10 things you miss out on when you drive your car on an autumn day

Quince Park in October

1. Watching a pill bug cross the street in front of you.

2. Feeling the shift in the wind patterns.

3. Hearing the sound of dry leaves skittering across the road.

4.Waving to fellow pedestrians.

5. Smelling the scents of people’s dinners cooking as you pass by their houses.

6. The feel of the cold air and the warm sun.

7. Noticing the brilliant leaves slowly changing colors and blowing into the spokes of your bike as your ride by.

8. The sound of kids giggling as they get off the school buses, and the nearby barking of dogs waiting for their human companions to step through the front door.

9. The clean, crisp scent of fall.

10. The meditative calm that washes over you as you pedal, pedal, pedal to your destination.

Black Friday: Hit or Miss?

Each year, it seems that Black Friday is slowly overshadowing the actual holiday (Thanksgiving) of this holiday weekend. In fact, it’s downright ironic that we spend one day focusing on gratitude and the next three days focused on the frenzied acquisition of more stuff.

There are certainly fun aspects to it – I know a lot of people who love the tradition of waking up early with their sister or mother to pick up Christmas presents at a great price. We all love the thrill of a good bargain, right?

But I’ve also seen many downsides to the Black Friday weekend. The last time I went shopping on Black Friday was about 4 years ago, to get some DVDs at $1.99. It took half an hour just to get my hands on them, while pushing through a massive crowd, and then I had to wait in line for 45 minutes. I realized I would rather have paid full price than deal with the long lines and pushy crowds.

This year, I’ve been especially annoyed by the commercials that have debuted recently. The AT&T 4G LTE commercial (and others like it) make me crazy. Our tech toys are rapidly developing – Smart Phones, tablets, readers. Hell, even I am thinking of getting a Kindle Fire someday. Maybe. But each year, there’s a new generation of tech toys, and they are growing exponentially. I can only imagine the kind of e-waste they are creating when people chuck their old phones and tablets for the newest version. And everything has to be smarter, better, faster. “That’s so 27 seconds ago.” Do we really need to promote the idea that satisfaction can only be gained through instant gratification?

And how about the winner of Five Seed’s Most Offensive Holiday Commercial? Best Buy! Have you seen their “Game on, Santa” commercial yet? Yep, that’s the one I hate most of all. A woman goes into Best Buy and is surprised by all the items the store is offering for $100 or less. The saleswoman jokingly says, “Santa better watch out, huh?” The shopper gets a competitive gleam in her eye and the commercial cuts to Christmas Eve at her house, when Santa arrives carrying a cute little wooden toy. He goes to put it into a stocking, and finds that the stockings are already full of items from Best Buy. He turns to find the shopper standing behind him, who says, very snarkily, “Awww…guess I didn’t leave any room for you. It’s awkward. Maybe you could fill his [stocking].” Then she points to the family dog who has an empty stocking in his mouth. Then the words, “Game on, Santa” flash on the screen.

Sure, in a way, it’s a really cute campaign. Or maybe just clever. But I also find it really annoying and as I said before, offensive. Why? Santa comes to the house holding a simple wooden toy, and the message seems to be that such a toy is a useless, unwanted trinket. No, get your kids a tablet, instead! Santa’s handmade (elf-made) toys are made to look like a joke compared to our tech toys. Not good enough for the kids, so give it to the dog!

According to Advertising Age, “The intent of ‘Game On, Santa’ is to allow moms to revel in their role as ‘chief gift giver.’ Mr. Panayiotou said that his team’s research found that Mom really wanted to feel like she was ‘winning’ the holidays, though she didn’t necessarily need to take credit publicly. The spots show women talking about various gadgets with Best Buy employees, before flash-forwarding to Christmas Eve, where Mom celebrates her purchases amid Santa’s arrival and razzes the big guy.” Personally, I find this “competitive Christmas” idea to be a bit strange, and I feel that Best Buy is twisting the whole “Mom-Christmas-presents” dynamic. Now I’m not a mother, but don’t moms (like the rest of us) buy gifts in order to express love to their children/family members? It’s not about the gifts, themselves, but the emotion behind them. According to Best Buy, though, it’s about the “stuff,” the victory, the win. Hmmmm.

