Who Are We Trying to Kid?

I have to write this because this Solstice morning on my first day off for the winter vacation I’m taking—in part because I want to, in part because the university where I work is shutting down between Christmas and New Year’s in conservation mode (AKA state budget cuts of over 52% in the last four years with more to come)—I read two articles in swift succession that both provide a reality check on this whole “Christmas” gig.

First I read the poignant and so-true-it-hurts piece by Cheryl Ann Millsap: Life Isn’t Wrapped in a Neat Little Bow. Go read it, then come back.

Or let me ‘splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up: The Christmas you think you remember is not the one you really got. You have mythologized, added glitter and rainbows, and wrapped it in pretty paper.

Then I read the laugh-out-loud OMG version by Jen from Kansas, the People I Want to Punch in the Throat blogger I just discovered: Holiday Gifts.

This is what really happened behind the scenes all those years you thought Santa would bring you just what you wanted: Santa dropped the F bomb while she tried to remember where she hid that thing you absolutely had to have and then stopped playing with two days after Christmas.

As a mother, some years I tried to create the Christmas of my childhood, which in my memory always involved beautiful, soft, fluffy white snow in which I could play for hours and that I never had to shovel because that’s the daddy’s job (if I even thought about it). That Christmas glows softly, warmly, with the tree’s lights reflected in the window. The house smells like cinnamon. The mommy wears lipstick and eye shadow and is actually dressed in clothes, not sweats or her robe and long johns.

Other years we dealt with the reality of the Christmas o’ Divorce, which means you celebrate on December 26 and you tell your kids that Santa made two stops to leave a stocking and presents and you just hope silly ol’ Santa didn’t turn forgetful and bring the same present to two locations because after all he’s dealing with a gift list in the millions. Those years smelled less like cinnamon and more like coffee with Irish cream, which is a requirement if I’m going to wake up early in the morning and smile for the camera.

The one truly brilliant thing I instituted many years ago is a tradition I invented: Kids don’t get out of bed (unless they truly, totally need to pee, after which they scurry right back to bed) until I come to their rooms bearing hot chocolate. This way I get to dictate what hour it is when I hit that first cup of coffee.

As a parent I’ve tried to instill the idea that it isn’t about the “stuff”. But in the absence of a religious tradition, oh, yes, it is. We have a secular Christmas, so no midnight Mass, no special reason for the season—it’s really all about the stuff.

It should be about family, right? Well, sure, yeah, right. Then your parents get older and you stop going to their house and seeing all the siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and what-not. Your kids get older and Santa starts leaving practical things like Rite-Aid gift cards in their stockings (girls=make-up). They get even older and one of them now has in-laws and goes off to that house, and your husband’s kids won’t be here until you go pick them up December 26 for the Christmas o’ His Divorce.

It becomes mostly about being off work, sleeping in, eating hash browns (not that I’m complaining!), watching movies, and figuring that you’ll lose in the comparison of who gave more/bigger/better gifts because those four years of budget cuts at the university mean you haven’t had any raises and you’re paying more for insurance so basically you’re taking a pay cut every year but at least you have a job.

But then your 17-year-old daughter says, “The one thing I really care about is Christmas morning.” You realize that it actually is worth some effort to make a special moment or two, because who doesn’t love surprises? (The good kind—not the jump-out-from-behind-a-tree-and-make-me-scream-which-I-hate kind.)

You realize that the Christmas they’ll look back on—the one they’ll wrap in glitter and rainbows and pretty paper—is whatever Christmas you gave them. They don’t have your memories so they aren’t making the comparison you make. They only have their own memories. They love you. And they love Christmas.

Where Is My Jet Pack?!

A post inspired by a similar plaintive rant on The Intersection of People and Process, a blog I stumbled across in one of those serendipitous Twitter-speditions

For years I have been saying "Where's my jet pack?!"

All that exposure to the Jetsons and Star Trek, and a lot of science fiction consumption thanks to the library, had me thinking that by now I’d be zooming around the skies using my personal jet device, probably dressed all in snow-white Lycra and go-go boots to boot. (OK, so in some ways the future was cheesy.)

We'd get dinner in a pill (Willy Wonka gets some of the credit for my belief in this).

My doctor would use a tricorder, like Bones.

Robots would do the housekeeping and dirty work.

We’d have enormous computers that had all the knowledge of the world organized and you’d be able to ask the computer questions and get answers, albeit in a flat monotone. Maybe between Google and Siri we’re on our way there, but the answers to my questions aren’t as easy to figure out as I thought they’d be.

A voracious reader, I thought we'd have something that let us carry around a million books in a small device. Voila--the Kindle!

We would have space travel. And time travel. And a terraformed Mars.

While I didn't analyze the question specifically, I did assume the future would be bright, shiny clean, with blue skies and puffy clouds. We would have solved the problems of pollution and waste disposal in a way that made everything great for everyone, including animals and particularly dolphins, since by then we would have learned to communicate with them, and the "Crying Indian" (who wasn't really Indian) would no longer be sad.

