Changing with the Season

The thing about space, filling and fitting a space, isn't just a matter volume, but also about the way the things in a space interact with their surroundings. Their relationship to the space. This house has never been an ideal fit for us, it's selection was based almost entirely on the basis of it's proximity to mass transit, the garden potential, and to the fact that we were desperately tired of house hunting. We had watched too many home improvement shows on PBS, and imagined that the failings and shortcomings within the house could be remedied in short order. I mean, didn't Donna Reed convert that old wreck of a Granville House with little more than a feather-duster and a couple rolls of wall paper?

I feel as if, to some degree, I have been working around and against the limitations of this space almost since the beginning; and yet strangely, reducing the number of people in the house has aggravated, rather than ameliorated, the ill fit of the space. Technically, we had more space after The Boy's father left; more space and more flexibility about how to use it (I think he and I had different homes in mind, as well as different lifestyles), and yet, in explicably, it has been a worse fit in his absence.

Perhaps this is due partly to the fact that every nook and cranny, every atom that makes up this house, reminds me of the life I imagined we would live here, the promises made and broken. But I think it is more than that. Just as the marriage was built on false promises, the house was chosen on faulty assumptions --like the notion that you can completely rebuild a house between pledge breaks.

I have heard it said that things always come in threes, and the third thing here is that I came into this house with the intent of buying it, of owning my own home. That was the plan, but now I am in the same boat as all those mice and men who made plans before me. After the Boy's father "found someone nicer" there was no way I could cover the house payments on what I get from Financial Aid. In theory, the good news there was that we had been buying the house from my parents, and certainly they were not going to foreclose on me. Now I kinda wish they had.

So, now it is their house, or more accurately, their investment, and I have discovered that living in a home belonging to relatives something akin to the tenth ring of pergetory. I can not begin to describe how wholly untenable it is, and increasingly so. I am beginning to identify with the Menendez brothers in a way I am not comfortable with.

My holiday plans were disrupted by my parents intention to gut the bathroom. It does not need gutting, but they seem to have a need to gut it. Since I was on notice that the house was going to be descended upon by a work crew brandishing shovels and rakes and implements of destruction, I didn't make any plans that would have taken place inside my home. For a decade an a half I have had the simple wish to be able to BE home for the holidays, my own home, not my in laws home. And not once, in a decade and a half, was I able to do that. This would have been the first year I had the option, but I didn't because of this arbitrary plan to gut the bathroom, which, in keeping with Murphy's law, got postponed. grrr

Now the plan is on again, with a vengeance, complete with all the value judgments about me and my life that my parents never leave home without. And I find myself contemplating a move to anywhere other than here, and perhaps enrollment in the witness protection program, or maybe dyeing my hair, changing my name and joining a commune. On the other cost. Or maybe Canada. Paraguay?

So it was that I spent most of Bike Friday loading most of my worldly possessions into a U Haul truck to to put in storage in preperation for this gutting the house does not need, and to protect said possessions from my parents, who wanted to load them all into a pickup and haul them to Goodwill. Yes all of them. Bye-bye worldly possessions. And this is only the very beginning of what promises to be a very long list of "improvements" they wish to make, sooner rather than later.

Here is Nestle in the soon to be gutted bathroom, she likes it just as it is, as do I.

So it is that I find myself on New Years Eve, contemplating many changes, including a change of address. The ironic thing (it always comes back to irony, doesn't it?) is that, despite all it's shortcomings, I have come to love this house, and would love to stay here, but putting an end to the constant disruptions takes precedent, and -after all- I am already packed


Christmas Bunny

Well, the latest addition to our family has arrived, and the wisdom of letting The Boy choose his own best friend was confirmed.

