Junebug the Bike

Let’s get something clear right now: I’m not the type of person who names vehicles.  But I did make an exception for my new bike, which I got just over two weeks ago on June 2nd. I named her Junebug.

A few years ago, I got a nice bike at a church auction for $163, a Trek hybrid bike with a rack, a helmet and a bell. It had only been ridden by the previous owner a couple of times before he passed away, and I got an excellent bike with that winning bid.  My Trek was my passport back to bicycling, which had never been a passion but rather something utilitarian I did with bikes I was either given or found second hand.  I’d never had a new bike, never biked more than a couple of miles, never biked more than once a week.  When I got the Trek, I hadn’t ridden a bike in almost ten years. 20120729-221329.jpg

With the Trek, I explored local bike trails, finding peace in the midst of great anxiety with work and family concerns. I plugged earbuds into my phone and rode along slowly, listening to podcasts and music.  After my cancer surgery in January of 2015, I decided to get myself into better shape and started riding more frequently, and for longer distances.  The first ride after my surgery was in the summer and I went less than three miles before my body went into revolt. I collapsed in front of the public library and called PC from there, weeping.

“Walk the bike home,” he said flatly when I begged him to pick me up.  In fairness to him, I was seven blocks from our house.  I wasn’t bleeding or having a seizure. I was physically exhausted and out of shape.  Tough love rules in our house.

I did a little research and started riding more.  I worked my way up to ten miles, and then fifteen, then twenty.  My bike was solid and I was slow.  Eventually, I rode 28 miles.  It took me over three hours, with stops for water, for rest, for something to eat.

In November, a client mentioned a regional multi-day tour organized by someone in our city, to take place in June for five days.  The tour covers a total of around 300 miles during that time.  “You should do it!” she enthused.

The more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became.  In retrospect, I must have been nuts.  Even so, I signed up for a training class at the local YMCA and in January, on the one year anniversary of my cancer surgery, I had the first class to train for the Tour de Nebraska. It was a spin class, group cycling. I passed out from the exertion and the heat.  Same the next session. Then I got shorter bike pants and started changing my water intake, my sleep patterns, my nutrition plan.

The first couple of months of class were to condition us physically for our bikes. We had guest speakers and Q&A sessions.  Then we started outdoor group rides in May – that’s where we learned how little we knew about cycling. My bike seat was too low. My shoes were hurting my feet.  I didn’t use 75% of my bike’s gears, and the ones I did use I was using incorrectly. I was in despair, but I kept trying.

We had some AMAZING instructors – they encouraged us, cheered us on, helped us learn and listened to us when we doubted ourselves. The best thing about the class was the new friends I made with classmates of all ages and backgrounds.  We signed up for fundraising rides, we went on 32-mile group rides with over a hundred people, we went on a charity ride near Omaha with over 600 entrants, on a day with wind chill of 37 degrees.

I got special bike shoes with pedal cleats, and clip-in pedals. The first time I went out on the bike with them, I wrecked when I couldn’t get my feet disengaged from the pedals.  I got back up, rode home, and then wiped out again in the driveway, falling on my side with my feet still attached to the pedals and giving myself a mammogram on the concrete with my handlebars.

One thing that became obvious was that my old Trek, while a solid and sturdy bike for leisurely riding in town, was going to be insufficient for the Tour de Nebraska and the hills and highways and long hours I’d be riding. Even with training and improved stamina and performance, the bike was too heavy for the hills–it was for casual riding, and I’d progressed beyond that.  PC encouraged me to upgrade before the tour so I would be able to enjoy myself and keep up.

I test rode several bikes, and kept coming back to a Liv Invite road bike, which is what I eventually decided on.  Liv is made by Giant brand, and the Liv line is focused on Women-Specific Design–not just a men’s bike made smaller but designed with our torsos and sit bones in mind.  This little bike is so zippy and lightweight — it’s been an adjustment to learn the new gear shift levers, the lighter frame and the different handlebars.  Two weeks ago, I attempted a fifty-mile ride with friends and burned out spectacularly after 30 miles when the wind started gusting at 30 miles an hour; I had to get a ride home to town and learned a bitter lesson about attempting too much too soon after getting a bike so unfamiliar to me.

