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AHS, Day 3

“Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”  ~Theodosius Dobzhanksy

This is one of those conferences that are so information-heavy you’re almost glad to see it end.  Almost.  My brain is overloaded, overworked, and overwhelmed.

Today’s sessions included:

Disordered eating in the Modern World – I didn’t attend this because it was in conflict with another session I wanted to hear, but I wanted to include it because I think it’s so relevant.  Dr. Emily Deans used peer-reviewed literature and histories of eating disorders to examine if maybe the Western Diet may be contributing to  this phenomenon.

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Diet, Inflammation, and Depression – This is the one I missed that one ^ for.  This session was so interesting, as it linked habits that are far removed from our ancestral health, including nutrition and movement, as a potential cause for the high incidence of chronic depression we are seeing in modern society.  I can’t remember where I first read this statement, but think about how seldom our ancestors would have seen a reflection of their faces, compared to how often we do.  This session was one of those where almost every seat in the room was taken.  The presenter, Amber Dukes, was cautious not to draw conclusions, as the studies are new and incomplete.

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The Perfectly Healthy Meal:  How Ancestral and Gourmet Culinary Practices Guide Us to Satisfying and Nourishing Food – I knew when I got the expanded schedule I wanted to attend this one.  I consider myself a rabid foodie, and I grew up and raised my kids eating delicious southern home-cooked food.  Throw in Eliott’s Jewish heritage with its love of all things deli, his Philly connection to Italian cuisine, and we are a train wreck as far as “ancestralizing” our diet.  When we did our 30-day food experiment recently, we found that we loved the whole process of selecting, preparing, and cooking with primal guidelines in mind.  What surprised us was the time involved in all steps of that process, and joining that with the fact that we eat out several times a week (which we didn’t do much on our 30-days), we had to learn to embrace the time issue. This session was wonderful for reinforcing the idea that it SHOULD be taking us time to prepare our food, and it does take effort and forethought (isn’t that one of the things that is troubling about our Western diet – the instant and constant availability of crappy food?)  Dr. Jaminet is doing a book signing later today (an astrophysicist and his molecular-biologist wife writing a nutrition book?   Why, yes please!)

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I managed to get a picture of my plate today before I dove right into it.  Tendergrass Farms was one of the vendors, and they donated over 1000 of pasture-raised chicken for the meal.  We have a local grass-fed meat supplier in Murfreesboro; this farm is located in Virginia, and they do ship, so until you find your local source, give them a shot.

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Heat and Health; Paleo Myths and the Other Metabolic Hormones, Leptin and mTOR – the title of this one almost kept me out, but the thumbnail mentioned hormones and aging, which caught my attention.  Dr. Rosedale (of the Rosedale Diet) started out with saying that nature does not support a long post-reproductive-age life.  We can alter that, but approaching it with this premise helps us understand what we are working toward.  Thanks, nature.  And modern medicine can counter some of the aging process, but nutrition and exercise is much more effective at that.

Warrior Dash - we did the 5k, obstacles and all, like this
Warrior Dash – we did the 5k, obstacles and all, like this

 

Circadian Rhythms:  Their Significance in Human Health, and the Major Factors Affecting Them – This was Dr. Jaminet again, about the mysterious circadian rhythms.  Full disclosure — I fell asleep during this talk.  Dr J’s voice was soothing, and it was just after lunch, and Eliott’s shoulder was soooo inviting, so I do not have a report about your circadian rhythm.  When I asked Eliott about it afterwards, he admitted he fell asleep too.  So we’re old.  We needed a nap.  But isn’t it fabulous that this is the talk where we fell asleep?  Something to do with our circadian rhythm???

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The Ancestral Health Society will add all the links after the conference, and when they do, I will go back and post the video links, so if you are interested, come back and listen.  I won’t post all the links to the 2011 and 2012 AHS, but they are available through the AHS or youtube.

Here are my takeways from the conference:

–The Ancestral Health Movement is about far more than eating an abundance of meat, far more than just nutrition at all.  It’s about using evolution as the model for framing every conversation we have about health in contemporary humanity.

–It’s discouraging to see the status of the food supply and nutritional health in our country.  It’s even more discouraging to see that 67% of the population of America does not understand or accept evolution, which is the starting point for understanding how and what we should eat for optimal health.

