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

April 28, 2011

Thankful Thursday #22

This week I'm thankful for...

  • turning off my alarm clock for the week

  • Good Friday service

  • Easter Sunday when the rain stopped and the clouds parted in time for church outside

  • the hymn In Christ Alone because it brings me to tears every time I hear it

  • riding my bike with girlfriends Easter afternoon

  • hearing the 5:30am train echoing up from the valley and realizing I can go back to sleep for as long as I want

  • reading in bed in the morning

April 22, 2011

Letter #9: Whisper To Me

Dear Gramma,

You've been gone over a year now.  In some ways it feels like you were here just yesterday.  Other days it feels like eternity has spread out in between us.  I'm starting to forget what your voice sounded like.  My heart breaks even typing those words because I need your voice in my life.  This week I needed your warm Texas lilt to whisper in my ear.

I needed your voice when cancer took my friend's mother.  I needed your words when cancer crept back into the brain of another friend's mother.  In their sadness, my grief for you welled up in my heart and broke it all over again.  My words of comfort were such a meager offering in the face of staggering loss, in the face of fear come to life.  And yet, I feel like you would have said just the right thing.  Once again I find myself wishing I was more like you.

Last night I prayed that you would come talk to me in my dreams.  I long for you to sit down next to me, pat my leg and tell me everything will be okay.  I dream every night.  Most mornings I wake up recalling a fistful of dreams.  But not last night.  Last night was void of dreams.  You were silent and I woke up alone in bed, missing you more than ever.

It's almost Easter and my memories of last Easter are snapshots flickering in the forefront of my mind.  I remember singing in your church Easter morning, painfully aware that you weren't there next to me.  I cried through worship, both for the beauty of Easter and for the agony of loss.  I remember riding my bike up through your mountains, my heart bobbing in my throat.

Cancer is such a cunning thief.  A year later, I still feel hollowed out.  And maybe that's why I don't have the right words to say to my beloved friends.  Maybe there aren't words to fill the cavern of loss.

Gramma, words never seemed to fail you.  You could strike up a conversation with anyone and build a friendship in mere minutes.  As for me, my words choke up behind my tongue and come out all wrong.

But this I know for sure, when my words fail my actions speak for me.

So when it comes to cancer, I'm letting my legs do the talking.  With every spin of the cranks, I say no to cancer.  When I stand and pedal up hills, I'm standing with my friends.  And maybe one of these days when I'm riding through the plains and the wind is whipping through the wildflowers, just maybe it's your warm Texas lilt I'll hear on the breeze.

I love you so much.  Come talk to me soon.


April 21, 2011

Thankful Thursday #21

This week I'm thankful for...

  • my grade level partners who always have my back

  • parents of current and former students who intrinsically seem to know when I need to hear that I'm doing a good job

  • our school librarian for saying I'm the perfect teacher for my most challenging student

  • my husband for encouraging me to always listen to my heart when it comes to doing what is best for children

  • my sixth grade student TA who looked at our dragonfly nymphs and said "Isn't it amazing that something so ugly turns into something so beautiful?"  Exactly.

  • pedicures

  • dates with my mom

  • The Sound of Music, which always makes me tear up at least a little, especially at the lyric "I go to the hills when my heart is lonely."

  • reading solely for the pleasure of it

  • lazy Saturdays when I read nap and Terry watches baseball naps, too

  • warm rain that compels Terry to usher me outside to smell it

  • the small window each week wherein all the laundry is washed and put away and the laundry hamper is empty

  • walking home from church under a sky of thunderheads that held off the rain long enough for me to make it home

  • the little boy who brought his skateboard in as his "Mostest special thing, ever, in the world.  Ever."

  • my darling former student who brought her bunny by after school so I could "finally meet him".  Henry the Bunny is now my favorite bunny.  Although chocolate bunnies are a close second.

  • this clip from 365grateful.com

[vimeo 13731354 w=400 h=225]

April 19, 2011


You didn't used to snore.  You used to sleep in silent stillness, so much so that I'd hold my hand in front of your mouth to make sure you were breathing.  You used to joke that you slept like you were dead.