We went to the Humane Society to find a new rabbit as an Xmas gift for The Boy (our previous rabbit passed away last Spring), and to my surprise, he did not choose the baby bunny I was sure would be his first choice, or the bunny I would have thought would be the next runner up, or any of the baby rabbits I thought he would be interested in. He chose a 2 1/2 year old rabbit named Nestle. She is a breed know as Chinchilla, and according to the info on her kennel, she is a shy rabbit in need of extra handling and socialization to bring her out of her shell. You would never guess that from watching she and The Boy together: they are getting along famously: Nestle loves being held by him, and is inquisitive and adventurerous about everything as long as The Boy is near.

I had been concerned that it might be hard to go into the shelter and not want to adopt everyone there, but we (and the critters) are blessed by the high standards of care and commitment that the Humane Society holds itself too. The shelter is clean and cheerful, and the staff commited to making te right human/animal connection. There was no pressure and little guilt. The day we were ther 48 pets went home, thats about one adoption every 10 minutes of business hours!

In 2005, Oregon Humane Society received and cared for over 12,700 animals, finding homes for 96 percent of the dogs and 80 percent of the cats - 8,534 pets found homes. Their adoptions rates are quite impressive when compared to the national average (25 percent for dogs and 20 percent for cats). Board members, staff, and volunteers are committed to placing 100 percent of the animals brought to the shelter for adoption into new, loving homes. Part of the challenge is that folks have the idea that the best way to get started with a new pet is to get them as a baby, which is not always the case.

We start with our children as new borns, and yet they grow up to be themselves ~sometimes despite their parents best efforts. Similarly, other animals grow up to be themselves, and when you meet them as adults their habbits, quirks and foybles are clearly evedent, in ways they were not as infants. Will that brand new puppy dig and bark insesantly, or be a champion frizzbe player? It is impossible to know when they are 8 weeks old; at 8 months, or 8 years, their strengths and challenges are more readily apparent. My money is on the older pet, every time.

So it is that we know that Nestle is a calm, loving and solisotous spirit, she is as big as she is going to get, and is unlikely to develope any bad habbits from here. Her "poos" will be a boon for the garden, and she will help eat the weeds we pull out of the garden, but most importantly, Nestle is best friend to The Boy.


Happy Hanukwanzmas

Wherever you are, and whatever you hold sacrad, heres wishing you and yours the very best
Blessings Bright and Deep


Giving Pets as Gifts

The Boy has been clamoring for a rabbit for months, since shortly after our senior house bunny passed away early this spring. I wanted to give us all time to mourn, and to learn from our mistakes with the first bunny, so I resisted getting a new rabbit right away. Things got busy over the summer, I was swamped with school this passed fall, and now here we are in 'gift giving season', and he is still clamoring for a bunny. He does not know it yet, but he is getting one.

Having worked in the past as a veterinary assistant, I have seen all the pitfalls and disasters that come of surprising someone with a pet they did not choose, and of receiving a pet during the chaos of the holidaze. I have taken a number of precautions to make sure that The Boy gets exactly the bunny he wants, and that the transition is smooth for everyone involved. We were aided in doing so by the wealth of information available on our local Humane Society's web site, some of which I have posted below

Our local Humane Society is up to it's proverbial eyeballs with cast-off bunnies, and the products of unplanned bunny pregnancies, giving us a wide variety to choose from, and following their recommendation, I will be taking the Boy in to select his own best friend. I have also purchased every concievable thing the rabbit might need in it's first weeks with us, from food and bedding to toys, and put them into a giant new rabbit hutch purchased to create a wrappable "starter kit". You gotta have something to go under the tree, and this ensures that everything will be in place for our new arrival, and we can focus on getting to know our new family member.