–Because this is heavily science-based approach, as always we start with a hypothesis.  We then look at the research and see if that supports the hypothesis.  Through observation, empirical evidence, experimentation, testing, results analysis, and other methods we see if the hypothesis is confirmed.  Then, in this movement, it is encouraged for folks to use a N=1 analysis since our ancestry differs in some cases dramatically (if our ancestors were from Fiji, their diet would have been different than if our ancestors were from Siberia due to food availability, and the digestive enzymes, etc, that we would have developed).

–To expand on the last topic:  I think that not only do we have differences in our toleration for some foods based on geography, but we ourselves may find that at some points in our life we are more tolerant of some foods than at other points in our lives due to our age, our hormones, the cycle of seasons, and other factors.

–Because of the above points, we are forced, beneficially I think, to stay deeply in tune with our bodies and our health.  For those of us who are data junkies, this can include written graphs, charts, records, all that (color-coded – squee!).  I’ll say that for most of us in the movement, that includes a pretty closely-monitored blood sugar record.

–As a skeptic, I will continue to learn and research as the science develops around nutrition and movement.  But I will also share that the personal application piece has been hugely successful for me.  It has allowed me to eliminate even minor health issues (heartburn, irregular sleep patterns, energy crashes), AND I have been able to train at a pretty high level (Ironman) eating in this manner.

Heading home tomorrow – don’t forget to drop by and say farewell to Glenda if you are in the Middle Tennessee area tomorrow night!

Thanks for reading!

Days 3 and 4

Crappy internet and late night hanging with the children = no blog yesterday.  I’ll try to cram 2 days into one with this quick post.

Yesterday morning found us waking up in Ft. Reno, Oklahoma, still heading west.  This day we covered the rest of Oklahoma, the tippy part of the hat of Texas, a corner of New Mexico, and then our lovely Colorado.

Terribly inappropriate Texas gas station humor.  It's called Pet Tornado.
Terribly inappropriate Texas gas station humor. It’s called Pet Tornado.
Yes, we do this.  Honk all you want, we're pulling over.
Yes, we do this. Honk all you want, we’re pulling over.
Pronghorns in New Mexico
Pronghorns in New Mexico
Woohoo!  Made it to Colorado!
Woohoo! Made it to Colorado!

After a quick stop to see Sam’s new place, we all walked over to the Boathouse Restaurant where we waited for Sam to finish work for the day.

Sam Jordan, River Ranger
Sam Jordan, River Ranger
And here we are.  I am never happier than when among these people.
And here we are. I am never happier than when among these people.

After dinner and lots of Colorado microbrews, we hung out at Sam’s house a while longer, and then finally all crashed after a long day of traveling (us), working (Sam), and playing (Ben and Kirsten).

Morning found us all at breakfast overlooking the Arkansas River.  Sam had to work again, so we got to see his workplace in the River Management Office (although his actual workspace is the 150 miles of the river, since he patrols the river every day).  Then we took a stroll through town, checking out gear stores and art galleries and a coffee shop or two.

At Sam's work
At Sam’s work

Next, because it’s Memorial Day weekend, there was Bluegrass in the Park for most of the day.  We laid out a couple of quilts, and talked, and drank, and read (I really and truly studied Evidence), and listened to music.  We had Ben and Kirsten’s two honeys with us, two black labs, River and Suzie.  Lying there in the sun, listening to my children’s voices, at the base of the mountain, in the quaint little town of Salida, Colorado, I just don’t remember being so happy.

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After Sam got off work, he and Ben played in the river with their kayaks while we enjoyed a libation in the restaurant overlooking the play hole (their words, not mine).  Then it was off to a fabulous pizza place, where we all agreed to the phone game, so I have no pics of that meal.  (8 phones, ringers on, stacked face down on the table; first one who responds to a text or call pays the check.  No one lost.)

Tomorrow is another day in paradise.  No agenda yet, but does that even matter??

Thanks for reading!

Day 1. 737 miles, 3 states, 13 hours

Our day started around 5:30 with coffee and showers, and we hit the road by 7.

my honeys
my honeys

I started out driving, we stashed Glenda in the back, and off we went.

