Thursday, November 04, 2010

Dreams teach . . .

. . .and sometimes I learn things about myself, or have things confirmed that I'd known or suspected.  The last two nights are no exception.  And somehow I feel as though I've been tested and passed muster.  I have my suspicions there, but I'll keep those cards close to my vest as they say.  A least for the nonce.

Anyway, back to my dreams.  Or should I say nightmares.  They have been such a constant part of my life for so many years it's hard to say anymore where the line between dreams and nightmares exists, or even if it does.  I oft wonder if it is not so much a line as much a matter of degree?

Night before last I was out walking somewhere, in a city I'm not familiar with, when I was accosted by a complete stranger that decided I was not at home raising children doting on my husband like I was supposed to be. He decided I was evil because I wasn't sufficiently (or at all) cowed by his presence.  He warned me that God had given him the right, the duty, to smite me if need be.  Maybe I should have been showing the fear and terror of being put upon by this person that I was feeling or something, but instead I looked at him and said I seriously doubt you are permitted by God to smite me.  That is not the way God works.  Some more words of madness from him and finally I said, "Fine, you and I don't agree, I get that, and you feel you have to smite me, I get that too.  Before we get to the smiting part of our program can I just mention that with great power comes great responsibility?  And that it might be possible that while the lighting flashed and the sparks showered in one blink of your eyes you had had missed seeing?  That I could not be responsible for actions you take, only my own?  'The sun is warm, the wind is mild, willows are green along the shore, Here no bull can hide?'"  In a moment that felt much like Yosemite Sam facing off against Bugs Bunny he bellowed "Enough nonsense woman, prepare to meet your maker!"

I simply said "I put no distance between myself and where I am, what of you?  If smiting me is what you plan to do, might I suggest you just get on with it and stop wasting both of our time?"

I watched as his hands began to glow and thought it strange, after all, as a healer I could do the same thing but would never think to use it to harm another being.  So I set my hands to glowing and increased my own shielding against negative energy.  At which point his eyes took on an intensity that almost reminded me of a Stargate universe Goa'uld and I thought "ah, false gods," as a massive amount of energy poured out of the heavens in my direction, hit my shielding and enveloped him.  It wasn't pretty from there.  I felt slightly guilty, like I should have perhaps shielded him as well and dissipated the blast harmlessly, but it was to late for that and I awoke shaken from my encounter with an agent of a false god.

So last night was an even longer, more involved nightmare typical of many, if not most of mine.  I'm being chased by people that wish to harm me, captured, and then forced to work on their behalf to do things they wanted me to all while threatening to hurt or kill me if I didn't do just what they wanted, the way they wanted.  Over the course of several days things came to a head with one of the leaders of these people falling seriously ill.  My own nature was to help him, heal him is I could, and prevent harm from coming to him.  So again I lit up my hands and encouraged one of the people with me, who was also being held against her will, to help with the healing as well.  One of the other people stood there stunned and said "We were most likely going to kill you when we were done with you, why do you willingly help heal someone who is going to kill you?"

I pointed out that it was not my job to be his judge, jury and executioner, and not my nature to refuse to help someone based on a judgement call of such magnitude.  Mine is not to decide another's fate, mine is only to lessen if at all possible suffering and to use my gifts for the greater good.  To sit back and watch him die was not in my nature, regardless of what was in his.  I was already suffering at his hands, and letting him die would not change what I'd experienced.

Awakening from this dream I felt as though I'd passed some sort of test.  I was also reminded of why despite the way Earl and his parents were treating me, I still fought tirelessly to help him heal and grow.  How despite my own subjective distress I could remain objective in my care and treatment of Earl.

I am Buddhist person.  Not because of what I say, but because of what I do.  I am Buddhist person not because of the preaching or pronouncements of myself, my god or others, but because of the path I walk.  These two dreams helped me to remember what I've known all along but had been distracted from.  Sleep is one of the ultimate forms of meditation, and through dreams, we learn or are reminded of what we already know.

Buddhism to me is much less a form or religion in the common use of the word, and certainly not deist, or dogmatic in anyway, but a method of navigating the great path.  I follow no one, practice no "rituals" other than perhaps meditation if one could call that a ritual, and I choose not to lead.  Buddha teaches that all is illusion, and not to believe in him or what he says, but to find our path to enlightenment and walk it ourselves just as he has done.  Zen Buddhism, which is littered in my remarks above, has only Koans to meditate upon, things to ponder and take from them what we may.  Things like:

"The river tells no lies, yet standing at it's shores the dishonest man still hears them"


"If you immediately know the candlelight is fire, the meal was cooked a long time ago."

So there is little or no chance of being locked into dogmatic thinking, or a set of sound bites or bullet points to shout from a position of self importance.  In Zen Buddhist, nothing is a given and everything is possible.  The "four noble truths for example do not exist as things set in stone, but as reminders of a place and time that flavored the thinking and experiences of the person who shared them.  That even the eightfold path as right as it can be, is not the be all and end all of Buddhist experience on the road to the great path.

"All roads lead to the great path, many cross."

And dreams, be they during sleep, or while in deep meditation, can and often do teach . . .

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Very nearly a perfect day . . .

I awoke yesterday after seven and a half hours of sleep right through on the dreamland express.  It was nothing short of astonishing.  The effect it had on me was equally stunning.  As I wandered into the Loo the visage in the mirror surprised me.  For those who are fans of Star Trek from back in the 60's, think of the episode "Mudd's Women" kind of stunning.  One night of solid, uninterrupted sleep let me see just how much I've really been missing for the last decade or so.  I even crawled back into bed and got another hour of sleep after that.  Heavenly.  No nightmares to mar the experience.

Oh dear a girl could get used to that!!! I know this one could and hopes to!

So yesterday was also supposed to be really warm and mild before the rains came in today, tomorrow and Tuesday.  Naturally what would be my first thought for a perfect fall day in New England?  Yes, of course a ride!  I've got a one track mind that way.

I know Ohio is not really part of my beloved New England, but it reminds me of it in some very pleasant and surprising ways.  Not the least of which is the fall air and plenty of trees turning different colors.  So my sinister plan for the day was to get up and going earlyish for me, finally try a burger place so many people have said is amazing, and then fly!  Cause you just know flying had to be in there somewhere!

Photo Courtesy The Food Hussy and her review
So, "Five Guys" is a national chain, but they have high standards, offer fresh, hand cut, skin on fries, and wonderful burgers.  I've been hearing about them for a while but only just found out there is one here in Cincinnati.  Curiously enough it's in the top three for the area at number three, and happens to be in a place I feel comfortable with, right in the same shopping center as my local "Whole Foods" so I thought yesterday was a good day.  It's right before the end of the month and  payday but I had just enough scraped together to take myself out for a change.  Plus I have enough food in the house that I can make it till payday.

So "Five Guys" it was.  First surprise was that they encouraged me to spend the extra 20 cents for the plastic drink cup.  Why?  Because I'd never have to buy a drink from them ever again.  Should I go back, and after my first time there, I WILL, I bring the cup and get unlimited refills as long as I own the cup.  Forever...  If' I happen to be out shopping and am thirsty but not in the mood for a burger I said?  Come on it, it's your cup, and our rule is it should never have to be empty.  What if I go to a Five Guys in Colorado Springs, Colorado or Oakland Bay California I asked.  Same rule she said, your cup should never be empty!  Just like that.  So I ordered a burger with cheese and a bunch of vegetables on it, and a small fry.  She took my money, handed me my cup and receipt and said enjoy your meal ma'am!

Few minutes later my number was called while I was sipping some lemonade, and I got handed this huge bag.  Small fry my arse!  Imagine three large fries from say McDonald's or Wendy's and that's what was in my bag along with this frankly enormous burger.  I carefully opened it up and aside from the serious amounts of veggies I had them put on it, was REAL cheese and TWO burgers.  Turns out their regular burgers are DOUBLES by default.  Unlike other chain restaurants, they don't skimp with, or charge more, for the extras!  So I wound up eating half of it and saving the rest for after my ride.  And the epic fries?  Sprinkled them with Malt vinegar and ate about a quarter of them.  The rest I took for after the ride and dinner.  So two and a half meals and a truly bottomless drink cup, and I'd say this was money well spent!  The fries were fresh out of the fryer, hot, crisp, and oh so yummy!  To be fair, they are not at all unlike Peen Stations award winning fries which is another local sub place that has awesome food.  Anyway, the fries themselves are mana from loving food Gods.  Really.

