Friday, November 10, 2017

#447 The Trials of the Single Partygoer

This weekend I am going to a party.  Friends (a married couple) are having an open house to show off their newly-remodeled house.  Here is what goes through my head as a single person attending a party by myself. 

Steve and Susie are great biking friends of mine.  They are fun and I’m looking forward to seeing them and their new house.  However, I only know them and a couple of Steve’s bike friends, whom I’ve also occasionally ridden with.  I don’t know his friends’ wives.  I don’t know any of Steve and Susie’s other friends.  As a solo attendee, I feel awkward having to “work the room” making small talk.  I want a wing man!  There is the excitement of going, yet the dread of not knowing anyone.  As an intermittent extrovert, parties make me swing to the introvert spectrum. 

But then I think about if I actually had a wing man.  Yes, I would have someone to fall back on and talk to, but wouldn’t meet as many new people. I would also have to introduce him, which brings the panic of me being horrible at remembering names. 

Prior to one of my high school reunions, I had similar feelings of angst.  My high school friends I saw regularly refused to attend.  I was adamant to go.  As I walked into the venue, I prayed, “Lord, please help me to have a good time.”  I had a blast.  I was free to roam as I pleased.  At dinner I sat next to a volleyball teammate and her husband, and our legendary former janitor.  All was ok. 

This party is not on a reunion level, but I still feel some trepidation.  And for the record, I would still rather have a wing-man/partner in crime.  Until that happens, I’ll do what I always do - put my big girl pants on, hold my head high and say a silent prayer to have a good time.

Let’s get this party started.   

Monday, October 30, 2017

#446 The Hilly Hundred is 50!

This year the Hilly Hundred turned 50! Of those 50, I have ridden 20 or those years.  I did my first Hilly in 1995, skipped two years, and since 1998 have done it every year.  Let me tell you why I love it. 

I was clueless for my first Hilly.  A friend told me her husband Chris had ridden it and thought I would enjoy it.  I had done some low-mileage biking, and, despite the name, I wondered, “How hilly could it be?”  My “training” consisted of riding 20 miles a couple weekends prior.  I was in for a rude awakening.  I rode my 1983 Schwinn World Sport, which weighs about 20 pounds.  I wore an outfit that I would turn my nose up at now - running tights, a cotton sweatshirt, a large jacket that blew up like a balloon, cross-trainer shoes and a cotton bandana around my head to keep my ears warm.  Despite the freezing temperatures, I was a hot mess.  I walked up each major hill (maybe three each day, not including the many rollers).  Poor Chris waited for me at the top of every one of them, bless him. 

1995 - Chris and Linda before the ride.  Excited!

Beautiful colors!
Linda after the ride.

Chris and Linda post-ride.  Exhausted!
I did it!  

For my second Hilly, I actually trained, and I even rode in hilly Brown County a couple times during the summer.  I redeemed myself and made it up every hill in that Schwinn.  I will keep that bike forever.    

Even though I loved the Schwinn, it was way too heavy and difficult to shift, so I eventually bought a new bike the next summer.  And got a huge shock at bike prices.  I rode my new LeMond Tourmalet for the next 15 years.  A bit lighter.  Better shifting.  And it had a granny gear. 

In 2012, I purchased a carbon fiber Trek Madone.  I was concerned that it had compact gears and no granny.  I told Graham from Matthews, “If I don’t make it up Mt. Tabor on this bike, I am not going to be happy!”  Graham assured me I would, and I did.  (More on that monstrosity later.) 

Throughout these years I rode with different people.  Chris, who was exceedingly patient.  My brother Paul, who amazingly rode it on his mountain bike.  He and his friend Dave joined us a couple times.  Dave rode a hybrid with brakes that squealed.  We always knew where Dave was.  He resembled the Wicked Witch of the West with his upright riding posture and we “sang” the witch’s theme song when he rode by us.  My friends Julie and Krista rode a couple times.  Krista hates hills so go figure.  Kathy (Chris’ wife) even rode once.  My niece and nephew’s PE teacher Diane and her friends rode for several years.  Then it morphed to Greenwood Steve (I have about five bike friends named Steve, so I have to nickname them to differentiate) and his friends, Jan, a co-worker, and three fun guys from Ohio - Andy, Boris and Duane).  And I always run into people I know along the route or at the rest stops. 

