"Why Am I Soft In The Middle, When The Rest of My Life Is So Hard?"

Here is a stunningly embarrassing example of how I am not "all that"

Nursing this bum knee, and juggling all the insanity of The Boy's medical stuff, I have gone lazy and slack. There may be those out there who can hold to multiple commitments and obligations simultaneously, honoring each with their unwavering time and attention and letting nothing slip through the cracks. I am not among their ranks.
I get distracted. I can be nearly brilliant at just about anything, as long as thats all I am doing. But life intrudes: I get a handle on the Mom Thing, only to find I have dropped the ball on my own education; I get going with a plan for eating local, and loose my living room to a flood of clutter; I fine-tune the bike commute routine, only to blow out my knee.

I have been letting myself off easy on the cycling while I trying to mend my knee, and in the mean time a million other demands began tugging at my sleeves like needy children, including my own needy Boy. It is only in the past few weeks that I have begun to have faith that my knee might really be getting better, and it is still not 100%. So, I was not a great candidate for a chaleenging ride in the boonies.

It was an accident

Originally, the ride had been proposed by a member of my soup-swap group, who had the delightful idea of a pedal-powered berry picking trip to Sauvie's island, I could have gotten myself and my bike onto the island via the bus, leaving a leasurly and flat ride of fewer than half a dozen miles total, on flat familiar terrain.
That was a beautiful plan.

The plan evolved over time, under influences I still don't grock, shifting to a proposal for a ride leaving from a different point and heading a completely different trajectory, through uncharted territory. But still with the option of a mass transit assist for the first leg and still involving berry picking. Frankly, there were reasons to bail at this point: I had dropped the ball on finding child care, knew that The Boy wasn't keen to come along, and I had a million other things to do. But I REALLY wanted those blueberries. And I really wanted a break form my myriad obligations. I kinda wanted to run away, with or without my kid. Half a dozen miles was do-able . . .

The morning of the ride was like Murphy's Law run a muck. I cant even begin to tell you. The dryer had failed to sufficiently dry our clothes, so we were not ideally dressed for the freakishly hot weather; the bike-with-Trail-A-Bike I had intended for us to ride had technical difficulties, so at the very last minute we had to switch to the Xtracycle, the heaviest bike I own and one The Boy can not help pedal. It went on like that. All morning. A real argument could have been made for bagging it and staying home. A very good argument. I wasn't really thinking straight, I had a bit of a crush on one of the riders.

Of course, it might have helped if I had ingested even one carbohydrate before the ride. Instead, all I had was coffee ~talk about running on empty! I forgot that old credo of "be prepared", even more important for cyclists than scouts!
But then, when I left the house, I thought I was going to ride a mile or two to a U-pick farm where there would be plenty of fresh ripe goodies to nosh on.
Thats not what happened.

I did allow The Boy to get packaged snacks to take on the road (don't bother writing in about the environmental impact of packaging or how it is inconsistent to shun the petrol in cars but purchase it in packaging. I know. I know. I am failible, like the rest of the human race)

Unbeknownst to me, the destination had changed, again, and somehow, I got hoodwinked into a much, MUCH tougher ride than I had signed up for. I don't quite remember how. I think it had something to do with wanting to avoid embarrassment, an effort that failed spectacularly.

Along the way:
there was a flat tire.
there were many unspeakably steep grades and miles of bad road.
the tires on the bike I was riding went out from under me on a stretch of gravel
an empty bottle was tossed at me from a passing truck
I ended up walking the bike part of the way

It was so #@%*ing humiliating

Also, there were no blueberries, at any point; no berry picking of any kind at all.

On up side, I did buy the sweetest peaches I have ever tasted in my life and a flat of succulent raspberries from a road side stand, and met a farmer who turned out to be one of the kindest souls I have ever met. He even brought us bottled water from his house and refused any payment for it.

My knee seems to have survived the mad adventure with no ill effects, and I cant remember the last time I was so proud of my son, who also survived. We both got to face down an inexplicable adventure, and never once lost our cool with each other. Despite getting up close and personal with just how outta shape I am, I did manage to I secured fresh, local produce, purchased directly from the farmer, and ferried it home on the back of my bike -zero food miles!

So, if you were thinking that I have the "it" on this whole cycling/sustainable living/right livelihood thing: oh, honey ~so not true. I fall painfully short, in so many ways. But heres the thing: it is not about perfection, it is not about getting it right every time; it is about making an effort, and making the commitment to begin where we are, and do our best in the circumstances we find ourselves in. We begin here. It begins with you and me, in all our imperfections.


The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

By Berry, Wendell

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.


City to City

The Boy and I have been making the trek from Portland to Seattle by train with such frequency and duration that I recently mused to someone that I was loosing my sense of which end of the junket was home and which the visit. It has been interesting learning to navigate a new town car-free: both cities have their own charms, advantages and disadvantages when it comes to cycle-centric travel.
Along the way we are learning a great deal about traveling with bikes ~and traveling in general.

If your main purpose is tourism, then arriving with your bike by train in either of these cities can be a great way to get around the downtown core and see a lot of sites, peddling allows you to take in the sites in a way that driving just can't, it is easy to make quick stops when something catches your eye or strikes your fancy, asking for directions from passers by is greatly simplified, and there are no worries about parking when you get to a spot you want to linger at.

Our experience has been that the secrete to taking bikes on Amtrak is maintaining a calm, matter-of-fact attitude when interacting with the railway staff. Think Obi Wan Kenobi in the original Starwars film. When one Amtrak employee bulked at our trail-a-bike, I used the Obi voice as I assured him that "they uncouple and hang on the bike racks, it's never been a problem"

Aside from that, there are the basics: make your reservations as early as possible, arranging for the bike[s] at the same time you purchase your ticket. You will be issued tickets for your bike[s] as well as the humans in your party.
Arrive at the station half an hour to an hour before your train is due to depart, check in. Assure them you have taken your bike[s] dozens of times and it has never been a problem. In our case, it has gotten to the point where this one particular baggage guy will come over if he spots us, and load our bikes for us. Sweet.

