Friday, December 5, 2014

All Things Maggie

Conversations with Maggie because I find her to be terribly refreshing and adorable.

Relaying to me a story that happened in music yesterday.

"Mr D. was playing music from different time periods and he started playing a song and suddenly I heard that deep voice and I thought to myself, oh I know that voice, so when he asked if anyone knew who it was I raised my hand. And he called on me because my hand was raised and he said, Maggie who is that singing and I said, oh that's Mr. Johnny Cash. And Jacob gave me a high five and was impressed and then Mr. D. said YES MAGGIE! You're right! He was really impressed with me. And then he asked, do you know what that song is called? And I said oh yes, that's called I Walk the Line and Mr. D. said YES! And then Jacob gave me another high five and everyone was impressed with me and said I was really good at this game."

Me - You like when people are impressed with you?

Maggie - YES!

By the way, when your best friend is an eighty year old from West Virginia you know Johnny Cash when you hear him.

In the car after listening to Kate lament the fact that she accidentally befriended a rather irritating person and was now deeply regretting being nice in the first place Maggie's response was -

"Oh Kate, you know what I do? I just listen to what people say and then I agree with everything they say because that's polite."

Kate tried to persuade her this was a very bad idea and not likely to lead anyplace good and would only mean Maggie would end up with people in her life that she really didn't want to be around, to which Maggie said -

"Are you kidding me? I love everyone!"

Please stay young, please stay young, please stay young.

Maggie came home from school on Monday talking about Elf on the Shelf. She spent a fair amount of time making her own elf and then gave up. I was busy cleaning and cooking and not completely paying attention to her chatter about Elf on the Shelf. We've never partaken in this tradition and I wasn't even sure what exactly it was or what it entailed. She came home Tuesday and started talking about Elf on the Shelf again and so I asked her why she was talking about this so much. She said everyone at school had one and they were all talking about theirs and so she just told everyone she had an imaginary elf. So I did what I typically never do and immediately got in the car to go buy her an Elf on the Shelf. Kate came to the store with me and spent the whole ride there telling me I was literally doing something just because everyone else was doing it and is this really the kind of parent I wanted to be now, to which I could honestly respond, yes, absolutely. I bought an Elf on the Shelf and came home and we put it out and Maggie was thrilled to wake in the morning to find it in the freezer. When she came home from school I asked her if she told everyone she now had an Elf on the Shelf and she said no, that she forgot to, so that was definitely worth the trip to the store. Of course it did give Kate a chance to remind me how pointless it is to try and be just like everyone else.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Tour De Cure - Beast Mode ( as my teens like to say)

My century ride happened over a month ago and I thought I would update sooner than this but, you know, life and all. I don't seem to have time to write anymore and I don't think I enjoy it half as much as I used to, so mixing those two things together makes coming on here kind of hard.

I do have some thoughts on my ride and I want to get them out before I lose all memory of that day.
The entire ride can be summed up with the word windy, but of course you know I like using many words to talk about things so here, let me bore you for a little while.

I woke around 5 am the day of the ride and ate some sushi for breakfast. My nerves prevented me from eating much else and sushi gives me lots of energy, so it worked out well. I got to the ride with about twenty minutes to spare and promptly made my way to the very, very, very back of the line. It's always good to know your place and get there. This is a general life application, not just a riding thing. We took off at the starting line at 7:30 am. The sun was still rising and everything looked beautiful and hopeful and exciting. I'm not one for pictures so just use your imagination. Imagine several hundred smiling, happy riders completely ignorant of the horrendous winds they were about to face for the next several hours.

For the first part of the ride I managed to stay close enough to many groups of riders, but at mile fifty things thinned out quite a bit because most people were not riding the entire century. By mile sixty I found myself completely alone. I ride something called a "fitness bike" ( don't let the name fool you - I bought the bike under the assumption it would magically melt away my cellulite, yet here I sit on my cottage cheese behind) . A fitness bike is a cross between a mountain bike and a hybrid, meaning you ride in an upright position and with thicker tires than a road bike. Bored yet? My point is, unless you are in phenomenal shape, keeping up with people on road bikes when you are riding a fitness bike is nearly impossible. Every other person riding this century used a road bike. My sister, who's ridden several centuries, kindly decided not to tell me I would most likely be the only person not riding a road bike. She knows my biggest fear in life involves doing anything that will draw attention to my person, so she kept quiet and I am eternally grateful because I already spend too much time worrying over nonsense and I didn't need that added to the list.

