Saturday, June 9, 2018

Dirty Kanza 2018: Thrill of Victory and Agony of Defeat

I began this blog several weeks ago, creating the framework of a short diary by jotting notes about training for the Dirty Kanza 100. I envisioned something funny and cheeky, ending in victory with photos of Brian and I crossing the finishing line, standing on the ladder and adding our signatures to the huge finisher's poster.

I have this human habit of putting the cart before the horse. This was one of those times.

I did enjoy chronicling tales of my tried and true bike path, the one that at least allowed for as much saddle time as I could fit in while still being close to home in case of mechanical failure and the one I could get to quickly when able to squeeze in rides between full time work and family activities. The one that included several short hills with an 18% grade, that at least worked my legs. I was recording stories of walkers who took up the entire path , slowing me down RIGHT when starting to try and CLIMB those 18% grade hills, and of silly groups of teen girls taking selfies and sexy photos of themselves outside offset by reliable places where I could smell fresh wildflowers. The purple ones always reminded me of my co-worker Carol. Those wonderful smells would be offset by other places where the smell of dog waste predictably assailed my nostrils on every ride. During particular times the swarms of gnats drawn to my mouth were ever so entertaining, at least for the gnats.

The path was two miles from my house and just under 14 miles from the northern most point (the Kansas River) to the southern most point in Olathe. I could multiply my loops as many times as needed when increasing miles.

I love this path. I started to meet the same bikers and the same couples walking. I'd see various critters, including many snakes and once a magnificent turtle. On some occasions calves and their maternal guardians would be playing along the fence where a portion of their ranch buttressed up to the path. Close to this area I could always count on seeing red birds, chasing each other.

My path lacked one vital necessity, something made clear to me on Saturday during the Dirty Kanza. The path lacked gravel.

There are a few other things made painfully clear to me.

I wanted so badly to complete this race and kept telling myself it didn't matter how long it took. I turned 49 less than a week ago...I've felt a lack of control at work...and I'm completely too tuned into the political climate in the nation. This was an outlet and a challenge that has taken my mind off of those things or, at least, allowed me to work through some of them. I wanted to prove that I could push myself and my goal was to do it in 10 hours, max. That would've been slow by most of the riders' standards, extremely slow. But having ridden 50 miles of this course twice I thought I knew what I was getting into.

I logged roughly 450 training miles from April 1st and my longest ride was only 70 miles. I know, 70 is nothing to sniff at, but the Dirty Kanza riders aren't normal riders. And almost all of those miles were on pavement.

I do believe that if I were tasked with riding 100 miles on MY path I could do it. Although my body would become uncomfortable in varying places during training (it always moved around, kind of like a growing rash), I mentally figured out how to ignore those pains for the most part, or at least wait until the soreness kicked in somewhere else to take my mind off the last part of my body that had been complaining.

Alas, I was unable to finish the Dirty Kanza 100. I would ultimately bonk in a very quiet and predictable manner.

The day began with a raging rain storm that we had to drive through in order to get to the race start in downtown Emporia. Lightening lit up the horizon like a massive swarm of lightening bugs in a beautiful display of power. My first thoughts were that there would be no way I'd even begin the race if there was still lightening. Then fear of mud and water began to creep in.

Brian, my faithful 28 year long partner and committed riding companion for today's race, pulled our bikes off the rack and grabbed an old windbreaker he keeps in the jeep so I could quit shaking in the now cool misty rain. Then we headed towards the starting line.

The start times were all pushed back 30 minutes and by the time the 200 mile racers took off at 7:30 we could already tell that the clouds would eventually recede. It was then that I finally got excited about the race again.

My brother and sister in law, Scott and Sarah, had driven from Golden, Colorado, to participate in their first DK100. They are younger than us, avid bikers, and they have competed before. They also have multiple bikes to choose from, like Brian, and had chosen their cross bikes. As I looked around at over 600 bikers I keenly felt the difference in my bike from the other bikes. Seriously, there is a REASON they were all on cross bikes. In spite of this, it was a such a blast watching Scott and Sarah experience their first DK that I put on a happy face and told myself it wouldn't matter.