1998 -  Dave, Julie and Paul
2002- Diane (R) and friend.  I don't stick out at all...

2012 - Jan, me, Joe, Duane

2015 - Me with the Ohio boys - Ed, Boris, Andy
2017 - Ready to roll with Andy, Ed and Boris (missed Duane - he broke his wrists rollerblading)
My lodging has varied over the years as well.  I’ve driven back and forth and slept at home.  I stayed a couple times with my Aunt Esther and Uncle Ed, who lived in Marlin Hills, which is on the old Hilly route.  The past few years I have driven to Ellettsville Friday after work and slept in the Edgewood Middle School cafeteria.  I bring a mattress pad and some earplugs and sleep mask. 

Why do I ride the Hilly?  There are several reasons (in addition to this T-shirt). 

The hills!  They don’t call it the Hilly for nothing!  I always get a bit nervous, but certainly love the challenge.  Some years are “easier” than others.  If I do a week-long camping ride in September, that helps.  This past year my week-long ride was in June.  I rode all summer and then September came, and it was the Penrod Art Fair, Auburn football game, Purdue football game, rain, uh oh, the Hilly is in two weeks!  But I did ok.  And the hills have such great names - Water Tower Hill.  Bean Blossom.  Bear Wallow.  The Three Sisters.  And the coup de gras – Mt. Tabor.  Mt. Tabor is a .2-mile, 21 percent grade hill (if I remember correctly).  I tend to have hill amnesia.

My method of hill-conquering is to sit and slowly churn up the monster hills.  Except for Mt. Tabor, which is so steep it gets me up out of my saddle.  And not only do you have the hill itself to contend with, there is the car traffic (sometimes going both ways).  And riders often stop in front of you to start walking up the hill.  You have to be super alert and most times I’m riding on the “wrong” side of the road to go around people.  I am slow, but if I slow down any more I’ll fall over.  My best hill story is when I was climbing Mt. Tabor.  It was warm and my legs were bare.  I was about halfway up when I passed a guy and he yelled, “Nice legs!”  Being the polite person I am, I barely responded with “Thank you.”  That compliment gave me the burst of adrenaline I needed to push me up the hill. 

The scenery!  The Hilly moves around in October based on Indiana University home football games, so later in the month you see more of the fall foliage.  We ride on country roads and sometimes pass through Morgan-Monroe State Forest. 

The people!  I already mentioned all the people I usually ride with.  There are thousands who ride and it’s just plain fun to be out riding with other bike enthusiasts.  You see all ages and level of cyclist.  The occasional jean shorts sometimes make an appearance.  Ouch. 

The music!  A band plays at each rest stop, which makes for a festive atmosphere. 

The food!  There is FOOD at the rest stops.  Pumpkin donuts, chocolate chip muffins, apple cider, apples, bananas, trail mix, Scholars Inn granola bars.  And that’s just at the first and third stops.  At the second (lunch) stop, there is fried chicken, pasta salad, quinoa salad, carrot sticks, wavy potato chips, cookies and Schwan’s Ice Cream.  I ride to eat. 

The deals!  After a long day of riding, it’s fun to get back to the school and head to the vendor tent.  Cycling is a racket!  Items are marked up to 50 percent off.  It’s a great time to stock up on tubes, tires, arm warmers, and to look for other fun accessories. 

The challenge!  I love a good challenge.  I don’t race against anyone else but me.  Do these legs still have it?  Yes. 

2017 - Early-morning sunrise.  

2017 - This was a warning for walnuts on the road.  Or was it?  

2017 - At Sunday's first rest-stop.  
2017 - This I am NOT.  I just thought it was cool.  
2017 - We signed the HILLY letters for posterity!   
If you’ve never done the Hilly, give it a try.  They have shorter options each day if the mileage intimidates you.  And if the hills intimidate you?  They’re not that bad.  And there’s no shame in walking.  I should know.  

Monday, October 9, 2017

#445 Undefeated

Last week a friend I’ve known since junior high died.  She spent the last five years of her life fighting colorectal cancer.   

