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Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Today we committed with both money and mind to a new adventure. Next May we will be flying to Rome, taking a train to Valle, and riding 8 days. An Italian bike tour!  I've wanted to ride my bike in Europe since I bought my first 10-speed orange K-Mart special for $99 in 1972. That bike gave me freedom I had forgotten; as a young adult in the world it was my transportation and transformation and translation as I commuted from home to high school, one town to another, state to state, road to road, new digs to home.

Fast-forward to 2005, when I was challenged to help train a friend to ride further on a bike than I had ever imagined. I plunged into that challenge like I plunged into the Colorado River in Sweetwater in May -- never gave it a second thought and figured I'd know what to do once I got there. My friend achieved her goal and helped me achieve a goal I didn't even know I wanted -- finishing a century. And then dozens more, just because I could. I owe her a debt of gratitude. Via my bike and my friend I've made many more solid friends, seen more than I thought my eyes could see, and grown more than I had thought possible. Thanks, Kameo! (And others; you know who you are.)

And from there Chris got into cycling, first on a tandem, then on a road bike, and then we started racing, holy cow how much adrenaline can we stand coursing through our bodies!  A tandem time trial is off the charts! Good thing I mastered Lamaze breathing; it comes in handy when you're screaming downwind, downhill at 50+ mph. That first place podium is so worth it! (Said with tongue firmly planted in cheek; it paid $20 and a t-shirt; whoop-dee-doo.)

Kameo continued racing seriously; Chris and I started touring on the tandem. San Francisco to Santa Barbara (epic!), Austin, TX, to Shiner, TX; Shiner to Victoria, TX; Victoria to Cuero.

After a couple years off due to our career obligations (for which we both signed on voluntarily) we're going to do this Apennines to Adriatic in 2014. I still can't believe it's going to happen -- and I'm over the moon that we're going to do it, with a couple with whom we've forged a sold bond over the last few years.  I can hardly wait!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Fifty Years Later

I distinctly remember the Catholic School kids in their plaid uniforms heading east as I walked walked home from Florence L. Walther Elementary School on an Indian-summer warm November afternoon. I scuffed through the fallen dry leaves every chance I got; especially by the cemetery on Ridgeway St., to avert my attention away from the graves. That's when the first uniform shouted to me that President Kennedy was dead. I called her  a liar; my mostly-Catholic background wondered if there was any credence to her assertion. As several more parochial school kids told me the same thing I began to panic.  I remember running from Bobby Goldstrom's house on Ridgeway to my house on Buttonwood; I was freaked out by what I heard and wanted to talk to my mom.

The TV was on and Walter Cronkite was talking; my mom was in the kitchen crying and I knew it was the worst: JFK was dead.

I recall watching the ensuing ceremonies with a grief I haven't words for -- I was very sad, cried when John-John saluted his father's flag-covered coffin -- yet I couldn't relate. I hadn't experienced a loss close to me.

I recall chanting in the schoolyard, waiting to be let inside, with at least a dozen classmates, "We want Kennedy! We want Kennedy!" with our fists pounding on the the concrete window  frame. I was a Kindergartner, mostly a year behind my classmates because NJ law decided that if you were born after Octboer 1st, you had to wait a  year to enter school. I was ready in 1959. I resented having to wait, Most of my neighborhood friends started without me, and that's not set well with me.

Meanwhile, we have so many JFK 50 Yr. Anni. shows airing. They can do only so much with the facts. And perhaps to engage and exploit  the +50 crowd, those of us who know where we were when we heard the news.

Questions? Email me. I'll get right back to you.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The End of an Era

In the late 80's and early '90's  we raised fancy rats. They're smart, clean, extremely human-oriented, entertaining. Unfortunately most are born with a virus that infects/affects their lungs, and they die at a young age -- 2-3 yrs. We have many tiny graves in Lompoc due to our rats dying before their time.

My sister got a couple chinchillas -- Bud and Vern -- and declared that they lived 15-20 yrs. in captivity. Sadly, the Great Dane she fostered had a killer gene, and killed one chn, injured the other to its demise, and attacked several dogs, killing at least one.

We found a breeder in Morro Bay and agreed to buy an  wk old baby. When we arrived we saw that her breeding pairs had cool names, like George and Gracie, Fred and Wilma, Barney and Bettty, George and Jane, etc. George and Gracie gave birth to twins, a rarity in the chinchilla world, and since they're social animals, we bought both babies. I named on Tika (Tee-ka), and Meave named the other Pooh-Bear.

And so the chinchillas thrived, we played with them, delighted in how they dust and carom around a room, and generally enjoyed them for many, many years.  We took them to the Montessori School, among other places, for show & tell. They were great reps for their breed.

In 2009, July, I think, I was gearing up to attend the Putah Creek Smack Down, the local time trial practice. I walked past the cage and noticed a chin laying on her side -- something they do when they're overheated.  I knew right  away that she was gone. So instead of that TT practice, we buried a beloved pet, and made her a headstone.

I noticed earlier this year that the surviving chin, whom we dubbed Tika-Pooh (because they looked identical but their personalities were so different; yet the remaining chin took on the strong personality). was sleeping more and eating less. They were born in 1994 so I thought as she was so long-lived I'd indulge her. I fed her extra raisins and apple and fresh peas, and less timothy hay.

FAIL. I should have continued her regular diet. Her molars didn't have enough coarse food to grind them down, and they overgrew enough to make her eyes weep.

But after a visit with the vet on 10/21 (yeah, I wanted to spend my birthday focusing on my pet)), we thought all was well. He gave us suggestions for her diet, and we stocked up.

So when I saw our little furry love-muffin on Halloween morning, laying on her side, I knew. I picked her up.  She was still warm and rigor hadn't set in.  I immediately regretted hitting the snooze button, then stopped.  So I cried, a lot, put her in a lunch bag, and buried her as the sun came up, weeping uncontrollably because I get so attached to animals, and she was so quirky and fun and we had a bond with her that outlasts many marriages (also sad).

Today we talked to my MIL, who is in the hospital, freshly out of ICU, and spunky.  When I told her about Tika-Pooh's passing I got weepy. I hope to get past that soon. OTOH, she was with us over 19 years, and there's no way to minimize that.

The animals we include in our lives teach us so many things, give us so much joy, are often key in our sanity. Losing one is really hard. Having support, people who get it, make the loss easier.