Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Writing Space Reboot

Last November, I traded my large office for my son's small bedroom so that Ryan could have space for a full-size bed. I had great hopes for my new office - but even though I did my best to arrange my desk and bookshelves just so, my new office space never felt quite right.

There were little things that bugged me about the space, like the fact that my desk and bookshelves blocked most of my electrical outlets, but there were big issues, too, like the lighting. The space is small enough that no matter where I put my desk it's right under the ceiling light. I found the glare irritating and, to top it off, I ended up getting migraines when I worked. I really have never had migraines and didn't get them in my old office so the headaches were a very odd thing.

On top of the headaches, I found that I was struggling with my writing and felt like I couldn't organize my thoughts or edit my work without a lot of help from Owen. I also pretty much lost enthusiasm for writing and wasn't able to finish most of the stories I started. I guess that sounds like some sort of writer's block. Whatever you call it, it sure wasn't fun.

At the time I moved into my new office, I was also struggling with a lot of life things (an unhealthy job situation that resulted in my resignation topped the list) and I'm pretty sure that those issues contributed to the space not feeling right, the headaches, and my writing troubles. 

My gut instinct was that I just needed to move things around to make my office space more comfortable - a writing space reboot of sorts - and I'd feel better in my writing space. But I never got around to doing it. Maybe I just wasn't ready. Maybe my job and life issues had to stabilize. Who knows? What I do know is that yesterday I was ready to make a change and when I got home from work just after noon I started rearranging my office with the goal of creating a more comfortable writing-friendly arrangement. 
Newly reorganized writing space
Moving everything took me a couple of hours and in the process I discovered I have a whole bunch of stuff in my office that just isn't necessary. For example, I have a cool wooden box filled with several three-ring binders but I really don't know what's in any of the binders or why I saved them. Geez, maybe the clutter has been part of why I've felt so disorganized in my writing. Seems logical to me. So I tossed some things and generally organized the rest of the stuff so that my office is generally tidy and clutter free.
The quilt I will hang in my office - probably on the wall behind my desk
There's still some boxes to go through, some things to put away and a bunch of stuff to toss and recycle but I have an writing space that feels fresh and new. I am pretty sure that I will need to get rid of the overhead light and get myself a floor lamp to help with the glare. I sure hope that helps my headaches! I also have a quilted wallhanging to hang behind my desk and pictures to hang on the walls. For now, though, I'm going to give this new arrangement a try and see how it works.

Here's hoping the space feels better. If not, well, I can always do another writing space reboot. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

More books to read!

I set a goal to read more, write more and ride more in 2014. It seems that I also have also added a buy more books for my collection category to that goal because I keep buying books to add to my must read stack. Today I stopped at Monkey See, Monkey Read (an independent bookstore in Northfield, MN) and picked up a book I ordered, one I was thinking of buying and another I picked up on a whim because it was on sale.

Here's a list of the new additions to my must read collection:

Forward from Here: Leaving Middle Age - and Other Unexpected Adventures. This book is a memoir by Reeve Lindbergh. I really enjoyed Reeve's Under a Wing, her memoir about growing up with her famous parents, Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I'm especially interested in reading this book to find out how Reeve handled the news that her father had three secret families in Europe. I think Reeve writes beautifully and am looking forward to this book.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, a novel by Helen Simonson. This is the book I picked up on a whim because it was on sale for $5.99. I hadn't heard of the book but felt like I had to buy it. According to the book jacket description the story is set in England, the main character values a properly brewed cup of tea and is "wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing." I love England, properly brewed tea and quirky characters so this sounds like a book I will enjoy - while enjoying a properly brewed cup of tea, of course!

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed. This book contains a collection of advice offered by Sugar, an online advice columnist at The Rumpus. Strayed wrote the best selling memoir Wild, a book I enjoyed reading. I've been on the fence about reading Tiny Beautiful Things but yesterday a friend mentioned reading it and loving it so I decided to give it a go and see what I think.

I have a story to work on but plan to do some reading tonight. Yay! Seems like I never have enough reading time.

What have you been reading?

Monday, June 23, 2014

RiotGRRRaveL Wrap up

A few weeks ago I was blogging about how scared I was riding on gravel and how I didn't think I would be able to finish the gravel race - RiotGRRRaveL - that I signed up to ride. I went through Gravel Fears ... and Gravel Tears but then managed to get my bike adjusted better so that I was more comfortable. A day before the RiotGRRRaveL ride, I was still pretty nervous about riding the 30 some miles but planned to go ahead and give it a go. My goals for the ride were pretty basic:
  1. finish the ride
  2. average 10 mph
  3. have fun
Well, guess what? I finished the RiotGRRRaveL gravel bike race on Saturday and accomplished my goals and then some!