I first met Lynne at Stonybrook Junior High.  Lynne was a fierce competitor - small but mighty.  She was our point guard and basically ran circles around everyone.  (She appropriately also ran cross country.)  I joked that half of our team’s points were from her stealing the ball from the other team and dribbling down the court for a layup.  She laughed about practicing lobbing the ball to me for hours on end.  That year our team had a 19-0 record and won the Marion County Championships. 

The tall and short of Stonybrook Junior High.  
I only played one year with her at Stonybrook and then we continued as teammates at Warren Central High School.  We had successful teams in high school, and both had good experiences playing basketball in college.  But after all my years of playing basketball, this one year at Stonybrook brought my only team championship.  And we were undefeated. 

Loved those Warren Warrior sweaters!

Sectional champs!
Graduation day at the Indiana State Fairgrounds

After high school graduation, we went our different ways, as happens.  I saw her around town now and then.  I ran into her around Christmastime right before she moved to England for work.  It was while she was in England that she was first diagnosed.   

Fast forward to last fall when I was involved with planning my high school reunion. She attended the school tour and, while we all knew she was seriously ill, you never would have guessed.  She was a bit thinner, but was still her usual smiling, positive self. 

30-year reunion - basketball and volleyball teammates
This past spring a group of Warren girls and parents had a wonderful gathering.  It's something we talked about doing for a while (you know how that goes).  We decided to pull the trigger and I am so thankful we did.  It was such a fun afternoon and it was like we were back in high school.  We were so impressed with the size of Krista's shower we all fit for a shower selfie.  

As time passes I am reminded more often than I’d like that life is short.  And unpredictable.  Two weeks before she passed, Lynn’s mom posted an update on her Caring Bridge site that she was failing.  They gave her a few weeks to several months.  Another high school friend and I visited her a few days later.  Despite the seriousness of the occasion, Lynne was still positive and even cracked some one-liners.  At her lowest moment, she was making us laugh.  And when my friend leaned in to hug her once more, Lynne patted her back and said, “It’s ok.  It’s ok.  He’s with me.” 

I am sad that my friend is gone from this earth.  If there can be any joy at all, it is that she is only gone from this earth.  She is now with her Savior, running circles around Him.  Cancer took a lot of things from her and her friends and family still on earth.  Cancer could not take her spirit.  Lynne is still undefeated.  

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

#444 There Is Always One More Time

One week this past winter I listened to all of Harry Connick, Jr’s albums on Spotify (yes, I still call them albums)One of my new favorite songs of his is “There Is Always One More Time” on 30.  

Every time I listen to this song tears come to my eyes and I feel a surge of hope run through my body.  Now, I really have no true problems, as problems go.  I am healthy.  I have a job I enjoy.  I have a great family and friends.  But I, like most people, have things in my life that I want to change, improve or overcome.  We don’t always succeed at something on the first try.  We suffer disappointment, hurt and sorrow of varying degrees.  We cause some of our own problems.  Some are brought on by others.  But you know what?  We can always try again.  We can learn from our mistakes and do a better job the next time.  And maybe even the next time after that. 

There are many chapters to our lives.  Just because one chapter has ended doesn’t mean the story is over.  We can begin again.  Thank you, Harry, for reminding us that there is always one more time.  

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

#443 Happy Days are Hair Again

Most women wage an ongoing battle with their hair.  We have good hair days and bad hair days, and often our hair determines how we feel about ourselves.  It seems we’re never happy with what we have.  (This can apply to more than hair.)  Women with straight hair want curly hair.  Women with curly hair want straight hair. 

My hair is wavy and somewhat course.  It has a lot of body and is very thick.  I am happy with it, but don’t like that it can be frizzy and not that shiny.  It’s also very heavy, so with me wearing it long (past my shoulders) it pulls out a lot of the wave. 

Several years ago, I decided to not fight the frizz and began to wear my hair wavy when it rained or there was high humidity (aka – summertime).  The rest of the time I would wear it “straight” (blow it dry and use a 1 ½” barrel curling iron). 