Knowing that many other families are planning to add pets to their families this season, I thought I would post the tips our Humane Society had on their site below, in the hopes that these adoptions will be happy and successful, and bring all of you joy for years to come

"It's Christmas morning and your child was expecting a large box with a puppy jumping out of it. You resisted the temptation to bring a new pup into the home on this hustle and bustle morning and opted instead for a box full of puppy toys and supplies and a gift certificate from the Oregon Humane Society toward the adoption of a new pet. Your child and you then spend quality time together after the holiday looking at all the animals available for adoption at the Oregon Humane Society's shelter. The choice was obvious to your youngster - the 1½-year-old yellow lab mix with freckles on his nose. This might not have been your choice however. Good thing you purchased the gift certificate from the Oregon Humane Society to use towards the adoption of this new bundle of joy. It was better to wait a day or two to make the perfect selection of a pet than rush into a decision. Don't worry about whether you'll find the right one; you will. There are 150 homeless pets looking for loving families everyday at the Oregon Humane Society - from mutts to purebreds, large and small, young and old - you'll find your new best friend at The Humane Society."


Bike Friday, December 29th ~and FOREVER!!

Join the Bike Friday events in Toronto (if you are there), Join us on the Hawthorne Bridge, bright and early, for piping hot coffee, yummy pastries, and good company on your morning commute (if you are here in Portland) Join us around the Nation and around the world as we make a world of difference

Reflecting on Reverence

Solstice was great this year, the Solstice was the highlight of the season for me, notwithstanding the fact that I had to leave the festivities friends earlier than I would have liked to take a grumpy little boy home [my son, not a date]. It was real, and magical and everything that the over-commercialized, co-opted by corporations, commerce-driven holidaze have stopped being. Christmas was never about Christ for me (no offense to anybody, thats just not where I was at) but now the little tin god we are worshiping is commerce. Thats not ok.
For me, the holidays were always about community and connection, they were about reflecting and reconnecting, drawing closer to the people and ideals that we truly value. I miss that.

Leave it to the Canadians to come up with a delightful alternative
and a new carol to go with it
I hope to immigrate to Canada some day, in the mean time I am taking copious notes on the shape I want my observances, rituals; as well as my life, to take to take, and taking comfort in a blogging community that includes the likes of Tuco, Cycleing Dave, Joe, MinusCar
Zilla, and others. It is good to know that we are not alone in these dark days.

Learning to lead

We had a lovelt Solstice ride last night, my first ever attempt to lead an organized ride and I learned a lot along the way. There were a few bumps, the map did not match the lay of the land in some critical places, but everyone was cheerful and up for the adventure --and luckily a few folks knew the neighborhood better than the map makers. The main thing was we all had a good ride and a good time, I met some wonderful people ~perhaps one in particular? and at the end there was a yule fire warm drinks and friendly people to greet us. Cant beat that
I am already planning my next group ride!

In the mean time, heres a couple little songs for the season, from the folks at BikePortland

O Come all ye cyclists
(To the tune of o come all ye faithful)

O Come all ye cyclists,
joyful and triumphant
O come ye, o come ye by bicycle

Come and behold them
See what fun they’re having
O come let us stop driving
O come let us start riding
O come let us start riding
Our bi~cy~cles!

Bikes for the World
(to the tune of Joy to the World)

Bikes for the world! The time has come
Let earth receive clean air
Let every heart, beat steadily
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and heaven and nature sing

Bikes rule the road, with speed and grace
And make our nation free
From oil rigs and corporate greed
So ride your bicycle
So ride your bicycle
So ri~de, your bi~cyc~le!


Happy Solstice

Solstice Blessings

Love ie the most important thing in Life,
So whatever your Religion or Spiritual Path,
Give that to each other at this Turning of the year,
For Love is the Gift you can give when you have nothing else.

For Children and Parents, for Partners and Friends,
And for our beautiful Earth, whose Children we all are,
Love is needed, for Love brings about the successive
Generations with which Life can transcend Time itself.

With the Coming of the Dawn on the Day of the Young Light,
The Reborn Sun returns bringing the Light of the World.
May Its Light Guide you through the Seasons as they Turn,
And may Its Warmth fill your Hearts and Souls with Love.
And may It bring Peace to All Life on our troubled Planet.

To you all, have a happy Solstice and a Merry Yuletide.


