“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

Watch out for the under toad!

Woof! What a storm we had the other night! As I sat at the desktop watching a documentary on the history of the internet and the influence technology has had on the world, the powers-that-be reminded us that something much more awesome is in control here. Far away thunder rumbled its warning signs when, suddenly, a torrential sideways rain swept through the neighborhood. I anxiously ran from window to window trying to see what was happening in the dark and waited for the storm to pass before drifting off to sleep, counting the seconds between thunder and lightening to figure how far it had traveled away…

The next day I headed to my go-to place so that I’d be close to home in case the roads were flooded and/or impassable. Aside from a tree branch hither and dither, the roads were clear, but this is what the riverside looked like:

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At the Camden County Yacht Club, the buildings, boats and docks were submerged in water with geese and ducks swimming in the parking lot. Two weeks ago I was walking around the grounds taking pictures of the kids sailing camp. I don’t think there was any sailing lessons that day…

Down the road a piece, my dolphin friend looked like he was really swimming in the water…

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…the bike trail was non-existent…

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and the Veteran’s Park was flooded out…

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It was a dreary day, but at least the heat had subsided, so I decided to ride a few loops around the river. With each round, the water slowly receded and I found myself determined to ride in circles until the sun came out. After 1 1/2 hours, the sun sheepishly peak-a-booed through a break in the clouds, then quickly hid its light. Telling the sun that it wasn’t enough, I continued on…but the sun refused…and I gave up…two hours is enough I’d say.

I thought about all the summer storms I’ve experienced in my lifetime – in childhood being chased from the public pool by the lifeguards when thunder boomed, getting stranded as a teen at various friends houses or waiting out the rain under an awning on Main Street and riding out the remnants of Hurricane Gloria in my parent’s stilt house along the Jersey shore during my college years, along with various other storms in my adult life – Irene, where we lost power for over a week, and Sandy, the worst and most devastating hurricane on record in New Jersey and one that affected a number of acquaintances, including a meteorologist friend who decided to stay in his home despite government warnings to leave the island. As the water crept up to his front door, he could hear the waves of the ocean and bay meeting as they crashed on the sides of the house. He told us how he had planned to climb into the attic and punch a hole through the roof…luckily, in the end, he and his home were left undamaged.

Water makes me panic…and I actually know why. Aside from my father freaking out every time the basement flooded when it rained, there is one occasion I have never forgotten in 46 years. In the summer of 1971, my family and I were on vacation at the Jersey shore. My sister and I were jumping the waves in the ocean when I suddenly felt a force tug at my feet as if some giant hands were wrapped around my ankles and pulling my body upside down. I felt my body flipping somersaults over and over again – forward and backward and forward again. Unable to breathe, I was terrified of the unknown battle I was fighting. Too frightened to shut my eyes, the salt water stung as if a hundred needles were piercing them and I cried. I remember thinking that this was what death felt like – that I would never be free of the force and never see my family again…when suddenly, the sea spat out my wilted body onto the beach. Sobbing, I ran to my parents to tell them what happened…and they didn’t believe me. Many years later I would learn that I had been caught in an undertow. Needless to say, I didn’t go into the ocean again until my daughter was 2 years old – 30 years later in the summer of 2001.

https://thingsthatmadeanimpression.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/excerpt-from-the-world-according-to-garp-by-john-irving-under-toad/

Thinking I had overcome my aquaphobia after all these years, the toilet poltergeist reassured me that the panic was still alive and well. If I could just get through a Sunday without checking and rechecking the downstairs toilet, there may be some hope…

and, by the way, I’m also afraid of closets, but that’s a story for another time…

“Blame, no one is to blame
As natural as the rain that falls
Here comes the Flood again

Wash away the weight that pulls you down
Ride the waves that free you from the dusk”

The Flood – Katie Melua

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

Summer camp revisited

We’ve had a major heatwave this week. It’s 90 degrees Fahrenheit before the sun even rises in the morning with humidity not below 70% most of the day. As I walked out of my garage this morning around 8:00AM to water the gardens, the sweat literally poured from my body like a fountain – I’ve changed my clothes five times over the past 24 hours…Needless to say, a bike ride has been out of the question. Anyone who knows me knows I love riding my bike, but there’s a line drawn in the sand when the weather is too cold or too hot. If I’m not enjoying myself, what’s the point?

The highlight of my week was last Sunday when I took the kid to the Poconos to visit some friends working at a Jewish summer camp. Having worked as an advisor/parent liaison/trainer for eight summers at one of these camps, I know visiting day is a big deal. It’s when the vomit-induced homesick, straight up miserable and incorrigibly rotten campers get to finally go home and thirty-six hours of relief is bestowed upon the staff until the next load is dropped off.  It’s also the day when all the helicopter parents arrive and descend like locusts on an unwatched field to make sure their child/children is/are still alive, despite staff reassurances on a daily basis for four weeks straight.