Little Miami Scenic Trail
Then I set out for Loveland Ohio figuring I'd go try out the trail and see if all the hill work I've been doing has made a difference yet.  Plus I needed to get rid of some of what I drank and I knew they had bathrooms right off the trail.  So the bathrooms where interesting, and quite unexpected.  First of all it seems they never close. Second the stalls had these rustic wooden doors, but the toilets themselves were an anachronism.  In stark contrast with the rest of the structure, these gleaming white beauties where lidless.  So that should a bloke forget himself and wander into our side, he couldn't forget to put the seat back down when done.  They were and inserting shape  that I can only imagine were also in the mens rooms.  Long front to back, but narrow to make sitting without a lid quite comfortable, and very little chance for men folk to tinkle on the seat.  Finished in there, washed my hands, and then got Serenity off her birth on Jumper one, put on my gloves, bit my preflight and set off for a quiet, comfortable ride in the fall air.

Now I've ridden this trail a number of times before, but this was my first trip in the fall.  Winding along the Little Miami River it follows an old railway line from the bygone days of steam.  So much so that on a previous trip in a spot where the pavement was worn by time and thousands of riders, you can actually see the top of a piece of steel rail.  Anyway, the ride is scenic, peaceful, and of so lovely any time of year, but so much more today with the trees on both sides of the trail, and the river, thousands of different colors!  My plan was to ride out ten miles (which would put me around South Lebanon Ohio) and then turn around and ride back.  This scenic, peaceful, well maintained stretch of trail while not nearly as complex as climbing into the rockies, isn't exactly flat either, and while the grade change is only a 100 feet or so vertically, it's regular, so it's a decent work out as you keep riding up and down hills, over and over.  Some of them are just kind of seemingly long endless climbs.  At least to those of us badly out of shape and over weight.

So that gives you a general feeling for what the elevation change looks like.  For a closer, more interactive look at where and how the elevation changes, just click on either the profile, or the map above to be taken over to my profile page for the ride. 

The ride up was relaxed, pleasant, and I even slowed up a time or two to ride along other riders and chat.  Especially since one of the women riding along said "Oh sure, make this look easy, Ms. Speedy" as I went by.  As I came up on her six I noticed she was pedaling with the arches of her feet and looked like she was laboring and lagging behind the two guys she was riding with.   Now I'm no-one's expert on cycling, but I do know some things from trial and error that can made a big difference.  One of those that is oh so important is seat height and foot position.  The other is some decent padded gloves, which cuts down on hand and arm numbness on longer rides.  I'd also notice as I was coming up behind her that she was swinging her arms, which I used to do in the days before gloves.  It helps restore circulation and feeling when your arms go numb.  So I slowed down and matched her speed and said three things that will make a dramatic difference your rides are a good set of padded gloves, bring your seat up just about an inch, and get some decent electrolyte replacement additive and a water bottle and cage.  So we chatted a bit until we caught up to the guys she was riding with and I suggested to the boys they ride WITH her, not all they way out in front.  She was all excited about the few changes I suggested and started telling the guys about them as I bid them a good day and kept going on my way.

By the time I hit South Lebanon my internal clock rang, so I stopped a moment to check time, distance and remaining daylight.  Since my trip for a burger, and the indirect sightseeing route I took to Loveland got me a late start, I was concerned about riding back in the dark.  Mainly because while they are few, there ARE some road crossings and I didn't want to borrow trouble.  Wisdom being the better part of valor and all, I decided not to push on to the ten out I'd planned, I hit stop on CardioTrainer and was oh so pleased to see that for the first time ever, I'd managed an average pace of 12.2 miles per hour.  I know that doesn't sound like much to some of my friends who ride way above that, but for me it was a bit of victory!  Especially given the fact that it felt like a relaxed ride in the country!  With Sunset only twenty some minutes away, I reset my flight computer and started back, determined to push myself slightly harder to see if I could beat my pace.  40 some minutes later as I pulled to a stop behind the Jumper, I again hit stop and there it was.  I'd maintained a 12.5 mile per hour average pace!  Victory!

Which of course all the intentional hill work I've been doing in the park has paid handsome dividends!  As I saddled up and headed home it struck me how it was very nearly a perfect day.  Only thing that could have made it better?  If I'd made my ten full out and back miles.  There's always next weekend right?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Gear and staying fit . . .

So this is going to be the first of a number of posts where I talk about some of the gear related to one of my loves, which just happens to be a great way to stay fit.  I cycle for fitness, for pleasure, for fun, and to get away from things that are bothering me for a while.  When I get on Serenity and get moving, I'm leaving calories and problems behind me, taking the time to really be present while riding, focused on what I'm doing and soaking every last bit of pleasure out of a ride.

That said, I want to be safe, and careful.  I want, should God forbid something horrible to happen and I cannot speak for myself, some way for first responders to get to know me some.  I don't have any significant life threatening issues that require me to wear a medical alert ID, and frankly, they just don't have enough information on them.  There are any number of different ways to address identification and notification information, including of course carrying a wallet, but like most people working out, I don't want to carry a wallet with me.  Both from a standpoint of the extra stuff to carry, and the risk of having it stolen.  I have an ICE (In Case of Emergency) entry in my gphone, but again, should it be stolen or damaged again I'd be in trouble.

So while I was looking into getting a new bike, I came across a product in a bike shop in San Fransisco called RoadID.  Actually it's a series of products for athletes that serve as identification when one is out doing whatever one does, be it running, jogging, walking or in my case, cycling.  It's inexpensive, very lightweight, comes in a number of formats and provides optionally very serious and secure detailed information about one in times of need.  I started out with the Interactive Sport Wrist Band Road ID and wear it pretty much anytime I leave the house.  With the Interactive version, first responders, doctors and law enforcement will be able to call, or logon online to the service that securely manages my information.  Like who to notify, what my Drivers License number is, what Medications I'me taking and how often, who my Doctors are and how to reach them, as well as my Health Insurance ID and whatever else I feel like putting in there.  One simple wrist or ankle band, or a little pouch that connects to my shoes or inside my helmet has all the information that I'd normally have in my wallet.  I hope never to need to have it used, but I rest a bit easier knowing that God forbid the absolute worst happen, I'm not just some Jane Doe in a fridge somewhere.

So like I say, I started with the wrist ID back a while ago, but a conversation with a friend had me thinking.  RoadID will work if the first responders see it, think to look at it, and both to connect to the service and pull my records.  What if however they don't notice it or think to follow up on the information it can provide them access to other than my name?  So I thought about getting involved in educating first responders to be aware of the ID and to know to look for it.  I may still do that, but I realized there is one universal piece of identification that professionals recognize on sight and no to look at.  The age old Military "Dog tag!"  First Responders, Doctors, Law Enforcement all know what a Dog Tag is, and that it usually identifies the wearer.

And thus, my second RoadID purchase the FIXX ID!  Nice normal military Dog Tag that anyone will see and recognize in an instant, but a 21st century version that is connected to my existing interactive identification on the secure server.  One profile that both my IDs connect to.  Wear it around my neck, tucked into my bra and off I go!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chuck and the kindness of strangers...

Karma is defined in many different ways by many different people.  One of the common short descriptions is that what you send out in terms of energy you will get back.  The whole idea of kindness to complete strangers for no reason than it's nice to be nice.  Love they neighbor and all that if you will.

Seems because I have some how managed to heal and miraculously remain an otherwise out going, friendly, kind sort of person, I tend to act like a buglight.  Folks seem to notice me, and gravitate toward me like I'm a small stellar body.  You know, gravity and all that.

Of late I've been running laps on the streets near my house that take me through several small towns.  As I ride, I'm focused on what I'm doing, but because of that gravity, people notice me and I wind up with a cheering section.  Even riding on surface streets.  One such local has been cheering me on and counting my laps as I go flying by.  He hollers across the street, I smile and wave, and keep going.

With the days getting shorter, the darkness of twilight coming sooner, my last laps of the day are often well into dusk.  Saturday as I was making my second lap around, my cheering section had crossed the street and he tried to get me to stop for a moment.  "Next lap" I said as I flew past noticing he was holding something bright and shiny in his hands.

So on the next laps I pulled onto the sidewalk where he was sitting and said "Hi, are you okay?"  He said yes he was fine and handed me this day glow yellow safety belt.  "My Son wore this when he was an SF and I don't know how to adjust it, but I thought you could probably use it.  I worry that you'll get hit out there riding like a woman with a purpose."  So I thanked him, asked if he was sure he wanted to part with it, and when he said yes, proceeded to adjust it to fit and put it on.  So we chatted a bit, exchanged names, brief histories, that kind of thing.  Polite, friendly conversation.  He said that I amazed him, riding by like that going around the neighborhood.  Turned out he though I was running short little loops in the handful of blocks right there.  He was floored when he found out just where I was riding and remarked he'd probably die if he tried that.  That he was thinking of getting a bike, but not doing anything like I was.

I assured him that a few short months ago it took my almost an hour, where I fell over sever times, stopped and sat for a good long time to catch my breath, and got pretty bruised up trying to do two miles around the lake.  Told him that I've been working my way up, and that now I can do ten miles in under and hour and often do more than that.  That he could do it too and that it was fun and so good for ones health.

