Believe

It dawned on me today that it’s been over a month since my last bike ride. I have a vague memory of October 22nd – I remember the weather promised to be unseasonably warm with abundant sunshine, so Old Bessie and I made sure to take advantage of the day.

Riding along Elbo Lane towards my parents’ former neighborhood, something caught my eye at the local fire department and prompted me to turn around after passing it.

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It was a large piece of twisted metal rising toward the heavens against a beautiful blue sky. Now, I’ve ridden by this facility dozens of times and never noticed the 9/11 Memorial on display in front of the building and questioned my awareness. After learning that the memorial had just been erected the month prior on the sixteenth anniversary of 9/11, I was reassured of my knack for acuity.

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Not knowing from which tower it fell, the twisted metal was recovered at Ground Zero and donated to New Jersey to be put on display. Other artifacts included a piece of limestone taken from the Pentagon and a rock from the crash site of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.

It reminded me of that day and how much I really don’t like to think about it. September 11, 2001 was the kid’s “half birthday” – she was exactly 2 1/2 years old. The kid was busying herself with play while I worked out to a video in our living room. A few minutes after 8:46AM the phone rang. Still working out, I listened to the answering machine as it recorded my mother’s voice on the other end. Panic was in her voice, and she demanded I respond to her call. Picking up the receiver, I asked her what was wrong. “Turn on the t.v.! We’re under attack!” As ordered, I turned the channel to CNN and watched as the North Tower burned. Now it was my turn to panic. The kid could tell that something serious was going on as I desperately attempted to calm my mother down. Trying to figure out what had happened, I watched as a jetliner crashed into the South Tower at 9:03AM…then the Pentagon at 9:37AM…and finally, a crash in rural Pennsylvania at 10:07AM. In memory, most of that day was an emotional roller coaster of hysteria and complete terror. And then the skies grew quiet…very quiet…and it stayed that way for 48 hours. For weeks I was glued to CNN, paralyzed by the incomprehensibility of events on that mild Tuesday morning with the beautiful blue sky. It took months before I didn’t cower when planes flew overhead, and the kid became so frightened by our reactions she refused to leave my side for over two years. At some point I turned off the news and never watched it again…

And then I saw something in the parking lot that delightfully lightened the mood:

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A practice dummy lying face down after being “rescued” during a drill…time to move on!

Heading toward Church Road and making the usual pit stop at Johnson’s Farm, I found myself passing Kirby’s Mill (Seeing, May 25, 2017) and discovered a small house behind the mill.

“This simply detailed, 1 story, three bay wide frame house with a shed roofed porch across the front was built in the late 1700s. It may have been a tenant house on the Jonathan Haines farm. Jonathan was one of the men who petitioned the New Jersey Assembly for permission to build a dam, a gristmill and a sawmill on the land bordering the South Branch of the Rancocas Creek, “one end abutting on the land of the said Jonathan Haines.” In 1778, the mill was completed and started operations. This building became the home of the sawmill foreman and therefore was called the Sawyer’s House.”

http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMA6G2_The_Sawyers_House_Medford_NJ

After a cautious look around, I decided to explore the road further, not having ever ridden it before – Fostertown Road. A little over a mile later, I came upon an airport.

It’s called the Flying W Airport and Resort:

“Flying W Airport & Resort was built in the 1960s by Bill Whitesell; hence the “W” in its name. Mr. Whitesell initially envisioned a place to provide air transportation services to those involved in building the Alaska Pipe Line. He also wanted to provide a place where both travelers and local families could dine al fresco in a restaurant that also doubles as a bar and cafe, stay in the quaint Flying W Motel, and swim in the famous airplane-shaped swimming pool. Over the years, the restaurant, lounge and swimming pool have provided enjoyment and wonderful memories to many who still visit.”

http://www.flyingwairport.com/

What a quaint little place! Thinking about how much Michael would have loved this place, I looked at the small single-engine planes and remembered hearing how some of the 9/11 hijackers took flying lessons at little airports like this one in order to gain the knowledge they would later use to kill thousands of people…time to move on!

Continuing down the road, I pulled Old Bessie to the side of the road so as not to miss the perfect photo op of all rides:

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Yup…some days, when everything is right with the universe and the sun is high in that beautifully cloudless blue sky and you’re just coasting through life feeling groovy without a care in the world, a huge pile of shit is going to find you. So why the challenge? I believe that G-d gives us what we can handle and maybe sometimes we need a little humility to remind us of our fortune in life. But how does one explain pure evil? Why do we need the challenge of men full of hatred turning jetliners into weapons of destruction and killing thousands of innocent people? Perhaps we need an occasional reminder as to why we all need to be better human beings. Some would say that if the test is passed successfully, we are rewarded in the end…

Four days after 9/11, on a quiet Saturday morning with a beautiful blue sky, a friend decided to go ahead with the wedding she had planned over the past year. This friend spent decades dating all the wrong guys until she happened to meet up with an old acquaintance from elementary school when in her late 30s. In a storybook fairytale, they fell in love and got engaged two years later during a romantic getaway somewhere along the Florida Keys. Originally planning to exchange vows on the beach, the ceremony was transferred to a little church on the main drag due to public restrictions being enforced throughout the region. Wearing her fantasy wedding gown purchased on ebay months before, she and her husband exchanged vows to a tearful congregation. I had known this woman for ten years and watched her struggle from one relationship to the next. I was truly happy for her, but couldn’t stop thinking about the collective sorrow resonating silently throughout the chapel. For a year we helped plan the perfect wedding never anticipating something as horrific as 9/11. As we gathered together to leave the church and head to the reception, we thanked our friend for providing a moment of peace and love desperately needed after a long week of tremendous despair.

I see my light come shining
From the west unto the east
Any day now, any day now
I shall be released”

I Shall Be Released – Bob Dylan

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

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We need a good, smart bear…

“If you cannot be grateful for what you have received, then be thankful for what you have been spared.” – Yiddish Proverb

thanks

Michael’s wife, Liz (a.k.a. my fourth sister), is Chinese. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my sister-from-another-mister was the BEST thing that ever happened to my brother. Her natural ability to interact with Michael in a way no other human being has come close to achieving speaks volumes on the beautiful soul that exists within this extraordinary person. If her only purpose in this lifetime was to make the last years of my brother’s life happy and comfortable, she has succeeded ten-fold.

Over the years our family has tried their best to learn and speak simple Chinese phrases with little to no success. To be expected, mom was the most entertaining member of the class. My mother took the cake when it came to jumbling up pronunciations. For example, throughout the entire OJ Simpson trial, mom referred to Barry Scheck as “Barry Skank” regardless of how many times we corrected her misnomer. And, as to be expected, her faux pas didn’t end with the English language.

One of the phrases mom wished to learn was how to say “thank you” in Chinese so that she could thank her server when eating at a Chinese food establishment.

https://translate.google.com/?um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&client=tw-ob#auto/zh-CN/thank%20you

In her defense, Chinese is a difficult language to learn and speak, especially for us Americans. However, for mom, “xie xie” became “shit shit.” The inaccuracy of her pronunciation is something we speak of often and always hardily laugh about when remembering our mother…which brings us to my secret-now-empty-nester-getaway with the hubby this past week…

As summer was quickly coming to a close with the inevitable departure of the kid to Israel, I frantically began planning things to do so that the hubby and I could actually have a relationship once again that didn’t involve a child or anything to do with a child (sorry kid). So on July 12th I planned a getaway post chagim (Jewish holidays) in order to get the ball rolling…destination- Spring Lake, New Jersey.