When I first started working at camp, if you had a cell phone, you had no service…ever (although sometimes if you stood in one particular spot on the basketball court on a sunny, cloudless day you might get a few minutes of reception…that is, only if you had Verizon service). Over two hundred staff members shared two pay phones and six desktop computers that worked as long as there was no wind, rain or clouds anywhere within a 50 mile radius…and you had zero privacy. The only communication between campers and their families was letter-writing hour once a week (and mail service was so slow parents wouldn’t receive those first letters for two weeks, halfway through the session). Otherwise, the only information parents received was from (you guessed it) me and my three co-advisors/parent liaisons/trainers.

The summer the administration decided to start downloading photographs of campers onto the camp website was probably the worst I had over that eight-year period. The reception was so bad, it literally took days for pictures to download, thereby spawning a new position just for that job – downloading. As internet connections advanced over the years, the administration then decided to lock us all out, creating secret passwords that only they could use in order to work on their own laptops. Towards the end of my term there, I was one of the very privileged few permitted the password, but only if it was work related.

This was Cheryl, one of my bestest friends ever in a lifetime. We were co-advisors/parent liaisons/trainers over the entire eight-year period, she having started many years before me and staying several years after my departure. All four of her children spent their entire lives at camp with all three eventually working there as adults. She made camp tolerable. For nine weeks every summer, we were there for each other through everything24 hours a day, seven days a week. We ate our meals together, lived and slept next door to one another and sat with each other at every meeting, sporting event and fireworks show. Refusing to learn how to drive the golf carts, I was her “chauffeur” and she would buy my favorite frozen custard in return.

Golf Cart

Every year we would dress up for our final staff meeting before the campers arrived . At my final meeting we wore our pajamas, messed up our hair, taped fake telephone messages all over our bodies and wrapped telephone cords along with the handsets around our necks. Sitting at our desks and making/receiving phone calls was pretty much all we ever did at that point, barely seeing the light of day from our windowless hole-in-the-wall office often used for excess storage. Some of my fondest memories are of Cheryl driving me and various other individuals driving into New York City the last day off each summer – an 8-hour round-trip journey filled with laughter and entertainment – some of the greatest fun I’ve had in my life. Aside from my husband, I can’t think of any other human being I’ve spent that much time with and didn’t want it to end…and then it did.

On May 7, 2012, a post on Facebook from a mutual friend caught me off guard. Cheryl had died suddenly from a massive heart attack following a brief illness during a vacation to her summer home at the beach. That was the year Cheryl decided to stop working at camp. Not only were we getting older and the job becoming more difficult, she had found full-time employment to which she wanted to devote her time and energy. But, of course, that’s not what happened. Apparently, due to a staff shortage, the week before her death Cheryl decided to go back one more time, calling and leaving me a voicemail message telling me about her excitement and wondered if I could be convinced to change my mind as well. Believing I was “just to busy” (or perhaps a bit jealous), I didn’t call her back right away. It’s a regret I continue to have five years later…

So dropping the kid off to see her friends, I decided to continue further north to the camp I had left seven years before, but not without stopping at the kosher pizza stand for sushi and having my favorite frozen custard.

Memories of those eight summers flooded my brain…I missed it dearly. I missed being outdoors – even when it rained for three weeks straight or the heat was so oppressive you couldn’t breathe during the day or sleep comfortably at night. I missed my shitty little bunk with the leaky roof and not caring or having to clean or cook or do laundry. I missed the co-workers who had become my closest friends in adulthood. I missed being part of some kind of secret society that one could only understand and explain after having experienced it yourself.

But no one was left. Except for the maintenance crew, with all new staff and renovated buildings, my camp was no more. Spending an hour talking with my maintenance buddies, we reminisced about our time together and caught up on our lives over the past seven years…and I felt sad. It was a time of my life that I cherished, albeit very stressful at times, but nonetheless some of the best times I’ve ever had in my adult life. However, for seven years I’ve also regretted not staying home and spending those eight summers with the kid and my parents in their pool, eating ice cream and drinking soda pop. If I had known those years would be lost forever due to my father’s declining health and dementia, I would have stayed home. That’s the price I must pay for the rest of my life – the best summers of my life versus lost summers with Peepaw and Meemaw.

As I rolled down the first hill descending the mountain, teary-eyed over my fate, a turkey suddenly appeared on the side of the road…thanks Peepaw…

Photo Challenge

Week 23 – Technical: F/8 Portrait – “Shoot a portrait using an aperture setting of F/8…[finding] a way to isolate your subject other than shallow depth of field.”

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I don’t have a camera and I’m technologically challenged, so I just took a “portrait” of my little kitty using vignette as a “shallow depth of field.” Yeah, I cheated…so what?! She looks so contemplative…what could she be thinking?

Week 24 – Artistic: Green –  “Your inspiration this week is green…the color of life, nature and hope.”

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Sun bleached and chalky white with hints of prior greenery, this frog sat at my parents pool for 24 years. I swam in that pool as a single gal, eventually sharing it with my soon-to-be husband, as well as my baby to come ten years later. My entire family and their families and our friends swam in that pool summer after summer – all with the little quickly fading frog fondly looking over us. It’s the same pool the kid and I would miss those eight summers of camp. When my sisters and I moved my parents to their final home in 2012 (the same week that Cheryl passed), for some reason I decided to take that frog – perhaps to remind me of those summers we had as a family at the ole swimming hole…or maybe to keep as a reminder of those summers we didn’t…either way, I repainted him bright green and now he fondly looks over my garden.