Folks in Portland do not seem to fully believe me when I describe the hills in Seattle. Hear me now and believe me later: the hills go straight up! Riding up Pine street from Pike Place Market requires one to defy the laws of physics. Oh, you laugh now, but just you wait!

Luckily, the buses in Seattle are great, as are most of their drives, and they serve well as the cyclist's equivalent of a ski lifts. A few pointers:
If you have bike buckets on your bike's front rack, under no circumstances should you leave them on the bike when it is loaded onto the bus racks. You just cant imagine the carnage that can ensue Remove the buckets before the bus arrives, load you bike onto the buses rack, and carry your buckets inside.
If you come across a bus driver who refuses to allow you to bring your folded trail-a-bike into the bus, remember 2 things: 1) mean people are suffering inside, this individual deserves your compassion -ok, tolerance; and 2) the folded trail-a-bike can, if need be, ride on the bus's rack. If at all possible, load the trail-a-bike in the spot nearest the bus (not necessary, but it gives you a margin of error) , hook the rack's arm over the folded trail-a-bike (I will try to get a photo for ya), say a silent prayer for the grumpy, unreasonable driver. Your bikes will be fine and you will soon be free of this suffering soul -they, on the other hand, have to live with themselves permanently.

Oh, and as to not knowing which end of the junket is home: shortly after returning from our last trip to Seattle, my bike was stolen. I still had the Xtracycle (thank goodness), but I can't use that one for the trips to Seattle, and we had another appointment in less than a month. I reported the theft to all the appropriate authorities, and then -as is the custom in this cycling community- posted the theft to a couple of local listservs, as well as posting “stolen bike' fliers around town. We do this mainly to have more eyes out there watching for the missing bikes, and make it harder for thieves to fence stolen bikes.

Anyway, several folks who know me, know the boy, and know how desperately important our trips to Seattle are leapt to action and before I knew it I had 2 bikes to replace the one.

The first replacement bike is an old school Raleigh designed for racing, it is the lightest and nimblest bike I have ever ridden which apparently had be languishing in someones basement when they heard I needed a bike. It gets me places in record time, but doesn't handle being loaded down with cargo at all. We took it to Seattle once, where it became clear that -for all it's charms- this was not our going-to-Seattle bike.

I didn't want to complain about a gift bike, but I couldn't afford to replace the stolen mountain bike, when Peter at City bikes came riding to my rescue like the proverbial white Knight. He had picked up a second hand Jamis Mountain bike, very similar to my missing KMS, which I suspect he was originally planning to fix up for the shop to sell, instead he fixed it up for me and refused to accept a cent for it. Yeah, this is home, and this cycling community is family.


Bike Bucket DIY

Several folks have asked about how to make bike buckets, and as luck would have it I've had occasion to make another pair, so here are the step-by-step photos I didn't get last time.
This project has got to be the easiest DIY project ever ~seriously, my dog could do it if he had thumbs. Basically, you slap a couple hooks on a reclaimed plastic bucket and go. It is quite nearly impossible to mess up, and I bet they would work even if you did, but you asked for specific instructions, and you shall have them.

In addition to being easy, Bike Buckets are also the ultimate commuting tool: perfect for carrying clothes, groceries ~almost anything. Here, at last, is a way to pick up berries, bananas, and yogurt on your bike, and not have an accidental smoothie when you arrive home!

The hardware for my pair of buckets cost me about $10 (this included packages of nuts and bolts that have left me with an ample surplus for other projects). The buckets themselves may cost you a couple bucks as well, depending on where you get them, however, given that a "pre-fab" pair from a bike shop will set you back about $50, it is well worth the $10 to make your own.

For each pair you will need:
2 buckets (check your local food co-op or restaurant for cast-offs)
4 coat hooks or utility hooks
2 “S” hooks
bungee cords, or other other elastic devices
nuts, bolts, and washers

A drill makes fast work of the project, but you can easily work around it's absence if you don't have one. Likewise, a utility knife and measuring device of some sort come in handy. The buckets are available from almost any co-op, restaurant or other food-service outfit (they are used for bulk peanut butter, tahinni, honey, etc.); you can also use kitty litter buckets, as I did.

Hold the bucket against the rack on your bike (you will need to have some kind of rack on your bike to carry buckets) There is really no right or wrong placement, just a matter of personal preference. Mark your chosen location for the hooks on the bucket with a sharpie pen.

In my case, I wanted the bucket lids to rest just above the edge of my rack, getting things to line up the way I wanted them to required cutting a couple of notches in one of the ridges circling the bucket: this is where the utility knife comes in! This photo shows the notches cut and hooks installed.

Making the second bucket goes quick: line up the two buckets and use the holes you have drilled in the first bucket as a template for drilling the holes on the second.

Don't forget to attach the washers and nuts inside --that's important! Here you see the bolts nutted and the knots knotted. If you plan to load down the buckets with text books, tools, buckets of paint, etc. you may want to reinforce the bucket by putting in a metal plate (the hardware store will have pre-drilled plates)

Now you need to attach the elastic strap and hook that will keep your buckets from bouncing off. It's so simple: pop a couple of small holes or slits in the bucket, thread a bungee cord or inner tube through, add an "S" hook, and your good to go. I got fancy and put the holes under the "lip" of the bucket, but don't stress out, you can put 'em just about anywhere. I also went all-out by installing a horizontal strap, just like they put on the official bike shop bike buckets, that the "S" hook strap passes under before attaching to the rack. It reduces "wiggling", especially with heavier loads, and generally keep things more secure, but is not essential.

The "S" hook strap, on the other hand, is essential: it hooks to the bottom of your bike's rack and keeps the buckets from bouncing off. Having threaded the inner tubes (or whatever you are using) through the holes in the bucket, tie them off (If you feel uncertain about how long to make your stretchy straps, leave yourself some slack behind the knots, so you can make adjustments later if need be), hook the "S" hooks onto the strap and use a wrench to tighten it on a bit. easy-peasy. Looks something like this when your done.