My picture of the future didn't have hunger, poverty, homelessness, or illiteracy in it. In that future people—and aliens—would all be treated equally and no one would discriminate against others merely for the color of their skin, their gender, who they loved, or the number of tentacles on their appendages. So I am clearly not living in the future.

That world would probably also have flying unicorns.

Being Thankful (Mindful) Every Day

I put a post up today on my other blog, Bike Style Spokane, about the things I’m thankful for that biking has given me. Three years ago when I started this blog I wrote a Thanksgiving Day post that still rings true for me in many ways: Thanksgiving Is an Act, Not a Menu.

Both posts reflect my deeper philosophical stance, which can really be summed up in two words: Pay Attention.

Now, as my darling Eldest Daughter and Second Daughter will attest, I don’t always do this. I get head-down into my screen (where I am right now as I write this), caught in the frenzied tab dance I wrote about recently. I keep typing, my mind on the thought I’m trying to complete, even as I try to process the information from Second Daughter about rehearsals for her upcoming star turn as the lead in “Legally Blonde: The Musical” (Dec. 1-2-3 and 8-9-10 at Lewis & Clark High School. Go. Best $10 you’ll spend for entertainment all year. And I’ll sell you some delicious Roast House Coffee at intermission, too.)

My mind works much like the paragraph above: with a main thought but a lot of parenthetical asides running in parallel. I used to credit this to processing power and figure that I had plenty of capacity to manage all these pieces and parts.

I now think part of it is Internet-induced ADD, to be honest, along with a lifelong habit of taking on just a bit too much so I feel as if I have to keep spinning all the plates at once, instead of taking a couple of them off the sticks and setting them gently, gently, on a side table.

Nonetheless, I find the deepest, richest moments come when I simply pay attention. And when I do that, I am thankful, every time, for the many simple gifts in my life.

A partial list so I can be conscious in this moment of the things for which I am truly, deeply thankful:
  • My once-in-a-lifetime and forever love, Eric
  • The two amazing young women I am fortunate enough to call my daughters, who astound me all over again on a regular basis with their talent, intelligence, charm, beauty, insights, and sarcastic wit
  • Having two sweet, well-behaved stepchildren who cheerfully accept the strange schedule we have and settle in happily in our family routine, giving our lives a different shape (and a lot of movie-watching and board games) every other weekend and half the summer
  • Being safe, warm, and fed in a world where too many people cannot say that
  • Having been raised by a loving mother and father who gave me a solid sense of values that I find shaping my actions and priorities every day and a specific understanding of the privileges I have been given and the responsibility to give back to my community—to pay it forward
  • Being strong, healthy, and active—again, I’m conscious that not everyone can say this and that I’m incredibly lucky
  • Abilities and interests that match up well with a good job that I’m able to keep even in this tough economy
  • Wonderful, funny, caring friends with whom we can sit around our dining room table or theirs, drink good wine, and laugh ourselves silly
  • The luxury of time in which to reflect on these and other gifts

I’m paying attention. I’m lucky. I’m thankful.

For My Dad, on His 94th Birthday

The day my dad was born—November 3, 1917—was the day the first engagement involving U.S. forces in Europe took place near the Rhine-Marne Canal in France during World War I. This seems appropriate, somehow, for my World War II bomber pilot dad, who was to take part in some incredibly pivotal battles that he never talked about to me and who may well have flown over that same canal, since he flew in the European theater.

I really only learned about the significance of my dad’s war activities when my brother Jim got him to talk to a video camera a few years ago as part of an oral history project. The final edited version places Dad’s actions in context with a historian’s perspective, and left me in awe of his accomplishments and those of his fellow members of the Greatest Generation. My sister Jan put together an amazing scrapbook and did research about his unit, but none of this was anything Dad ever really told us about. “I did my duty,” was all he said when asked.

I had known a bit, sure, thanks to Mom. That it was mostly college kids who made it into Officer Candidate School and that my dad, who had only completed high school, studied on the bus all the way there while the college boys drank and whooped it up, and he passed the entrance exam. That he became a pilot because one day, slogging along in infantry training, he looked up at the planes flying overhead and thought that looked like a much better place to be than down on the ground. That he flew so many missions that Mom knew when he left on the one that, statistically speaking, was “the one he wouldn’t come back from” (but he did). That he lost a tail gunner. That he landed a plane with the engine shot off. (And took a picture of the plane afterwards.)

My favorite story was about the time he smuggled my mom (shhh, don’t tell the Pentagon) aboard one day disguised as a member of the crew when they were testing some kind of secret equipment back in the U.S. (I don’t know what—maybe radar?) and she got to find out what it was like to ride inside a B-24 (or maybe a B-17 “Flying Fortress,” since that’s what he trained in).