Solstice Bike Ride, Thursday, 4pm

Let your light shine, bundle up and join us in cycling into the new solar cycle, leaving from Lents Park Community Garden (SE 88th & Steel) at 4pm for a magical myster tour of SE, with stops for a back yard yule fire, and a toast to the new season.


"I'll tell you everything I've learned, and love is all she said"

I have been cleaning and sorting through my very cluttered home, and my very cluttered life, and I have reached a conclution: I want less.
I want less stuff and more room. More room for friends and a partner and maybe even more children,
I want to laugh more, and love more, bike more, remember more
I want less stuff, less of all the material stuff that clutters our lives and clouds our thinking
Somewhere along the line, when I was still quite young, I got this notion that it was all about making a good living, making money, and that somehow there was something I could do or buy with that money that would make everything great.
It has taken me several decades to figure out, it's not about making money, it's about making a life, it's about making friends and making connections. My son is too young -or perhaps too wise- for this conversation, so I am telling you. Blessings bright and deep


Things You Never Thought You Could Do By Bike, But Actually Can #2

So, sure: trailers, racks and cargo bikes make it easy to pack groceries home, or even haul kids, pets and lumber. But what if you are actually moving out of your house, and need to move all your worldly goods. You need a moving van, right? I mean, you couldnt actually move house by bike . . . could you?

Yup, you could. And this past Wednesday, a bunch of us helped our friend Ernie do exactly that.

Here in Portland we have this thing called Move By Bike, and informal arrangments by which folks who are moving can post details to SHIFT's web site, and, in the tradition of an old time barn raising, cyclist will show up at the appointed hour and get you where you are going

So, Wednesday, under drizzly skies, a cheery group of about 8 cyclists -some of whome had never met Ernie- showed up with all manner of trailers, including the Bikes at Work trailer in the photo (above), and even a Dutch “Bakfiets”(below). We got everything from baskets of kitchen utensils to bed frames and chests of drawers loaded up and moved half a dozen or so miles to his new digs in just a few hours

*first 2 photos by the beautiful and talented Jonathan at BikePortland


Bike Adventure to Seattle

Despite a few bumps in the road (and delays on the tracks) The Boy and I had a good time in Seattle.
I have always loved trains, and I would love to be able to wax poetic about going by train with your bike, but I have to say, our experience was mixed, for example, the Station in Portland insisted we box the bikes (which required partially disassembling them and paying $10 for a bike box that was only slightly stouter than a grocery bag, Seattle allowed us to use the bike racks.
and in speaking with other cyclists who have traveled with their bikes on trains throughout the US, I heard more negative stories than positive one's.

In theory, cycling and train travel complement each other beautifully, and ought to offer a near perfect travel option for families traveling on a budget, as well as cycling enthusiast who want to be able to tour on two wheels. However, not knowing whether, or under what circumstances one might have to box one's bike is a huge deterant to cyclist going by train, at a time when Amtrak is desperate to increase ridership. The solution would seem to be a no-brainier, by catering consistently and respectfully to folks wishing to bring their (fully intact) bikes, Amtrak could greatly increase ridership, improve rider satisfaction and word-of-mouth, while contributing to the reduction of pollution Nationally. It would be a win-win situation, if only they were willing.

In the mean time, here are a few tips:
*Make your bike reservation during the same transaction in which you pay for your tickets. Tell them you want a bike rack.
*There are only 6 racks on each train, so make reservations early
*Racks can accommodate standard sized bikes, but tandems, long tails, and cargo bikes need to be boxed
*The racks CAN accommodate Adams Trail-a-Bikes, but individual stations may or may not agree to put them on racks
*Check in early, at least an hour before your train is scheduled to depart, so that you will have time to sort out any issues without missing your train.
*Do not assume that all stations on your trip will have the same policies, or that all employees will interpret them consistantly. One station (or a given emplyee) may insist on doing it one way, another may be more flexible. So check and double check, and be prepared with fall-back plans.
The best bet is to visit the station a day or 2 before your trip with the bike(s) you intend to bring, and speak to the Amtrak staff.
When I had called the Amtrak info line before the tip and described our bike/trail-a-bike set up, they insisted that both bikes be shipped; I think part of why Seattle allowed us to use the racks is that we arrived at the station for our return trip with the unboxed bikes, well ahead of our trains departure time. When the staff saw our bike/trail-a-bike set up they clearly understood that both bikes could be accomedated on the racks; Seeing is believing I guess.