The "blast"...and "happy face"... were both temporary.

Things started out great as Brian and I maintained pace with the group heading out of town and onto the gravel. At one point, Scott said we were averaging 14+ miles an hour. This isn't fast for typical road bikers but, holy HELL, it IS a fast pace for me to maintain on gravel for miles at a stretch.

I was pushing myself and that wasn't the plan. Slow and steady, keeping my usual pace: THAT was the plan. I took solace when the group was re-routed because of the rain, allowing us to avoid the first big hill. This was the hill on which I had witnessed a man die last year.

I tried to eat. At about mile 20 it occurred to me that I hadn't eaten anything yet so I pulled out a Cliff bar and took a few bites. It tasted like cardboard. So I tucked it back in my bag and kept riding.

I did drink water and managed to finish one water bottle by the 50 mile cutoff. I knew I was in trouble, though, when 1/3 of the Cliff bar glared at me from my bag.

That was the only food I had eaten since two eggs at 5:00 am.

I don't KNOW where the time went. I don't KNOW why I didn't keep eating as I had trained to do. I only know that at around mile 38 I started to slow down. My pace dipped until it reached just under 11 miles an hour at the cutoff. Brian expressed concern, alerting me that our pace was dipping. I was starting to feel the weight of my hybrid bike, hating the fact that I wasn't on a cross bike. I also don't clip in. Yes, crazy, I know. I just never seemed to find the time to buys shoes, switch out my pedals, or practice getting comfortable clipping in and out. I just figured I could make it work this time and tackle that issue after the race.

Bad decision, particularly when going through mud puddles. My bike shoes were sopping wet and as I chugged up the never ending hills I found my feet sliding off the pedals.

In spite of all this, I was relieved when we finally rolled into Madison, beating the cutoff time by 30 minutes. Our SAG Team Duo, Barb and Jeff, were eagerly waiting, offering support and aid as they cleaned off our bikes, grabbed food out of the cooler and as Barb handed me a Coke. I wanted to slam the entire can but was aware enough to only drink a small amount. I grabbed a protein drink and forced myself to chug it instead.

My stomach started to knot up and I realized I hadn't had a bowel movement in over 24 hours...not for lack of trying, but I struggle in this area whenever I'm anywhere away from home and my gut was starting to get uncomfortable. TMI, of course, but in endurance races this is a reality. Ever use the port-a-potty before a marathon? Yep.

We forgot to take into account the 30 minute rain delay and Brian began pushing me to get moving, fearful that we'd miss the departure cutoff which was also mandatory if we didn't want to be disqualified. I hit the port-a-potty but it was a waste of a trip. I'd have to start the second 50 with an achy gut. In hindsight, I could've used those extra 30 minutes.

As we headed out of town the north wind was blasting us in the face. The ride to Madison had been pleasant with the north wind at our backs in places. Now we'd be headed back towards Emporia and would have to face the increasing wind head on. The sun was starting to blister as well, although it never did get as hot as it had been the previous day. Upper 80's was far more bearable than 90+ temperatures.

I knew in my heart that these conditions were actually quite good for this area, considering. Three years before there had been a horrible rain that resulted in bikers having to carry their bikes through 3-4 miles of mud. Success in this race is often dependent upon the weather and I had been given a gift...I just couldn't take advantage of it.

I knew I was failing, and even though I was still moving, still adding on miles, my pace had become agonizingly slow. I yelled over my shoulder to Brian "I'm not going to be able to finish this...I can't do 100 miles." He told me to stop, take a drink. He suggested we make it a few more miles.

I started biking again, head down, grinding forward. It was then that I tried to dig deep and pull from a reservoir I had prepared to use. I began thinking of physical ailments and disabilities that I'm blessed to not suffer from. I thought of persecuted populations and the atrocities heaped upon them. I thought of POW's.

