.  She has grown up around all kinds of people: gay, straight, transgender--and she doesn't see anything but people.  She thinks it's perfectly normal that Mommy, Dad (my husband, her step-dad), Daddy (her biological father), and Mark (her Daddy's partner) attend all of her important school events together.  (We are quite an assemblage at parent-teacher conferences.)  It blew her little seven-year-old mind when the four of us escorted her to Disney World en masse.  Her entourage on Halloween night is comical.

But Abby doesn't know much about the struggle, the hurt, the fear that got us to where we are today.  She's only now starting to realize why Mommy and Daddy had to break up but doesn't really fully understand why Daddy couldn't easily choose a boy that first time around.  She doesn't know about what happened at Pulse (or in San Bernadino or Paris or Sandy Hook).  But this morning she asked about why people murder.  So obviously she's heard something.

I'm so angry that my brain now automatically goes to the need to protect her from guns and bombs, and not just the possibility that she might fall off her bike.  I mean, this is me--I get nervous when she runs down the driveway (she could fall) or plays in the yard (ticks!).  I'm already always fighting the urge to keep her from running, jumping, tumbling, riding, climbing, falling.  Letting her go is hard.  And getting harder.

Last night I fell asleep in a deluge of tears and tissues, wracked with fear that one of these times it will be Abby or someone from her family who ends up a victim of cruelty and violence.

I want to end this post with something uplifting, about how love is bigger than hate and we have to keep living and we can't give in to fear because that's what the bad guys want us to do.  

But I've seen love break Abby's heart too many times this year.  She lost her grandmother, her great-grandmother, her beloved cat, and her hamster all in the last six months.  When you love so many, the risk of loss is all the greater.

And now I get to fear hate, too.

I'm worried (yeah, what else is new?) that this post will make me sound hopeless.  But weirdly, as much as I'm feeling the burden of loving someone who is still so tender, and feeling the burden of hate that is manifesting in violence, I still have hope for the future.  That's what children are, right?  Hope for the future?

Mr. Rogers gave advice for times of tragedy: he said to look for the helpers.  And that really helps.  Those are the stories I'm trying to focus on when I look at the news or listen to NPR.

These few days have been hard, and there will be other hard days ahead.  I don't want to grow numb to tragedy, so all of this feeling is a good sign that I'm still ok.  And I've got my family, my dog, my friends, and the potential to face my fears.  So yeah, everything may not be fine, I may be feeling a little fragile right now, but I'm not about to shatter.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Terror on Two Wheels

When my 40th birthday rolled around (pun totally intended), my first-rate husband Jon planned a weekend get-away for us.  He didn't tell me where we were going, but he started dropping hints a couple of weeks before.

2 Weeks Before:
Him: Do we have anything on the calendar for two weekends from now?
Me: I don't think so.
Him: Good.  Keep it clear.
Me on the inside: I have the best husband ever.
Me: I have the best husband ever!

1 Week Before:
Him: I'm going to have to give you some hints soon, so you pack appropriately.
Me: Oooh! Ok!
Me on the Inside: Will we be hiking?  Will we be dressing up?  Will we need bathing suits?

5 Days Before:
Him: You'll need to be able to pack whatever you'd like to take for the weekend into a backpack.  No suitcases.
Me: ....
Him: Don't worry.  There's a proper hotel involved.
Me on the Inside: Ohthankgod.

3 Days Before:
Him: Let's stop at my mom and dad's house.
Me: Why?
Him: I need you to try something.
Me: What?
Him: I want to see if you can ride my dad's bike.
Me: Ok.
Me on the inside: Oh no. No no no no no no no no no.

His dad's bike was too big for me, but I could ride his mom's, and so with these clues in hand:

1) We were leaving the state of Maine
2) We needed to carry our belongings in backpacks
3) Bikes were involved

I determined that we'd be taking a ferry somewhere (and not the car ferry), and that wherever we were headed would be bike-friendly.  I guessed Martha's Vineyard the night before the trip.