If You DO Need to Box:
Avoid buying one from Amtrak, instead get a shipping box from your local bike shop, or put one together from refrigerator boxes. Either way, it will be a hundred times stouter, and certainly more affordable
Building a box allows you to size it to your bike, so that you will not need to remove pedals, swivel handlebars etc. All of which is a real chore.
The folks at Amtrak tell me that the box need not be a standard bike box size, as long as there is only one bike per box, the box clearly indicates it contains a bike (write "BIKE" on the side with a sharpie) and the box weighs no more than 50#

The photo shows the bike box I was forced to purchase (on the right), in taters and shored up with duct tape, next to the one I was able to get from the bike shop. This shot was taken, before they were loaded on the first train at the beginning of our trip, the purchased box was falling apart before we even got it to the station, while the free shipping box, already used to ship a bike cross country, survived my bringing it home through the rain, and was still in fine shape at the end of the train ride

The Up Side
I can think of no better way to See Seattle, or just about any other town, than by bike. The Boy and I were able to zip along the waterfront, zip over to the museums and up to Pike Place market. No worries about figuring out the bus systems, or the expense of cabs, we were free to move about the city at will, and see far more than we would have under any other circumstances. It was a blast. We also had a handy bike rack on with which to carry souvenirs.

We had planned to catch the ferry to Bainbridge Island, but there was work being done on the tracks in route, resulting in delays and our getting into Seattle too late for the ferry. Absent the bikes I'm not sure what we would have done with the little time we had, but because we had the bikes we were able to get around easily and see more than we otherwise would have.


A Sunday Ramble

It was meant to be a quiet Sunday spent puttering about the house; ah, the best laid plans.

As I was cleaning and greasing the Trail-A-Bike, in preperation for our train adventure, the axel started malfunctioning, which nessesitated packing it up and running it over to the bike co-op in the Xtracycle. It's a 6 mile trip to the bike shop, past the library, the food co-operative, various other shops. SO, having gone all that way, the return trip became a gauntlet of errands, some done largely to get out of the rain showers that were passing through.

By the time I got home I had stoped at the library and the video rental place, picked up groceries and done some holiday shopping.

So much for putting my feet up and having a restful day. Here is a shot of my trusty steed at one of the stops. Yup, that IS a bike box stapped to the Xtracycle, I picked it up at the co-op for shippin the bike on Amtrak. God I love my Wide Loaders


Go By Train

The Boy and I are planning our first out of State bike adventure! It started quite by accident, as all the best adventures do, a homeschool group of which we arnt even really a part had space on a group train excursion, Portland to Seattle and back. The Boy has been obsessed with trains almost since birth, I have an over-active sense of wander-lust, so at $18 round trip for the two of us, we could hardly say no.

We are dusting off the Montana and Trail-a-Bike for this trip, The Boy has not quite exceeded the weight restrictions for it, though he will soon, and I kinda miss riding tandem. The Xtracycle is an amazing joy, and marvelous for hauling stuff, but for touring around one of my favorite cities, having a stoker will be nice. I have also noticed that The Boy has a tendency to get cold on the X, even when I am comfortable, and my theory is that lack of pedaling on his part means he isn't generating enough heat. Bike vacations are not as much fun when you are too cold, so hopefully going tandem will mean that we both stay worm, and neither of us wears out too much.

Due to the fact that the reservations were already made, are not in my name, and are for a group, I will be boxing and checking the bikes, which has me a little nervous. It will mean loosening bolts so that that the handlebars can be turned, so some assembly will be required on arrival, and theres the whole notion of shipping one of my babies, but I have heard good reports about Amtrak from other cyclist, so I am hoping for the best. If the Montana can handle a collision with a big ugly SUV, I guess it is up for a ride on a train.