His name is Chuck, and he didn't want to see me get hurt.  Complete stranger that is now not so much a stranger.  Seems I'm not the only one who tends to practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.  I kinda like that and thought I'd share!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Well, it finally happened . . .

. . . after 730 miles since March 27th Serenity got a flat.  Thankfully it was in the parking lot of my house.  So it's not like I had to walk far to get home.  Not like I was going to have to nurse an injured comrade along as we walked miles back to the barn.  Not even like I had to call AAA, though I don't know if it covers me when I'm on my bike...  :)

SO I took her upstairs and set about finding out what the problem was and deciding how to fix it.  Okay, yes, it was a given the tire was completely flat and the only thing to do is either repair or replace either the tire and tube, or just the tube.  I had a patch kit so that if it was something small, I'd be able to patch the tube and go from there, but I didn't have a pump which would only get me so far.  First thing to do was look for any obvious, easily visible signs of problems.  What I found I'd say more than covers that and then some.  A frakin staple, a fairly sizable one at that, stuck deep into the tire.  So as you can see on the right, we know exactly why the tire was flat now.  Thankfully, this kind of damage isn't something that requires I replace the tire, because those are fifty bucks a each the ones that came with the bike.  In this case, I can patch or replace the tube, and go from there.  Which brings us to the wisdom Asa Salas shared over on Team Estrogen about flat tires.  She wrote in part;

"You want to see a trick?" I asked. I took the wheel, and before he could hand me the levers, I zipped the tire off the rim.
"How did you do that?" he said.

The article, which is very well written, goes into how exactly to get a tire off without tools.  No levers, no fuss, muss or bother.  Honestly it's a long, long way from the old days.  Last time I had a flat was over 20 years ago, and I used to keep a bunch of tools with me just to be able to get the thing repaired.  Now of course back in those days the wheel bolted into the frame, and just to get it off required wrenches.  Now, since I bought a decent bike, the wheels come with a quick release to make it easy to get them off the bike.  What was more to the point with the fact that Asa explained how to get the tire off the wheels without the use of tire levers.  Now that is a blessing.  Especially given the frustration that levers used to represent.  Not just having to keep them in a pouch on the bike with others tools, patch kit, spare tube, frame pump and so forth, there's also the annoyance of fighting with the tire levers themselves.  

So while I was thrilled to have found Asa's article early on, I was in no real rush to find out.  Now however it seemed a perfect time.  I had a patch kit, and despite Asa's suggestion to replace the tube and patch the punctured one later, I figured I'd try to accelerate the process some and change it in place.  So, the air already out of the tire I took to following Asa's advice for taking the tire off and pulled the tube out to patch it.  So I carefully slide the tube out from under the tire leaving the staple in the tire so I'd have a good idea where the holes are.  I followed Asa's steps to gently get pull the tire off the rim and slide the tube out.  Cleaned the tube surface, but the vulcanizing glue on the tube and let it dry.  Applied the patch, removed the staple and set about putting it back together.  A good exercise in why Asa was right, and that her technique works flawlessly.

So when I got it pumped up, and the tire seated on the rim I let it sit for a while to see if the patch was holding.  And this is where I learned that Asa was right.  Swap out the tube and play with the patch later!  The tube wasn't holding air.  Which of course meant I had to start over, this time of course I had to pull the wheel and tire/tube assembly off the bike and replace the tube this time.  So once again I got to use Asa's trick, and this time removed the damaged tube and replaced it with a new one.  Put the tube and tire back on the rim, again following Asa's technique and inflated the tire.  Perfect!  Simply perfect!  Serenity and I are back on the trails and adding more miles toward my goal of reaching 1000 by the end of October.  As of this writing, I've got six weeks, and 235 miles to go.  Given that each of the last two months I turned over 200 each, I'm in good shape.  Well, I'm on track to meet or even exceed my goal, shape?  Well that's part of why I'm riding now isn't it? 

In any case following Asa's guidelines the right way, it took almost no time to get the tire off, the damaged tube out, the new tube in, pumped up and put back on the bike and locked down.  Like I said, prefect.  So next I'm going to get one of those wonderful little CO2 tire inflater and an under seat pouch to keep a spare tube and the inflater and I won't have to worry getting flats while out riding ever.  Peace of mind that is well worth the price of some extra gear eh?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

There is no winter . . .

An old Russian proverb keeps coming to mind especially given the last few months.

"In the kingdom of hope there is no winter."

Which is amusing considering this is a kingdom I am fairly new to.  For the majority of my life, suffering simply was an inexorable force that ground away at one's soul until one succumbs to the pain.  I countered this for so many years with cold hard Vulcan Logic and the ability to reach a point of stillness that scared cats.   Seriously, I could and commonly did win staring contests with cats because it was something to do and it so unnerved them.  That and sneaking up on cats to spook them was really the limit to my cruelty back in those days, though I should be clear, I wasn't really me then.

The woman you've come to know here was always hidden away in fear and terror, and this "machine" that stood a post between me and the rest of the world followed without question the prime directive which was to keep me from harm.  There was, in those days, no hope, no feelings to speak of, nothing so much as the welcome darkness of the hide and the waiting.  It was as I've come to understand it a perfectly normal, if not completely healthy, response to Trauma I suffered at the hands of my father.  I was five and what I had been assured was going to be a simple, open conversation flared over into unspeakable violence that caused me to want to die.  Yeah, five years old and suicidal, so not good.  Anyway I "created" this person to stand between me and my father, to protect me from ever having to go through anything like that again.

"Protect and Serve" however only worked in so much as I was able to leave life to this carefully constructed simulation of a human being that made defying the laws of physics seem trivial.  I only wish I was kidding.  This soldier, MY soldier, was incredible.  Tough, powerful, unflappable, untouchable, immune to pain or anything else that could harm either of us.  And devoid of any real emotion, body language, facial expressions, anything.  With a command of rhetoric, logic, and an understanding of my father that could be used as a weapon.

Anyway, that only worked so far, and as I began coming out of my hide and giving him time off, I began a death of a thousand steps.  It lead eventually to me on the floor of the "home" Earl and I had shared for years "in chains" trying to summon the strength to go upstairs and quietly take my own life.  Again.  That "machine" had done what it could, but I was in so far over my - our? - heads that eventually there was only so much that could be done and I was on my own.  That "person" I'd created died standing a post.  Sacrificed everything for a chance that I'd be safe and free.  I still have some issues there.

Be it fate, bad timing, or whatever, I managed then to embark on another journey that lead me here.  A journey toward survival, and astonishingly enough, HOPE of all things.  In talking to a friend recently I was able to narrow down exactly how and when I found hope in my life.  I'm not completely certain the dynamics of it, but I am however certain it has it's hooks into me so to speak, and that it exists.  In meditations upon Entropy I've even found something so breathtaking that I'm still working on putting it to words.

But lets get back to hope.  First of all I can say without question, and as a matter of simple logic it unquestionably has to exist.  We all know without question that despair, or suffering (Dukka) exists.  Or at least I and many people I know, are certain suffering exists.  Suffering, depression, pain, or whatever you call it eventually leads to despair. Having been there, I have no doubt despair exists.  So one might then say that in winter, the kingdom of hope can not be seen.  In fact if you look it up, the very definition of despair is "A Complete Loss of Hope" ergo the entire existence of despair is tied completely to hope.  Like Good and Evil it is functionally and logically impossible for one to exist without the other.  For those who are of a more scientific persuasion, let's look at it this way.

The Law of Conservation of Energy states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but can change its form.
The total quantity of matter and energy available in the universe is a fixed amount and never any more or less.

So, were we to endeavor to erase despair from the universe, we know than we cannot remove it, but only work to change it's form.  What form would that take?  Why hope of course.  So lets look at that for a moment shall we?  We know that common water molecules can exist in many states, and that changing those states is a simple process.  Energy is either added to, or taken from the water molecules to change it from a liquid to a gas, or from a liquid to a solid.  Heating water adds energy to the water, excites the atoms which then expand and take on a gaseous state.  Conversely, cooling water removes energy, by slowing atomic activity which causes it to expand and become a solid.

Wait, WHAT?!  Did she just said that water, regardless of what state it changes to, and whether energy is added or removed, expands?  How is that possible?  Anyone knows when you heat something it expands, and when you cool it it contracts.  Maybe I read that wrong, clearly she meant to say something else right?

