xmlns:og>='http://ogp.me/ns#'> Pedals & Pencils: January 2011

January 31, 2011

Bike Love

February is a special month for me because not too many Februaries ago, my own little heart got a big fix.  And that big fix allows me to celebrate love in its purest form.  The purest form of love being bike love, of course.

This February I'm sending you a big bouquet of Valentine wishes.

I hope you find love in unexpected places.  I think you'll be surprised where you find it if you take a moment to look.

[caption id="attachment_3067" align="aligncenter" width="254"] Image from bikerumor.com[/caption]

I hope you find a warm embrace in the arms of a loved one.  And that you take the time to hug them just a second or two longer than usual.

[caption id="attachment_3068" align="aligncenter" width="490"] Image from fineartamerica.com[/caption]

I hope you'll be bold enough to let down your guard, to wear your heart on your sleeve.

I hope you write and receive many, many love notes.

[caption id="attachment_3075" align="aligncenter" width="490"] Image from candycranks.com[/caption]

And that each day you find something new to love.

[caption id="attachment_3076" align="aligncenter" width="490"] Image from sp.life123.com[/caption]

I hope you find comfort in love that has been around the block once or twice, love that has lasted, love that has lost a little of its sheen, love that has lost all the sharp edges, love that's your soft place to fall.

[caption id="attachment_3077" align="aligncenter" width="478"] Image from www.bargo.info[/caption]

Whether you spend this Valentine's Day with a few thousand of your closest friends

[caption id="attachment_3079" align="aligncenter" width="490"] Image from www.bargo.info[/caption]

Or in your own good company

[caption id="attachment_3078" align="aligncenter" width="490"] Image from bikeblogs.org[/caption]

Know this, I'm thankful you're a part of my life.  I think this necklace best expresses my feelings for you.

[caption id="attachment_3098" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Image from newyork.inetgiant.com[/caption]

Happy February!  Now, go out and show your bike some love.

January 27, 2011

Thankful Thursday #9

This week I'm thankful for...

  • the roses Terry brought to my classroom on Friday.  I love "just because" flowers and the man who brings them to me.

  • lemongrass soap.

  • these tips on revision that make me feel like my wordslugging is worth it.

  • when the thermometer hit 70.  A little taste of spring in January has me pining for more.

  • skirts and dresses because they're so much more fun to wear than pants.

  • reading in the bathroom.

  • the bumper sticker I saw that read "Wag more, bark less".

  • this awesome LEGO cycling gorilla:

[caption id="attachment_3062" align="aligncenter" width="490" caption="from the brilliant site A LEGO A Day"][/caption]

January 25, 2011

Lucky Number Seven

I got a new little boy in class a few days ago.  Correction, I got my seventh new little boy a few days ago.

First grade boys can sometimes be rubber bands of energy and they don't always know the appropriate way to release all that energy.  So, seven new boys this year is a lot.  But to my surprise, the first six settled in nicely, fairly easily in fact.  Sure there were a few minor hiccups here and there, but overall they're pretty great little guys.

So when I found out my seventh new boy was coming, I crossed my fingers and said a prayer.  After all, how long could my string of sweet little guys hold out?  Surely, I'd pressed my luck and was due for a tough one.

On his first day in our class, my new little boy walked into the room with his mother, his siblings and an interpreter.  His mother is deaf and my lucky number seven's primary language is American Sign Language, followed closely by English.  The interpreter and I talked with the mother, the mother patiently put up with my finger spelling and minimal signs.  And then it was time for the mother to say goodbye to her son.

Let me tell you, my heart stopped watching that mother and son sign "I love you" to each other.  I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

I love words.  I love learning new words.  I love finding the perfect word to express a particular sentiment.  I love the way words feel in my mouth.  I love discovering unusual pairings of words.  I love the way people string words together to create a stunning turn of phrase.

In my teaching career, I've had two other little boys who signed.  And when they'd sign, a rush of love filled my heart as they opened their hands and released their words into our classroom.

And when Lucky Number Seven signed goodbye to his mom, I knew, I just knew, that I'd somehow managed to get another great little boy.

What I did not know is that my little ones would feel the same way, that they would be completely smitten with sign language.  Sure, we sing and sign every day.  Songs about the days of the week, the months of the year, and counting.  Rudimentary signs, at best.

