Thursday, May 24, 2012


While turning the laptop off IS a great way to focus my attention (well, that and Jamie's prodding to finish the jacket), I found out that it serves me much better on the floor, playing music from Pandora.

And so, I haven't got much to say, though we saw the eclipse Sunday, and I had jury duty yesterday. Instead, I shall pause before heading off to bed and post some photos.

Juniper berries

Path to Big Painted Cave


Ice floor

Welding helmet


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

So much to say...

...where to start?

A thought occurred to me one of the past few days:

When I was in school, one of the "required electives" was Critical Thinking. It turned out to be a very fun class actually, but only because of my teacher, Mrs. Rzepkowski (the R is silent). We learned about job interviews, check-writing, and other important skills, but laced in with all of that were all kinds of puzzles and activities. I remember picture puzzles, where a solution might be "the plot thickens" but your puzzle was simply the word "plot" with the letters written from a skinny P to a fat T. I remember being petrified when my turn came for that mock interview. Somehow, I was complimented as being one of the most cool and poised "employees" so far.

That might be one of my favorite classes of all time.

Mrs. Rzepkowski gave out awards at the end of the year, I think. Simple bright paper cards with glittered squiggly borders outlining a declaration of some kind that pertained to you. Everyone got an award, but they weren't at all stupid or bland for there being so many given. I believe now that she thought long and hard about the qualities of each person she wrote a card for. I was extremely surprised and a bit confused by my award, though, at the time. Mine was a bright neon orange card pendant hung on the yarn string necklace, with orange metallic glitter in a zigzag around the words "Marches to the Beat of a Different Drummer."

Yesterday, that memory of receiving my award came to me, and I think I finally understood, and was very proud to have gotten it.

This month, as I've mentioned previously, is National Bike Month. I did my best to promote and organize the event for the county school bus shop. I posted all sorts of material, but no one noticed it, or was confused about what it was (I thought I had labeled everything pretty obviously, but meh). I ended up putting a flier on the mailboxes, where I hate to see stuff taped, because it blocks the mailboxes of whomever the sign is taped over. That got a bit of interest last week, I spoke to some people who already commuted by bike, and a few who lived nearby. Then, I got the bright idea, belatedly, to put forms into EACH mailbox, with options to share addresses (for mapping purposes) and check boxes on whether or not that person planned to ride, morning or afternoon, and would they be interested in riding in a group? I also included newly-acquired information about bike rentals from our local shop, and again mentioned the sign-up sheets for food, and/or rescue services.

Well, the sign-up sheets remained blank, and I got back 6 of the 50ish forms, all with checks marked for not riding a bike this week. I was depressed about my efforts.

Monday, I got up early and pedaled to the bus shop, where I set up the four dingy abused cones I had asked about previously with a bright colorful paper-link chain. This barrier marked off the area right outside the office doors where bicycles could be parked, and the cars would be pushed back just a bit in their usual spots to give the bikes room along the building wall.

When I finished with that, I finally went inside, and look what I found parked in Zoomie's usual spot!

This is an area next to a counter in the mechanic storage room. The bike has 3 speeds. He wore a helmet, and carried a full backpack (what's in there, I wonder?) with a red blinking light attached to it.

An older driver with a nice soft voice rode this in, and he arrived earlier than me. I was so thrilled! All that planning and such, and I managed to get ONE extra person to ride to work! In the morning, even. Success! His way home is mostly uphill, he said. So he came back that afternoon with this bike instead.

A Raleigh Spirit. I like the color (just like the other one!). This bike has 18 gears.

This bike belongs to one of our mechanics. He has been riding regularly since the weather got nice. Of course he also rode in like me this week.

I must not have gotten a photograph with my camera of our other regular commuter bicycle. That driver comes in very early, and offered to ride together at the beginning of the year. I was too new at the time to commuting, and thought I might embarrass myself, so I declined. I'll get a photo of her neat bicycle soon.