“Hello Muddah, hello Faddah
Here I am at Camp Grenada
Camp is very entertaining
And they say we’ll have some fun if it stops raining”

Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (Camp Grenada Song) – Allen Sherman

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

Sailing through life

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Attempting to avoid the “scattered showers” that never appeared, I went to my go-to place in order to be close to home just in case the weatherman was right this time…

I finally got to see inside the Cooper River Yacht Club and sneak a peek at the youth summer sailing camp. Listening to the tweens talk about their experience as I took photos, they asked one another, “How was it?!” and compared the number of times each one fell in the water as I watched several boys being towed in by staff. Every time I ride by the club and/or the crew house, I think to myself, “Why not try it?” One of these days I just might…”Let’s Do This” is what got me through a multiple two-hour loop of the river today, but the water out of that fountain tasted like it looked…possibly siphoned from the river itself? Perhaps the graffiti was some kind of warning label…

A year ago today, I was sailing on the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel.

IMG_20160711_183712409~2 - Copy

Needless to say, it was just as hot, but the sunshine was much more appealing. Difficult to explain until you’ve been there, it’s an addictive land that calls you back over and over again. We’re counting the days to our return next year when me and the hubby will visit the kid and celebrate Purim in Jerusalem…

“Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
And soon I will be free”

Sailing – Christopher Cross

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

Planting roots…

Sunday, July 9, 2017

It’s Sunday…and the toilet didn’t overflow!

On Monday the toilet shaman and his little sidekick came to the rescue. As I watched the holy man work his magic, a camera was snaked through the sewer line where we finally came to the “root” of our problem…

The good news – the sewer line did not collapse! The bad news – my favorite Spirea shrub decided sewer water was a nice place to settle its roots. Wishing more research had been done on my part years ago when planting the front garden, I learned that Spirea roots will grow as deep as 20 feet in search of water. Lucky for this guy, he only had to go about 3 feet down to find his only necessary source of nutrition…so glad we were able to provide…

Now that we knew where the toilet poltergeist resided, I spent 9 hours on the 4th of July digging up that Spirea shrub and replanted it far, far away from the house in the wettest part of my backyard. It’ll be very happy in its new home…

It’s been about a half dozen years since Cherry Hill stopped having fireworks, so it’s up to us to find a show somewhere else in one of the neighboring towns. Exhausted, bruised, bloodied and sunburned, I decided to forego the fireworks and watch a movie instead…

Boom! Boom! Boom!

Running up the stairs as the hubby ran down the hall and the cats flew under the couches, we looked at each other frightened.

Boom! Boom! Boom!

Convinced someone was outside with a gun, the hubby ran to he window.

Boom! Boom! Boom!

The hubby:”It’s fireworks!”

Me: “Fireworks?!”

The hubby: “Yes! Fireworks! Over by the school!”

As we ran out the front door and stood on the porch, there it was – a full blown fireworks show somewhere in our neighborhood! How this was happening, we had no clue. Buying, selling and using fireworks in New Jersey is illegal. Waiting for police cars that never came to investigate, we stood on the front porch and watched the show. Wow! Destroying the toilet poltergeist and enjoying fireworks all in one day?! Can’t get better than that!

So being that it’s Sunday and the toilet didn’t overflow, I went for a much deserved bike ride. Bored with my go-to place, I decided to pick some new roads to travel in Burlington County. Heading west on Westfield Road (although I have ridden east on Westfield Road once or twice), I came across an old building on the side of the road just waiting for a photo op.

The building is known as the Swede Run Barn and was believed to have been built in the early 1800s. Longtime residents recall it was once attached to a larger house and used mostly for storage of some kind at varying times in its history. Swede Run is named for the waterway that runs through the property, which is now referred to as Swede Run Fields after being purchased by the township to be utilized as open space and farmed locally for soybeans.

barn

Sometime around 2011, the township decided to restore the building rather than demolish it. When a number of local artists caught wind of the restoration, they were actually upset. It seems this little building has landed on many a canvas over the last 150 years or so (seriously, Google images of it and you’ll see). Although they didn’t want the building destroyed, they couldn’t imagine the loss of antiquity that had stirred so many to paint, draw and photograph.

http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/arts-culture/42622-renovations-rob-200-year-old-barn-of-picturesque-character-

On the return home, I decided to stop at a local park I’ve ridden by numerous times but never entered.

 

A little over five miles from home, I never knew this park existed. What I loved was that it was open to whoever wanted to play there – walking and bike trails, a playground, several baseball fields, a street hockey rink and a bocce ball court…yes, you read that correctly – a bocce ball court! Who knew that even existed?! And apparently it’s a big deal here…

 

And when I got home, the toilet still didn’t overflow…

Photo Challenge Week 22 – Story: Geometric Shapes – “Triangles, squares and circles…Find a way to use geometric shapes in your storytelling.”

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Rectangle

The repairs included a durable new roof, mixing “old style” mortars to repair the walls, and custom doors.”

Some people complained about the restoration of the Swede Run Barn. They didn’t like the roof and doors being replaced by something that wasn’t historically accurate. The alternative? Leave it as it is. However, because of the danger the building produced, demolition was the only other alternative.