And the worst part of all is this is the inevitable violence that seems to erupt in at least one store during the shopping madness. This year, the big stories were the pepper spray incident in California and the allegedly shoplifting grandpa in Arizona who ended up with a shattered face after an altercation with the police.

Is it really worth it?

Just Do It

I woke today to winds so strong that it sounded like the bush in front of my window was going to crash right through the glass. There was no sun and it was below freezing. I immediately decided to do an hour of YogaGlo and just drive my car to the post office to avoid the unpleasant weather.

However, after breakfast, my body started to warm up. The sun came out. The wind remained, but it sure looked pretty outside with all the leaves blowing and the sun shining.

What a beautiful day!

 

I closed the YogaGlo window, put on two pairs of pants, a heavy jacket, my helmet and ear muffs and took off. And you know what? It turned out to be one of the best rides I’ve had all season. Challenging, yes – it’s not easy to ride against strong winds. But the day was beautiful and I’m so glad I decided to just do it.

An essential for cold weather bicycling: earmuffs.

So don’t let the weather get you down. Looking out your window doesn’t always give you the most accurate perception of the weather conditions. Just go out and try it! I find I’m almost always glad I did.

I’m so grateful for my bicycle and hope you all take the chance to ride yours, even around a park for fun! And speaking of gratitude, Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers! I’ll be off for the rest of the week and will be back next week with some more fun posts!

Fashion vs. Bicycle

Every now and then I have a little hiccup with my bicycle commuting. A few weeks ago, it was my mountain bike fighting with my zip-up boots. Who won?

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A broken zipper courtesy of...

Copyright: Five Seed

The mountain bike.

Copyright: Five Seed

The zipper got caught in the brake line (pictured above) as I was pedaling and the bottom of it snapped right off! I’ll have to attach a paper clip to the zipper tab to get it to work in the future. LOL!

Women and Farming: Taking Back the Land

I’m happy to say that the farming community is growing quickly in Central Oregon. Several CSAs have developed over the past few years and wonderful volunteer programs have sprouted up to recruit locals to help out on the farm.

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I have been buying a CSA share through Rainshadow Organics for two years now. Part of the reason I chose it was because it was run by a young woman – how cool is that? Yesterday, I was blessed with the opportunity to volunteer at the farm with several other people to glean, put the garden to bed and do several other tasks, including moving wood debris in order to clear a space for a flour mill that RO will be building this winter (so awesome!) and moving tree limbs and logs in order to clear a field for wildflowers – part of a grant RO received to create a bee habitat (even more awesome!).

Who showed up for this massive project? Almost all the volunteers were women. There were two men – one being RO’s founder’s boyfriend, and the other a friend of hers – and the rest of us were women. We ranged in age from early twenties to retirees. We spanned the political spectrum from super liberal Green Party members to traditional conservatives. There were nurses, educators, nutritionists, ranchers, entrepreneurs, bakers and everything else you can think of. Some were married, some were dating, some were single. There were some without kids and several mothers in the group – one who brought her adorable 3-year-old son who dug up vegetables and helped us move tree limbs! And in this group of dirt-covered women in brightly colored outer wear, laughing, giggling and gossiping were at least a dozen Master’s degrees.

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It was not lost on us that the only two men there were there because of their connection to the owner of RO. We kept asking each other, “Where are all the male volunteers?” as we lugged those giant logs uphill to the splitting pile. I listened to these women talk about their efforts within the community to make our children healthier, our local food more plentiful and affordable, and our citizens more aware of the importance of sustainable agriculture. I listened to some of them talk about the grants they were writing, the co-ops they were forming and the nonprofits they were building. I heard all of this as beets and leeks were being painstakingly dug up, cleaned and sorted, as giant, heavy juniper limbs were being stacked in burn piles, as backbreakingly heavy logs were being slowly hauled up a hill.

I am still amazed by what I witnessed there. These women are major power players in our county. Some of them I would call pioneers for their efforts and success in creating an ever-expanding source of local foods and products and connecting those producers with customers.