Today I did my third long ride with the new bike – last week I did 22 miles and today was almost 16 miles in the morning with friends, then a trip to the bike shop to get an inner tube replaced and my gears adjusted again. After that I rode a quick five miles that felt like I was flying.

I know I’ve got a tough ride coming up: the first day is going to be 62 miles and I’ve never done more than 32 in a day.  But I’ve done as much as I can, and also invested in good bike shorts, some cycling jerseys, a hydration backpack with the drinking tube so I can drink water on long rides without having to tote a bottle along.  Headlight, tail light, new helmet, rear view mirror, a phone holder, a bike odometer/speedometer, rear rack, trunk bag, saddlebags….and I leave in three days for the bike tour, so it’s all or nothing now.

This is going to be a tremendous learning experience to help me figure out what I’ve done wrong, as well as what I’ve done right.  I know Junebug will do fine – I just hope I do, too!

And Then It Was 2016

Hello, old friends! Many of you have kept in touch outside of the blog world and I appreciate that. For those of you with whom I haven’t kept up, I wanted to say hi and update you on what’s been happening over the past however long (four months?).

Rabbit, my daughter, is now coasting along toward her FOURTEENTH BIRTHDAY, which is coming up this fall.  I have explicit instructions to not post photos of her, at her and her father’s request, which I need to honor.  She has been braces-free for almost a year, her straight gorgeous teeth gleaming occasionally from her angelic smile when she’s not scowling like an average teenager.  Her hair is thick and long, to the middle of her back, worn in a bun twisted on the top of her head most of the time.

Rabbit is what I am calling a “teacup teen.”  She is incredibly small and we have learned from medical experts that she has reached her maximum height of just over 4 feet 8 inches.  She’s dealing with it quietly, but we are working on some coping mechanisms for the time when/if it becomes problematic. Meanwhile, she spends her time drawing and reading and playing with the cats, when she isn’t on her phone exploring Pinterest.

PC is doing well, working constantly and preparing for a fishing trip to Canada with his friends.  His health has been fairly stable, but he did have to have foot surgery last December and was homebound for nearly two months afterward.  Remarkably, we are still married.

My health has been steadily improving. The doctors believe they have my meds correctly adjusted. I’m up to 117 pills a week and provided I don’t miss any, I feel completely tip top healthy.

In January, I started training/conditioning for a multi-day bicycle tour that takes place at the end of this month.  I signed up for the training course at the Y, and went to spin class twice a week for three months, and then we started riding out of doors as a group – that’s where the training really kicked in. I was taught that my bike seat was too low, I didn’t know how to shift gears properly, and I was breathing wrong on the bike. I’ve steadily increased my distance and hope to ride a 40 mile route this Saturday before we leave for the tour.  I did ride enough that my husband insisted I get a new bike – I bought it two weeks ago and it’s been an adjustment, to say the least.

I’d love to tell you all about how much weight I’ve lost with the training but I haven’t. In fact, I’m pretty sure my butt is bigger now than when I started.  I blame the thyroid medication.

Last week I commemorated six years since my dad’s passing.  SIX YEARS, you guys. I rode my bike, made some new friends, talked to some strangers, and spent some hours outside under a clear blue sky, cussing at the wind and passing cars, and talking to my dad a little as I walked my bike along the side of the highway after getting blown off the road by a terrible headwind.  My dad would have told me to get back on the bike and ride and stop bitching.  Or he would have been incredulous that I was wasting time on a bicycle when I could be gardening or reading a book – but he would have approved of my being outside, that much I know for sure.  All the rest of it he would have found completely ridiculous.

My wonderful mama is doing well.  She is in a care facility only a couple of hours from where I live, so I’m able to see her many times a year instead of only once in the summer.  She’s really happy in her new home and the staff there are kind and very affectionate.

My brothers and sisters all seem to be doing well.  My job is great and business is booming.  I’m making plans to attend my 30-year high school reunion this summer.  Hazel, our old cat, is 14 now and still cranky. The kittens are two and still super cute, with the longest tails in cat history.  I haven’t been writing at all, other than letters, but I’m still voraciously reading.

