Friday, June 22, 2012

The Art of Friendship

Last summer I spent some time in Forest City, Iowa doing some research for a travel story I hoped to write. In the process I discovered that the owner of the local B&B, The Elderberry Inn, is a distant cousin of mine. Through my new-found friendship with Carolyn, the B&B owner/distant cousin, I found out that she and five other women gather twice a month to paint on porcelain and have been doing so for 30 some years.

"There might be a story there," Carolyn said.

And she was right.

At first I thought I simply had a story about six women who painted together, six women who were keeping the nearly lost art of porcelain painting alive. But upon meeting the ladies - Janice, Marian, Florence, Carolyn, Delores and Marj - I knew there was something extra special about this group of painters. In fact, this group of ladies was so full of life and laughter, kindness and fun that I decided that I had to make another trip to Forest City to do more research for the story

I didn't have to do more research. Not really. I mostly wanted to hang out with this fun group of "girls," as they call themselves (they range in age from 63 to 93) because they were so positive and wonderful to be around. Because I wanted to get another glimpse at what makes them so special.

Sometimes a story becomes so much more than I thought it was going to be. This was that kind of story. Though meeting the ladies, through watching them paint and seeing them interact with each other, I learned so much about friendship, about kindness, about life. And I realized that I wasn't simply writing a story about people who paint, the story I needed to tell was that of six friends who have friendship down to an art. 

The Art of Friendship was published in the May issue of Womeninc. Magazine. It was, without a doubt, one of my favorite stories to research and write. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mountain Biking 101

Wednesday evening (June 13th) Ryan and I had the fun of joining fellow Cannon Valley Velo Club member, Griff Wigley (aka Mountain Bike Geezer) to learn a little about mountain biking.

My mountain biking experience is almost nonexistent - I rode some trails last fall with Ben Witt of Milltown Cycles when I test rode a Salsa Mukluk. To say that I had fun is an understatement! Since then I've hit some gravel and dirt paths on my hybrid with my daughter, Rose, but I haven't had a chance to actually ride any mountain bike trails since my outing on the Mukluk. My opportunities have been limited, for one, but the other problem has been my lack of a mountain bike. 

But then Griff arranged for a beginner's mountain bike for CVVC members and friends at Salem Hills Mountain Bike Trails at Harmon Park in Inver Grove Heights - I decided that I HAD to go. So I called up my younger brother, Joel, who has an old Specialized HardRock to see if I could use it for the beginner's ride. Joel said "Sure!" so I brought the bike to Milltown for a tune up and got it ready to go.

My son, Ryan, said he wanted to try mountain biking, too, so we loaded up the van and headed to Salem Hills last night. I was super excited to join in on last night's ride. I was also kind of nervous  - so I was totally okay with the fact that just Ryan and I were Griff's students for the night.
We're ready to go! Ryan said he probably blinked right when Griff snapped the picture. Photo courtesy Griff Wigley

First Griff did a little skills assessment with me and Ryan to see how well we handled our bikes. (Griff, by the way, has been trained to help newbies like me and Ryan. Along with Sue Welch he will be coaching high schoolers in the newly formed Cannon Valley Mountain Bike Team). Even the skill exercises he put us through were fun! Then Griff gave us a little briefing on where we were going to ride and some tips on how to ride the trail and we headed out.

We had a blast! Ryan and I laughed and screamed and talked and laughed and screamed some more (okay, maybe I did most of the screaming) as we rode the trails. Between whoops and hollers and during breaks to catch our breath Griff shared his knowledge of mountain biking with us. I learned a lot - but mostly I had fun!

Ryan fell down a few times (he didn't get hurt, unless you count a scrape or two as hurt) and though I didn't fall at the end of the evening I totally lost energy going up a hill and slipped off my saddle and onto my top tube (slight bruise but otherwise okay). Though we only rode about four miles (two .7 mile loops on one trail and two trips around another 1.3 mile trail) we were totally exhausted at the end of the evening - but other than being tired we were both in fine form.
Here's Ryan post fall. I'm up the hill and laughing - with Ryan, not at Ryan :) Photo courtesy Griff Wigley
I honestly can't wait to try mountain biking again. I had so much fun and it was a great way to work on improving my bike handling skills. Ryan is raring to go, too - and we'd both love to have Rose and Owen join us and they say they are willing...

So we're all ready to go - the question is.... is Griff?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Happy Birthday Ryan!

Yesterday my son, Ryan, had a birthday. Ryan's been on this planet, a part of my world, for ten years now. And my life is so much better because he is here. With his kindness, intuition and frequent reminders to unplug and relax, Ryan reminds that life is good. That time spent with family and friends is far more important than time spent checking Facebook on my iPhone. That life is about people, positive connections, reading books and talking about dreams way more than it's about things.

I fail at unplugging, at living in the moment, on a daily basis. I get stressed easily. I try to check email during dinner. I am easily distracted and discouraged. But I'm making progress. And a lot of my progress in this department is because of a little guy who is not so little anymore - My son. Ryan.

One one hand he's a boy so grown up that he takes my phone out of my hands and covers me up with a quilt and tells me to take a nap. And on the other hand he's still little enough that he crawls into bed with me in the morning to snuggle and, miraculously, fits next to my body as perfectly as when he was a baby.
How is it that one person - a ten-year-old - can be so old and wise and young and innocent at the same time? 
I don't know. I just know this...Ryan, Ry-Guy, Little Bud, Boo, I'm a better person because of you. 
Love, Mom.