I rode through some beautiful country towns with rolling hills dotted with orange groves and towns with names like Intercession, where the wind made riding at speeds over ten miles an hour impossible. I thought perhaps God was trying to send me a message, making me ride through a town called Intercession and all, so I decided to start begging every saint in heaven for prayers. I don't really think my success or failure at finishing the ride hit the list of top ten things people were praying about that day, but I really didn't want to quit riding so I prayed all about me for just a bit.

I rode through some horrendously busy areas like Rt 17 and 92. As I was going down that busy highway with cars whipping past me at fast rates, I got lonely and scared and lost. I called the ride support team and asked them for directions and they told me to head south or north or something, and I told them, no, I am lost and hungry and tired and going on minimal brain function, please just tell me, do I go left or right and they said left, just go left. So I did. And I kept seeing no other riders and cars kept whizzing past me and I thought, oh this really wouldn't be a good day to get hit, why am I doing this? And then I prayed some more, but not for me, I prayed for other people who really needed praying for. I don't like talking about this stuff because I find talking about praying and God not something entirely in my comfort zone,  but I tell you this for your possible benefit. If you find yourself in a desperate situation, pray for other people. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you stop thinking about your own self imposed misery and focus your mind on others. Most people know this already but I'm a slow learner.

At the mile sixty six water break I pulled over, grabbed something to eat and drink and texted my sister, my husband and my friend, Terri. I told my husband not to worry, I felt fine and hydrated and happy and I would text an update at the eighty mile rest stop. Somewhere around mile seventy five I bumped into a group of riders and I wanted to cry happy tears, as the loneliness at that point hit an unbearable level. It was a group of rag tag stragglers, maybe seven or eight people who probably told their original groups to go ahead without them. I rode in the back and just kept pedaling. My body felt surprisingly strong, but my mind started wandering into hopeless territory. Keeping your mind on track is nearly as important as keeping your body there and I started doubting myself and let worry set in.  But then we hit International Drive and I cruised  by the Copa Loca, the hotel my sister stays at when she comes here, and I made myself laugh thinking about her visits and the time she came all the way to Florida just to see Anthony get his First Holy Communion. She got lost on the way up to Mount Dora and missed the entire ceremony and ended up walking into Mass as the priest was walking down the aisle and exiting the church. For as long as I live I will never forget the look on her face that day as she walked through the church doors.  Little did she know that hilarious memory would come back to me several years later, just when I needed it most.

When I pulled into the mile eighty rest stop I heard people calling my name and I looked over and saw Kate and Maggie and Greg waving and smiling and it may have been the sweetest thing my husband ever did for me, surprising me and showing up like that. We chatted for a bit, until Maggie started asking me pesky questions about whether there was a McDonalds anywhere around because I guess she hadn't eaten in over an hour and starvation had set in and also, this whole thing was boring her so when could she go home and play, and why was I so sweaty and stinky. Guess what parents; you can run,(or ride) but you can never, ever hide from your children, not even on a hundred mile bike ride. Suddenly riding seemed like an absolute treat and I hopped back on my bike and set off for the final twenty miles. Alone again, with nothing but the sound of  hollowing gusts of winds to keep me company, I sank back into a state of not quite hopelessness but certainly something close.

At about mile ninety I spotted two guys who I recognized from the earlier rag tag crew and I pedaled quickly to catch them. They were sweet and told me nice things about how impressed they were with me riding a mountain bike for an entire century. I heard this same thing at least twenty times over the course of the ride that day and had grown quite impressed with myself by the time the rag taggers mentioned it. My burst of arrogance at my mad riding skills boosted my mood for at least a quarter of a mile, but those winds, they got me down again. I kept wanting to look down at my odometer, but I knew if I did I would be overcome with frustration so I kept going until I saw the ninety six mile rest stop. Oh, only four more miles to go, I thought. I can do it!

As I hit mile ninety seven, then ninety eight, then ninety nine, I wondered why I couldn't see the finish line. And then I hit mile one hundred and I wasn't even back at Lake Nona and I thought maybe I was lost again, but my two rag tag companions kept assuring me it was almost over, we were almost there, but we weren't really because the ride ended being not one hundred miles, but one hundred and four. And four miles on top of one hundred miles is less than fun, especially when you've spent the past eight hours telling yourself that at mile one hundred it would all be over. I told my two new friends to go on ahead without me, I didn't want to drag them down. And for four long miles I did nothing but look down at the ground. That was it. I didn't look down at the ground and try and tell myself uplifting things or  pray or think happy thoughts. I just looked down. Every ounce of energy left went into pedaling into what I later learned were twenty five mile an hour winds.