And I am deeply ashamed because it wasn't enough. I felt that I couldn't go on. And I felt awful because I didn't HAVE to go on, even though I had told myself...convinced myself...that I wanted this badly enough that I would walk across the finish line if that's what it took.

I've been spoiled, accustomed to success sometimes without working as hard as some. And in those moments I considered that maybe this was the lesson I needed from the Dirty Kanza. A lesson in humility.

We called Barb and Jeff and waited with two other younger men who had also given up. They chatted with Brian while I attempted to push out of my mind the disappointment and anger I was feeling with myself. I wanted to cry but knew that tears over something like this would be, quite honestly, ridiculous. I mean that. I had done well, I had tried, I had trained and I had done something most people I know have never attempted, but quitting hurt.

A week has passed and I'm not certain if I'll try again next year. I will need a new bike and I will need to train using clips, of course. And I'll need to start training earlier. And eat enough...of the right food...before and during my training rides. I don't have to decide today but it will remain in the back of my mind until I come to some sort of resolution. Something feels unfulfilled.

In the meantime, I've registered for my first triathlon scheduled for late July. Barb is my motivator and my mentor - she talked me into it. Well, she suggested it, and before I could stop myself I had registered. I don't swim but I guess I'll have to learn.

I've got eight weeks. And as I sit here typing, watching Brian Williams talk about Anthony Bourdain's dark struggles, I've decided I'm going to embrace this new challenge. Regardless of how it turns out and regardless of how slow I do it. Because I am healthy...and happy...and because I am able.

In the end, that is the gift of the Dirty Kanza. Standing along the fence cheering the finishers on as they crossed the mat and watching Scott and Sarah sign the finisher's poster I felt alive. Tired and disappointed, but alive and happy for their accomplishments. And really, that is what is most important about an event like this. Joy for each other and the need to embrace an opportunity given to a body willing to try.

Friends, I tried. And you know what? I think I'll keep trying.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Dirty Kanza 2018

The Dirty Kanza is known as THE toughest gravel race in the country. Starting in 2006, it grew from 24 participants to 2,200 riders in 2017. A Sport's Illustrated writer wrote of it in 2017 "Dirty Kanza is a double century bike race on fire roads around Emporia, Ks. On a good year — Saturday, Jun. 4, 2017, for example — the winds are low and the roads are dry, the sun doesn’t scorch and the humidity isn’t oppressive. The lead racers take about 11 hours, and around 80% of riders finish. On other years, rain can turn the trails to thick clay, winds can blow riders off their bikes and temperatures can soar. Few finish in daylight, many fail to make the 20-hour cutoff and others abandon the attempt."

Dirty Kanza is actually comprised of four races: the DK25 Community Fun Ride (a 25 mile ride), the DK50 Lite (a 50 mile ride), the DK100 (100 miles in the Flint Hills) and the DK200, which is the crown jewel of the day. The DK 200 is considered by many to be the most difficult gravel race in not just the United States but the world. Riders travel from all over the nation, and a few from around the globe, to test their will and stamina. This year they have added a new jaw-dropping distance: the DKXL350, a 350 mile course that begins the day before, is completely self-supported, and which has 34 hand picked endurance riders.

I rode in the DK50 Lite in 2016 and 2017. The first year was like being dropped in a swimming pool for the first time and being told to swim.

And those were good conditions, with decent temperatures, no rain and moderate wind.

Last year was even more amazing in terms of the weather. What made it even cooler was that my husband Brian rode with me. He is an avid biker, accustomed to extreme sports. He completed the Louisville Ironman in 2011 so, yeah, he knows a little bit about endurance racing.

During the 2017 DK50 Lite race a rider died within the first 10 miles.