And then came the time when you stopped sleeping, the year when you wrestled demons and wished you were dead.  You wrestled in the harsh light of day and every dark, lonely night.  Life was hard and there was no rest for you, no sleep to ease your mind.  My sleep was punctuated with nightmares, nightmares that continued into my waking hours.

Those were dark days when we clawed our way out of the pit, only to fall back in and try again the next day.  And the next day.  And the next.  We fought hard for our life together, fought hard to hang onto love.  And light.  And hope.  My prayers were fervent, urgent pleas for life over death.  We clung to God.  We clung to each other.  We clung for dear life.

After months of this exhausting struggle, my prayers were answered and you began to sleep again.  I remember the first night you finally slept.  You began to snore.  At first the snoring scared me, startling me from sleep, reminding me of all that had changed.  Even at night I couldn't escape that fact that for better or worse, we were different.

Most days it feels like that was a long time ago and for that I'm grateful.  Our life is happy.  We are whole.  Changed, yes, but when we put together the pieces of our fractured life, you were still you and I was still me.

Now at night when I wake to your snoring, I press into you, safe in the knowledge that you are here in this life with me.  I remember the days when you couldn't sleep.  I listen to your snoring and say a prayer of thanks that you have found rest, that we have found respite together.

I've come to love the sound of your snores.  In the quiet of night, your snoring is the sound I listen for.  In fact, it's my favorite sound, the one I want to hear all the days of my life.

I heard you snoring last night and I felt safe.  I rolled over and slipped into a dream.  And when I woke, I woke to our life together.

It is the sweetest dream of all.

April 18, 2011

Poetry From Little Lips

Children have such a way with words, pairing combinations that just pulse off the page.  Their little lips seem to spill poetry.  I'm lucky enough to be a fly on the wall when they mish mash those beautiful combinations.

Poet Naomi Shihab Nye collected some of the things her son said and reads his words here in her poem "One Boy Told Me".


You are, no doubt, scrambling for a piece of paper this very second to write down the wonders that have slipped through the lips of your son, daughter, niece, nephew, granddaughter, grandson, the kid next door, or even that funny kid in front of you in line at the post office.  Do it, grab a pencil and write it down.  Quick, before your grown-up brain forgets and instead fills up with mundane things like the grocery list.  And then share your lines or a link to them in the comments section please.  It's National Poetry Month and we all deserve a little more poetry in our lives.

April 15, 2011

Thinking Spring

April is National Poetry Month and although the first day of Spring was nearly a month ago, it feels like Spring is just now arriving.  So here's a little poem to celebrate the fact that maybe, just maybe winter is finally giving way.

Thinking Spring

The sign outside my front door reads 'Think Spring'.

In the breath of summer, that leaves me cracked and dry,

And in the fall, when bouquets of colors fall at my feet,

But especially when the cold song of winter whistles through the crack of my front door,

I'm thinking about all that is secreted away, tucked in and waiting to bloom,

All that is just waiting for wind's warm whisper that Spring has arrived.

April 14, 2011

Thankful Thursday #20

This week I'm thankful for...

  • new shoes that feel comfortable from the first wear

  • my little one who brought his hamster, Mr. Beans, to school on his special sharing day.  The kids squealed and cheered when the boy took Mr. Beans out of his box.  Mr. Beans then spent the next hour scared stiff.  Poor Mr. Beans will never be the same!

  • another little one who brought his pet, Lilly the Tortoise, to share.  Lilly has impeccable timing and pooped just as the boy was lifting her out of her box.  The class started shrieking in horror as the poop plopped into the box.  Poor first graders will never be the same.  I on the other hand, had to stifle my giggles.  Potty humor slays me.

  • the rare bike ride where my legs feel like they could go forever

  • talking to my brothers on the phone and dreaming about a big bike adventure together.  What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, except when I post pictures on my blog.  Brothers, consider yourselves warned.

  • these magical words from the pharmacist "I've got that on hand.  Your prescription will be ready in a few minutes."  My sinuses thank you, kind sir.