No dear reader, that wasn't a typo, and I did not misspeak.  Water has some unique properties and behaviors associated with it, chief among them a blatant disregard for conventional responses to heating and cooling.  It is in fact one of very few molecules that does this.  Sure, as you lower it's temperature (slowing atomic activity and thus removing energy) it contracts to a certain point.  But at 4 degrees Celsius or 39.2 degrees Fahrenheit it begins to expand again. So it does in fact expand to change states in either direction.  By all means if you doubt this, look it up.  It is this very property of water that makes even mountain eventually turn to dust.  What is it the song says, "Solid stone is just sand and water baby, sand and water, and a million years gone by."

So, let's wander back to despair and hope shall we?  The's say for argument that at a state of balance (rest) one has neither hope, nor despair, and since we know from experience that removing energy, leads to despair, adding energy can push one back towards hope.  Despair is often accompanied by such things as depression, lack of energy, and so forth.  Ergo, balance is lost, and despair expands to engulf everything.  All hope is lost.  So, then we need to add energy to despair to change it's state to either a liquid state (neither despair or hope) or really raise it's temperature further and turn it into a gas.  A state where the heavy solid feeling of despair is replaced by one of lightness, of freedom, of dare I say it, hope?  At this point Hope then, like water, once again expands to fill the void left by the "removal" of despair.  Or from a negative state, to a positive one energetically.

Interesting, so it's NOT just water that expands to fill a volume of space when changing from one state to the other in either direction.  Are you with me so far?  If so, then read on...

So, how then to we change the state of despair to one of hope?  If we treat it like water, we add energy.  The question becomes of course how to do that.  Especially when one feels like there is no hope, and all is suffering and pain with the associated lack of energy one finds there.

To be honest I cannot, and shall not attempt to speak for all the possible ways to do this, I have however figured out what it was for me, how and when energy was added and I moved from a state of life threatening despair to having a little taste of hope.  And that, well that's kinda like winning the lottery.  At least it was for me.  To be fair, hope snuck up on me and caught me completely by surprise.  Which is, in part, why it's taken me so long to figure out what happened and when.

To full appreciate what, how and when things happened for me, I need to once again backtrack.  That machine whose primary job it was to protect and serve?  Well that was a full time kinda thing, and it spilled over into the rest of the world.  Anyone that needed to be served and protected was part of the job description.  Part and parcel to that task was endless study of anything that might help.  Everything from Martial arts, to Meditation (especially since Sensei was almost fanatical about meditation) to psychology and medicine became part of the job.  When I was eight we were in the station wagon late one night on the way back from a trip to Canada.  My Mom got sick, and while my Dad was losing his furry little mind, I herded my brother and sister away from the car, and into the rest stop where I called 911.  My Sister was six, my brother four, and my father was effectively useless, almost as if we didn't exist.  We'd been planing on spending the night in Plattsburg, but not like this.  Long story short, as we were driving along in the rain, my Mom had her first Grand Maul epileptic seizure and it took us all by surprise.  We spent the night in the hospital in Plattsburg as they got her stabilized, gave her chance to recover, and figure out what had happened.

Anyway, I studied like a a child possessed, and learned as much as I could about everything.  Eastern mysticism became important because the benefits of meditation became increasingly obvious as it dramatically enhanced my abilities in terms of martial arts.  Sensei taught me the old ways, where meditation was in many ways more important than all the fancy moves.  I learned about Ki, and how it flows through us, and of course as my training progressed, how to channel Ki to a fine point and use it fully in martial arts.  How in meditation one could and should ground and center oneself, to connect with everything around one, to "tune in and turn on" as was a popular saying in the 60s. Ki became a major part of life for me, and gave me great strength.  But even then I didn't really know Ki.  Sensei mentioned time and again that should I chose to follow the path further, I could learn so much more about Ki than it being a tool of a warrior.  How deep states of meditation could bring peace and healing.  How the way of the warrior ultimately was balance on the edge of the sword of Ki.  It could be used for war and destruction, but also for healing and peace.

At the time, that was a lesson I wasn't ready for.  Meditation however stuck with me, breathing and reflection were always there for me and made for an escape from the pain of living.

My thirst for knowledge and tools to make healing and growth possible took on new meaning when the despair was threatening my life.  I'd renewed my studies of hypnotherapy while still with Earl because it was a tool to use to help him heal and grow.  Of course meditation and hypnotherapy were helping me survive the abuse at his hands as well.  I'd managed to get involved with formal education, leading eventually to certification in Hypnotherapy and I was accomplishing great things with it, but it still wasn't quite enough.  Along the way, one of the Nurses I worked with in the hospital wanted to learn more about hypnotherapy and as we spent time talking, she mentioned Reiki and gave me a hands on demonstration, a bunch of sessions in exchange for helping her quit smoking.  Reiki she explained was actually two Japanese words Rei and ki.  Rei for "universal" and Ki for "energy" and that I might want to learn that too.

At the time I filed it away in a corner of my mind and got back to the task at hand, fighting for Earl's and my own life.  There was no way I'd have the time, or be allowed by Earl to spend the money to receive training and certification in Reiki, especially since He still thought Hypnotherapy was mumbo-jumbo bullshit.  His argument was that if I ever managed to get certified in Hypnotherapy, maybe I'd be allowed to look at Reiki.  Yeah, I'm serious, he controlled my life that much.

By the end of 2004 we were in the middle of a horrific divorce and I'd finally managed to take my final and become a College Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist.  That and three bucks would get me on the subway.  I didn't have three bucks for the subway.  I started looking into Reiki finally, because one of the way I'd always distracted myself from how much my life sucked was to throw myself into studying something.  I might not have been able to afford it at the time, but I was bound and determined I'd get to know it really well.  By late 2006 I'd managed to squirrel away just enough money to start working on a formal course of study and certification in Reiki.

Attunement involves opening oneself up to the energy, the "frequencies" as they are sometimes called, and this is often, but certainly not always done by a Reiki Master/Teacher.  It is where the great cost of Reiki certification comes into the picture.  Dr. Usui a lifetime or so ago received attunement in meditation but long before that Reiki had been a closely held secret of Tibetan Monks, who always meditated their way to mastery of Reiki.  Though the Monks didn't call it Reiki.  Dr. Usui however saw no reason for this to be a secret kept away from the world, and started helping others become attuned.  Sometimes later, money became involved to where these days it can cost upward of ten thousand dollars to become attuned and certified.  I wish I was kidding.  Thankfully the price has been coming down and one can get Attuned and certified these days for around 1000 dollars, there are even reputable, courses that will cost significantly less than this and will give one a method to attune oneself.

Anyway, early 2007 was my first of many attunements, and a conscious decision to open myself up to a wider range of energy, and hopefully use it to help myself heal.  That I could eventually use it for other people, and or chose to teach was nice if it ever came to that, but I was focused more on healing myself for a change. It was, for me, an amazing experience.  That first attunement alone started changes in me that are still unfolding.  Progress and growth that enabled me to finally escape the impossible living situation I was in and move to Ohio.  Over the course of time I've continued my studies and growth, and have long since received full Reiki Master/Teacher attunements and Certification.

Reiki is energy, universal energy, or Ki.  Master Yoda would call it the force.  Han Solo has said 'Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side kid."  Whatever one wishes to call it however it is the very same Ki I started learning all those years ago from Sensei, just taken out a bunch of steps.  The Chinese call it Chi or Qi, and the discipline that brings healing and grow is known as Qigong.    As I've said it is much older than western thinking on healing and growth.

In simplest fashion, attunement brings with it a flow of energy not previously available.  Energy that raises awareness, engenders healing at multiple levels, and allows one to grow.  It raises one's energy levels in ways even I'd not thought possible.  It is, as it turns out, the focal point of the shift in my own journey, and when I started moving away from despair and back to the point of having some hope.  So I'm living on the outskirts of the kingdom of hope now, and God willing I'll not soon be forced to move out.  If anything I'm looking to move in closer as I can!  So, early 2007 was when my energy levels started to shift, and hope became real for me again, all thanks to Reiki.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Yay!!! Finally, the powers that be . . .

. . .have added automatic blog spam comment catching!  So all those idiotic Chinese characters and sneaky hyperlinks go right into the trash!  I'm so happy!  Thank you Google!!!  So this is a short thank you and now it's time for me to catch some sky!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Prop Hate is NOT going to the Supreme Court, probably not even to appellate court ...

Okay folks, here's the skinny.  First off, I need to remind everyone that all great journey's begin with a single step, and take many steps to get there.

Prop 8 being struck down is a clear win, and it needs to end right now, right here.  It's not going to see the 9th court of appeals, and no one who cane really SEE wants it do go there.  So it's over, done, Californian's will be free to start marrying again shortly and it's going to be a wonderful thing!  Come on folks, let's not be greedy, show some support and overwhelming joy for the fine folks in California!  Stop pushing to try and get this to go all the way.