Our other riding friends, Barb and Jeff Kempf, were with us as we held up at the bottom of a hill at around mile 10. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, we saw someone doing chest compressions on a man at the top of the hill. Then, when they finally gave us the green light, riders were allowed to solemnly pass by on the far right while his lifeless body lay on the gravel.

This was the second time I had been witness to someone dying in a race; the third time I had seen someone collapse.

The first was during Brian's 2011 Ironman. I was with him during the early morning hours of the start, hanging out in support while he waited within the mass of 2,685 swimmers eager to enter the water A flurry of activity started, a buzzing among the athletes, while a 46 year old man was being pulled out of the water. He had suffered cardiac arrest and drowned.

Then, in 2017, I was running in the Big 12 5K, a fun and relaxing race that includes fired up fans, awesome shirts and freezing temperatures. During the last 1/2 mile of the race I witnessed another runner performing CPR on a racer just seconds before I passed by. I witnessed the violence of the chest compressions and fell apart. Snot was running out of my nose as I cried while continuing on at the direction of law enforcement. A group of runners in front of me began to sing a hymn together, which resulted in MORE snot and tears. The next day I found out he had survived.

2011 and twice in 2017. I will never forget those moments and I will never take any physical activity for granted as a result.

The Dirty Kanza has grown so much that in 2017 registration for 2200 riders filled up within seconds of it opening. Brian and Jeff, for example, had planned to do the DK100 but were unable to get in. I remember frantically changing Brian's registration to the DK50 with me, which, fortunately, isn't the most sought after distance. It filled up in 15 minutes.

The DK100 is a signature achievement but completing the DK200 is like the Mount Everest of gravel riding.

This year they changed the rules and allowed riders to register in December. Then they held a lottery in January, notifying riders by email whether or not they had gotten into their distance of choice.

Brian and I, along with his brother Scott and Scott's wife Sarah, all four made it into the DK100. Hundreds of hopeful riders did not, which means I feel a sense of responsibility to take this seriously and give it my best shot.

Unfortunately, the Midwest version of Mother Nature doesn't seem to understand the importance of nice weekend weather. And being employed isn't conducive to long week-day rides.

Suitable riding weather finally arrived a few weeks ago and a generous boss has allowed me to flex some time during the week to take advantage of afternoons when the forecast called for sun and higher temperatures. This just means I'm finally getting saddle time with just five weeks to go. You might call this the "couch to DK100 in eight weeks," which is what it feels like. I'm racing against the clock to prepare my mind and body.

I'll be blogging about the process and sharing fun trail stories, like detailed descriptions of what it feels like to get hit full in the face by a teeming swarm of gnats as you fly down a hill. It's especially bad if the rider (myself) is singing to Metallica with her mouth open. Imagine Linda Blair circa 1973 wearing a bike helmet and projectile vomiting bugs after slamming a water bottle. Shiver.

Despite the bugs, this amateur is determined. Or maybe crazy. Or both. Either way, watch out Flint Hills. Here I come again.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Middle Age Mean Girls

Did you know that mean girls still exist later in life, even after 50?

Yes, I thought we were done with that phenomena too.

I recently discovered that a group of women I had come to love and adore used the opportunity of another "friend" leaving early after a dinner to speak ill of her.

First I was speechless.

Then I laughed when learning the gist of their "pile on."

Then I was angry.

Of course, that led to some emotional pain.

And then sadness, that my relationship with the group has changed forever because they can no longer be trusted.

And now? I'm in a philosophical frame of mind coming at this from a place of trying to understand the dynamics of why something like that would happen.

It isn't that complicated. We are humans and we are flawed. We say mean things sometimes, maybe because we feel insecure ourselves about any number of things. Maybe because something bad recently happened to us and we aren't our usual self. Maybe, and this happens, we just don't like another person so no matter what they do we will find something to pick at. Or, just maybe, the friend they were speaking ill of was negligent in monitoring her own choice of words...or tone...or insight into how this group might perceive her actions.

I've been guilty, if I am to be humble and honest, as have most.