I just wanted to say hi – let me know what’s new with you!

Mid-Winter of Our Discontent

We had a blizzard this week and after two snow days wherein Rabbit and I were stranded in the house with only our thoughts and Anne of Green Gables on DVD to distract us, we are all happy that the roads are cleared and that life is going back to normal.

It is, however, that time of year: salty slush all over the kitchen floor, snow boots piled on the boot tray, coats dripping off the hook into my purse, and chapped lips. I complain, even though I have so much for which to be thankful.

To wit: one year ago today I received an official diagnosis of thyroid cancer. Today I am (assumed to be) cancer free and doing well on a regimen of only 112 pills a week to maintain all the levels of thyroid hormone and calcium my body no longer naturally produces. My cholesterol is a little too high, which indicates a life of rich food and excess that is denied to so many people. I have switched some things around in my diet but I can’t give up half and half in my morning coffee. The life of an ascetic doesn’t appeal to me.

There’s a jar of preserved lemons in my refrigerator — I made them right after the new year, quartering Meyer lemons and packing them in salt in a quart jar to ferment for use in Moroccan cooking, which I’ve tried precisely never. Rabbit and I have been eating slices of the lemon peel straight from the jar. They’re delicious.

The hubby’s painting business is back up and humming along. He was off work for nearly two months recovering from foot surgery and the fact that we are still married is testament to the calming powers of at least two or three of those pills I take every day.

Do people still blog? People who don’t plan to monetize their blog, that is? Aside from Jenny Lawson, I don’t know anyone who blogs regularly any more. I suppose I’m just tapping the mic to see who’s here and find out if it’s plugged in.

Stop Wasting Food: The Organized Kitchen and Meal Planning Breakthrough (For Us)

We seem to spend a shocking amount on food every month, and yet there are nights when I find myself at a loss for what to have for dinner, what to cook, why everything in the fridge has gone bad, what the heck is all that stuff in the deep freeze, and let’s just have cereal.

In this year of reorganizing my life, 2015 has to be The Year We Quit Wasting Food.  It’s like cable TV – a million channels and nothing to watch, or a houseful of food and no ideas on what to eat.  I tend to shop for food the way I shop for clothes…randomly choosing items that I think look good, that are not purchased with an eye toward what to pair them with, and the result is a lot of individual items and no combinations.

Last week, I started by cleaning out and reorganizing my refrigerator.  I had the help of some really terrific bins I bought online from The Container Store (you can find them here and they’re priced right).  I confess, I originally thought I would use them for hanging file storage, but they’re a tad too wide so I put them to better use. I took everything out of the fridge and tossed a few condiments that were old and or nasty.  The lesser used condiments went into a bin on the bottom shelf of the fridge (salsa verde, tartar sauce, sriracha, etc.).  The next bin was for cheese: mozzarella for pizza, shredded cheddar, chunk cheese and laughing cow brand for lunches.  The next bin is holding all our lunch/sandwich supplies:  ham and smoked turkey, Swiss cheese, American cheese for grilled cheese sandwiches, and a jar of dill pickle chips. The other bin on the bottom shelf holds a few bottles of beer, a big bottle of Starbucks caramel macchiato, and a bottle of grapefruit juice.  Stuff we don’t drink all the time, but keeping it contained means it doesn’t end up in the back of the fridge getting forgotten.

In the middle of the fridge is a stack of containers of leftovers – I switched a while back to clear glass containers to see what’s in them better.  Next to that is a space for my daughter’s school lunch box.  Then another bin!  This holds small cans of V8 for lunches, little cartons of orange juice, and a couple of cartons of coconut water (which I do not care for but am hoping someone comes over and wants to take them off my hands as they were $1 each). Then there’s hubby’s milk (he and my daughter drink 2% milk) and then my lactose free milk, which is so inexpensive at Aldi!