Prop 8 is not, I repeat NOT the game and season winning goal, touchdown, home run, whatever you want to call it.  It's just NOT.  Period, end of subject, not even the brilliant legal minds want it to be.  They have set their sights a bit higher and are itching to get onto the next task at hand, which for them is Maine.  Yes, I said Maine.  It's the next logical step in the war on ignorance and bigotry and IS necessary to be handled before the marriage issue goes before SCOTUS.

There are talented forces fighting, and winning, similar major legal battles in Massachusetts on a slightly different front that is also NOT going to SCOTUS, but is vital for when Marriage Equality gets there.

When is it going to get there?

Not as far into the future as you might think.

Here's how it's going to play out in short form:

1.) In a matter of days, a week or so at the most, Californian's are once
     again going to be allowed to enjoy the "right" to marry as they see fit.

2.) Maine's Hateful amendment is going to be fairly quickly and easily
     overturned in courts there by the same legal team that made it possible
     in California

3.) Arizona will be next, then one or two other states that I cannot see ... yet!
     The end game?  Jersey will be officially upgraded to full legal marriage,
     not "Civil Unions" like it has now.  Then Plaintiffs legally married  in
     California, and other states, but living in NY will help turn the tide making
     marriage legal there, and everywhere else when THAT case makes it to
     the big game so to speak.

So it's going to be a case that hasn't even started yet, but built upon the wins in California, Massachusetts, Maine, and New Jersey that is going to become a class action federal court case that spans multiple states, and federal court districts.  It's going to be filed in Federal District Court in NY & Washington D.C. at the same time, and move quickly out of the Circuit court level right into the Supreme court who will then have no choice but to hear it.  Why?  Because it will be so large and complex a case that they will not be able to simply refuse to hear it without being guilty of bias and judicial misconduct.

It's going to be a few years from now, so just sit tight, wait for things to flow and fit together, and then enjoy the show.  You heard it here first folks.

This is Cassandra Speaking for "Forward Views" all of tomorrows news, today.  

Monday, August 09, 2010

I am not amused . . .

Exercise my doctors have all said will cure all that ills me.  Lower my blood pressure, reduce depression, help with my weight problems, Insomnia, Anxiety and so forth.  So, I invested in Serenity and myself.  I'm not exactly being a slacker about this having ridden over 500 miles on a bike since March 27th.  New meds to help improve my sleep, pretty decent diet, LOTS of exercise and nothing.

Still not sleeping well, the meds that once knocked my on my but now hardly work at all.  In the past I once lost 80 pounds in six months by walking  two or three miles every other day and eating right.  It's five months of some serious exercise and I have maybe lost 10 pounds?

I'm most certainly not sleeping any better, not sure if I'm really losing weight, and still fighting with everything else. And despite the clinical fact that exercise and meditation will noticeably lower BP, and that I can and have put myself into a deep state of meditation that lowers my respiration, heart rate and drops my BP about 20 points or more at the time, it stays stubbornly high.  As to diet, I proved to the doctor that I couldn't eat any less by giving myself a mild case of malnutrition that showed up on blood tests.  So THAT's not really a huge issue.

And yes, I'm just ranting some of my frustration here.  I don't know that there is so much a major point to this as my realization I've not posted in a while and thought I should say something.  I have other things bumping around in my head and heart looking for something to connect to, but nothing I can put to words yet.  So I'll get there I imagine eventually.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Just a bit of an update while having a rain day . . .

. . . and not riding.

First, a quick nod to my favorite Archeologist, Dr. Daniel Jackson of SG1.

I kid you not, this was today's BC comic!  Daniel would be so proud.  Actually I guess he is, since I have no reason to believe he's not going to catch this at some point.  No doubt Jack will bring it to his attention if nothing else.  Okay, so that was my Stargate fangirl gushing for the moment.  We no return to our regularly scheduled blog!

Sunday found me once again in Winton woods, turning laps for all I was worth, working hard and well after dark to get in the mileage I was hoping for.  Sunday of course was the 11th, and at least at that point the weather for the week of the 12th thru 16th was supposed to be a wash out.  It has in fact been raining here since lat Sunday night.  Loosely my mileage goal for this month is either 160 or 200 miles, which ever I can manage in the time allowed for July.  My thinking was with a rained out week before me, if I hit 100 miles by Sunday, I'd still be able to get in the rest in the bottom two weeks of the month.  Mainly because I still don't have the trainer for indoors yet.  But I'll get there.  It's only going to be really important come late December or January when it will be too cold and wet to ride outside.  In the meantime I'm just really enjoying burning up the trails especially since I've once again discovered the joy of riding at night.  Yes, at night, in the dark.

You see I've always had somewhat unusual eyesight.  Back years ago when I spent so much time riding, I'd spend plenty of time running dark country roads at night and not even think about it.  Reflectors on my bike then and now yes, but I've never really used lights.  That's how unusual my eyesight is, pitch black, no moon and there I am flying along at night.  Not unlike a bat, which always gave me a chuckle because I can see them flying about at night just as easily as folk see birds in the daylight.  Means of course seeing the road, and or anything or anyone on it is just as easy.  So Sunday the sun went down at nineish, and I still had some miles to go and the dark didn't phase me at all.  But I'd forgotten how much I enjoy that sense of freedom and, almost power?  No, I enjoy the ability, the capability, to see in the dark.  It also means despite getting somewhat older, I still have preternatural vision.  I'm more than twice the age I was back in the day when I'd be running the back roads at night, and yet, here I am, once again enjoying it.  

And of course it meant when the sun set and I had miles to go I could finish the ride without a seconds hesitation.  Mind you unlike the old days, I'm running dedicated trails that motor vehicles are not allowed on.  So there's no risk of not being seen and run over.  Should it happen that for whatever reason I decide to start road riding at night again, you can bet I'll have marker lights and be very clearly visible.  In my own defense the only time I got hit by a truck back in the day it was broad daylight and all the lights in the world wouldn't have prevented the accident, but I'm NOT going to take chances again.

So by the time I was securing Serenity back aboard Jumper One, I'd completed 17.14 miles which put me up over 100 so far for the month.  Made me very happy.  And , as it turns out, the forecast has changed and I should be able to get out Wednesday and Thursday to knock back some miles, and then again on Saturday and Sunday.  So it's beginning to look very much like I'm going to be able to make 200 miles this month after all.  And you know, that makes me happy as I sit here watching it rain!

Monday, July 05, 2010

One heck of a case of déja vu . . .

. . .is in effect what Gillion said to me as I stopped for some McDee's fries on the way to Burlington Kentucky's England Idlewild Park and home of some of the Bluegrass state's best single track.  It's the preferred home of the Dirty Divas cycling group and I remembered this morning it was the first place I'd ever done real single track Mountain Biking.  Yes, you read that right, I remembered that it was the place I experienced real single track for the first time.  I remembered it this morning because it was to happen today.  So on my way back to a place I'd never been before I remembered there was a McDee's on the way there.

The timing worked out perfectly as that's when Jill called.  So we got to chat and I was remarking on the bizarre state of my life remembering future events.  How after decades of being a SciFi fangirl, my own life was way more unusual than some of the stuff I've seen or read about in SciFi.  Having trouble remembering parts of the past because of trauma, but having near perfect recall of events that technically hadn't happened yet.  But they felt real to me, and the details we more than oddly prophetic, but stuff I remembered doing.

So what I knew for certain was where I was going, what I was going to be doing, and that it would all work out fine.  No flats, no getting lost, no major problems, just the thrill of flying through meadows and woods, over all kinds of terrain I'd never, ever, have imagined doing over 20 years ago when I was doing so much cycling.  That I'd be doing all sorts of stuff I'd never done before and would make it back to the Jumper hot, sweaty and gross, but otherwise fine.

I didn't bother digging into all the details, but went on instinct, and let my heart, mind, body and soul remember all the things I'd never done before.  Which is where it kinda went slightly wonky.

My PLAN was to follow the signs, go to the first left before the bridge, take the beginners trail once or twice, and then try the intermediate if that went well.  You know what they say about plans right?

Instead I took the other left before the bridge, because I saw it and had a "Yes!  This is where I went..."  moment and turned right.  A Mile and a half, some seriously knarly single track, and one fall later I came out to the bridge.  From the left.  Just before the bridge.  Off the Technical trail.  Or at least parts of what was the old technical trail they had changed around.  The map linked here is the OLD map, so I was on all new, knarly terrain.  I felt like an idiot.  The guys on the other hand were impressed (NOT what I was going for) that I'd just come off the technical track.   That quickly turned to astonishment when I said it was my first time mountain biking and I'd taken the technical train by accident.

But it was stuff I'd remembered from the last, first time.  Embarrassing that.  So as Jill had said earlier, one heck of a case of déja vu!

To be honest next time, I'm going to go with something a little bit easier...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Tires, bikes and rolling resistance . . .