Needless to say, it felt pretty good that my husband planned a weekend away for us--and he did ALL of the planning, from hotel to ferry to what would be happening with the kiddo (who was not tagging along on this trip).  He even researched the best places to eat.

But...biking.  Oy.

My history with biking includes some pretty routine stuff.  I learned to ride a bike as a young kid, went from training wheels to two wheels with the patient assistance of my father, and felt pretty comfortable riding around the neighborhood and to my friends' houses.

My first bike looked a lot like this one, and I liked it very much.
But my friends and I weren't regular bike riders.  My bike got decent use, but not lots.  I generally walked everywhere as a kid.

In middle school I lived in upstate New York, and one Christmas I found a ten speed Schwinn under the tree.  I remember riding it around our neighborhood, which was conveniently a big oval loop.  I don't think I ever left the neighborhood on my bike, and I'm not sure what happened to it when we moved.  Maybe it came with us, but I don't remember riding it in Hawaii.  Bike-riding was simply not a big part of my life.

In the early 2000s, I rented a bike while visiting Acadia, and we toot-tooted all over the carriage trails.  That was a pretty good time, but I didn't speed home to buy my own bike.

And now, 2016, a bike-related adventure lay before me, and all I could think was:

1) I don't want to get hit by a car.
2) I really don't want to get hit by a car.
3) Did I mention how I feel about cars?  And bikes? and bikes and cars?

I had been to Martha's Vineyard a couple of times before, years ago, and remembered well enough to know that it is indeed bike friendly, but not bike-only.  I felt ok about trails for bikes, but the thought of riding on the road, real roads, with cars, had me feeling uneasy.

And this is why I'm writing this blog.  The prospect of an adventure like this, taking bikes for a weekend get-away to Martha's Vineyard, should bring nothing but delight.  But in typical me fashion, I found a way to be nervous about it.  

Still, I forged on, reminding myself that lots and lots of grown ups ride bikes, not to mention lots and lots of children.  If kids can do it, I can too.  (And I REALLY wanted to go to Martha's Vineyard and have a wonderful time with my wonderful husband.)

We started our biking adventure on a trail, thank goodness, from the parking area to the ferry terminal, so my first half hour on a bike was in the relative safety zone of a level, paved path with limited traffic of any kind.  But I knew upon arriving at the Vineyard we were going to have to bike from Vineyard Haven to Oak Bluffs, as the Oak Bluffs ferry wasn't running yet.

But while riding that nice, flat, empty trail, we realized that something was amiss with Jon's bike.  So on the ferry ride over, he researched bike shops.  And he found one!  

 This route proved challenging for a number of reasons:
1) It was in the opposite direction of where we needed to go to the hotel.
2) It was exclusively on busy town roads.
3) It was almost entirely up hill.

Google Maps reveals amazing things.
If you spend any amount of time on bicycles, you will surely realize that this was not a long detour.  One measly mile?  And while it was primarily up hill, a 108 foot elevation increase is pretty paltry.

But now you must put yourself into my bike helmet for a minute.  

I thought I was going to die.  By the time the second bus passed us on Sate Road, I veered up someone's drive and onto the sidewalk and refused to get off of it.  Fortunately, that happened as we were just approaching the bike shop.

While a very nice man tuned up Jon's bike, I sat, streaming sweat, and sweating the next leg of our journey.

In retrospect, and looking at the other possible bike routes on the map above, I see that we actually could have taken more side streets, which would have been a smarter thing to do, but planning on the fly and on a smart phone has its limitations.

Anyway, back down State Road we went, across the bridge (we walked over a construction-zone make-shift foot bridge, thank goodness) and arrived finally at the Piquot Hotel. (I loved this hotel.  You should totally stay there.)

Look at those smiles!  They do not reflect the terror I felt on State Road.

They do, however, reflect my feeling of accomplishment.  

I did all of that and I didn't die.  I didn't even get hit by one single car!

Did I overcome my fear of biking on the street?  Not entirely.  

Did we bike all over the island that weekend?