I had a field trip with several other drivers to take multiple school groups to see a play at the theatre. I got to take a group from my own elementary, which always makes me happy. We arrived and the kids unloaded, and after I parked I was on my way to have brunch with the other drivers when I noticed a ton of bicycles parked haphazardly in a few parking spaces for the theatre. One man was sitting on the curb with them, since none of the bikes were locked to anything.

They came from my school! The very same elementary school that I had just driven 39 people from, also had a group of students riding to the theatre. How cool is that?! There were a lot of red Giant brand bikes too, I think those might belong to the school and have been borrowed for that ride?

I just HAD to take a picture. Courtesy of my Samsung Reclaim.

Coming back from brunch, we passed this bike. This has to be the best bike lock ever!

Clifford, an English Mastiff- St. Bernard cross, lets out a tiny howl as his owner asks him to pose for the picture. He got a piece of chicken from my salad and lots of pets. I want one!

Later that afternoon, I was sitting outside in the shade, eating the rest of my salad and enjoying the weather, when a bright shiny red Giant pulls up! This was a driver friend who has a heart condition where it beats higher than usual all the time, but she made it! I can't tell you how I cheered. Her bike is from the local shop and is as shiny as new (it sort of is), built specially to accommodate her knee and previous back issues. She rode 3.3 miles to work, and I'm so proud of her!

My friend came up as we were talking about her bike and told us that a third driver was just coming up the hill, and we should cheer him on. So, I ran up the driveway and did exactly that. He was pedaling ever-so-slowly but surely up the hill along the sidewalk.

Here we are all parked together. Zoomie, the male driver's bike, and the female driver's bike.

With the colorful paper chain.



I rode home with the female driver. We weren't side by side, but at times I broke single file rank to put my front wheel right next to her rear one, to make traffic travel a little bit farther from us. I never obstructed the flow of cars, but our office lady mentioned it this morning and it sounded like she hadn't been happy with our arrangement.

We made it to her house just fine, and we spent some time talking about birds. Her back yard is full of all different kinds. The black birds I like with bright orange shoulders are called Red-Wing Blackbirds (apparently it's not orange, hehe). There is also a Tri-colored Blackbird with white under the red spot, instead of yellow. By the time I got back out to Zoomie, which was only a few minutes, her rear tire was completely flat. I attempted to repair it by just pulling out the bit with the puncture in it. The hole made a hissing noise and was pretty easy to find, but my patch didn't hold. We put Zoomie is time out strapped to my co-worker's jeep, and she drove me the rest of the way home.

Another guy driver who services my elementary school just in front of me in the afternoon line-up rode this one in to work this morning. He had filled out and returned his bike form with the not-riding box checked. Guess he changed his mind!

On the way home after this morning's route, I helped a cyclist who had been sitting in the shade of a tree with his bike on it's side. I said good morning as I passed, which is common, as I say hi or good morning to everyone. Something made me pause, and then finally turn back around and ask if he was just resting, or if he needed any help. He originally said resting, but then admitted to having a flat tire. I had just gotten a new patch kit, so I supplied all the things needed to fix his tire- multitool to remove the wheel, lever to unmount the tire, patch and rubber cement, and frame-size air pump. One of his previous patches, a green one, had failed. I tried to take it off, but it seemed stuck pretty good, and we ended up putting the new patch right over the side of that one, where air was seeping out. The man is one of the breakfast club I see eating nearly every morning at the yellow train car on display next to the bike path. His bike was blue. I felt really good about the whole thing, but between Zoomie yesterday and this repair today, I need a new patch kit again!

Happy Bike Week* everybody!

* not the chaotic and loud motorcycle event of Daytona Beach, FL.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Happy Day for more than Mothers

Today was a lovely day for me, and I'm not even one of the mothers being worshiped.

I texted my own mom several states away, expecting her to be asleep at midnight this morning. Instead she replied back, so I got the first "Happy Mother's Day" in. I arranged to have my dad get her daisies, her favorite flower, and some bubble bath so she could hopefully enjoy some time for herself. It won't be quite as wonderful as a bubble bath in that huge claw-foot tub growing up, but hopefully just as relaxing. Thank you, dad, for doing that for me.