Mom wrote an amazing letter describing it, complete with him slapping her hand gently as they walked out to the plane—her trying to walk like a man in the jumpsuit and heavy equipment—and saying, “The pilot and the co-pilot do not hold hands!” (Back then, children, people wrote by hand, with pens, on paper, and if you were my mom you first wrote a draft copy to compose the letter and kept that for your children to marvel over decades later. Good luck with my emails and blog posts.)

One day I asked Dad why he didn’t become an airline pilot when he came home. I thought that sounded like a romantic job, an exciting job, unlike his mysterious work in management at Potlatch Forests Incorporated (“PFI,” for those of us who grew up as Potlatch kids in Lewiston, Idaho). He looked at me and said dryly, “I didn’t want to be a bus driver.”

So he came home a captain and went back to the mill, where he had worked since high school. He worked his way up, he took Dale Carnegie courses, he rose through the ranks, and he ended up managing the Lewiston mill and having some kind of oversight of a bunch of little mills sprinkled around North Idaho. His career with Potlatch is the reason I’ve been to places like Headquarters, Jaype, Pierce, and a bunch of little towns you’ve never heard of, some of which may no longer exist, and walked in the St. Maries Paul Bunyan Days parade as a little kid. I got to ride on the last log drive on the Clearwater River thanks to Dad’s job, on the wanigan (cook boat)—possibly the last major whitewater log drive in the United States, according to one history.

I learned that the smell of sawdust—and the not-so-pleasant smell of the adjacent pulp mill—meant the livelihoods of half the town, or so it seemed.

I learned (although not firsthand—just through listening when the men came back at the end of the day to the hunting camp we went to near Salmon each year) that you only shoot when you know for sure what you’re aiming at, you make sure you shoot to kill, you put a wounded animal out of its misery, and if you shoot it, you pack it out. (And—not that I’ll ever use this knowledge—that when you hang and gut a deer, you want to be careful not to perforate the bowel.)

I learned the rules of gun safety: Treat all guns in the house as if they are loaded (although you never put one away loaded) and never, ever point one at another human being in “fun.”

I would have learned to fish, but he made me clean the first one I ever caught and the squishy guts put an end to my trout-fishing career.

He started jogging sometime shortly after I was born as a “late in life” baby (he turned 45 three days before my birthday), thanks to Dr. Ken Cooper’s book Aerobics. He ran on the track around our barn that had been created for my brothers’ motorcycle riding antics until one night when he stepped on a porcupine in the near-darkness. That day I learned some new words as he pulled the quills out. He switched to running in place indoors, counting his steps silently to himself until near the end when you’d hear him call out the last few numbers as he finished, soaked with sweat.

I remember him startling younger sister Julie and I any number of times by honking the horn if we passed in front of the car while getting ready to load up and go somewhere—particularly if we were all dressed up in our finery for a big night out at the Elks Club, where he was a member and was once named “Elk of the Year” for the state of Idaho thanks to leading the drive to build the new club.

At the Elks Club he’d say, “Mrs. Greene?” and lead my mom to the dance floor, where they waltzed and did the foxtrot to whatever combo was playing covers of Charlie Rich songs and big band-era music.

The “Elk of the Year” plaque hung in the basement near the pool table, where all of his kids learned to play and where we learned what a wily pool shark he was. “Rrrrrrack ‘em up!” he’d call out with delight after once again sinking the eight ball while half our balls sat forlornly on the table.

He taught us to play gin rummy and pinochle, too, and usually won, although I’m pretty sure he was secretly delighted when we mastered enough of the strategy of the game to take a hand or a game.

I learned many folksy sayings from my dad, whose parents hailed from the hills of North Carolina. “Whatever smokes your drawers” was a favorite when he was happy to leave a choice up to us, and I still remember the smile I got one day when he said that in the kitchen and I jumped up to hold myself suspended in a sitting position over the kitchen sink, saying, “Tsssssss.”

And in recent years, I’ve learned that he will answer with infinite patience as my mom asks a dozen times in a row when it will be time for dinner, or where they live now. Her dementia has left him without the full companionship of the woman he has been married to for 67 years or so. Fortunately he can turn down his hearing aid and miss some of her many laps around a short track, as I put it. And fortunately, one of the things that remains steadfast in Mom’s memory is that he’s her husband and she married the right guy, who happens to be a terrific dancer.

Thanks, Dad, and happy birthday.

Related Reading

Frittering Away My Mental Energies, Thanks—How About You?

It happens even more now that I’ve started a second blog with a bike focus and am seeking to build its traffic. I’ve been pouring energies into promotional efforts for the new blog that result in a lot of Web time that doesn’t ever seem to end.

How could it end? The Web doesn’t--and now I carry it around in the palm of my hand so I don't even have to sit down to click.

There’s always one more blog post I could read and comment on, one more Twitter account I could follow and interact with, one more Facebook page I could give a thumbs-up to and then tag in an update, another question I can answer on Quora to establish my expertise and credentials.