But now we had an expert in our midst and at one point on his first day in our class, a crowd of children clustered around Lucky Seven's desk.  I walked over fully expecting to have to "deal with something", but when I got closer I heard my little ones talking to Lucky Seven saying things like, "My name is ______.  Can you teach me to sign my name?" and "How do I sign 'brother'?  I want to say 'I love you, brother.'  Can you show me?"

Later when we gathered on the carpet to sing and sign, all eyes were on Lucky Seven as he gracefully signed with hands blistered from too many trips across the monkey bars.  My little ones were rapt.  Their mouths hung open.  Their brows furrowed.  And to my delight, their hands mimicked his.  My little ones filled up the spaces between us with their signs.  Their words floated unseen in the very air we breathed.

In that moment, I stood still in my tracks, not wanting to miss a motion, not wanting to miss a single one of their words.

Lucky Seven thinks that I know how to sign.  My fumbling signs have fooled him enough that when we are across the room from each other, he signs to me.  Sometimes I can understand, but most of the time I have to ask him to sign more slowly or ask him to speak aloud and sign at the same time.

He's patient and I'm learning.

I'm learning to savor the silent beauty of passing our words back and forth.  I'm learning to sign things like, "I'm glad to see you." and "I'm proud of you."

I imagine I'll always think of him as my Lucky Seven, but each day he's in our class I'm learning that I'm truly the lucky one.

January 21, 2011

Fangirl Moment

Tuesday night, at Pitch-a-palooza, I had a major Fangirl Moment.  As I waited for the evening to begin, and got down to the very important business of fidgeting in my seat, I spotted Susan G. Wooldridge.

She was all ethereal, wearing an understated black outfit and a turquoise scarf.  She floated around the room hugging friends and saying only deep and meaningful things, I'm sure.

I leaned over to the woman on my right and whispered "There's Susan Wooldridge!".

The woman on my right moved one seat down.

So I leaned over to the woman on my left and tried again.  "There's Susan Wooldridge.  The author of Poemcrazy.  She's, like, right there.  Can you even believe it???"

"Who's Susan Wooldridge?"

"She's a terrific local poet and author.  If you haven't read Poemcrazy, you should.  Like now."

"What's her name again?"

"Susan Wooldridge.  Wooldridge with a 'd'.  Here I'll show you her latest book."  I whipped Fools Gold out of my purse.

"You have her book in your purse?"

"Yeah, I was sorta hoping she'd be here tonight.  I'm going to ask for her autograph afterwards."

The nice woman just blinked at me.

"I swear, I'm not a stalker.  I'm really a very normal person."

"I'm sure she appreciates enthusiastic fans like you."  The woman patted my leg.  Then she turned and talked to her husband.

At the end of the event, I scanned the room for Susan.  I walked around all casual, cool even.  Okay, not really.  But when I spotted her, I held all my nerdy Fangirlness to a minimum.

"Excuse me, aren't you Susan Wooldridge?"  I held up her book.

"Yes, I am." she smiled

"If you have a second, would you mind signing my book?"  I held out the book and a pen.

"I'd be happy to."  She sat and I sat near her, resisting the urge to read what she was writing over her shoulder.

"I met you at the Redding Writers Forum.  I loved Poemcrazy."

"Oh, that's where I know you from."  She handed the book back to me.

"Thanks so much for signing my book and indulging my inner Fangirl."

"My pleasure.  It never gets old, sweetheart."  And then Susan G. Wooldridge put her hand on my cheek and told me to keep writing.

Someday when I have a book of my own.  I hope to put my hand on someone's cheek and call them sweetheart and tell them to keep writing.

For now, I am entirely content to be Susan G. Wooldridge's #1 Fangirl.

P.S.-How awesome is Richard Simmons?  That guy slays me, absolutely slays me!

January 20, 2011

Thankful Thursday #8

This week I'm thankful for...

  • the pink sunset reflecting off the white cap of Mt. Lassen

  • bedhead so terrible that I actually jumped at the shadow it cast on the wall.  No joke.  Then I woke Terry with it and scared the pants off of him, too.

  • magazines in the mailbox

  • walking to church Sunday mornings

  • Monday holidays

  • Donald Miller's take on gratitude

  • when Terry puts gas in my car

  • raspberry apple flavored water

January 19, 2011

Big Girl Pants

Last night I put on my Big Girl Pants.  No, I'm not talking about my Fat Pants.  I had most of those taken in at the tailor and gave the rest away.  In fact I no longer own Fat Pants, but that's a post for another time.  Last night I put on my Big Girl Pants, as in summoned my courage and put on my brave face.

