Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Fortnight of G'days

A little over two weeks ago we, that Spouse o' Mine and I headed for parts deep south:


We went to visit my inlaws.  By that, I mean my mother and father-in-law, two brothers-in-law and their wives, a sister-in-law, and seven nieces and nephews aged four years old through adult.

I met my inlaws thirty-one years ago.  Exactly six months after our wedding here in the States.  The inlaws did not come to our wedding, due to financial and time issues.  We flew down there months later, and that was the first of many visits.  They, in turn, have all graced us with their presence in our home through the years as well.

That Spouse o' Mine and I had decided four months ago that it was high time to go visit the Aussies again.  The plan was that I would head over for a week before he headed over.  Then he and I would travel together for another week before I flew home.  He would remain an additional week.  That way, we would have three weeks between us, visiting the Aussies - his parents, especially.

About this time, daughter Claire and her husband Rich decided they would like to make a visit Down Under, too.  And while we elders dithered about work and flights and calenders, the newlyweds up and made their reservations and got all their Virginia traveling ducks in a row, even before we could say Toowoomba or Mooloolaba.  Then, I made my Kansas flight reservations during the Christmas holidays.  I decided to dovetail with the newlyweds and meet up with them at LAX, and take the Big Flight over with them.  That way, I could get my son-in-law to teach me things like reading topo maps and using Android while his wife/my daughter snoozed for hours and hours hopped up on Dramamine. 

Shortly after Christmas, it was somehow decided that the four of us should simplify matters and all go over at the same time.  Simple enough, right?

No.  Apparently we do not communicate well.  That Spouse o' Mine made his airline reservations, all by his lonesome, departing the same date as we other three.  But wait: he was departing not only on a different flight than I, but not even from the same airport as I.

But you want to know what?  I barely questioned this.  Thirty-one years of wedded bliss have taught me not to even blink at some things.  This was one of those things.  He was, after all, arriving not thirty minutes before we other three, and since our main travel goal was to avoid inconveniencing any of the Aussie families, we had achieved that goal.

Flying to Australia, to me, is physically and mentally stunning.  I do not mean stunning as in "beautiful".  I mean it as in "One wrestles in a too-small airline seat for over twenty hours (from Kansas), eating tasteless food which one might never choose in a normal setting, and drinking gallons of water to keep hydrated, which then completes the cause-and-effect clause of bodily functions by means of too many trips to the airline "Lav", which, by the way, is way too ripe by the time that Bird lands in Sydney many many hours later.  And while we're at it, let's review the non-sleep factor for a moment or two:  If I arose at my normal hour in the morning (6-ish), then I have already had quite a full day even before I set foot on my first of four airplanes for the Incredible Journey.  By the time I am actually boarding the flight at LAX (Los Angeles) for Sydney, it is 10:30 pm.  Bedtime.  But wait!  We have sixteen hours on this, the Big Flight.  Add to that the hop up to Brisbane, (1.5 hours) and the two-hour drive inland once we hit Australis Terra Firma." 

It is painful. 

On the flight from LAXto Sydney, I sat by a young, pretty New Zealand girl and her boyfriend. As seatmates go, she was pretty good, especially for this marathon of air travel.  She fell asleep even before we pulled out of the jetway, and she slept the entire flight, up until after we had landed and were making our way to the terminal.  Seriously: who sleeps sixteen hours without eating or drinking or a trip to the Lav?  I am quite sure she was medicated, but that was fine with me.  As was the fact that she slept part of the time leaning her head on me, or leaning her head on her boyfriend and her feet by me.  I didn't mind.  It was very nearly like having an empty seat next to me (sans the extra room).  I could read, knit, watch movies, get up & walk around, eat, snore, all without concern for my fellow seatmate.  Near-perfect. 

We arrived to Brisbane on a beautiful summer morning.  Aussie SIL Janette picked us up from the airport and promptly got us home to a perfect luncheon of salmon and fresh fruits and vegetables.  Fresh anything was welcome after the inflight meals we had been enjoying.  But get this: the mangoes and avocados came from their trees out in their back yard.  This was what we would hear for the next two weeks from all the families.  Whereas we hear the "buy locally" and scoff (because here in Kansas that would pretty much limit our diets to dent corn and soybeans), those Aussie Armstrongs do indeed buy locally.  Or just sally out to their yard and figure out the menus for the day based on what the fruit bats hadn't eaten in the night. 

Ha ha!  That's another story for another day...   

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Weekend Bike Rides

I am not in horrible physical shape.  In fact, although I am a wee bit overweight, I suspect I can walk or run or swim or cycle longer or faster or both, than many of my 54-year old counterparts.  And that is not to say that I am fast.  But my motto is "But I can do it, and I am better for it."