Did we bike at least a little more?


At East Chop Lighthouse

Did I like it?


Did I find myself saying, every time I saw someone jogging, "Why would you run anywhere when you can take a bike?"


Did I come home and buy a bike?



I have a lot of learning to do, but this faint-hearted adventurer has decided to give biking a try.  More posts to come on the subject, no doubt.

Friday, June 10, 2016

My Roller Skating Conundrum

Earlier this month, when I wrote about Fifteen Things I Fear, roller skating made the list.

Lemme Explain.

First, know this: I roller skated a lot as a kid.  The highlight of my week involved the outdoor skating rink on Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Here's proof:

That's me in the white and blue striped sweater.

After we left Hawaii, I sort of hung up my skates--not for any dramatic reason, but because it wasn't a thing to do at the next place I lived.  But skating proved to be like bike riding: once you learn, you don't forget.

Cut to 2014.  For my birthday, I wanted to see a roller derby match.  Maine has quite the roller derby community, and so off to the Expo we went.

Here's what I remember most about that match:

1) The women looked sooooooooo bad-ass.  They had crazy names, face paint, muscles, and spunk.
2) The actual amount of forward-progress skating was alarmingly little, except for the Jammers.  A lot of the action reminded me of football running plays that don't go anywhere.
3) Skaters sometimes fell so hard it made my bones ache.
4) I wanted to try it.

I learned about Derby Lite that day, as well.

Train like the roller derby skaters?  But don't actually mash into anybody? 

It sounded perfect for me.  (It might be perfect for you.  Consider trying it!)

Many of the skaters on the derby teams in my area started out at Derby Lite.  So who knew?  Maybe I'd get the confidence and eventually be one of those fierce ladies I loved watching that day in May.

I signed up and geared up.  I had never before skated while wearing a helmet, elbow pads, wrist guards, knee pads, and a mouth guard.  I got my gear (skates and all) at Turn Two Skate Shop in Portland, with the supportive assistance of Grim D. Mise.  

Grim D. Mise (oh-my-gosh-she-is-so-amazing)

And so I began my year of skating with Derby Lite.  

If you're curious about whether or not I made it to an actual roller derby team and don't have time to read on, I'll spare you the suspense: I did not.  Not even close.

I want to write that classes were super fun.  I think they are super fun for lots and lots of people.  Wonderful women join Derby Lite.  Wonderful women coach Derby Lite.  Everyone is supportive, helpful, friendly.  Some women in the beginner class cannot skate at all, and others have been skating since they were kids.  Everyone is welcomed.

And on my first day, I felt pretty good--I could zip around the rink no problem.  We learned to fall that day--forward, onto our knee, elbow, and wrist guards.  Over and over again we threw ourselves to the ground.

As the classes went on, though, I noticed several things:

1) I wasn't really improving.  I joined with a friend who also knew how to skate some, but I could out-skate her pretty easily.  But before long, she was out-skating me.  I could see her improvement.  I couldn't see mine.

2) I began dreading what class would require each week.  There was no published syllabus--we just showed up and did the drills. I usually felt pretty good by the end of class, but the distress caused by wondering if we were going to do something hard or scary made me struggle to get in the car and go.  Fear ≠ Fun.

3) While driving in with my friend, I kept making comparisons to the dance classes I had taken for years.  At one point she finally said, "Do you think maybe you need to go back to dance?"  Talk about an ah-ha moment.

So what happened?  What was my problem?


Fear of crashing.  Fear of falling. Fear of getting hurt.

The gals who progressed fastest in the class really threw themselves into it--literally.  One woman could not skate at all on day one.  She fell constantly.  By the year's end, she was flying past me, crossing over, weaving between people.  And still falling with some regularity because she continued to push herself.

I didn't have that in me.  I was afraid to fall.  So I didn't push myself and didn't improve much.

And worse, I became more and more afraid as the year went on. I used to have no trouble going to regular open-skate nights at the local rink to practice, but now?  I'm nervous about it.