Locating a B&B two blocks from the beach that was affordable enough not to take out a second mortgage, I paid the deposit toward a minimum two-night stay on a room with a private balcony overlooking the lake. Researching “things to do,” along with kosher eateries (a must), every hour of 48 was arranged to guarantee non-stop pleasure. The Weather Channel promised me clear skies and temps in the 60s – perfect! Of course, the one thing I didn’t think through thoroughly was the fact that we would be leaving the day after month-long chagim as well as Shabbatbefore I knew it, the day of retreat was among us…

Having gained at least 50 lbs. over the holidays (okay, so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration), I insisted on going to the gym in order to impossibly lose the weight I had gained over a four-week period of non-stop eating. In the interest of time, I instead decided to walk up to the local pharmacy to purchase travel toiletries and convinced myself to do a quick workout in the garage. And then, of course, having forgotten to color my hair days prior, I tacked on an additional 30 minutes while desperately trying to control the giant pimple that had decided to plant itself on my chin. The “plan” was to be in a kosher friendly neighborhood by lunch time, so around 12:00 p.m. we ventured out (my family, often in cahoots with the hubby, used to lie to me about the startup time for gatherings, knowing I’d be at least 15 minutes late), but, of course, we had to turn back because I forgot to pack my sneakers that I purposely planted at the garage door so I wouldn’t forget them. Managing to take two hours to arrive from what should’ve been a one-hour drive, we arrived in Lakewood, New Jersey.

Getting my much-needed kosher sushi and finishing lunch around 2:00 p.m., we continued down the road, The Bully ever-present and taunting me about how imperfect and horrible the next two days would be. Twenty-five minutes later we found ourselves at what we have now affectionately dubbed “The Hotel New Hampshire”:

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Photographs do no justice when it comes to seeing something with one’s own eyes. I can visually document The Grand Canyon for years and never quite capture the beauty of what is seen face to face…but this time I actually looked up reviews and all were “reliably” promising (a 4.1 out of 5 on Tripadvisor – I’m thinking the Grand Canyon gets a 10 on that scale of 5).

With no signs of a parking lot or signs directing us where to park, we abandoned the car between two white lines believed to be some kind of parking space and walked up the stairs of a gorgeous wraparound porch surrounded by colorful fall mums and bleached white chairs with vibrant pillows.

With no signs of reception or signs directing us where to check in, we wandered through the foyer, looking this way and that, and found a structure resembling a “front desk” with several individuals behind and around it – a young heavyset woman with straight shoulder-length blond hair, significant cleavage and glasses as thick as Coke bottles, a tall and sickly thin-looking young man with big teeth, a goatee and a man bun and a petite young boy with giant hair and adolescent facial hair. With no signs of life, the woman, not looking up from her computer screen, asked if we had a reservation – no hellos, no welcomes, no how-are-ya’s. The giant-haired boy asked, “Yous guys need help with your bags?” to which we responded in the negative.  With the boy’s response of “Awesome!”, a key is grabbed by our hostess off a hook on the wall and she began walking…no explanations, no follow-me-this-way, no nothing…

Thankfully, we are two fairly intelligent human beings with a lot of common sense. Eyeballing one another, the hubby and I followed the woman up the first flight of stairs…then the second…then the third to room #7. Jackpot! Seven’s an awesome number! Shabbat is the 7th day of the week. We have 7 Days of Creation, 7 days of the week, the 7 species of Israel, 7 Laws of Moses, 7 Patriarchs and 7 Matriarchs. There’s 7 wedding blessings, 7 times a bride circles her husband when getting married,  we have 7 sheva brachot (wedding meals) after getting married and for 7 days we mourn our loved ones. The first verse of the Torah consists of 7 words…WOW! Lucky number 7!

Okay, granted it’s an old Victorian home near the ocean that was no doubt affected by Hurricane Sandy – I get it. But the place was run down. We tried to be positive. Maybe the housekeeping staff is just too exhausted to care after a busy and prosperous summer. It’s off-season, so maybe the staff is less meticulous. Perhaps I’m just too picky about my standard of cleanliness…

As we unpacked our belongings and hung clothing on hangers too tight to fit around the closet pole, I checked furniture for wear and tear, the bed for critters and the bathroom for mold, my inspection barely passing my old school grade of “S” (Satisfactory). I informed the hubby that we were going to go for a walk on the boardwalk and then drive north along the shoreline to dinner at a steakhouse that was 100% approved by one of the pickiest meat eaters in our community. Granted it was a little warm and the humidity too high for mid-October, but the hubby reluctantly agreed and we started for the door…and it didn’t open…and the door knob fell limp…and it was 4:10 p.m…and the “front desk” staff left at 6:00 p.m…and we didn’t know what time they came back in the morning…because they didn’t mention it…

The Bully: See…this little vacation’s gonna suck!

Me: Shut up…

For more than 15 minutes the hubby and I tugged and turned and attempted to screw back in the door knob, he on the house phone calling the front desk and me on my cell phone calling the hotel’s main line…but no one answered. Panic set in. As the hubby repeatedly called the “front desk”‘ on the phone, I ran to the balcony, thinking, “It’s beshert (meant to be) – perhaps this was the reason I reserved the room with the balcony…?!”

Me: “Hello?! Hello?!” (shouting to no one below).

A teenage girl parked her car across the street.

Me: “Miss! Miss!”

Girl: (pointing a finger toward her chest).

Me: “Yeah, you! I have a HUGE favor to ask of you. We’re locked in our room and would appreciate it if you could go to the front desk and tell them we need immediate assistance.”

Girl: (without hesitation as if it’s happened before) “Sure, no problem,” and enters the hotel upon request.

Minutes pass like hours and the hubby continued to pull on the door knob as I ran back and forth to the balcony looking to see if the girl followed through on my request. Suddenly, we heard a voice on the other side of the door…

Voice: “Take the key out of the lock.”

The hubby: “There isn’t a key in the lock.”

Voice: (opening door with master key) “This fuckin’ place…”

A stocky-built individual with brown hair piled on the head, a faint moustache, serious man hands and wearing navy blue hospital scrubs entered the room. Kat (whose name we later learned), in attempting to contact the “front desk” via inter-hotel cell phone, proceeded to tell us why the hotel sucked as much as it did – “The staff is stupid.” Precise and to the point – the hotel sucks because the staff is stupid. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Kat continues to explain to us how the hotel is actually a kind of time share, whereby each room is owned by an individual and rented out through the property owner. In other words, the state of the room is dependent on “how much the owner of the room gives a shit.” Kat’s words, not mine. Perhaps another reason why the hotel sucks…

Finally free from our prison hell, I descended the stairwell toward the “front desk.” Meeting me halfway, the heavyset woman with the sickly thin-looking man by her side, asked, “You’re locked in your room?” Okaaay…this is going to be an interesting conversation…Kat attempted to tutor the “front desk” staff on the mechanics of door knobs to no avail and demanded we be “upgraded” and the woman and man were gone. After several minutes, Kat received a message letting us know that we were being moved to room #14…one more flight up. Quickly repacking our suitcases, Kat, waited patiently and continued to give us more reasons as to why the hotel sucks. Turning the bolt lock out so as not to have the door lock behind us, she escorted us to our new digs. Kat showed us around the room, repeatedly insisting it was “much better” than the last one. Needless to say, it wasn’t terrible (definitely an S, but not much better)…and at least we still had a balcony…

With the Hotel New Hampshire behind us, I dragged the hubby reluctantly to the boardwalk. As the humidity and temperature began to lighten up, it was a perfectly beautiful day to walk on the beach and observe the shidduchim (Orthodox system of matchmaking couples for marriage) being conducted along various benches and frum (religious) families playing along the shoreline before loading up soaking wet and full of sand into their minivans.

As the sun set, we drove north along the ocean through all the towns we were familiar with thanks to the Bruce Springsteen references provided to us as kids growing up. Like seasoned early-bird-special retirees, we arrived at the restaurant in Deal 15 minutes before opening, but the wait was worth the food and service.