Sprocket Smoothies, and local politico Sam Adams, whiped up cycling excitment and over 100 organic fruit smoothies at Portland's Bike to Work day in Pioneer Square. They say that behind every great man is a great woman, in this case that me at the back of the bike. The photo was taken by the brillient and talented Jonathan Maus, who has a great write up on this event on his blog BikePortland

Steve Solves Sidecar Steering Situation

Thanks to Steve in Nova Scotia, the side car now maneuvers like a dream! The key was, as he suspected, removing the "inside" wheel of the car. My theory is that the side car will offer some added safety while riding, as the increased width and mass will make us far more visible, and force motorists to shove over. Luckily for us, Oregon law grants cyclists the full lane (absent bike lanes), and I have found I am (or at least feel) safer when I take the lane.

I had thought seriously about comming up with some kind of pivoting system, as another contributor suggested, but a)couldn't quite figure out how to do it, b)had been given an equally persuasive argument to NOT have pivots c) removing the middle wheel was quick, easy, and worked like a charm.

The day dawned gorgous, all sunshine and blue skies, and having been loligagin around the house for the past several days I couldnt wait to get out for a ride. I was trying to coax The Boy into coming with me when he shocked my socks off by asking if we could try the sidecar! Well why not? (it's hard to see in the photo, but he is cuddling his cat, who came up to see what the heck the kid was doing)

It worked like a dream, even with all 60+ pounds of boy in it ~and boy, did we attract attention! With it being such a nice day, many folks were out on their bikes, and several folks actually stopped us to ask about the rig, many more smiled and waved, or gave us thumbs up. We felt like celebrities!

We made a stop at Goodwill, and as I was locking up the bike, I had a wonderful chat with a German fellow who began the conversation with "Hey, can I have a ride in that?" If he had not been traveling with a lovely young lady, and I with my son, I might have picked him up. In stead, The Boy and I went in and found ~wait for it~ a bean bag chair! in his favorite color blue and the works! Yes, we did pop it on the side car and road home with him, quite literally, in the lap of luxury.

The beanbag has pockets on either side for The Boy to stash snacks, in this case, a soft pretzel. I dont know what the waight capacity for the sidecar is, I'm a little concerned though, the kid is lookin mighty comfortible there, he may never want to ride his own bike again!

In this shot you can see that the rail on the right side of the bean bag is a bit wabbly, tending to lean in a bit. The Burley flatbed is designed to disassemble and fold flat easily, which is great if your main concern is storage space. I have bolted the left rail ridgedly into possition, and plan to do the same to that limp right side rail this weekend, when I will also begin working on the "box"

tune in next time for the amazing adventures of "Biofuel* Mamma & The Boy" . . .

(*cyclists are the ultimate biofule vehicle, and the only sustainable one)


Sidecar Update

Having gotten the important pieces bolted down, I couldn't resist taking the sidecar out for a test drive.
The Boy took one look at it and declared "I am NOT getting in that!" Not sure if it was the fact that it is still a flatbed shell of a thing, just a bit more substance than idea at this point; or if it is that he has always been the "grown up" in the family. Anyway, I tossed a bag of compost on the side car for balast, and took it out for a spin. Heres where we are at:

* It has the turning radius of a tank

* The side car has a tendency to "push" the bike towards the curb (away from the side car)

* The outside wheel of the sidecar has a tendency to lift up off the pavement

I am not an engineering genius, and am hoping someone out there is and can offer some feedback.
I wonder if, in my concern about attaching the sidecar securely, that I have made the connection too ridged? Right now the front of the side car attaches to the bike frame with a standard Burley trailer hitch, the back attaches to the back of the Xtracycle frame through a pipe inserted into the Xtracycle frame, with the other end bolted to the back of the sidecar.
The sidecar is on the left side of the bike, and turning right is difficult.

Mover's Lament

Spring is altogether the worst time for me to consider moving from this place. Granted, there are a dozen good reasons, and several flimsy ones, for me to do so; but all those reason existed over the winter, and that would have been the time to make the leap. Now everything is budding up and blooming: the apple tree, grafted with three different varieties of apples, has that certain complexion that it gets this time of year, whispering promises of bumper crops that will last from lat spring to early winter. I always have both the earliest and latest apple crops of anyone I know. The asian pear is filling out so nicely this year, and coming into it's own. Thr fig tree in front yard is already making noises about the first of the two crops of sweet, decadent fruit it will produce this year; if I move on schedule, I will miss both harvests. The raspberry canes, which had their first crop just last year, are bursting forth with new growth and spring leaves, all fresh and new and brimming with both the memories of last years crop, and hints of an even better one this year, the grape vines are just beginning to stir and shake off the winters dormancy, like the raspberries, they had their first harvest last season, after years of tender nurturing, how can I leave now when I am literally just beginning to see the fruits of my labor?

The wide expanse of sunny garden space beckons, mocking the postage stamp yards I have seen in the co-housing group's real estate search. Even in it's naked, unplanted state, it rivals anything I have seen elsewhere in the city.

Sure, the neighbors suck, the location is too far away from everything else I do, and the rooms are haunted by years of lies, deceptions, and betrayal; my marriages is buried here, along with a number of beloved pets. But here, too, is the herb garden, bursting with medicinal plants, that I put in when I was first learning to make salves and remedies. The fledging native plants edging the Northern side of the house, planted to support local wild life, here too is the soil, black and teeming with furtility forged by my two hands. The walls my son and I painted together. Here is the place I came to believing it to be the place I would grow old. It is just waking up from it's long sleep, to find me thinking of being on my way.

Sure, there are a dozen good reasons, and several flimsy ones, for me to go, but it would be much easier to considier doing so if it wernt spring.