. . . can make probably one of the single biggest differences for the recreational rider.  Let's say for argument sake that for whatever reasons, you have a fairly standard Mountain bike?  Doesn't matter how old or new it is, or what kind of condition it is in, your ride on pavement can tend to be less enjoyable, and more work, if you are running nice "normal" mountain bike tires.  "Fat" tires as they are also at times called, have much more traction, and a greater amount of surface area that connects you and your bike to the ground.  This of course means MUCH greater "rolling resistance" which in simple terms, means how fast you can go.  It all means that even rolling downhill, you are going to slow down and stop much sooner with a fat tire than a thin one.  That's just simple physics.  Most people who first learn how to ride, do so on fairly normal, pavement oriented bicycle tires, and that is to say, pretty smooth, no real tread to speak of, and they roll really well.  So we get this perception of speed and feel that kinda stays with us.  So much so that our first time on a Mountain Bike with "Fat" tires can seem all wrong.  Like it's slower and harder to ride than what we might be used to.  Honestly, that's because it is.  All that tread, and the greater surface area, increases rolling resistance on smooth, solid, paved surfaces, like streets.  So if you're not soon going to be "getting dirty" as the saying goes for mountain biking, swap those knobby fat boys out for some city slicks.

While there is a big difference in wheel sizes between road and mountain bike wheels, they DO make an assortment of tires that will give you a several mile per hour speed increase, and decrease your rolling resistance significantly on a standard mountain bike wheel.  Just swap out the tire and tubes and off you go.  Something like the Ritchy Tom Slick Mountain Bike Tire (on the left) will do the trick and make for a very different ride on pavement.  The ride will be faster with less noise, and less work for the same speed.  Plus going up and down hills you're not going to have top work as hard.  Plus they are a fairly inexpensive change you can make to a standard mountain bike that will give you a whole lot more pleasure if you're going to run on city streets or paved trails.

Now, if your know what you're doing, all you will need to make this change are new tires, tubes and a pump, no tools required.  Few minutes per wheel with no tools and off you go!  I'm not even kidding.  "No tools?  Is she insane?  It's not possible... " I can almost hear you thinking from here.

But it is, and thanks to Asa Sales at Team Estrogen, it's easy to learn how to do it yourself!  She goes into great deal about how exactly you quickly and easily change your own tires with no tools and no fuss.  So there's really no reason for me to go into how to do it here, especially given what a great job Asa does.  So a heartfelt thanks to Asa for doing a wonderful job of making the whole process simple and easy to understand!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Had to share this here . . .

After waking up from a particularly horrific nightmare this morning the following thought sprang, unbidden from my head:
Why don't Zombies eat Psychopaths?
          For the same reason Sharks 
        generally don't eat Lawyers, 
        Professional Courtesy!

No, you're not seeing things . . .

 . . . I've made some changes to the look of my blog.  Decided it was more than time.  I hope I'm not catching anyone up short?  

So I started the month strong in terms of getting out and riding.  My plan was to cover at least as much ground as last month, if not a bit more.  Each month since I got Serenity I've been increasing the distance I ride and May had me cover 54 miles.  I figured I'd shoot for 60, seemed like a reasonable goal right?

Well I git carried away.  By the end of the second week I was at 49 miles.  Since then I've pushed on further, done longer rides in new places.  26 miles on the Little Miami Trail, 10 at Winton and then another long ride (for me) of 24.2 at Little Miami again.  I've traveled through almost a dozen towns and three counties, on a bike.  I set a new goal of 100 miles and promptly passed that one with time left in the month.  I'm at nearly 120 miles for June and my new goal, since it's so close now, is to burn Ten Thousand Calories (10,000) for the month of June.  As of this note, I'm 205 calories away from that goal and I have six days left in the month.  I think I can manage that.

While so far I've not seen a major change in what the scale says, I am noticing major differences in my life.  I'd not been in the saddle since Sunday and was itching to spent sometime along the river.  I did what I always do and checked the weather before I decided what I was going to do.  The temperature with the high humidity was pegged at 100 degrees and once not so long ago I wouldn't have even vaguely considered leaving the house.  Today I shrugged and figured I'd be sweating because of the riding anyway, so what the heck, I loaded up and made my way over to Dearborn. Eight miles later and I'm not all that sweaty.

Which brings me to the biggest change.  I'm no longer so much at the mercy of heat and humidity.  Gotta tell you, I'm really digging it!  Plus the places I've seen are wonderful.  All peaceful, quiet, scenic, and natural.  The flora and fauna I've been seeing, included a baby skunk today.  It was so utterly adorable, but there was NO way I was going to risk getting it annoyed with me.  Dearborn is so quiet and mellow I have been timing things so that my last run through is after sunset. Technically dusk really, and the moon above the river is lovely, and then there are the fireflies.  Thousands of them all along the trail.  It's amazing!  I love it!  Hopefully I'll get a chance to take the big camera down there and share the view with you all.  I know the camera is more than capable of shotting some stunning night pictures, so we'll see what I manage to do.  I can see some pictures in my minds eye that I want to share with you, so hopefully, I'll pull it all together and make it happen.  

Friday, June 18, 2010

26.2 on a bike!

Yesterday was awesome.  It was fun, relaxing and completely amazing.  It was also even more new records for me.  Like 26.2 miles in one day.  2162 Calories burned in a single day.  13 miles one way nonstop.  Set out from the parking area at a distance behind a riding team that was heading up to Loveland and back which was also my goal.   Actually my goal for the day was 21 miles, which would have put me at 70 miles ridden for the moth so far. Anyway I figured I'd next see the riding team as I was still heading to Loveland and they'd already been there and were on the way back.  Well sort of.  I actually made it to Loveland as they were starting back.  They'd stopped for a break and had something to drink and were headed back to the Avoca trailhead and parking area.  We cheered each other on and they mentioned I'd made good time.  They thought I'd still be heading toward Loveland as they were on the way back. Turns out I made better time than any of us expected..

My intention for the day was to make it about distance and endurance.  Staying mounted up continuously and not stopping to sit or walk around briefly.  Plus, this was the first time I was riding with my new water bottles and frame mounted cage for them.  This way I had no reason to have to stop to fish my bottle out of my fanny pack.  I figured I was going to pace myself and stay light and easy, not push for speed.  I didn't keep and eye on my speed, just figured I'd settle int a gentle pace and do 10 miles per hour out and back.  This was after all my first ride on this trail, so I thought I'd take it easy.  Well I missed the 10mph mark.  When all was said and done I was running at 11.2 mph average for the entire trip.  Loveland I stopped in and wandered around briefly to get a feel for it.  It's a common destination for folks riding the trail I'd heard and finally understand why.  Mind you I've lived in Ohio two years now and had never been there by car.

The team of course was riding there, other people I've talked to, including one of the nurses at my doctors office rides to Loveland and back on the weekends with her Daughter.  As she said, "Well we ride to Loveland, have an Ice Cream, and then ride back.  I NEED that ice cream to make the trip work for me, it helps me get back after riding that far."  Well I made it to Loveland, and found the place they get ice cream, and kept going.  I have my ice cold riding tea that was tasty, refreshing, and really good for me.  Was really nice to be able to reach down, grab the bottle and take a drink while I was riding.  Really nice!  Sparkling, tasty, citrus and just a hint of sweet from the honey.  An entire slightly more than half liter bottle of it is only 90 calories, where as the ice cream is probably 90 calories a spoonful!

And then came the trip back.  Pointed Serenity south and lit her up.  Again, 13 miles nonstop of just flowing and enjoying the ride.  Well, almost nonstop.  There are a few road crossings where one needs to stop and check for vehicles coming, but those are just toe down, look, listen, and haul.  So those I don't really count as stops.  Plus cyclists are so common along this route that I was pleased when people in cars were stopping and waving me on.  I really like that.  I really like that a whole lot.

But it was a blessed ride, and the longest single day ride I'd done to date.  26 miles instead of the planned 21 takes me to 75 miles in for the month.  On a bike.  It's also 6268 calories burned this month riding.  Which frankly, makes me a happy girl.  A VERY happy girl.  My first weight loss goal for my new life as a cyclist I set back in March when I got Serenity.  My plan was to lose five pounds by August.  When I stepped on the scale last night it said I've already lost 4.6 pounds.  I still have a month and a half to go!

26.2 on a bike, that's the equivalent of a full marathon in terms of distance.  I done good!  And for those who might like to see where in the world I did this, you can just click and Google Maps will bring up all the details.  Probably the most fun was to again catch up with the whole biking crew as I rolled back into the parking lot.  They had just finished mounting up their bikes and getting ready to head out.  All in all, a most amazing and freeing day.  I also find it slightly ironic now that I've seen more of Ohio from the saddle of a bike than any other way, and that I've been to towns on a bike that I've not yet been to in a car.  I've been to Loveland Ohio now, window shopped, got to see some of the town and I've never been there with my car.  I have no doubt I'll be there again, in fact there's a restaurant that smelled good that I want to try.  And I'll probably get there on my bike.   And it will no doubt be another day of 26 (or more) miles on a bike.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mountain biking suddenly makes sense . . .