Here's my RiotGRRRaveL Race Rundown:

First off, I finished the race! That is an accomplishment in itself because a couple of weeks ago I was about to give up on riding gravel. My longest gravel ride ever was only 16 miles long and my longest ride of the year so far was a road ride of 27 miles. I know 30 gravel miles is nothing to a lot of riders but it was a lot for me. And who is comparing anyway? I mean, who cares of someone else thinks 30 miles is easy? This was my race, not anyone else's race so what someone else can do just doesn't matter. I rode my race and I finished. I am happy!
Here's Lisa and I about to ride over the RiotGRRRaveL finish line (and the RiotGRRRaveL photographer, Kate)
Second,  I exceeded my goal speed of 10 mph and ended up averaging about 12 mph. To top it off, my knee didn't hurt, my wrist didn't hurt much and overall I felt pretty strong. I also really didn't stop to rest during the whole route - I took two short breaks of about 5 minutes each. Not stopping to rest is really rare for me - typically on a 30 mile ride I would stop for 15 minutes or more, have a cup of coffee, chat with people, etc. I like resting. I'm pretty convinced that I NEED to rest. But I discovered on Saturday that I can ride 30 miles without taking a significant break. This surprised me!

Here we are having FUN along the RiotGRRRaveL race route
Third - and most importantly - I had fun. FUN FUN FUN! Yes, I had a great time. My friend, Lisa, rode with me and she's a lot of the reason I had fun. We talked. We sang. We smiled. We laughed. We also pedaled and pedaled and pedaled worked hard and struggled up the hills. I know I found myself thinking that the miles would never end a few times. But we kept pedaling. And we finished the ride with some energy to spare - not much energy in my case - but enough energy so that I didn't fall over and only had to take a two hour nap when I got home (boy, did that nap feel good!)

Other things that contributed to the FUN factor of RiotGRRRaveL (yep, this gets kinda long but read on if you feel so moved)

FIRST OFF - Ellie, the person who came up with this RiotGRRRaveL race in the first place. I'm so grateful that Ellie decided to create "a fun, accessible ride that is woman & family friendly." When I saw the race announcement, I think it was on the Salsa Cycles Facebook page, I was SO excited! I'd wanted to do a gravel race but have been totally intimidated by the typical 100 mile ride length. I had been wishing for a ride just like RiotGRRRaveL and am just thrilled that Ellie forged ahead and made the ride happen. When I saw the info on RiotGRRRaveL I signed up immediately because I knew this ride would be perfect for me. And it was.

My family (husband, Owen, and kids, Rose and Ryan) acted as our cheering section along the route. They cheered as we took off from the start line, stopped at a couple of places to cheer for us enroute and were at the finish line to cheer for us and congratulate us when we finished - and they cheered for the other rides on the race, too. Also, Rose washed my bike the night before the race and Owen gave it a once over to make sure it was ready to go. In short, Owen, Rose and Ryan were wonderful and supportive. Thank you! Thank you!

Good weather - Mostly sunny. No rain. Not too hot. Pretty much perfect.

A Fine Race Route - the original race route had to be changed because of flooding. Though we missed out on a more challenging route, I was okay with the change as the new route was somewhat flatter than the original and the gravel was consistently nicer with very few loose gravel spots. In short, it was not too intimidating but still enough of a challenge to be, well, a challenge.
Kris, Myrna and Lisa before the RiotGRRRaveL race
Fabulous Women (the guys were pretty fab, too) - Of the 82 entries, I believe 80% of the riders were women. At ride start I discovered that Kris, a woman I know (her husband, Todd, works at Milltown Cycles and helped me adjust my Vaya) was also riding. Kris is fabulously fast and placed 9th overall! I also recognized a woman from Northfield and met her riding companions and met several other great people along the route. There were experienced cyclists who were definitely racing (averaging over 19 mph), people like me who like to ride but have never raced, and some who had never ridden gravel before the race. Wow!  There was even a mom who rode her cargo bike and took her toddler along for the ride. (note: previously I wrote that the mom rode with baby and toddler because I saw the baby seat and a toddler in the cargo bike. I was wrong - the mom, Morgen, rode with her toddler who sat in the cargo basket some of the time and her car seat some of the time - click HERE to read Morgen's account of her ride with Zinnia) I loved the variety of people and the overall positive vibe.