Spring Time & The Mother of Invention

Well, spring has sprung here at our little urban homestead, bringing with it all manner of projects, activities and refections on the meaning of it all.

I went out to check for eggs this morning, having not done so for a while, and found that the girls have at last started laying! There was, in fact, a bumper crop of eggs, guess they are making up for lost time. At this point it appears that it may just our duck who is laying at the moment, with luck Henrietta hen will join her soon.

I am making slow progress on my latest bike related project: Around the first of the year I got it in my head to create some sort of trailer or other kid/cargo enclosing device that would allow me to ferry the Boy through foul weather, and also allow me to transport large bulky items that I don't want to have get wet. So, a while back, I picked up a Burley flatbed trailer as a base from which to work. At the time I was thinking of something tow-able, but as I began tinkering and researching, the project morphed (on paper) through a number of incarnations, finally evolving into a sidecar arrangement.

Some of my “bikey” associates think I am coddling the Boy, that he should pedal like the rest of us, rather than getting a free ride. Maybe he should, but the Boy has a liver condition, which I have not discussed much, here or in life, because it is rather depressing. He is less robust than most 12 year olds, and very sensitive to temperature drops and the like. He HATES getting wet or cold, and his kvetching really detracts from my enjoyment of our rides. I figure that going by bike (in any form) is better for him than traveling in a smog-mobile, even if I were willing to operate one, and by making cycling pleasant for him I may be instilling longterm habits.

One reason for a sidecar, rather than a trailer, is it will allow the Boy and I to chat while riding, I love being able to do this when he rides behind me on the Xtracycle's snap deck. The main deterent to the sidecar idea was the puzzle of how to attach it securely without permanently altering or damaging the bike. But after tinkering with the Burly a bit, I found that the hitch and arm are easily detached from each other, and from the trailer body, by removing a couple of bolts; meaning I could alter how the trailer attached to the bike without damaging or permanently altering it . This was a fabulous discovery, as I am reluctant to make permanent changes before knowing that the sidecar will work.

With the hitch removed from the arm of the trailer, it was possible to attach a piece of EMT tubing on to the hitch, and attach the other end to the trailer. A second piece of tubing connects the back of the trailer to the Xtracycle frame. The final puzzle will be putting together the "box", which will hold the Boy/cargo. Not so much a challenge from an engineering or carpentry stand point, but simply in terms of finding the time and energy.

The Boy is hoping to have a bean bag as a seat, although unconventional and -I think- decandent, this arrangement would make switching between passenger and cargo use a snap. I will be making bike-powered smoothies at this years Earth Day celebration, and hope to have the sidecar done in time to use for that ~I figure, if I am going to loose a load, or have the trailer malfunction, better to have it happen with an inanimate load on board.


Thoughts on Transformation

After spending the better part of the past decade in pursuit of the credentials to be an Art Therapist, now that I am closing in on the goal I find myself loosing faith in the whole notion of therapy. Well, not therapy itself, because I know it can be a powerful tool for change; nor do I doubt the potential people have to change, grow and evolve. But heres the thing: in my experience, they just don't want to.

We all develop defense and coping mechanism that, almost invariably, turn against us. We have all seen it, in our own lives and in others: we all know people who grew up being hassled by bullies and thugs, and are still doing battle with them today ~except, the perpetrators are decades gone. Today the innocent folks who trip their hair triggers are mystified and confused by their defensiveness. Far from protection, this pattern of behavior serves to alienate potential allies and friends. I know so many people who, rather than seeking to evolve, insist that others except them exactly as they are, anger issues and all. They want everyone else to change, so that they dont have to. I have been such a person. This seems to be the possition taken by the majority of folk. Like the man I know who is so scared and debilitated by being abandoned, first by his mother and then by a girlfriend, that he is unable to commit to any woman. He makes any woman who wants that commitment feel wrong. These issues are by no means insurmountable ~unless one refuses to change; and that is what most people choose to do.

Far be it from me to foist transformation on anybody. Though I believe that humans are not only capable of change, but that these transformations are an essential part of what makes us human, I am not interested in forcing anybody to be fully human. I don't want to play the heavy, and I don't want to be useless. There is precious little I can imagine worse than being useless ~being a serial killer perhaps, or a fascist, but not much else. My skills as a therapist would seem to be exactly that. The cure only helps if you take it.

Into this tangle of darkness and doubt, a fair-haired young man ~or he was a young man~ has appeared, like a beacon. He is not a young man now, but he was, and a wild one at that. He was the Kurt Cobain of my high school, our very own Drug Store Cowboy; the boy most likely to crash and burn, a boy who had experienced more tragedy and loss in the first decade and a half of his life than most people experience in a lifetime. He was a boy who struck fear and sadness in the hearts of the staff, not because they feared him, but they were afraid for him; as he was hell bent and single-minded on his path to self-destruction. There was literally every reason in the book for him to fail, and no reasonable hope of him living to adulthood.

But live he did. He lived, he grew up, he spent time in the desert. I don't know if he got therapy, art or otherwise, but I do know that he chose transformation, and in doing so chose life.

Twenty years after high school, through a strange and complicated series of events, he and I found ourselves in a local coffee shop, with our kids. The out of control 'bad boy' who used to bring orange juice laced with vodka (given the relative proportions, one might better describe it as vodka laced with orange juice) to school, now cradled his youngest son in his lap, with an tenderness and presence that nearly moved me to tears. While his older son played Yu-gi-oh cards with my son, we caught each other up on the past two decades.

He is happily married; he is in collage, and almost as passionate about his studies as he is about his family. He could have insisted that the rest of the world work around his issues and change to accommodate his wounds, but, if he had, he wouldnt have this amazing life, and he and I wouldn't have been sitting in that coffee shop, sharing insights about school, parenting, and creating one's best life. He has owned, and changed, his “stuff”; and in doing so has found wholeness and happiness in this personal transformation. I believe doing so has saved his life.

If it could happen once, in a life as unlikely as his, it could happen again, and next time I want to be there when it does.