It seems absurd that my fear has grown with more skating practice, not to mention more protective gear.  But there it is.

And it's a bummer.  I've got $300 worth of roller skating gear languishing in my closet.  I love my skates.  But I rarely put them on.

Who practices and gets worse at something?  This faint-hearted adventurer, that's who.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

More on the Subject of Oomph

I mentioned "oomph" in my last post, in terms of having it or not having it, especially when facing challenges.

Tonight I looked up the definition of "oomph" just to see if it also meant something I wasn't thinking of, as can be the case in this world of euphemisms.

Aside from learning that Oomph is the name of a German rock band, here's what I found at


energy; vitality; enthusiasm.
sex appeal.
Goodness.   I'll admit I was a little surprised by definition #2.  That is NOT what I was writing about yesterday.  My husband assures me I've got plenty of definition #2 (I'm not going to argue with him), but this is a family blog, so I'm going to focus on definition #1: energy; vitality; enthusiasm

Energy.  Vitality.  Enthusiasm.

Here are a few times when I surprised myself with an what I consider an impressive level of oomph:

1) Learning to dive into a pool
My dad reminded me of this moment when we spoke yesterday.  He was surprised by my feelings about pool parties.   He remembers vividly too the evening we spent somewhere in the south, at a pit stop on our cross-country family road trip.  I must have been about eleven years old.  The sun had set but the air was still warm and dry, and we had the hotel pool mostly to ourselves.  He patiently taught me how to split the water with my outstretched arms, one hand over the other, breathing out through my nose.  His enthusiasm and gentle energy helped me find the oomph to learn something I had feared for quite some time.

2) Playing softball (yes, the dreaded softball) with my colleagues at my summer job in college
I can't believe I found the oomph to do that, having played NO organized team sports since my one year of little league and half-hearted efforts in high school gym classes.  I even had my parents send me my little league glove, the one with the signatures on it.  There were lots of dumb rules about how there had to be a certain number of women on the team and in the game at all times--to "even the playing field."  (Ewwww.)   It was probably pressure to fill the quota that provided the oomph.  I experienced little league all over again in some ways--I played right field, and the boy  (can't call him a man) at second base tried to make every play that came anywhere near me.  I did get to play catcher a few times, but the boy (again, not a man) at third also felt compelled to attempt to make any possible plays at home plate (not back me up--backing up I understand).  Still, I did play on the team.  And I had some fun.

3) Bringing this into the world.
I am indeed woman, and--if you were in Portland on the day Abby was born--you most likely did hear me roar.

 The only item on my birth plan was to have no I.V.  The nurse who checked me in for my delivery raised her eyebrows when I told her, but she rolled with it when I informed her that my doc was on board.  Oddly enough, that particular oomph (the no I.V. bit) stemmed from a story about my fear.  When I was in high school, my mother took me to visit her friend in the hospital who had just had a baby.  When we were walking back to the car I asked my mom, "Do all people get one of those I.V.'s when they have a baby?"  She said it was pretty standard procedure.  "Guess I won't be having any babies then," I declared.  I was wrong, but not about the I.V.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Little League Daze

As a kid, I didn't play a lot of organized sports.  But for one year, I joined a baseball team.

It was a co-ed league, and we played Coach Pitch, so instead of facing the opposing team's pitcher, we got seven pitches lobbed gently to us by our coach.

I will never forget the first day of practice.  We drove up to the field, and I surveyed my future team from the van window.

All boys.

I did not get out of the car.  I couldn't fathom being the only girl on the team, and so I just watched as all those boys played catch with each other and listened to the coach.

By the end of practice, though, I somehow got the nerve to join the group.  I really wanted to play--my father had gotten me interested in baseball and had been playing catch with me.  He bought me a glove, waited with my while I got signatures on it from the local farm team players, helped me learn the rules, taught me lots o' baseball chatter ("Hey, batter batter batter, sa-wing, batter!"), and even burned my name into my very own wooden bat (all the boys' metal bats were too heavy for me).