We will just be there for the afternoon, about five hours total. I had hoped to meet up with an old friend who lives there, but alas, she has to work. This only adds to my sense of decadence in taking a day out to galavant about on a train, for no other reason than it will make my son and I happy. But I guess you gotta do that once in a while

We leave bright and early Tuesday morning, The Boy plans to take tons of photos, and we'll be sure to post the best ones


I have been tagged

So heres how it works:
List six weird things about yourself. Strange habits, likes/dislikes, et cetera.
Pick six victims to tag likewise. Leave comments so they’ll know what’s up.
Describe how the tagging works.
I am tagging cyclingdave, John at Bike Year, Wisteria, Trista at Accedent of Hope, Tuco, Tim at Bicycles and Iceicles

For reasons I will spare y'all, I am stuck on the notion of irony and inconsistency, and this is reflected in my list o'six. Can I just say that inconsistency is not the same as irony, nor are ether the same as inequity. People are forever wanting life to be fair (equitable), which it has never been; and for humans to be consistent, which they never have been. Thats not ironic, thats just how it is.

But I digress

Weird things about me, oh my, how to choose?

Although I am a dyed in-the-wool, bleeding heart, tree hugging, rabble-rousing left-wing nut; in high school I had a mad crush on William F. Buckley Jr. (I was in high school a VERY long time ago) The first time I ever saw him, before I knew anything about him, he was speaking on Public Television and taking a passionate stand for being able to back up one's opinions with reason and insight. He was saying, in essence, “don't hold strong opinions about issues if you cant defend them” (although he said it far more eloquently) Even after I found out he was an uber conservitive Rebublican, there was just something about his stinging intelect, and in the fact that he stood for everything I apposed, and yet we held this core value in common, that I found strangely compelling. Ironically, I would later marry someone with whome I shared basic likes and interests, but did not share core values. Perhaps I should have stuck it out with Buckley.

I have an odd facination about those moments when digital clock reads, for example, 10:10, or 5:55, theres something about the alignment of those digits. The notion of 11:11, November 11th, 2011 [11:11 11/11/11] just does something for me I cant explain. I know, it's weird.

Given my druthers, I would be barefoot 24/7, but if I must don footwear, I tend to go for knee high, lace-up boots. Doc Martins, Combat, shit-kickers. Go figure.

I consider myself very tolerant, I was raised on the credo “I may disagree with what you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”; I am generally open to the myriad ways people choose to live, worship, etc. I have stood by friends during public scandal and Federal trials. But I do not tolerate lies or deception. period.

I am all about eating healthy, local organic food, I alternate between being vegan and vegetarian.
But I have a dark secrete: a fast food fetish. I occasionally get these mad cravings for fast food. When I was pregnant I gave into obsessive urges to eat KFC mashed potatoes and gravy, and to this day, every once in a while, I will pass some greasy spoon and get an overwhelming urge for a cheese burger, fried chicken, or whatever. So far, I have been able to “pedal through it”

I cant sleep unless there is a radio playing NPR in the background. Seriously. Thats not ironic, it's just how it is


'Here Comes The Sun . . .'

I cant remember the last time there was a cycling event in my neck of the woods (outter SE Portland). So, with the Solstice fast approaching, I got this crazy idea that I should organize a bike ride to celebrate the return of the sun.

Solstice Ride
December 21st
Leaving from Lents Park
at 4:00pm for a magical mystery tour of SE Portland, with stops for a Yule-fire, and a toast to the new season

The ride will cover a dozen or so relitively flat miles, winding through a couple of neighborhoods. It IS the shortest day (and Longest night) of the year, so appease the gods and adorne your bike in abundant and creative lighting. If you are in the neighborhood, join us!

Fast away the old year passes
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses
Sing we joyous all together
Heedless of the wind and weather