Cool Bikes - I like bikes and couldn't help but check out all the bikes on the ride. There was a Vaya just like mine, probably 20 fat bikes, lots of bikes from Salsa, Surly and All-City Cycles and all sorts of other cool bikes. There was also a tandem (the tandem riders came in 8th place) and the cool cargo bike.

Prizes and like that - Banjo Brothers, Twin Six and Erik's Bikes contributed cool prizes to the race (Lisa won a t-shirt from Twin Six and a phone wallet from Banjo Brothers). There were lots of prizes! I know Freewheel Bike hosted a few seminars on gravel riding and flat tire fixing as well. There were cool t-shirts and water bottles with the RiotGRRRaveL logo on them as well. I'm probably missing something or someone...

Kate the Awesome Photographer - at several spots along the route Kate the photographer would be alongside the road with her camera. Kate not only took great pictures (check them out at her Flickr page) but it was such a treat to see someone along the route who would smile and wave at us. Plus I felt sort of famous getting my picture taken a lot.
Another great picture by Kate Lockhart of a bunch of RiotGRRRaveL riders
Organized Event - an event with cool people isn't much fun if the event isn't well run. RiotGRRRaveL was well organized and everything ran smoothly from my perspective. Part of the organizational success was due, I'm sure,  to all of the ....

Awesome Volunteers - The RiotGRRRaveL race could not have happened without many great volunteers. There were people to sign us in, mark our times as we crossed the finish line, ride the route before the race and re-route the route the night before the race. There  were volunteers like Max (who I know from playing in the Minnesota Mandolin Orchestra and from LEGO League) who helped along the route and passed out snacks, and ride organizer, Ellie's, family (husband, Tony and daughters Cedar & Zelia) who, I'm sure, lived and breathed RiotGRRRavel these past few months. Our ride start and end was at Hope Lutheran Church and church members stepped up with snacks before and after the race and let us use the bathrooms - yay!

So that's it - RiotGRRRaveL 2014 is a wrap. It sounds like Ellie and crew may offer the ride again next year. If so, I'm looking forward to doing it again!

Thanks again, Ellie, for RiotGRRRaveL. You are fabulous!
Thanks again, Lisa, for pedaling every mile of the ride with me and for keeping me smiling :-)
Riding on down the RiotGRRRaveL road. Photo ©Kate Lockhart

Friday, June 20, 2014

Ready or Not it's time for RiotGRRRaveL!

Gravel road on RiotGRRRaveL route
Well, tomorrow is the day of the RiotGRRRaveL race. I'm not quite as ready as I'd like to be but I can't do anything about that now. Come morning, I'll be packing up my bike and my family and I will be heading to Northfield to pick up my ride partner, Lisa. We plan to leave Lisa's around 7:00 then drive over to Hastings (about a 40 minute drive) to Emily's Bakery to pick up our bib numbers, meet some of the other riders and get a pastry!

After that, we head to the ride start location, a church at the edge of town, unload our bikes and get all nervous, I mean, get ready to go.

At 9:30 the race begins - and off we will go! There are about 100 riders signed up, 80 of them are women (the race was created, in part, to get more women riding/racing gravel). At times, I get pretty nervous about the race but I'm just telling myself I'm going on a big bike ride with a lot of fun people and that helps.

My husband, Owen, my son, Ryan, and I drove the race route this afternoon. The route is a mixture of gravel types from nice to ride to pretty loose. There are some hilly portions and the ride be challenging. That said, it's a pretty route with lots of great scenery and the beginning of the ride and end of the ride are on great, straight, almost flat, roads.
One of the gravel roads along the RiotGRRRaveL route 
Because of all of the rain we've been getting, one part of the route is underwater so the race crew has worked up a new route and is getting new cue sheets ready for us. I can imaging they are quite busy this evening! My guess is, given what I saw of the route today, that they can pretty easily route us around the underwater portion of the race.

The ride route is 33 miles long. As I mentioned, from what I saw today, it will be a challenging ride but I think it's doable. I would be better off if I could have gotten some more gravel miles in but this past week but I was down with the stomach flu for a couple of days and then the rain kept me off the roads. Oh well. Though I haven't gotten in any real long rides so far this year, my longest thus far was a 27 mile road ride, in past years I have ridden 70 miles in a day (road ride) so I know I'm capable of going far. The hills worry me a bit. And the gravel. And the distance. I guess that's pretty much the whole ride. Oh well. At least now I have my bike adjusted well and I am feeling more comfortable riding on gravel. But, best of all, I know I have a great riding companion in Lisa and I will bet that the energy of riding with about 80 women will carry me along quite well.

All right. Time for go. Best thing I can do for myself right now is get a good night's sleep!
Nice scenery along the RiotGRRRaveL route