Returning to our room at the Hotel New Hampshire after dinner, I made my way to the balcony overlooking the infamous Spring Lake as the hubby hibernated under the covers staring at his iPad. The air was crisp with a soft ocean breeze. Crickets and peepers chirped all around as I listened to the ocean tide ebb and flow with an occasional quacking duck or honking goose. The sky was clear and replete of stars with a splendid view of the gorgeous hotel on the boardwalk I enviously wished I had booked instead.

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Leaving him no choice, I convinced the hubby to join me. Not completely miserable, I downloaded a stargazing app for him and he attempted to find our way around the heavens. Being on the top floor affords a balcony without any obstructions – score!

Looking for sleep. we made our way to the bed…a VERY squeaky bed. As we drifted off to sleep around midnight, The Bully reminded me that the staff had left at 6:00 p.m. –  it was just us and two other guests somewhere else in a large 28-room mansion with no staff to speak of in the off-season whose exact return was uncertain. Making reference to The Shining, the hubby’s slowed and steady breathing advised me I was all alone in my thoughts…

The Bully: Sleep tight my dear!

Delighted to have woken up alive with no signs of axed-force entry, the hubby and I strolled down the four flights and two landings, past the “front desk” and into the breakfast nook (and the only reason we knew where we were going is because one of the two other guests staying at the hotel had asked the “front desk” woman the day before as we were checking in). We were greeted by the petite boy with the big hair and adolescent facial hair who asked if we were going to have breakfast. Not quite sure of the kashrut (kosherness of the food), we scrutinized the “Continental Breakfast” and managed to find some hard-boiled eggs and a couple of instant oatmeal packets with an OU, assuming the baked items were most likely a no-go. I suggested the hubby ask the boy if we could see the packaging that the baked items came in (believe it or not, most hotels have no issue doing this). The boy very happily took the hubby to the kitchen where he discovered that the English muffins had a reliable hechscher (kosher symbol), to which the boy asked many curious questions, eager to learn.

Having eaten our money’s worth of hard-boiled eggs, plain instant oatmeal and dry English muffins, I informed the hubby that we were going to take a walk around the infamous Spring Lake. The temperature had plummeted 20 degrees since the day before, so the hubby had no complaints…until we got to the lake…and started walking…and it started to rain. Offering him an umbrella, the hubby adamantly refused and grumpily made his way up the path that encircles the lake. As I took photos with my smartphone, the hubby had a “lively” discussion on his flip-phone with the kid who was calling from Israel to complain about not having access to her Amazon Prime video account after the hubby changed the password because he thought he’d been hacked following an alert showing someone had attempted to access the account from an unknown device. At least we know she’s alive…

Halfway around the lake, as the rain got heavier, I joked that we might get lucky and it wouldn’t be raining on the other side. Turning onto the bridge that crosses the lake, the rain suddenly ceased…and it wasn’t raining on the other side…

About a half hour later, we found ourselves back at the hotel trying to figure out what to do next. My original plan was to take the hubby to Allaire State Park, do some light hiking, have a picnic and possibly check out the museum or take a train ride. Having rained all night and all morning, we decided the park wasn’t going to be much fun in the mud, so we chose to get some complimentary coffee and sit on the porch and enjoy the cool air. While the hubby ran to the bathroom, I started pouring a cup of coffee and was greeted by a tall, thin young woman with hair tied into a bun, wearing leggings and a hoodie and whose willowy legs reached to my waist. As she piled a basket of baked goods onto a plate, she loudly began interrogating me about my stay – “How was your night?!” “Did you eat breakfast?!” “When did you get here?!” What’re ya doin’ today?!” Thinking she was an overly friendly guest who really liked donuts, it finally dawned on me that she was an employee in some capacity.

Casey, as I learned, was with housekeeping, has been working at the hotel for a number of years and lives in Point Pleasant with her 7-year-old daughter. Asking her advice on things to do on a rainy day at the shore in the off-season, Casey was a walking directory of attractions. However, with every nomination, her follow-up response was, “But you better call first because businesses are always going under or close for the season.” Having also planned to check out a place called Monster Mini-Golf, Casey provided me with the same advice – call first. We sat back down on the porch to drink our coffees while I called the mini-golf location mentioned and discovered that they were indeed open, but not until 2:00 p.m. – it was currently 10:30 a.m…

Revolving our day around mini-golf at 2:00 p.m., we decided to head to the local Whole Foods to purchase picnic food that was kosher and didn’t require heating up. Driving the few miles to the store, we discovered a rather kosherless stock of food items and thought to cross the street to the local Acme, but lazily convinced ourselves to drive back to Deal where we knew there were a number of places to have lunch along the main strip. Finding our way back up the road along the shoreline, getting lost a few times and riding in circles, we discovered that every restaurant that posted hours of operation online were closed for the season. Taking one more look on Google and making one more phone call, we found an open pizza joint on the other side of town. Upon arriving, we discovered it was a little take-out place inside a community center that was not to our liking. As we stood in the parking lot believing we would have to suck it up and forgo lunch, I noticed the sign on a restaurant across the street was a name that had popped up when perusing Google – Sheng Mao Sakura.

It looked familiar to us both, but we couldn’t figure out why. Checking the window for a reliable teudah (kosher certificate), we settled on eating Chinese. Again, as we entered the lobby, the hubby and I simultaneously experienced deja vu – it’s familiar because we’ve been here before! Michael had taken us to this restaurant years before when he was living in Neptune and the kid was a little girl and his wife was not even a twinkle in his eye. The hubby pointed out the table where we had sat and instantly remembered what we ate that day. We wondered if the waiter was the same waiter who had served us so long ago but couldn’t recall his face.

We ordered our food, consumed all we could manage to stuff in our bellies and asked for the check, after which I said to the waiter, “Xie xie.” Slightly correcting my pronunciation, the waiter was impressed that I even knew how to say thank you in Chinese. I told him about my sister-in-law and how she has attempted to help my family learn simple words and phrases over the years and how mom used to say “shit shit.” Producing a broad smile and a hardy chuckle, he presented me with a fortune cookie…and I laughed out loud…

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Now off to Monster Mini-Golf, an indoor monster themed glow-in-the-dark 18-hole miniature golf course. As you know from previous posts, I’m a miniature golf addict. On every vacation I’ve managed to find a miniature golf course, whether it be indoors or out. Anticipating rain for the entire day, I chose this particular course because it was inside (of course the sun came out and the sky was blue by the time we got there). No matter – I was determined to get some tee time!

Ashamed of our scores, we started our trek back to the hotel, where we cleaned up, changed and went to dinner.

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I’m Forrest Grump!