Our first 4 hours was spent just getting to the western edge of Tennessee, past Memphis.  We chatted about their childhood toys, crazy-ass drivers, feminism, the US criminal justice system including prison, traveling and its importance, our weird affinity for airport terminals, drunk-sobbing, the Lewis and Clark expedition, the deplorable state of our food supply and America’s eating habits, mainstream advertising, the horrifying nature of tarantula hawks, and that was just the first leg.

After Memphis, we took on Arkansas.  We stopped for gas just outside Little Rock:

Ya gotcher Arkansas Redneck Pride, then you gotcher REneck Pride.
Ya gotcher Arkansas Redneck Pride, then you gotcher REneck Pride.

We hit a lull just as we were getting to the Oklahoma border.

Still can't resist a sleeping baby
Still can’t resist a sleeping baby
Back seat baby
Back seat baby

Conversation picked back up again on the last push into Oklahoma City.  New topics included guinea worms, philanthropy at what price, death by drowning in the context of Noah’s Ark, the surprising audacity of a billboard for a buffet at a restaurant called “Chair Crushers”, the Swedish chef, child discipline techniques, the absolute magic of books, the concept of checking your privilege, and school lunches.

We came in to our hotel to the sound of Busta Rhyme, checked in, and headed right back out to the nearest restaurant.  We’d been snacking on nuts and cheese and fruit in the car all day, so we were glad to sit down to chips, salsa, and beer.

Modelo, salt, and lime
Modelo, salt, and lime
My new go-to, ceviche, and this was perfection:  ripe avocado, shrimp, just spicy enough
My new go-to, ceviche, and this was perfection: ripe avocado, shrimp, just spicy enough

I can’t end this entry without telling about the experience we had just as we were finishing dinner.  All 3 of us saw, well, really, one of the biggest bugs we’d ever seen…crawl across the floor at the restaurant.  To be fair, it was NOT a roach – it was a giant beetle, with long legs, rather slow, black – not exactly a rhinoceros beetle, but big and black and shiny.  We tried to get his picture, but he scurried under a high chair and we lost him.  Remember the family motto:  Life is an adventure.

Tomorrow – our boys!  Eliott is flying in to Denver and driving to meet us, Ben and Kirsten are already at Sam’s house.  Next blog from Salida, Colo-rippin-rado!

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Road Trip

And just like that, Road Trip!

Sweet daughter Amy has her summer work lined up:  she’s been hired as the sea kayak instructor at Camp Orkila on Orcas Island in Washington.  She has moved out of her college apartment in Johnson City, packed her car full of her stuff, and she’s gotten as far as Murfreesboro on her way.

Brother #2 is located, for his summer work, in Salida, Colorado, where he is employed as a River Ranger on the Arkansas River.  Handily, Salida is on Amy’s route to the great northwest.

Brother #1 is between semesters at CU Boulder, and will be in Salida with his girlfriend Kirsten for a few days of recreation.

See what’s happening here?  When any two of my kids are together I pine to be with them.  When 3 of them are together, I can’t be kept away.  And when all 4 are together — fugeddaboutit.  And with sister Glenda on the Memorial Day weekend break, this is one of those times.  Away go the textbooks, out goes the call for the house-sitter, pack a quick bag, and off we go!

The pile to pack
The pile to pack
Bitch please.  Tetris champ.
Bitch please. Tetris champ.

6am departure time tomorrow.  3 Jordan women, 1300 miles (to Salida).  Friday night:  Oklahoma City.  Saturday night:  Salida, where the boys will be waiting.

Here's Amy's plan to get us across the country.
Here’s Amy’s plan to get us across the country.

Look for an update tomorrow night, from somewhere in the midwest.  We’ve done the St. Louis/Kansas route so many times on the way out to snowski, that this time we think we’ll take the southern tour across Oklahoma.

Road Trippers
Road Trippers

Here we go!  Thanks for reading!

 

 

My first Blog award!

This will be a very short lesson on why you don’t give an award to an obnoxious overachiever (think:  Hermione).

I GOT NOMINATED FOR THE VERY INSPIRING BLOGGER AWARD!

My internet friend, Marisa, nominated me for this award.  Here is her blog, so check out her work.  She writes about art, music, cinema, plus she’s funny and smart and has impeccable taste in blogs.

veryinspiringblogaward

Part of the dealio is that I am to tell 7 things about myself.  Because I’ve had this blog going for so long, I’ve told almost everything, so some of this may be a repeat.