I’m cheap when it comes to haircuts.  Through high school, college and part of my 30s I went to the same place.  With a few exceptions, I got a simple, straight cut or trim for $5.  It was ok.  I eventually “broke up” with my hair lady and then went to someone who cut hair out of their house for $10.  One of the best cuts, and she became one of my best friends.  Then she stopped cutting hair.  Agh! 

From there I went to the Aveda Institute ($17).  They did a good job, but you get a different person every time and it takes a long time since it’s a school. 

Last year I sucked it up and went to a fancy salon in Carmel ($55).  I heard about it from a random woman on the street with curly hair.  The stylist was Deva Curl-certified and did a great job.  I went to her three times and then she went on maternity leave and didn’t come back.  Just as well; the drive and the haircut took about the same time as going to Aveda, although the cut was better. 

I wanted to stay with a Deva-certified stylist.  It makes a huge difference.  They cut it dry to see how it falls to enhance the curl.  I learned lots of great tips from the first stylist:
  • Apply conditioner (I use the Deva Curl light conditioner) to wet hair.  Don’t wring your hair out before applying the conditioner.
  • Don’t rinse all the conditioner out of your hair.  Leave a little in and it will help your hair stay soft.
  • Dry your hair with a microfiber towel or a dri-fit T-shirt.  Cotton towels rough the cuticle and cause frizz.
  • You can’t use too much produce (I already used the Deva Curl defining gel).
 I wore my hair curly all last summer.  She told me that the cut would look good straight too (and it did), but it was easier to leave it curly.  The only time I was tempted to wear it straight was for my high school reunion but the forecast was rain so I stayed curly. 

In my quest for a second Deva Curl stylist, I found Cher at Salon Lofts in Broad Ripple ($50).  She did a wonderful job. Check out the before and after.  So much more volume, shine and CURLS.  I absolutely love it. She only used a diffuser – no curling iron.  Amazing!  

Additional tips from Cher:
  • Apply the product in the shower on wet hair, and apply it all over your hair.  You should hear it “squishing” when you apply it bent over on the ends.  You can later blot with a microfiber towel or dri-fit T-shirt.
  • Dry your hair all the way with the diffuser.  (I had not done this before.)  She said this prevents the non-dried hair from losing its shape.
  • Use a low heat and power setting on your hairdryer.  
  • Dry your hair mostly upside down. This gives you more volume on top.
My hair looked so good that I wanted to go out on a date.  I just went home and kept looking at my hair in the mirror.  (How sad is that?  Ha)

Cher also used a product prior to the gel, called Set It Free.  It’s supposed to make your hair shinier and give it more moisture.  And her diffuser is a lot larger than mine, which came with my dryer.  Hers is the Annie Large Finger Diffuser.  I am now on a mission to get that diffuser.  

I slept carefully so as not to disrupt the curls and get a full day out of my hair.  I had so many compliments.  It’s true – when you’re having a great hair day, the rest of your day goes so well!  At a meeting in our auditorium, I sat next to a friend who had her laptop with her.  Another person behind us sent her a Lync message, “Tell Linda I love her hair!” 

The challenge - re-creating the look.  I have a larger diffuser (not the Annie yet) and got the Set It Free spray and that has helped, but the back is still a long way off.  Believe, me, one day I will able to make my own hair look like that. 

If you have curly hair, I suggest finding a Deva Curl stylist in your area.  Yes, it costs a little more, so you have to make sure it fits in your budget.  I used to get my hair cut every six weeks, and now go every 12 weeks.  And I love my hair more, so for me, it's worth every penny.  

Hairs to you!  


Friday, August 25, 2017

#442 Say What?!

As a 6 foot 6 female, I hear all kinds of comments on a daily basis.  Well, maybe not every day, but most every day.  I am so used to hearing comments, they usually don’t bother me anymore.  When I’m walking with someone for the first time, they are amazed at what people say to me.  They get angry instead of me.  I had several comments this past weekend so I thought I’d see how many I could remember from my lifetime.   

How tall are you?  The most common.  Does it matter?  I’m still a lot taller than you.  Do you really need a comparison?  People have no concept of height.  I’ve been asked if I was 7 feet tall on several occasions.  Seriously?  Most of the time I say 6’6”.  If I’m feeling playful, I’ll puzzle them with 5’18”. 