Top shelf, a couple of cans of soda for hubby, and behind it, a basket containing a carton of cottage cheese and a large carton of Greek yogurt, which we use for yogurt and as a substitute for sour cream in recipes.  Then 2 dozen eggs (we eat a lot of eggs), then a carton of grapes, and a container of high protein energy bites (recipe here – don’t freak out over the ingredients: I’m here to tell you they are awesome!). Behind it is some tonic water for adult beverages.

In the fridge door are pickles, a carafe of cold water, orange juice, club soda, salad dressing, ketchup, mustard, butter, etc., etc., etc.  

The big things I did, though, after this?  I inventoried my freezer, deep freeze and pantry. THAT. WAS. A. PAIN.  Also? A revelation.  I froze a lot of leftover soups over the past six months, which will be a good thing in the weeks to come. I threw away only a few things and I didn’t take a picture of the freezer because it was that boring.  But here is a picture of the inventory.  (By the way, visit this blog for some kick-ass printables, which I used in making my lists).

First, the freezer list:

There are little boxes to put a slash through, and when you use up the item, make it an “x” to indicate it’s all gone.  I found a lot of things the husband had bought and thrown in there, so now we have a list.

Then, the pantry lists – man, that was a weird inventory.

Cans of fire roasted tomatoes with jalapenos, dried mushrooms, lentils, dry beans, lots of pasta, a lot of things I bought when hungry.

I went through the lists of what I had, including frozen leftover soups, frozen meat, canned items, fresh items…and came up with a list of 22 separate meals I could make just with what I have on hand (buying occasional fruit and veggies as sides), with a few repeats for a total of 32 meals.

Last night, I sat down and had my husband look at the list and pick out a few meals he liked for the next two weeks.  I wrote out which ones, taking into account our schedules and whether I would be home in time to make dinner or if he would have to, what would need to go into the crock pot, what meals would create extras for later that same week and so on.  Then I assigned meals to days, and went the extra step (which I’ve found I need based on past experience of spacing off taking things out of the freezer!) of putting small post-it notes on each week’s meal plan to remind me of which day I need to visit the freezer to take out food to thaw. (I LOVE the magnetic pad for these meal plans – it sticks on the fridge and I enjoy using the tear-off pages)

Week one, above, includes one evening of “BFS” or “Breakfast for Supper.”

My grocery list for each week is very short, since there is so much already in the freezer: just milk, eggs, some produce and maybe some hamburger buns unless I get really ambitious and make them from scratch when I make homemade bread. Which probably won’t happen.  So I had better buy buns.

Now listen to me: I know YOU ARE BUSY.  But if you could see the hours I’ve put in over the past several weeks/months, you would know I’m pretty dang busy myself.  I’ve sold 15 houses in 14 weeks, and that’s including two weeks out of commission (pun intended) to recover from surgery. I show houses or meet clients four evenings a week right now, and often spend all day each weekend at work.  To do this planning, all of the effort work was maybe four total hours over the past week, plus maybe an hour printing off the stuff to make lists.  But it will save me many hours and many dollars to use up what we have already.  I’ve even put links in here for the printables, the meal planner pad, the containers….it’s not hard.

Now that I have some health issues to monitor, I have to be vigilant about not skipping meals, taking my supplements with food, keeping my metabolism going.  But getting organized is not just about myself.  I find my stress level drops markedly, which is good for my whole family.  Having a meal planned out in advance means one less thing to worry about on a busy day, and it’s good for our budget and our health to avoid a desperation fast food or restaurant meal.

Wouldn’t we all benefit from more home cooked meals with family, if it’s possible?  We still plan on restaurant night once or twice a month as a treat…and this will help us to budget for it better.

What’s your meal planning system, if you have one?

The Paper Purge: How to Get Your Life Back

For my entire life, I have had a sentimental streak that has caused me to hang onto items, pictures, gifts, cards and old letters for years. The other problem I have struggled with for years has been the overwhelming desire to be organized with no real method for accomplishing it.  Combine that with my inability to throw things away, and there’s a recipe for disaster.

What do I keep? What do I throw away?  What if I need it later? What if some governmental agency decides I need to have kept that one piece of paper and I didn’t and now I can’t function as a respectable member of society? (That’s the thought late at night after too much caffeine). 