Pitch-a-Palooza was in Chico last night.  What-a-palooza? Pitch-a-palooza.  An event sort of like American Idol for books.  Here's how it works.  Writers step up to the mic and give a 60 second pitch about their book to a panel of qualified and highly knowledgeable professionals.  The panelists critique the pitch, pointing out what you did well and giving gentle suggestions on what to add or take away from your pitch to make it really sing.  At the end of the night a winner is declared and the winner gets a face to face meeting with an agent.

As I drove to Chico, I considered several things to pitch and narrowed it down to a novel.  Or a collection of poems.  Or a children's book.  No, a novel, definitely a novel.  Maybe.  I rehearsed my pitch over and over again, talking to myself like a crazy person all alone in my car.  I shaved off words and cut out blather until I had it down to a succinct 40 seconds.

I felt confident that I had a good shot at the prize. In fact, I was sure I'd be declared the winner.  I was sure that after hearing my brilliant pitch Nicholas Sparks and Marisa de los Santos would suddenly burst out of the audience and fight over me, each of them begging to introduce me to their agents right that second.  (Don't ask me why Nicholas Sparks was in my reverie.  I don't usually read his books.  But apparently in my delusions, his opinion is very important.)

I pulled up to the venue half an hour before the start and it was already filling up.  I signed up to pitch and climbed over a row of people, accidentally sticking my tush in some poor man's face before I plopped down in one of the only empty seats.  Around me people chattered nervously about their pitches.  Some clutched excerpts in their hands.  Others awkwardly edged through the crowd with complete storyboards.

I sat with nothing in my hands, just my words nervously knocking around in my head.

And then the event began.  There were too many people signed up.  So, 20 names would be chosen at random to pitch.  Person after person stood up to pitch.  Some were great, some were awful, all were applauded for being brave enough to put their idea out there.  I listened and learned and made tweaks to my pitch based on the panelists suggestions.

After nineteen people, the panel announced they would hear one final pitch.  My heart pounded in my ears.  I knit my sweaty fingers together.  They called the last name.

It wasn't mine.

How were Nicholas Sparks and Marisa de los Santos supposed to fight over me now?

I was disappointed, but strangely rejuvenated.  I'd learned a ton about the book industry, learned about how to make my pitches better.  And I'd sat in a room full of fellow writers.  In the grand scheme of things, it was quite a night.

Back at home, I changed into my pajamas and sat down for a minute.  I was proud that I'd tossed my hat in the ring, content that I'd been brave enough to sign up.  And when I woke up this morning, I decided that I'm going to wear my Big Girl Pants more often.

January 13, 2011

Thankful Thursday #7

This week I'm thankful for...

  • the beautiful notebook a friend made for me.

  • the little boy in my classroom who was so excited about a card I'd put in his mailbox that he hugged my leg extra tight

  • Ruby Bridges for inspiring my kids to be brave

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. for giving me goosebumps every time I hear his speech

  • sheets fresh from the dryer

  • cold Saturday mornings perfect for writing in bed

  • my Words With Friends friends

  • frigid bike rides followed by scalding hot showers

  • one of my little girls, who on finding out we were getting yet another new student, said "We are the luckiest class-we always get new friends!",  I've welcomed three new kids into our class within a week.  I'm going to try hard to have the same perspective as the little girl and think about how lucky I am to spend time with these new little ones.

  • the little girl in my class who, after writing pages and pages of a story, proclaimed, "Mrs. McCauley, I wrote lots of Golden Lines."  Yes you did, little one, yes you did.

  • Terry, always Terry.

January 10, 2011

The Red Boat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A beautiful, old, red boat.

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

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

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

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

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

January 9, 2011

Day in a Sentence Release: The Beauty We Love

Finally, finally Day In A Sentence release day is here!  What a joy to gather sentences about the beauty you love.  I savored each one as I tucked it away for today.  Before I release your words, I've got to tell you about lanterns.  Yes, lanterns.

During Chinese New Year the city of Pingxi, Taiwan hosts the Heavenly Lantern Festival, where thousands upon thousands of paper lanterns are released into the night sky.

Throughout history, paper lanterns have been used for many purposes including to send messages over enemy lines in times of war.

But the lanterns released on the night of the festival serve a much different purpose.  Each lantern is scribed with prayers, prayers to be carried to God, that He might answer them and bestow His favor.