  • the little boy in my class who wore his "I'm a Big Brother" sticker all weekend and just had to wear it to school Monday

  • the sound of my neighborhood in spring.  Children play outside, wind chimes ting-a-ting-ting on gust of barbecue scented wind.  Spring is here and not a moment too soon.

  • the fact that it's week 20 and I still have so much to be grateful for.  I hope the same is true for you.

April 13, 2011

The Box

I was writing over here this week in response to a great prompt about unpacking.  It was a timely topic for me because just last week one of my little ones brought in a box and unpacked his most precious things to share with the class.

The Box

He sits in front of the class,

Feet dangling, kicking the legs of the chair.

He is never still,

Even in his sitting, there is motion.


Today is his day to bring special things.

He holds a hat box covered in faded demin,

The edges smudged with soot.

This is all I have.  It's one of my only things that didn't burn.

Ever so carefully he lifts the round lid

He pulls out a blue onesie,

Laying it in his open palm, rocking it back and forth in his arms

This is how my dad used to hold me.

He dangles his hospital bracelet,

Wraps it around two of his fingers,

Can you believe I was ever that little?

Yes, sweet boy, I believe you were once that small.

He lifts out a stack of greeting cards,

Searching through them until he finds the one his grandmother wrote,

Her words welcoming him to the world.

Will you help me read this one?  It's my favorite.


He scoots over on the chair and I sit beside him.

As the first words leave my lips, he ducks his head under my arm and reads.

He knows every word by heart,

Each period a tap of his toes.


He stacks the cards into the box, folds the onesie on top

And tucks the bracelet in the sleeve before replacing the lid.

The box sits atop his desk the rest of the day.

I catch him fingering the fabric, smiling as he lifts the lid every now and again.


I can't help but think of how we come to the earth with nothing,

And leave with nothing,

Yet we leave with so much more.

In the unpacking of his box, this little boy filled mine.

April 11, 2011

Crowing into the Sky

I usually ride with friends.  In fact, I think I can count on one hand the times I've ridden solo.  Saturday I'd arranged to meet up with a group of girls for an easy spin on the river trail.  15ish miles, just enough to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather.  Then one by one, most of my friends cancelled.  So Saturday afternoon, when I found myself standing alone kicking rocks at our meeting place, I decided to ride in my own good company.

Sure I could've called it quits and stuffed The Rocket back into the car, but I was already clad in Spandex and you know I love Spandex.  Plus I'd been battling a sinus infection all week and I was just sick of being sick.  I, quite literally, needed to clear my head.  And I knew just the road to clear it.  I had a conversation with myself that went something like this: Today I will climb.  Today I will climb the North side of Shasta Dam. I've ridden to the Dam countless times, but always from the South side. The North side is bigger, badder and has been beckoning me for months.

I set out along the river, her waters rising up to meet me, rippling right up to the edge of the trail.  The Sacramento is the river of my childhood and as I pedaled her curves, I remembered riding my pink Schwinn on this very trail.  Remember riding bikes as a kid?  I don't know about you, but my hindquarters rarely made use of my flowered banana seat because being a kid was about speeding over hills, crowing into the sky and slamming on the brakes to make the most impressive skid mark.

I rode along the river climbing beyond the section of trail populated by strollers, scooters and the occasional Segway.  I was in the mountains now, alone save for a handful of cyclists enjoying a nice downhill from the opposite direction.  I thought about turning around and coasting down behind them, but Shasta Dam called to me.  I reached a clearing and there she stood.

Do you see that road to the left of the Dam?  The one that snakes around the mountain?  That was my road.  At the base of the mountain, I shared the road with some ATV's and some dirt bikes, all of whom were operated by extremely polite drivers.  No, really.  Each and every off-roader, gave me a wide berth on the road.  About half way up the mountain, the dirt bikes and ATV's raced onto the dirt trails, leaving me alone with the road.  With every turn, it looked like the Dam was just around the corner.  She's tricky like that, playing hide and seek in the trees, coaxing me further and further up the mountain.