1.  I have an extensive nutcracker collection.  I started it accidentally, and now it’s out of control.  When I put them all out at Christmastime, sometimes in the light of the tree, with all their sparkly clothes, and swords, and movable chins, they creep me the hell out.

They're amassing behind me
They’re amassing behind me

2.  I don’t like chocolate OR ice cream.  I just don’t.

3.  Since 1990, I have ridden my bicycle across Iowa at least a dozen times.

This line stretches for 70 miles
This line stretches for 70 miles

4.  I would rather read than watch television.  Anywhere, anyplace, anytime.

5.  I hate country music, but I love the titles:

If You Want to Keep Your Beer Ice-Cold, Keep It Next To My Ex-Wife’s Heart

How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away?

Her Teeth Was Stained, But Her Heart Was Pure

6.  I backpacked through Europe when I was in college, complete with Eurail and hostel pass, and went to Greece without telling my parents.  Because I went by myself, they wanted my itinerary before I went (this was the dark ages of phones – you had to go to a telephone building to make an international phone call).  Greece was nowhere on the list.  My dad’s still mad about that.

7.  I have an insane, irrational fear of cockroaches.  Dad was a Navy man.  I grew up in Jacksonville, Key West, Pensacola.  In a trailer.  With giant, flying palmetto bugs.  Me, 4 years old, the sheet pulled over my head, eyes squeezed shut, hearing those hideous things flying in my room at night.  **Shudder**  Not so irrational now, huh?

Another part of the deal is that I have to link to 15 of my favorite blogs.  Here you go:

1.  JT’s Patheos blog

2.  Greta’s blog

3.  My girl Susan’s blog

4.  Son Sam’s blog

5.  The Bloggess

6.  Drs. Mike and Mary Dan’s Protein Blog

7.  Ted’s Blog

8.  Bookshelfporn

9. Joe. My. God

10.  Jesse and Julia’s Blog

11.  Neil de Grasse Tyson’s Blog

12.  Whole 9 Life Blog

13.  Dr. Peter Attia’s blog

14.  Pharyngula

15.  Eggton

And there you have it – thank you again, Marisa – this was fun!  I thought I’d have a little trouble coming up with 15, but I actually had to struggle to edit it down.  I’ll try to do another post with another 15.

Thanks for reading!

Adventures in Plumbing Repair

Of all the subjects I’ve written about, plumbing may very well be one I’ve avoided.  No more.

I came home Thursday evening from work to a huge puddle of water near a corner of my house.  As I walked around the yard to see if the recent rain had left a standing puddle anywhere else, I discovered what I knew and was dreading – that, no, there weren’t any other areas that still had water visible.  I went into the house and to my relief there was no water in the inside, but if I leaned in closely toward the hot water heater/dishwasher area, I could hear the sound of water running.

Were I to have taken a pic during the crisis, this area would be underwater.
Were I to have taken a pic during the crisis, this area would be underwater.

I know a little about home construction and repair.  I have learned a lot of that since living in this beautiful, charming, quirky 75-year-old house.  I knew this:  I had a plumbing leak, under the house, on the kitchen end.

One of the charming things about this house is the way the construction of it tells a story.  In the beginning there was a three-room structure, and over the years another room was added, then another, and another.  From the outside you can’t tell this – the roof, while multi-gabled, is shingled uniformly, the siding covers all the seams, but underneath the house it’s a different story.  The subflooring reveals different materials, different levels, even different construction techniques.  The most contemporary end of the house has a cinder block foundation; the oldest actually has stacked, flat stones, the stones that are found all over this area of middle Tennessee.

The access hole to the crawl space is 2′ x 2′, which while not comfortable, is manageable.  Like all crawl spaces, there are pipes and cables lines and electric lines.  In the summer there are also scads of creepycrawlies.  What happens under this house however, is that the crawl space diminishes as you scootch toward the kitchen end of the house until you can scootch no more.  There’s a beam that cuts across the entire width of the house that is about 6″ off the ground – enough to shine a flashlight but not enough for an adult person to clear.  Ask me how I know this.

next shot we add Darwin for size perspective
next shot we add Darwin for size perspective
that's a 50# dog covering the entire opening
that’s a 50# dog covering the entire opening
This is where it gets real.
This is where it gets real.