Giving up the meaningless for Lent

I heard a very interesting piece on NPR recently about the notion of Lent, advocating that -rather than giving up chocolate or the like - that we give up for the inconsequential and meaningless in order to focus on things of real importance.
For a number of reason I find myself applying this notion to my own life,

It is less about "spring cleaning" and more about reflecting on that which I surruound myself with, and reconnecting to those things that truely resonate with me, and those people people who reflect and support my core values. Finding what resonates with me and letting the rest fall away. Because the problem with clutter isnt is not so much that it covers the good stuff, but it interfiers with one's connection to the good stuff, and thus our connection with ourselves.

I have been looking into several Co-Housing opportunities, a couple of which would offer far less personal space than I currently have. Although the one that would reduce The Boy and I to sharing one room is doubtless impractical, in looking at the space I am using, and how I am using it, I see that I could do with far less space and stuff. Like so many Americans, I am a bit of a pack-rat, and much of the stuff filling my current space is not truely meaningful to me. I am becoming aware of the extent to which clutter (whether pysical, mental, psychological or metiphorical) impeds our ability to enjoy the precious things we have, and blocks the arrival of truely meaningful things (be they material objects, people or ideas). The treasures get burried, and new things we might treasure have no place to land, literally or figuritivly.

Not sure I will ever qualify as a minimalist, and that may not be te point, but I believe there is value in weeding out the superfulous and unnessisary, and tending the roots of what really matters.


A Revolution of One

Although I am intrigued by the Branson/Gore plan to reward inventors who come up with devices to remove carbon from the air, I have enough experience as a mom to understand that the most effective way of dealing with a mess is not to make it in the first place. Prevention is worth a pound of cure, or in this case, a ton of carbon.

So while the geeks are tinkering with their gadgets, lets take our cue from those prophetic lyrics of that Mr Rodger's classic and "think of something to do while we're waiting" It wont get me the 25 million dollar prize, but it might provide my son with a planet to grow old on, so here is my plan for eliminating 1,000,000,000 tons of carcinogens and greenhouse gases by the end of 2010.

Over its lifetime, one compact fluorescent bulb prevents 1,000 - 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from heating the atmosphere, they also last far longer than traditional bulbs. My home has about 10 fictures that use light bulbs, so just by switching to compact fluorescents (as I did a few years ago) I am eliminating over 10,000 pounds of carbon from the air annually, or about 30,000 by 2010. If every American home changed just 5 high use light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs, together we'd keep more than one TRILLION pounds of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.

Due to my bum knee, I am cycling a bit less at the moment, but I still get in half a dozen or so miles a day, and use mass transit for the rest. As noted in an earlier post (and the point can not be emphasized enough) replacing just 20 car miles a week (less than 4 each day) eliminates one ton of carbon from the atospere annually per cyclist. One individual, replacing just 4 car miles a day with cycling, will eliminate over 4 tons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere by 2010, on their own, while running errands and doing daily tasks. In essence, they will save the world in their spare time.

Census data indicates that there are approximately 200,436,329 Americans between the age of 15 and 65, the age range within which most people are operating cars. If each of those Americans were to replace 20 miles of driving with 20 miles of cycling each week, the United states could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 200,000,000 tons annually. 800,000,000 by 2010

If every household in America replaced just one 4-pack of virgin fiber toilet paper with 100% recycled, together we could save 1.22 million trees, 537 million gallons of water, 5.1 million cubic feet of landfill space, and avoid 230,000 pounds of pollution.

Trees are the lungs of the earth, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and releasing oxygen. I don't have a number for how much C02 per tree, but I have no doubt that it is a good number, which is why all the paper products I use, from printer paper to TP is recycled

So, by using compact fluorescent bulbs, replacing a handful of car miles with cycling,and using recycled paper products, I personally will eliminate some 5 tons of Co2 and other greenhouse pollutants from the atmosphere by 2010. No new gadgets, no million dollar budget, no government program, just me and my choices. If the 200,436,329 Americans between the age of 15 and 65 were to do the same, it would add up to the elimination of over 1,000,000,000 tons of carcinogens and greenhouse gases by 2010.

You personally, on your own, could eliminate over 5 tons in that time, without any major lifestyle changes, without giving up much of anything. That is real, and significant, and perhaps most important, immediately attainable.
We have what we need, right now, to make the difference. You have the power to save the world

Additional Co2 reduction can be acieved by eating and shopping locally, choosing organic foods and foods with minimal packaging, weatherizing your home and conserving energy, and recycling. The average American generates about 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide every year from personal transportation, home energy use and from the energy used to produce all of the products and services we consume, but we are capable of being so much better than average.

for more information on how to reduce you environmental footprint, check out this link


Happy (Chinese) New Year

All sorts of things are coming into alignment for me at the moment, new beginnings, final endings; cycles of all sorts coming full circle. I began this blog a year ago, near the start of the Chinese New Year, which is apon us once again. It is the year of The Boar, the same place on the Chinese calendar when my son was born, and much is happening related to The Boy, and parenting him.
Many things coming together, both Yin and Yang, and several are weighing heavy on my soul. Among them are these two:

The first is a number:One Ton. A few weeks ago, as part of a cycling advocacy project I was working on, I was doing research and crunching numbers related to auto emissions. Math has never been my fortay, but in the interest of cycling advocacy ~and bullet-proof stats~ I did some calculations, and the result has been haunting me. The point of the exercise was to illustrate the value and impact of replacing even a small number of car miles with cycling, in doing the reseach I found that automobiles produce between 1000 and 2,500 lbs of C02 per 1000 miles, with the average car trip being less than 10 miles. This makes individual transportation choices a very powerful and very effective means of reducing Greenhouse gases. An individual who replaces just 20 miles of driving per week with cycling literally eliminates the release of over a ton of greenhouse gases annually. One ton of C02.

