Being sick

When I was sick as a kid, my mom brought me toast with honey and Campbell’s chicken & stars soup. Whatever beverage she brought had ice cubes in it, which made it feel like a grown-up drink (my folks hosted a lot of bridge club nights and the occasional cocktail party).

If I had an upset stomach she gave me 7-Up—the only time I ever got to have pop as a kid, with the occasional rare exception of a Grape or Orange Crush purchased in a gas station on a family vacation (I think she limited us to those two because of their faint, faint resemblance to some sort of fruit juice).

I got to lie on the couch and feel sorry for myself, with a receptacle handy in case I threw up, or with a box of tissues at hand if it was a sinus-y thing. She wiped my forehead with a damp washcloth if I ran a fever. So I like to be taken care of when I’m sick.

I woke up yesterday with a scratchy throat that grew a lot worse last night. I kept waking up feeling as if I couldn’t swallow (and wondering if I’d been snoring).

This morning, my sweetheart made me a comforting bowl of hot oatmeal before taking off on a long bike ride with a couple of guys from his club, Spokane Rocket Velo. I drank coffee and read the paper, then settled on the sofa with some magazines awaiting Mom Taxi duties for a pick-up after an overnight at a birthday party.

Kate went along for the ride when the call came around 11. After we picked up Laura, I stopped at the grocery store for a few essentials, including the Western Family “compare to Chloraseptic” product and bags of honey –lemon cough drops for me, cherry for the rest of the family in case they catch whatever this is.

Now I’m on the sofa. Kate tucked me in with her special blanket for when she’s sick, explaining that a when-you’re-sick blanket can’t go with anything else. (This sucker is bright blue with starfish and tropical fish and white polka dots all over it.)

At my side I have cranberry-raspberry juice in a glass with ice cubes; water in another glass with ice cubes; my generic throat spray and cough drops; and a box of tissues, all laid out by Kate. She pushed the ottoman a little closer so I could reach everything easily, and told me to holler if I need anything. I asked if I could just croak feebly instead, and she said sure.

The generational torch has been passed.

The future for our parks

I’m thinking a lot these days about our need for a vision for Spokane parks. This came up because of the proposal to have the county commissioners use Conservation Futures funds to purchase the YMCA Building.

As a community, we lack context for this decision. The community developed the Gorge Master Plan through a large-scale and inclusive process, and today Friends of the Falls has a document that anyone can go to in order to see the overall vision.

Where is the corollary for Spokane’s parks? The Olmsted Brothers had a vision, which included the Spokane River Gorge as the heart of a network of parks within walking distance of every neighborhood. That vision needs to be updated as the city grows.

Our understanding of parks has come to include more natural spaces like the gorge, not just parks that require mowing and sprinkler systems. The fastest-growing recreational pursuits are those like kayaking, climbing, and mountain biking—not ones that require sports leagues with refs and equipment.

Don’t get me wrong—I still want the traditional beautiful green spaces. I still want to go to the Japanese Gardens and the manicured parts of Manito Park.

But when we go there, our younger kids spend only a little time on the playground equipment before they want to climb to the top of the big rock on the north side of 17th as it comes into Manito.

I think they represent the future, and I want to see parks that will meet their needs and preserve wild, open experiences, both close to downtown like the Spokane River Gorge, and farther away like some of the other CF purchases.

What I don’t want to see is the same question being asked years from now, at the end of the YMCA building’s life, that we are asking today: How did we get to this point? Why do we lack an overall vision that provides context for individual decisions on parcels and projects?

Our elected and appointed officials and public employees need to create the open forum necessary to understand and weigh the options.

At the end of the day, maybe it will in fact be the case that use of CF funds for the YMCA Building fulfills a public purpose. That purpose needs to be understood and shared before the purchase.

The larger questions of a vision for our parks and river, with a plan for maintenance and operations, await.


I’m like an evangelist who doesn’t go to church. I sing the praises of yoga, but I haven’t gone in months, beyond a couple of Saturday-morning sessions in August.

Over the last seven years, my practice grew from once or twice a week to a steady routine. At one point I practiced 5-6 times a week, and did 108 Sun Salutations at the Solstice and Equinox. My first 108 came the year I turned 40—the same year I rafted the Spokane River Gorge for the first time, and tried the tango. All wonderful and fulfilling activities that helped give me a new sense of who I am.

Yet I’m not going.

I miss it. I love the instructors at Twist Yoga, who are generous friends and gifted teachers and mentors. I miss the centered feeling yoga gives me as a moving meditation. I miss the calm, familiar environment of the studio, with its wood floors and high pressed-tin ceiling and its feeling of a place apart from the whirlwind of daily life.

I miss the community of regulars. When I went back those Saturday mornings, I saw people I hadn’t seen in months who greeted me with a smile and a “Good to see you!”.

I also miss the increased mindfulness it brought to my food choices. I could look at the giant snickerdoodles from Rocket Bakery—my absolute faves—and say to myself, “You do yoga. You can choose not to eat this.”