When I finally did look up I saw nothing around me but some cows and a few houses and a strange looking person up ahead in the distance, flaying and jumping; someone tall and lanky and acting crazy and waving his arms everywhere. As I kept getting closer, I saw it was my son ringing a cow bell and screaming and running to meet me so that he could cross the finish line with me. Anthony told me at least a hundred times that no matter how long of a wait, he would be there screaming for me at the finish and he didn't disappoint. I did the ride for him and he made sure to let me know how much he appreciated it. It was all very sweet and I'm sure if I wasn't completely exhausted I would have managed to cry a little, but I couldn't muster tears by then. Greg and Jane and Kate and Maggie were also there waiting for me. I have never been so happy to see all of them and hug them.

So there, the story of my century ride. It's over and if you ask me if I'm ever going to do another I will say say, yes, but it will be on my own terms, in my own little neck of the woods here in Lake County. After the century I thought about how dangerous some of the roads were that I traveled on. I was the only person who rode alone, without a team, mostly because I don't know anyone else who wants to ride a hundred miles and I wasn't about to join a team of people I didn't already know. So much of the ride was lonely and scary and if you know me at all, it takes takes quite a bit for me to be nervous on my bike. It's the place I'm happiest and most at peace, but there were huge chunks of the ride where I wanted to call my husband and beg him to come ride alongside me in his car. Me and my bike belong in Lake County. Of course if you're reading this and thinking you want to join me in next year's Tour De Cure, I can probably be talked into getting out of Lake County again. And my lovely husband even went out and bought me a new to me road bike a week after the century was over, so I may even be able to finish in less than eight hours next year.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Per my sister's request

Oh wow, I took quite the unintended blog break. This could be the reason I have so few readers. Well, that and the sub-par writing.

On Tuesday my sister leaves for a week in Ireland and so I am writing this post with her in mind. In the comment section of my last post she asked me to pretend I was giving a commencement speech to college graduates, specifically Williams College graduates. Not only am I not qualified to give a speech to anyone about anything, I am certainly not qualified to speak to Williams students. They are an intelligent bunch and I am less than intelligent. Speaking of which, here's something kind of cute and amusing.  My mother used to try and convince me I wasn't as stupid as I believed I was. Sometimes she would tell me I was just lazy with school and that's why my grades were kind of eh. It's entirely true that I was quite lazy, but that's because things  were kind of difficult for me, but only in grades kindergarten through college, and when things are hard it's always preferable to fall into a state of laziness rather than try too much. By the way, in the category of other ridiculous things my mom tried to convince me - telling me I didn't look like a boy, even though certain people in my elementary school relentlessly referred to me as Christopher ( my brother's name). Yes, I am scarred for life; go ahead and feel sorry for me, I've been doing it for years and  would love some company. 

Between having spent part of my early years looking like a boy and my entire life not being very smart I've barely managed to stay alive, so what could I possibly have to offer the brilliant minds at Williams College? Not much. Of course, just as I was about to quit this post before I even got started,  I realized something interesting and important about myself which maybe does qualify me to share my thoughts with the young ones and that is this; I'm very much living the life I always wanted to live. Please keep in mind that I have super low standards and also, the list of things I wanted to accomplish shrunk every year until I made sure the list contained only the most do-able things. So the first thing I would say is aim low and if things get hard, aim even lower. You will get where you want to go with this attitude.

Joking aside, when I was a kid here is what I really truly wanted in life. I wanted to grow up and get married to a nice man and have kids and stay home with them. Oh I know it's so gross and 1950s and not at all what people at Williams College probably want but the fact is, it's what I wanted and I have managed to do it. I wanted to live in a cute little town with houses that looked like they could be in a Norman Rockwell painting and I wanted for me and my future family to be able to walk everywhere and go get ice cream cones with sprinkles whenever we wanted. I also thought it would be lovely to sit down together every night for dinner and have lively conversations while someone accidentally spilled a glass of water over someone else's full plate of food just about every single night and where I would never quite get the hang of handling this well, but afterward everyone would laugh over my silly overreaction. Of course this all sounds so simple and basic and easily attainable, but it really did take some effort and planning on my part. My point here is, if you really see yourself living a certain kind of life, no matter what other people think of it, try and live that kind of life and if you are blessed enough to wake up one day and realize you got exactly what you wanted, appreciate it. 