And maybe, just maybe, we've never had the benefit of a truly rewarding relationship with a group of women who are able to give of themselves openly and honestly, without jealousy or judgement.

I've been so deeply blessed to know women who look at my flaws & weaknesses with kindness and understanding; who look at my successes with joy and happiness. Friends who aren't afraid to challenge my attitudes and behaviors when I need it but do so from a place of love and altruism.

These are friends who stick up for each other with the fierceness of Diana Prince (Wonder Woman for you non-Marvel folks), whether it be a group of six women or a group of 100.

Friends who have outgrown mean-spirited gossip, because they've seen the pain life can throw at a person and they've come to learn that in those darkest times, the strong and loving arms of a few warrior women is often just enough to weather the passing storm.

These women? They don't draw energy from drama. They don't live or thrive on chaos. They make mistakes, learn from them, sometimes slip again, take responsibility, openly admire and cheer on success for their sisters and gently provide guidance and feedback during the struggles of those same women.

None of us gets this "friend" thing right all the time, especially with the push/pull of work/family/health/activism/hobbies/peers. Things have to give at times. One week can sometimes lead to one month which leads to six months or longer and we find ourselves saying "oh my, I need to catch up with her!"

But the one thing we can do is lift each other up when the opportunity presents itself, not pull each other down, and not be afraid to call each other to task when we find ourselves being just a little bit mean.

You have permission to punch me in the arm if I'm ever the mean girl.

BOTH arms if necessary.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Proud of My Community

Last night’s City Council election was poignant and hopeful.

In 2012 I ran against Charles Macheers for the KS Legislature and lost. He had previously defeated a bright and talented moderate Republican during the primary and the tone around the district was one of unabashed conservatism.

Fast forward to the spring of 2014, when Representative Macheers introduced House Bill 2453 to the Kansas Legislature. As described in one of the many articles written about this awful bill: “Businesses could tell gay couples to get lost if an employee or owner believes homosexuality to be a religious sin. Government employees could also refuse service to gay couples. Employers could deny benefits to gay couples or get rid of the employees altogether without recrimination. And if a person so discriminated against filed a lawsuit against the discriminating entity and then lost the case, that person could get stuck not only with their own attorney's bill but also with that of the person or company sued. The measure is an added insult to gays in Kansas, who in 2005 suffered the indignity of a statewide vote to force a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage - something that was already against the law at the time.”

My friend Stacey, who is gay and has been married to the love of her life for several decades, accompanied me to the Capital during this time and we met with Representative Macheers. Stacey wanted him to see the face of one of his constituents; the face of someone who would be harmed by the bill. It was an emotional visit for both of us but one that was necessary.

HB 2453 was scuttled in committee after embarrassing national attention and blowback, but by then Stacey and her wife had decided that Kansas posed a threat to the security of their family and they moved to Colorado as a result.

Charles was defeated during the 2016 Republican primary. He lost his legislative seat to former educator Shelee Brim, a beloved community member with a pragmatic and moderate view of her role as a State Representative. Shelee worked closely with other female legislators last spring to craft a budget to reverse Governor Brownback’s disastrous tax monstrosity. These strong and devoted women came from both Republican and Democratic parties but none were extremists, none were ideologues. They simply believed that in their roles as stewards of our state they needed to work together to salvage our valuable services and to find a way to increase vital revenue that had been eliminated by the Governor and the far right.

Fast forward to last night, when I volunteered as a Poll Watcher for Shawnee City Council candidate Justin Adrian. Justin is gay. While this does not singularly define him, it is important to the story. Justin ran a clean and appropriate campaign, focusing on growth for the City of Shawnee. The race is completely non-partisan and candidates don’t announce their political parties. It is designed this way for a reason, so that City Councilman will work in a spirit of cooperation when elected. His opponent, Dave Myres, utilized multiple ugly mailers taken straight out of the extremist’s playbook. The final mailer was designed to highlight the fact that Justin is a gay married man.