When my dad died, my brothers and sisters and I spent months of on again off again sorting, traveling to my hometown for a weekend to sort through paperwork and try to make sense of the tons of documents and receipts and slips of paper, folders, notebooks and other things piled in boxes throughout the house.  It was A NIGHTMARE.  

Plus? That nightmare is a bit of a legacy with many in my family.  From photos to utility bills, many of us file things by stacking them, and then shifting the stacks into boxes, then sliding the boxes against a wall in a bedroom or home office, and then occasionally sorting through on a rainy day, stuck looking through old letters and photographs instead of doing our taxes.  


Now, please be assured I am not here to say I have discovered the answer.  I know it runs deeper than that, and that any system works if you work your system – disorganization isn’t the fault of a poor filing cabinet, but more the fault of the one who owns it and hasn’t enough discipline to use it properly. 

What I will tell you is that I have discovered something liberating for myself and if you aren’t aware of this and I can help you, then my day’s work is done.  That something is this:  YOU CAN THROW A LOT OF THOSE OLD DOCUMENTS IN THE SHREDDER.  I think 90% of the paper that comes into your house can be discarded – if not immediately, then after that year’s taxes have been filed.  

Today, I spent hours going through boxes and bins and totes and folders, sorting papers and casting reams of paperwork into a box to take to my office and put in the large industrial shredder bin we have there.  Utility bills prior to 2014, old insurance bills, old medical bills, old receipts, old bank statements…hour by hour, I could feel the burden of maintining this most boring informational archive lifting from me.  The sheer volume of paperwork is exhausting.  

For a complete guide to what to keep and where to keep it, including what to have in an emergency file to grab in case of a fire or other household disaster, I consulted this website:


After organizing as much as possible, I set up a mail sorting station in the kitchen, which is where most of our paperwork starts its assault on our home.  

I got a 3-tiered plexiglass file sorter from The Container Store (online) and started active files to sort papers into.  They included the following:

  • Vehicle Paperwork
  • Tax Related Documents
  • Documents from my husband’s painting business
  • My health documents (lots of doctor bills, blood test results, treatment updates, etc coming to the mailbox all the time)
  • Our daughter’s school and activity stuff
  • Coupons, lists, recipes and meal planning
  • Letters/Cards/Pictures/Sentimental Things
  • Things to Review/Sign/Approve
  • Bills to Pay
  • Completed Items/ To Be Filed
  • Receipts to Itemize and File

Everything that comes into the house is now opened immediately and sorted.  Once a week (or more often if possible), I pick up the file sorter and take it down the hall to my office and sort things out.  We don’t have a file cabinet yet (I know.  I know) so I set up files in a big tote on the desk for now.  Bills are paid as we have funds, and the bill stubs are marked with the date and amount and check number, or online confirmation number.  Everything is sorted and filed away for the week.  Then the sorter goes back into the kitchen.  If the week is busy, I will at least take the receipt file and the bill file and take care of those, as they create the most havoc when neglected.  

Some people have binders for certain info, and I love that idea, but for now, I can just see it as one more project I’ll half-ass my way into starting and never finishing.  If I had a nice shelving unit near my desk, I could almost see it, especially for my health stuff and records of cancer treatment. For the time being, though?  Just clearing the counters and desk and bookcases and file boxes of all this paper is a life-changing thing.

If you’re anything like me, disorganization causes stress and stress leads to anxiety, and then you are paralyzed by stress and anxiety and can’t take action to fix the disorganization problem leading to the stress and anxiety, which is a vicious and escalating cycle.  The old adage is true: “How do you eat an elephant? ONE BITE AT A TIME.”  [Please note, I am not advocating the consumption of elephants.  This is just a saying.]  You can do anything if you break it down into small steps and make a little time on a regular basis to do them.  

There’s just not much for me that is a better feeling than a clean and organized desk and kitchen – and not just things stuffed into a box in another room, but the knowledge that things are really and truly organized.  What’s your system? What works for you and your family? 

No Big Deal

I might be crazy but I’m back here writing again.  It’s because tax time is coming up and I’ve reclaimed my home office which, for much of the summer, was a convalescent home for our new kittens and then, a convalescent home for dust and stacked furniture and boxes and crap we hid when company came over.