So back to the leak.  After my initial exploration and information gathering, I know it’s beyond my basic skills to figure this out.  I call a couple of plumbers early Friday morning – one can get to me Friday afternoon, one Saturday, and I schedule them both.  The first guy and I talk through the issue, he agrees with my assessment, scoffs at my “you-can’t-get-to-it-from-under-the-house” statement until he sees for himself.  He comes back into the house and proceeds to tell me that we will have to go through the kitchen floor, one area at a time, until we find the leak, and then possibly tear up a bigger area to repair it, depending upon what the circumstances are.  So of course the flooring will be sacrificed; the subflooring could probably be reused afterward, but obviously the covering would have to be replaced.  He said we’d want to use a carpenter for that work, and an installer for the flooring, and then whatever was necessary for the actual plumbing repair.  His estimate was $3000-$5000.

After I regained consciousness, I saw them off with their promises of beginning the repair on Monday, after having gotten their carpenter lined up.  I spent a Freaky Friday worrying about the cost and the repair and the mess.  I called my resident plumbing expert, Big Jesse, who talked me through his ideas all the way from Los Angeles.

Then Saturday’s plumber came.  After my insider talk with Jesse, he and I remembered the possibility that there may be a “scuttle hole” under the dishwasher or stove or sink or something.  So when Heath from Advantage Plumbing started looking around, we took a panel off the hot water heater, looked in and beneath the dishwasher, and what do we see?  Let’s let the pictures tell the rest of the story…

Here's the blind panel off...
Here’s the blind panel off…
...and here's the base of the dishwasher...
…and here’s the base of the dishwasher…
...and while this may not mean anything to anyone else, that's a seam under there!!
…and while this may not mean anything to anyone else, that’s a seam under there!!
Dishwasher's out...
Dishwasher’s out…
Door to Narnia open...
Door to Narnia open…
Look right in the middle of the copper pipe!  There's the bastard!  See it spraying the brick!?
Look right in the middle of the copper pipe! There’s the bastard! See it spraying the brick!?

It was right there, right in the middle of the access hole!  Woohoo!  A little copper sleeve, a little soldering (what’s known as a bandaid repair), and we’re done!  Turn the water back on, shove the dishwasher back in, one hour of plumber’s fees, and I’m back in clover!

I think this is less about trying to learn a lesson or takeaway, and more about, in this case, I was just dumb lucky.  Btw, that’s the actual plumber and company if you have a need in the future.

So this post isn’t the most exciting or important, but it’s a day in the life.  Now if I could just learn to build bookshelves.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

Where have you been?

Where have you been?!  I’ve been waiting and waiting!

From the The-best-defense-is-a-good-offense files…

When I logged in to write today’s post, I was astounded to see I haven’t posted since November!  Where did the time go?  Maybe the kids coming for Thanksgiving or my best girl and her wife visiting for a few days or taking my finals for the end of my second year of law school or going to Amy’s graduation or moving her to a new apartment or Glenda coming home for the semester break or my parents coming for Christmas or going to Las Vegas for my studybuddy’s 40th birthday or driving nonstop with Son2 from Colorado to Tennessee to reposition a vehicle or starting my third year of law school?  Still no excuse, I know.

I do love being stimulated, but this has been a little over the top, even for me.

Starting with kid news:

#1 had better grades than me after fall semester, and I had good grades.  That was tough to take, but I’m so proud of him.  Ben is a political science major at CU Boulder, home of Ralphie the Buffalo (extra credit if you know the history of the mascot at this school).  Kirsten finished her master’s in architecture this year, and they’re trying to get used to NOT living in a resort town.

Ben and Aden
Ben and Aden

#2 is in his winter semester as the asst director of the outdoor program at Virginia Commonwealth U.  His group of students went on a ski trip to Breckenridge, which is why he ended up there with his Airstream B Van needing to bring it back east.  I volunteered, so 24 hours later, we arrived home, where Sam slept, then drove the rest of the way alone, visiting his sisters along the way.