This is, of course, great news: absent good government, policy changes or a giant carbon zapper in the sky, individuals can eliminates literally tons of toxins and carcinogens by riding less than 4 miles a day. I find that this knowledge is making me hyper~conscience of any time I make any use if a motor vehicle in any fashion. If I ask The Boy's father to come pick him up from my house, rather than dropping our son at his office by bike, thats 6 miles. If I accept a ride to school from a fellow student, thats 10 miles. Those choices add up, both ways.

The second thing tickling my brain happened on the precipice of this New Year, I met a man who has never bought so much as a single gallon of gas ~not ever. Now in his 30's, he has been riding a bike since childhood, and has never owned a car. I like to think of myself as a radical visionary who thinks outside the box and is able to imagine the most unfathomable and unlikely of alternatives. But the notion of someone never once succumbed to the automobile at any point in their life, to have lived car free from day one. Apparently, it can be done, and I live in a town with a guy who is doing it. I am in awe.

Perhaps it is my connection to the Year of the Boar, the Year my magical boy was born, or the fact that celebrating the new year at a time when you can sense all the signs of the change of season, rather in the dead of winter, has always felt more authentic to me; in any event I am feeling this New Year potently, and all that one associates with the New Year. I am feeling a renewed excitement about to cycling and cycling advocacy. Armed with the knowledge that one can go years without using a car, as well as a deeper understanding of the impact a single individual can have in doing so, I am feeling renewed energy ~and urgency~ around these issues.

The concers are so monumental, and the stakes so high, both essential and danting, I have been taking comfort in a passage from the Talmud:
"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief.
Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not
obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."
There is much work to do, and we all have part to play
May we all be the change we wish to see in this new year.


Hope Everyone Is Feeling Bikey Love Today ~and Every Day!


"You want to blend those smoothies with WHAT??"

"Dont be officoius, your not yourself when your officoius ~thats the curse of a government job"
--Ruth Gordon as Maude in "Harold & Maude"

Portland's cycling community may be yearning for bike blended smoothies, but I am not sure our Health Department is ready. So many hoops to hop through I am beginning to feel like a circus dog.
I had had this notion that because all the smoothie ingredients could be loaded into the bottle blenders and sealed up at a commercial kitchen prior to events, that licensing as a mobile unit would be s snap, but ah-ha! Although the Bottle Blenders are completely self contained and do not need to be opened for blending ~The Bottles must be opened to dispense the smoothies, after they are all blended and good to go, and for that the Health department is insisting I get licensed as a temporary restaurant. grrr

The upside is that this will allow me to custom blend smoothies on sight at farmers markets and other events, and when bike-bartending at private parties I will be largely free bureaucratic red tape. Got to stay positive, it's like The Boy says "there are only two kinds of problems: those you can do something about, and those you cant. No sense worrying about the ones you can do something about (just do it) and no sense worrying about the ones you cant (nothin you can do)” thats my boy

For folks living in the area, we will be offering samples at People's Farmers Market just as soon as we get a clear day, which according to the current forcast, wont be this Wednesday, better days are comming

Sprocket Smoothies Goes to Town

Prior to getting the news that I may have an ACL tear, I had set up a photo shoot of the B3 in action: the plan was to provide smoothies to volunteers at the Bicycle Transportation Alliance's volunteer outreach day. I am finding that "spinning" does my knee good, and that riding down hill or on the flats does no harm, so I packed up all the gear, and an abundance of pre-packed Blender Bottles and headed off for the BTA's office. The one bummer was that I had to accept a ride there to avoid peddling up steep hills. Props to Michael for getting my gear and I there.

The B3 made quite a impression on the volunteers at the BTA office, and the smoothies were well received, but the photographer didn't make it, and there were several full bottle blenders left over, so I coasted dow the hill to Free Geek and served up a bunch of smoothies there. It was a real hoot: one guy, seeing the stoker handlebars and snap deck, exclaimed "The bike turns into a blender and then can turn into a tandem? DUDE!" Another fellow, who was there to use the free computer resource room, said that the smoothie I gave him was the most nutritious meal he had had all day.

The new Blender Bottles, that replace the old-school blender jar, are just too cool! Much as I personaly like the look of the traditional blender jar, the Bottle Blenders allow one to "assemble" the smothies in advance and seal them into these individual, freezable "bullets". Not only does this make the Health Department very happy, it really streamlines the opperation when one is at an event. Each Bottle Blender holds 2 servings, when poured into the large, fully compostible corn-based cups we are using.

Everyone had a blast, the smoothies were a hit, and I got a great deal of positive feed back and valuable insight about operating the "smoothie mobile". Interestingly enough, there were no digital cameras at Free Geek, The Boy snapped a few pics on a little point and shoot, if any of the shots turn out I will post them


The Boy and I ventured out for a short, leasurly ride: the first since I got the news that I may have a torn ligament.
Not riding had all but eliminated my will live, so I checked with my doc and got the go ahead to ride ~as long as doing so didnt hurt. Walking sometimes hurts, so I'm not sure how relavent that limit is, but I took it under advisment.
The ride went well, and was almost essentially pain free. I wonder, if I just wear the brace for the rest of my life, and Ice daily, if I can forget this surgery nonsense?
I have been taking mega doses of Glucosamine, MSM, Chondroitin, Cod Liver Oil and Vitamin E while waiting to schedule my MRI, as well as working with an herbalist, a Reiki preactitioner, and anybod els I can find. And hoping for the best.



This just in ~sorry for the late notice

On 1 February 2007, please participate in the biggest mobilization of Citizens Against Global Warming to date!

The Alliance for the planet (a group of environmental associations)
(I know nothing about this organization-but I advocate the idea) is calling on all citizens ALL OVER THE WORLD to create
5 minutes of electrical rest for the planet.

People in eastern North America turn off their lights and electrical appliances on the first of February 2007, between 1:55 PM and 2:00
PM, (and 18.55 for London, and 19.55 for Paris, Bruxelles, and Italy, 10.55 AM on the Pacific coast of North America.