I’ve actually found old photos of my 56-year-old home taken over the last five decades. My neighbor Paul who lives across the street has seen the changes first hand – he lives in the house where he was born. He explained how our properties sit on what was once a farm and that the creek behind my house was the runoff. He showed me where the farmhouse stood – the school where my husband thought the fireworks were being launched. Our house was where the cattle grazed by the water. There were eleven ponds at that time, all filled in to make room for development – now there is only one. He described how the outside of the house looked when he was a boy – the bushes, the trees, the flowers and the basketball hoop over the garage, pointing to the discolored shingles that had been replaced after the hoop was removed. He told me what parts of the house were original and how the inside was once constructed, confirming the photos I’d seen in my research online. He remembered the original owners, a lawyer, his wife and their son who Paul had befriended and grew up with and wondered whatever happened to them after moving from the house. He recollected the numerous residents who occupied the house over the years following, some leaving the house at it was and others making changes to suit their needs.

I was fascinated with what Paul had told me, but it didn’t make me want to make the house look like it did when first built. The house needed to change each time. If not, it surely would have been condemned. Going through some renovations last year, I got to see the bones of this old house. The originally structure was still there, solid and strong, despite a new roof and a couple of new doors over the years. What interested me more was the history inside the house – its roots. I wanted to know the people, who they were and why they had transformed the house. I wanted to know who lived under that roof and who walked through those doors…

…and I wondered what roots they had planted in the sewer line…

“I’m going back to my roots
Another day, another door
Another high, another low
Rock bottom, rock bottom, rock bottom”

Roots – Imagine Dragons

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

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…

Monday, June 26, 2017: My Go-To Place

After yesterday’s toilet fiasco, I was most definitely going for a bike ride today. The weather conditions were perfect, so I circled the river a few times, stopping here and there to take some pictures.

My beautiful fake skies, bright blue with puffy white clouds. Calm waters for the children learning to sail. A large gaggle of geese congregating to discuss their next move. Lofty orange tiger lilies swaying in the cool breeze. A clear view of Center City Philadelphia. Just gorgeous…

Coming across a sun bather drinking a beer and enjoying the peace and quiet, I apologized for the imposition and continued walking along the shoreline where I approached a set of bleachers with a mural of a cute little doggie wearing swim goggles painted on the wall. After taking the a photograph and walking to the other side of the bleachers, I noticed an abandoned backpack leaning against the wall…

“Oh shit! What the f**k?!”

Startled, I walked around to the front of the bleachers where a man started yelling at me for “abandoning” my bike because no one can be trusted ’round here and will steal your bike because he left his bike the other day and someone stole it…yada, yada, yada…smoke your crack somewhere else dude…no one’s going to ruin my zen today…

So I hopped back onto Ole Bessie and continued riding. My third time around the river, I noticed a man passed out flat on his back in the middle of the dirt path with a bicycle lying next to him – could it be?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017: My Gump Walk

The kid is heading for Israel in September to study for a year. With the Philadelphia consulate closing last year, we set today aside to make the trip to New York City in order to obtain a student visa. No complaints here! We love Manhattan…right?

Apparently, the kid hates New York City (and most cities, for that matter) and angrily let us know how much she truly hated being there. I suddenly remembered the first time we brought her to New York City. She was only a few months old. As long as we were in the hotel room, the kid was content. The second we tried to leave, she would start wailing uncontrollably. The hubby and I spent the next 48 hours taking turns leaving the hotel in order to enjoy some semblance of our vacation. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…

There was only one place that would make it all worthwhile…

My father and his five siblings were all born and raised in Manhattan. All six were born in the apartment they lived in with their parents until each child married off and moved into their own homes, two of whom stayed in Manhattan and a third moving to Queens.

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Many hours and days of our youth were spent exploring the city with dad, who entertained us with stories of his childhood. I loved New York then and never stopped loving it. How is it possible that this loather of NYC could possibly be my child?! Finding the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company definitely made my day…

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Once again, it’s Sunday and plans have been made to visit a local flea market with friends. And, once again, it’s Sunday and the toilet poltergeist has decided that our plans are not to its liking…the same exact time as last Sunday…but this time it was determined to get its way…the sewer line has been crushed…off to a hotel for the night…

I think my Russian friend is right – it’s time for a toilet shaman…

Week 21: Artistic: Soft – “Your artistic inspiration this week is soft…both an adjective and an adverb. Interpret this how you will.”

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soft /sôft/adjective – sympathetic, lenient, or compassionate, especially to a degree perceived as excessive…

The kid is 18-years-old…and let’s us know it on a daily basis. She wants independence. She wants a job making money to pay her own way. She wants to be out of our house, living in her own home with a newly recreated family. She wants us to leave her alone and let her do what she wants…but deep down inside my 18-year-old is the mushy little girl who’s not embarrassed to hold her father’s hand in one of the most crowded public places on the planet…

“But you don’t need to waste your time
Worryin’ about the marketplace
Trying to help the human race
Struggling to survive
It’s as harsh as night”

Father and Daughter – Paul Simon

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

My life is going down the toilet…

Sunday, June 18, 2017

I decided to take the week off after all that hard work last Sunday.  It was the most miles I’ve ever ridden and the second hottest ride I’ve ever encountered (see Purpose versus Suffering), so I wasn’t sure how my body would respond in the aftermath.