My legs were strong and steady all the way up the mountain to the Dam.  I'm as shocked as you are, since my legs are usually about as strong as partially set Jell-O.  I cruised across the Dam, riding close to the edge and peering into Lake Shasta, who had swallowed the entire tree line.  I turned my bike and peeked over the other side.  Staring down the face of the Dam, I felt my stomach drop.  It's the same feeling I get when I'm falling in a dream.  Terrifying and thrilling all at the same time.  And yet, I can't cross over the Dam without taking a glance.  2 more miles of decent hills lay just on the other side of the Dam.  That last bit of climbing was nothing compared to the ascent to the Dam.  I zipped up and over the mountain into town where I crossed over Keswick Dam and slipped back onto the river trail.

The river welcomed me as I raced along the flat side of the trail toward my car.  I was killing the flats and when I looked down at my speedometer, it was ticking away at  18 mph.  This isn't fast for a real cyclist, but for me it's a pretty decent pace.  I cranked into a harder gear and whipped my legs faster and faster.  I was really flying now!  I leaned my head back and crowed into the blue sky.  At the end of the ride, I'd racked up 41 miles, but more importantly my head was completely clear.  Driving home, I replayed the ride in my mind.  I held the beauty of the water in my eyes and the joy of climbing mountains in my heart.  I'll be crowing about this ride for a long time.

April 7, 2011

Thankful Thursday #19

This week I'm thankful for...

  • sunshine, sunshine, sunshine!

  • dinner with friends

  • my friend, who asked me to teach her how to ride a bike

  • days when hair and makeup aren't even on the radar because all I'm going to do is ride my bike, conquer the laundry, read, and (if I'm lucky) ride my bike some more

  • good books

  • the smell of clean laundry

  • my little one who blushes and grins when I call him "sweet boy"

  • Heavy Metal Mondays in spin class

April 6, 2011

A Slice of Surrealism

10:30pm I set my alarm for 5am, an ungodly hour to be upright and functioning.  I settle down, pulling the covers up under my chin and think about what tomorrow holds.  In the morning I'll head to Sacramento to scout out a potential new writing curriculum.  After the workshop, I'll scoot over to a friend's house to ride our bikes along the American River Trail.  And if there's time, I might even squeeze in a little shopping.  It looks to be a full, fun day.  I turn over in bed, ticking off the things I'd packed in the car.  Bike?  Check.  Bike clothes, helmet, gloves, etc?  Check, check, check, etc.  Healthy snacks for the road?  Check.  Glasses?  Check.  I roll over in bed and make sure the sound on my alarm is turned up.  Check

2am I wake up in a panic, sure I'd slept through my alarm.  I pad to the bathroom and slip back in bed.

3am Seriously, am I going to wake up every hour until it's time to get up?

4am Apparently so.

Sometime between 4:30 and 5:40am I dream that I wake up hours after my alarm was set to go off.  In my dream my teeth began to fall out.  My molars came out in 2's and 3's, right there in my hand.  The pain shot through my head, but just as I wondered why my teeth were abandoning ship, I started vomiting.  So violent were my dream heaves that I sit straight up in bed, my stomach cramping into a tight fist, waking me with a start.

5:40am I run my tongue over my teeth and breathe a sigh of relief that all of my pearly whites are firmly in place.  My relief lasts approximately three seconds until I look at the time.  5:40?!?  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!  My alarm was supposed to go off forty minutes ago!  I have 20 minutes to tame my bedhead and get on the road to make the drive to Sacramento.

6:10am I pull out of the driveway, pleased I'm only 10 minutes late.  I flick on some music and settle in for two and half hours of solitude in the car.  The sunrise has painted the clouds fuchsia.

8:25am Traffic is moving quickly and I should arrive at the workshop with just enough time to park and check in.  This day might just turn out okay after all.