What other words of wisdom do I have to offer? Be flexible and don't get too hung up on things not working out as exactly as you hoped. I knew this guy once whose brother really wanted to go to medical school, but he kept getting rejected. The number of rejection letters became so staggering that this guy started posting them on his dorm room wall for all to see, in an attempt to make light of it. After realizing that maybe the life he envisioned living wasn't going to work out, he thankfully moved onto to another dream. I don't know what became of him, but let's hope it was nothing too grand as I wasn't actually fond of him or his brother.

At one point in my life I wanted eight kids. I thought it would be fun and exciting, but look, I had to let that dream die when I realized my sanity was at stake. Here I sit with a mere four children, but I'm quite happy with that number. Some people would tell me I could have had more kids and handled it just fine, but remember, the most important thing is to be brutally honest with yourself about the kind of person you are and what you are capable of doing. Other people are not living your life and have no idea what they are talking about.

And this leads me to my next point which is this; don't compare yourself to other people. Don't look at facebook and blogs and twitter and instagram and think people are giving you a clear and honest version of their lives. No one wants to listen to people complain all day and so in an attempt to make it look as though things are going swimmingly, people tend to exaggerate the good and leave out the bad. It's fine, everyone does it, but it's a waste of time to look at the facade of other people's lives and then look at the hard truth of yours and compare.You will never find happiness this way.

I know it's shocking, but I will offer you even more wisdom. Find a hobby and fit it into your schedule as much as possible. There is nothing wrong with doing something just for the sake of doing it and with no lofty goal in mind. As a matter of fact, oftentimes the thing you enjoy most loses all appeal when you try and add a purpose to it. I ride my bike for hours a week. Yes, it does provide some health benefits, but mostly I just enjoy the mindless pedaling, the smell of fresh air, getting to see all the lovely parts of the area I live in. This winter I decided to sign up for a charity century ride and so I've  had to do a lot of training for it and guess what has happened? I've lost some of my love for the bike. The century happens in two weeks and I can't wait for it to be over so I can go back to my aimless, pointless, happy pedaling.

And one last thing. Loneliness can suck every bit of joy out of your life, so find a group of like minded people and stick with them. I've found this in church - mostly; I admit that yesterday I spent much of Fr Robert's homily planning my after Mass escape route so as to avoid all chit chat and small talk and schmoozing. Church isn't for everyone, I know, but it's a very bad idea to not look for a group of people who share common interests, goals and purpose. Don't quit until you find your group.  Life is hard and you need your people.

That's it. That's all I have to offer. And in the words of The Avett Brothers it really all boils down to this simple thing - decide what to be and go be it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Five favorites

Tiffany asked what my five favorite books and movies are.

Books first, in no particular order, and of course because I can't stop myself from blathering on and on, I can't just give you the titles, I must go into details about why I like them. If the book portion of this drags on I may show some mercy and come back tomorrow with the movies. I do realize you all have lives to live.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - I've read this book several times and I never get sick of it. I love anything by Austen but this one is my favorite. It's romantic, but not sickeningly so, and amusing and completely engaging. Anytime I read the book I keep hoping and hoping that Darcy and Lizzie will just end up together and I get a little nervous that it's  not going to happen and then when it does I'm completely relieved. A good book will keep you guessing no matter how many times you've read it.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - The first time I read this I was in sixth grade. I loved it then and I've loved it each time I've gone back to read it. When I read it I felt like I really was friends with Scout and Dill and I imagined myself being with them and doing everything they were doing. I could feel the hot sticky weather and smell the southern air and strangely enough, even though it does not depict a pleasant side of the south, I would daydream about moving there when I was reading this book. I think a good book will always do that though - make you want to go places you never really even thought about before. When Jane and Kate were younger I read it aloud to them and they also fell in love with it. ( I need to stop using the word love. It's becoming redundant.) Kate returned to school this year and it was the first book they read in class and the teacher had to request that Kate stop answering all the questions about it.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain - Like a lot of books I read as a kid and then went back and read as an adult, I loved and appreciated this book much more the second time around . The book is hilarious and brilliant and although a lot of children read it, you really should read this when you are an adult as well, because there are things you probably definitely missed the first time around.