Is this the new face of feminism? Women who are rebuilding the fundamental structures of sustainable, compassionate communities? These women gave up an entire day – time they could have spent with their families or at least getting some precious moments of rest – in order to perform physical labor that would have made even a strapping young man’s legs tremble. These women are literally taking back the land, and all on their own. They are becoming integral parts of our local economic and agricultural systems. They are building farms, businesses, nonprofits and educational systems from the ground up, all with the help and support of other women.

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Here’s to the farming sisterhood!

(My apologies – I forgot my camera yesterday and didn’t get any pictures of these awesome women. But these pictures are some that I took on the farm last year.)

The newsletter is finally here!

As some of you know, I’ve been trying to get a mailing list up and running for many months now. It was something I put on the back burner in September and honestly didn’t think I’d ever get around to it! But one night, after class, I stayed up late and got it started!

I have lots of fun plans for this system, but please be assured that I will tailor it to your personal needs. I personally HATE getting multiple email notices from shops via email each month. Too much! At this time, I’m thinking of doing a monthly note and sale notices, which means 1-2 emails per month. I will have a way for you to choose one or the other, as well, if you prefer, in the near future.

I’ll also be starting an exciting “birthday club” soon. I can’t wait to unveil that! Stay tuned.

In the meantime, please sign up for the newsletter here!

Can you bicycle when you’re sick?

The short answer:

YES!

Do I?

NO!

:) At least, not usually. I have been sick five times since I started my new job in mid-September. Yep, five times. I’ve had two sore throats, one bout of extreme nausea, a mild cold and one knock-me-on-my-socks cold/flu that lasted nearly two weeks. This is all despite my best efforts (drinking beet juice, tea and kombucha, eating lots of veggies, taking vitamins, doing yoga twice a week, meditating and riding my bike every day, using a neti pot, etc.). This has happened to me every year I’ve worked in schools – I get sick a lot in the beginning, being exposed to all those darn germs. And add to that the stress of taking night classes, getting used to a new schedule and having my own business in addition to my job.

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I’ve been pretty vigilant about trying to take care of myself, in all the ways I mentioned above. But when I feel an illness coming on, I get off my bike. I have heard from many reliable sources that you can ride your bike or exercise when you’re sick with no worries, as long as you listen to your body and don’t overtax it. It can help keep your immune system strong. But…when it’s below freezing outside (and it usually is these days), and I’m feeling tired, run-down and fighting off a cold, I default to my car. This is a huge frustration for me, because I LOVE riding my bike so very much. I love being outside, especially at this time of year and (not to sound vain, but…) I love to hear people yell out how much they love my bike. (Who wouldn’t love that?!)

But when I listen to my body, it usually tells me to stay warm and rest. If this means a 4-mile round-trip journey in my car, then so be it. This week, and half of last week, I have had to take my car. I will probably take it again Wednesday and Thursday, because of appointments I have after work. So next week, I’ll be back in the saddle again, assuming I’m feeling better by then.

What do you do when you’re sick? Do you still bicycle? Do you work out?

Detox Juice

I don’t do a lot of juicing. I think if Mother Nature wanted us to drink our fruits and veggies, she would have made them in liquid form. But there’s nothing wrong with a few shots of good juice here and there for a concentrated punch of vitamins.

This is my favorite blend: apples, carrots, beets, ginger and lemon. I got the recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s blog, GOOP. I never follow the recipe, though. I just throw in what I want until I get the flavor I like.

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Females Riding Bikes at Night

As many of you know, I have mostly successfully tried to transition from car to bike when it comes to my local transportation needs. I’ve mastered riding in wind, rain and hail, I’ve become a faithful bicycle commuter to and from work and have even started to ride at night more than I ever have in the past.

I recently took what I think was my 6th night ride and am always surprised by how different I feel when riding at night versus riding in the daytime. My very first night ride, about a year ago, started out blissfully. What a rush to be out alone on a cold, dark night, experiencing the quiet streets! That ended quickly when, a mile into my ride, I was almost hit by a car. I soon realized that the accident was my fault, having not been visible enough.