This weekend that Spouse o' Mine and I went on two bike rides.  Saturday and Sunday. 
Saturday's was a long bike ride all by my lonesome.  It wasn't meant to be that.  That Spouse o' Mine  & I meant to meet folks at the local bike shop and ride down a particular routs for about ten miles:  Twenty miles roundtrip.  But then that Spouse o' Mine decided he would do that, and then ride on home for an additional twelve miles.  That is not unusual in our rides.  I would ride back into town and get the car.  That would be fine, except I knew I would be riding w/ fast cyclists (a couple of the police cyclists and a woman triathlete) and so I KNEW I would be dropped and have to cross the Viaduct (big bridge) by myself.  I don't like to do that.  So I decided to park down another way to preclude the Viaduct, and meet the pelaton as they came down the road we were taking.  And again, that Spouse o' Mine had a better idea: "Go ahead and head out and we will catch up."
And so I did.  And there lies the rub: they never caught up with me, and I rode it all alone.  It was OK, but I would have liked some company.  That was yesterday.
Today after church, we opted to get out and ride before the wind started up.  I hate wind.  And it WILL start up any day in Kansas. 
Sadly, it started up just after we got on our bikes, and we had a headwind.  There is only some comfort in a headwind:  coming home, you will enjoy the tailwind.
The wind changed direction.
But even before that, about four miles into our ride, I noticed that one of my shoes was not clipped into my pedal.  What does this mean?  Cyclists often wear special cycling shoes which have cleats on the bottom of the shoe.  The cleat clips onto a special pedal on the bike.  This enables the cyclist to pedal in a 360ยบ motion, rather than just down.  Push and pull, all around.   
My cleat was not functional.  At mile 5, we stopped and I maneuvered the cleat into the pedal, and off we went. 
Miles down the road, I called for a rest.  But OMIGOODNESS!!!!!!
When I braked and went to "quick-release" my shoe from the pedal, it did not come.  (For a "quick-release", all a cyclist needs to do is slightly twist his shoe maybe 1/2" and the shoe is released from the pedal.)  I had rammed the cleat into the pedal and there was no quick-release.  For too many seconds, I was locked in my pedals, and I began sputtering bad words (on a Sunday!) as my bike slowly came to a halt and I was STILL locked into my pedals. 
I have only seen something like this once before: that Spouse o' mine had new pedals, and he was not sure how to use them, and sure enough, at a red light, he came to a stop, still locked in, and he fell over just completely sideways. It was awful to watch and yes, he did have road rash, and there was some awful skin left on the road where he landed.
Why am I telling all this?!!  
Well.  Despite the lone ride on Saturday, and the limp-along ride today, it was a good weekend of riding.  I am so glad we made an effort.  We should all do this, you know.              

Neurotic Dog

Such a nice February weekend!  It enabled me to do a lot of outdoor things that needed addressing.  And, that Spouse o' Mine and I went on two pretty good bike rides.  Pretty good.

I have been working and working on an "unescapable" dog fence for our Bouvier.  This is Biserka and me, a couple of years ago, on a REALLY cold walk down our road:

Biserka, always a neurotic, needy canine, has become something of a talented escape artist whenever we leave her in the care of our very, very patient neighbor, Melissa.  You see, if we go out of town, or the neighbors go out of town we reciprocate animal care for one another.  Biserka is not a nice dog.  She has that Bouvier instinct to guard.  And that's not a bad thing out here in rural Kansas. But Biserka has not grasped the concept of "Be nice to the hand that feeds you."  And so, in our absence and in Melissa's care, Biserka gets to spend her time in the dog yard.  As opposed to our 15 acres of free-range.

Now, don't get the wrong assumption: Biserka is spending time in an area larger than many back yards, plus she has the full run of the broad side of our barn. 

But she hates the confinement anyway, and I have never grasped the research on how dogs measure time, but I can tell you, Biserka notices when I put a suitcase in the back of my car and she starts spazzing.  So who knows how much worry is going through her mind in our absence.

I think/hope that I have successfully secured the dog yard.  I put nutcase Biserka in there this afternoon, and she is already depressed.  I went so far as to take an Adirondack chair out there and have my post-bike ride coffee with ol' Biserka. 

She refused to come over to my side of the yard.  She is pouting and panicking.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

A Funny Amongst Friends

There is a funeral in our church tomorrow.  We are a congregation which serves funeral luncheons if requested.  I think this is a very important service in a church.  Believing such, I provide as often as I can.

I was talking to my good friend Susan, who is also the funeral luncheon coordinator. I mentioned that I would be signing up (online, because we are all about New Millennium technology) for a soup. A vegetarian soup, in fact.  She replied, probably without thought because we are great friends, "OK, but don't make it too weird."  I DIED laughing.  DIED.  

Why? Because I, and the other four members of my immediate family love cooking, love food, and love exploring the agriculture and horticulture of the world.  We don't do it for shock value.  We travel, and we embrace cultures, and we are curious outside the meat and potato and pizza society.     

No one who reads this post should take umbrage at this, my friend's and my exchange.  I loved and laughed that a friend of mine felt comfortable enough to say something like this.  It's just like something my sister Barb and I would have tossed back and forth.

Oh - and my soup?  Tomorrow it's going to be a Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Corn and Rice.

Not too weird.


Thirty-one years. 

I love to say "Thirty-one long, long years of wedded bliss."

But you know what?  It has been.  Some years were longer than others, but when I look back at the fleeting chapters, they sure do look good and happy and worthy. 

We met in college. He, a grad student, and me, an undergrad.  He, an international student, and me, an Okie.  He, an engineer, and me, an Arts and Science major.  He, a rock music guy, and me, strictly classical.

We, who ended up together, enjoying international friends, all sorts of music, the arts, the sciences, cycling, skiing, running, sailing, Europe, Africa, Australia and more. 

Three kids. 

Hikes in the mountains, hikes through museums.  Prayers at dinner, teatime in the lavender field.

I am blessed and fortunate.
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