This is not just about saving 5 minutes worth of electricity; this is about getting the attention of the media, politicians, and our selves.

Five minutes of electrical down time for the planet; this does not take long, and costs nothing, and will show all political leaders
that global warming is an issue that needs to come first and foremost in political debates.

Why February 1st? This is the day when the new UN report on global climate change will come out in Paris.

This event affects us all, involves us all, and provides an occasion to show how important an issue global warming is to us all.

If we all participate, this action can have real media and political weight. Please circulate this to your utmost ability in whatever way you can.


Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.

So heres the thing: if you injure your knee in May, don't wait until the following January to have it looked at.

It started out innocuously enough, I was in a yoga class, last May, and made an unfortunate move: I felt a bit of a twinge on the back of my knee. I figured I had pulled a muscle, so I iced it and rested it for a day or two, but I am a single mother and full time student, I don't have time to go lame. Heres the problem with that logic, neither reality, nor the injury, care whether you have the time.

The pain came and went, seemingly of it's own accord. Sometimes it felt as though it was on the mend, sometimes I couldn't walk on it, but even when I couldn't walk on it I could still ride, so ride I did.

This month I wanted to take my cycling to another level, 'kick it up a notch', so to speak. I started riding faster and harder, I started a new route with a significant hill. Unrelatedly, I started a self defense class where we assault a padded attacker. This week my knee took an ugly turn and I was essentially forced to go see our family naturopath.

Turns out I probably ought to have seen him last May. Turns out I may very well have and ACL tear, an MRI will say for sure. Turns out that, had I gone in last May, naturopathic remedies might have offered a promising alternatives to surgery, in a way that they don't now.
So, I have a house full of stuff for Sprocket Smoothies ~and a bum leg. Yuck.


How We Get There Matters

Particularly in during the dark cold Northwest winter, even the heartiest among us can feel our enthusiasm for bike commuting dwindle, and I have discover that having an enticing and inspiring route can make all the difference when steeling one's self for that morning commute.
When I began bike-commuting to Portland State about a year ago, I initially used the same traffic roads I would have driven on, not exactly the kind of route that beckons one from under the covers.

This quarter my classes start at 9am, meaning I have to leave home shortly after 7am. Meaning I have to get up around 6:a.m. Prior to this quarter I had essentially been unaware that there was an a.m. version of 6:00. I am a hard core night owl, and the new schedule has turned everything on it's ear. Each morning I have to put great effort into remembering why I agreed to this, and only slightly less effort into considering whether it could possibly be worth it, especially given my renewed commitment to not ever traveling in anything that burns fuel. After perusing a number of bike maps, and experimenting with different routes, I think I have come up with the perfect path, if not the perfect schedule.

The other thing about my old route is the extent to which I went to avoid steep inclines ~no mean feet when traveling from sea level to approximately 100 feet above sea level. In cycling, as in life, sometimes when you face challenges head on, you reap unforeseen rewards, like this view.
My morning begins with a stop at Bipartisan Cafe, arriving as I do right after they open at 6:30 am, the "Hair Raiser Blend" coffee is good and fresh, then I head straight for Mt Tabor park, steep elevation and all, knowing I will be witness to a view few get to see.

Not everyone is going to have a gorgeous volcano with forested vistas to include in their ride, but coffee shops, bridges, tree-lined boulevards, historic neighborhoods ad parks can all make a difference is how much you enjoy your ride, and how willing you will be to pull yourself out of bed and ride


The B3 is Here!

I have been so busy with school and life and all that, that I have had no time to read blogs, let alone post in mine, but I just had to share the good news, my B3 is here! After due consideration and pondering of the possibilities, I am moving forward with this idea of creating a part time summer income from bike-powered smoothies and libations.

Rather ironic, then, that the B3 arrived during a freak snow storm (not exactly smoothie weather). Undaunted, I assembled the blender and set up a blending station on my front porch, where, in addition to smoothies, I have been using it to blend home-made soups! I have also been adding to my collection of books on making cocktails and mixed drinks ~sure to keep a soul warm on a winters evening!

The B3 is elegant in it's simplicity and cleverness of design: unlike the bike blender I used at last summers Geek Fair, the B3 is direct drive ~you dont mess around with generating electricity, the turning of the rear wheel turns the blender blade. It's just that simple. Shifting your bikes gears allows you to adjust the effort it takes to whip up treats, and the 'Rock Sturdy' stand that elevates the rear wheel while blending is SO sturdy that you couldnt flip your bike even if you wanted too. With just a few turns of the nuts, the direct drive gizmo can be swivled away from the wheel to allow you to peddal off into the sunset.

I have always loved throwing parties and cooking for people, which has lead to a wealth of experience in food service and catering. What I didnt know until recently is that private bartenders in this area command an impressive hourly income ~and thats without a B3 to mix the magarittas. Given Portland's thriving cycling community and environmental conscience, pedal powered libations could potentially be more lucrative than being a therapist ~especially during our increasingly hot summers~ at the very least, it could support me while I get my therapist credentials.

I have been kicking around some ideas for business names, and think I have settled on 'Sprocket Smoothies' I would welcome any thoughts or ideas about the venture; and, if you in town, stop by and I'll whip up some hot buttered rum batter! ;)


Cycling with Children in the Chill

Due in part to the fact that, in the arctic-like temperatures we have been having of late, The Boy has become more than a little cycling resistant, which puts a real wrench in the works. The cold certainly effects my enthusiasm as well, but I am still willing to drag my sorry butt out there; but dragging the boy kicking and screaming behind me really slows me down, as well as creating a scene.