After an uneventful evening at the staffless hotel, we fell into our squeaky bed, passed out and awoke with the sunrise (and a view of the hotel I still wished we’d booked)…IMG_20171017_071807109_HDR

Returning to the breakfast bar scarcely loaded with the previous day’s goods, we again consumed our money’s worth of hard-boiled eggs, plain instant oatmeal and dry English muffins in the company of the petite boy who was having a conversation with a short older-adult woman with red bob haircut, glasses and a slight southern drawl. Apologizing for my rudeness in not asking his name previously, the boy introduced himself as Daniel. The older woman continued her conversation to include me and the hubby. Her name is Mary Catherine and she grew up in East Orange, New Jersey where she spent all her formative years in Catholic schools and retired to Williamsburg, Virginia with her husband six years prior. Mary Catherine explained to us that she had attended her 50th high school reunion over the weekend – the only reunion she has ever gone to, we learn, because she truly never had any interest in finding out whatever happened to her classmates – it was just an excuse to come back to “come home” and stay in her favorite place on the Jersey shore, Spring Lake. She warned us of her candid personality as well as her Tea Party support and proceeded to tell us her life story up until that moment – how, to her father’s disapproval, she married her husband who had been married before and refused to have the first union annulled in order for them to get married in the Catholic church, which lead to the description of her current spiritual state and her regrets about never having children; how some of her classmates were dead and that the girls she had befriended in high school would never be her friends now and the girls that were not her friends in high school would be her friends now…and on and on she went…

Mary Catherine excused herself to get her belongings so she could go for a walk on the boardwalk, sit on the beach and check out the quaint shops on Main Street across the lake. As we attempted to head home, Daniel informed us that check out was at 11:00 a.m. and asked we wait until then because he was not permitted to check guests out of the hotel and wasn’t sure what time the rest of the staff was due for work. Assuring Daniel that we had paid for our room in full, we handed over the room key and bid our farewell. We were again joined by Mary Catherine, who had locked herself out of her room and begged Daniel to lend her the master key, which he reluctantly handed over. Trying to make our escape, Daniel then asked the hubby about the Star of David and proceeded to hypothesize the spiritual interconnectedness between all things in the world based on the theory of plutonics. As Kat returned to a new day of work and asked “Danny” if he was “bothering these poor people,” I reassured her that he was not and insisted Daniel continue our conversation. Possibly disclosing something very personal and private, Daniel then asked if we had “ever been in an institution” and suddenly appeared embarrassed, lowering his head and gazing up at me to see my reaction. Informing him that I had been in several different institutions over the past thirty years (in a social work capacity), Daniel began to tell us about a woman he knew who used to rock back and forth when she was upset, which reminded him of the Israeli men in the area he has seen rocking back and forth when they pray in synagogue, and he told the woman, “Maybe you’re trying to find comfort in getting closer to G-d?” I told him he was exactly right in his thought process and wished him well. The ride home was a lot less adventurous…

Two years ago today, after a hug and a kiss and “dancing” to his favorite Christmas tunes, before heading to bed I said good-bye to my only brother and asked him to say hello to everyone when he got to heaven, to which he nodded his head. At 2:40 a.m. while the rest of us slept, my brother Michael, holding his nurse’s hand, opened his eyes, looked at her as if to say, “I’m ready,” quietly and peacefully left our world. He is missed beyond words…

“Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before
‘Relax’ said the night man,
‘We are programmed to receive.
You can check out any time you like,
But you can never leave!'”

Hotel California – Eagles

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

Following the sun…

“I don’t think there’s anything on this planet that more trumpets life than the sunflower. For me that’s because of the reason behind its name. Not because it looks like the sun but because it follows the sun. During the course of the day, the head tracks the journey of the sun across the sky. A satellite dish for sunshine. Wherever light is, no matter how weak, these flowers will find it. And that’s such an admirable thing. And such a lesson in life.”

Helen Mirren
September 10, 2017

Tis the season for sunflowers! For me, sunflowers signify the true end of summer and warn that autumn is not far behind (which happens to be my and the hubby’s favorite season). I took the above photo in my neighbor’s front yard. He grows sunflowers instead of grass. Most people in the neighborhood dislike it, commenting on how strange it is to grow sunflowers instead of grass in your front yard. I adamantly disagree every time the topic comes up. Other neighbors have trash in their front yard or unsightly demonic gargoyles or car parts or grass two feet high or no lawn at all. I rest my case…

Heading out to Burlington County this morning, I decided to finally stop at a farm market I’ve passed a dozen times on my bike rides. Leaning Ole Bessie against a parking block, I began to look around at what was being offered. Of course, The Bully made me check and double check that Bessie was still where I left her until we were both finally convinced that I was in a space where the honor system was set in stone. No worries…

Halloween was my all-time favorite holiday as a child. Regina and I would plan out and create our own costumes, using whatever materials we found around the house. On Halloween night, we bundled up, grabbed our pillowcases and scoured the neighborhood for all the best candy. Filling our bags to capacity and barely able to drag them home, we made pit stops to the house, dumping our goodies on the living room floor for mom to pick through and sort out the “bad” candy from the “good.” And we knew which houses to not go to. There was the UNICEF lady who only gave out pennies (and refused to give anything if you didn’t have a UNICEF box). We also stayed clear of the people who always gave out fruit (especially after the apple and needle scare). Most of all, you NEVER went to the spooky house…to this day, I have no clue who lived there or why it was so scary, but there were way too many stories circulating around the neighborhood to find out…

However, my love of Halloween changed when, at the age of 18 months, the kid decided she wanted nothing to do with it. This was around the time that her Bully decided to pay a visit and stay for awhile. For the next several years, the kid was paralyzed by fear. Up until she started school, she refused to leave my side. Everything frightened her. She never took risks. So, for the sake of my poor child, Halloween was no more…

So how is it possible that this fear-ridden child is flying to Israel in two days…by herself…all alone…over 6000 miles away…to a very different country where English is not the dominant language…and she only knows a handful of people?!

September 12, 2017

 

I dreaded this day…

We anticipated this day for a year, yet I wasn’t prepared. I couldn’t sleep last night and finally fell out of bed around 6:00AM, exhausted and emotionally strung out. The kid was well-rested, up and at ’em and ready to go. I loaded her bags into the car and dragged my sorry ass upstairs to get ready for what seemed like the longest drive of my life. On my final go through, I made the mistake of going into the kid’s room. There snuggled under the blanket were the Dollies…and I began to sob…and so did the kid. I cried over my disbelief that they were staying. She cried over the fact that she had no more room in her suitcase to fit them.

dolly.jpg

See, Dolly (a.k.a. The Dolly Lama) is what kept the kid sane for 18 years. Dolly went everywhere with us. She was part of the family. There are three Dollies altogether – each time one became thread bare and beyond cleaning, I would buy an exact replica of the previous Dolly, snatch the old one and sneak in the new while the kid was at daycare. However, I kept the previous two Dollies, tucking them away in a box in the closet where they were forgotten for some years. Stumbling on the former lovies during one of my serious closet purges, the hubby and I decided to reveal the truth about Dolly. The kid was somewhat confused initially, but it didn’t stop her from having three times the love for her girls…and all three Dollies became one with the family – the sisters the kid never got.

Driving the kid to JFK and forgetting to get directions, the GPS didn’t work properly and we missed our exit.  Driving in circles and figure eights until we found ourselves back on the turnpike, panic set in…as did the screaming…and the sobbing…Getting back on course and calming down, I shouted to G-d, “WHY MUST YOU CHALLENGE THIS FAMILY SO MUCH?!” This day was probably the most single important day of our lives, especially for the kid. That’s when the hubby reminded me that every obstacle is a test – G-d is asking us, “Are you sure you really want this?”

Me: “No…I’m not sure this is what I want…”

Little Voice: “But the kid is more than certain…make this happen…”

Getting to the airport with ample time to spare, we stood in line to check the luggage. Asked to stand aside while the El Al employee questioned the kid’s intentions, I felt completely shut out. As a now legal adult, I had no business answering for this child of mine. Passing the security check (after making the staff member cry with me), we loaded her bags onto the scale one by one, we impressively praised her for packing both cases with under 100 pounds of belongings. That’s when it hit me for the first time – she was prepared

Next stop, TSA – only passengers can go through and I knew it. After 18 years on a roller coaster ride of a lifetime, it was down to that millisecond when we had to say goodbye. No if, ands or buts about it. I knew that was the moment I was going to lose my shit…and I did. Watching my baby girl stand in that long and winding line alone with no guide but her own self, she promised to ask for help if needed and text me when she got to the gate…

September 15, 2017

…and I sobbed for 48 hours.