I quickly solved that problem by suiting myself and my bike up with many (and I mean many) lights. However, this brought on a whole new safety issue. These lights made me visible to cars, which is what I wanted, but they also drew a whole lot of unwanted attention from people. My second night ride – the first time I used my night gear – I was frightened by a young man walking by on the sidewalk who commented on my lights, then called out to me several times asking me to come to him and give him a cigarette (like I would have a cigarette!). He didn’t express any physical aggression, but I was scared by his odd request and I rode home as fast as I could. I didn’t bicycle at night again for several months.

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This past summer, I’ve gotten my courage up and tried again, several times. I may be a woman, and more physically vulnerable than a man, but I do not want that to stop me from doing what I want to do. Yes, safety is important to me, but I also do not want the fact that I’m a woman to limit my personal freedom. I refuse to live a life like that.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do to guarantee my safety – heck, even a man can’t guarantee his safety. We can only do our best to be as safe as possible. I’ve addressed my fear of getting hit by a car by bicycling on the sidewalks on the super busy streets around here. I am normally a stickler about not riding on the sidewalk – it’s technically against the law, after all, and I want to be the best example of a responsible bicyclist that I can be. However, I don’t find that cars are particularly careful around bicyclists during the nighttime hours, and therefore, to ensure that I’m safe, I’ve chosen to take the sidewalks when I need to. Obviously, I go slowly and am very careful to watch for pedestrians.

My other fear – one that equals my terror of being hit by a car – is that of being assaulted. Every single time I have ridden my bike at night since I’ve gotten these lights, I have had people comment on it. First, it was the cigarette guy – a situation that made me very nervous. Once, I had teenagers drive by and yell out the window just as they were passing, in an effort, it would seem, to startle me into falling over (which was almost successful, I might add). Another time, a man parking outside his home commented that my lights were really neat, an encounter that didn’t cause me any suspicion or worry, whatsoever. On my last ride, I passed a house where two men were working on their cars just outside their open garage. I heard one say to the other, “Hey check that out!” I knew they were talking about me and that they’d yell out to me, and sure enough, one said, “Hey, don’t get run over by a car!” I couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic or not (he actually sounded sincerely concerned), and before thinking about it, I yelled in a firm voice, “I’ve got it covered.” The guy laughed suddenly and yelled back, “Holy cow, I thought you were an old man or something!” At this point, I didn’t answer, and just kept going.

This brings me to my point: The one advantage of riding your bike at night in a dimly lit town like mine is that no one knows whether you’re a man or a woman. Obviously, that doesn’t stop anyone from making comments or harassing you, but it’s definitely a plus. It’s not necessarily likely they’re going to jump you if they’re not sure whether you’re a buff dude who can fight back or just an idealistic woman with no upper body strength (although, you never know…). What gives it away is that I always respond – and then kick myself for it later.

I’ve thought about this a lot, actually. I hate it when something comes shooting out of my mouth because, oops, now they know I’m a woman. I’ve just made myself more vulnerable. However, I’ve worried in the past that ignoring someone might aggravate them and cause them to retaliate by chasing me, attempting to knock me over or pursue me in their vehicle. Hmmmm…. All in all, though, I think it might be safer to just keep my mouth shut. Maybe throw people a thumbs up or OK signal if the occasion calls for it and I’m not hearing internal alarm bells.

When it comes to biking at night, though, there’s one thing I can say for sure – I always ride fast (except when I’m on the sidewalk)! I prefer to take my mountain bike because I know I can go pretty fast when I need to. I’m sorry to say that that very first experience of riding at night, just before my near-miss with the car, has not been something I have been able to recapture. I still enjoy riding at night simply because I like riding my bike. Period. But I am much more cautious, nervous and watchful at night – and always on edge. It’s a shame, but I’m trying to accept it as part of the experience of biking at night.

Do you ride your bike at night? I’d love to hear your experience! Leave a comment, or feel free to contact me about writing a guest post about it! :)

Gender roles and the double standard

I talked a bit about gender roles in the last post and have some more to say on that issue.