. . . or why some girls get dirty.

For years Mountain Biking never made much sense to me.  That girls, women of otherwise sound mind would?  Well that was a puzzlement.  Not because we are any less than guys in any way, just that well, I don't know, it meant getting dirty.  And not just take a quick shower dirty, but I mean really dirty, even, the horror, coming off a bike and getting beat up kind of dirty.  Why would someone want to do that?

I bought a mountain bike figuring I'd work my way up to it.  Suddenly getting dirty isn't such a bad thing, then again there if the fact that some people I know, respect, and admire do it and hey, they enjoy it.  Dirt and all.  The other thing that really helped it click?  Memories of being on a horse years ago, flying through meadows, woods, along the river, around the lake.   Deep, powerful memories that were awakened in me, and the feelings of freedom and flight, that so speak to my love of cycling.

I have enough trouble affording me, keeping a roof over my head and food in me.  No way that I can afford a horse, or a roof over it's head, and food to feed it, or a pasture to run around in.  I'd love to have a horse and be able to go riding again, but that's not going to happen anytime soon.

Which is when it hit me.  I own a mountain bike.  A Mountain bike WILL take me through meadows, woods, along the rive and around the lakes all I want.  I can afford her, care for her, house her, and I don't need to give her a piece of land to run around in when we are not riding.  Instead she sits here in the living room waiting for me to take her out.

I can take her on mountain bike trails, flowing through the terrain, enjoying the sounds and sights of nature.  Together we can and do fly.  I really get mountain biking now.  "Smooth and flowing singletrack" now really means something to me, and one day soon, I'm going to get me some of that.  I'm going to get dirty!  Mountain biking now makes sense to me!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Change when you least expect it, and good things . . .

. . . that happen when you don't expect it.

After the personal victory of my last post, I decided that I wanted some more of Dearborn Trail.  If fact I wanted much more.  So on Thursday the 10th I was back over there, this time looking to increase my distance and pace myself a bit.

I really, really, enjoyed myself, and a place that I at first thought was going to be a terrible place to ride has quickly become one of my favorites.  My first time there I complained about all the spots that are marked "Cyclists Dismount" or something along those lines.  Like the four tunnels and one railroad crossing.  My first time there I did exactly that at every crossing on the trip out, but cheated and rode through on the way back.  Turns out that one time, was probably the ONLY time, anyone really followed the signs.  Everyone rides through, as now I do.  Makes for a much better ride.

Which is when it dawned on me, Dearborn has quickly become on of my favorite places to ride.  It has also become the longest distance single session ride I've done.  Thursday it was 16.64 miles.  Me in my cute little riding shorts and tank top, just flying through the woods, along and over the rivers (creeks really) to the other trail head and back I'd go.  It's not as busy as Winton Woods, and people seem to pay way more attention and listen when I intone "Passing on your left."  SO I don't have to stop as often for the utterly clueless who meander along a trail taking up both sides, ignoring other people who are there.  The folks at dearborn, actually listen and make room for me to come by.  It's refreshing, courteous and makes for a much better trip and time on the trail for everyone.

And Dearborn Trail?  Oh baby I love it!  There's peace and quiet there, and while it's a shortish trail, by making multiple laps I can run the distance up easily.  16.64 miles worth today.  Such a pleasure!  Plus because I tend to prefer afternoon rides, when the sun is going down, and the air is getting cooler I get to see the light show on the last lap.  Fireflies!  Tens of thousands of them along the miles of riverfront I'm running!  And all those tunnels that bothered me so much on the first trip?  I now shoot right through them as long as I can do so safely without risking anyone's health or mine.  So change can be good.  And good changes, bring good things, like a simply lovely ride through the countryside.  I see rabbits, deer, gophers, ducks, geese, birds galore, and it's so peaceful and quiet there.  Except of course when I shoot over the one bridge at highspeed.   Now that, well it sounds like rolling thunder.

If you'd like to see where it is I'm talking about, thanks to my clever phone and the wonders of Google Maps, you can see on lap from end to end I recorded back in May.  In fact you'll see thumbnails of pictures along the route too, most of which where shot be me on my first trip. The joys and wonders of tools that actually work correctly and are simple and easy to use.  It's wonderful!  And me, I'm growing, changing and exploring new places all the time.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Flying in style a long way from where I was . . .

. . . a few short years ago.

Monday I pulled just over 13 miles on a trail in Indiana.  I was thinking that I really enjoy it because it was relatively flat so I could really haul.  Then I looked at the data from my cycling computer.  You see I use my smart phone as a combination workout/cycling computer.  Because it's GPS based, it also shows my the elevation changes in the course of my work out as well.  So here I am flying back and forth over a course that is just about 4 miles end to end.  Imagine my surprise to see that in that four miles there's some pretty decent elevation changes.  640 feet worth of climbing in fact.  Which struck me as funny given that I was thinking of it as fairly flat.  I broke some of my existing records in this session.  Like a top speed of 18.95 miles per hour and 1092 calories burned in a single work out.  Like maintaining an average speed of 12 miles per hour overall.  And my personal favorite, the sound of rolling thunder the one bridge makes as I fly over it.  It's a large steel bridge, with the travel surface being made up of wood slates that have a certain amount of give to them to account for heating and cooling.  So the tires flying over them cause the boards to flex and slap.  Makes the coolest noise.

By far the best part was the fifteen minutes I took to sit there soaking up the place, the sounds, smells, sights, and the sunset.  The peace and quiet I could and did let soak into and through me.  Grounding and centering.  Which is when it struck me.  I've come a long way in a short period of time.  I've done a great deal of healing in a short period of time.  I mean it's not just the almost thousand plus miles of distance between me and most of the madness, but it's how much I've grown and changed.

Three years ago I hardly ever left the house.  When/if I did, it was usually with someone else.  Rarely I'd go to one of two parks I felt safe in, and even then, I didn't talk to anyone and avoided folks like the plague.   I didn't go far, or fast, and I was constantly wound up tighter than the tightest spring, waiting for the next shoe to drop.  I was a complete and total basket case.  Five years ago this month I'd only just had a nervous breakdown the month before, was still being stalked and terrorized by Earl and his folks.  My lawyer was dragging his ass on everything because he just had no clue what it was like to be a battered woman.  Plus I was living with my sister-in-law if you could call that living right up until two years ago.  She was (and is) in her own way as much a mess as I, and wasn't taking her own life seriously.  Often because of proximity I got dragged into her mess because I was hiding out in a room in her house.   I'd have to step up with money I didn't have to keep the lights, gas, and water on because she was, is, incapable of balancing a budget or paying the bills.  The house was in foreclosure, so I'm panicking to try and avoid winding up living in my car, while trying to save enough money to escape.  Not a good combination as it was.  I was heading to another nervous breakdown or worse.

So Monday?  Soaking up the place and time I was, taking a short break from a ride that turned out to be 13 miles?  Back on a bike doing some really serious cycling?  Not for that moment worried about anything or anyone.  Just being in the moment.  An endless string of moments of that wonderful day when I was busting my tail and burning calories, but having so much fun doing it.  Flying on this rail trail along the Ohio river  worrying about nothing for a change an letting myself enjoy the flight.  And at speeds up to almost 19 miles per hour, I was indeed flying!  Flying a long way from where I was . . .

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Zen of French Toast . . .

French Toast is something I have a passion for, because when it's done right, it's like a little bit a nirvana right there in your mouth.  The trick is, it isn't something you just whip up in a jiffy.  After all, it's toast, NOT popcorn!  Like with good Fried Rice, at the absolute minimum, you need to start the day before.  Really.  Doesn't matter if you are starting with homemade bread, or stuff from the store, you need to pick the number of slices you're going to want, and place them on the rack in a cold oven and walk away.  Thats right, just close the door, forget about it and walk away.  Because I'm telling on the most over looked part of really good french toast is the bread.

Secret Number one:  Stale bread.

It's such and easy part that folks overlook it.  Heck, I don't even know how many people know that French Toast was, is, like Fried Rice, a way to get more life out of left overs.  Day old bread is vital to good French toast.  So if you leave it overnight in the oven and let it get all dried out and hard, it makes much better French toast.  In fact if it's close to ready be turned into bread crumbs, then it's ready to be French toast.

Secret Number two:  Foam!

Whatever you use in terms of ingredients you need to whip it up into a foam.  Can't just mix it up so the ingredients are stirred.  Well I suppose you can, but it works better if you really work it up onto a lather.  Be it with a fork, or a whisk, really beat that batter into a foam.  Put some energy into it, because the friction and motion causes the ingredients to mix better, and the proteins to bond.  Foaming ot, does a better job of breaking the ingredients down so they can bond.