Friends and family expressed understanding, albeit ordering me to stop crying – that it was a good thing for all involved. “She’ll be safe.” “She’s going to have the time of her life.” “It’ll be fine.” “You and your husband can get reacquainted.” Then it dawned on me – I wasn’t crying for her, I was crying for me. I was feeling sorry for myself. For 18 years my life had been the kid and the kid had been my life. There was no other job I had worked as hard at with a desperate passion driven instinctively by the mothering gene. She’s the only kid I get in this lifetime – how can I give her up so easily?! That’s when I found myself saying to G-d, “Let her be truly happy and I will let go…”

Tomorrow is the two-year anniversary of my very first Gump Ride…

2015-09-16-11-38-45
September 16, 2015
img_20160916_100406873_hdr
September 16, 2016

Being that it’s Shabbat tomorrow, I needed to get this anniversary ride in one day early. And guess what I found…?

IMG_20170915_082703994
September 15, 2017

This time I decided to ignore the DO NOT ENTER sign…shhh!

Over the past week, this mother turkey and her chick have been visiting my bird feeders every morning. Each day I have attempted to snap a photo without success. But today, she cautiously allowed me to approach. That’s when I realized the kid had a guardian angel looking down on her and everything was going to be okay (see Totem, September 28, 2016)…

momma

September 20, 2017

A few years ago, I discovered my sunflower neighbor was Jewish. Daily I watched him walk up and down the street after what seemed to be some kind of hip or knee replacement, he trying to gain back his bearings. I made a point of saying hello every time. Then he showed up at shul (synagogue) one Rosh Hashanah and he’s been back every year since.

This is the first Rosh Hashanah in 18 years without the kid. I’ve kept myself busy this week, cooking and cleaning for the holiday. I made sure to surround myself with friends for the next four days to keep my mind off the inevitable – the kid won’t be here…

Talking to the kid this morning before being out of contact for the next 72 hours, I reassured her (and probably myself) that I was “fine” and that it will just be strange not having her here. She begged me not to start crying again, saying, “No offense, mommy, but you always invite old people, so I wouldn’t want to be there anyway.” The kid was right – she’d get sick of sitting around us old farts and hibernate in her room…it’s like she wouldn’t even be here. If there was ever a reason the kid couldn’t be home for the holidays, I’d have to say living in Israel is definitely the perfect excuse…

Every day I hear how the kid is doing in Israel via text, Messenger, WhatsApp, photos on Facebook and phone calls home. And every time she tells me, “I’m really happy here mommy.” Follow the sun kiddo…

Thanks Big Guy!

May you be like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah.
יְשִׂימֵךְ אֱלהיִם כְּשָׂרָה רִבְקָה רָחֵל וְלֵאָה.

May God bless you and guard you.
יְבָרֶכְךָ יְהוָה וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ
May God show you favor and be gracious to you.
יָאֵר יְהוָה פָּנָיו  אֵלֶיךָ וִיחֻנֶּךָּ

May God show you kindness and grant you peace.
יִשָּׂא יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלום

“May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young”

Forever Young – Bob Dylan

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

When to say no…

Labor Day – What a great day for a bike ride! Temps were in the 70s, blue skies with puffy clouds brightened my day and barely any cars were on the road. I was a happy camper…

IMG_20170904_131243188

My first rule of thumb when on the road? Know where all the bathrooms are!

IMG_20170904_121550090

The Air Victory Museum is one of my regular stops through Burlington County and they just so happen to have a Mr. Bob. Why name a latrine Bob? I guess it sounds better than Mr. Shit ‘n Piss…

There were a lot of travelers flying in and out that morning. In cocktail phenomenon fashion, I listened to a group of folks sitting at the nearby cafe talk about nothing, one particularly opinionated gentleman seeming to have the answer to everything and anything anyone should need to know in life…

I found it interesting that as I approached the airport, this song randomly played on my iPod:

Michael sure did love his planes. He would’ve also loved this place…

Moving right along, I found myself riding through fields and fields and fields of fresh Jersey corn…

Can’t wait to run through a corn maze somewhere this fall!

As a child, Labor Day signaled the last day of summer and the dreaded back to school week.

This is the first time in eighteen years I didn’t get to take that annual first-day-of-school photo before tossing the kid on the big yellow bus she begged to ride as a four-year-old preschooler. In four days, the kid will be off to Israel to study for the next ten months and my emotions are all screwy. I’m looking forward to embracing the “empty nest syndrome” with open arms and have already started planning new adventures with the hubby. We’re both looking forward to getting reacquainted after this long eighteen-year haul, but it’ll be strange not having the kid in my life on a daily basis…

Yesterday I spent the day cleaning up my yard. As I bent over again and again to pick up all the little twigs, sticks and branches, my back aching more and more with each bend, I remembered the kid’s childhood wagon re-purposed as a “wheelbarrow” years ago and collecting dust in the abandoned shed out back. Covered in cobwebs, wood shavings (thanks to the resident squirrels grinding down their teeth on the roof and walls) and filth, I loaded up the wagon and dumped the load over the fence to help build up the quickly eroding creek bank behind my house. Afterwards, I decided to recommission my “wheelbarrow” and attempted to wash it down. Quickly realizing a lost cause, I wheeled the wagon to the curb for trash collection this morning. And then I started to cry. It was beyond repair and needed to go, but my heart didn’t want to let go. As I stared out the window looking at that wagon, I couldn’t stop crying…

That wagon was given to the kid by my parents 18 years ago. Since infancy, I dragged that wagon down every street we lived on until she was too big to fit. I just kept picturing her in that wagon at the Fourth of July parade when she was 3-years-old:

img002

The kid is one of the most patriotic people I’ve ever known. Her love for America goes beyond any other. So, as she talks about volunteering for the IDF (Israeli Defence Force), making aliyah (becoming an Israeli citizen) and living on a kibbutz in the Golan after her year at university, my brain simply asks, “What happened to that hardcore American patriot?” For years she never wanted to live anywhere else on the planet and dreamed about joining the army to defend the homeland against terrorism. So why the “sudden” change?

At some point the kid realized that her patriotism was misguided. Don’t get me wrong – she’s still the poster child superhero for America and would do anything to fight terrorism throughout the world. But something clicked…and now I know why…

It’s the typical love/hate relationship we Jewish parents have with Israel – all their lives we talk about Israel to our children. We teach them from infancy to love their true homeland. We take our kids to Israel as much as financially possible and expect them to spend their first year after high school (referred to as a “gap year”) in yeshivot and seminaries (Judaic study schools). We need to believe that making aliyah is the best launching a Jewish parent can make.

We took the kid on her first trip to Israel in 2011 after becoming a bat mitzvah. She graduated with her class from eighth grade at the Kotel in Jerusalem. She spent five weeks stranded in the north during the Gaza Conflict and followed with a group trip touring Israel last summer. Despite these visits, the kid said she’d never do a gap year…ever, ever, ever…and here we are. After starting her senior year last fall, the kid “suddenly” announced she was applying to a program in Israel to study for a year, and she had acquired all the information on her own and was already in the application process. Simultaneously shocked and thrilled, we supported her efforts and immediately offered whatever assistance she needed. Over the past year, the kid went from never to forever. And still I ask myself, “How did this happen?!”