Charles Macheers sat next to me while I was poll watching. He was there representing Dave Myres as a poll watcher as well. We briefly visited (Charles is a mild, unassuming man and quite pleasant to chat with) but when the voting machine counts were tallied Justin had soundly bested Myres, at least at our polling location. The irony was not lost on me.

I headed to Justin’s watch party and after walking in noticed him talking to a petite, spunky blond woman. I recognized her immediately as our Republican State Representative, Shelee Brim.

There is indescribable pressure the western Shawnee far right branch of the Republican Party exerts on moderate Republicans. Shelee’s public support of a gay man (who is a registered Democrat) took courage, particularly when Justin’s opponent proudly boasted of his conservatism. She can most certainly expect to face an extreme right primary opponent next year as punishment.

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around what happened last night, but I know one thing for certain. I have a renewed faith in my community. I know that there are politicians out there with the moral courage to do the right thing, even if it costs them later. Shelee proved that and I will be supporting her if she runs for the legislature again, regardless of the letter next to her name on the ballot.

Stacey, I hope you are reading this. You were in my thoughts last night as the final votes were announced and we realized Justin had won.

Much love,

Marlys

Saturday, November 4, 2017

What is YOUR worst driving behavior?

Honestly, the worst part about working full time is the drive.

If you see a crazy almost middle-aged woman, wild eyed with her mouth open (you aren't really middle age until 50, right?), veering in and out of traffic on EITHER Shawnee Mission Parkway, I-70 or 71 Highway between the hours of 8:00-9:15 am Monday through Friday in a black Audi it might, just might, be moi. And I'm sorry, but you people are killing me.

Just killing me.

Hey, line of eight semi's convoying around the I-435 exit onto I-70, can you FREAKING SEPARATE? You are adding at least five minutes to my commute. FIVE MINUTES. And how in God's name do you manage to fuse all of your wide asses BACK TOGETHER at the most inopportune time - the one lane squeeze through downtown? Do you know how hard it is to veer over to the 71 Highway exit within that 1/4 mile window while stuck behind a chorus line of mammoth semi's chuggging, panting, and playing coy like they MIGHT want to move along but just can't decide?

And those of you merging onto 71 on my right, do you understand the laws of highway driving? Do you KNOW what a throttle is? Or what it can do? Oh, I promise, it can be fun. Try it. Please God, try it. Hell, do you understand speed? Or the meaning of the words "rush hour?" It means rush, and not the band (although from the speed of your driving I can only assume you're more of the Susan Boyle type of fan than Rush, sacame de mi miseria).

And while the driving on a Kansas or Missouri highway during rush hour can be frustrating, nothing, and I mean nothing, can compare to the horrific nightmare that is Shawnee Mission Parkway.

I broke my own rule on Thursday. Based upon mileage and route, Shawnee Mission Parkway SHOULD be a solid 15 minute faster drive to my office. Notice I say "should". Now, I live almost to the Colorado border from my office, true story, and I try to take the quickest route there when possible. Traffic tends to clear up a bit by 8:45 so I figured what the hell, I'll try it today since I'm running a bit late.

WRONG. Why do I do these things to myself? I need one of those oil change stickers in the corner of my windshield that says, bold and in all caps, "DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, ATTEMPT TO TAKE SHAWNEE MISSION PARKWAY TO WORK DUMB ASS!!!!"

Sure enough, within five minutes of the drive THAT car was there. Sometimes it's a Subaru. Sometimes a beat up van. But remember, the vans can be like Jekyll and Hyde, mind you. Some are driving slow, swerving a little, but others can be aggressive as hell with drivers who look somewhat similar to me, shudder. THOSE drivers aren't afraid to use their middle fingers. And they usually have bumper stickers with fish or stupid stick figures and advertisements for pedophiles to figure out exactly what school their kids go to, how many pets and what kind they have, which sports their kids play and which marketing tier the mom sells from home. Yeah, "come and lure me" it screams.