2014 was a rough year, and the first three months of 2015 have not been organized or tidy.  Rather than clean and organize my office  in one fell swoop, I follow the tried and true path of doing a little work and then sitting down to browse the web on my laptop, looking for organizational inspiration on Pinterest and then later find myself on Instagram following a user who posts photos of the inside of other peoples’ refrigerators.

Anyway, I renewed my blog domain name again so I feel that I must write something here. Hopefully over the coming weeks I will be able to update all ten of you who might still check in, about the things happening here at my place.  For example: super busy, then trouble swallowing, then a total removal of my thyroid gland and a diagnosis of thyroid cancer.  WHAT? Yes, but it’s been a smooth recovery for the most part with minimal treatment required so far, so let’s not make it a bigger deal than it needs to be.

For now, let’s focus on getting my office purged of unnecessary papers and getting the rest of our stuff organized.

The Comfort of Knowledge

Rabbit is out of town with her Girl Scout troop, attending an Apple Festival in a town 50 miles away, sleeping in bunk beds in the lodge, picking apples, getting muddy and hopefully having a good time.

PC and I took the opportunity of an evening without her to go out to eat at a restaurant where chicken fingers do NOT appear on the menu anywhere. We had been to this restaurant a few years ago on our 23rd or 24th anniversary and liked the atmosphere and the food.

Tonight he had a ribeye steak and a glass of pinot noir. I had seared scallops, risotto, green beans…with a garnish of bacon and onion jam (which was delicious but very rich). We had coffee and dessert afterward and drifted home stuffed and happy.

Walking in the door of the house, PC exclaimed “Have you seen my phone?” I dryly thought “Not since you took it out at the restaurant to look up the Oscar Pistorius verdict and I told you to put it away.” I thought it but did not say it.

He had apparently set it on top of his coat, folded in the chair next to him, and it had slid off his coat onto the floor when we got up to leave. The waitress had found it and was holding it at the front of the restaurant, hoping someone would come for it. He sped off in his truck to go across town for his phone before I had even put my purse down. He is lost without his phone.

My husband loves having a smartphone: he can look things up on the Internet no matter where he is and, as someone to whom being right is supremely important, this is an invaluable tool.

Here is a brief list of things my husband has researched (or should have researched years ago, based on the number of times the topics have come up over the last 27 years) on his iPhone while we have been eating or watching movies or traveling for hours on long car trips:
1. How many ounces in a magnum of champagne?
2. The name of that guy starring opposite James Gandolfini in that new movie.
3. When did Peter Falk die?
4. Who narrates that car commercial?
5. What time does the Nebraska vs Fresno State game start?
6. Which states do not observe daylight saving time?
7. How many ounces in a shot glass?
8. Does the treasury still print $2 bills?
9. Is a clementine the same thing as a mandarin orange?
10. What is the highest auction price for a Winchester rifle?
11. What year was Mark Twain born?
12. Which philosopher observed that intelligence is invisible to the man who has none? (Schopenhauer?)
13. What year was Vatican II?

The nice thing for PC is that his little portable argument solver/encyclopedia/ready reference guide is also a versatile device that can be used occasionally for phone calls, or for texting his wife. For example, while he was watching the News Hour on PBS in the garage the other night, he texted me to ask “Hey, did you know that Prince William and his wife are expecting another baby?”

To which I texted back “Of course. I follow that sh*t like Fantasy Football.”

Hair Today, Gone in June

Oh by the way.
I got all my hair cut off.

It started out in June (I think) that I went to Annette and said I was ready for a change. She cut off several inches and although I wanted it cut to be above my ears, she felt a gradual approach would be best. Over the next couple of months, we gradually went shorter. By August, I had it the way I wanted, which was an asymmetrical “pixie” modification, with highlights.

I love it. The long hair, while flattering, was a pain to maintain and most days it ended up in a ponytail or a clipped up twist. This is not to say I won’t eventually grow it out again, because I might. For now, though, especially in the summer, it is nice to have short hair.

PC is not really a fan – he told me he prefers my hair longer. Oh. WELL.