Since you definitely want to be empty if you’re going to turn upside down, this was not just mind over matter, it was common sense, but it truly was more mindful. I wasn't eating just because the food was there--I was eating because I chose to.

And there are the more obvious benefits of increased strength and flexibility. I was working toward being able to put a foot behind my head, I could sit in full lotus, I could do a headstand raising my straight legs from the floor overhead using my core strength.

Yet I’m not going.

Right now, I’m practicing one of the core tenets of yoga: ahimsa, or nonviolence. This takes many forms. It includes nonviolence toward yourself—being gentle with yourself.

Along about February-March, I just maxed out. I was taking a graduate class that had me driving to Pullman once a week, working long hours to make up for the lost time, and had plenty of volunteer activities in my life, including chairing the first major Bike to Work Week celebration for Spokane. I have two teenage daughters, two younger stepchildren, and my wonderful, wonderful sweetheart, all of whom deserved more time.

I could reclaim the time that yoga took out of each day, feel more focused at work because I didn’t have a required departure time to get to class, and go home to my family.

It’s a different kind of centering, and it doesn’t help with my snickerdoodle control in the least. I want my core strength back, and that mindfulness, but for now, this is ahimsa.

Friend spaces

Years ago when I lived in Coeur d’Alene for a while, a friend of mine, Jeannie, started a women’s group. We met once a month at someone’s house for a potluck and general hanging out and getting to know each other.

The inspiration for the group was by way of rebellion, actually, or making a statement. Jeannie had been invited to a different women’s group, a “birthday club” that met monthly. Jeannie, who was a well-known member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, went once, then her second time took along a college instructor girlfriend who was African-American.

The reception from the 100% white group was distinctly chilly. Jeannie—who decided her past civic leadership roles had made her somehow “acceptable”, or they wouldn’t have invited her in the first place—vowed not to go back.

She started our group by inviting women she knew would welcome a space in which we’d have a chance to get to know women from various cultures and backgrounds. As it turned out, most of us were white. But we were all ages and stages of life, from single women in their 30s to grandmas in their 70s, and we had a wonderful time.

Fast forward a few years. After living in Coeur d’Alene and commuting to Spokane for a while, I finally consolidated my life in one city. That’s important to me because I want to engage in the civic and social life of my community, and that’s tough when you’re always 45 minutes away from either home or work.

I went back to Coeur d’Alene a couple of times for our Saturday group, but now the 45-minute drive was weighted the other way, and my center of gravity was once again in Spokane. So over time I dropped out of many of my CdA connections.

I missed that girlfriend space, though. One day I went through my work contact list. I picked out every woman I’d met in some professional capacity who seemed bright, funny, and interesting. I sent out an email that said something along these lines:

“We don’t have playgrounds with teeter-totters and swing sets where we can make friends simply by taking turns. I meet a lot of interesting women in the course of my work, and I think some of you could become good friends. We’ll never know unless we have time to talk, and that won’t happen in our busy lives unless we actually schedule some friendship time. So here’s your invitation to coffee. Let’s meet at 9 a.m. at the Rockwood Bakery on the second Saturday—because I like alliteration—and see what happens.”

I literally don’t know how long ago that was—maybe four years? Even five?—and Second Saturdays has been meeting monthly ever since, although we move the location around. Women came, brought friends, dropped out themselves sometimes while the friend became a regular. Some come every time, some once in a while, some never come but ask to stay on the list “in case my life changes and I can come.”

The initial invitation list was heavy on women who work in public relations and communications, but that’s not its make-up today. Today, for example, our gathering included a grants director for a regional foundation; a writer/editor; a university librarian; a restaurant manager; a recruiter for a local employment agency; and a life coach.

That's just their professions. I could have said it was two women who do yoga, one who's dealing with her mother who has Alzheimer's, one who redid her house and yard in the last year, one who's thinking about a new last name because she doesn't like keeping her "divorced name" and never liked her maiden name, one who saw an adolescent cougar on a hike this spring... much more interesting that way, and things I never would have known had our connection stayed professional.

Today we talked politics for a while--one item on a long list of topics we covered. Perhaps it was to be expected that my instincts would lead me to invite women who shared my general political sensibilities, but I honestly didn’t know that when I invited them. It just emerged over time, and I suppose women who didn’t find that element a comfortable fit just quietly stopped coming.

We also talked about friendship, and wondered whether some of those childhood teeter-totter friends would become friends if we met today as adults. I’m no longer in touch with anyone from my grade school, so I have no idea if we’ll vote for the same presidential candidate or feel the same about combating global warming. You don’t know, when you’re taking turns on the swing, what will matter to you as an adult and what characteristics you’ll desire in a friend.

I keep the email list and send out monthly reminders, along with news tidbits members ask me to share with the others. I’m fairly choosy in those I invite personally, but I’ll add any name someone else asks me to put on the list. I figure the group dynamic will work itself out.

Kind of like a grown-up swing set, I suppose, although with better manners. And coffee.

Bad bikes! Bad!