My friend Tig is a mom, as well as several other females in her family, so we all met up at a local park to have a general celebration get-together. There was cake and ice cream, cards and flowers. Jamie and I rode our bikes with Tig from our house to the park, which was a very nice ride. Her daughter Marty loves the baby seat which has been recently attached. She doesn't object to it at all, where she used to have a very hard time being convinced that it was ok to be away from mom riding in the bike trailer behind me. 

Even blurry (my camera hated me very much today) this picture was too cute not to post.

Zoomie with Tig's bike, hanging out at the park.

After cake and ice cream and a game of Go for the boys, we decided to go to a different park to play frisbee golf. All three of us continued our bikey traveling. Marty took a short nap in her little chair. We got to the park much sooner than either of the other two vehicles, so we doubled back and rode in circles at the nearby high school track.
Not the most comfortable-looking way to sleep, but it sure beats the cranky baby alternative.

We had a great time playing frisbee golf and generally chit-chatting some more. One of the cars had been delayed because they decided that chips and cake do not a true meal make, and they stopped for fried chicken. I ate two legs- still my favorite pieces of the bird.

It didn't take long to decide that we'd had enough of parks, and so the family decided to go ahead with the next portion of the plan- dinner. We were still invited, but by this time Tig was ready to hang up her bike and ride in the car. Her frisbee golf game involved double movements as she kept retrieving Marty, or sometimes threw her disc with the handicap (a perfectly desirable one) of Marty perched on her hip. My water bottle got plenty of use as it was passed around for everyone, and it was refilled often from the bathroom faucets. Our water fountains have not been turned back on yet from winter shutoff. 

Jamie and I rode down the bike path to downtown. We decided to explore part of the path we've never been to- west of Walmart. Past Walmart it shortly ends into what looks like a dirt and gravel service road. There is another rail car fenced off, though not meant to be very visible, as it was in poor condition with plywood over the window-holes. We followed the roadway across those unused tracks all the way to the actual train yard. Then we turned right along the edge of the yard, and found an exit after going under the bride of the main roadway. 

Jamie's mountain bike with front and rear suspension really shined on this part of our ride, because he wasn't bothered at all by the rough terrain which made Zoomie really shake and rattle. However, I had no trouble keeping up, I was just vibrated more than he was.

We did a loop back around and crossed that bridge which we had just ridden under. The hill itself wasn't bad at all, but we discovered that Vandal had an improperly adjusted limit screw on his derailleur- his chain popped off a few times until we found out why. Going uphill isn't a particularly good time for the pedals to jerk and stop with weight behind them, and Jamie wasn't happy at all to have his newly-recovered ankle stressed like that. But finally we got back on our way, and downhill was really fast and fun without traffic to worry us. We got to the restaurant after everyone else, this time, but just barely. 

Thai Orchid is the name of the place we ate. Blue, Jamie's mom's boyfriend and our roommate, has declared that Thai tea is now his favorite drink, replacing chai latte, which we shared as favorite previously. I still prefer chai. I think Thai tea is simply tea with sweetened coconut milk added to it, but it is a very close rival to chai in deliciousness. We had several people drinking it and asking for refills, so we eventually earned the right to a whole carafe of it!

Everyone ordered something different, and we passed around plates full of all kinds of delicious foods. There was Pad Thai, of course, plus a noodley stir fry, a green curry dish, a clay pot with rice and meats, a creamy delicious soup, something with eggplant, another dish with ginger (don't eat the ginger stalks, they will "punch you in the face"), beef and brocoli, and some others I'm sure I'm forgetting. Everyone had something they liked. After we were pretty well stuffed, the waiter brought out fresh watermelon, which was the perfect ending in my opinion. All the food felt really healthy to eat, being all meat and vegetables. I'm not sure if it truly was, and drinking that tea wasn't a healthy choice, but I wasn't concerned about that at all. I felt really really good.