Then I read this piece by Suze Muse, whom I follow on Twitter: Are you using time or wasting it? The answer to that is yes.

By which I mean some of that online time is well-spent—some of it is wasted.

I've found myself thinking of this piece several times since reading it, telling people about it, and applying the principles she outlines (so you need to go read it).

In particular, the social media tab dance (round and round and round between Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Quora, and other “important spaces”) sucks time like a black hole sucks gravity.

I can always "justify" it as professional development, engagement with friends, and promotion of my blog.

Or, as Suze suggests, I can give myself a certain number of minutes in pursuit of those particular outcomes, then close the tabs and go do something else with purpose. 

Powerful stuff.

I just read this older piece by Conversation Agent (another thinker I wouldn’t know if it weren’t for that Twitter time) with some complementary thoughts about cutting down on distractions in order to focus on the destination.

This same theme abounds in blog posts around the globe. You’d think with the number of times I read it and say, “Yes! I agree!” that by now I would have achieved the calm focus of a Zen master. Heh.

One of the things that helps my mental discipline--when I make time for it!--is a regular yoga practice. That serves as moving meditation and makes me much more mindful of all kinds of choices, from how I spend my time to what foods I consume. But I don't have (make!) time for it right now.

Biking, which I do daily for transportation, gives me another tech-free space in which to change up my mental habits and it’s easier to work that into my schedule than a class that has to happen at a specific time.

I also love to cook. Last year I created a lot of non-tech time by preserving up a storm: canning, freezing, drying, making jams and jellies.

This year the new blog launch, putting on Bike Style Spokane shopping events, and other commitments ate up the time I could have put into putting up food and I haven’t been cooking as often (good thing Sweet Hubs loves my Crockpot soups). One priority crowds out another.

So much of our time is spent in technology spaces. Time away from the screen, using our bodies and our hands, can make our mental work better, fresher, and more enjoyable. But none of these really change my habits.

What do you do to stay focused on priorities? (If you manage to pull this off, that is.)

The Very Proper Gander: A Fable for Our Times

I just finished rereading The Thurber Carnival. A lifelong fan of James Thurber dating back to my childhood phase reading dog and horse books (I cried over his beautiful piece "Snapshot of a Dog"), I have always been charmed by his writing style and am willing to overlook his dated references to his African-American housekeepers and the like. My fondness is perhaps increased by his nearsightedness, since I'm blind as a bat (and now getting farsighted to boot, which is Just. Not. Fair.).

Many years later I am much more equipped to appreciate the impact of his fables. This one bears repeating in full while the "Occupy Wall Street" movement is in full swing worldwide and people exercising their constitutional right to free speech are being condemned as un-American.

The Very Proper Gander
Not so long ago there was a very fine gander. He was strong and beautiful and he spent most of his time singing to his wife and children. One day somebody who saw him strutting up and down in his yard and singing remarked, "There is a very proper gander." An old hen overheard this and told her husband about it that night in the roost. "They said something about propaganda," she said. "I have always suspected that," said the rooster, and he went around the barnyard next day telling everybody that the very fine gander was a dangerous bird, more than likely a hawk in gander's clothing. A small brown hen remembered a time when at a great distance she had seen the gander talking with some hawks in the forest. "They were up to no good," she said. A duck remembered that the gander had once told him he did not believe in anything. "He said to hell with the flag, too," said the duck. A guinea hen recalled that she had once seen somebody who looked very much like the gander throw something that looked a great deal like a bomb. Finally everybody snatched up sticks and stones and descended on the gander's house. He was strutting in his front yard, singing to his children and his wife. "There he is!" everybody cried. "Hawk-lover! Unbeliever! Flag-hater! Bomb-thrower!" So they set upon him and drove him out of the country.
Moral: Anybody who you or your wife thinks is going to overthrow the government by violence must be driven out of the country.

Related Reading

25 More Posts on Bike Style Spokane

A round-up of posts on Bike Style Spokane since my last round-up post June 12, 2011. I've been blogging up a storm over there so this blog has a few crickets chirping but I'll be back.

Sing It Loud, Sing It Proud

Various songs make me feel more American, make me reflect on what it means to be an American, or make me think about the promise of America and the people who don’t have a chance at the promise whether they’re inside our borders or outside.

My starter kit (by no means complete) reflects the music I listened to growing up, a love of old musicals, a period of my life that involved line dancing in a Boise C/W bar with Lydia Justice Edwards (the state treasurer), a few songs I found poking around the Internet trying to find a specific title or artist, and contributions from friends on Facebook. 

If you listen to these straight through you'll hear a complex and tangled mixture of patriotism, celebration, and criticism. I know that.

It reflects how I feel: Angry that we send good men and women to die when there might have been another way. Proud of my father, the World War II bomber pilot, and my husband the Marine Corps officer. Saddened that we still stand divided, rather than united, in many ways. Glad that we are still the land of opportunity and dreams.