You’re tall.  This comes in a close second with the above.  It’s like people have no idea what to say and instead of listening to the adage “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.” they just blurt out the obvious.  I want to say, “No s#%*, Sherlock.”  I usually smile and say, “Really?”

Do you play basketball?  Yes, a lot of tall people play basketball, so maybe a good question.  Maybe.  Still, unnecessary.  I also played volleyball.  When I lived in Seattle someone asked me if I was a rower.  First (and last) time anyone asked me that.  When I worked with the Women’s College Works Series I was asked if I was a pitcher.  My answers depends on my mood.  I have several, and I keep it brief.  Yes.  No.  Sometimes I’ll get a wild hair and tell them I was a gymnast.  One response I can never bring myself to say is, “Do you play miniature golf?” 

How’s the weather up there?  I don’t recall anyone asking me this.  I wanted to include it because I have heard the story of someone being asked that question and answering, “It’s raining.” and then they spit on them.  I could never do that!  That’s just gross.  And worse than someone asking that question. 

How tall is your husband?  I don’t like this question mainly because I don’t have a husband.  I would love to say he’s 6’10” or even 7 feet.  I have a guy friend who is 5’5” and we have pretended to be a couple just to make people laugh. 

How tall are your children?  I don’t have kids.  Next. 

Sir.  Once-in-a-while people think I’m a man.  It’s mostly cashiers.  They are busy scanning items and don’t look up when they greet me, just see a tall figure and say, “How are you today, sir?”  They quickly realize I’m a woman and apologize.  This doesn’t bother me; it’s mainly funny.  The best was when I went to a local native American museum with my mom.  I wore my hair down and was wearing a jean jacket.  As my mom paid for the tickets, the person asked her, “Is he a student?”  He?  I do have a dark complexion.  Did she think I was native American dude?  Strange. 

When I dream, I’m as tall as you.  A woman said this to me last weekend at a farmer’s market.  She was in her 60s and around 5’5”.  I had no idea what to say, so responded with, “In my dreams, I can fly.” 

That is the tallest woman in the world!  People make comments and don’t realize I can hear them.  I was at the grocery store the other day and I heard one of the employees talking to a co-worker.  After that first remark, he added, “I’m 6’3” and she’s way taller than me!”  Yes, I’m taller than you, but not by that much.  For the record, one of the tallest women in the world did live in Indianapolis in an apartment complex not far from where I grew up.  Sandy Allen was 7’ 7” and her height was due to a tumor in her pituitary gland that caused it to release growth hormone uncontrollably.  She died at age 53. 

Can I ask you a question?  This is usually followed by “How tall are you?”  When I hear this, I am tempted to say, “You just did.”  Sometimes I give my height before they ask the second question.  Keep it moving, people.  Nothing to see here. 

Besides comments, there are a couple phenomenon.  One is the walk-by.  This happens when I’m standing in a crowd or in line, minding my own business, when I notice a man walk by me out of the corner of my eye.  When he gets behind me, he slows down and looks at his friends to see how he measures up.  I am good at spotting the walk-by.  I love to make eye contact, letting them know I caught them red-handed.  At least they didn’t ask a question or make a rude comment.  But do you think I can’t see you skulking around behind me?  Geez. 

The other is immediately looking at my feet to see how high my heels are.  Because a woman my height must be wearing heels, right?  Nope.  In college I attended some fraternity band parties.  Initially I got excited because I saw several tall guys in the crowd, but when I looked closer, they were standing on coolers to see the band.  Of course, others thought I was standing on a cooler.  It’s all me. 

I realize I am an “oddity.”  Most people are curious and don’t mean any harm.  I will admit when I see a woman close to my height, I look at her in amazement and think, “Is that what I look like?  I AM really tall!”  Because I don’t feel tall in my own body.  (Until I knock my head on something.)  And then my friends give ME a hard time for doing the exact thing I complain about.  But I make a point not to stare (too much) and I certainly don’t say anything to them.  Often, we exchange an understanding smile as we pass each other. 