I missed this controversy when it first came out this past April: J. Crew president Jenna Lyons sent out an ad of her painting her son’s toenails pink. The copy read: “Lucky for me, I ended up with a son whose favorite color is pink.”

Apparently, this little picture sparked a huge controversy. Psychiatrist Keith Ablow stated that this kind of gender bending behavior is “psychological sterilization.” His blog post at Fox News states that he thinks letting children explore in this manner is damaging to the entire human race. He goes so far as to say that it will create a generation of people who go under the knife to alter their gender, and perhaps even their race.

Well, how about the fact that encouraging the choosing of gender identity, rather than suggesting our children become comfortable with the ones that they got at birth, can throw our species into real psychological turmoil—not to mention crowding operating rooms with procedures to grotesquely amputate body parts? Why not make race the next frontier? What would be so wrong with people deciding to tattoo themselves dark brown and claim African-American heritage? Why not bleach the skin of others so they can playact as Caucasians? Why should we hold dear anything with which we were born?

To drive his point home, Ablow questioned Lyons’ ability to take pride in her son’s masculinity. He wondered how she would respond to him playing the role of a cowboy with a gun. (Yes, he specifically mentioned a gun.) “Would that bring the same smile of joy and pure love that we see on her face in the J. Crew advertisement?”

Kingston Rossdale, a fan of nail polish

This reminds me of the controversy surrounding Sarah Manley’s 5-year-old son when he decided to dress as Daphne from Scooby Doo on Halloween 2010. Apparently, she got quite the lashing from fellow moms at her son’s school, and even more criticism when the story broke on national news stations. Her response was, “If my daughter had dressed as Batman, no one would have thought twice about it. No one.” And when asked about this pink nail polish story, she made a similar statement, saying that no one would have even cared if it was a picture of Lyons and a daughter playing in mud with dump trucks.

Sarah Manley's son as Daphne from Scooby Doo

So what makes a man? It seems wearing pink is not okay, experimenting with nail polish is out and toy guns may be a requirement. At least, that’s what Dr. Ablow seems to think.

As an educator, I’ve been exposed to the burgeoning fashion trends amongst our youth for over three years. While the girls seem to be recycling yesteryear’s looks, it’s the boys who are exploring all new territories. I have seen nail polish on teenage boys become an acceptable fashion trend (though admittedly, not pink – usually dark blue or black). I have seen the slightly effeminate cigarette jeans become the “it” pants. I have seen boys primping and preening in front of mirrors with dozens of hair care products to get just the right look, and even more walking around in a cloud of toxic Axe spray – which is essentially perfume.

With younger kids, I have met many boys who like to wear a dress when playing games. I have seen little boys express a natural curiosity about makeup and want to try it for themselves, just like a little girl might. And I have seen many boys proudly dress in pink on Breast Cancer Awareness Spirit Day.

So what does this really mean? Is this something we should be concerned about?

Shiloh Jolie-Pitt (middle): The ultimate tomboy

For me, it is simple. Turn the tables, and there would be no issue, whatsoever. When I was a child, I was obsessed with Spider Man. I had Spider Man skates, Spider Man underwear and a Spider Man beach towel. I would try to dress up like Spider Man and pretend to be him when playing with my friends at recess. No one had any problem with this, and I’m sure it would be the same story today with any other girl and any other parents. In fact, this type of gender bending is often seen as sexy in female adults. Think Jennifer Beal in Flashdance. Somehow, this ability to embrace our masculine side becomes something that enhances our femininity. (Well…so long as we are pretty and thin. But that’s another story for another day.)

Welder by day, dancer by night...but would we ever see this role reversal in male leads? Nope!

So why can’t we afford the same luxury to our little boys? Okay, I know why – at least, I know the argument some people would make. And I won’t mention that here, because I don’t want to give that argument any power. Again, let’s just turn the tables – if the “consequences” of exploring different gender roles aren’t  a concern when it comes to girls, why should it be when it comes to boys?

This post is just touching on the tip of the iceberg of this subject. This goes deep and has roots that reach far and wide. But for now, I will leave it at this.

What are your thoughts?