Not convinced quite yet, the kid and I went to the gym on Tuesday…where I thoroughly exhausted myself…again…Thankfully, I listened to the Little Voice this time and stayed home the rest of the week.

Today, having consumed way more calories than expended over the weekend, I headed to the gym with the kid once again. Feeling a little tired, I forced myself to push through the fatigue and kept insisting I could go further and push harder…until SVT told me it was time to stop (see Thank you Pearl and f**k you heart!). Climbing down from the ARC Trainer and finding a bench to sit on where I could bear down and gain some control, it didn’t resolve after a few minutes. I remembered reading an article about SVT that suggested plunging your face into ice water (and was actually confirmed by a cardiologist) would help and considered asking the employees…but how does one explain to an 18-year-old thumbhead what SVT is as you’re having an attack, let alone figure out where they can get ice…the water in the fountain isn’t even cold…

So I walked to my car and blasted the air conditioning while bearing down in an attempt to stop the frantic beating. At this point, my body was bouncing off the back of the seat – from experience, I knew my heart rate was well over 250bpms. I quickly texted the kid, who came to the car and asked me what to do. As luck would have it, there’s an urgent care next door to the gym (the same one I went to the week before the cancer ride).

Because Doherty’s don’t do sick, I insisted on driving to the end of the parking lot despite the kid’s argument that she should be the one driving (yes, I’m an idiot). I parked the car, walked across the back lawn with the kid in tow, entered the building, cut in front of several people straight to the reception desk, told the nurse I was having an SVT attack and demanded oxygen. I suddenly remembered the first time I had an attack that was this uncontrollable and caused me to go to the emergency room – I was seven months pregnant with the kid. At that time, the nurses thought I was having a panic attack and gave me oxygen, which immediately brought me out of the attack.

First came the medical assistant who took my vitals. Then came the nurse who suggested I bear down. Then came the doctor who told me he was calling 911 because my heart rate was so high he couldn’t, by law, treat me at their facility. I again insisted that oxygen would help, to which they surrendered. Within seconds my heart found its rhythm and within minutes the EMTs were in the room taking vitals and trying to convince me to go to the local emergency room. Of course, all I wanted to do was get in the car and drive myself home (right…because Doherty’s don’t do sick), so I tried to convince them that the kid could just drive me home, to which they conceived of any and every medical crisis that could occur in the car on the way home. Although not feeling the love at the time, thankfully my daughter bought each and every scenario, hook, line and sinker and refused to take me in the car. So I got to experience my very first ambulance ride…and I wept over my “weakness.”

As all this is happening, I kept telling the kid, “Don’t call daddy!” It was Father’s Day. All the hubby wanted was a peaceful day (i.e. no arguments), a nap and some barbecued burgers. As I was being admitted to the ER, I finally called him. I was crushed that the father of our daughter would be spending his day at the hospital – a place we’ve both grown to loathe. Without hesitation, the hubby was by my side, relieving the kid of her duties.

I hated being there. For me, hospital is where you go to die…slowly…surrounded by people who don’t love you or who seem to care about the end result. I know many doctors and nurses, so I know that’s not reality, but that’s how it feels when you’re there. I just wanted to leave before the toe tags were handed out…

The hubby didn’t get that nap, but at least there were no arguments and he ultimately got his burgers.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Fighting back the Little Voice, I reluctantly got back in the saddle, but not without reminding myself to move slow and steady, drink LOTS of water and stop when any signs of SVT suddenly appeared. Heading to my go-to place, I was comfortable with its familiarity and knew there would be a number of people who could help if something went wrong. Not in training and having nowhere else to be, I stopped whenever I saw something interesting, compelling myself to just enjoy the moment – what a relief.

And nothing happened…

Wrapping up crew season…

 

Forgotten stairs…

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Ghostly visitors…

 

Part of the path that wasn’t muddy…

 

Passing this sign hundreds of times, I wondered who in the world was Maria Barnaby Greenwald and why did she have a park named after her. With a little research, I come to find that Mrs. Greenwald was the first woman Surrogate in Camden County and a former mayor of Cherry Hill who died in a car accident 22 years ago. She was only 54-years-old.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Feeling terrible about Father’s Day, I spent the week plotting a “Father’s Day Do-Over.” With the plan to buy a card on the way home from the gym last week (which obviously didn’t happen), I bought the hubby a card. Considering all the Father’s Day cards were already on the trash pile, I bought a blank one so that I could say whatever I wanted. One of my husband’s favorite sayings (of Polish origin) is “not my circus, not my monkeys” – basically, it’s not my problem. Over the past couple of years, this saying has been heard frequently in our house. And then I discovered there was a circus coming to town!

 

The plan was to make shakshuka while the hubby went to synagogue so that he had breakfast waiting upon his return. Then I would give him the card and tell him to hurry up and eat in order to make the 1:00pm show. Afterwards, we’d have whatever dinner he desired.

Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht  – Man Plans and God Laughs…

There is a toilet poltergeist that has attached itself to me and my husband since day one. We’ve had issues with clogged and overflowing toilets for over 25 years. I think it’s time to call in the exorcist…

Before leaving for synagogue, the hubby decided to wash a load of clothing, as I performed my morning rituals, which included cleaning the litter box in the room next to the laundry room. And then I heard the water – splashing loudly…gushing…the toilet had backed up AGAIN and was overflowing everywhere. In usual fashion, I freaked out and demanded every towel we owned to stopped the flow of water. As I cleaned up the raw sewage, the hubby called the water company…twice…and then we waited for the plumber…for three hours…and then I cried…several times. I think the hubby thought I was losing my mind – until I gave him the card and told him about my plans for the day.

Needless to say, the hubby didn’t get his shakshuka and we didn’t get to the circus, only to learn there were roots growing into our sewer pipes and would continue to clog the line until the day it doesn’t unclog, at which time we rip up the sidewalk, the yard and possibly the front porch and/or the entire downstairs looking for the location of said roots…In the end, we had fend-for-yourself dinner.

I’m not giving up…we will have a Sunday fun day…some day…

Week 20 – Technical: Sky Overlay – “Sometimes the sky just doesn’t cooperate. This week replace the sky in your image…”

Honestly, I haven’t had an issue with needing any sky overlays…this is pretty much what I get every time I ride…

 

…think I’ll just skip this week…

“I’ve been washed down the sink of your conscience
In the theater of your love I lost my part
And now you say you’ve got me out of your conscience
I’ve been flushed from the bathroom of your heart”

Flushed From the Bathroom of Your Heart – Johnny Cash

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

 

 

 

Committing to the challenge…

Monday, June 5, 2017

With full-fledged acceptance, I dragged my sorry-ass respiratory infected body to the local urgent care with the goal of obtaining any kind of antibiotic money could possibly buy (or bribe). First, I was told it was allergies, “Are you taking your Claritin?”

I must digress for a moment here…if you’re a nurse and/or doctor of any kind, never tell me “it’s allergies. The last time a doctor said “it’s allergies” and lived to talk about it was so far off the mark, he’s lucky to still be alive (my hubby the lawyer, not me, required murderous restraint). The diagnosis of “it’s allergies” 25 years ago ended up being a rare neurological condition that went undetected for over two years, nearly causing permanent blindness and leaving me suffering from chronic tinnitus to this day, all of which could have been resolved if identified sooner. And because of the delay in diagnosis, I went through 6 years of physical and mental hell that should never have happened to begin with…

Okay, back to that urgent care visit…

Suppressing a primal scream, I informed the nurse practitioner that she was wrong (I know, I know – nurses and doctors love hearing that as much as lawyers being told they’re wrong about the law – just ask my hubby the lawyer). At 52-years-of-age, I think I know the difference between allergies and illness. And, yes, I’m taking my Claritin…

Little voice: “Umm…honey, would you like to me to hock up one of the giant balls of florescent yellow mucous oozing from my lungs?”

Convincing her that it wasn’t my allergies, I was then told it was “viral,” therefore, antibiotics would not guarantee a cure. Fully aware of this fact, I proceeded to tell the nurse practitioner about my impending cancer ride – how I had waited two years and trained for six months to honor my brother…my big brother…my only brother who had died of cancer. I was willing to take the chance of spending the money and accepting the possibility of not getting better by June 11th. My pleading worked…

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

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…but the antibiotic didn’t (serves me right) and the kid ended up with the cooties I had inherited from the hubby. Despite our collective hacking away, my daughter managed to graduate high school without a hitch. Promising to walk like Zoidberg down the procession line after receiving her diploma, the kid chickened out at the last minute, but she did wear the bow tie we’ve been hearing about for four years. I also managed to get a hand-burning high five on the way out.

 

Friday, June 9, 2017

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With Shabbat upon us, I prepared Ole Bessie for the Bridge to the Beach ride. Sitting in her corral, she anxiously awaited the long haul ahead…

After Michael died in 2015, I planned to do this ride last June, but it fell on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. Gravely disappointed, I occasionally checked the ACS website throughout 2016, waiting for the official date in 2017. Flashback to January 20th (“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…”) when “I committed myself to the challenge…” June 11th was free and clear, no excuses…and then the hubby decided to share his cooties with me five days before the ride…

Sunday, June 11, 2017 – Bridge to the Beach

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So, in true Doherty fashion, I ignored the fact that I was still sick and packed up Ole Bessie.

This ride is going to happen no matter what

 

 

On January 20th, I wrote about being nervous. Admittedly, I was nervous right up to the second I hopped onto Ole Bessie at the starting point.IMG_20170611_063519795_HDR

Studying the route prior to departure, I discovered the entire length would be about 54.4 miles and that all four rest stops were more than 10 miles apart as noted on the ACS website. No problem – most of the route comprised mostly of flat terrain (if it was “a hill,” it was most likely an overpass). And having practiced riding more than 10 miles at a time over the past couple of months, getting to each rest stop would be a piece of cake.