The coach, Daryl, and his son (also Daryl) were super nice, and before long, I was one of the team--chomping on Hubba Bubba and goofing off in the dugout with the rest of them.

Still, I was too shy to pipe up when the team selected its name, The Braves, which I did not like one bit.  And my position was right field.  Anybody who played little league knows that that's where they stuck the kids who didn't have much skill and who had a tendency to sit down and pick flowers.

But I never picked flowers.  I was always ready, hands on my knees, eyes on the batter, both hoping and fearing a fly ball would come my way.  I envisioned so many plays in which I caught a fly ball at the fence, or raced up on a ground ball and threw out the runner at second.  Of course, when the ball did come my way, my heart pounded and I threw wildly at whoever waved his arms most frantically at me.  And more often than not, Sean--our second baseman and our most hot-headed player--ran over and attempted to cut off or catch anything that had the suggestion of heading my way.

I didn't really think about it at the time, but those boys had probably been playing T-ball since they could walk and hold a bat, while I was in my first year ever of any kind of organized team sport. I still managed some hits and scored some runs, so I wasn't completely useless.

When the season ended, I wore that year of being the only girl on the team like a medal around my neck.  That meant more to me than the participation trophy I got (though I was pleased that the statue on my trophy had a little gold ponytail).

But I don't know why I didn't play again the following season.  Or why I didn't pick up softball*.   I just...didn't.

I think maybe it takes a certain level of..."Oomph" be brave.  Maybe I used up all my Oomph on that first practice when I saw all those boys and no girls on my team.

This question of Oomph haunts and plagues me still.  More on the subject later, to be sure.

*To be totally honest, I never liked softball.  I didn't get why girls had to play with that giant ball, which never really fit in my hand, when I had been perfectly capable of playing with a real baseball on my team.  Now that I've seen softball at more advanced levels, I can see the athleticism of the sport, but the feminist in me still feels some irritation at the division.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

An Inspiring Adventurer: Casey Neistat

My husband loves YouTube.  He's always learning about whatever his latest hobby is by watching pro videos.  Watching regularly allows you to find Youtube personalities and subscribe to their channels, making it easier to keep up with their latest posts.  Jon subscribes to roughly a zillion channels.   I subscribe to four.  

One of my four is my own channel from my school gmail account (how lame) and two, Taylor Swift Music Videos and Hamster Advice, mysteriously appeared after I let Abby use my laptop.  

So the only truly legit channel I subscribe to belongs to Casey Neistat.

Jon came across filmmaker and Youtuber Casey Neistat while researching photography.  Casey is in year two of uploading a Video Blog (or vlog) every single day.  This is an impressive feat.  I started watching Casey videos over Jon's shoulder, and now it's a nightly ritual for us to catch up on Casey's vlog.  

Casey Neistat is an inspirational adventurer.  He lives in New York City, makes incredible movies, and packs more into a day than anyone I've ever seen.  He is funny and creative, and most of all, he has an incredibly positive outlook on...everything.

He is also way more daring and adventurous than I will ever be, but he has encouraged me to get up and get moving and to keep a positive attitude.  I'm including one of his earlier movies here, as it is thematically appropriate for this blog, but I hope you'll subscribe to his channel and watch more of his great videos.  (Don't let the image fool you--this is an awesome video.)  This video is called "Make It Count."

Ok, time to go watch Casey.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

A Micro Adventure...for Kevin

We were having a perfectly lovely walk at Winslow Park.

The sun shone, the trees rustled softly, the water glimmered.

The views, as ever, were spectacular.

Jon and I found ourselves marveling for the one millionth time just how amazing it is that this beautiful park is practically in our backyard, and how wonderful it is that we can walk here all year long, when....


Kevin decided to kick the adventure level of our walk up a notch by going for an impromptu swim.

His buddy Finn joined in the adventuring, and there may have been some stick throwing.

The boys did not mind one bit being damp and soggy for the rest of the walk.

Here is Adventure Dog once again reminding me to live a little.  Thanks, Kevin!