I digress.

THOSE cars, like the Subaru or Toyota Camry's (why do old women always drive Camry's) perpetually end up in the left lane. You know, the FREAKING PASSING LANE, going 1/4 of a mile faster than the people in the right lane. You know, the lane for the rule followers. I'm not a rule follower, I'm running late, I need to get to work, I hate Shawnee Mission Parkway and I HATE YOU BECAUSE YOU WON'T GET THE HELL OVER AND LET ME PASS!!

Whew, that felt better. Usually, when I scream this while driving, a bit of spittle flies out of my mouth. It's a situation.

There is always the usual speed up and slow down driver, the "dur, can I get over yet?" dufus who can't seem to understand that when I'm gracious and pause long enough to let you merge in during construction it means you merge NOW AND NOT IN A MILE! There is the guy who decides a yellow light means stop, not speed through the intersection so I can draft you and ALSO get through. I'm headed to a fire, yes, now get the f-over!

And did I mention wanting to hurt the people who decided that starting construction ANYWHERE on Shawnee Mission Parkway was a good idea? Just pass out toothpicks in a booth so we can all jab them under our fingernails during the drive. It'll relieve that pain of the agonizing wait.

For the record, I'm not really this crazy. I'm actually a courteous driver. But holy hell, if I spoke out loud in public the things that go through my mind during that daily commute...let's just say, it wouldn't be flattering. And I can accept that. It's why I call my friends and leave desperate messages saying "I'm bored, please pick up" (bluetooth, promise). It's ACTUALLY an SOS call and I'm using you to save me from myself. When I'm talking to you I'm not focusing on killing the driver in front of or next to me.

You are doing a public service when you answer my call.

Thanks for letting me confess. This has been bothering me. But please don't worry, it's not as bad as it sounds, promise. I won't hurt anyone and, at times, the same spittle spewing, raging and wild eyed suburban freak hustling to get down to Troost might just begin cackling and laughing out loud. The things I call my fellow drivers can be that funny.

If you pick up my call, I can share those names with you.

You've been put on notice.

Friday, October 13, 2017

A Democrat, Independent, and Republican walked into a bar....

Wednesday night the unthinkable happened. A Democrat and an Independent hosted a meet and greet for a City Council Candidate. He's a registered Democrat. We also invited another City Council Candidate from the neighboring ward. He's a registered Republican. The race is non-partisan and these two candidates have approached their races with this in mind.

It was fun. We talked about city issues. We laughed. We listened to each other. We got along. And we actually agreed on most things while also carrying on civil dialogue, even taking into consideration we were all members of different parties. In fact, the issues we were discussing were not particularly contentious or about national issues. They simply focused on our own small community.

It can be done. Far from being difficult, it was refreshing.

Roughly 100 people were invited. Less than 10% came by to visit with the candidate. Unfortunately, this is reflective of our Democracy. Americans turn out for local elections at rates lower than 20%. I recently read that in our area, that number has been as low as 8%.

We all have hobbies. We all have interests. We all have priorities. I try to never judge people on those things because these differences are what make each of us so unique and special. Being part of a Democracy, though, requires a small bit of effort. We wax poetic about "those who fought for our freedoms and our right to vote" and then we quietly look the other way when the one responsibility that supports the entire system of government rolls around every year or two.

Do your part. It requires a small bit of effort that will be a blip in the radar of your busy and active life. First, find out just a little bit about the candidates. It's easy. Google them, ask your friends or neighbors if they know them, call them, email them or attend an event where they are meeting people. Then vote.

Those two things are all this great nation asks of you.

I took heart on Wednesday night, though. Two of the guests brought their very young children. That is the third part of our responsibility. Teach the next generation to step up and be engaged citizens.

Even if the majority of the community fails to do so.