Sam and the James River in Richmond
Sam and the James River in Richmond

#3 is in what may be her final semester at UT.   In a painful twist of irony, she’s having to defend a French class she took IN FRANCE in order to get credit to graduate.  The less said about that the better.

Glenda and darling Caroline
Glenda and darling Caroline

#4 graduated from East Tennessee State University in December.  She’s applied for a job with the parks department of Johnson City and is eagerly awaiting an answer.  She has a kickass plan B, so I’ll wait for that post until she hears the result of her interview.

Amy and darling Curtis
Amy and darling Curtis

As for me, I’m now past the halfway point in law school, the bar exam notwithstanding.  That’s an entity unto itself.  I have 23 more tuition payments, 23 more months of school.  If you’re keeping track, this year’s subjects are:  Evidence, Corporations and Business Organizations, Professional Responsibility, Legal Analysis and Writing, Legal Research, Employment Discrimination, and Cross Profession Ethics.  It is as much work as it appears to be.  Do not think, as I did, that law school is top-loaded.  I love the topics; the challenge is cramming the daily 12 hours of study into 4 or 6 hours.

In training news, son Sam has decided he wants us to do a triathlon together before one of us gets too old.  And of course by triathlon, I mean the big bad one.  We’ve decided on the window of Mar-Sept 2014, so we’re looking at races all over the world to find an iron distance we want to do.  That gives us the maximum time to train, and before I start my big push studying for the Bar.  Stay tuned for details.

I’d like to say here that I’ll do a better job of blogging more regularly, but we all know I’m kidding myself.  It’s not that I don’t have a lot to write about, but you already know that.  However, it is a nice refuge from the intensity of my academics, so here’s my empty promise to try to do better.

And, for no good reason, here’s a face:

How could you not love this face?
How could you not love this face?
We can destroy a hot dozen
We can destroy a hot dozen

 

Thanks for reading!

An ordinary day.

In the Facebook age, there’s a phenomenon that occurs on one’s birthday that has created the awkward moment of wanting to accept each person’s well wishes, which one would do individually IRL, and feeling a little silly going to everyone’s page one at a time and saying the same thank you over and over.
In my case, my birthday was so delightful, and the sentiment from friends was so overwhelming, I need to express it with more than just a one-click effort.

The morning started with a skype call from my guy, on a business trip to Vegas, before the sun even came up.  Next was son Sam calling before he headed out on an all-day raft trip.  Then, my best study buddy and her wife call and serenade me with the Birthday song from 3000 miles away.  I’m not even out of bed and already the day is perfect.

Next is morning coffee, birthday coffee that arrived the day before from one of my brothers, and sunrise on the porch.  I know it’s freezing, but the view from the front porch of the sun coming up through the now bare tree branches across the pasture is compelling every time.  I get my fuzzy robe, a quilt, my coffee, and the dogs and I go out and watch the planet turn and bring the sun into view.  Waiting, waiting, and then finally, where just moments before you could just make out shapes and outlines, rays of sunshine so bright you can see them through your closed eyelids.  Another morning, another day to get to be here in this place and time.

Then it’s back into the office for a day of studying.  2L is coming to a close, finals are in December, so it’s wrapping up Constitutional Law, Criminal Procedure, Civil Procedure, and Real Property.  Another moment of gratitude for the chance to go to school, to have this academic challenge, to get to know all my classmates and professors, to explore this ever-fascinating field of law.  I keep my Facebook window open and watch the Happy Birthdays come in, each one a birthday present of friendship, each one a reminder of how so very fortunate I have been to know and love this fabulous person and this fabulous person and it goes on and on and on.  The phone call from first, brother, and then, mother and dad come through, along with the chit-chat of who they saw at church, and what they said, and what they had for lunch…the poignant, ubiquitous trivialities that today touch me as a indispensable connection to my hometown community and the family I still have there.

After study, it’s time for my present to me – a couple of hours out on the bike in the last of the fall’s pretty riding days.  The sky is as blue as I’ve ever seen it, the sun feels warm and delicious, even the shuffle setting I have on the iPod seems to be cooperating to create this perfect moment in time.  I’m singing along in my euphoria, not even caring that I have forgotten how one’s singing sounds when one has earbuds in, presuming one can carry a tune in the first place, when I realize I’m at a stoplight, and the passengers in the car next to me are enjoying the weather too, with windows rolled down.  As the light turns green and they roll past me, they give me a little applause and a laugh out the window, and because I don’t know what else to say, I shout “It’s my birthday!”, and I get a “Happy Birthday!” in return.  Child #4, twin B, is heard from, and we chat for moment, until I hear her chastise me like I’ve chastised her repeatedly:  Don’t talk on the cell phone while you’re riding your bike!