(I had to get pictures of the flowers for you, Rayv.)

While Tig and her family departed to continue their festivities with her mom's favorite movie watched back at home, Jamie and I coasted over to the game store near the restaurant. Jamie got some more Magic cards, and then we pedaled back home. Our puppies were very happy to see us.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pause to Catch a Breath. No? Never Mind Then

Since my post last Monday, it seems like I've been very busy. My mom's birthday was on May first (Happy Birthday again!). I'm not entirely certain what happened to the rest of the week. Let's see...

I had a field trip on Thursday, and then Friday there was no school due to the end of the grading period. I believe I was extremely happy to have that field trip, because I needed a substitute to cover my elementary run due to time overlap. This meant that I did not have to deal with those younger kids. With the end of school nearing, it seems like all I'm doing is talking to the microphone telling kids to sit properly and not play so rough. One student in particular has been really aggravating. He is a sullen boy with an attitude. I don't think he is ever happy, and despite my efforts to cheer him up or make conversation as he enters and exits the bus, he hasn't changed.
Recently we flip-flopped the seating chart. Originally I had seats assigned based on bus stop, with the kids getting off the bus in the afternoon from back to front. Now they get on the bus in the morning and take the first available seat, and in the afternoon I have a bus emptying out front to back. This new arrangement puts most of the older kids towards the rear of the bus, where they very much feel they have the right to be. Well, this older Sullen picks on a younger student whose stop is right before his. So, the chart was fudged slightly to give them a seat-worth of separation. When I flopped the seats, I fudged it slightly more to give FOUR seats of separation. This younger student is incredibly outgoing. So, the Sullen chose a new target to bully. I received a report of this, and had him sit in the first seat up front to my right. He threatened to cause trouble the entire ride home that day, and we nearly stopped before leaving the school to talk to the principal. My threat worked, and he promised not to cause mischief. He was true to that until Target2 went to get off, where I saw Sullen subtly stick out a foot in an attempt to trip the other boy. This made me incredibly livid, but I said absolutely nothing at all.
Monday morning I arranged to have the principal meet my bus shortly after we arrived and everyone else was dismissed. Sullen had no warning whatsoever, and I explained the situation to the principal. Earlier that year I had written a referral on one of my other students, and had been requested to allow the principal to talk to students personally before bus referrals were used. The arrangement actually worked pretty well- the threat of the principal was enough to keep everyone mostly in line. Sullen had been acting inappropriately for quite some time now, but nothing in itself was consistent or disruptive enough cause for me to justify disciplinary action. This time it was, and I've had it.

Still, I was glad not to have to deal with Sullen on Thursday.

Saturday was our normal game day, and also Tig's birthday (Yay!). I made special strawberry-poppyseed cupcakes for her. I was told that was her favorite cake, and I just happened to have received a cupcake recipe book from a coworker. Perfect!

Jamie made delicious cream cheese and strawberry frosting, because the store-bought icing tasted funny. His mom cut the strawberries into little heart shapes for the top, just like I wanted!

We love you Tig <3

The boys, not to be outdone, decided to make a cake too. They didn't use a recipe. Both have worked in kitchens pretty extensively, so they know the basic ingredients for a cake. 
"We need flour." 
"How much?"
"'Bout that much."

They made a yellow cake with pineapple, like an upside-down cake. The cream cheese frosting for this creation had green apple soda in it. They drizzled honey on top and sprinkled it with brown sugar.

They named it the Bro-Cake.
It too, was delicious.

Jamie's mom fulfilled his special request and made quiche as well. We had a busy kitchen, that's for sure. Quiche is apparently a scrambled egg pie. One had mushrooms and vidalia onions, and the other, which looked much tastier to me, had spinach and bacon.

I found out that I don't care for quiche, but everyone else agrees that they were fantastic.

Mike created our special birthday dinner. He remade a dish that we had tried out just the night before, I think. He took meat, cream cheese, and spinach and stuffed them into a delicious browned puffy pastry- the whole thing is called a roulade. I ate too much and forgot to take picture of this one, sorry!