8:30am 15 minutes away from my destination, my phone buzzes.  Missed call from school.  I'll call them when I get there, it's probably some last-minute thing about the purchase order for this workshop.  My phone buzzes a second, then a third, then a fourth time.  On the fifth buzz, I pull into a rest area and check my messages.  All the messages and texts tell me the same thing: the workshop has been cancelled.  I sit in the parking lot, at a loss as to what to do next.  Should I turn around and drive the two and a half hours home?  That sounds ridiculous.  I call our school secretary and she changes my day to a personal day.  I decide to ride my bike and shop.  I pinch myself to make sure this isn't a dream within a dream kind of thing happening.

9:30am I pull up to my friend's house and we throw our bikes in the back of his truck and head out to the American River Trail.  The weather is perfect, cool with a slight breeze.  We ride by Lake Natoma and I breathe in the smell of the earth.  Everything is green and lush.  I'm again tempted to pinch myself.  Who would have thought I'd be riding one of my favorite trails on a Tuesday morning?

[caption id="attachment_3687" align="aligncenter" width="490" caption="Lake Natoma"][/caption]

12:00pm I pack my bike away in my car.  I'm all squeaky clean and showered.  Gosh, it would be silly not to do a little shopping while I was in the city.  Might as well, right?

12:45pm I eat lunch in the company of a good book and then hit the stores.  And miracle of miracles, I find three pairs of shoes that fit my ginormous feet.  I buy them, stroking my new buttery soft leather boots.

4:00pm I hit the road in possession of my shoes, a new black jacket, a necklace and a pair of fancy pants cupcakes, which I am determined to share with my husband when I get back home.

5:00pm My alarm goes off, mocking me.  Damn that AM/PM button!

6:10pm 20 more minutes and then I'm home free.  Suddenly a tan sedan swerves off the road in front of me and stops nose first in the ditch in between the north and southbound lanes.  I'm in the right hand lane and can't get over to the left lane to see if everyone is okay.  I frantically punch 911 into my phone and report the accident to Highway Patrol.  I watch the crashed car in my rearview mirror.  I see people moving inside, but nobody is getting out.  Damn it, why won't traffic move so I can pull over?  Why isn't anyone else stopping?  I speed ahead and take the next exit and head South towards the car.  An ambulance screams by me, lights flashing, siren blaring.  I hold my breath.  It feels like I don't breathe again until I see the car and the rescue workers helping the people out of the car.  I exit the southbound lane and start toward home again.

6:30pm Back at home I unpack my car and sit down for a minute, rolling my shoulders to ease the tension that has knotted between them.

10:30pm I sink into bed and check my alarm, making sure it's set for 6:15am.  I double, then triple check it just to be sure.

Sometime between 11pm and 2am I fall into a dream.  I see Lake Natoma, the tree line reflected in her glassy, green face.  I watch in horror as the tan sedan plunges off the road headfirst into the water.  I see people moving inside, but nobody is getting out.  The passengers stare at me as I ride on the other side of the lake, powerless to reach them in time.

2:02am I sit up in bed, my heart racing and beads of sweat trickling down my hairline.  My lungs are sodden with lake water.  I catch my breath and lay back down.  In the haze of the morning hours, I separate the filmy dream from reality, pinching myself just to be sure.

6:15am My alarm sounds and I roll out of bed.  I get ready for the morning and as I look in the mirror, I wonder just what unexpected events lay ahead of me today.  I slip into my new boots and take a deep breath.  Some days are just so surreal.

April 2, 2011

Cycling in March: Birthdays, Bugs and Bicycling

200ish Miles Ridden in March Since I came to the party a little late this year, I'm not exactly sure how many miles I rode this month.  But it's around 200ish, which is somewhere between threve and plenty-six, but all miles are good miles.

1 Field of Poppies in Bloom My first ride of the month was on a day when the scent of rain on asphalt filled the air.  My friend, Abby, and I set off for a ride in the sprinkles and were greeted by poppies in bloom.  They turned their golden faces to us and I was reminded of when we moved to California and I picked fistfuls of poppies for my mom.  I quickly learned that they're the state flower and never picked them again.