As the sun is setting, the beautiful inverse of the morning’s performance, with the brilliant rays getting lower and lower til they are no more, and the temperature drops instantaneously, I pull in to the restaurant where I’m meeting friends for a little celebratory brew and socializing.  We’re loud, obnoxious, and opinionated, a mix of men and women, young and old, secular and religious, and I’m enjoying the food and the beer and the company more than I can describe.  The Squeeze even makes it in from the Las Vegas trip, gifts in hand, in time for dinner and merriment.  We’ve instituted a phone rule for our get-togethers:  ringers on, 3 minutes to send whatever texts you need to prepare, then in a pile on the table they go, and the first one who responds buys the beer.  So I miss the call (you think I’m going to lose THAT deal?) from child #3, twin A, Glenda, but get the Birthday voicemail she leaves.

After much food, drink, laughter, and general carrying-on, the evening is over, I strap the bike to the car, and on the drive home I hear from the last child, who’s actually the first child, and his birthday message.  He tells me when his flight is getting in for Thanksgiving, and we talk about how excited we all are to be getting everyone together.

Finally it’s time to collapse into bed and catch up the way you do in a love affair when even hours apart is too long.  Cold night, flannel sheets, electric blankets set to Infinity, heat turned off, dogs across our feet.  Life is not just good.  It’s spectacular.

 

I know it was just an ordinary birthday.  I heard from old friends and new friends and Tennessee friends and out-of-state friends and old church friends and law school friends and young friends and not-so-young friends and every one meant something to me.  Some were just Facebook posts, but the relationships that those posts, and the phone calls, and the gathering, represent what makes up my world.  As they came in through the day, I spent a moment reflecting on friendships and how grateful I am to have this particular set of people in my life.  Hokey and cliche?  I’m good with that.

“For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only though love.”   Carl Sagan

What a beautiful way to lead in to this season of Thanksgiving.

Thanks for reading.

The Virginia Chronicles

From Thursday at noon til Sunday at noon.  In that time, my son and I:  rafted the James, explored the art mural scene in Richmond on bike, climbed at the VCU climbing wall (my first experience), cycled to Jamestown (45 miles), explored Jamestown, cycled back to Richmond, ate at the fabulous 821(twice) AND mamazu’s, prepared a meal for our host family, and ate a meal prepared by our host family.  Oh, and did I mention the hurricane?  Or getting to see, from the window of the gate where I had just landed, Air Force One land and its de-planing passengers?  No?

DISCLAIMER:  This is not another swag post about my kid.  He just happens to have been the coordinator for all we did, and I can’t relate the adventures without telling that.    This trip was to have been a visit with him, and a chance to see where he lives and works in Richmond, Virginia.  If the splendor of Sam comes through, I can’t help that.

Son #2 is the assistant director of the Outdoor Program at Virginia Commonwealth University.  Back in the day (’78-’82 for me), these outdoor programs had a couple of backpacks to rent, maybe a bike to check out, and one or two trips per semester to a nearby state park.  No more.  Here’s a picture of the Center at VCU:

 

In the Fall 2012 semester alone, the program has taken 75 trips, has bikes (road and mountain), kayaks, paddle boards, climbing wall, backpacks, wetsuits available to students, conducts a student leadership program, has a staff of 40 students, and has its sights set on VCU Qatar , its sister campus, for a recreational trip during the 2013 school year.

Sam began this job in the fall of 2012, and I’ve been trying to get up to see him since then.  Regular readers of this blog know with my online law school, and my retired Delta-pilot-father, I take advantage of the pass travel with vigor.  When a weekend became available, I leapt at the chance to get this visit in.  With the patience and generosity of my ever-devoted partner/boyfriend to watch my high-maintenance dogs for the weekend, off I went.