My heart thrills at the thought of writing and releasing prayers.

As I sit here reading your sentences one last time, I can't help but think of the lanterns.  I'm hopeful that by releasing our words, the beauty we wrote about will appear in abundance this new year.

Here are this week's sentences (Apologies to Amanda C., Kim K. and Deborah C. for not including a hyperlink because I lost your site addresses in the process of pasting the sentences.):

"This has been a difficult week in our household – transitioning back into routine after two weeks home with Mom and Dad, really took a toll on our toddlers. This week’s DIAS helped remind me that they are the beauties we love, and must be our priority pupils, because being teachers parents is what we do." -Amanda C.

'"Don’t start reading… let the beauty we love be what we do..." Tomorrow I promise to wake up and grab my guitar and play into the day."  -Bonnie K.

"I can’t take credit for 'You’ve got to be a friend to have a friend,' but there is beauty in maintaining old and forging new friendships; I reached out to a new friend today." -Amiable Amiable

"Poetry is the beauty I love and this week it came to me wrapped in the secure arms of my husband, in the sweet tang of blackberries, and in the light of the elusive winter sun." -Alicia M.

“I love to sit and draw funny, silly cartoons. Some have suns and others have moons. Some are gaffes but most do get a few laughs.” -Carl D.

"The beauty I love is often found through the lens of my camera. Today I captured the lustrous pink of the setting sun reflected in the river, filtered through the barren branches of winter trees." -Lynn J.

"The beauty of nature fills my heart; it overflows and shines out in love to others." -Heidi R.

"I woke to the frosty foggy morning, with salutations to the sun that I knew to still be in the sky, only slightly hidden away... as sometimes my joy may be."  -Kim K.

"I dig in the dirt of my soul, of my garden, the black half moons beneath my fingernails reminding: hard work purifies spirit & body; and my tears became the rain for the seed of hope I planted today." -cr8df8

"I was watching snowflakes fall as I walked my dog early in the morning the other day — in the hours before the neighborhood arose — and the quiet of the moment was so powerful and so beautiful, I wanted to wrap it up my scarf and take it with me for the day." -Kevin H.

"In those lush pre-dawn hours, when, in between, my being remembers that the path of attraction knows the way, without haste to get lost in busy-ness, though good work may be true, without need for company, though that could be the sun’s reflection, too, but mostly in trust remembering to release into the beauty of love." -Joseph M.

"We can behold beauty, but it cannot be held so today I attempted to pass it along, through the comforting warmth of a kind smile and a reassuring touch, the uplifting joy of a shared giggle, the simulated grace of letting go."-Hippie C.

"The beauty that I have come to love is the every day imperfection of those we love, which in its flawed unraveling, reveals the soul." -Deborah C.

Now that we've set our words free, watch this clip of the Heavenly Lantern Festival and then add it to your list of things to do before you die.  And if you have a second, pop over here to nominate me for a Bloggie.  Oh and be sure to join this week's Day in a Sentence over here.


January 6, 2011

Thankful Thursday #6

This week I'm thankful for...

  • catching snowflakes on my tongue

  • the way Terry jumped over furniture just to get to me and kiss me at midnight on New Year's Eve

  • my friend, Abby, who found my ring after I accidentally flung it out the car window-oops!

  • fresh pineapple

  • game night with friends

  • sack lunches in the sunshine

  • avocados

  • walking my neighborhood at night when the stars are out

  • having lots of my "fat clothes" taken in and giving the rest of them away

  • time with my students after such a long break

  • Terry cooking me vanilla pancakes

  • time to write poetry

  • my nephew who needed just one more hug and kiss before I left

P.S. If you have a minute, nominate me for a Bloggie here.  Thanks!

P.P.S. Only a couple of more days to post your day in a sentence here.

January 4, 2011


I am completely over the moon for Poetry Everywhere.  Oh, I've mentioned that before?  Like 100 times?  Well, make this 101 because Seamus Heaney's poem "Blackberry Picking" has swept me back to my childhood, picking blackberries with my family.  His beautiful imagery inspired me to write my own poem about blackberries.  It's for my big brother, Jeff, perhaps the only person in the world who loves blackberries more than I do.


Our family car is the color of overcooked green beans.

We pile in the backseat and drive to the river,

Always the river,

To relieve the heat that leaves us cracked and withered.


We don't care about sweat beading on our brows or our legs sticking to the seats.