Secret Number three:  Don't cook it too fast.

Starting with the dried break and letting it really soak up the mixture, means you need to heat it properly so that the mixture gets properly cooked all the way through.  Keep in mind that undercooked eggs can be terribly unhealthy.  So if the pan is too hot, the outside is going to burn before the inside is fully cooked.

So it's like meditation, mindfulness, taking the slow, deliberate approach to making French Toast.  Putting the love into the food like my Mom always did.  And that's how you get the truly amazing Mouthgasm French Toast.  That's the Zen of French Toast.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Two months so far . . .

Two months ago today I picked up Serenity.  I was going to take it easy, start slowly, and make my way back into serious riding.  Between weather issues, and trying to take things easy, I've only put a hundred miles on Serenity.  Tuesday, I opened up my local park route and turned in 10 miles on the day.  It. was. wonderful.  High 80s in temp, high humidity, and a high dew point, meant I was certain to get soaking wet.  I really didn't care.  So I lit it up, and got good and soaked.  It was wonderful.  I even managed something I'd not done in 25 years that I can think of.

Now if you may recall, on my first lap around Winton Lake back on April 27th, I fell over once, and had to stop several times because I'd have fallen over if I hadn't.  Had to catch up with myself, had to rest, because that day it was more than I could do to make it all the way around the lake even once.

Tuesday was a very different day.  Pulled a couple of quick seemless laps around the lake without stopping and on one lap as I was flying down hill I sat back in the saddle and gently took my hands off the controls, confident I'd keep flying down the hill.  Brought my arms up and out to my sides, palms down, just flying like I used to. Means I'm getting my mojo back, and am tuning into Serenity more.  Balance, timing, the feel of Serenity beneath me, flying, it's just wonderful.  Having things down and a relationship with my mount that allows me to  just sit back and really fly like a bird, my wings fully extended was breath taking.  I was just there in the moment, soaring like a bird, the wind in my wings, with just minor instinctive movements of my entire body keeping the front wheel tracking and on course.  No horrible crash, just the pleasure of finally having bonded enough with my mount and reconnected to myself enough to let go of the handle bars and really fly.

It. was. glorious!  And I managed to do it without falling over or otherwise crashing.  Pretty spiffy that.

So far, in just sixty days, I've covered 103 miles and burned over 8000 calories.  My weight hasn't changed one bit, I mean literally, not so much as a tenth of a pound.  But I'm loving my bike, and loving getting out on her flying through the country side.  Fresh air, sunshine, serious amounts of movement and exercise and the scenery.  Damn, I should have gotten back on a bike years ago!  Two months so far, but the rest of my life to enjoy cycling?  Oh yeah, so worth it!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wearing underwear in public . . .

I know, it's been a while since I posted, but I've been busy with life and such.  Okay, not really busy so much as distracted.  I've been cycling my tush off.  Or trying to.  Plus getting adjusted to changes to my view of life and some deeply held notions.  Like not wearing underwear out in public.

Did she say "not wearing underwear out in public?"

Yes, she did.

So as you all know, I'm back in the saddle.  Mainly because I wanted the feelings and freedom associated with cycling again.  So I bought the new bike, and that has lead to other purchases.  Like gloves, a helmet, and even bike shorts.  The gloves were "Pro Gell" fingerless gloves, the gell in the palms there to cut down on pressure while riding.  Specifically the Ulnar nerve in the palms that causes, at least in my case, my hands and arm to go numb.  So the gloves were a great investment.  It's taken a little time to get used to how the bike feels in my hands, but it's a welcome change from having my hands go numb in the first couple of miles.  So the fifteen dollars I spent on the gloves, WELL worth it!  Now I go miles and miles without my hands going numb.  I love it.

A helmet, didn't want to get one.  I've never been much on hats or head cover of anykind.  Either they'd make my head hotter, mess up my hair (yeah, I know, lame right?) or both.  I also didn't want to look stupid, and well I thought having this bulky thing on my head making me hotter, messing up my hair AND making me look stupid?  Well it was a bad idea all the way around no?  Or is it?

"What do you call someone who rides without a helmet?  Organ Donor!"  -- David Perry

So I did the research and found a helmet that was well reviewed.  I'd found a bunch of online reivews, including some on youtube, and it is a Consumer Product Safety Comisson approved helmet.  When everything else is said and done you can spend big bucks on some facy multi-hundred dollar helmet, or you can get one for under thirty bucks. I chose that route, because I couldn't see spending all the money on something hopefully I'd never have to use.  Mind you, riding without one wasn't really a choice, at least not a smart one.  Some would argue the chances of hitting your head after coming up off a bike were very slim.  In fact my downstair neighbor after seeing me come flying in the driveway came out and said he thought a Teenage Ninja Turtle was lurking around.  So yeah, stupid looking?  Maybe.  But the chances of landing on one's head?  Well I've been there, done that once.  Really.  Got hit by a truck, on my bike, over twenty years ago.  So I'd already been there, done that once.  I was amazingly lucky then, a head full of stiches from where I'd landed on my head, without a helmet.  I KNOW from personal experience that lightening CAN in fact strike twice in the same place, so I wasn't willing to tempt fate again.

Plus I just didn't feel confident riding on the streets without head cover.  The way some people drive?  I mean come on, really.  So I bought a helmet from Giro, one of THE names in cycling helmets.  Basic black to go with my bike.  Nothing fancy, but nice and adjustable, well reviewed and CSPC approved.  It was designed to keep one's head cool and safe.  Okay, so it's a good helmet and under 30 dollars.  Now it was just a matter of getting used to it.  Everything I'd read said you wouldn't really notice it, and the ventilation would keep your head cool enough that you would not feel it.

After I got it adjusted for my head, out to the streets on my first test of the new Giro Indicator helmet I bought I went.  Oddly enough, my head felt cooler than riding without proper head cover, but since it was designed to channel the air and move it off your head while you ride, it made some sense.  So it was just a matter of getting used to it.  True to the reviews, after a few moments of riding with it, I didn't really notice it there anymore, and the absorbant pads in the helmet do in fact keep sweat out of your eyes.  So that was a real, practical, using it now advantage.  So, I'm now wearing my helmet when I'm riding.  Despite my neighbor joking about me looking like a teenage mutant ninja turtle, I'm not really bothered by the head cover anymore.

Then came the bike shorts.  Bought them a little before the gloves or the helmet, but hadn't brought myself to use them either.  Why?  Because it felt to me like going out of the house in my underwear.  You see actual riding shorts are specially designed with extra padding and moisture wicking to keep one from getting wet, chaffed, and rubbed raw by seams on long rides.  They are designed to help take pressure of sensitive parts of one's anatomy, and make contact with the saddle easier on one's body.  Waering underwaer with them however is counter productive.  Underwear will just absorb moisture and keep it close to your skin, the seams and elastic will rub and chaffe the skin, and basically totally defeat the purposes of the riding shorts.

But my Mom always raised me to leave the house clean, and wearing clean underwear.  And she also taught me not to run around in public in just my underwear.  So if I'm wearing bike shorts and nothing else, then I'm in essence running around in my undies as far as my screwed up mind worked out the logic.  I even went so far as to buy regular casual wear "bike shorts" to wear over the actual bike shorts so that I wouldn't feel like I'm running around in my undies.

Yesterday I broke down, decided I was going to get over my stupid internal foolishness, and set out for a ride wearing ONLY my bike shorts.  Well I was the sight.  Black and grey riding gloves, black helmet, and black and grey bike shorts with Velo printed on them on a black bike withpurple trim and a purple blouse.  I was quite the sight, all tricked out in riding gear, turning laps around the neighborhood.  Got all hot and sweaty and by the end of the five miles I must have looked quite the sight.  I was soaked.

Which once upon a time would have bothered me greatly.  I mean being soaking wet, all hot sweaty and gross in public?  Oh no, so not going to to do that!  Or at least once upon a time I wouldn't, let alone in public in skin tight clothes.  Well that was then I guess, because after five miles in 88 degree temps with 50% humidity, I looked like I'd just stepped out of a shower.  And you know what, it didn't bother me.  Hair soaking wet in a pony tail, clothes soaked, wearing my "undies" and a helmet.  Oh but I felt so good!

And you know, that's what it's about.  Feeling good, like I'd just accomplished something important.  And of course the rush of natural, perfectly legal drugs flowing through my body?  Well damn!  All these years and I finally am addicted to something.  Cycling!  And in my underwear no less.  Though I've fit it into my view of the 'verse like a bathing suit. When one goes swimming, one doesn't wear underwear, just a bathing suit.  So I'm looking at bike shorts in the same general context.  I'm out cycling.