When I boarded my flight in Atlanta for Richmond, an announcement was made that due to the arrival of the President in Richmond for a campaign event, there was a possibility that we might be delayed.  We arrived 7 minutes before the arrival of Air Force One, so I was able to see that occur from a great vantage point:

I missed seeing him in a hallway in a casino in Las Vegas in 2008 by seconds, so I was delighted to be seeing him, even at this distance!  Minutes later, I saw my precious boy just past the security point and off to our adventures we went.

First stop:  Sam’s “office”, the Outdoor Adventure Center at Virginia Commonwealth University.  We had time to grab a quick bite at the 821, a funky little cafe 2 blocks from work.

In my defense, we shared this monstrosity

Then it was back to the office to pack up and head out for an afternoon rafting adventure on the James.  The water was way down, which bummed out the kayakers, but suited me fine as Sam and I tackled it R2ing (riverspeak for 2 in a raft).  It was so unusual to be whitewater rafting with a city skyline as the backdrop.  I’ve got no pics, since I don’t have a waterproof case for my phone – Sam took some, and I’ll try to go back and edit after he posts those shots.

After getting the obligatory drenching (he’s still my son, after all) we changed into dry clothes and met up with Sam’s boss, and roommate couple, and dear friends Joey and Lauren for a dinner at mammazu’s, a high-funk, fabulous, Italian eatery.  We feasted upon vegetable lasagna, eggplant parmesan, rockfish, crab, bread, and wine.  The food and the conversation were delightful and memorable.

This is it. Srsly.

Moving into Friday morning, Sam and I hopped the bikes to his local coffee shop where we had our java and java talk, one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend.  From there we headed back to the center where we set out for a day of sightseeing Hollywood cemetery and Richmond’s street mural art scene.

One of two US Presidents buried here. Also, one CSA President. You’ll have to Google to find out. Ever the teacher.

Then it was back to the climbing wall where there was a combination climbing contest/halloween party.  You can be sure that the group associated with outdoor adventure is going to come through with the costumes.  I went as a cyclist (which was convenient since that’s what I had on…).

Sushi!

Sam went as a banjo player from Tennessee

I knew it was coming.  A test of the commitment Pledge.  When my kids were little, before they reached adolescence and I lost all credibility with them, I promised that whatever they would let me participate in with them, I would, and the Pledge raised its head again this night.  I had avoided the climbing piece for a long time, not being particularly enamored of heights, and not being overly strong in my upper body, and my weight being up a little because I haven’t been training.  No allowances, however, so up I went.  I at least had on climbing shoes, and of course my own boy at the other end of my harness.  I’m not sure where the fear comes from, because my rational mind was aware that I was secure from falling.  Maybe because I didn’t want to disappoint my son?  Maybe because I didn’t want to wimp out because I wasn’t strong enough to do it?  Ultimately it didn’t matter, because I did make it straight to the top, and what a rush that was!

Then it was home to a feast prepared by the lovely Lauren, and fashion modeling by darling Mercks.

Saturday morning saw us up early, gearing up with the 10 students who joined in for the bike ride to Chickahominy Riverfront park, near Jamestown, VA.  We had a slight mechanical situation along the way…

freaky tire tumor

…but resolved that and then headed into historic Jamestown for a very quick tour.

Sam and Pocahontas
Captain Smith. He was too high for me to be obscene with…sorry to disappoint.

After a campground cookout, we hit the tent for a night of sleep hearing Sandy’s first rainfall on the nylon.  After a campground breakfast of bacon and eggs, we set out back for Richmond, pinched between the system coming from the southwest and Sandy bearing down from the southeast.  We made it back to Richmond without getting too wet, and were glad to get off the bikes and head to Little Mexico for a little cerveza and chips before dinner.

Back home, after the lovely meal Lauren made for us, Sam and I pitched in and made salad, vegetable soup, and cornbread for our family dinner.

Then, just like that, it was Monday, and time to head back home.  Out of Richmond.  In the middle of Sandy the hurricane.  Usually there are 10 or so flights between Richmond and Atlanta; on this day, at least 6 of them were cancelled.  All the remaining were oversold.  When this happens, there’s nothing to do but try or wait it out.  We opted to try, and through some series of fortunate events, I made it to Atlanta, then on home to Nashville.

So, 96 hours with Sammy, and as always, I’m richer for it.

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