Friday, July 21, 2017

How to Clean a House in Just a Few Easy Steps

Preface, this is a First World Problem, so if you are going to get all righteous, just walk away. Now.

Moving on.

Grandmother Mary Jean would be proud of what I'm about to write.

I've had my house cleaned by a number of different cleaning crews in the past. Only at various times, like when I was in a cast for ten weeks. Four different times, by four different agencies (I'll call them agencies...every cleaning "crew" is different). It never felt right when I did it. It still doesn't. But I'm running out of hours in the week and my house is getting pretty scary, so it's time to get serious about finding a permanent house cleaner.

And here's the thing.

NOBODY FREAKING KNOWS HOW TO CLEAN A DAMN HOUSE!!!

Whew, I feel better.

Maybe it's because I learned at the knee of my Grandma Mary Jean. She was notorious for vacuuming and dusting every day. Every other week she would deep clean the cabinet doors.

She was downright military-like when it came to teaching me to clean a house.

And I've slacked over the years. Oh, my, how I've slacked.

I'm ashamed at the level of slacking.

Kids...work....volunteer work....friends...exercise....maturity (which has taught me that a clean house should come last on the list when compared with spending time with my kids or my friends....all of these have intruded on my "used to be" clean house).

I simply don't have the time or the desire anymore and most of my friends use someone.

But it never works because the basic tenets of house cleaning, which were damn near biblical to my Grandmother, are being neglected. Unless I can find someone who understands and appreciates how you clean a house I'd rather it stay dirty and I'll get to it when I can.

Here are the basics:

1) When dusting, remove every item from the wooden surface you are dusting and dust underneath said items.

2) When dusting, remove every item from the wooden surface you are dusting and dust underneath said items.

3) One more time, in case you didn't fully understand numbers 1 & 2: When dusting, remove every item from the wooden surface you are dusting and dust underneath said items.

4) Dust the items you removed, even if it's just a quick swish. And dust the sides of the cabinet...and the front of the cabinet...and the doors of the cabinet. What's that? Yes, all the way to the bottom. Yes, I know, it's laborious. But it's important.

5) Wipe the dust cloth across the tops of frames. Every frame. It doesn't take long, I swear. Just do it when you walk by them. But do it.

6) If it has a glass surface (like the two huge doors on my antique cabinet in a, oh, I'd say fairly prominent position on my landing) then clean it. With glass cleaner. Please.

7) If it's a toilet, get on your hands and knees and clean the floor around the base of the toilet. Yes, all the way up to the wall and the baseboards. I know, I know...it's kind of gross. But it's part of CLEANING THE FREAKING TOILET.

8) While you are at it, wipe down the entire bowl and the base and back of the base. IT'S PART OF CLEANING THE FREAKING TOILET. And not just for one toilet. For ALL of the toilets.

9) When mopping a wooden floor, vacuum under pieces of furniture. Then mop the same area. You know, it's very obvious when someone is on the floor playing with their pets if a massive pile of dust and pet hair is growing under a buffet or a cabinet as if in a petri dish. It is fully expected that these surfaces get the same love and attention as the rest of the hard wood floors.

10) Look for cobwebs and destroy them. Sometimes, they are easy to spot. Like on the wall, eye level. You can use your vacuum to suck them up or the dusting cloth you just used to wipe of the top of the frames I mentioned. Just don't ignore them. Please.

It's bad enough that we live in a world where we no longer mop the kitchen floor on our hands and knees. My Grandmother is screaming from heaven and disturbing the angels because of this, I'm certain of it.

I fear that, along with the sewing/quilting, the printed newspaper, actual paper books, in person human interaction and phone calls, the art of housecleaning has disappeared.

My children are in for a looooong weekend. House cleaning boot camp is about to commence.

Oh, and if you happen to know any cleaning services that are run by a Depression Era, World War II Grandma? Send me the info. I'll pay anything.

p.s. Photos are from AFTER my house was recently cleaned...by a crew of three. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, give me strength.