Although Kathy wasn’t with me this time, I’d gotten used to riding alone these past few months. Besides, she sent me a message telling me to “Enjoy the ride!” with a silly cycling animation attached – she was with me in spirit. And I was ready – I had everything on my checklist formulated and completed through trial and error over the past six months all tucked away in one of two packs and/or the pack on my back.

I reminded myself of Jeremy’s advice: “Take your time. Don’t start in Philly – the bridge is a clusterf**k! Stay as far right as possible. Don’t stop at the first rest stop – too many people stop there and wear out their welcome…” Aside from stopping at the first rest stop (it really wasn’t that bad), I obeyed each word of longstanding wisdom.

As I pushed off and turned right out of the school parking lot, a wave of calm came over me. This was it…this was actually happening…

Over the highway and past the seemingly infinite span of malls, I pedaled down unexplored roads weaving through the countryside – small towns with tiny churches and houses sprinkled throughout, local farms growing seasonal crops and bustling Main Streets with busy intersections – just taking in every moment and stopping to smell the roses…slow and steady…

I pretty much had gotten over any fear of getting lost at this point. Riding back roads I didn’t even know existed, I decided to reprint the route directions of each section between rest stops onto small laminated note cards that fit neatly inside my front pack. At each stop, I would pull out the next card and toss the prior one into my backpack, hence, no confusion. I also figured, as long as I can see a cyclist in front of me and another in my rearview mirror, I’m not lost…until I noticed there was no one in front of me and the man behind me suddenly disappeared. Quickly bringing up Google Maps, I realized the right onto Cooper Street had been missed. Not far off course, I turned around to hundreds of cyclists making the crucial right turn I had overlooked. That would be the only mistake made today…

All in all, I managed to get to the first rest stop after the first 13 miles and showed Kathy what she was missing in the snack department:

For the most part, I wasn’t afraid of the “unknown.” I had made it to 52, remember?! And the hubby and the kid were scheduled to meet me at each rest stop prepared to bring me home if I didn’t feel up to finishing. On top of that, I wasn’t going to let my heart f**k this up. I’d gotten off the medication causing the heart palpitations and had managed to minimize any SVT attacks (although I will admit the fear of a repeat performance like the cemetery incident).

As my concern of “not making it” subsided with each passing mile, I found myself 11 miles later at the second rest stop…where I again showed Kathy what she was missing:

As for the weather…it was hot. Thankfully starting my ride at 6:40AM (I cheated by five minutes – no one was looking), I evaded most of the heat…until now…I was feeling it. Temperatures were hovering in the high 90s…with no clouds to block the blazing sun…and no breeze to cool the body…it was hot…

By the third stop 11 miles later, I was toast:

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And the snacks weren’t worth showing off anymore…

And by the fourth stop, another 12 miles down the road after racing the planes taking off at the local airport…

I think my face says it all…

With only 7 miles to go, I fought the Little Voice begging me to throw in the towel and straddled Ole Bessie one last time. After 47 miles there was no way I wasn’t going to finish. Besides, they were closing down the right lane of the Atlantic City Expressway East so we could ride straight into the city and onto the boardwalk – I wasn’t going to miss that for anything! (Those of you who have ever been on the ACE during the summer know how crazy this idea is.)

For 54.4 miles, I thought of Michael the entire way, occasionally fighting back tears. I thought about how long I had waited for this ride, how long I had trained for it and how it was finally happening. I thought about Michael’s pain as the sun burned my skin. I thought about the exhaustion he must have felt as the heat drained my body of fluids. I thought about how much I missed him…

I also thought about Regina, my Irish twin, and felt grateful that she had survived her own battle with breast cancer and had driven the 90-minute trek to celebrate my daughter’s high school graduation last Wednesday. I enviously thought about Kathy having retired much earlier than anticipated and was wandering the country with her husband of 34 years in their super duper RV…it was definitely a good reason to skip this ride. I thought of Maureen…and mom…and dad…and all the other people I had lost in my life these past years.

Believe it or not, the last 7 miles were the easiest. The end was near – I could see the silhouette of the casinos on the horizon as I flew down the entrance ramp to the Atlantic City Expressway. As a result of the lane closure, thousands of vehicles piled with “shoebies” lined the highway, bumper to bumper, waiting to get to the shoreline. Some cheered us on, while others patiently (and impatiently) prayed that their engines would not overheat.

Slowly climbing the ramp off Missouri Avenue and onto the Atlantic City Boardwalk, hundreds of people cheering our victory and thanking us for our support, I could no longer hold back the tears…

I committed myself to the challenge and had triumphed…

Later, we ran into some old friends we hadn’t seen for a number of years. Having done the cancer ride over the past seven years and normally starting at the bridge, they had decided to start in Cherry Hill, confirming that, indeed, Jeremy’s advice was spot on – the bridge is a clusterf**k.

January 20, 2017

“I have a feeling this ride’s going to be even better…”

June 11, 2017

…and so it was!

And there was my beautiful blue sky!

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“Come on feet don’t fail me now
I got ten more miles to go
I got nine, eight, seven, six, eight, six
I got a five more miles to go”

25 Miles to Go – Edwin Starr

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

Tis but a scratch!

Good Ole Bessie has returned from the shop and is feeling good!