Then, Sunday was Tig's birthday, round two. We visited her parents for their chance to celebrate with her. They grilled meat and vegetables, baked potatoes, and Val made a cobbler-type desert from crumbled M&M cookies, strawberries and mixed berries, and whipped topping. It was surprisingly good, and my tummy was very full after all that potato and french bread. While waiting for dinner, we played Frisbee golf in the horse pasture. Jamie almost bounced his Frisbee into the bag, which was our ending goalpost. He also spent the day cleaning a grill which we have now been loaned. Hooray for future delicious dinners!

Yesterday started out as a normal day, except that I had sloshed around and then didn't have time to cook eggs for breakfast. I ran out with a glass of milk in my stomach, and a small container of carrots to use as a snack until after my route, when I would go home and eat properly. 
Instead, I was called over the radio and asked if I could substitute for a field trip. Of course I can! Field trips  pay a much higher rate, for a guaranteed minimum of 2 hours. So, I took students from the elementary school I service to a community swimming pool. This pool is heated geothermally, so it is available to use even in winter, I hear. I nibbled my carrots, then after 2 hours (I practiced French braiding), took them back. I promptly cycled to Subway and ordered a BLT with spinach instead of lettuce. I ate the entire foot-long sandwich, sitting leisurely in the sunshine and enjoying life. Then I went straight back to work, it was time for the afternoon run.

Today, I loaded up all our dirty laundry and pushed my bike trailer/stroller to the laundromat. It took a while, but I brought my book this time. Then I got back and patched the hole in the air mattress that we had spent an hour searching for before Jamie had left for class. I am out one more bicycle patch, but now our bed doesn't sag after a couple hours and put us on the floor.

When I got home from work, Jamie and I went with Tig and his mom to the locally-owned Home Depot equivalent to purchase supplies to make the separation between our backyard and our neighbors (another section of the same property) truly private. We added large flat fence slats to the metal gate, and rebuilt the side gate while we were at it. 

Once we were done with the gate, it got left open while we were distracted closing up the last small hole in the puppy-containment perimeter of our back yard. Jackjack decided to take himself for a walk, since I never take him to work with me like he wants me to. We searched frantically for what was probably only a few minutes, but seemed like eternity. I hopped on Zoomie with Jackjack's harness and pedaled down our street. Several people were outside, and they reported not seeing him. I turned down the dirt road behind our row of houses when I got the call to let me know he had been found. 

Jackjack had headed straight for the busy road, walked the wrong way down the bike lane next to traffic to the next block over, and sat at someone else's house and whined at their screen door. They let him in, took a picture of him, and a boy of about twelve had been wandering about asking if people lost a dog that looked like this? Jackjack is very unique- he has a cauliflower ear, stinky dragon breath, and nearly no hearing (makes finding him rather difficult "Jackjack, come here Jackjack!" oh yeah...). Jamie carried him home, where he got lots of hugs.

And, to top all this off, my term for jury duty started this week, and I just found out that I need to be at the courthouse tomorrow at 8am. I had been hoping for a regular slow day to catch my breath, so to speak. At least I get to sleep in.

Zoomie has a never-ending squeaky coming from her drive-train somewhere. I've wasted half a bottle of chain lube on every part I can think of to no use- something still relentlessly makes noise. Also, there is a very ominous clunking from her bottom bracket. Forum replies to my inquiry lead me to believe it could be a symptom of something catastrophic. I hope its just a loose pedal or the chain shifting in the chainwheel teeth?

And finally, my french braiding seems to be getting better.

My first try. I was bored, and this is with damp hair.

A second try. French braided pigtails, worn on Sunday.

Practiced while waiting at the pool during Monday's field trip.

Looks almost right. I'm getting better! 
French braiding requires a completely different method of holding the hair in my hands than the way I taught myself to braid regularly.

And that is my past week, in a very large, long and complicated nutshell. I did try to condense.

How hectic or calm is YOUR life right now?