In Europe they have all manner of devices and accessories that allow one to take one's children, laptops, groceries and what not by bike without getting wet or frostbitten, just one more way in which this country is missing the proverbial boat.
When my son was an infant he rode almost daily in a bike trailer, but now that he is approaching age 12, we find that our options have dwindled to almost nil. Meanwhile, in the time that he has been alive, the rate at which arctic ice is melting has doubled. Doubled. Hearing this fact on a PBS special, my son is understandably outraged, and demands to know when people are going to get it through their heads that they need to change. "When" he asks "are they going to get a brain"
I don't think it's a matter of getting a brain, I tell him, I think it's a matter of getting the courage to change.
What is required here is not information, or knowledge, or even understanding. We got that covered. What is required is our acting on what we know and understand. It requires recognizing that we are not talking about someone els, it is not about "they", it is about "we".
I point out that we have ridden in cars in the past decade, in the past year for that matter. WE need to take responsibility, and we need to stop doing the damage we know we are doing. We need to find a way to ride, even through Oregon winters.
He ponders this, and then watches the PBS images, see the icecaps evaporating through time laps photos taken over the course of his lifetime; from white to barren brown, and open sea. In that moment he understands.
I know this is not the end of this conversation, but it is a beginning


Plausible Solutions

My association with Free Geek introduced me to this crazy-brilliant idea for problem solving that works in meny areas of life, which is this: sometimes, if you point two problems at each other, they solve each other! Free Geek does this by taking (1)the problem of all that toxic technology waste flowing into our landfills, and (2) the problem of the inequitable distribution of resources that keeps segments of our community poor and without the means to pull themselves out of poverty. Point the two at each other and BAMM! You have all these low-income folks getting skills, training, job experience and their very own personal computer while diverting all that toxic tech outta the waste stream. Cool, but it doesn't stop there, the approach works on meny kinds of problems, both global and personal.

Case in point: I had two problems (well, really I have far more than two, but lets not digress) which were a) although I love to cook, I have almost no time to do so, so I find myself falling back on packaged and convenience foods ~and thats not good. Problem b) my circle of friends here in town is currently smaller than I would like, as several friends have moved outta state, outta country, or otherwise left my life in recent years. So, I don't have as many friends in town as I would like, and I don't have time to find more Seemingly unrelated problems, but heres the thing, often the less related the problems are, the better this system works. So, I pointed the two at each other, and heres what happened

OH MY GODDESS, PEOPLE, this idea is too cool, I just HAD to share it with you. Heres how it works.
Each participant makes up one big (6 quart) batch of soup ~a slow cooker can make quick work of this. The soup gets divided into 6 single quart containers and popped in the freezer until the day of the swap.

On the day of the swap, folks gather, have a little wine, chit-chat, before the "telling of the soup", where we hear what is special about each of the varieties in our bounty. Then we take turns selecting our soups, going around the circle and each selecting one variety until each person has selected 6 soups (you bring six, you go home with 6). So, for the little bit of time it took you to make one batch of soup (often less than an hour) you get your freezer stocked with six hand selected, home-made soups ~PLUS you get an evening with a circle of friends that grows exponentially each month, because everyone loves home cooked food and good company, and everyone benefits from time saving strategies, so everyone wants in and everyone wins!! It is JUST TOO FREAKIN COOL! Kids, try this at home!

I actually didnt think I had enough "foodie" friends in town who would be up for this, so I posted the idea to a couple of local listserves I am on, and within a few hours a dozen people had contacted me regarding their interest in joining! So I am meeting new folks who share my interest in cycling, permaculture and food; all while saving time, money and filling my freezer with good wholsome food, you just cant beat that!


A Verritble Quandry

"I wake up every morning determined both to change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning the day a little difficult."
-- E. B. White

Came across this quote today, and it made me laugh out loud; not only becuae of how true it is ~at least for me~ but also, I think, becuase it seemed to appripoe for the first of the year, when so many have resolved to make themselves miserable in the name of change. Jung had the right idea: it's not about either/or, it's all about both/and. Or, as Paul Stiebitz said 'all things in moderation, including moderation' Ok, enough talking heads and dead white men ~go out there, make some change, have some fun, remember to laugh!

Cycling For A Better You, and a Better Life

Just to be clear, I do not primarily ride as a means to a weight maintanence scheme. That is not my motivation, but it is a fringe benefit. And since I am all about encouraging and empowering people to reduce their drive time, lets explore this angle; it might just be the motivation you need.

I pass a couple of health clubs in rout to school, and rare is the day that I dont see people circling the block in their big ugly SUVs, looking for parking so they can go in and excercise, before driving on to their next stop. This confuses me to no end, it is obtuse, wrong-headed and inefficient.

So, say you plan to spend 45 minutes exercising at the gym, and another 45 minutes getting to the gym and on to your next stop. An hour and a half. Of course that does not include changing in and out of your gym clothes and showering, but bare with me, more on that in a moment

The following table appears in the '92 Schwinn ATB catalog which references Bicycling magazine, there are dozens of charts out there, and each one has slightly different numbers because the actual calories burne will depend on a number of variables, including terraign (are you riding up hill, on the flat, or all downhill), is there a headwind? are you towing a trailer? In any event, this chart gives us a point to start from

(mph) 12 14 15 16 17 18 19
Weight Calories/H
150 383 457 534 593 675 779 883
160 405 485 567 629 717 828 938
170 427 512 599 666 758 876 993
180 450 540 632 702 800 925 1048
190 472 567 664 738 841 973 1104
200 493 593 695 772 881 1019 1157

So, even at a recreational pace of 12 MPH, 1 hour a day of riding will burn over 3000 Calories per week, the equivalent of approximately 1 pound of fat (if your route has hills you will burn even more). Over the course of a year you could loose over 50 pounds! If you took that hour and a half that you would have spent getting to the gym, circling the block for parking, doing you work out, and getting to your next errand; and just spent it cycling to your next errand, you would burn over 5000 calories, potentially loosing some 75 pounds a year while acomplishing your errand running! WOW! Yes, at some point you will need to take a shower and change clothes. Just as you would at the end of your work out at the gym. In the mean time, you will be saving time and money while improving your life and getting stuff done ~AND, because you are intergrating your exercise into your daily life and the things you need to get done anyway, you are more likely to stick with it. How cool is that?!