Bessie

Not unlike the human body, I’m always amazed at how one “cause” can lead to multiple “ailments.” After struggling for a number of months, legs exhausted from what felt like pushing uphill the smallest of inclines with irritatingly loud squeaking and crunching rotations demanding my attention, all Bessie needed was a new chain and a brake adjustment. Gliding through space on Friday with that new chain sans noise blew me away…

Now, press that rewind button…

My husband came down with a nasty upper respiratory infection that reared its ugly symptom head last Monday. By mid-week, my germ-phobic brain took over…”Don’t even think about touching me with those cooties! And you can forget about trying to kiss me. Cough into your elbow, not your hand! Have you been washing your hands every time you blow your nose?! Get me sick and you will not escape my wrath!”

See, my daughter and I cannot afford to get sick this week. The kid graduates high school on Wednesday. It’s a day she’s been talking and dreaming about since the second grade (as far as memory will allow me to recall), the last four years being a re-creation of hell on earth…

I, on the other hand (also looking forward to all these years of elementary and secondary education coming to an end and quickly shoving itself way behind us), have My Gump Ride coming up one week from today. For you cyclists out there, you know riding when your lungs and sinuses are full of snot is not a pleasant experience. So imagine you’re riding the farthest you’ve ever ridden before and you’ve been training for over a year to ride for a cause that has deep personal meaning

Last Thursday I started feeling that lump in the back of my throat…

First stage – denial. Nope, not happening. It’s allergies. If I ignore it, it doesn’t exist.

Second stage – anger. How did this happen?! I’ve been wiping, sanitizing and washing religiously! It’s his fault, that husband of mine! All that coughing in his hand and blowing his nose and not washing and then touching every surface in the house. Why didn’t I buy that can of Lysol when I thought of it on Monday?!

Third stage – bargaining. Listen upper respiratory infection…I’m nipping you in the bud! That’s right, I’m going to CVS and buying every and any kind of over-the-counter drug money can buy and eradicate you from my body before you even have the chance to realize what hit you. Remember dude, Doherty’s don’t do sick! At the very least, could you just come back June 12th?!

Fourth stage – depression. Hanging with “Jeremy” at the bike shop while picking up Bessie, we commiserated about the times we’ve been let down from a ride due to circumstances beyond our control and not allowing us the perfectly planned ride. Feeling like a prom queen as Jeremy lovingly walked Ole Bessie to the car, hitching her to her rack, adjusting straps meticulously before sending me on my way home to ride Bessie after five days of separation, I tell him about my developing illness and fears of Ole Bessie flying off the back of my car on the highway while driving to the most important destination of my life. Jeremy assures me that, “You can do it!” and proceeds to tell me about the time he headed out to a day of mountain biking in the Poconos after a fellow employee neglected to lock the bike into the roof rack. Entering the ramp of Interstate 295 and accelerating speed, poor Jeremy glanced in the rearview mirror as his bike flew off the roof and tumbled down the highway. Gasping, clutching hand to mouth, I asked him, “Oh my god…did you cry?!” Quietly, “Jeremy” admitted, “Yes…like a baby…” This has been my fear over the past few weeks waiting for My Gump Ride…

Fifth stage – acceptance. It is what it is. You get what you get and you don’t get upset. I’m a Doherty dammit! This ride is going to happen no matter what. So, when you have a fever, you sweat it out, right? A bike ride when it’s 80 degrees with 80% humidity is the perfect remedy, right?! I’m going to sweat these cooties out of my body. This is nothing compared to what Michael suffered…I can do this!

And then I thought of something a South African psychologist co-worker with the perfectly schooled British accent once said to a group of friends, “Alice thinks she’s 20-years-old, despite her current situation.” I laughed…because I knew he was right. It was like laughing Death in the face. Yup…I don’t do sick…and I’m not giving up or giving in or allowing this ailing body to decide my fate…

…and this thought process all happened within 48 hours…

In customary (and habitually learned) fashion, my left foot stepped onto the left pedal as I attempted to mount Old Bessie. And, in customary (and habitually learned) fashion, as I swung my right leg over her saddle and pressed the three middle fingers of each hand on the brake levers, I felt a sudden halt, handlebars violently twisting to my right, throwing me backwards onto a concrete driveway…

Arm

First thought: “Oh shit!”

Second thought: “Hurt me, not the bike!”

Third thought: “Oh shit…I’m gonna fall!”

Fourth thought: “Remember breaking your left hand?! DON’T put out your left hand dumbass!”

Fifth thought: “You forgot your bike gloves…”

Sixth thought: “Did anyone see that?!”

Seventh thought: “Alice thinks she’s 20-years-old…”

Eigth thought: “DANG! My brakes needed some serious adjustment!”

So what did I do? After a couple of f-bombs, I left all my gear (including my phone, bluetooth and iPod) in the driveway (thank you thieves for not stealing my stuff). I walked into the house clutching my left arm, wiggled my fingers, washed out the wound, asked my husband to bandage it, hopped on my bike and went for a ride to my go-to place…I’m a Doherty dammit!

Michael absolutely LOVED Monty Python…

“Look at me
Look at me
Driving and I won’t stop
And it feels so good to be
Alive and on top”

Handlebars – Flobots

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