Since my job involves media relations, you’d think I would have realized what would happen when Bike to Work Week in Spokane exceeded all our expectations in May 2008 and got such great coverage.

I thought of the success as belonging to the hundreds of cyclists who signed up and the dozen or more hardy volunteers who made all the events come together, along with everyone who has commuted by bike all these years without any free T-shirts as incentives.

But I somehow became a poster girl for bike commuting, thanks to the zillions of emails I sent to the participants and the outpouring of media coverage that quoted me in connection with the event.

So now I don’t just get the confessions of guilty non-cyclists I mentioned previously. Oh, no indeedy—I get every story of anyone’s encounter with a thoughtless cyclist.

You know the ones I mean: they don’t stop for stop signs, they don’t signal, they ride the wrong way against traffic, they jump sidewalks and cross mid-block, they ride three across on a narrow road and hog the lane unnecessarily.

It’s funny, or it’s sad, that one bad cyclist paints us all bad. When I have an encounter with a bad motorist—the ones who don’t look before starting to turn or change lanes, the ones who come unnecessarily close to me in a wide lane to “prove” I don’t belong there, the ones who yell at me to "get off the road!", the ones who park on bike lanes—that doesn’t make all motorists bad.

Nor do four high school kids who jaywalked the other day between the LC fieldhouse and the main building make all pedestrians bad. (I played mom/street cop and yelled, “Hey hey hey! Jiminy Christmas!” when they stepped out in front of me as I came down Washington at 30 mph, wearing can't-miss lime green. That’s a great hill and when the lights are with you it’s a fun ride unless you have to swerve around the freshmen.)

Can’t we all just look out for each other a little better, with a smidgen of civility? ("Jiminy Christmas" was pretty tame, really.) Is that too much to ask?

Confession time

Used to be, I'd walk into a room for a business meeting and get a look or two as I stripped off my helmet and bike gloves and dug my notebook out of the pannier bag serving as my briefcase. I'd guess I was viewed as a trifle ... eccentric for riding my bike to a Chamber of Commerce event.

That was about two years ago, when I completed my shift from "I bike to work once in a while," to "I bike to work pretty often," to "I'm a bike commuter." That's when I started showing up everywhere with my bike gear: at meetings in the Valley, early morning or lunchtime downtown, after work at the Davenport.

Along the way as I evolved or mutated or whatever it was, something else changed--and I'm not just talking about the $4/gallon gas. It's the attitude.

Now, when I walk into one of those dark-suit meetings with my helmet and pannier, people confess.

"I would love to bike commute, but I live clear up by the Rocket Market" (about 3-1/2 miles from the core of downtown).

"I've been meaning to start--I just need a good bike." (might I suggest North Division Bike Shop, Two Wheel Transit, Fitness Fanatics, any of the 4 Wheel Sport shops, Spoke & Sport, Cycle Sports....)

"I wish I could bike commute like you."

"I almost took the bus."

I imagine this is what it feels like to wear obvious symbols of religious authority. People confess, they seek absolution and forgiveness, they're ready to do penance, they're laden with guilt.

Like those religious figures, I suppose, I'm a visible reminder that it is possible to make a different choice.

Bike commuting. It's good for the soul. And you can sleep in on weekends.

The chronology of your life

Just discovered Dipity (I wish I remembered how, so I could credit the source of the link I followed).

For years, I've been meaning to compile a chronology of my life--mostly for my kids, for when they wonder how old I was when something happened, and later for me, if I end up an old and forgetful woman. Since my mother has vascular dementia, and the woman she was packed up and departed a little bit at a time before we all realized completely what was happening, this possibility scares me.

Now I have to decide which things in my life belong on a timeline, and when they belong. There are so many unforgettable moments--but I've forgotten when, exactly, they happened....

How detailed a chronology should it be? I have written journals (in actual handwriting, on actual paper, with sporadic entries) going back roughly 13? years, my high school diaries, and nothing in between. I'm not planning to re-read those any time soon, if at all.

It's easy to remember some big, significant dates, like childbirth and marriage and election days. Looking up the actual effective date of a divorce doesn't make for a joyful trip down memory lane, although it closes the loop.

So much of what makes for a real and satisfying life doesn't attach to any one date:

Laughing until I cry at something my beloved Eric said, finishing an incredibly long bike ride because he encouraged me all the way, or sitting out on our back patio with a glass of good wine, listening to the evening frogs.

Fast & furious wordplay with oldest daughter Kate (who gets funnier with each passing year--very dry wit, adult insights, and great vocabulary and dramatic flair).

Watching daughter Laura blossom into a beautiful, sweet, funny, kind young woman who got along with every group of kids in her gifted/talented middle school program, and who started high school yesterday.

Learning what foods Eric's kids Connor and Cailey will eat and enjoy in our vegetarian household, and finding out much to my pleasure that they love tacos made with TVP and my stir-fry.

Working on something I believe in, and having a project or event come to fruition in a way that makes a difference.

Life isn't chronology.