My brother and I hope for blackberries,

Buckets of blackberries,

Ripe with the sweet taste of summer.


We grab our empty buckets, peel ourselves out of the car and race to the brambles.

We reach into the bushes, cajoling the stems to surrender their jewels,

The jewels of summer,

Treasures between our teeth, tender on our tongues.


The tangles of thorns scratch at our browned arms and legs,

We bleed, my brother and I.

The blackberries bleed with us,

In our hands, in our buckets, blackberry wine trickling down our lips.


Our stained mouths bellow purple shouts of jubilee,

Our voices carry beyond the thicket, beyond the river

Our giggles echo on the water,

The mighty river, always laughing with us.


Our buckets are full, our bellies round jars of jam

Our cheeks blush with kisses from the sun,

The sun that rises,

To ripen blackberries for her children.


We pile into the car, our skin salty and sticky sweet.

The car is heavy with summer heat, cooking us until we wilt.

My brother and I exchange tired smiles, cradling our buckets,

Buckets brimming with blackberries, buckets brimming with joy.


And because you deserve a little more poetry in your life, here's a video of Seamus Heaney's "Picking Blackberries".  See how I put mine first so you won't compare the two?  Clever, no?  Anyway, here is the poem that inspired me.  There just aren't many things better than poetry, blackberries, and the music of James Morrison.


Don't you wish it were blackberry season right now?  Thank God for blackberry jam.  Wait, before you go slather some jam on toast, or let's be honest, eat a little spoonful, click here to help put me in the running for a Bloggie  and click here to contribute your Day In A Sentence.

Um, you have a blob of blackberry jam in the corner of your mouth.  You couldn't wait, could you?  Neither could I.

January 2, 2011

Day In A Sentence: The Beauty We Love

I'm thrilled to be hosting Day In A Sentence this week.

Oh, you're new here?  Hi, I'm Alicia.  Don't worry, I'll sit by you at the lunch table.

You don't know what Day In A Sentence is?  It's okay.  I'll explain, but first you've just got to watch this real quick.


You want to watch it a second time?  I did, too.  Go ahead.  I'll wait.

I've watched Coleman Barks read this poem several times and I can't stop chewing on the line "Let the beauty we love be what we do." I could chew on that line for a long time and never be hungry.  It's so nourishing, this idea of the beauty we love being what we do.

So here's the task for this week's Day In A Sentence: write a sentence about the beauty you love and how you manifested that today.  Leave your sentence, your name, and a web address (if you've got one) in the comments section and I'll release all of the sentences next Sunday.  That's it.  Simple, right?  And to think you were worried.

P.S.-If you have a minute or two, help me win a Bloggie.  Thanks!

January 1, 2011

Help Me Win A Bloggie

It's time for Bloggie Nominations and I've got my sights on the category Best Kept Secret Weblog.

Let me just tell you right off the bat: I want to win.

If this little blog wins what do I get?  Nothing except the glory of the title.  Oh, and the right to refer to myself henceforth as an award-winning blogger.

And you better believe I'll be referring to myself like that all the time.  I think my head is already beginning to swell.  Oh dear.

So here's how to vote:

  1. Click the Bloggies nomination page.

  2. Scroll down to the Best Kept Secret category and under nominee type in Pedals and Pencils and then type in the URL pedalsandpencils.wordpress.com (If you're feeling really sweet, scroll back up and nominate me for Best Writing of a Weblog.  That's always a tough category filled with amazing writers and it would be an honor to be in their company.  Plus everyone loves a good underdog story, right?)

  3. In order for your vote to count, you have to nominate at least three different blogs.  So plug in your favorites and consider nominating some of my favorites, too.  Here are some suggestions: Best Food Weblog: Cake Wrecks at cakewrecks.blogspot.com, Best Photography of A Weblog: The Pioneer Woman at thepioneerwoman.com and A Lego A Day at legomyphoto.wordpress.com, Weblog of the Year: Fat Cyclist at www.fatcyclist.com

  4. Once you've entered your nominations, scroll down to the bottom where you type some super secret words to make sure you're an actual person voting.  Then type in your e-mail address and hit the submit button.  You only get to vote once and voting closes January 16th.

  5. Then check your e-mail because in order for your vote to count you have to click on the link they send you.

  6. If you really want to help me win so you can pal around with an award-winning blogger, pass this on to your friends on FaceBook and Twitter, too.

Well, I'm off to search for a hat large enough to fit my increasingly big head.

Thanks for voting!