Here’s the clincher – my daughter and I are converts. Long story short (a self-published article should be written about this at some point in my life), the kid and I converted three times, each time me and the hubby telling her it was necessary to be halakhically (legally) Jewish so that if and when she got married and/or had children and/or wanted to make aliyah, there would be no question about her Jewishness. There you have it…it’s our fault she wants this – our love/hate relationship with Israel…

Returning to my yard cleanup and rearranging the flowers in the front garden for the hundredth time this summer, a Veterans of America truck stopped in front of the house to pick up donations I’d left in the driveway. As he loaded the boxes and bags onto the truck, I asked him about the wagon on the curb. With a resolute “Yeah, I’ll take it!” he swiftly placed it into the back of his truck and thanked me and I, in turn, thanked him. At least to someone it wasn’t beyond repair and didn’t need to go and will once again be re-purposed…

My rabbi once told me there are three times a Jewish child can say no to their parents: (1) wanting to learn Torah; (2) who they can marry; and (3) making aliyah

I think the next eighteen years are going to be very interesting…

“All my bags are packed
I’m ready to go
I’m standin’ here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye”

Leaving on a Jet Plane – John Denver

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

nice great success…

“nice great success…”

What wonderful words to see first thing on my trek around the Cooper River. I thought to myself, “Wow! It’s so awesome to see such a positive message coming from today’s graffiti artists!” But then I made the mistake of Googling the words to see what came up…

nice

Borat…I loathe him. He is the most disgustingly foul and negative little man that ever flashed across a movie screen. Choosing to pretend I never looked it up, I’d rather continue believing there are people out there creating random acts of artistic kindness who want to help the world around them feel good about life once in awhile…

Otherwise, the graffiti wall has grown layers of colorful messages over the summer…

…an old dying tree had a few things to say before it goes – tree hieroglyphics, perhaps…

…and my shadow decided to climb the dead tree…

Overall, it was a nice little ride on a beautiful blue-sky day…

IMG_20170830_112107430

Thinking about random acts of kindness, I had a discussion with one of the owners of the local liquor store about truth, honesty and idealism. This particular friend loves to play with my naivete. One of the first conversations I had with him, he told me he was on his fifth wife and had a multitude of children from various different women – and I “believed” him (he’s been married to the same woman for decades and they have three kids together). Over the past eight years, I’ve “learned” to take whatever he says with a grain of salt. Our discussion began with him showing me a “cheap $3.99 a bottle kosher rose wine” he just got in and said was “the best one I’ve ever had.” His greatest gift is that he can bull shit like no other and keep a completely straight face – that’s when he catches me. And, of course, he loves laughing at my gullibility and lets me off the hook (mostly because I’m probably his best customer). I explained to him of my belief that most human beings are decent, honest people, to which he mockingly chuckled and proceeded to show me a video of the guy who tried to rip off the store last night. I was surprised when he told me how often it happens – hence his belief that most people are stupid and dishonest. I get it – as a social worker and a lawyer, I and the hubby worked with some truly horrible human beings, leaving us both very cynical about the world around us. But then he started to tell me about the Hurricane Harvey donation drive he volunteered with until late last night. To the point of tears, he told me how overwhelmingly generous people were in helping the victims in Texas – hundred and thousands of dollars worth of items filling two whole semi-trailer trucks! That’s when I asked him again about how sure he was that most human beings aren’t good…and he conceded…random acts of kindness strikes again!

Reminds me of the time my father gave money to a homeless man outside a local Shop Rite store. Dad decided to play spy when the man went into the store, so he could see what the money would be spent on…a package of Oreos. Dad approached the man, told him he was going to buy him lunch, took him to the diner counter inside the store and bought him whatever he wanted – a full blown turkey dinner. Who knows how much it cost (and who cares). Now, when I see people asking for money on the street, I give them food and water. Dad was that human being I know exists in this world…and I hope to live up to his expectations.

I am gullible because idealism resides in my soul. I know I’m not perfect, but positive vibes feel a helluva lot nicer than the negative ones. Give others the benefit of the doubt – walk in their shoes – think about those times you weren’t at your best and how others perceived you. Remember, although we’re all born “pure,” we’re not perfect, but G-d don’t make junk. And smile more – it takes less muscles and creates less wrinkles…and it just feels good.

“Honesty is such a lonely word
Everyone is so untrue
Honesty is hardly ever heard
And mostly what I need from you”

Honesty – Billy Joel

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

Time heals all wounds

 “I believe time wounds all heels.” – John Lennon

In my travels over the past week, the old saying of “time heals all wounds” comes to mind for several reasons. The first stems from a number of properties along my various routes that were once controlled by humans but have since been abandoned. After many years of injury and insult, I discovered that our planet has somehow managed to lick and heal its wounds…

IMG_20170820_094039585IMG_20170820_094020699_HDR

About three or four years ago, the above property was occupied by a house, a manicured lawn and several human beings, but a raging fire burned the house down to the ground and the owners were forced to evict. Over the years I watched as the property was sold several times from one human to the next, the house razed and the lawn gone wild. In a matter of two years, this “property” grew back to its natural state (except for the occasional mow by its current human owner).

In January of this year, I stopped at the former (and now abandoned) miniature golf course along the Cooper River and this is what it looked like…

This is what it looked like this week…

IMG_20170824_105658428 (2)

…and this is what it looked like when we moved here seven years ago…

golf

It’s moments like this when I truly believe our beloved planet Earth will repair itself long after we’re gone…and cycling is the only way I would have noticed.

Last Sunday we had perfect weather for a bike ride. I left first thing in the morning and didn’t come home until dinner time. First stop, mom’s favorite market:

That peach was the best peach I’ve ever eaten! When I’m at Johnson’s Corner Farm is when I miss mom the most…but not in a sad way – it’s more like a “DAMMIT, mom would love the produce today! And look at those pies!” My second reason for time heals all wounds – teary eyes are created from happy memories, not necessarily sadness. I always stop here on my route through Burlington County and take a look around…for mom…because I know she’s looking with me.

As I was leaving, I ran into a fellow cyclist and shouted, “The perfect stop!” to which he responded, “I love this stop!” Agreed, my man!

Next door to Johnson’s is Roselli’s Italian Market – yup, that Roselli’s, as in the tomato sauce you see on the shelf in the pasta aisle in Shop Rite…

sauce

Mom used to love shopping here as well. If it was kosher, I’d be buying everything off the shelf! On this trip I discovered that they closed their old shop and opened a new one on the same property. Mom would’ve been so excited!

And their property doubles as farmland…Earth repair thyself!

Next stop, the local Wawa where I met a man and his wife from Bucks County Pennsylvania biking the local trails. As we talked, the husband asked me about riding alone, to which I explained to him my preference to ride alone – I go at my own pace and stop wherever I like, I don’t have to hold conversations or entertain my guests and I can be spontaneous depending on how I feel. At first the husband was agreeable, but quickly turned to the dangers of my lone riding…and, of course, this is the first thing I thought of (mostly because I read her story):

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5554692

I also thought of Christopher McCandless – the young man who was the subject of Into the Wild. I read the book after seeing the movie for the first time. Funny thing is that after reading the book and after every time I’ve watched the movie, I’m pissed off that he traveled alone and had no experience whatsoever. Every time I think, “What the f**k was he thinking?!” And then I think about my own lone cycling. What the f**k am I thinking?! Rationale says, “Oh, you know where you are and have the experience to know what you’re doing,” which is true. I’ve had those lone traveling moments as a young adult – moved to Arizona at age 18 with no prospects except Michael’s apartment, met and lived with a drug addict who drained my bank account forcing me to live off my co-workers and friends, returning to New Jersey to live with another addicted person until begging mom to take me back. I subsequently attended University College, Galway at age 22 not knowing a single soul there. Reminds me of a favorite hand-me-down tee shirt I had that represented my life over the past years – #igotthis…worn to the last thread – reason #3 – all great challenges can be overcome in time…

10397845_582098905236125_5251085232134353614_n

After asking me where I was heading next (and ignoring fatherly advice), I told the husband and wife that I was thinking of heading to Smithville…and this is what I found:

IMG_20170820_124453606

Umm…how did this make me feel?!

2015-09-16-11-38-45
September 2015 – My Gump Ride beginning

There’s way too many bridges in need of attention in Burlington County. The road may have been closed, but on a bicycle one could ride the trails and reach the intended destination anyway!