1 Pesky Bug On the last day in March, I found myself riding the river trail with a friend, a newbie cyclist.  On our way home, we pedaled up a steady incline when I felt something fly down the back of my jersey.  I wasn't really worried about it.  Shoot, I've swallowed flies, narrowly escaped the sting of a bee caught in my jersey, and even had a butterfly flitter right in between my eye and my sunglasses.  So this little gnat of a thing was no big deal.  Except that it started to bite me.  All over my back.  I shimmied and shook my jersey loose, but that little pest just wouldn't leave.  My friend suggested we stop.  I scoffed at her suggestion. Pffft!  Total newbie suggestion.  Like I was going to let a little bug make me stop riding.  Ha! That night as I scratched and itched my way through a fitful night of sleep I wished I'd listened to her.  Oh, Hindsight, you are so very, very cruel.

33 Miles: My Furthest Distance this Season Abby organized a 30th birthday ride for herself, including SAG wagons, goodie bags, and medals of completion.  The wind advisory that day predicted gusts in between 35 and 45 mph.  Frankly, I didn't need the wind advisory to tell me that because the fence that had blown down in our backyard was a pretty solid indicator of the insanity that awaited.  So, I slipped on my tights and arm warmers and readied myself for the ride.  After all, I couldn't let the birthday girl have all the fun.  Plus I had decorations for her helmet and bike.

[caption id="attachment_3649" align="aligncenter" width="490" caption="photo by Jeff Worthington"][/caption]

1 New Cycling Game Sometimes I invent games to keep myself occupied when I'm riding.  For example, when I'm gutting it out up a steep hill and battling the urge to simultaneously pass out and throw up, my favorite game is 'I Can Pass That'.  It's a simple game wherein I set my gaze on an object a few feet ahead of me and tell myself I can pass it.  I can pass that stick.  I can pass that rock.  I can pass that sign.  I can pass that roadkill. Pretty soon I've passed enough things that I'm at the top of the hill.  This year I invented a new game.  I call it 'Wardrobe Bingo'.  It's a perfect game for windy days when clothing and such might be blowing out of cars.  My goal is to have ridden by a complete outfit by the end of the season.  So far I've seen a lone green glove and a pair of sunglasses.

[caption id="attachment_3653" align="alignleft" width="242" caption="photo by Jeff Worthington"][/caption]


1 Time I cried on my bike At mile 30 of Abby's birthday ride, I pedaled by the cemetery where my dad is buried.  I'd ridden with Terry and other friends all 30 miles leading up to that point.  But as cyclists do, we'd spread out and I found myself riding the last three miles alone.  I was grateful for the solitude.  Riding by the cemetery hasn't gotten any easier, even with the passage of time.  This continues to surprise me because my relationship with my dad was complicated at best. The wind was ripping right at me and I looked at the giant American flag standing guard in the cemetery.  The wind snapped it to attention on the pole with such force that I thought the flag might just tear off and float away.  I tucked my chin into the unforgiving headwind.  The cord of the flag clanged on the pole over and over again, like a bell tolling a funeral dirge.  My legs pedaled slow circles and I cried.  The wind dried my tears before they could even hit the ground.  That night I went to sleep with pink tear trails windburned onto my cheeks.  Sometimes cycling is about so much more than being on the bike.  In March I had the pleasure of hearing Maya Angelou speak and her words came back to me there on the road by the cemetery.  "Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently."  For me cycling is all about finding courage.  Finding courage to do things I thought I'd never be able to.  Finding courage to fight for others in need.  The place I find that courage is on the seat of my bike.

$135 Dollars Donated Thank you Adam & Suzy, Chris, Laura & Janice for making a donation to The LiveStrong Foundation on my behalf.  Your generosity touches me and compels me to get on my bike.

$865 Dollars Until I Reach My Goal If you'd like to make a donation to the LiveStong Foundation on my behalf, click the link above or over to the right.  All donations are tax deductible.  Thanks so much for your generosity and support.

[caption id="attachment_3655" align="aligncenter" width="490" caption="photo by Jeff Worthington"][/caption]

I look forward to telling you all about my cycling adventures in April!