I would love for people to be mindful of what they are saying and who can hear them.  This is for everyone’s benefit – those who are excessively short, in a wheelchair or have some other physical difference.  Don’t stare.  If you can’t help yourself, don’t say anything out loud until you know for sure you are out of range.  Treat them like just any other person.  They deserve it.

Oh, and the weather up here?  It’s just fine.  

P.S.  – This past Sunday at the grocery store (why is it always at the grocery store?) a woman approached me as I stood in the checkout line.  “How tall are you?”  After I answered, she said, “My daughter wants to be 7 feet.”  Wow.  That’s a pretty lofty goal.  Her daughter was hiding in one of the other checkout lines.  She’s 12.  I told the mom about doubling a child’s height when they’re two and that usually will be their full-size height.  She shook her head, like, “She’s not going to make it.”  She looked to be about 5’7” and she said her husband is 6’3”.  Hey – who knows?  My dad is 6’1” and my mom is 5’9”.  Anyway, it was pretty funny, especially since I had just written posted about this subject.  

Friday, August 18, 2017

#441 Arsenic and Flying Cupcakes

For the past year or so, I have waged an ongoing battle with sugar.  I feel like I constantly think, or even say out loud, “I’m trying to limit my sugar.”  The usual response I get is, “You don’t have to worry about that.”  As in, you don’t have to worry about gaining weight. 

As someone who has struggled to gain weight all my life, it’s not about the weight.  I could eat junk food 24/7 and not gain any weight.  My struggle is that I know excessive sugar bad for me. 

I’ve heard that cancer feeds on sugar, but found it to be a myth.  However, there is evidence that consuming large amounts of sugar is associated with an increased risk of certain cancers.  Eating a lot of sugar can also lead to weight gain and increase the risk of obesity and diabetes, which may increase the risk of cancer. 

The American Heart Association recommends limiting your sugar intake to six teaspoons a day (100 calories) for women, and nine teaspoons a day (150 calories) for men.  As a reference, a 12-ounce can of regular soda has eight teaspoons of sugar, which is 130 calories. 

I don’t drink soda, but I do love sweets.  I grew up in a house where we always had dessert after dinner.  My dad (and his mother) loved to bake, so it was pie, cake, cookies and other treats.  All homemade, but still sugar.  And then there’s chocolate.  I try to limit those things, but sugar is everywhere!  It’s in pasta sauce, salad dressing (I now make my own), bread and cereal to name a few. 

The other reason I want to avoid sugar is that it ages you.  Sugar makes your insulin levels spike, which leads to an increase of inflammation in your body.  That in turn produces enzymes that break down collagen and elastin, resulting in sagging skin and wrinkles. 

I am realistic about wrinkles.  I have them.  I will get more.  But I don’t want to speed up the process.  I have been using facial moisturizer with sunscreen for years.  Now if I can just get a handle on the sugar.

Last week I enjoyed one of my favorite summer activities – the Indiana State Fair.  I’m not into all the fair food, but love the Dairy Bar and decided to get a chocolate shake.  It was huge.  As I ate it I thought, “I should only eat half.”  I ate the whole thing.  And felt bloated and guilty afterward. 

Last weekend I enjoyed another one of my favorite summer activities – a movie on the lawn at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  It was Arsenic and Old Lace with Cary Grant.  Each person in my group brought food for a picnic before the movie began at dusk.  Julie brought cupcakes from the The Flying Cupcake.  They are huge with about 1” of icing on top.  As I picked mine, I thought, “I should only eat half.”  Again, I ate the whole thing.  I did leave a about half the icing on my plate (my reasoning:  most of the sugar is in the icing).  Thankfully, I didn’t feel ill that time, just slightly guilty. 

After the movie, I thought more about my sugar struggle.  I do well for a while, then fall off the wagon.  What would help me stay on?  I need to remind myself that in essence, sugar is poison.  And since the movie was fresh on my mind, I likened it to arsenic.  Every time I have a choice to eat the sweet thing or not, I need to remind myself that sugar is poison.  Extreme, but it might help. 

I know that moderation is the key to most everything.  And unlike arsenic, sugar won’t actually kill me and I won’t end up buried in a cellar with 13 other bodies (you need to watch the movie).  We’ll all die of something anyway, right?  Pick your poison.