I’ve been to this property on several occasions and find different perspectives every time:

http://www.smithvillemansion.org/

Although the main mansion and adjacent houses are on museum display, a once vibrant community has been abandoned for decades…and the Earth repaired itself once again…

After several hours of hugging the planet and feeling groovy about my carbon footprint, I realized that this was one of those days when I forgot about the the trip home – that’s when the Little Voice takes over to tell me how foolish I am and my body decides to listen to the Little Voice and shut down…

Muscles seizing, hands and feet aching, head spinning and lungs refusing to function as expected, thinking I couldn’t make it home, this is what I saw out of the corner of my eye…

IMG_20170820_133727692_HDR

’nuff said…

In sixteen days the kid will be traveling alone to Israel for the next ten months. She’s been there, done that four times without me (albeit, not as long). Contemplating my life at age 18, I’m not too worried…or so my anxiety tells me…

IMG_20170820_100428359

Are you open or are you closed?! The kid’s plans change daily at this point. I get why, but by her age I was graduated, working full time, living on my own and facing life’s circumstances head on – paying rent and bills, getting ripped off, living with addiction. And while I was living that life, in a far away land the hubby was in the army…I need to believe she’ll be okay…

I know she’ll figure it out – we all did…which leads me to reason #4 and the purpose of this blog – as I ride Old Bessie, taking photos of my exploits on my crappy smartphone and blogging about my travels, I find that time (and writing) has been helping to heal my wounds…and that cycling has been wounding my heel…

A sense of humor – that’s what it takes to get through the day. Last week a community member’s sister passed from lung cancer. I spoke with him at length about his sister’s ordeal and how difficult it is to watch a human life literally waste away. Calling to ask about providing shiva meals, I asked my friend if anyone eating had any kind of allergies, to which he replied, “Oh, yeah, pork…” I chuckled hesitantly, not sure if he was serious…”and shellfish.” I thanked my friend for breaking the tension and applauded him for his ability to look death in the eye with mocking laughter. Michael would’ve done the same.

“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace”

Imagine – John Lennon

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

Time heals all wounds

 “I believe time wounds all heels.” – John Lennon

In my travels over the past week, the old saying of “time heals all wounds” comes to mind for several reasons. The first stems from a number of properties along my various routes that were once controlled by humans but have since been abandoned. After many years of injury and insult, I discovered that our planet has managed to lick and heal its wounds…

IMG_20170820_094039585IMG_20170820_094020699_HDR

About three or four years ago, the above property was occupied by a house, a manicured lawn and several human beings, but a raging fire burned the house down to the ground and the owners were forced to evict. Over the years I watched as the property was sold several times from one human to the next, the house razed and the lawn gone wild. In a matter of two years, this “property” grew back to its natural state (except for the occasional mow by its current human owner).

In January of this year, I stopped at the former (and now abandoned) miniature golf course along the Cooper River and this is what it looked like…

This is what it looked like this week…

IMG_20170824_105658428 (2)

…and this is what it looked like when we moved here seven years ago…

golf

It’s moments like this when I truly believe our beloved planet Earth will repair itself long after we’re gone…and cycling is the only way I would have noticed.

Last Sunday we had perfect weather for a bike ride. I left first thing in the morning and didn’t come home until dinner time. First stop, mom’s favorite market:

That peach was the best peach I’ve ever eaten! When I’m at Johnson’s Corner Farm is when I miss mom the most…but not in a sad way – it’s more like a “DAMMIT, mom would love the produce today! And look at those pies!” – my second reason for time heals all wounds – teary eyes are created from happy memories, not sadness. I always stop here on my route through Burlington County and take a look around…for mom…because I know she’s looking with me.

As I was leaving, I ran into a fellow cyclist and shouted, “The perfect stop!” to which he responded, “I love this stop!” Agreed, my man!

Next door to Johnson’s is Roselli’s Italian Market – yup, that Roselli’s, as in the tomato sauce you see on the shelf in the pasta aisle in Shop Rite…

sauce

Mom used to love shopping here as well. If it was kosher, I’d be buying everything off the shelf! On this trip I discovered that they closed their old shop and opened a new one on the same property. Mom would’ve been so excited!

And their property doubles as farmland…Earth repair thyself!

Next stop, the local Wawa where I met a man and his wife from Bucks County Pennsylvania biking the local trails. As we talked, the husband asked me about riding alone, to which I explained to him my preference to ride alone – I go at my own pace and stop wherever I like, I don’t have to hold conversations or entertain my guests and I can be spontaneous depending on how I feel. At first the husband was agreeable, but quickly turned to the dangers of my lone riding…and, of course, this is the first thing I thought of (mostly because I read her story):

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5554692

I also thought of Christopher McCandless – the young man who was the subject of Into the Wild. I read the book after seeing the movie for the first time. Funny thing is that after reading the book and after every time I’ve watched the movie, I’m pissed off that he traveled alone and had no experience whatsoever. Every time I think, “What the f**k was he thinking?!” And then I think about my own lone cycling. What the f**k am I thinking?! Rationale says, “Oh, you know where you are,” which is true. I’ve had those lone traveling moments as a young adult – moved to Arizona at age 18 with no prospects except Michael’s apartment, met a drug addict who drained my bank account forcing me to live off my co-workers/friends, returning to New Jersey to live with another addicted person until begging mom to take me back and subsequently attending University College, Galway at age 22 not knowing a single soul there. Reminds me of a favorite hand-me-down tee shirt I had that represented my life over the past two years – #igotthis…worn to the last thread…reason #3…

10397845_582098905236125_5251085232134353614_n

After asking me where I was heading next (and ignoring fatherly advice), I told the husband and wife that I was thinking of heading to Smithville…and this is what I found:

IMG_20170820_124453606

Umm…how did this make me feel?!

2015-09-16-11-38-45
September 2015 – My Gump Ride beginning

The road may have been closed, but on a bicycle one could ride the trails and reach the intended destination!

I’ve been to this property on several occasions and find different perspectives every time:

http://www.smithvillemansion.org/

A once vibrant community abandoned…and the Earth repaired itself once again…

After several hours of hugging the planet and feeling groovy about my carbon footprint, I realized that this was one of those days when I forgot about the the trip home…that’s when the Little Voice takes over to tell me how foolish I am and my body decides to listen to the Little Voice and shut down…

Muscles seizing, hands and feet aching, head spinning and lungs refusing to function as expected, thinking I couldn’t make it home, this is what I saw out of the corner of my eye…

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’nuff said…

In sixteen days the kid will be traveling alone to Israel for the next ten months. She’s been there, done that four times without me (albeit, not as long). Contemplating my own young adulthood, I’m not worried…or so my anxiety tells me…

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Are you open or are you closed?! The kid’s plans change daily at this point. I get why, but by her age I was graduated, working full time, living on my own and facing life’s circumstances head on – paying rent and bills, getting ripped off, living with addiction…and the hubby was in the army…I need to believe she’ll be okay…

I know she’ll figure it out – we all did…which leads me to reason #4 and the purpose of this blog…

As I ride Old Bessie, taking photos of my exploits on my crappy smartphone and blogging about my travels, I find that time (and writing) has been helping to heal my wounds…and that cycling has been wounding my heel…

“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace”

Imagine – John Lennon

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

Take me out to the ball game

Since 2014, every summer we are graciously invited to attend a Philadelphia Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia by a colleague of the hubby’s. The hubby being a New York Mets fan, we always go to the Phillies vs. Mets game.

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Three of those summers we had the luxury of watching the game from a corporate suite. Last year the hubby got sick, so I took the kid and two of her friends to the game – sat right behind home plate.