No Man is An Island by Thomas Merton - This is not an easy book to get through, although nothing by Merton is easy to get through. I read it a few years ago when I found it while wandering through the Catholic section of the library. I was shocked that my small town in Florida even had a Catholic section and I think I may have looked over my shoulder a few times to make sure someone wasn't playing a joke. It is the south after all and boy do some people here not enjoy The Catholics and they have no problem telling you that while you are sitting on a bench in Donnelly Park minding your own business reading this very book. I was waiting for Anthony to finish a class one day and a woman whose son was taking the same class asked what I was reading. When I told her it was a book by a Catholic Trappist monk she said, oh my husband was Catholic but I made sure to get him out, and I thought, how sad for your husband and how amusing that you kind of are implying my religion is a cult. Then I looked at the book title and thought, gee why can't men just be islands because people like this woman are...not fun to talk to. I love this book firstly because it contains so much wisdom and truth and secondly because I found it while I was going through a really exciting time in my faith journey ( just threw up up in my mouth typing that phrase) and I found this book at the exact right moment. It made me think about love and God and many other deep things in a completely different way.

And lastly, really I have to include it because it was the first book I absolutely fell in love with and became obsessed with reading. It's a children's book called Frederick by Leo Lionni. I read it over and over and over again when I was 6 or 7 or however old I was when we learned how to read back then. (I cannot believe I'm old enough to say "back then" in reference to MY childhood. That phrase should be reserved for people who are at least a hundred.) Anyway, I'm pretty sure it was much older than when kids are expected to read now. This book is about a little field mouse who lives with his field mouse family and while they are all going around gathering food for the cold winter months, seemingly lazy Frederick is sitting around not helping and finally, as the busy among us are prone to do, someone gets a little annoyed that they are doing all of the work and Frederick is doing none and so they say hey, what's the deal. Frederick says he is gathering things in his mind and all of those things will help get them through the bitter, boring winter months and sure enough, when that time hits and they are all out of food and are completely at their wits end and probably suffering from severe cabin fever they all look at him and say well, and he gets a little nervous and then recites the sweetest poem about all of the colors he sees throughout the year and each of those colors represent something and when he is done everyone is happy and has forgotten just how miserable they all are. Frederick blushes because everyone cheers him on and tells him he is a poet. As a kid I was captivated by Frederick. I never got the hang of how to write poetry, but I have always enjoyed sitting around thinking about life while other people stay busy. So what can I say, that little field mouse spoke to me even way back in the first grade. When I was in college and got pregnant and then subsequently gave the baby up for a adoption, I was told I could give the baby something and so I went up to Clifton Country Mall on a very cold, bitter winter day and found Frederick in the tiny little bookstore that no longer exists and I sent it to the baby's new parents and hoped they would give it to him. I have my copy stored away safely and maybe the baby I gave up has his, too and wouldn't it be nice if someday we both happened to be reading it at the very same moment.

The movie portion of this post must wait. I have, as promised, blathered on and on far too long.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Me, me, me! More about me!!

Jennie C asks, what is your greatest strength?

Oh dear, this was not easy for me to answer as I have so many strengths and  it was hard to narrow it down to just one. Ba da bump! But for real, it did take me some time to come up with something. Finally I settled on this - people have told me on more than one occasion that I am a good listener and I make it easy for them to open up about things that are sometimes difficult to open up about.. For many years this was a huge burden. In college, friends were constantly coming to my room due to my listening skills and when they left I would stay awake and worry about everyone and their problems. Occasionally someone would drop a real doozy on me and I would be torn about whether I should tell someone else and if I didn't tell someone else, would disaster ensue and if it did, would I be responsible. Then I grew up and got older and decided that I'm not in charge of anyone and all I can really do is listen without making obnoxious, judgemental comments and  then let it go and it's no longer a burden but a gift. Just this weekend my neighbor, who is going through something quite painful,  saw me sitting outside and she came out and asked if I could come inside and talk to her. She didn't want me to talk, she wanted to talk and when she was done she gave me a huge hug and I left and felt pretty honored that I happened to be around when she really needed someone to be around. So that's it, that's my greatest strength, or at least a strength. Also, have you ever had someone tell you that they are a great listener, that they really know how to put people at ease and all you want to do is start laughing because they are the exact opposite of that? Well while I was writing this I was a bit worried that maybe I am that person and if that is the case, well just ignore everything I wrote.

Tiffany, I will answer your questions tomorrow and then I suppose I will have to stop answering reader questions altogether because all of this me talk is feeling self indulgent - not that I have a problem with that of course, but I should at least pretend I have a problem with it.