Proud to be an American.

Your Turn

What songs would you add to the list?

The Sheer Joy of It

I occasionally get a sensation I refer to as “the joy bubble.” It’s a feeling of intense rising pressure from deep inside created by elation and excitement that seem to want to burst out all over. 

No, this is not a digestive problem.

This also isn’t exactly happiness, which I feel a fair amount of the time because I’m a Sally Sunshine optimist. It feels both deeper and more significant.

I have distinct memories of some of the things that have created this sensation. They’re pretty simple, really. A few examples (and in making the list I realized every single time I feel this it has to do with living intensely in the moment of an actual experience--never with acquiring some kind of possession):
  • Walking along the sidewalk at Washington State University during one of my first years of college there, kicking through piles of gorgeous golden/orange/red/russet/brown fall leaves and looking up through more of that vivid color at a clear blue autumn sky.
  • Learning to slalom waterski—at last—rising up behind my oldest brother’s speedboat on one ski and walking on water.
  • Listening to my daughters sing (they have gorgeous voices).
  • Going for a walk with my sweetheart, holding hands and striding out along the sidewalk walking in step with each other on a balmy evening or a crisp morning.
  • And most recently, at Spokane Summer Parkways.

Wednesday night I attended a late-afternoon event, then booked home in my tangerine silk dress and pumps to change into (gasp!) bike clothes for Parkways.

As I left my house and started riding up Rockwood Boulevard toward the event I encountered a man and a woman on bikes speeding downhill. They smiled, waved, and called out “Hi!” I reciprocated and pedaled onward, smiling to myself and thinking, “They must have just come from Parkways.”

Not half a block later another man swooped around the corner from Upper Terrace Road to drop onto Rockwood. He too called out, waved, and smiled.

Any two riders on bikes encountering each other on the streets around here are apt to give a brief nod or a lift of the hand to acknowledge the two-wheeled fellowship. But the extra conviviality and connection—the smile, the comment, and two encounters so close together—felt above and beyond the norm of what I encounter in my everyday riding.

I made it up the hill to Parkways and there encountered so much more of the same. Smiling, waving, talking to total strangers on one of the first truly warm summer evenings we've had, the day after Solstice so the light lingered. 

People filled the streets with happiness. Parents and grandparents pushing strollers, a mom on inline skates next to her daughter on a tiny push bike, folks of all ages and sizes on bikes of all types, a young couple walking their new adoptee from the shelter, families lined up in a semicircle of lawn chairs on their front lawns chatting, smiling, and waving at the passers-by.

I pedaled slowly around the parks, stopped to chat with people I know and with ones I don't know, told a friend who's running for the school board that I want her yard sign, met up with my sweetheart, and went by The Scoop for ice cream before riding home together through the warm summer evening.

16 Posts on Bike Style

I haven't stopped blogging here completely, mind you, but am producing at least two posts a week on my newish blog, Bike Style Spokane. If that's the content that interests you, pop over and subscribe!

I'd especially appreciate it if you would go vote on the Bikespedition #1 poll for great destination neighborhoods for biking/eating/shopping/sightseeing and nominate biking women to interview for "On a Roll With...."

This blog remains as the home for my thoughts on public policy (including bike policy), food, Spokane, random parenting (can't call it drive-by parenting since I'm usually on a bike), and the like.

Herewith, a round-up of my posts since the inauguration of Bike Style Spokane on May 1, 2011, the beginning of Spokane Bicycle Month:

Bike Style Spokane: New Blog, Fun Event

If you've read this blog for any length of time you've seen my rants about the challenges of shopping for women's office-appropriate professional clothing that's comfy for biking. (If you missed those posts, I linked a few at the bottom.)

This has led me to the inescapable conclusion that there's something missing in the Spokane bike scene: The cuteness.

We have increasing bike infrastructure, great local bike shops in the area that provide equipment and service, clubs putting on races and rides, and super family events like Summer Parkways and Spokefest

We have Spokane Bikes putting out a comprehensive bike events list (check the May 12 Inlander for a full-page ad) and putting on the Bike to Work Week events happening right now. (Are you registered? Sign up no matter what kind of riding you do--there's safety in numbers and we want every last Spokane County bike-riding fan to sign up).

The missing pieces are information and products aimed at women who don't want to wear Spandex or clip in--they just want to look good and feel comfortable on the bike. They want to feel like they're part of a supportive community like Belles and Baskets that welcomes the beginner and the experienced alike. And while they're at it, they want chocolate.

So I'm doing something about it, inspired by the many women's biking blogs I've been discovering and highlighting via Women Bike Blogs on Facebook and @WomenBikeBlogs on Twitter for the past few months. (I've put the comprehensive list up, too.)

I've launched Bike Style Spokane, a bike blog, community, and associated shopping event business that seeks to help women who share my quest for the intersection of style and comfort.

The blog, at www.bikestylespokane.com, will feature articles on the challenges associated with biking in regular work clothing, particularly for women; interviews with Spokane people who ride a bike and make it look easy; and "bikespeditions": destination shopping reviews that look at a neighborhood center for its mix of places to shop, places to eat, and places to park your bike safely. 

For an introduction to the blog, see the inaugural post, "Bike Style=Active Style=Spokane Style."

The first Bike Style Spokane shopping event is this Saturday, May 21, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Roasthouse Coffee, 423 E. Cleveland. I'm bringing together local businesspeople who have something unique to offer, so the event isn't just for women who bike. (And guys, you really should stop by and get your sweetie a Nuu-Muu. Trust me on this.)

  • Roasthouse Coffee: Coffee produced with the "Farm to Cup" philosophy that connects you with the people who feed your caffeine addiction, made by the coffee roaster donating "Ride the Edge" blend for the Bike to Work Kickoff Pancake Feed.
  • Petunia's Marketplace: Local, organic and handmade gourmet goodies
  • 40 Candles: Paper products and fine art photography prints
  • Robby Eldenburg, LMT: Chair massage ($1/minute or $10/15 minutes--treat yourself!)
  • Sistahpedia: Health blogger and amateur body builder Kris Pitcher will give a talk on women, body image and health shortly after noon and Sistahpedia cofounder Angela Brown says she's bringing stuff for WWK (Women Who Know)
  • Futurewise: Complete Streets Zine #1--the bike issue. If you missed the awesome Zine Launch Party at Jones Radiator last week, here's your chance; $3 gets you the zine and supports Futurewise.
  • Hydra Creations: Custom stickers--bike images and much, much more. Deck out your bike, your backpack, your butt--whatever you want to stick these babies on.
  • Bike Style Spokane: Po Campo bike bags and panniers; Nuu-Muu exercise dresses (the cutest dress you'll ever sweat in); Bike Wrappers (like reflective clothing for your bike); BPA-free Bike Style Spokane steel bike bottles; and more.
Future shopping events will be announced on the Bike Style website and social media accounts (Bike Style Spokane on Facebook and @BikeStyleSpok on Twitter). Most vendors accept checks or cash only.

For more information, see:

PS: This isn't meant to compete with the local bike shops. I consider the owners my friends. This is about growing their potential market by helping women feel comfortable riding and tapping into our inner shopper to provide a little extra motivation. And it's about the chocolate.

Related reading

Political Scandal? Just Add -Gate

When I was a kid we never watched TV at dinner—a rule that was broken night after night beginning May 17, 1974, with some somber news program on the tiny black and white on a corner shelf over the kitchen table. I was 11 years old.

My primary memories: We couldn’t talk, no matter what. Dad shushed us furiously if we so much as whispered. He was angry—very angry—about something. And someone important had done something really, really wrong and was getting in trouble.

This all came back to me as I watched the opening lines of “Frost/Nixon” at the Spokane Civic Theatre the other night.

The somber news over our dinner table, of course, was the Senate Watergate hearings. Nixon indeed did something really, really wrong and got in trouble. And Dad was mad because he had voted for Nixon.

I don’t have any memories of the actual interviews David Frost conducted with Richard Nixon three years after Nixon left office. The era came vividly to life in the show, thanks in part to the dreadfully accurate leisure suits (OMG, the polyester with top stitching!), loud ties, and plaid pants. The show’s opening montage of images of protesters and “Tricky Dick” in historic encounters on two TV sets, set to the Beatles’ “Revolution,” got the show off to a strong start and it only got better.

Wes Deitrick as Nixon anchors the show. Simply stunning. The voice, the mannerisms, the psychological depths. When he unburdened himself of his guilt at last in the closing interview with Frost—admitting that he let the American people down—it moved me to tears.

You knew this was a man overly obsessed with power and control, but at the same time genuinely honored and in some ways humbled by the chance to have served as President. To have flown so near the sun, Icarus, only to plunge seaward thanks to your own hubris: This is the historical lesson Nixon teaches us.

The entire cast delivered. Kelly Hauenstein as Frost uses body language effectively as the seemingly shallow dilettante, a mere talk show host but not a true journalist as measured by other journalists, dominated by Nixon in the early interviews but then coming back with newly discovered evidence and pressing Nixon to the point that the former president says, “If the president does it, it’s not illegal!”

Yes it is, Mr. President. Yes it is.

Go see “Frost/Nixon.”

Your turn

What do you remember from the Watergate era?

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Stop the World, I (Don’t) Want to Get Off!

I never did get around to seeing the movie in which the guy has the remote control and attempts to manage his life overload by freezing one part and living another. I remember the previews and boy, could I ever relate. (Although as I wrote this I totally thought it was a Jim Carrey role and apparently it was Adam Sandler, which explains why I never saw it.)

So many plates spin in my life. As I’ve said before, I have a slight—ever so slight!—tendency to take on too many things, to say yes to every good cause to which I could contribute something. I just stick up another pole, throw on another plate, and spin-spin-spin.

So the idea of being able to freeze time and catch up on any one thing has great appeal. If I had a day outside of time and could do anything, what would it be? One co-worker’s “anything goes” day would involve flying to Paris for lunch and flying back, which sounds dashing and devil-may-care. I occasionally dream of things like cleaning my entire basement or catching up on my filing, which is really sort of sick when you think about it.
So with the gift of time outside of time, my day would look something like this, assuming a magical time-stretching element that lets me do a bit more than would comfortably fit into a regular day without ever feeling pressed for time:

  • Sleep in with my sweetheart.
  • Wake up with no sense of things left undone or the guilty start created by a missed alarm clock—just that wonderful feeling of being fully rested.
  • Clean up (lots of hot water!), then take a leisurely walk to Rockwood Bakery for quiche and good coffee, or maybe ride our bikes downtown to Taste for amazing maple walnut scones and coffee. (Yes, always coffee. Did you know we may be genetically wired for our caffeinated craving?)
  • At some point take a wonderful long walk along the Centennial Trail through the heart of downtown. Stop at Chocolate Apothecary for treats. And coffee.
  • At some other point, spend time in Auntie’s Bookstore browsing for nothing in particular. Find a used copy of some wonderful book I’ve been meaning to read forever, or one I’ve never heard of that grabs me on the first page when I flip it open.
  • Read for a while.
  • Take a nap.
  • Spend time really talking with—and really listening to—my daughters.
  • Maybe have dinner with Steve and Betsy and a couple of other friends and talk forever and laugh until it hurts over glasses of wine.
  • Get another full night’s sleep to wrap it up. (The rest of it is none of your business.)
I didn’t save the world in this day, nor did I buy the winning lottery ticket. I just lived, completely and fully and in the moment.

The best part is, I could have this day for real.

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Back in the Saddle: Why April 11 = “Day Three” of 30 Days of Biking

I got off to a decent rolling start. I worked really hard to make a bike ride happen on Day One. Day Two was a breeze, more or less.

Day Three threw me for a loop—ironically, because my husband spent the day in a bike race and I chased him around the course in a car, f’gosh sakes, so his son and daughter could cheer him on. (Before you ask--no, it's not an option to chase a pack of bike racers for 48 miles on a bike. Not for me.)

Then there was a really, really long day of work because I had to leave for several days, then the travel day, then four days of walking myself silly on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (The good news there is that I did a great job of celebrating National Start Walking Day on April 6.)

I got back, collapsed and recovered from the time zone difference, and now I’m back in the saddle. Woot!

Yesterday was one of those iffy Spokane spring days; I set off in the rain with my raincovers over my dress shoes but still wore my skirt outfit because it wasn’t that cold. What I hadn’t anticipated was the amount of mud spatter I’d be sponging off my skirt when I got to work, but oh well—it’s washable and I paid all of $4 for it at a thrift store.

The reward came at the end of the day, when the sun shone and puffy clouds decorated a blue sky as I pedaled home on dry roads.

This morning gave me another great ride. I went bare-legged in my gray silk Ann Taylor suit and new gray Aerosoles (a souvenir of the DC trip—my annual ritual of shoe shopping), which I imagine looked a tad incongruous with my bright yellow high-vis jacket but I like to be visible. 

This outfit flashes a fair amount of leg; it’s not a deliberate attempt to look like a high-class “professional woman,” just my effort to ride in regular clothes to prove you don’t have to be a stretchy-pants rider to enjoy bike commuting.

The best part was when I recognized the rider ahead of me on the Southeast Boulevard bike lanes as my best friend Betsy, founder of Belles and Baskets (our “y’all come” women’s bike group) and got to ride part of my route with her, chatting all the way.

I rode to a midday lunch meeting at the wondrous local-food heaven Santé, then back to campus for an event. The coolest part is something I’ve come to expect after years of bike commuting: Everyone I lunched with was headed to the same event in their cars and I beat them all.

Now that I’m rolling again I hope to power through to the end of April. But of course that doesn’t mean stopping—then it’s May, which is Spokane Bike Month. For more on that see our brand-spankin’-new website for the former Bike to Work Spokane, now Spokane Bikes.

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The Promise of College

I tell two family stories when I talk about the importance of higher education.

The first story covers three generations of teachers in the family. My father’s mother, born in 1897, became a teacher because when she graduated from high school that made her one of the most educated people in her tiny North Carolina hometown of Boone Township, Watauga County.

My mother, born in 1921, became a teacher by going to a two-year “normal school”—teacher’s college—in Lewiston, Idaho (now Lewis-Clark State College), in the years just before World War II.

My older sister, born in 1952 (whoops, I told!), became a teacher with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Idaho and continuing education every summer in order to stay credentialed.

The second story is about my dad, who started out sweeping floors at Potlatch Forest Incorporated (PFI) in Lewiston in high school. He went to war, became a bomber pilot flying B-24s during World War II, then returned home and went back to work for Potlatch.

He didn’t take advantage of the GI Bill; he and Mom had already started their family (hi, Eldest Brother!). By being accepted to Officer Candidate School, which back then was pretty much a college-boy gig, he proved he had the smarts and ability, but it wasn’t in the cards.

Dad rose to become manager of the lumber mill in Lewiston with supervisory responsibilities for a number of smaller mills, which explains why I’ve been to places like Santa, Idaho. He took plenty of continuing self-improvement courses, such as Dale Carnegie public speaking training, but no formal degree program.

At some point Potlatch’s management approach shifted. They moved their headquarters to San Francisco for a while. They became Potlatch Corporation instead of PFI. And Dad—who, unlike their corporate honchos, had never gone to college—was approaching retirement age.  He was given a transfer to Spokane and finished out his time as a vice president of sales and shipping. Fancier title, but I’m betting less responsibility.

Dad’s life represents a success story. He worked hard, rose through the ranks, and supported a family of six children.

He also represents the importance of higher education, because at some point, without it, he topped out. And his career arc is not one you’d be able to repeat today if you graduate from high school but don’t go on to some sort of postsecondary education.

He knew that, and his life dream was to have every one of his six children graduate from college. We all did. Two of us have master’s degrees.

The older kids worked their way through college. He was able to pay for my undergraduate education and my younger sister’s, joking all the while that his “second litter” of children (born when he and Mom were in their 40s, which made them “old” parents!) prevented him from taking early retirement. He actually went on after retiring from Potlatch to work for Gabor Trucking Company for a while running their Spokane dispatch office, which I’m sure was driven by the tuition pressure.

And today—facing the worst economy of my lifetime and cuts in state funding for higher education that could represent a four-year total reduction of close to 70% of state support for Washington State University (where I work) by the time they’re done with this legislative session—I don’t know how I will pay for my daughters’ college education.

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I Should Train for This: Day Two of 30 Days of Biking

Now that’s more like it—sort of.

Compared with yesterday's ride today’s bike ride felt much more in keeping with my usual riding, which represents a way of getting from Point A to Point B while having fun. (Think about it—how often do you arrive at a destination to which you drove and say, “Wow! That drive just ROCKED!”?)

It also represented a typical “spring” day in Spokane, which is to say that I saw sunshine, rain, wind, and even a brief flurry of hail. Luckily I viewed that last weather treat from the warmth of The Shop on Perry, where Belles and Baskets founder/friend Betsy and I hung out for a while drinking coffee.

We also got to sit in the background of a scene being shot for a 50-hour film festival, which meant we dallied because we couldn’t leave without messing with the scene’s continuity. We’re both crazy-mad for movies so we were all over this, although these roles will apparently be uncredited since they never asked our names. And they tried to get us to stop talking when they were rolling. Ha. We represent ambient sound, baby.

The ride to The Shop takes all of roughly four minutes from my house, all downhill. The only funny thing about the ride was clipping in with my bike shoes, since I’ve spent so much time riding in work clothes and shoes lately I’d almost forgotten what it feels like.

After the coffee break, I had promised Sweetheart I would run up the hill to Wheel Sport South to get some packs of Gu for his race tomorrow, the Frozen Flatlands.

That part of the ride reminded me that I haven’t been riding very hard or training this winter, and that I just came off a two-week stretch of upper respiratory flu and don’t have any lungs to speak of. Perry Street climbs steeply heading south to connect with Southeast Boulevard, which continues the climb to 29th.

So steeply, in fact, that I must confess to a little tiny “break” in that last block before the Perry/Southeast intersection. I got off my bike to—ahem—retie my shoes and just happened to push my bike that last block to the stop sign.

I’ve found on much longer and harder rides than this one—rides I routinely undertake and enjoy much later in the summer each year—that the pause that refreshes really makes a difference in how I feel about continuing a tough climb.

Sure enough, I pedaled on up the long hill without stopping, got to Wheel Sport, talked bikes with the shop guys a bit, got the Gu and headed back. All downhill, flying with gravity. A ride that took me about 15 minutes heading uphill was only 10 heading down, even with the headwind that started buffeting me partway down as the rain began to sprinkle.

I know I had a grin on my face that might have baffled the drivers who could only see the questionable weather. That earned acceleration—speed to which I feel entitled because I did the hard work of getting up the hill before coming down the hill—yields a special exhilaration unknown to the well-insulated people in their steel boxes. Now if I could just make it a tiny bit easier to do that uphill part….

For a while my sweetheart had a work routine that let him put in a pretty decent ride of around 18 miles round trip—commuting to train. After tackling that little hill climb today, I realized I need to train to commute.

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