Suffice it to say, I could care less about baseball – the hubby and the kid are the sports fans. But don’t get me wrong – I completely appreciate the gift of being able to attend an event that many other people will never get to experience in a lifetime. And I always root for the hubby’s team because it gives him hope when they win (they are the Mets after all). However, I like socializing with the hubby’s co-workers and colleagues and love to people watch (the free beer doesn’t hurt either), so while the game is in full force, I go exploring…

Michael LOVED baseball. He knew everything and anything there was to know about the sport – its history, the names of all the teams, the players and all their stats, every schedule…everything. He went to games as often as possible or watched it religiously on t.v. He collected baseball cards his entire life. Baseball was his passion. Needless to say, every summer I think about how much I wish Michael could be our fourth guest…

So, in case you didn’t notice, I’ve given up on the 52 week photo challenge as the subjects became more and more difficult. I don’t mean that I gave up because it was too hard and I just didn’t feel like trying. I gave up because the subjects were not possible on my crappy little smartphone. I also realized that I simply like taking photos of what’s going on around me at any given moment and don’t really feel the need to look for subjects I really don’t care about. I may not care about baseball, but documenting the experience was spontaneous and fun. Michael would’ve loved it…

P.S. The Mets won!

“Katie Casey saw all the games,
Knew the players by their first names.
Told the umpire he was wrong,
All along,
Good and strong.”

Edward Meeker

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

“I am Groot!”

The heat has finally subsided and Ole Bessie was begging to go for a ride. I’ve enjoyed looping the river lately and stopping along the way to explore…

First loop: flood trails, parasitic silly string, colorful wildflowers, multitudes of bindweed and skies not quite sure they’re finished with the rain.

Second loop: kids sailing camp, a shoreline that didn’t exist after last week’s flooding, sailboats waiting for their owners to return, the Philly skyline, wild blueberries, bikes owned and bikes for sale.

Out of all these finds, I was fascinated by the “parasitic silly string.” After Googling images for some time, I come to learn that this strange looking organism is known as dodder:

“Dodder is a true parasite that lacks the ability to make its own chlorophyll, so it attaches itself to other plants to steal theirs. It begins life normally, as a seed that germinates in the soil. The brightly neon-colored stem that emerges will die quickly if it can’t reach another plant. But if it does find a victim, it attaches itself to the poor plant, breaks away from its original root system, and digs into the host with tiny root-like structures called haustoria. Then it flourishes as it sucks moisture and nutrients from the host.”

http://www.gardensalive.com/product/dodder-the-parasitic-silly-string-weed/you_bet_your_garden

After reading this, I immediately thought, “That’s what anxiety feels like!” The Bully (as we so fondly refer to it in our household) slowly incubates in the brain waiting for that perfect moment of vulnerability. If ignored properly, The Bully slowly “dies” – at least until it finds the next accessible opportunity. But if allowed to attach itself, The Bully burrows into your brain and absorbs all rational thought. Anxiety is a parasite.

And then there’s Groot…

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On my third and last loop around the river, I caught something in my peripheral vision – a word bubble that appeared to say, “I am groovy.” On close inspection, I recognized it as an old Camden County Park sign, faded and worn, it’s presentation of a tree now leafless and barely recognizable. Sprouting from the leafless tree, the word bubble stated, “I am Groot!” I definitely needed to look this one up!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groot

FYI – I’m really out of the whole movie/t.v. loop…I mean really out of it. Not only did I not know about Guardians of the Galaxy, I am absolutely clueless to its cast. For those of you who are as clueless as me, in a nutshell, created by Marvel Comics in 1960, Groot is a strange tree-looking alien who used to abduct humans for experimentation. However, after five decades of earthling research, Groot was reintroduced as a superhero in 2006. According to legend, he is very resilient, having the power to regenerate himself when “killed.” It was believed that Groot had no form of communication because all he ever says is, “I am Groot.” But it was later divulged that his was actually a highly intelligent language that could only be understand as “I am Groot” to those who could not translate (i.e., us dummies). I like this concept – a creature who previously allowed his Bully to take over his entire being to the point that he became The Bully, but through reclamation he managed to overcome and fight back. Groot is you!

So the next time you feel The Bully taking over, just shout out loud, “I AM GROOT!”

(P.S. Ignore the strange looks you may get…keep ’em guessing!)

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

 

 

A little local history

Nothing too exciting going on these days. Between the rain, the heat and preparing the kid for her year in Israel, not much bike riding has been happening lately. However, last Sunday the hubby took the kid to Brooklyn and I took Ole Bessie out for a spin.

I decided to stay local and explore some of the parks along the Cooper River, one of which I’ve been hearing about but never visited – Jake’s Place.

https://www.buildjakesplace.org/#ourmission

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Jake died at the age of two as the result of a rare cardiac condition. In honor to his memory, Jake’s family created a specially designed all-inclusive playground that allows children of all abilities to play, regardless of physical limitations. The playground and its surrounding area was jam packed with parents and their kids enjoying the beautiful day.

Jake’s Place is situated within Wallworth Park, named after Joseph Wallworth, a local politician during the early part of the 20th century.

http://www.dvrbs.com/People/CamdenPeople-JosephWallworth.htm

The park also houses Croft Farm, its surrounding buildings, including the Croft Farm Arts Center, Wallworth Pond, Evans Lake, a nature trail and the Kay-Evans House, an 18th-century dwelling situated along the Underground Railroad.

Colorful wildflowers, geese wading on the dam and a sustainable garden with whimsical artwork – I was truly enjoying myself!

The Kay-Evans House is named for the original and subsequent owners, Isaac Kay and Thomas Evans, both of whom farmed the area and ran a mill on the river.

https://www.americantrails.org/nationalrecreationtrails/trailNRT/Croft-Farm-Cherry-Hill-NJ.html

Taking advantage of the perfect weather, I headed to my go-to place…

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There are a number of sculptures dotted along the shoreline that I have often photographed but never researched – a dog pig headed stick figure and the floating shark fins. After some Googling, I soon discovered the local artist who created them, John Giannotti:

http://www.southjerseymagazine.com/articles/?articleid=395

Another building I’ve ridden by numerous times is the Hopkins House, built and owned by a man named Ebenezer Hopkins. Although the Hopkins family is a well-known name in the Haddonfield, New Jersey area, not much is known about the man who lived in this house, but it’s believed to have been his retirement home. More recently, local historians were capable of stopping developers from altering the building, thereby maintaining its antiquity.

Meanwhile, back at the yacht club, the river returned to normal and I got to poke around a few…until I noticed the sign that said, “Members Only!” Oops…

I found a lone wheelchair on one dock and a pair of sneakers on the other outside the boathouse. I’ve always wanted to try kayaking, but my fear of the unknown (or feeling embarrassed due to my sporting ignorance or thinking I’m too fat to fit inside or tipping it over and drowning myself because I can’t turn right-side up or just plain trepidation that has no rational thought whatsoever) always holds me back. Watching the sneakerless kayaker floating down the river as a blue heron glided not 10 feet from her vessel, seeing that wheelchair told me it was time to get over it…

I had a wonderful time alone, just slowly looping around the river for two hours and stopping whenever something caught my eye. Thankfully, the hubby and the kid had a nice day too.

Today was just as beautiful as last Sunday, but we were heading north for my father-in-law’s unveiling. Waking up with the sunrise to get ready, I crept outside to water my flowers in the quiet stillness of the morning air – and then…

Dammit! That sound to me is loudest when I can’t go for a bike ride. I can hear it a mile away. It stops me dead in my tracks, staring enviously at the rider as he passes by. It’s like hearing the ice cream truck caroling up the block but you have no cash or hearing your friends playing joyfully outside your window but you’ve got the flu. Needless to say, this was a day we had planned for almost a year and Ole Bessie would just have to wait until tomorrow…and, of course, it’s supposed to rain…

“So forget all your duties oh yeah
Fat bottomed girls they’ll be riding today
So look out for those beauties oh yeah”

Bicycle Race – Queen

 

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump