Monday, June 29, 2009

Back in the saddle

Yesterday I took my bike out. This is the second ride I’ve headed out on all by myself, the first time occurring last weekend. That first ride almost didn’t happen. As I rushed around the house trying to find my orthotics to shove into my bike shoes, and my biking gloves, which I never did find, and take my bike off the trainer to get it outside, I thought, “This is why people don’t get into riding, there is too much crap to put on and get out!” For as much as I appreciate nice gear, it can sure spread out quickly.

The clouds gathered heavily outside our front door. Frowning, I thought, “Why am I doing this? I’m just going to get stuck out in the rain and slide off the road somewhere. I will probably hurt myself too.” Right on queue, Elizabeth yelled down a request for something from her room upstairs. “Ask Daddy,” I told her and stepped outside.

It was now or never. I knew why I needed to get my butt on that seat. It didn’t matter if I only rolled a mile away from the house and then had to turn around, I needed to get on the bike and get out on the road because it intimidated the crap out of me. Waiting until tomorrow wouldn’t make it any easier.

I remember when getting out on the roads by myself wasn’t a big deal. Visions of cars side swiping me or of being kidnapped by a strange man in a pick-up truck didn’t cross my mind. That scary movie didn’t play because the real scenes of freshly painted barns, shiny green corn stalks and the blissful swatches of cool shady wooded areas took up all of the space instead. In those days, I pushed my pedals and felt my strength and independence rise within me without any surprise.
And so despite the pit in my stomach and the incessant fear that I would get stuck in my pedals and eat the pavement with my much appreciated teeth, I clipped in and headed out. We live in an area with a lot of round abouts. Knowing that riding through one would scare me, I headed for the closest one right away. My heart rate monitor beeped at me as I approached the tricky intersection. Following all of the road rules, I entered the round about and promptly got honked at by an angry driver. Apparently, he or she wasn’t pleased seeing a biker on the road. “Okay, so I got the round about and the pissed off driver out of the way in the first five minutes, not bad,” I thought. Sure enough, my heart rate monitor confirmed that my heart was still beating, I was still alive. A sense of adventure and freedom once again started to seep into my pumping legs. “Honk if you must, but I, Kate Kneifel, am out here on the road, like it or not!”

I knew there were ride markers on the road, starting at Elizabeth’s elementary school, so I followed those. As I pedaled farther and farther away from the subdivisions of our town and headed more and more out into the country, my spirits lifted. On that first ride, it never did rain. I saw two blue birds, with their brilliant indigo coloring, and each time I shouted with glee. “Oh my gosh, it’s a blue bird!” I love blue birds but have only seen them a couple of times in my life. I remember wanting to try to build one of their special houses when I was in girl scouts. I never did make one, but on this ride I saw them twice! Then, at one point in the ride, the clouds parted and a brilliant ray of sunshine streamed down upon a white barn sitting peacefully in a golden field of wheat. “Wow, “ I exclaimed to no one. “Will you look at that! Isn’t that just beautiful!” Smiling, pleased with myself as if I had created all of these little surprises myself, I rode on.

I’ve lived in Carmel for almost 15 years. Here was all of this beauty just a few miles by bike, and I’d never seen it or experienced it. It felt like a mini vacation, a little mini adventure in my backyard. And that experience alone, it was like being a little kid again. Almost as if these child-like experiences were a just smooth white shelled eggs nestled in my gut, just waiting to be picked up and cracked open.

Yesterday I chose a new route. I had no idea how far it would take me, or where it would take me. I could’ve looked it up on the internet or driven it first with my car, but that seemed beyond the point. Once again, I came home feeling rejuvenated and alive with the feel of the road, the smell of the burning wood, the rotting moss, the heat of the growing crops now enveloped in my body. It amazes me that how if I can manage to push the fear aside, other sensations will fill that space until there is just not much room for fear and anxiety.

I keep trying to find people who want to go out on rides with me. But it seems people have either had painful sore butt experiences with bikes and aren’t thrilled about the idea of reliving them, or they are zippidy fast and I don’t want to hold them back, sucking air the whole time trying to keep up with them. Perhaps I am just meant to ride alone for awhile and it turns out, I don’t mind at all.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Today I dropped my kids off at Vacation Bible School, I raced my guilt about not volunteering this year to the front doors. I won. Leaving the guilt behind to catch it's breath and latch onto another mother, I drove my smeared windowed Civic to Menards.

I've been wanting to plant more perennials in the back beds, but just haven't had the time lately. As I walked through the nursery with my list, my heart pounded as if I were embarking upon a new romance. I thought to myself, "This is me. I get butterflies imagining what I can plant in the dirt behind my house." I'm not sure if this is an admirable passion for life and the simple parts of it, or low expectations.

Pure joy hits you from behind while your not looking. It stuns me like a kick in the butt, but instead of being angry and shocked, when it is joy, you jump at the sudden impact and laugh. An Annabelle hydrangea plant sat shot gun. Kai's car seat held with lavender plants. The floor filled up with yellow rose bushes. The back end of my car sunk under the weight of several bags of black top soil and mulch.

No one was hungry. I didn't have to worry about putting a blanket down for dirt and water. It's my car. I am allowed to get it as dirty as I want. As I hopped into my car, I could almost hear the plants smile, sighing happily to themselves as well. There is a quietness knowing you will be loved. If I had a bigger car, I would've bought too much, felt sick to my stomach. Neatly folding the receipt and slipping it into that hidden pocket of my wallet I would have returned them the next day.

I will take a picture of this when I get home, I thought as I arched the front wheels out of the parking spot. This is pure happiness for me today. So I did, and there it is.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Giving up the Gold Star

I keep thinking about posting something, writing more, and then I don't. I do the laundry, start dinner, get caught up on paperwork for work, and think of other projects, something easier.

I keep thinking two things, first of all, that nothing worth having is ever too easy. And two, but maybe I am wasting my time. I had a big in depth conversation with my friend Heather about careers, life, etc. She asked me why I am writing, what I like to write, etc.

A year ago I started take more time to write because I enjoy it. I've kept a journal since I was about 11 and find that writing lifts me up. It leaves me feeling full and light at the same time. But as we continued talking, I realized that lately, I'd fallen into the "Gold Star" trap. I was writing to get the Gold Star. I wanted someone who wasn't a friend or family to read my blog and find it interesting. I daydreamed of an agent or publisher finding something I wrote worth a second look. And as the rejections came in, I lost that spark and worse, the fun evaporated as I replayed my own sense of embarrassment over and over in my mind.

Heather left me a card the next day. It is a yellow note card with a little pink star on it. "I couldn't find any gold stars, so you got a pink one on a gold card!"

I haven't been writing much this month. But maybe it was time for a break, time to take a breath, to let go of worry and stop trying so hard.

There is a woman at my club and she is teaching herself how to swim, just as I did last year at this time. Each day, she straps on the flotation belt and churns up and down the swim lane. Stopping half way down the lane, her chest lifts and falls, I catch her eye and smile. I want to say, "WAY TO GO! You are doing so much better than just two weeks ago!" But I don't, as I need to watch myself that I am not too friendly. She smiles back proud of herself. I didn't have to say a word.

Me, I plan to backstroke for a bit. I did a bit of revising on my Princess Hazel story, but that's it. I am just struggling going back to it. I'm not trying to make writing my career. It's funny, I can do marathons, cycling events or swim and not care at all if I am slow. Instead, I find I feel completely delighted each time I finish and don't puke. I wonder how I can transfer that attitude to other areas? Maybe drink Gatorade while I write to get me in the mood? Do push ups between sentences?

For now, I'm going to try to let go of the Gold Star Status, breathe and let it be fun again.